Friday, July 1, 2011

The Philosophy of Lawn Mowing and the Sweetness of Summer.

Happy Canada Day! Summer is finally here on the island!  Warm temps, gentle breezes, mosquitos and black flies and of course GRASS.

Coming from a place where grass grows in the spring rain of March and April and then goes golden brown for the long, hot, dry, summers (unless irrigated with imported water) I still find it amazing that it grows like crazy here. Acres and acres of the stuff! Big beautiful lawns and well kept yards are a source of local pride and regular mowing on PEI.  You'll observe the Provincial flag even features trees and grass.  I make note that the lawn tractor is missing from heraldry. Surely an oversight.  But the flag does include the Royal Lion of England. So we welcome the Duke and Duchess, William and Kate, to our fair island this week! No doubt there will be a frenzy of mowing to prepare each and every venue for their visit.  In fact, there should be a photo-op of the duchess riding a lawn tractor in shorts, a tank top and a big floppy hat.

In the days before mowing machines your yard literally had to be cut by hand with a scythe. So a small yard with a kitchen garden made sense.  The rest of the ground was turned over to livestock and cropping.  Animals stayed close by and fed on the grass.  Easier to manage and watch over. And more productive too.  Large expanses of closely cropped grass are an artifact of a time when sheep grazed about the manor home (where your daddy or mine mucked out the barn and mum washed the clothes of His Lordship). It was a sign of wealth. Having good land not planted to the margins with food says, "well mate, you must be doing alright". Perhaps that explains our desire for a suburban lawn watered by a river 300 miles away or 2 or more hours a week driving a  mowing machine.  We're all just sort of keeping up appearances - at a huge cost. Weird, isn't it?

Our two "hay burners" burned through last years hay harvest over the winter.  And they are more than willing to go out on the grass every morning.  They really don't care where the grass is, so we've taken to moving the electric fence every few days to where the grass is rich and then turn them loose to do what they do.  Which is eat...and excrete.  It's a lovely combination of feeding, mowing and fertilization in one step. And as I reported last time, the chickens too are doing their part in the war on grass, bugs and spreading fertilizer as they go.  You can't beat mother nature for operating in a closed system.

Even so I just can't seem to stay off the lawn mower.  I just can't help noticing how nice things look when they're all trimmed up. But you know, I think I will put sheep on the front lawn around the house this summer - just to try them out on the job. It's funny that the mower works until it's empty and leaves wasted grass and energy behind.  The animals work until they're full, taking in energy and leaving behind valuable fertilizer for greener grass. It just seems more sensible to let the animals do the work and earn their keep. Besides,
it's picturesque as hell.    

And speaking of picturesque, here are Toby and his buddy Owen making ice cream on the front porch for Canada Day.  We bought  lobster suppers at the Murray Harbour North Community Hall and then enjoyed home made vanilla ice cream made even sweeter by the hand cranking of children.  Making home made ice cream in an old freezer is a ritual passed to us by our parents and grand parents.  It now passes to our children as part of the celebration of summer!

10 comments:

Rob said...

I wonder if there is a business here - I lease say 4 lambs from you + electric fence and in the fall I get back 2 butchered sheep?

And you do this with say 50 families?

The new lawn mowing service?

John Quimby said...

Good suggestion Rob. A rancher I met in Southern California years ago proposed leasing livestock to areas in the county where housing had been built on former farm and wild lands. The stock owners were to be paid for fire suppression.

By 2008, practical agreements were closer to reality as was reported by Sheep Industry News:
"The resolution was signed by landowner and agriculture associations, cities/counties, federal and state agencies, land trusts, environmental advocacy groups, professional societies and academic institutions and resource conservation districts. This large group has allowed its members access to previously unavailable resources, such as the ability to lobby to offices that may not have been open to certain groups in the past."

http://sheepindustrynews.org/?page=site/text&nav_id=b6a01c9a6e004e0f1795d7a11c6cc7bb&PHPSESSID=e01c1aeff23ce1836731dc84dc8ea319&archive_id=

What I see in this is the union of groups that have been political enemies for a generation. All of which means that your suggestion can become a practical reality.

Perhaps on PEI we can avoid the dis-harmony between agribusiness, environmental politics and government that have already prevented sensible revisions elsewhere.

John Quimby said...

Good suggestion Rob. A rancher I met in Southern California years ago proposed leasing livestock to areas in the county where housing had been built on former farm and wild lands. The stock owners were to be paid for fire suppression.

By 2008, practical agreements were closer to reality as was reported by Sheep Industry News:
"The resolution was signed by landowner and agriculture associations, cities/counties, federal and state agencies, land trusts, environmental advocacy groups, professional societies and academic institutions and resource conservation districts. This large group has allowed its members access to previously unavailable resources, such as the ability to lobby to offices that may not have been open to certain groups in the past."

http://sheepindustrynews.org/?page=site/text&nav_id=b6a01c9a6e004e0f1795d7a11c6cc7bb&PHPSESSID=e01c1aeff23ce1836731dc84dc8ea319&archive_id=

What I see in this is the union of groups that have been political enemies for a generation. All of which means that your suggestion can become a practical reality.

Perhaps on PEI we can avoid the dis-harmony between agribusiness, environmental politics and government that have already prevented sensible revisions elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Howdy John,

I just came across your blog a day or two ago and I have been both intrigued and inspired. I came across it while I was searching for info on moving to PEI and permaculture (a word I had never heard up until about a week ago). I am still reading through your many posts and wanted to thank you for sharing your personal farming experience through your blog.

John Quimby said...

Thanks for the comment. Good luck with your plans!

Cindy said...

I think sometimes the guy next door cuts his grass every second day. I haven't met his wife but I often wonder why the grass grows taller on the other Side of the Confederation Trail where his lawn is than ours, lol. I'm about to think a goat in the city would be a good thing.
Got to run, making breakfast for guests this am. Try and stop by the tea room when the grass gives you a break.

Allison Williamson said...

Hi John,
I am the "Anonymous" poster that left the previous comment. I would like to invite you to follow my blog, I think we have quite a few common views (and experiences as web media producers/copywriters). I am originally from Cape Breton, NS. I am now living with my small family in Ontario (horrible) and gearing up to move back East to PEI, where I spent my childhood summer vacations. It is all in the baby step stage, but I am very optimistic. I'd love to take my family to visit your farm once we get ourselves situated in PEI (likely in a few months). Watched your video and sent you a friend request on FB. I'm learning all kinds of tidbits from your blog and links. Thanks a bunch!

John Quimby said...

Thanks Cindy, Susan would love that!

Hanceyturf said...

If the New Lawn grasses can cope up with the stress, it will be healthy and dense and will be able to resist disease. Sometime the disease may spread and it becomes out of any control. However, the disease resistant cultivars can be implemented to avoid future problems.

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