In the northern lakes country, summer is a time for yard work. It is an opportunity to look at the yard as a green space within which the lawn (mowed grass) is only one feature of the yard.
Of course, the yard has become an icon of American culture. As you look around, the landscaping is almost cliché -- large lawns with carpet-like grass broken by scattered shrubs, trees and flowers.
One reason for the increased size and "clean-cutting" of lawns is the use of powered lawn grooming tools. We could conserve fossil fuels considerably by forgoing or limiting their use. In addition, because fertilizers and pesticides consume fossil fuel by their manufacture and distribution, we can conserve fossil fuels by limiting their use. This would also promote good water quality.
For those who enjoy the work and satisfaction of yard work, there would still be plenty to do. Some suggestions for enjoying a small lawn:
- Mow less. If each of us halved our lawn size and mowed half as often, we would go a long way toward reducing oil dependence.
- Do not automatically remove the forest. Forests reduce energy consumption by moderating temperatures. They also store carbon dioxide (linked to global warming) in woody and non-woody tissues. We ask those who inhabit the rainforest to conserve and preserve it, yet we may be less willing to ask ourselves to do the same for the northern forest.
- Use a push mower. Previously, we used push mowers so, of necessity, we had smaller lawns with some uncut "grassy" spots (great for butterflies, toads, etc.)
- Learn to enjoy the "field" part of your lawn with its long grasses and other plants. Grow some of these as wildlife "corridors" that link one area of cover to the other.
- Leave native trees, shrubs and non-woody plants like wildflowers, ferns, etc.
- Do not remove lower limbs of conifers. Birds and other wildlife will thank you for the cover.
- Make yours a garden lawn -- flower and/or vegetable.
- Construct a water garden to soak up water that might otherwise run off too quickly.
Mostly, enjoy country life!