Creatively fooling around with renewable resources

Out of the Woods

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2001

From the beginning of time, I remember, my Grandma mowed her lawn the same way every week. Back and forth across the yard in neat rows. I came to the mowing business late in life, resigned to the tradition of a dull but tidy routine. Then one day, some wonderful person, possibly one who knew diddly about it, said that it's good for the grass to change the pattern and go in a different direction each time you mow. It was a moment for me like the one where the Wizard of Oz switches to color.

Every week, our lawn is shorn in a different pattern. We do swirls, waves, spirals or sort of a herringbone weave. Our struggling, odd assortment of shrubbery takes a beating, cowering at the mercy of a fevered mower on a roll with a work of art. The reviews are not always good. Some treatments look great initially, but don't wear well. But, just like a haircut, the grass always grows out and we can try something different.

Lawn and hair maintenance have a lot in common. There are fertilizer accidents as there are hair coloring mishaps and dandelions are just as much of a challenge as cowlicks. The tools are comparable, too. Curling irons and clippers are no less serious than mowers and weed whippers. There is no substitute for a trained professional when it comes to power cutting tools, I know for a fact. It was fortunate last summer that my husband was at the controls of the weed whipper when it burst into flames. The lawn was saved, the neighborhood secure. I have never actually caught my hair on fire, but a few errors in judgment have required some imagination to repair.

Has anyone thought of a way yet to curl a lawn? You would get the effect of a thicker mat that would be softer to the touch and may not need mowing as often. It might hold moisture better, too. In Juneau that would not be any benefit, but the bent blades of grass would hide the moss. What else could we do? How about highlighting and streaking with colors that complement your flower borders? You could dye in different shades of green for a variegated or textured look. An easy thing I am surprised I've never seen is embossing - using higher and lower blade settings to cut a pattern - like the cutouts popular in real short haircuts. Sort of like petroglyphs, really, except chipped rock stays chipped until it erodes away. Sculpted hair and grass can be reworked as soon as it grows out!

Of all the things in our lives that need various forms of weeding and hoeing, it's nice to throw in a little creativity where we can and keep our chores lively. We may not all be great designers (do you suppose Picasso mowed his own lawn?), but like beach art being washed away by the tide, your hair and lawn will grow right back and before you know it.

I don't think any less of my Grandma for showing so little imagination in her lawn mowing, with a huge yard full of flowers and berries, she had her hands full. The fact that she also had basically the same haircut her entire adult life is probably a coincidence.

Nita Nettleton can be reached at

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