Friday, June 08, 2007

Gabrielle has been complaining about a lack of support whilst she was driving the lawnmower round the bumpy field. “Well done Gabrielle, what a good job, keep it up, would you like a cup of tea?” No, not that sort of support but rather something to keep her chest comfortably under control while being bounced up and down in the seat like a mad thing. She’d tried on a couple of sports bras but they didn’t seem to offer what she needed, perhaps the rigours of playing tennis at the French Open or Wimbledon involve different requirements to mowing an uneven French field. Whilst in England recently, she went shopping with her mum, visiting a traditional ladies’ outfitters where she was recommended the “Triumph Doreen”. With such a formidable and imposing moniker, it is apparently the best selling bra in the UK and, from observation and Gabrielle's comments, I can report that it is indeed firming and controlling, in a rather 1950s upward pointy sort of way. So, we can now heartily endorse the Triumph Doreen as the perfect aid to feminine grass cutting. Permaculture? Yes, just file it under peoplecare, you’ve got to look after the staff, you know!

In fact, grass is an interesting one, permaculture-wise. Unlike many plants that grow from the tip, it grows from the base, which means that when you cut it, it keeps on growing. Lawns look nice and provide an area that you can walk on, sunbathe on, play games on and provides a flat contrast to planted up borders. Grass lawns also consume lots of water–when they get dry in the summer–and plenty of fuel to mow them and, of course, plenty of labour to maintain them. Have a read of this article to learn about water scarcity problems in Perth, Australia and the irony that, despite it being a desert climate, “Perth prides itself on being a garden city, boasting vast expanses of beautifully kept lawns and parks complete with water hungry plants and flowers.” Alternative permaculture approaches might involve reducing the size of the grassed area, planning grass-eating animals as part of your permaculture design or planting an alternative that performs similarly yet doesn’t need so many inputs as grass, for example, creeping thyme or chamomile.

In our gite garden, we’ve planted up a chamomile lawn, which we bought as tiny bare-rooted plants of a non-flowering variety. We could only afford half the number recommend-ed but they have already spread and started to join up. The lawn will stay green, even during dry periods (allegedly, time will tell!) will not require any mowing and, when the plants have closed the gaps and we can stop weeding the bare patches, little maintenance. We are also planning another section with creeping thyme, once we can get the seeds to grow, which is proving difficult. Having finally come to grips with stock fencing, we have three sheep keeping the grass under control in the back field and plan to put more of our grass under animals next year, once I’ve fenced in more of the land over the winter. But we have rather ignored other sections of our land and now have waist high grass and weeds,which are about to go to seed. In fairness to our neighbours, it was time to do something, and now that we have animals to feed during the winter, it’s time to make hay while the sun shines and, with all that talk of sexy 1950s-stylie bras, a roll in the hay perhaps!