There is a saying in sports that the most important ingredient in becoming a great coach is having great players. I do not know if there is a saying like that in journalism, but I have met several great readers of my column, and a reader I just met might be at the top of that list. To illustrate just how unique this reader is, first let me illustrate by drawing a caricature.
Anyone who has lived in the Abingtons has seen how housing developments have begun to change the feel of the area. There is ample evidence of this along Fairview Road. When I was a child, there were hilly pastures surrounding the barns that still dot the edge of this avenue that travels through the heart of various decades of housing development. In fact, within a half mile on either side of this three-mile-lane, one could easily write an architectural history of development from 1960s ranches through the excesses of the 1970s and the “get-r-done” vinyl of the 1980s to the three decades of “McMansions” that take us right up to the present. And, in nearly every case, the new houses begin as lots for sale, with the only options being wooded or clear. Because builders do not adequately protect trees, after a few short years, most wooded lots end up in the same place as the cleared lots. Soil, pasture grass, brush and trees are taken out, the house and driveway are built, and then new soil, grass, and shrubs, and trees are put back in. The result is literally “out with the old and in with the new,” not only on the lot itself, but also in the entire neighborhood.
The reader I just met also built a house, but somewhere she found the beat of a different drum to follow:
• “I made them pile all of the woodland soil around the property so that we could have at least the top foot of soil native. I want to keep even the soil the same as before I built.”
• “I researched everything to try to find a permeable, permanent, plowable driveway. I hate it, but I had to go with blacktop.”
• “None of this grass gets mowed, it is a fescue that grows to a maximum of 12 inches. It’s not a permanent lawn.”
• “It’s okay if weeds grow in the grass — I don’t want a mono-culture anyway.”
• “I don’t want bark mulch — the mulch of the forest is leaves.”
When we parted, she said, “I hope you succeed in trying to change the world.” I said, “I think you should write a column.”
The point is not whether mowing a lawn is right or wrong. The point is whether or not the “McEverything” style of landscape is the only choice.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business.