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Achieving Food Independence

Table of Contents

1: Industrial Food and the Homestead Alternatives2: Soil Fertility3: Organic Matter4: Minimizing Tillage5: Garden Year--Spring6: Garden Year--Summer7: Garden Year--Fall8: Garden Year--Winter9: Orchard and Woodlot10: Forest Garden11: The Lawn12: Livestock13: Poultry14: Ruminants15: Closing Thoughts on Livestock16: Local Foods17: Bringing It All Together

11. The Lawn

A final word about the plant kingdom in the homestead: Is there any use for a lawn? Any area of the homestead that is not making a positive contribution is a potential resource wasted. To be sure, lawns provide areas for recreation and relaxation. Too often, however, they become an enormous drain on the homeowner’s time, and produce areas that are largely sterile, both aesthetically and in terms of diversity of species. A visitor from Mars would be puzzled indeed at typical American “lawn behavior”: We poison the lawn to make sure only one preferred species grows, fertilize it to make it grow, then cut it because it’s growing!

I strongly favor developing lawn areas into productive resource rather than wasted asset. There is always the option, of course, to replace the lawn with alternatives—wildflower meadow, herb garden, plantings of perennial crops like bramble fruits, gooseberries, hazel nuts, and fruit trees (which is sounding a lot like a forest garden). But even if we keep the lawn, it is possible to include it in the homestead’s productive assets.

Lawn

Waterfowl Grazing Lawn

Grazing the lawn

My own “lawn behavior” changed last year. Indeed, you could say I no longer have “lawns”—I have “close-in pastures.” And I’m using them accordingly. Rather than leaving the ducks and geese with the main poultry flock (which gets complicated around water issues), I started penning the waterfowl in their own plots, confined and protected by electronet fencing. I divided the lawn into five different areas, and rotated the ducks and geese among the five plots (a week per plot). A 50-gallon sheep waterer supplied by a long hose provided drinking and bathing water. Waterfowl are great grazers—especially geese, which can subsist entirely on grass after the brooding stage—and mine did a great job of eating grass which otherwise I would have been mowing, and converting it to meat for winter meals, which I couldn’t have pulled off.

The lawn as fertility patch

My other change in strategy for the lawns: In the fall, I overseeded with the same mix (grasses, clovers, alfalfa) I use on the pasture. I will repeat in the late winter. I hope to get something more like the species mix out on the pasture. I’ll let it grow maybe 8 or 10 inches high (i.e., as high as I can get away with—the Lady of the Manor has her own peculiar notions about lawns!), then cut with the scythe and use the mowed material as mulch elsewhere on the homestead. After the cutting, the waterfowl can again be rotated through the five plots. But with the lush growth of spring, I may be able to get two or even three cuttings before the drier part of the season cuts back on the bounty. (And at that point, yes, I may be back to mowing—always a good thing to keep the Lady happy, after all!)