Part of owning a house means yardwork and landscaping, which I’m sure everybody by now knows I just love (*cough*). This weekend it was planting tulip bulbs in the ground, which should look pretty good come spring.

Unless, of course, they don’t survive. Since we bought a new house, on recently developed land, a good majority of the soil we’re sitting on is gravel and rocks and fill—basically just junk dirt that the excavation company used to push out and level the lot. It’s basically the worst soil (if you can call it “soil”) I’ve ever seen for planting—I pulled more rocks and gravel out of the ground than dirt, it seemed, when digging holes for the bulbs. So who really knows if they’ll grow here.

On the other hand, the lawn is (mostly) doing okay, as are some of the plants put in by the landscapers…


Ever think about sod before? Yeah, me neither, until recently. Always seemed like such a boring topic—yah, grass, lawns, yawn. But I’ve been thinking a lot about sod lately, since we moved into our new house and had landscaping done. It turns out sod is quite a bit more interesting than I initially thought.

Watching the sod get unrolled out and pieced together to form our new lawn, I realized that I had no idea where the stuff actually came from: were these neat rectangular rolls of grass turf just carved out of somebody’s pasture somewhere? Somebody’s yard? Who’s letting that happen? And wouldn’t you start to run out of the stuff pretty quickly if you’re poaching it? I mean, even though grass is a renewable resource, it still takes time to establish a yard strong enough to start cutting chunks out of.

And then realizing the amount of sod that must be going into new lawns around here every day, I realized the inefficiency of this and went off in search of answers in my trusty Lawn Care for Dummies.

Turns out sod comes from sod farms. No kidding. (Blindingly obvious in retrospect.) There’s actually people running vast farms that do nothing but grow grass for lawns. Not livestock, not grain or vegetables, but lawns. And the best known sod farm in this area? McPheeter’s Turf.

Here’s a Bend Bulletin profile on McPheeter’s Turf.

We work long hours, we just get really tired sometimes. We start at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning and I’ll change water at 9:00 or 10:00 at night. But it’s so good to go to bed tired at night.

I know farming is truly hard work and long hours, but still, that seems like a hell of a lot of time and work invested in just growing grass.

Now, I just have to see a sod harvesting machine in action. What? You didn’t think they cut and rolled it by hand, did you?

Independence Weekend

So what does July 4th even mean to people any more? A day off from work? Shelling out the bucks to buy enough fireworks to blow up your house? I have to admit, I’ve caught myself thinking along those lines and forgetting why we have the day off and what the fireworks represent. But the way the world is screwed up these days, who knows?

Anyway. Busy weekend. We took the kids to the Pet Parade, and the festival in the park, and my parents came over for steaks, cake, and fireworks. Beautiful weather, all weekend. The rest of the weekend was spent on yardwork; trees got pruned, some edging got done, bark dust laid down, garden got weeded. The lawn hasn’t recovered much from the dethatching, but no matter.

Oh, and I finished up Ender’s Shadow and plowed through Shadow of the Hegemon this weekend, too. It’s been awhile since I’ve gone through 2 books in a single week. Dunno if I’ll keep up with it.

Lawn Triage

I’ve decided one of the big drawbacks to owning your own home is the lawn. The problem is, it’s such a nice benefit, too.

Our lawn is in a sickly state. Part of the problem is that we live in Central Oregon, which is in large part the High Desert— during the summer there are extremes of temperatures where the mercury can soar into the 90s during the day and drop to freezing at night, during the winter it’s uniformly cold, and year-round it’s fairly dry. So right there, this area is extra hard on lawns. If you can get them started in the sandy, sometimes-alkali soil, they require a lot of water and care.

Despite all this, there are many, many nice lawns here. Hell, we even have a huge number of golf courses in the area, so I know lawns can be done. So what’s the deal with my lawn?

It’s irregularly shaped, with lots of curves. This makes mowing it a pain. It’s got several small pine trees, a couple of fir trees, a small birch and of course, juniper trees growing in it, and they suck up a lot of the water. We have a crappy irrigation system, which seems to selectively miss parts of the lawn. And finally, we don’t really know what we’re doing with it. I had to buy Lawn Care for Dummies to buy a clue.

So today, I dethatched the lawn. “Thatch” is a layer of organic matter that forms between the grass blades and the soil line. (Lawn Care for Dummies, page 198.) When the thatch buildup gets too thick, it hinders healthy lawn growth. So you apparently need to dethatch your lawn every year or two (I’m not really clear on how often), but we hadn’t done this in the 5 years since we’ve moved in. Last year we had the lawn aerated, and that helped a little. So this time, we dethatched.

We rented a dethatcher, which is kind of a like a big lawn mower, heavier and more awkward. Let me tell you, it’s pretty slick. It went over the grass like a mower, and the whirling steel blades inside shredded the thatch like nobody’s business; just pushing the thing around, you wouldn’t know you were doing anything except for all the dead organic matter being left behind. It actually went pretty quickly, about 45 minutes— the same amount of time, typically, it takes me to mow.

However, the cleanup of all the thatch took me the next 4 hours. ‘Nuff said.

Hopefully, this will do something for the lawn. Tomorrow we’re doing more, including spreading seed on the bare parts and fertilizing. And then watering the shit out of it.

Lawns. Who needs ’em?