What’s in a Weed?

My neighbor’s lawn (taken surreptitiously while I pretended to check the mail).

My neighbor’s lawn is a pristine expanse of deepest emerald, trimmed with geometric precision and fertilized, debugged, aerated and over-seeded into hyper-fertility. No weed dares to intrude among the slender blades. No mole cricket burrows underneath. In the dead of winter, when all the yards have gone sere, his verdant plot defies the season. It’s the kind of lawn that practically begs you to strip off your shoes and socks and walk joyfully barefoot among the blades, digging your toes into its genetically-modified plushness. Except my neighbor would have a cow. Because he is a lawn-freak.

His is a trophy lawn. It does not exist for children or dogs to roll and play on. He is retired and I’ve never glimpsed a grandchild. They have a tiny dog, but she walks politely down the concrete walk to the driveway and then to the street every day when his wife takes her for her daily constitutional. No, his lawn exists only to show up the rest of us, to tell his neighbors, look at this. This is how you grow grass. Look upon its magnificence and weep. He is a lawn tyrant and like all tyrants, leaves all the grunt-work to his subjects. Or in this case, his one and only subject, the yard guy.

I hate the yard guy. Not in a he-annoys-the-crap-outta-me kind of way. I usually pass that point before he is halfway through his lawn care ritual. No, by the time he straps his gas-powered, fume-belching, roaring-monster leaf blower to his back and continues to shatter my peace and quiet for another 20 minutes, I am gleefully fantasizing about bloody murder.

In the summer, I try to understand. If my freaky neighbor wants his grass manicured within an inch of its life every Wednesday morning of the growing season, so be it. I’ll grin and bear it (though the grin may closely resemble a rictus of pain. Or rage. One of those.) But yard guy does not simply mow the lawn. He drives a riding mower big enough to carry my entire family around a yard maybe twice the size of a postage stamp for roughly an hour, in case a blade somewhere got missed in the first five passes. The he takes a gas-powered monstrosity of a weed eater and edges the entire yard until the borders appear as if they were cut with a knife and a ruler. Then he gets out the aforementioned leaf blower. And this is when I really have to stop myself from going berserk on the guy.

I think leaf blowers are a sign of Armageddon (and I can’t believe I’m the only one who does). Think about it. The yard guy is using a gas-powered monster that is pouring pollution into our air and emitting a deafening growl that surely violates the city’s noise ordinance and what’s the payoff? In this case, yard guy gets to blow grass clippings off the lawn, where they would eventually decay and add their nutrients to the soil, and into the street. I particularly enjoy this senseless ritual in the spring and fall, when I get to savor the sweet smell of gasoline wafting through my screened windows and the lullaby of the engine’s roar unmuffled by closed windows.

But what really gets me, is when the guy shows up in December, long after the grass has stopped growing, after the leaves have all fallen and long since been mulched or cleaned up, and does the whole routine only more slowly than he would in July. The only thing he manages to blow into the street is a little dirt, but he takes his time doing it. And that’s when I start having graphic fantasies about hog-tying him and locking him in the cab of his own truck with his leaf blower, gassed up and running, in his lap.

All this, because American culture has dictated that every house should have a neatly-trimmed homogenous gathering of grasses in front of it. I was a victim of this arbitrary standard myself for several years. Though I was never so extreme in maintenance habits as my lawn-freak neighbor and his paid minion, I did sacrifice more than a few hours (and dollars) each spring in futile attempts to eradicate “weeds.”

Some of my best clover.

I finally realized, though, that life is short and money is shorter and I have no particular problems with “weeds.” I’m kind of partial to clover really. It’s pleasing on the eyes and bare feet and fun to look through for mutants with an extra leaf. And dandelions are cool-looking when they go to seed. This year, there’s this lovely purple spiky thing blooming all over our “lawn.” I think I won’t mow it until it’s done. It’s pretty. And it’s going to drive my neighbor bat-shit crazy. At least I hope so.

Leave a comment


  1. OMG, this is the most hysterical thing I have read in long time! I know the lawn Nazi type. We have a guy in our neighborhood we call Mr. Clean, who, in effect vacuums the street. I say, let the weeds grow to size of small trees. Drive the guy bonkers!

    • Thanks, Kathy! “Lawn Nazi” is exactly right. I’m so glad you get it. I was a little afraid people would think I was being mean. I found a couple of more things blooming in my “lawn” last evening. Definitely going to let it go for a little bit at least (especially since it’s prettier than my garden right now).

  2. Catherine

     /  March 16, 2012

    I hear ya sistah! I have the very SAME feelings about LEAF-blowers!!!!!!!!!!! And in fact every contraption that makes engine noises on lawns!!!! I go nuts!

    • Hi Catherine! Yay! I’m preaching to the choir. I hate the huge lawnmower and industrial weeedeater too, but the leaf blower seems to be the loudest. (Or maybe my nerves are just so frazzled by the time he gets to it, it seems that way.) I use a lawnmower with an engine though, and always feel a little guilty when I start it. We’ve been expanding our garden by a few feet each year. The goal is to get rid of the lawn altogether eventually. Takes a lot of money to stock a garden though so it a long-term project.

  3. Ha! Fabulous… and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Being temporarily in the desert I was starting to miss the signs of spring and the smell of freshly cut grass. What was I thinking? My partner in craziness is one of those leaf blower addicts and I can’t even recall how many times I put in my ear buds, threw a blanket over my head and read for as long as it took for him to finish, which was always way too long! Great post! Thanks 🙂

    • Bless his heart. He’s lucky to have such a patient partner! I can hear a leaf blower right now. It kind of spoils the fun of having your windows open on a beautiful spring morning, doesn’t it? I have never even visited a desert though I would love to. With my camera! I bet it has it’s own kind of beauty. Thanks for the kind words!

  4. My neighbor is the same–I swear he measures his lawn! Sometimes I want to toss mint seeds into his lawn…or morning glories.

    • Mint seeds! That’s brilliant! He’d never get rid of it. I really like his wife though and don’t want to make him harder to live with, or I might really be tempted.

  5. Agreed! And the fertilizers/herbicides get into the groundwater. Nicely written.

    • Absolutely! And he watered his grass on “no water” days during our last drought too. (I’m such a tattle tale.) Thanks for reading.

  6. Pissing my pants laughing over here. My other half does not have a green thumb and attracts weeds like no tomorrow. I told him with all the monies spent at the local store that a couple cans of green spray paint would be a much better investment and stash the extra monies in savings – ha! Have a Great Weekend!

    • There’s not much I love more than making people laugh. On purpose that is. I’m sure my partner was laughing at me a few years ago when I tried to dig up several thousand dandelions out of our lawn by hand (because we couldn’t afford the weed killer and I felt guilty using it). For every one I removed, it seemed, two more sprouted and went to seed before I could get to it. It feels much better trying to be at peace with the dandelions and save myself a lot of time, money and stress! Thanks!

  7. When I was growing up we had what you might call a “wooded lot.” We had so many trees you couldn’t see the street…and we were only on an acre. So I have always been partial to the “weeds” and the clover. Never was a big fan of plain ole grass. But the neighbors, my God, what the neighbors thought, I can’t imagine. Our leaves sometimes got on their lawns. And in their pools. We had one neighbor to the left who was constantly arguing that our trees were growing on their side. Darn those trees!

    • Our back yard is wooded so thankfully I don’t have to worry about grass back there. One of the hardwoods leans over the neighbor’s yard and drops limbs all year and a ton of leaves in the fall. Really nice people though. Her grandson does the yard work and she never complains, so I think I got lucky with them. Never could understand people who have a problem with trees. What else do they think is going to replenish the air after all those lawnmowers and leafblowers cough up all those fumes?

  8. Clover is nice and so are the many varied little flowers, which are probably weeds too. I looked at my grass the other day and said it’s going to be sad in a way to cut it, because it’ll make all the flowers go away.

  9. Stop the Madness! I have a real problem with the gas-guzzling aspect (like people who insist on using snow mobiles and jet skies). If you have to be obsessed, then do the work yourself—with a rake and manual clippers. Geez.

    • I agree! I raked what I’m pretty sure were several tons of leaves every fall when we lived in the mountains. With an actual rake. Imagine that.

  10. Clovers look great in the yard! Especially around this time of the year =)

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