By Kathy | May 1, 2010
For the past 10 months, I have had no front yard.
Well, there is a front yard. It just hasn’t had anything in it other than dirt.
When I moved into this house more than 20 years ago, there was a patch of scraggly lawn out front, which despite my best efforts over the years, never became lush or green. Add to that the weeds and the gophers and the moles, and it was just a problem through and through.
I even got new sod put in at one point, which looked nice for about a year, and then deteriorated to its thin weedy self once more.
The problem is that my house sits on terrible adobe clay, which is so thick that you can’t even call it soil. No one had ever bothered to explain to me how to improve it, and by the time I found out how to do it, I was done with lawns.
California isn’t a place where lawns grow naturally anyway. They take too much water, care, and fuss. So I decided last year that the lawn’s time had come and gone. It had to go.
I had some guys come and dig up the lawn, and I wasn’t sorry, not even for a second. I dug a narrow, twisting channel though the dirt, which took forever because it’s really clay. Then a friend with a landscaping business brought me rocks and dirt and gravel.
The rocks and stuff have been sitting out there for a while. Christmas came and went. So did New Year’s. Then came the rain.
Then, on a day when it was supposed to rain, it didn’t. I took it as a sign that I should go out and start moving rocks around.
My grand design is to create a dry riverbed through the space that used to be a lawn. That’s what the channel was for. I piled small river rocks in the channel, then started placing larger rocks around the edges to create a river kind of effect.
That’s when I realized that my project was going to take a long, long time.
I had never done any rock work before, but I had had other people describe it “like doing a jigsaw puzzle.” I would liken it more to doing a collage — you are putting pieces of something together and attempting to make it look artistic.
For me, it meant putting rocks in one place, looking at them for a while, then moving them somewhere else. And then sometimes moving them again.
Three hours of moving rocks gets a little tiring.
And when I looked at what I’d accomplished in three hours, it was disheartening, to say the least.
There is nothing like realizing, after a lot of work and effort, that not really very much had gotten accomplished.
I still have a lot of weed cloth to put down and a lot of rock to move. And then there will be decomposed granite to tamp down, and a few drought-resistant plants to plant.
I am trying to be patient with the process, but it’s hard.
Of course, as the saying goes, anything worth doing takes time. And that’s what I have to keep telling myself. There will be a lot of hours that will have to be put in on my little anti-lawn experiment, but when it’s done, I will no longer have to worry about watering, fertilizing or mowing — just a little leaf-blowing every so often.
The effort, in the end, will be worth it. I hope.
In the meantime, I will continue putting my rock collage together, one stone at a time.