The Dissing of Summer Lawns
Yes, I know they have been employed as a medicine-a tonic-since time immemorial. Yes, I know they are more nutritious than many of the vegetables I grow. Yes, I know people used to clear away the grass to give them more room to thrive. Yes, I know the poets extol their virtue. Here's one such, Vachel Lindsey, a failed medical student and a failed artist, who tasked himself with hiking through the country "sharing the lives of and bringing hope to the common people in the depths." He later wrote, "I had very little response anywhere." One of his chapbooks was called Rhymes to Be Traded for Bread. Dig this: the evangelist rhapsodizing on the victory of the dandelion over the lawn mower:
O DANDELION, rich and haughty,
King of village flowers!
Each day is coronation time,
You have no humble hours.
I like to see you bring a troop
To beat the blue-grass spears,
To scorn the lawn-mower that would be
Like fate's triumphant shears,
Your yellow heads are cut away,
It seems your reign is o'er.
By noon you raise a sea of stars
More golden than before.
A chump. I wonder how he felt about mosquitoes.
I wish the Mayflower Pilgrims had left dandelions at home. My lawn is a mess. The last week has been overly hot, but windy, so those fecund little white fuzzies, borne aloft sometimes for miles, found paradise in my perfect yard. And they’re just about impossible to eliminate. Leave a tiny section of root in the ground when you pluck them up, and they'll grow a new plant quicker than you can say "irascible neighbors."
Those Pilgrims and poets would have me farming crops of dandelions in my raised beds instead of tomatoes, and while one can make wine from them, and vitamin-enriched tea, and serve the leaves as salad greens-in fact the whole blasted plant is edible -- I would have to spend my days and nights behind a sand bag barricade with an AK-47 once my neighborhood found out what I was doing. Our President would lead a posse of golf-course professionals armed with organophosphate-acetyl-cholin-esterase inhibitors and halo-sulfuron-methyl selective post-emergence foliar-absorbed broadleaf herbicides, which I refuse to use, and have me in jail for subversion quicker than you could say "emoluments clause."
This is the perfect illustration of something fundamentally wrong about the way we lead our lives. Instead of spending our outdoor time growing edible things we fritter it away sowing grass, mowing grass, weeding grass, watering grass, raking grass, and slaking grass. We should eliminate all vestiges of grass from our property and devote the entire space to the cultivation of dandelions (he says, like a true liberal), but can you imagine the extra-judicial opprobrium that would descend on my hapless ass if I tried a stunt like THAT! It was bad enough when I planted twenty small tomato plants on a three-by-eight garden plot and endured the laughter of neighbors, ("That's an awful lot of plants in a little plot, bud.") then actually harvested twenty-eight pints of tasty tomatoes that fall.
So I would turn out more healthy and invigorated, a perfect specimen of dandelion-enriched senior he-man, but spend the rest of my life known as the downwind dandelion terrorist dodging neighbors armed with pitchforks and code enforcement ordinances. No thanks! I'll just keep deploying the auld Fiskars patented four-claw stand-up weeder in defense of American exceptionalism and our traditional way of life. And my neighbors will love me.
But the greens do have a nice mustard-y flavor. Jus' sayin.'