Sunday, April 24, 2011

Living in the Suburbs

"Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and there's lawyers, and business executives
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same."
-- "Little Boxes" By Malvina Reynolds

This might surprise some people who know how much I love little Savoy, but I didn't want to live here. In fact, I wanted to live in Southern Champaign in Devonshire north of Windsor. I wanted trees and young families and a house that was about 1,800 square feet with a small backyard. 

When MacTroll and I came to town and looked at a house that I liked and then drove down to look at a house that was more his style (newer and bigger), I had to make a choice. I realized that it was likely that I would be taking care of a house by myself, possibly with a small person or small people in tow. 

Suddenly, spending my weekends scooping baby trees out of my gutters that fell from the behemoth oak tree above looked not so appealing. Also, spending the first three months trying to peel 50-year-old wall paper off of the kitchen walls didn't look like it was going to be a lot of fun. So, I broke my gut feeling for an "old" home and settled for being the third owner of a medium-sized, 4-year-old home in Prairie Fields. And, to be truthful, it was really easy to take care of -- once I revived whatever the people who lived there before me did to the grass and the gardens and the trees. 

I did it by picking up the phone and calling a lawn company and by getting on my hands and knees (Rogers will attest) and weeding and planting the front garden. After the grass was under control, I canceled the lawn care except for the grub spray. I felt terribly guilty about dumping chemicals on my lawn that I knew would run off and go down into the sewers into our streams and rivers. In many ways, I am totally my father's daughter this way. But the work had to continue past green grass, so I ripped three dead trees out of the backyard and tried to make things go in the backyard, too. It was a long process. I even got around to staining the fence in the backyard, so it didn't look all old and beaten. It was a lot of work in the four years that we lived there. We also painted the walls inside the house to be less bland. Manilla colored walls just weren't for me. And to be truthful KTDID did way more work on that house than MacTroll did.

Now we live in a bigger house on a corner lot six blocks south of the old place in a different "new" subdivision. But I still go running through the old neighborhood. My favorite time to run is after 6 p.m. when everyone is barbecuing in Prairie Fields. My least favorite time to run is between 9 and 11 a.m. when the lawn companies are out spraying or fertilizing. The smell is so obnoxious I try to hold my breath for at least 4 houses before I get to where they're spraying and at least two afterwards (and that takes some effort). 

We were the first folks to move into Prairie Meadows.. And I watch each spring as the lawn companies come and spray all the lawns around my hood. They look beautiful. They're a luscious dark green with hardly any spots. But I also notice that the owners of the houses are out mowing 1-2 times a week. Where as with my not so "Agrestic-perfect" lawn, I'm out once every three weeks. That's not to say that I don't have a lawn guy who comes and fertilizes and does other lawn control via natural, earth-friendly methods.  I use Maske's Organic Gardening and Lawn Care out of Decatur. He's trying to help me keep grubs under control using the natural Milky Spore method rather than chemicals. And for the last two years, our lawn has been so/so. By normal comparisons it's okay, but in Agrestic comparisons, it looks shoddy. 

Part of me feels guilty about this. It's the part that spent hours in the backyard today digging up dandelions. It's never been this bad. Usually I can count 5-12 dandelions, but the seeding must have happened during a prime wind blow from the open field behind us, because our backyard is littered in them. I dumped 5 wheelbarrows full of weeds into the empty lots across the street. It's insane, because I still have 1/3 of the backyard to do. 

I also got in trouble last year with Mr. Maske for mowing too "low." I was creating burn spots because the grass was cut to close and I don't really water my lawn regularly enough to protect it. If it's once in a while, I'm okay with it. But I don't get up every morning at 6 and move my sprinkler for two hours in the summer. In response, I raised the height of the blades on the mower today, which did nothing to help out trimming down the weeds for me. 

So, here I am, doing what's "green" for the Earth, but I still feel terribly guilty that it doesn't look better when I look at the rest of my hood. Plus, where my yard meets my neighbors' is very high and in need of trimming from their super duper fertilizer pesticide, but I'm just letting it grow, because if I trim that spot, I'll have to do the rest of it.

Who knew that I'd have a whole "Keeping Up with the Joneses" issue about something as stupid as lawn care. Sigh. I know, I'm disappointed in myself, too. But that feeling of comparison is totally there. 


Evan said...

Im pretty fortunate right now. Our one neighbors I cannot recall ever seeing them, let alone seeing them actually doing any lawn care, and the other house is still empty and no one is even mowing over there so my lawn looks like the white house lawn in comparison right now. I cannot believe that I would ever really care, cause I HATE mowing, but who would have guessed how much nicer it all looks when you get done.

The Fearless Freak said...

It's funny that RF commented on this because I was just going to say "RF only mows when I make him or when the neighbors do it so our yard looks crappy by comparison" LOL

But yeah, the rental house is still empty, almost a year later. They have a lawn service that mows it a couple of times a month in the summer but they haven't been here yet this spring.

I don't know when the other neighbor mows because I've honestly never seen them (not just mowing, at all. They could aliens for all I know) but every so often, we'll come out and the yard will be all nicely mowed.

We just planted a bunch of grass where we moved some things around in the yard last fall so we are watering right now (which I need to do, shortly) but other than that, rain does a good enough job for me! :)

kelley said...

Hey Loosey - We use Maske as well and our lawn looks like crap. I think some of it was last summer's hot weather. We also have lots of grub/opossom damage and tons of thatch and the whole thing is depressing. We just keep telling ourselves it's safe for the kids but sometimes we just can't get over how bad our lawn looks compared to everyone else's!! Let me know if you think of equally-safe/environmentally friendly alternatives....