My kids cultivate a bog garden of carnivorous plants. They have several pitcher plants, like Venus flytraps and some sundews that tagged along with the flytraps. These plants live in pots, on tables, in a row in my front yard. It gets the best sun. When it comes to lawn care and yard maintenance, that bog garden says “Sorry neighbors. We don’t give a fuck.”
There’s a permanent brown spot from the kids’ Fisher-Price roller coaster hill. Balls have lodged themselves in the pine straw, rock-like and mossy. Lightsabers are scattered up and down the walkway in between overturned ride-on toys. Grass grows up between them. The rosebushes snake out to grab us as we get in and out of the car.
Periodically, the mail woman yells at us to cut the mailbox free of the bushes, and my husband manages to briefly reclaim it from the branches. But plants grow — especially the rosemary we planted on both sides of our gate. It’s become two sweet-smelling monsters that repel USPS delivery guys.
Some neighbor once asked if we were running a daycare because we had so many toys scattered in the front yard. No, we just don’t care. The dandelions grow up in between them and because of the fence, you can only see them when they get really high. Sometimes bushes obscure the dining room windows. We once had a public official claim no one was living here, based solely on the wildness of our bushes.
I feel fleetingly bad. Grooming a lawn is the all-American thing to do. My neighbors have cultivated manicured putting greens of glory. They like to mow them, usually with riding mowers way too large for the amount of lawn they’re tackling. They like to fertilize them. They like to never, ever, step on them, and never, ever, allow children on them because they rode Triceratops in their youth and now have absolutely nothing better to do than take out their golden years on plant matter.
A glance towards their backyards reveals the same care and attention as the front. A glance into my backyard is obscured by plant matter because my yard resembles nothing so much as a Myanmar jungle, aside from the rabbit trails the dogs have worn to their favorite pooping and barking places.
Years of leaves litter the flower beds, which are now overgrown with weeds. Baby raspberry bushes sprout everywhere because we had one, and then birds ate the berries and pooped the seeds. There’s a giant dirt patch for the kids to dig in — yes, we have a designated digging area — and the rest of the lawn is choked in pokeweed and thistle. Sweetgum balls and dog poo make little foot traps.
This wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t buy the house with an immaculate front yard and backyard. Early on, it became obvious we couldn’t keep it up, so we put up a backyard privacy fence to deter our nosy neighbors. That time was bad, but mostly because of failed rose experiments and dying azaleas. Then we had kids.
Kids are, among other things, cute little time suckers. You also can’t mow a lawn with them anywhere nearby. I don’t mow lawns. My husband mows lawns, but when he’s home on the weekends, I want his help with the kids. I don’t want to be ditched in favor of yard work. Hence, our yard is seldom mowed. Hence, our backyard is pretty much never mowed because, by this point, you’d need a machete to get through parts of it anyway.
Our power company complained, and we had to chop down some nascent trees to provide better access to an electrical line. There is need of a chainsaw back there, which is definitely not child safe, and probably some poop-scooping and general cleaning. It’s nothing you can do with kids in tow, and nothing that is going to get done anytime soon.
At least the front yard has some breed of grass that doesn’t grow up to your knees — that’s the dandelions’ job. And they grow up and around the toys, the broken pots, the straggled rose bushes, and the bog garden (the one thing out there we take care of). It’s small. It’s flourishing. It doesn’t involve power tools to maintain.
We’re probably bringing down property values. We certainly look like the neighborhood hooligans. I have this fantasy that someone will want to sell their house, and they’ll offer to have a lawn service (which we can’t afford) come over and clean up everything. They recommend that on real estate sites, you know. Another fantasy — much like my weed whacker.