Musings: Unapologetically And Unabashedly Unkempt

Wild things like wild spaces

I live in the country. I haven’t always lived in the country – I’ve resided in both urban and suburban areas before – but I’m definitely rural now. And that means I don’t live under CC&Rs that dictate how often I have to mow or what color I can paint my house. It also means I can let my property be as natural as I choose: (a) untamed, (b) partially tamed, or (c) ridiculously manicured. I choose “b”.

At this time of year, the vegetation is growing enthusiastically. Everything is green, leafy, and many trees and plants are blooming. It’s lush and gorgeous. With the grass growing so quickly, even the geese can’t keep up with it – and they prefer it shorter. The side field has pasture that recently reached about 4 feet high before it was mowed. It made excellent grass hay!

This actually took *forever* to mow

Cutting all that pasture, especially when it’s grown so tall, takes a long time. It also  requires the right conditions: mowing wet grass can introduce disease. Mowing takes days around here. In this season’s hot, humid weather, we choose to do it sparingly.

Ok, so our property may not look like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens. I can live with that because I’m living a real homesteading, small farm life, with dirt, poop, sweat, bugs, and animals. I don’t need – or want – to portray a fake lifestyle where I pretend to do my chores in full makeup and blown-out hair and my clothing is new and trendy. I’m sometimes unkempt, myself, and sweaty from moving tractors, hauling water, or chasing animals; poop must be addressed, and it sometimes gets on me; makeup is just silly – the animals aren’t impressed and it just melts off with sweat; and my “chore clothes” are just that – not for wearing out on the town, and some have tears from getting snagged on wire or other sharp objects, so why wear new clothing if it’s just going to get damaged? I’m about the practical, even if it’s not cute. I wear a big UV-resistant hat with a face shield and neck cover, and completely cover everything else, including my hands. It’s not modesty – it’s a desire to avoid sun damage to my skin and premature aging.

But back to the catalyst for this post: we recently had an individual come out to look at an area outside our home where honeybees had suddenly begun to congregate. This person, who was a stranger, made an offhand comment that we looked like we were “in transition”. What in the world does that mean? And why would you say something like that to someone you don’t know? In trying to understand the comment, I thought about how she likely saw the grassy fields waving in the wind, unrestrained brambles adorned with blossoms, saplings of different sorts growing here and there in an undisciplined way. We don’t grow ornamental plants, and our “lawn” is food for our geese – not a golf course.

We like it natural; unless they’re causing a problem, plants may grow where they like, and that means any of the plants that grow here. There’s a poison ivy vine that greens up every spring, winding along the top of an old rock wall, and in the fall, the green leaves turn a lovely scarlet. Is it ideal to have poison ivy there? No – but we know it’s there and don’t touch it, so it’s not a problem at this point. And definitely don’t suggest, as that visitor did, that we spray it with herbicide. And that suggestion was from a beekeeper! 😱

Yep, that’s poison ivy…and wild rabbits in the background

Leaving land “wild” benefits the birds and animals that rely on the food sources that would otherwise be removed or sprayed with chemicals. I watch the early butterflies enjoying the wildflowers, and the tall grass provides cover for many small animals, like the young wild rabbits that frolic in the pastures.

So, if you don’t like our property, that’s your problem. I look at it with pride: the vegetation is healthy, and that means that our animals will be nourished by it. We have many types of birds and the trees and bushes provide them with safe places to build their nests and escape predators. The resident flora also provides excellent foraging opportunities. I don’t see any compelling reason to change how it looks here – the grass will be mowed, but it’ll be done on our schedule. And we’ll only mow it because the geese prefer to graze on shorter grass, not because we want our property to look like a public park.

Running a small farm means prioritizing the work that needs to be done, so purely cosmetic considerations don’t rank high on our list. We have neighbors who pay landscapers to mow their grass or maintain their decorative plants – if you want (or need) to do that, it’s your prerogative. I’d rather spend my money on other things – and I’ll eat (or drink) those “weeds”, thank you very much!