Please, give me back my yard

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 23, 2002

It has been unseasonably warm in east Tennessee these last few days. Buds are swelling on the hardwood trees, daffodils and crocus are in full bloom, and the Bradford Pears resemble puffy clouds hanging onto burgeoning branches. This is a wonderful time of the year as plants and animals awaken again.

Two weeks ago there was a hatching of ring-necked snakes under the evergreen outside my front door. Unfortunately, the temperature dropped into the teens that night and a reptilian family was lost. But just yesterday a sizable rattler was spotted sunning on a fallen tree. So spring is definitely just around the corner.

I heard the peepers in full chorus just last night. And all you homeowners know what that means: It's time to drag out the lawn mower and get it ready again for the battle of the grasses. I'm sure some of you will be contacting your yardman or lawn service to be sure you're on the schedule for another season. But however you handle it, that time is upon us again.

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I remember 20 years ago living in Cobb County north of Atlanta. It was a booming area filled with upwardly mobile professionals. Our subdivision encompassed over 200 houses. At the time there were only four families hailing from the south living there for that area was quickly filling up with Yankees employed by the big corporations that favored the lower tax rates and wage scales of the south. And for some reason, perhaps good marketing by the likes of Pennington and Miracle Grow, lawns and landscaping were very important.

In this land of the two-hour commute, there was no time during the week for lawn maintenance. But come the week-end, residents were out with a crazed look in their eyes doing battle to have the most perfect lawn imaginable. Southern Living Magazine had nothing on these people. They mowed, clipped, edged, watered and fed those lawns like they were priceless treasures. The only inheriting relative of Bill Gates would not be as pampered and protected as were those lawns. Zoysia, centipede, and the like were manicured to perfection. Weed killers were applied as carefully as sunscreen to a red-headed baby.

The flower and greenery beds were smoothly carpeted with pine straw. Not too many years earlier, I had raked pine straw from the tall trees in my South Georgia yard and burned it just to get it out of the way.

And now people were paying big money for the stuff all neatly bundled up like hay used to be before the big loafs of it took over the pastures. And when, at the end of another week-end of hard labor, one looked at all those perfect lawns, they wereBORING. Give me a plain old yard, please, not a lawn.

What can be better than the mix of Bermuda grass, dandelions, clover, star flowers and all the other wonderful plants that some derisively call weeds.

You remember a yard don't you? I bet your Granny had one.

It was that place where you ran barefoot over the soft grasses that tickled your feet. It was where you had to be careful not to step on the bees that were always buzzing around the white clover.

It was the place where you sat with your cousins to make daisy chains and blow the puffs off the dandelions when they went to seed, and it was where you learned to hold a blade of crabgrass between your thumbs and blow across it to make that wonderful whistling sound.

Is it coming back to you now? I'm sure many readers will not share my preference for a yard over a lawn. And that's fine. Diversity is what we're all about.

But for now, it's getting late, the rain has stopped, the birds are having their last go at the feeder before roosting for the night, and I'm going to take my coffee out and sit in the yard until the moon comes up.