Death to Infidel Lawns!

Anyone remember/know about Sayyid Qutb? This fundamentalist Muslim, a guy whose writings still inspire Al Qaeda, spent time in Colorado in 1949, and what he saw in rural, conservative Greeley, Colorado appalled him. That men and women square-danced together at church socials was high on his list of degenerate horrors, of course. But something else set him off too.


Yup. Green, clipped, neat, water-wasting, useless American lawns. Don’t believe me? Click on the LAWNS link.

Now, Qutb’s writings scare the daylights out of me, but I have to admit that I’m with him on lawns in dry climates.

So I smiled a bit when I read this 6/20/08 article: “High Gasoline Prices Changing Lawn-mowing Habits”

Were he alive, Qutb might shake a copy of In the Shade of the Koran in the air and then happily offer up an extra prayer or two.

Me, I’m just thinking about American conformity and waste. I mean WHY must almost everyone feel an obligation to put in a bluegrass lawn, no matter what the price in time, water, and gasoline? Did I mention fossil fuel-based fertilizers and chemical crap to suppress heartier vegetation?

And then there’s that little problem of riding lawn mower engines producing something like 12 times the CO2 of those in cars.

So, I HATE bluegrass lawns. I especially HATE misplaced bluegrass lawns.

They don’t belong in Colorado. Bluegrass belongs in the Blue Grass State–in horse pastures. Buffalo grass belongs in Colorado. Blue grama belongs in Colorado. Many other lovely, indigenous, low growing, water thrifty grasses belong in Colorado. I mow my Prairie Project in March and use the grass cuttings as mulch on my vegetable gardens where the grass and wildflowers sprout along with my tomatoes and peppers.

So I’ll wave my copy of Organic Gardening and say it:

Death to infidel lawns!



9 Responses to “Death to Infidel Lawns!”

  1. Sybil Says:

    Our fixation on lawns must have something to do with a cultural memory of European gentry. Look! We’ve made it! We now have an expanse of water-sucking grass surrounding our tract house! Yippee?

    I’ve always loved driving through New Mexico and Arizona and seeing the adobe houses with garden alcoves of native plants. Doesn’t look too far off before we can have that here, especially since my desert plants are thriving on neglect.

  2. Cassandra Says:

    Sybil’s observations inspired a quick Internet search on the subject.

    Here’s a snippet from a 1999 New Yorker review of The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession:

    Virginia Scott Jenkins shows that this uniquely American landscape form is not a native one: indigenous New World grasses were munched into extinction by the colonists’ Old World livestock, and the very concept of the lawn was borrowed from the romantic English parks of Capability Brown and from the French tapis vert. But gradual suburbanization and the shaming tactics of appearance-minded neighbors led America to become completely besotted with grass—and lawn care.

    I also have an anecdote to share as well. About fifteen years ago, a friend had as a house guest, the leader of a New Zealand rock band. This fellow also holds a PhD in music and is one of the world’s leading authorities on Mahler, but that’s another story. In this instance, he was on tour with his band. He and my friend were talking when a loud noise caused the musician to jump to his feet and slam the front door shut, shouting over the noise, “What the hell is THAT?!” My friend said, “That’s a leaf blower.” When my friend mildly asked how he kept his yard neat, he glared at her and said, “My wife and I have a goat.”


  3. Sybil Says:

    Three cheers for goats. Now I need to look up the regulations to see if my town would allow them.

    It would be interesting to see if we could find data on chemical use related to lawns over the period since WWII. Even my folks succumb to the magical thinking that all Ortho products work on only the plants they want to kill and have no other effects in the world at all. That and the chemicals vanish immediately upon touching the plant.

  4. Cassandra Says:

    Got Goats?

    It’s just important to understand that goats can create all sorts of other problems. Ask China. That country lowered the price of cashmere by loosing goats on land too fragile to sustain them. HUGE areas have been devastated. We are talking massive sand dunes where grass once grew.

    Too much of a good thing is too much.

    And I love a line I read recently: Anything that’ll hold water will hold goats. My neighbor has two and she routinely finds them in various stages of escaping from quite impressive fencing.

    Back to gas-powered lawn mowers, here’s another tidbit from 2007:

    Americans burn 800 million gallons of gas each year trimming their grassy yards


  5. bodhi-mine Says:

    Sybil says, “I’ve always loved driving through New Mexico and Arizona and seeing the adobe houses with garden alcoves of native plants.”

    I live in Albuquerque. When I bought my house it had this (illegally) watered green lawn of a type one should only maintain without pangs of guilt in North Carolina or other high-water area. Here it was blasphemy – environmentally, conceptually, even aesthetically. The high desert has its own beauty and we should not have to borrow or import alien notions of beauty. Needless to say our lawn is back to a suitably native (low-maintenance) type.

    Incidentally, the “fundamentalist,” Sayyid Qutb, should not be conceived of as being Muslim at all, just as say Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and their fundamentalist ilk should not be conceived of as being Christian. Fundamentalism (of whatever denomination or sect) is wholly other and lives like a parasite upon its host. This holds true even for scientific or atheist fundamentalists.

    Death to infidel lawns Indeed!

  6. uncommonscolds Says:

    bodhi-mine said, “Incidentally, the “fundamentalist,” Sayyid Qutb, should not be conceived of as being Muslim at all, just as say Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and their fundamentalist ilk should not be conceived of as being Christian.”

    Harold Bloom made some similar observations in his 1994 The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post Christian Nation.

    It still staggers me that Wahhabism has become so powerful. Of course, the strength of fundamentalism in America staggers me.

    And frightens me.


  7. When the Well’s Dry, We Know the Worth of Water–Benjamin Franklin « Uncommon Scolds Says:

    […] There are many more good studies out there on this subject. Managing–or trying to sustain–the Ogallala represents a major problem for farmers in several states. If they fail to do so, and some have already failed, a good chunk of America’s food supply goes away. Some places are already reducing the use of overhead irrigation methods under which as much as 80% of the water is lost to evaporation. (I’m not going to document this since I live in a state where crop irrigation is a way of life. Everyone except the lawn-watering townies KNOWS this. I know it because we flood irrigate most of our 20 acres about every 30 days during the summer. By the way, it’s backbreaking work tending ditches. See my old blog post “Death to Infidel Lawns” […]

  8. Eat Your Lawn « Uncommon Scolds Says:

    […] On the other hand, bluegrass lawns in desert climates rank high on my list of pet peeves. (Don’t believe me? Go back and read my old post “Death to Infidel Lawns!”) […]

  9. Annabelle Says:

    I сould not resist commenting. Perfectly written!

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