(10:30PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)
While looking out my window in the middle of farmland in SE Indiana, I see woods at various distances from approximately a quarter to three-quarters of a mile away. In between me and those woods are soybean and corn fields, scattered houses, their lawns, a few roads and lanes, the margins of those fields and roads, and (closest to me) our yard, that we decided not to mow this year. It is mid-July, and in all of this very green, rural scene, the only substantial group of flowers of any kind is our yard. A little island of “proper” flowers, and flowering “weeds”. And it is full of bugs, namely BEES.
Across countless acres, I see nothing but fields and lawns.
In the fields, only the corn or soybeans grow, as they are “Roundup Ready”, and only the GM (genetically modified) crop will grow there. Everything else there is dead: poisoned. The corn will be tasseling soon, so there might be a good situation for the bees there then, but on the other hand, is the Round Up bad for animals as well as plants? Obviously, (I think), humans can eat the crop without harm, but it still causes much irritation to us as it is being sprayed on the field, and when you walk through areas where the plants are dying from it you definitely sense the poison of it. If I were a bee I doubt I’d go on those plants with that stuff on it, dying or not.
Other than the fields, we have the lawns, where scarce is the flower, and even scarcer is the flower not sprayed with insecticide (if it is considered a “flower”) or herbicide (if it is considered a “weed”). The grass is a sea of green, and, if it is “well kept”, has nary a single bud or flower for a bee. Not only that, it takes hours of human effort, along with gasoline and heat, to keep this lawn so pristine. In many locales, it also takes a supply of water shipped in (read: robbing some other area of its natural water) to maintain it as well.
So here in the midst of rural America, with the nearest town less than 3,000 people, and a population density of 15-50 per square mile, depending on the mile, a bee can find hardly a place to go. It’s all green, but to a bee, it’s a desert. My god, if they can’t find much here, what on earth of the many, many more densely populated areas? And whereas at least the GM crops do produce much more food than was grown on this land 180 to even 30 years ago, I can see no benefit to the lawns which ring each house, other than the vanity of humans and the never-ending quest to subdue nature to our creature-comfort-at-all-cost wills.
All in all, this colossal waste of time, this immense labor that works to push us off a cliff even faster than we were going anyway, is not even beautiful. The monotonous green of uniform length, acres and acres of astroturf, which, if they were astroturf, would be better because at least they wouldn’t take resources to maintain, is by no means beautiful. It’s some kind of perverted notion of beautiful.
It was in this light that we made a decision that puts us in fear of social repercussions and potential action by our neighbors, and/or the local zoning board.
Basically we decided to take a small part of our lawn, a back part hidden (mostly) by our house, a part all of 1500 sq. feet or so, and let it grow up. We threw around some wild flower seeds, even digging up a small bit and planting them proper. Around the edges were our existing flower beds, holly hocks, peonies, sunflowers, daisies, along with the equally beautiful weeds: Queen Ann’s lace, dandelions, thistles, and many more I can’t name. (I’m still astounded at what is described as a “weed” and what is not by our society. )
So the grass kept getting taller, and my parents (who live about 75 yards away) kept asking if they could cut it, and the cats and dog kept deciding that it was their absolute favorite place to hang out and play in, and it just kept getting higher, until wind, rain, and animal walkthroughs left it something like it is today.
And when I went out into it, literally for the first time in a month or so, I was so impressed to see the micro ecology going on there: Lots of bugs, lots of flowers, buds, leaves. It was very humid, and also fragrant. And there on all the flowers were so many bees. Lots and lots of bumble bees, which you still see often. But also in there I saw a few HONEY bees, 3 or 4 at least. Which is about as many honey bees as I have seen total the last 5 or so summers (2003 was our first year here).
There used to be many honey bees here 30 to 40 years ago, and it did seem sort of strange when we returned here that there were so many less bees. Then reading articles about the disappearance of bees worldwide, we got to thinking…
I’m not kidding about expecting the zoning board to give us a call. We are both on a citizens committee to review and rewrite our county’s zoning law. On a weekly basis, we are involved in an often heated debate about land use, and quite a bit of legislated aesthetics: design standards, approved materials, approved plants, etc.
Now a small bit of background. I am a graphic artist, and have paid my rent for the past 20 years on my artistic skill, and more recently my artistic opinion. I understand implicitly that art and taste are subjective, and often (or more accurately, always) the most popular art is not the best art. And I also understand that there is no way for me to “prove” what is the “best art” and it is just my opinion.
But having said that, I can see no way that a green lawn, devoid of flowers, is prettier than one full of flowers. And I can also see no way that a bed of flowers of all one kind, is prettier than one of many different flowers-especially when one considers that each only blooms for part of the season. If you want sustained flowers, than a diverse group of them is the only way to go.
During the midst of this spring and summer of zoning and letting our lawn grow “naturally”, we saw a news report on TV about a town fairly close to us enacting “weed laws”, which basically say you have to cut your grass or else face fines and/or imprisonment (yes imprisonment, I kid you not).
Now of course our little oasis puts not much of a dent in the problem of disappearing bees. And it uses barely a drop less gasoline than we would have otherwise. But how is it that we have legislated, at the threat of incarceration and fine, something contributing to our doom, while it wastes our time? How is it that we find “beautiful” something so bland and monotonous, and something so colorful, so full of life, and good for us and the earth, “unkempt”?