when we fly home to california my dad is the one who picks us up at the oakland airport. on the drive to berkeley we talk about the traffic (of course), how the weather has been, the many potholes in this one stretch of the highway, the changing graffiti on the brick buildings lining another stretch, the warriors (dub nation!) and when we pull up to my childhood home, my dad typically says, “look at the lawn… doesn’t it look nice?” followed by, “how is your lawn?” my father is very lawn proud. he likes an even expanse of pretty, green grass… maybe it’s his great love of golf or his mid-western upbringing, but maintaining the lawn has always been important to him. over the decades (i think my parents have been in their house for forty-three years) he has had very close relationships with the people who help him with the yard: takahooki, alberto, david, daniel and marty. he brings these people special sandwiches or chocolates or the newest kombucha to enjoy as they discuss what to do with the garden.
(the front lawn that extends to the neighbor’s house.)
there always seems to be some drama…the raccoons are rolling up the new sod like a carpet to reach whatever bugs they like to eat underneath, the deer are munching all the hydrangeas and leaving little piles of brown marbles on the lawn, the neighbor’s dog keeps sneaking in and using the green as a potty… my father throws himself into solving these distressing problems with the determination of carl from caddyshack… netting the bushes, sprinkling wolf and lion pee around to scare the animals, building a fence that goes around multiple yards. i get lots of updates on the raccoons and the deer and the dog and the fence.
(sod rolled up by raccoons… not my father’s - his lawn is much more even in color.)
the houses are very close together in my parents’ neighborhood so both the front and back lawns merge with the neighbors’ on either side. and since the houses are on a hill, when you look out the back windows you can easily see the gardens of at least ten families. my father dreamed for years of coordinating with the neighbors on their connected yards. he tried to charm, negotiate and entice our grumpy neighbor to the south with offers to manage or even fund the project, to no avail. she finally died (of natural causes) and her house was bought by a young family, happy to work with my dad. he has been beside himself ever since.
(the connecting backyards.)
after leaving home, i always lived in apartments and didn’t have a yard to worry about until we moved to boulder. it is no small job… EVERY year the dandelions come back, the trees have to be trimmed and monitored and the sprinklers get dug up by bears or raccoons or bunnies (yes - we have SERIOUS nature here in boulder!) my first spring here i was shocked at how the dandelions just popped up out of nowhere… i don’t think i’d ever seen one in my parents’ yard. i started removing them up with a butter knife, my go-to utensil for all kinds of household repairs, until my neighbor told me about these special tools that are designed for just that purpose. i DID have to go DEEP into mcguckins (our local, GIANT hardware store that i am always afraid i won’t be able to find my way out of) to buy one of the special diggers and some canvas gloves (some dandelions are REALLY prickly) but it was worth it because the weeding tool is much more efficient than my now-bent butter knife.
i have learned a lot about dandelions… their leaves fan out in a circle and the root is always right in the middle. it is very exciting and satisfying when you dig it up in one, clean go… this is much more likely if it has rained recently… pulling dandelions out of hard, dry dirt is almost impossible.
but this year, i have been having a dandelion dilemma… someone told me that flying over a perfectly green, weed-free lawn for a bee is like crossing a huge, desert for a human. like most people, i am worried about the demise of the honey bee. i love honey and flowers and i know the bees need places to land and pollinate. on the other hand, yellow is my least favorite color and the ghosty-gray of the fluffy, puff ball kind of dandelion is not nice at all. plus, the importance of keeping up a putting green level yard has been instilled in me since childhood. so this year, i made a compromise… i decided not to pull ALL the dandelions up… i leave a few strategically placed ones, like stepping stones, so the bees can cross over to my neighbors’ roses… i’m just not going to tell my dad about it.