No Mow, May…be

It was drizzling this morning as I stepped out to take the dog for her first stroll of the day, and for the first time in nearly six months I could tell that the lawn was starting to turn a familiar shade of green.

That’s not an exaggeration, either. As recently as this past weekend I spent the better part of my days out in the yard raking and cleaning and pruning and tidying and the dominant shade in my life was the colour brown.

But a little bit of TLC and a few days of light rain, and spring greenery arrives in force around here.

All this yard work got me thinking deeply once again about my small patch of grass.

I’ve never been a golf-green-perfect lawn guy. I keep it trim because grass can be low work and nice to walk upon in bare feet. It’s essentially backyard carpeting, and a bit of mowing and a bit of fertilizer and a bit of pulling some weeds makes for a pleasant outdoor space. Yet, having taken a lot of ecology and botany in university I look at the picture perfect lawns of my neighbours and rarely first see the intended suburban paradise, and usually instead ponder the effort we put into this single species of invited invasive plant we uniformly call grass. Biodiversity is rarely represented in suburban lawns, and many of my neighbours put countless amounts of time, energy and resources into perfect sod.

In fact, I was thinking about lawns so much that I was getting ready my rechargeable mower batteries thinking that the yard would be due for a trim as soon as mid-May.

Except.

Except, I’ve stumbled upon this online campaign twice now to support that aforementioned biodiversity and support neighbourhood ecological health by skipping the mowing bit for a month.

#NoMowMay suggests waiting until June before cutting the grass.

Skipping the mowing for a month is not exactly much of a hardship in Western Canada, I would caveat here. I may get to avoid mowing altogether simply by virtue of the weather. It could start snowing again before the week is out and the effort would be impossible. Or, on the other hand, the grass could be knee-height by the end of the week and I could be sending search parties into the backyard for the dog when she goes out to pee. This time of year is a botanical prognosticators nightmare.

The sentiment of #NoMowMay intrigues me tho.

I like the idea of thinking forward and holistically about the ecology of our spaces, rather than purely cosmetically.

I like the idea of putting insects and seasonal cycles and the complex system (even if it is a little artificial and of our own creation) of nutrients and water and growth and light ahead of a few minutes pleasure of being barefoot in the grass.

I like the idea that the lawn is actually more than backyard carpeting.

Sure, my little Canadian lawn just coming out of its winter hibernation might not be impressively overgrown by the end of May, but in its own way I think there is a lot to learn from letting nature do its own thing for a few weeks in the spring. It might be worth keeping the mower in the shed until June, despite what the neighbours might think.

Ready for the Weekend

How do you prepare for your weekend?

Do you pick away at your to-do list over the week, so that when you catch up with Friday night you are free and clear, ready to enjoy everything? Sure, this means that you’ve saved up all your down-time for those two precious days, but when Saturday and Sunday arrive you have nothing but relaxing to accomplish, right?

Or, do you wait for those first few hours of the weekend and get everything done all at once on Saturday morning? The weekend is still young, you’re full of energy, and you can just sink in and get the work done before lunch on your first weekend day. By the time you break you’ve still got a day and a half ahead of you to rest and enjoy.

Maybe you’re a take-it-as-it-comes weekend warrior? A chore here, a task there, and strike another item of the list then kick your feet up for a while until you feel ready to take on the next one. There’s no sense in being efficient about it, right? Weekends aren’t a job, they’re your life and you can take it as you please.

Ideally you are not a procrastinator, but I can see how tempting it might be to put everything off until Sunday evening. Are you one of those folks? Enjoy every moment you can until the last possible second when you figure you may as well get back into the week by doing some yard and housework before bed on Sunday.

Or perhaps you’re a little like me, and it’s a bit of each and a different take on the to-do list every time a new Saturday rolls around.

Backyard: Clean-Up

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

Itโ€™s always striking to me that we live in a deeply seasonal place.

Iโ€™m sure that other parts of the planet go through their own share of seasonal variation, but living in one of the more northern capital cities on the Earth also makes places us in a group where vast differences exist between the heart of winter and the edges of summer.

Today I sit in my backyard in spring and enjoy a mild temperature, barefoot kinda day.

Four months ago I hardly dared open the door to the brutal cold.

Four months from now Iโ€™ll be picking fruit and veg from trees that at the moment seem barely alive and from soil that is little more than a crusty brown patch in the corner of my backyard.

Iโ€™ve been busy spring cleaning for the last couple weeks.

Grass to be raked. Leftover leaves that didnโ€™t get sorted out before the snow last fall were starting to rot on the lawn. Flowerpots are full of crusty dried remains of last yearโ€™s greenery. Weeds are emerging and poking through the lawn and garden beds. Winter dust and the bits of residue from the long-melted snow needs to be wiped down. And thatโ€™s not even to mention the various bits of fence, deck or furniture that need a touch of paint or a tightened screw.

My lawnmower died as well, and neither wanting to see it dropped into the landfill nor having the patience or skill to repair it myself I hunted down a guy online who takes them as donations, fixes them up, and gives them a new life. But of course that meant a big clean-up of the shed, and rearranging all the various things Iโ€™d stored in there over winter, all to extract a broken tool and roll it out to the curb.

Spring cleaning is a real thing here, not because itโ€™s a good time to get it done but simply because the season ticks over and that it needs done becomes obvious.

The trees are budding with their baby leaves and blossoms.

The grass is turning from a pale yellowish-brown to a vibrant green.

The bees are buzzing through the air and investigating the spring-waking world.

A few weeks from now it will all be just another summer, but for the moment spring is in clean-up mode, as am I, and the passing of winter feels like a barefoot kinda day in the backyard.