Real Gardening vs. American Lawncare

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watering hose Two weeks ago, I was watching my neighbor meticulously patch his lawn after spending a half hour edging the sidewalk.

I thought, “If he spent that much time and care on a vegetable garden, he could feed his family all summer long.”

Then last week on my son’s preschool field trip, the instructor showed the kids a photo of a lawnmower and asked what tool did that job 100 years ago on the farm. The scythe was the answer, and I thought, “That wasn’t for cutting grass, it was for field work.” I was struck by the fact that farmers 100 years ago didn’t have lawns. They didn’t have time for them, nor did they probably see the point.

My husband mentioned tonight that people 100 years ago would laugh at us, having just finished jumping around for an hour doing P90X. They would think we did an awful lot of manual labor with no practical result. (I agree!)

When I compare our labors today vs. those of a more agrarian society decades ago, I find myself surprised at how busy we are with so little to show for it.I was inspired on this line of thinking by Annette from Sustainable Eats, who left some zinger winning comments at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s CAFO post back during the Spring Cleaning carnival. (If you haven’t read that comment thread, it’s a post in itself!)

One of the commenters there was questioning whether slow food and smaller, grass-based farms could possibly feed the world if in fact we could succeed in eradicating factory farming. She firmly believed there was not enough farming land in the world to do it. (Hear Michael Pollan’s perspective on that issue Friday; he answered my question at a talk in April on just this subject!)

Annette pointed out:

“How much lawn do we have in this country? Stop thinking large herds roaming farmland. Everyone with space for lawn should have chickens and/or meat rabbits. They take very little space, are very efficient converters of grass and bugs and are easy to care for and yes, butcher.

It’s time more of us took responsibility for our own inputs and stopped relying on farmers to solve the food crisis.

I have friends who have dairy goats in the city (in Seattle you can have 3 mini goats the size of labs essentially and require the same space as labs, and 3 chickens regardless of yard size.) Goats, chickens and rabbits don’t require much setup and aren’t much more trouble to care for than dogs.

I finally have come around to spending my time not mowing and fertilizing the lawn but instead tending a garden and not walking the dog but raising productive pets instead.”

image “I believe that we can feed ourselves sustainably using a traditional food model – by eating less meat, all parts of the animal, not wasting anything, densely planting edibles over ornamentals, learning to make more things with secondary items (like soap from excess animal fats rather than throwing them away) and probably decreasing our reliance upon grain-based foods because they are the least nutrient dense foods we could eat.

By eating less food overall we could make significant strides in opening up valuable farmland or kitchen gardens or family goat runs. And how about not building any more ridiculously sized houses which we then fill up with more stuff than we possibly need? Everything is related and shifting thinking in one area will certainly lead to shifting thinking in others.”

This idea is a paradigm shift for me. I hadn’t thought much before about all the usable land on each individual home’s property, even in the city, for growing food, both the rooted kind and the walking kind. I think of Annette’s concept every time I see a perfectly manicured lawn. It’s just the kind of practical life choice that I could really get behind. (Honey, if you’re reading this post, don’t worry: I still don’t want to get chickens!)

mowing a huge lawn

See? What are tractors used for nowadays? Mowing the lawn. It’s urban gardening at its best worst.

My son and I just finished reading Farmer Boy, the third book in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series. Just like what I learned in Little House in the Big Woods, I was struck by the amount and quality of the work the family accomplished in this true story of Laura’s husband’s childhood farm, and how much of it was directly related to feeding their families for the year.

I was inspired to do some landscape gardening with herbs this year, and over the weekend I made sure to get my tomato, cucumber and pepper plants in. It’s not much, but it’s a start! (Tomorrow I’ll tell you the EIGHT things I put in my tomato planting holes – not including the tomato plant!) Real Food on a Real Budget also helped inspire me to get going, since Stephanie Langford admits that, like me, she’s got a brown thumb. Even if you own no land, you might be able to use container gardening to grow a salad on your balcony.

What do you think? Could Americans spend less time tending a perfect lawn, exercising at the gym, and walking dogs in exchange for growing some of their own food? What are you doing with the land you own?


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Photos from Sir Mildred Pierce, dumbonyc, and Krikit ♥.

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79 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    This is a GREAT post! A friend of mine is trying to turn her lawn into an urban garden and is doing awesome. I’m making baby steps, as we have a shady yard and I’m trying to figure out what to do. We have chives in our flower bed, DH is growing hops (for making beer), I have herbs and lettuce in containers, a few bags with peas planted in them, and I still hope to do two blocks of square foot garden for tomatoes and peppers. We get most other vegetables in large quantity from our CSA. DH has nixed the chicken idea too – I kind of have to agree, though. We get them for $3-4 a dozen from the place we have our herdshare so economically it doesn’t make much sense to get our own. I would like to plant some fruit bushes and trees but I haven’t sprung that on him yet 😉 Slowly, eh?
    .-= Wendy (The Local Cook)´s last blog ..Sesame Garlic Glaze for Meat and Greens =-.

    • Amy Clark says

      I have a shady yard too. All the advice I was given and much of what I read said I could grow almost nothing. Stubborn as I am, I planted a garden anyway with great results! I have grown lettuce, potatoes, onion, different types of herbs, broccoli, sugar snap peas, and bush beans. This year I tried peppers, tomoto, and zucchini. Though they haven’t produced yet (still too early), the plants have grown well and look wonderful. All of this in a mostly shady area! I say, go for it!

  2. Deanna says

    We live in an urban condo and have NO land. That, however, hasn’t stopped us! We have containers on our (crowded) deck with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and seven varieties of culinary herbs. Also, my husband’s parents own 20+ acres about 30 minutes from our city-home. He goes to the country once a week to tend the garden they let us plant, raise and harvest there. All that to agree with you wholeheartedly and say–making home-grown food a priority takes commitment, sacrifice and, sometimes, ingenuity.

  3. says

    This is a problem just as you state. In my world, there is always a solution to the problem.

    I truly believe 100% that we can go back to all local farming and have many many more people grow there own food on there own property. None of us need a HUGE house. We all NEED quality food! We all need more time together and less busy lives. Most of us could eat a little less and we can stop throwing away all the food we toss in the trash.

    There is always a solution. And, whenever there is the will, there is a way. If enough people want to change the food industry to where it should be wi more local farms and more truly homegrown food on ones property via a garden and by raising a chicken or 2 and maybe even a goat, THEN it WILL be done. No questions asked.

    We are powerful people and can basically do anything we want – we have incredible minds.

    So, lets get started! Lol
    .-= Primal Toad´s last blog ..Primal Fitness: Simple Fit Workout Day 2 =-.

  4. says

    UGH! You’ve hit on my pet peeve…obsessive lawn care. I’ve never understood the compulsion to spend all day mowing, edging, watering, and roundup-ing a more or less useless space.

    We had a big yard when I was a kid and my sister and I would wait anxiously for July, when we’d usually have drought and the grass would die. We loved it because we were the ones who had to mow all that grass (we did have a garden too).

    I live in an urban apartment with no deck, so I’m not growing too much now, but I would LOVE to have a garden, a couple of chickens, and no lawn.

    Have you heard of moss gardens? That’s what I’d use if I had any space left over after my veggie garden was installed.

  5. says

    Great post! Another thing to think about is how we’ve bred trees to become non-fruit bearing! The craziness!

    It doesn’t take much land to feed people. I think my husband says he read somewhere, that 600 sq ft could make enough food to feed a good size family for a whole year. Just takes work.
    .-= Shanee´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  6. says

    We have fruit trees on our city lot and just finished processing the mother load of peaches. We usually have a veggie garden too but this year has been dominated with deck building so far… maybe a fall garden. I’d love to get a couple of chickens, but our HOA regulations say no. While working on changing that, I’m also planning a few berry bushes in the front instead of the horrible ‘ornamental’ bushes that the neighborhood is plagued with.
    .-= Marguerite´s last blog ..The 6th Month =-.

    • Holli says

      We have HOA guidelines here too. My neighbor and I keep joking that we are going to build a shed (you are allowed to build a shed if it matches your house LOL)looking chicken coop and just bribe the neighbors between us with eggs. Sometimes I dislike my HOA, but then my sister is trying to sell her house which is meticulously maintained and has had people turn it down because of the way the neighbors house looked, so I guess for that reason they are good. We are doing what we can as well.

  7. says

    Yes! We spend so much wasted energy. And for me, it’s interesting to see that it not only affect our entire food system, but it affects the way we view physical labor, exercise, and fitness. Just another reminder that our body, whether we’re talking about it’s input or output, works better when we are connected to (rather than fighting) nature.

    Great post!
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Reset to Default: Reclaiming Our Natural Health =-.

  8. says

    What timing on many levels for me.
    *Last month I read Little House in the Big Woods for the first time. One of my closest friends is a huge fan of the books (has been since youth) and whenever we talk food she mentioned it. I loved it! Like a memoir for kids. And I can imagine kids in the Depression reading it and being thankful for that they have.
    *I spent the end of May in Florida visiting my best friend for ten days. One thing we did was put in a small garden plot. Right now it just has potatoes and a marigold border (need to build up the soil). It felt SO good to break through the soil and get my fingers into dirt like that. I gave her some books on organic gardening and permaculture as well. May that garden thrive.
    *While I can’t plant in the ground at the condo complex where I live, there are now herbs started on the deck, along with strawberry and tomato plants.

    Yes, we do all need to take more responsibility for our own food production. Keeping it in the hands of a very small amount of people just leads to what we have now.

  9. says

    GREAT post – I linked it on my FB page! Made me think a lot which is usually something I try to avoid in the mornings before I’ve had my coffee :)
    Anyways, I think the statement “It’s time more of us took responsibility for our own inputs and stopped relying on farmers to solve the food crisis” hit the nail on the head. It seems to me that as a whole, our country has come to depend on others to solve our problems instead of stepping up and taking responsibility for ourselves.
    This is my first year to have a garden, and while it hasn’t been the biggest success, this has motivated me to learn all I can and expand it even more next year.
    .-= Kelli M´s last blog ..Summer Read List Contest =-.

  10. says

    LOVE this! Yes, yes, and yes. While I can not be considered urban on ANY level (we live on 20 acres in the middle of Mennonite Country on the Canadian prairies) this is my hearts cry. Don’t waste your efforts on silliness. Be practical! Not only does it mean you grow your own food naturally, but you get the satisfaction of being self sufficient. It’s an AMAZING feeling.

    We raise our own beef, lamb and all of our own vegetables and are starting to build up our fruit orchard. I would love to have my own laying hens but can’t as my husband does inspections at hog barns and chicken barns and we can’t have those on our residence for health/safety issues. I do plan to raise rabbits in the future when we are set up for them. (We have only lived here for 4 years and have a lifetime of projects to become fully sustainable). We are just happy to be mortgage free and mostly self sufficient. It is the greatest joy.
    .-= Prairie Chick´s last blog ..Paint, Flooring, Furniture, Oh My! =-.

  11. JeannaMO says

    Re the commenting about “relying on farmers to solve the food crisis”, so many members of my own family and friends truly don’t event realize their food comes from a real live farmer. They just think its magically appears in the Walmart Supercenter. They are so caught up in signing their kids up for sports that they have to follow, that they normally don’t even cook the food in their pantries but eat out from a drive thru! Sometimes I get discouraged by it all. How did we get to this? All this… And I live in a fairly rural area of mid Missouri where following a tractor is not an unusual thing. Amazing!

    We live in a “neighborhood”, yet we have honey bees, plant a big garden, which I can and preserve from, am slowly adding berry bushes and plants, like asparagus and strawberries, as well as a few fruit trees. I like to bake bread, and put a hot meal on the table most every night even though I work full time 30 minutes from home. If I can do it, anyone can!

  12. Sarah says

    Thank you for posting this, such an inspiration to actually put our land to use!! You are absolutely right – we DONT need the big houses and perfect lawns, what a waste of energy and resources. God bless you for the work you do!

  13. BRB says

    I think that everyone should have at least some type of garden, traditional, container or otherwise. Everyone has some type of space. I also think permaculture needs to be used a lot more in cities. Most people have lots big enough that they could produce a lot of their own food. I also find fancy trees ridiculous. I don’t understand why people won’t plant fruit trees that they can get food and shade from instead of shade trees. They don’t want to clean up the mess, but if they ate or donated the fruit and nuts there wouldn’t be any mess.

  14. LindsayP says

    Interesting idea, and maybe it could work, but I recognize that not everyone has gardening as an interest or skill. It would be kind of like if I said absolutely everyone should homeschool (an ideal I strongly hold). It might not work for all families- I know it wouldn’t for us right now, though we do hope to have a garden someday.

  15. says

    We live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. There are very small vegetable plots here and there in people’s yards. Mostly it seems to be older folks with the plots. We are the exception – we have a huge vegetable garden, not to mention lots of beds of perennials, fruit trees, and fruiting vines. If I could have chickens, I would. Same with bees. But for now, I can grow a lot of vegetables at home, showing the kids how it’s done, and put so much into our freezer.

    For those looking to get started, my husband and I dug up the entire lawn of our first home, a row home in Philadelphia, and had about five or six beds. We even had a compost pile at the back of the garden.
    .-= Barb@My Daily Round´s last blog for me wednesday: hanging desk calendar =-.

  16. says

    Check out this blog: These folks grow 6,000 lbs of produce on 1/10th of an acre & sell it to local restaurants.

    Now, granted, living in Southern California, they have a growing season like few other places in the country, but still! Here is an 8 minute vid on them:

    They live about 100 miles from us, & i want to go visit someday. But we don’t have “Southern California” weather, even tho we live in So Cal. We live in the mountains at nearly 7,000 ft & have a growing season shorter than where i grew up in Montana!

  17. says

    Love it!!

    I am trying to do more with my yard. I just realized instead of ornamental plants I could probably do herbs or something out front that would flower and look pretty but also produce something good. Doing some research about it soon. Never thought to turn my lawn into a garden but I bet my husband would love it…no more mowing! Hmm….

    • says

      totally! We actually had chives in our front flower bed and I had no idea it was chives until I got some from our CSA and my husband said “hey, that looks just like what we have growing in our front yard.” Thanks previous owners! I’m sure there are other herbs and plants that are edible but wouldn’t look strange if you already have some flower beds.
      .-= Wendy´s last blog ..This Is Just To Say =-.

  18. says

    I live in the Kansas City area and right now there is a group of citizens fighting to be able to grow row groups in their front yard. There is legislation pending that will make it against city ordinances. That seems wrong in so many ways. Here in the suburbs in my yard the BEST place for a nice garden would be my front yard for sure. My husband did put in a 2 X 8 raised bed in the back for me and he loves it so much he wants to do more. We are thinking of terracing a small hill back there to plant it. In the front I’ve planted two wild plum and have a cherry and some service berry bushes I plan to put in. I’ve decided that anything new that takes alot of space is going to have to produce food in some way.

  19. says

    Great post! I totally agree in thinking that it would be a huge paradigm shift to go from lawns to growing our own food. There is plenty of space in the US though, it is just not utilized wisely.

    On another note, I LOVE the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I was so into them as a kid – I always wanted to BE her an live in that time period. We are actually moving to Missouri in the fall, and I’m planning on visiting her homestead while I’m there :)

  20. says

    I used to work in the oil industry and believe it or not, that is where I first ran across this concept. Experts disagree on how abundant our future oil supply is (if you’re interested in the debate Google “peak oil”), but one things for sure: We are wasting a lot of oil growing, transporting and refrigerating food. Growing food in our own backyards is one of the simplest ways to avoid energy crunches like we saw a couple of summers ago. It’s better for our planet, our wallets and our bodies, too!

    Where I live there are strict codes against chickens on suburban lots. We are currently trying to buy a lot large enough to qualify to have a couple of milk goats and chickens.
    .-= Mommypotamus´s last blog ..Boppy Total Body Pillow Winner! =-.

  21. Karen says

    Loved this post. It hit me one afternoon several weeks ago, while I was very busy going nowhere on a treadmill at a fitness center I pay way too much to belong to: why am I doing this?I am literally going nowhere, producing nothing (except a nice, shiny sweat mustache). No one in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family was sedentary and overweight; you worked HARD to take care of yourself and your family, and if you didn’t, you didn’t make it. Today, so many are willing to depend on other sources to “take care of” them without any effort put forth at all. Do we all just have it too easy?

    My husband has a very green thumb, and loves to putter around in his yard. Some of what we grow is ornamental, but has other qualities like attracting butterflies and hummingbirds for example. We think of that as feeding the soul. We also have a moderately sized garden…enough to feed just the two of us this summer. There’s nothing like the freshness…

  22. Sarah W says

    So I’m curious now what sort of house/property are you looking for in your house hunt? :)

    I think I’d like to have my own chickens some day and maybe *I* could sell the extra eggs…. but it won’t happen while we’re in this neighborhood, and we are gonna be here for a while!

  23. says

    Wonderful post, Katie! We live on a hill mostly in the woods. I finally convinced my husband after many years to stop trying to grow grass on said shady hill. Now because we live on the shady hill and our open sunny space is a driveway and a drainfield, there is no room for a real garden. But there is room for something. I just planted mint and basil in planters and they are doing well. I’ve had lemon balm for years, but just realized that I could also use it to make tea, in addition to using it dried for potpourris. Although we also live in a neighborhood, we keep bees and have for many years. We use the honey as a sweetener all year long and to make honey butter, and give honey as gifts to friends.

    I find the whole discussion about not having enough land ridiculous. I read a similar article the other day about our country not having the capability to grow enough vegetables for everyone. When I go to the grocery store and the farmers market and I see everything sold out right after they open, I’ll believe that, but not before. We have a long way to go before we have to worry about that concern.

    Whether you live the Little House on the Prairie lifestyle or not, gyms have always been totally absurd to me. Walking, running, swimming, and much more can be available free to all.

    So, I have more to do even with my limited sunny space and appreciate this post very much.

    .-= gfe–gluten free easily´s last blog ..Melanie of Gluten-Free Krums and Avocado Artichoke Salsa =-.

  24. Amanda says

    Great post, great point. Although I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on anything (save the water for the garden?!), it leaves me wondering if perhaps people using their lawns to produce food instead of, well, extra work, would perhaps be a great solution for those who are sure we must control the population growth. Supposedly, that’s because we can’t afford to feed everyone if people have more than 1.5 children…..just musing! I LOVE your blog.

  25. Vera says

    I loved your post. Reminds me of the “victory gardens” during WWII! Very interesting! I have a garden in my back yard and have cows and chickens at a friends who has some acreage and lives close by.

  26. says

    Lawn care is easy when compared to garden care. Maybe you can do something small, and everything has it’s place, but if you really want to feed your family from your garden, and raise enough chickens, cows/goats or meat rabbits…well, that is a job in itself; an interesting, fullfilling job, but a job none the less. I know this first hand and I do all I can, but I still cling to my front lawn and it’s pretty simplicity. I am very grateful to be able to run to the store and buy something I haven’t had to grow or even make on my own just to be able to spend time pursuing other things…like playing on my lawn with my kids. I’m a big believer in growing your own, but there is no need to revert completely to the past…there is a reason for progression after all.

    • Katie says

      You are totally right, which is why I don’t have a very big garden…but if everyone did a little something, according to their means…

  27. Vera says

    YES absolutely, people do make a huge difference! Here is a quote from the above link… “The US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. So, the program made a difference. “

  28. Nana says

    Our neighborhood’s HSA rules specifically restrict vegetable-growing in the front yard. And, they don’t allow chickens, either. Sooo many $ and chemicals are wasted on lawn care on our street! Last season, the HSA complained about a 2′ fence I put around a teeny plot on our side yard…so the bunnies wouldn’t eat my veggies. Hmph. I tried! Now I’m coaxing a garden in the shady back yard, and I’ve put a few herbs out front. I’m inspired to look more into edible plants for my front yard!

  29. Nicole says

    I whole heartedly agree! I live in AZ and am always upset when I see people with huge lawns! If we used just a little of that time, energy and water, we could be sustaining ( at least in part) ourselves!

  30. says

    This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately too! Our neighbors at our old house would literally get on their hands and knees and pull out the crab grass by hand from their lawn. Their yard was immaculate, but what was the point?!

    I planted 3 different garden areas this year, for the first time, and am so excited about them. I have a sun-challenged back yard, so the front yard is the best place for a garden, but hubs is not quite on board yet. He did build me a raised bed, in the front, for my tomatoes and peppers so I could make sure they got enough sun. And my parents just brought me some raspberry plants that we are going to plant in our side yard, I am excited about that!

    I have also been thinking about how “useless” most landscaping is. Now, I love beautiful flowers, but yes, why can’t we include some productive plants in our flower beds as well. Not to mention trees and bushes. I’m hoping and planning to do a lot more with my front yard gardening next year, I’m just getting my feet wet and starting out slow with it. But, so far I love it. It really feels so good to know that I am being productive and contributing to our family’s food supply, even in a small way.

    Great post!
    .-= Emily @ Live Renewed´s last blog ..Meal Plan Monday =-.

  31. says

    Awesome post!! I have thought the same for years.

    We live on just under an acre in a small town. We used to have chickens but the township made us get rid of them because of ordinances, and I miss them so much. They were so much fun, and such awesome compost!

    I have a 50 x 50 garden in the back, with raised beds I made with leftover bricks, and I grow the usual veggies, lots of culinary herbs, lavender for bath things, and 200 strawberries. I also have three grape vines, three apple trees, 1 peach tree, one pear tree, 2 gooseberry bushes, 2 currant bushes, 100 raspberry canes, horseradish (there is nothing like it fresh), and i hate mowing the lawn. I only mow because the township blight control has visited me several times about my meadow, er, lawn.

    Enjoying some fresh tabouleh salad from parsley and mint from my garden.
    .-= Kimberly Eddy´s last blog ..Summer Reading Programs =-.

  32. says

    Oh, this is one of my pet peeves, too. I live in a semi-arid area, and a full 1/3 of summer water consumption is dedicated to lawn care! It’s insane, lawns just weren’t meant to grow here. I decided a few years ago that if I was going to put the time and effort into growing, that I might as well grow something I could eat! I live with someone who adores his lawn, but every year I cut away another corner for food. There are so many foods that can be grown in small spaces and containers, with a high yield, and minimal effort once planted. Once I have everything planted and mulched, and drippy hoses or buried water containers in place, all I have to do is water every few days, and weed every few weeks.
    .-= Butterpoweredbike´s last blog ..Strawberries Love Pine Needles =-.

  33. says

    I actually love taking care of our lawn. We are currently stationed in Italy though; we can only do so much to our lawn. For me, taking care of the lawn makes me feel good. I think it is pretty, it makes me happy, and I get a great sense of accomplishment. That’s just me though. So I’m thinking, maybe people just enjoy their lawns? Granted, if we could have a garden, I totally would. It just isn’t feasible with our rock yard and time frame of living here.
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..For every good day… =-.

    • Katie says

      I kind of think it’s totally possible to do both. I love my flowers, too – they feed me in a different way than my veggies! Thanks for making an important point – :) Katie

  34. Erin says

    This is an amazing concept. I live in a rented house (my parent’s actually), and though we planted a garden this year and have plans to expand next year, I don’t think they would appreciated me pulling out the front lawn. The back yard is a decent lot, but there is a lot of tall trees that shade the most of the back of it (where I plan to expand next year). I am hoping the little sun that that part gets will be enough. I am not much of a gardener, infact I have been known to kill plants in my day. But I am giving this my all and trying to learn what I can. I also want to look into getting a small amount of chickens. Could sell the extra eggs that we don’t need to help support the chickens. Something I have to check with my dad to see if he would be okay with it and then he could let me know if I can with the county (since we aren’t incorporated in the city we live in).

    I never used to think quite like this, though I did appreciate how it is in Mexico that people lived off their own land. My husband is from Mexico, and its where we hope to move to someday. But now, I had the paradigm shift thanks to another similar site ( and have started the journey (but already hade my garden started this year.

  35. says

    Why does everyone think that lawns have to be an either/or thing? As a kid my parents had a yard that was great to play in as a kid. They just mowed it. No weed killers. No watering. Why can’t that be enough? Why do we all have to now be urban farmers? Honestly I don’t want to be a farmer and grow my own food and raise animals in my backyard. Neither did my grandfather and I thank God every day that he decided he didn’t like farming and moved to another state and found a career he loved. I have a very small yard that I just mow. If it rains then it’s watered. I have a few herbs on my patio and shop from a farm market in the summer. I don’t want chickens because I don’t want to have to eat them when they stop laying. Why is it that now after not having a yard for 10+ years it’s now wrong for me to enjoy the tiny square of grass I have and not turn it into Little House on the Prairie?
    .-= Condo Blues´s last blog ..Book Review: Stay by Allie Larkin Sit –Stay-Read-Repeat =-.

    • Katie says

      I’m no farmer, either, believe me. I think it’s an interesting concept, and I think everyone should grow something, if they’d enjoy that, but I also love my flower gardens and the fact that my kiddos have somewhere to play. So balance is what I would advocate here, too. Some lawn, organically cared for, and some veggies.
      :) Katie

    • Katie says

      I like the balance! We need a yard so our kiddos have somewhere to play, but we’re not immaculate about it. I wish my husband would help with the vegetable garden; we could do so much more. But we get a few jars of salsa out of it plus some salads, and that’s a good start! :) Katie

  36. says

    We live on a steep cliff in the city, and our back yard is forest. Our front yard, though flat and getting some sun, is very small. We are concerned about the visible soot that lands on everything in our yard (and on our windowsills, too) which we assume is from car emissions; we could rinse that off of food grown in our yard, but what about the soot in the soil taken up by the plants? The only food growing in our yard is chives, which were there when we moved in.

    So, we focus on growing pretty plants, improving our soil by composting everything we can, and stopping erosion on our slope with wise placement of yard debris and rocks. Our soil is very heavy clay with lots of rocks, but over 8 years we’re slowly making it better.

    We do not have ANY lawn. We have a flat treeless area in back, but we’re encouraging the moss rather than planting grass. Why waste time mowing??
    .-= ‘Becca´s last blog ..Why We Love Community-Supported Agriculture =-.

  37. WC says

    Saying that everyone should grow their own food is the same as saying that everyone should make their own cars and write their own computer programs.

    It’s more efficient to do things in bulk.

    Don’t get me wrong! I think growing your own food is a fun and fulfilling hobby and can enhance your meals tremendously… But expecting someone to grow ALL their own food is not logical.

  38. Nathan says

    I find it ironic and very telling that right after this great post you wrote “Honey, if you’re reading this post, don’t worry: I still don’t want to get chickens!”

    And why do you not? They are trivially easy to care for (far easier than grass). They take kitchen scraps and turn them into fertilizer and eggs.

    Although everything you wrote in this post is very true- Americans will never give up their lawns unless a disaster forces them to.

    • Katie says

      Well. Chickens just aren’t for everyone. It is my husband who takes care of the grass, and I who write this little blog. Without a blog, maybe chickens. But hubs wouldn’t stop mowing the lawn to take care of chickens; it’s just not his style, and I have to respect that. We also can neglect our grass in the heat of August and only feel marginally bad when it all turns brown. Chickens, not so much!

      😉 Katie

  39. says

    Growing your own food is amazing. I’ve taken care of ornamental gardens and food gardens – lots of them. Now I never plant anything that isn’t food for me, livestock or wildlife.

    Be careful of getting too ambitious your first time. Start with a container of salad or herbs someplace you’ll see it every day. Believe me, if you go all out and put in a big planting in the back 40, chances are it will die because you’ll never see it.

    My priorities: Salad greens, herbs, strawberries, raspberries, artichokes, asparagus, fruit trees.

    As Bill Mollison said, “One morning put on your fuzzy slippers, go outside and cut some chives for your omelette. If, when you get back inside, your fuzzy slippers are wet, your herbs are too far away.”

    We’re moving out of the lovely rental house that we developed a substantial garden in. It’s sad, but we’ve bought a small house closer to work and we’ll have space for gardening. We’ll have to be very smart about planning to get everything we want (thank goodness Bay Area farmers markets are so excellent), but we might end up keeping a few feet of the lawn in the shady half of the yard. We’re definately getting chickens. =)

  40. says

    Great post! I agree with most of it (and most of the comments) that we could be doing so much more with our lawns. I gotta say though, with a young child, small lawns do have a place. I would be incredibly stressed if the only backyard I could send my ds out to was covered in a vegetable garden! But NO ONE needs a lawn big enough to need a riding lawn mower. I’d say if you can’t do it with a manual push mower, it’s too big! :)

    And I love the Little House series. I have been reading these to the kids. The past few months as I’ve been reading and researching real, slow food the Little House books have taken on a different meaning. We are in On the Shores of Silver Lake and we were reading about Christmas day. Talk about slow food! They had breakfast and then immediately the men went to do chores and the women went to cook dinner (lunch). It took them that entire time to get dinner ready! I found it so amazing that they spent so much time getting food ready! It was no hurry up and cook type thing. They spent TIME on their food. Both cooking and enjoying.

  41. says

    It’s something to think about. I’m not ready to give up landscaping and a lawn because I do enjoy both. However, maybe it’s time to re-think the way it’s done. I like my pets too, so maybe I’ll just become a vegetarian………..

  42. WT says

    Did you mean to say 200 or 300 years ago? In 1910, many people had lawns. The lawn mower was invented in the 1830s so lawns expanded into the suburbs and beyond mansions, parks, playing fields and institutional property. Also mechanical and horse-drawn mowing for farming was very much in use 100 years ago; people only used scythes for the first go at it.

    I understand your point, but your lack of history knowledge is appalling.

    • Katie says

      I said 100 years because that’s how old the barn was that we were in, and I knew that even if lawns were around, the scythe wasn’t the lawnmower, and likely, farmers didn’t have time to mow. I guess you’ll win a jeopardy round on “appliances in the 1800s” over me, but I’m ok with that! :) Katie

  43. says

    my parents are a bit too busy to do an full vegetable garden in their yard but they have planted 6 fruit trees in their back lawn (and have spots for 2 more once they find dwarf varieties of the trees they want). fruit trees are super easy because if you don’t feel like picking the fruit yourself, the local food bank will come out and do it for you (and take the fruit but give you the tax deduction)
    .-= Carrie´s last blog ..How to Make the Most of Follow Friday =-.

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