I was pondering this morning why I tend to be such a tree-hugger and despise the traditional lawn as I do. Part of it has to do with growing up in the Pacific Northwest and spending much of my time outside camping, hiking, and the like. We took nature tours where the guide would point out all the different plants and how they fit into their environment - maybe that is kinda nerdy, but I loved it as a child. I became a lover of nature and all the critters that dwell there. At home, half of our yard was landscaped (and also included a HUGE veggie garden) and the other half was left au-natural for the critters and for us to enjoy a native landscape. I used to love to explore that part of the yard.
But what really made an impression on me was what the new neighbors behind our property did to the native plants on their property after they moved in. I must have been around 8 years old when this happened. Our property looked directly into the next property and the old lady that lived there left a big chunk of that property as nature intended, so all we saw was a wooded area - no house or ugly fence to obstruct the view of the woods. It was filled with wonderful native trees and plants including vine maples, filberts, johnny-jump ups, trilliums, vanilla leaf, red huckleberry, native pacific blackberries, wild strawberries, pacific dogwood, native ferns, salmon berries, pacific red elderberries, big-leaf maples, and mountain ash. All kinds of birds and critters enjoyed the native woodland. But then, she passed away and new owners took over.
The first thing they did was bring in a big bulldozer and proceeded to crush and destroy every living thing on the property. I was HORRIFIED. I tried to save all the little wild plants I could with my little shovel and bucket. I dug what I could up and moved them into our woodland area. I cried when I watched all the nests of baby birds go down and were crushed. Once the land was cleared, they burned off what was left and proceeded to put in a big mono-culture grass lawn and a big ugly fence between the properties. They then put in a kennel for their dogs that they never cleaned and smelled awful (not to mention the rat problems that dirty kennel incurred). I think the dogs were hunting dogs, as they were never let out of the small kennel except when they left on vacation on occasion. I felt bad for those animals. They would bark and bark and bark - I am sure they wanted attention and a clean place to lay down.
Anyway, they never took care of the lawn after they planted it and never ever used it, other than to occasionally drive the riding lawn mower over it and throw piles of fertilizer and pesticides on it only to have that wash down the incline into the creek below. Oh, and to endlessly water it in the summer (again it was on an incline so the water would just run down the hill.) I was so dumbfounded as to why someone would do that to such a pretty landscape. I mean, they had a nice small manicured lawn on the flat part of the property that the old lady took fabulous care of. It's not like they were sans-lawn. Couldn't they have left a little of the wild scape alone? It's not like they used the lawn after they planted it. And all those poor critters lost their home and we had to look at a big-ass ugly fence and listen to neglected dogs bark all day and night.
Now I get that they purchased the property and that they had every right to do with it what they want. But that doesn't mean they should, or that it is right. I would have liked to have seen them show a little more respect for the land than that - not to mention the creek below that got the brunt of the fertilizer. As a result, whenever a see a big-ol lawn, I think of what used to be there and how all those plants and critters no longer have a home. And that my friends is a big reason why I am such a tree-hugger.