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My Dandelion Dilemma

Peggy2May 16, 2018, 12:47:11 AM

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to stop using chemical treatments on our lawn, even so-called 'natural' treatments. It was a big decision for us because for years we both took great pride in our 2 acres of perfectly maintained lawn. 

We'd pat ourselves on our backs every summer as we admired the carpet of velvety green grass around us, impressing ourselves, if not our friends and families, with our weedless lawn.

Having both grown up in the 60's with parents who took their lawns very seriously, it's not surprising that we, in turn, assumed that's what you did when you owned a home. My in-laws were especially diligent, and woe to any dandelion that dared poke its head out in their beautiful lawn!

Father and Son on Dandelion Patrol circa 1985

So over the years we took care of our lawns in much the same way. Even in our lean years when money was tight, we always seemed to find enough for the lawn service. 

But then we started reading about the evils of Monsanto and their cancer-causing products like Roundup. That worried us, so we looked around for a more natural solution, and made the switch, patting ourselves on the back again, this time for being such good environmental stewards.

The next thing we learned was that bees were disappearing at an alarming rate, partly because one of their main sources of pollen in early spring, the dandelion, was disappearing as well. 

It seemed that homeowners had been waging a War on Dandelions for the past half a century and it was taking its toll, not only on dandelions, but on bees, too.

So that was that. My husband and I agreed that bees were more important than perfect lawns, and we went totally organic. Good-bye lawn service.

The first couple of years we didn't notice much change. Sure, there were a few more violets, but they're so pretty we didn't mind them at all. And even as the dandelions started to propagate, we just kept reminding ourselves how happy all the bees were.

This year, however, the dandelions are everywhere! And even though I know they'll be gone soon, I find that I am constantly having to remind myself that it's OKAY. 

That having a yard full of dandelions doesn't mean we're irresponsible homeowners. 

That no one (I hope!) is judging us because we have zillions of them in our once perfect yard.

But the fact that I feel so conflicted made me wonder whose brilliant idea it was in the first place to create these expensive, labor-intensive, chemical dependent, suburban nightmares? 

Well, I did a little research and it turns out the first lawns were cultivated in the 16th century around English and French castles to keep the grounds clear of trees, so the soldiers could see enemies approaching. From there, lawns grew to become something of a status symbol among the elite, because only the wealthy could afford the upkeep of them.

But it seems that the true culprits, the men responsible for initiating the brainwashing of American suburbia, were Abraham Levitt and his sons, who developed Levittown, New Jersey, considered to be the 'ideal' suburban development in the 1940s-1950s. Each home came complete with its own yard already in place, along with a pamphlet on the importance of maintaining the perfect lawn, and tips on how to keep it 'green, lush and weed-free'.

And then, of course, the company Scotts jumped on board, and in the 1960's, along with their growing lawn seed business, developed a 'program' to help homeowners maintain the 'green, lush, weed-free' lawn that Levitt and Sons thought everyone should have.

Homeowners didn't stand a chance! Throw in some magazine and TV ads depicting happy families, doing all kinds of happy things, on their perfect 'green, lush, weed-free' yards, and the brainwashing was in full swing.

So it's no wonder I'm having such a hard time with my dandelion yard! I've been brainwashed my entire life into believing that lawns should be perfect and mine is, well...not.

At least from one perspective.

I came across a video several years ago by a National Geographic photographer named DeWitt Jones entitled 'Celebrate What's Right'. The film talks about how a simple shift in perspective can make us see 'what's right' in something, rather than what's wrong.

And you know what? It's true! I can look out at my lawn today and see a yard full of weeds...

...or I can shift my perspective, just a little, and see, instead, a yard full of life-sustaining nectar:

So even though I might have to 'shift my perspective' a hundred times a day to remind myself that there are more important things in the world than 'green, lush, weed-free' lawns, I'll keep doing just that.

Because there are more important things.

Like dandelions. And bees. And us.