I grew up in a neighborhood on the far south side of Chicago in the 1960s; a neighborhood that imploded at the end of that decade because of white flight, redlining, and panic-peddling. But until those forces combined with social change to destroy Roseland, it was a terrific place – and the 1960s a terrific decade – in which to be a kid. We had enormous amounts of freedom; our parents didn’t think they had to schedule our days or even know exactly where we were every minute of those days. Very often we were off playing in the vacant lots that dotted the neighborhood of single-family homes. Vacant lots that were overgrown with tall grasses and vegetation like nettles, thistles, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, and shrubs we never bothered to identify. We called these vacant lots ‘prairies’ and we caught bugs and snakes there, played games of our imagination, and pretended we were in another century. Funny, because now *that* was in another century!
Today I looked at my back yard and realized that I’ve recreated a Roseland ‘prairie’ of my childhood! And the thought pleases me greatly.
I bought a tiny house on a very large lot, and the previous owner had used quite a bit of the 250’ back yard for a vegetable garden, and kept most of the rest as lawn. I’m not a fan of lawn. I have grown vegetables, but if you don’t put some secure fencing up, between the rabbits and your dogs, you won’t get much – the cucumber you reach for intending to add to your dinner salad will turn out to be a 2” stub on the vine, with teeth-marks on the end.
So over time, I’ve let my yard revert to … what it will. This year it’s particularly dramatic in appearance because we’ve had record rainfall in the past couple of months, and because I’ve declined to present even a pretense of keeping order there. I’ve had a lot going on with dogs this spring, and anyway, the older I get, the less I enjoy fighting the weed battle with Ma Nature. She’s going to win, we both know it. As she has here:
That’s where the barn used to be. It was torn down 14 months ago, and since then, vegetation has flourished, to say the least! Dee hunts mice and other critters in there.
Even in the area of the yard right off the deck, behind the house, the weeds are having a field day:
Those flagstone walkways are supposed to be weed-free. Hahahahaha, right? And when you go past the fence in the back of that photo, to the really wild part of the yard – yikes, you could lose a dog in there! I may have to put bells on the collars of Dee and the Boyz pretty soon!
And you know what – I love it. I have a recliner lawn chair out here and I spend hours reading, with the dogs poking around or napping in the shade, and the bird-song back here is fabulous. Robins, cardinals, blackbirds, and some I can’t identify. The occasional hawk floats by, and at night I can hear an owl hooting softly.
The reason for this is the quirk of our block that gave us enormously deep back yards but no working alley at the back end of those yards, so if residents have garages (our housing stock dates from the 1920s and before), they’re off the street and not in the back yards. I don’t know that I have any competition for the Weed Wonderland 2018 title, but most people don’t use the bottom third of their lots on this block, and that means ample space for urban wildlife and birdlife. It’s just great.
This year because of the cold spring and then the month of rain, I haven’t been able to get down the very bottom – the last 75’ or so – of my lot to cut the grass, and I haven’t hired anyone to do it because I am not concerned about it: I have an electric mower now, and finally got long enough extension cords to take it back there, and once this heat wave passes, I’ll get down there and mow. Until then, the dog yard is being enjoyed by dogs.
Yep, they get to dig holes back there, too. Alex has one underneath an old pause table that is almost a bunker; he’s been working on it all spring. It’s a dog’s life, after all! And really, so long as it’s green, I am not bothered by the fact that it’s overgrown. I even regard it as a pushback against the lawn fascists of suburbia, a cosmic equaling-out.
Enjoy your summer! Take time to sit in the shade, listen to running water, hang out with dogs, and don’t even think about dumping chemicals or mowing anything. We’re with you in spirit!