Positive, Greener Alternatives to Mowing Lawns

The greenest, positive alternative to mowing a lawn is to do away with it by letting more green grow. I am not suggesting that you just stop mowing and let whatever is there just grow up, as if your place were abandoned. Land needs maintenance. Man is part of the ecosystem. Our responsibility since Creation has been to tend the earth. No, what I mean is replace the close clipped grass with bigger plants: bushes, flowers, trees, tall ornamental grasses and vegetables. Trees help clean the air; protect from and temper the weather; and attract rain. It is very important to choose plants that are appropriate for your climate. For the most part, avoid exotics, especially if they are invasive like kudzu and most bamboo. Plants that are native to a region will be easier to establish and maintain with minimal watering and protection than those that are not. Also native plants can many times be found and propagated with minimal cost. I subscribed to Mike McGroarty’s free e-newsletter to get tips on starting bushes and trees from cuttings. Another great resource is Mike McGrath’s “You Bet Your Garden” from WHYY-91FM in Philadelphia and syndicated nationally on NPR. He is a fount of information on all natural, non-toxic plant growing of all kinds.

An added benefit to growing more bushes, flowers and trees is that it provides more habitat for birds, butterflies and other creatures. These are fun to observe and beautiful and soothing to watch and hear. I had the thrill of watching an alley cat crouching behind our daylilies snatch a bird under the neighbor’s azalea. It was like a little National Geographic predators special, live, right here next to the driveway!

Vegetables and fruits have synergistic environmental effects. Replace some of your lawn with vegetables and you increase oxygen production, eliminate some lawn mowing pollution and reduce food miles. Instead of planting ornamental fruit trees, plant actual, fruit producing, fruit trees; and you may harvest some tasty fruit from your own yard. At the very least, you will provide added habitat and food for wildlife. You can plant edible cauliflower and cabbages, other vegetables and herbs as ornamental accents in your flower beds. A new specialty has even arisen among landscapers providing edible landscapes and planning.

If you really, truly enjoy a large lawn, get some sheep. I remember reading in  the Mother Earth News, about thirty years ago, about a rent-a-sheep mowing service in West Germany.

Craftsman Stained Glass & Lead

I tend to customize things to make them my own: like the Mercedes-Benz hood ornament and trunk star on my Scion xB. The windows I am installing are plain and undivided. We like them, because they let in lots of  light, but they are plain. I decided to give them a craftsman touch.

Craftsman style is enjoying a revival these days in an ironic form. Craftsman is the shorthand name for the American arts and crafts movement. This movement was a response to the dehumanization caused by the industrial revolution, with its concentration of wealth in the hands of those who controlled the means of production and an erosion of the middle class. The industrial revolution with its mass production meant that only the very rich could afford art and beauty; the middle class could afford cheap, mass produced ornamentation; the poor laborers were left with tenements. The British arts and crafts movement was part of a socialist response to these conditions. At its core, it was a democratization of art and an assertion of the value of manual labor and the human touch.

When the movement crossed the Atlantic to America, the philosophy remained the same, but the forms changed.  True Craftsman decor is to be made of local materials, whenever possible, and made, or at least installed, by the homeowner himself. The artwork is incorporated into everyday functional things. A “trademark” of the work is that much of the time some part of the work is left intentionally and prominently unfinished. This was regarded as the signature if you will that the work was done by the lord of the manor who was free to finish it or not at his whim. It was not the product of a machine or a servant who had to satisfy someone else’s demands. Finally! I have a good, socialist explanation for all the unfinished projects around here! It’s not because I am in over my head, or because I am lazy or too busy. It’s because I am a free man!

Back to the topic. The current revival of the Craftsman style is ironic, because it is mass manufactured and professionally installed. Just about every house on TV shows these days is an oversized mcMansion wrapped in vinyl clad Craftsman accessories.

Back to the windows. Since they need to be insulated glass, I don’t have the luxury to make them true stained glass with lead dividers. So I went to my local arts and crafts big box store and bought self adhesive lead strip on a ten meter roll and several bottles of liquid “glass stain”. They make solvent based and water based stain. so, if you value your health and your indoor air quality, read the fine print and get the water based.

 

cardboard guide, self-adhesive lead, burnisher and trimmer on sash
cardboard guide, self-adhesive lead, burnisher and trimmer on sash

leading process

I varnished the interior of the window sash frame, then applied the lead using a piece of cardboard cut to 2-1/2″ wide as a guide. I pressed it against the glass, while holding it tightly against the edge of the cardboard. I was simultaneously holding the cardboard flat against the glass making sure it was tight against the frame. Then I used the burnishing tool to press the lead firmly against the glass. This flattens and straightens it slightly and makes sure it adheres to the glass. 

Then I washed my hands with cold water and soap, then hot water. It is lead. You don’t want any of it to stay on your skin. The lead was manufactured in France. Most of the back of the package was covered by a huge label in fine print warnings about lead. Below this there were about five lines of instructions for its use in French. This is where my two years of college French came in handy. Sometimes you need to be able to read a foreign language to do something.

Then I squeezed the faux stain onto the glass a section at a time, carefully smoothing it out as I went. I mixed colors on the glass and experimented with textures, blends and patterns. The first set of sashes I did was for the upstairs bathroom. I could be more playful with them, since I had already decorated the bathroom with a yellow and blue rubber ducky theme. The stain is opaque like Elmer’s Glue when it is wet. It takes between 8 and 72 hours to dry to be more transparent. That is, unless it is supposed to be more opaque when it is dry.

wetwindowstain

I decided to try a different pattern  for the upper sash, utilizing the double strip feature of the lead I was using.

The bath window sashes temporarily installed in our bedroom.
The bath window sashes temporarily installed in our bedroom.

The upper right square was a failed attempt to blend red an blue to make purple. It reminds me of Spiderman. The upper left is clear stain with champagne swirled in a spiral. The lower left of the upper sash is very nice swirls of blue and yellow making green. 

Anyway, you get the idea.

Most of the windows, we are just adding the lead on the bottom sashes with random colors and textures in the corners.

 

Simple accent colors and textures to dress up the window.
Simple accent colors and textures to dress up the window.