The annual haircut

It was part of our philosophy in building our house. Low maintenance. The less work we needed to do on upkeep, the better. Our cement siding (you'd never know to see it), the garden full of perennials and the unstained deck are all pieces of that strategy. So is our lack of lawn.

Starting with a wooded lot, it was an easy decision to keep it as natural as possible. But the simple logistics of building resulted in some clearing and “yard” on one side. It turned out to be a fortuitous outcome as it exposed the south facing side of the house to penty of sunshine – particularly on the deck. I am thankful for that warm, sheltered oasis many mornings while nestled into my Adirondack chair, coffee at hand.

A cultured lawn on that steep slope was out of the question. Mowing does not belong in the vocabulary of retirement or low maintenenace. Instead, we opted for tall grasses sprinkled with wild flowers to populate the grounds surrounding the house. A more natural look. That's what we call it, anyway. The terms unkempt, wild and scraggly have also been uttered within my earshot. I can't say I disagree. There are days when I feel the same way about it. But like most things, I've grown used to it. And a wee bit attached to the concept.

In the spring, it takes a while before the grass grows enough to hide the lumpy nature of the ground. But it fills in quickly and grows at an alarming rate. By mid-summer, I could get lost in its tall shoots, which easily tower over my 5-foot frame. At times I think it may overtake the young trees we have planted, but we have yet to lose one in the jungle out there. Gradually the wild flowers begin to bloom. More of them appear each year, easing my conscience about the unruly yard. By fall, it bears some resemblance to a wheat field. The brownish cast blends with the autumn leaf tones and assumes an air of legitimacy.

And then it's time. With winter approaching, the days are numbered for our waves of grain. It has to be cut. This is no job for just any lawn mower. It takes a powerful machine and an intrepid operator from Boreal Natives to deal with our grasses. The procedure cuts, chews and mulches our grass forest down to a rough stubble. The cost of this specialized service debunks any myth that this approach to yard work is a cheapskate's alternative to weekly mowing.

I used to feel better at the end of this process, when the grasses had been tamed. But this year feels different. The house looks naked. The yard lacks its foliage. Just last week, I led our toddler grandkids on a rugged adventure through the tall grass. That landscape is now gone. Rich misses it for a different reason. He says it signals the start of winter. I'm not ready to even consider that yet.

Looking on the bright side, this approach eliminates any need to rake leaves. Any leaf that could possibly find its way to the ground gets ground up in what I've dubbed the annual haircut. Mission accomplished, pawning off another of those pesky maintenance chores.



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