Sunday, July 18, 2021

Kill Your Lawn, Grow "Weeds."

Over the past few years, my view of lawns has shifted from just apathy to total disdain. 

I've never been a "lawn guy," I've never really cared enough to dedicate much time, effort and resources to my grass. Sure, I *tried* and had done some stuff... watering, fertilizer, de-thatching, aerating, overseeding, etc, which, when I actually list it out, seems like a lot, but I was only barely interested and didn't do all of these things often enough or consistently. My lawn's appearance matched my efforts, but it was usually "good enough," and I was fine with that. The weeds were green, the grub patches weren't too bad, and I had better things to do. And while I wasn't a dedicated grass guy, my OCD made sure that what I did have was usually neat and clean.


Then, more and more articles came out that really highlighted the problems with modern lawns. 

From an environmental perspective, lawns are horrible. People with huge lots just dumping water and chemicals into the soil while growing a plant that offers no benefit to the ecosystem whatsoever. Then, the army of gas powered tools used to maintain these lawns adds another layer of negative impacts to the environment. And don't even get me started talking about commercial and municipal properties that are similarly watered, fertilized, and maintained, all for no good reason. 

When I see one of my neighbor's yards with pure green grass, but with little signs indicating that some chemicals have just been applied, so kids and pets should stay off, I think "what the hell are we doing?"

Now, don't get me wrong, I think *some* grass is okay, and certainly I'm not advocating for a total elimination. If you, like me, have a yard for the enjoyment of yourself, family, or pets, then yes, the grass is good, but I'd say that the vast majority of homes that I see never have anyone out enjoying the yards, and not every square foot.


If everyone would just reduce the size of their manicured lawns, that alone would reduce the resources dumped into environment for the most prolific, but useless, crop in the US.

As I stand now, I'm working to eliminate as much as my lawn as possible, and I'm doing so in a couple of different ways. First, I'm planting vegetables. IF I'm going to put time and watering into my yard, I might as well get food in return. There's a "grow food not lawns," movement out there, and I'm on board.

Next, I'm just letting parts of my yard just grow. What's growing you ask? Well, that's an interesting question. Some would say that "weeds" are growing, but I think that highlights the perceived duality of lawns; there is either grass or weeds, thus if something isn't grass, it's a weed and it's bad, and should be eliminated.

But, turns out, there are really no real "weeds" per se. The generally accepted definition of a weed is that it's something that's growing where it's not wanted, regardless of the species. A dandelion in the middle of an expanse of green Kentucky Bluegrass could be considered a weed, but so would a tomato plant, or a sun flower, or rose bush. According to Wikipedia, the term "weed" has no botanical significance.

As I've learned more about the plants that are considered weeds, I've come to realize that many of these plants have value and have beauty and are way better than turf grasses. 


Now, the only line in the sand that I draw is in whether or not a plant is native or non-native/invasive. The topic of non-natives/invasives is one that I won't get into here, but needless to say, my next phase of yard transformation will be in not only working to eliminate the aggressive invasives (some Oriental Bittersweet growing in the border of my yard), but the non-natives that we purposefully planted like my hydrangeas and Butterfly bush.

So, as I've left parts of my yard to just grow, it's been interesting to see what has cropped up. These are all plants that most would consider weeds, but they have names and potential uses.

Here's a list of some of what I'm growing:

American Fireweed

https://eattheplanet.org/fireweed-love-it-or-hate-it-a-bold-and-versatile-herb/



Broadleaf Plantain

https://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/broadleaf-plantain-a-wonderful-weed-zbcz2007



Common Purslane
https://www.drweil.com/vitamins-supplements-herbs/herbs/powers-of-purslane/


Corn Speedwell
https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/veronica/arvensis/


Horse Weed

https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/horseweed-erigeron-canadensis-useful-plant-or-noxious-weed



Lady's thumb, also known as smart weed or red shank. 

https://www.ediblewildfood.com/ladys-thumb.aspx



Sow Thistle, but this one has me wondering...
https://gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org/species/sonchus/oleraceus/
I can't really tell if this is an invasive or not. It's not on the MA list.

https://www.mass.gov/doc/invasive-plant-list/download



Virgina Pepperweed

https://watchingforwildflowers.com/tag/virginia-pepperweed/



White Goosefoot

https://insteading.com/plants/wild-spinach/



Wild Carrot also known as Queen Anne's Lace.

https://www.livescience.com/21496-5-edible-garden-weeds.html

NOT to be confused with hemlock.

http://ravensroots.org/blog/2015/6/26/poison-hemlock-id



Wood Sorrel

https://www.wildedible.com/wild-food-guide/wood-sorrel


That's just SOME of what's growing and what I've had the chance to identify. I've got more invasives to eliminate (creeping charlie, etc), and more native wildflowers to scatter in, but ultimately, my yard will be a combination of native habitat and food production. 

I'm going all in, and if you are even remotely interested, I can NOT recommend Doug Tallamy's book, Bringing Nature Home, enough. It's a "must read," for anyone ready for a philosophical change in the way that we "manage" our yards and the ecosystems beyond.






Thursday, January 21, 2021

Beverly Bike Park?

I've been kicking around the idea of a bike park somewhere in Beverly.

UPDATES WILL BE BELOW

Exactly where? Who knows.

How big? Dunno.

When? No idea.

But, all things start with an idea, so if you're interested, please fill out this short form.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Battle of the Blowers vs Bloviators

It's that time of year to start the leaf blower battles. The autumn leaves are down, trails are covered and the debate rages as to what is better--"clean" or "natural."

I say there is no universal right or wrong approach, but generally I favor groomed trails. 

In fact, for the most part I don't think leaf removal adversely affects trails and more likely may confer benefits to trail users.

Before you load your aspersions and invectives in a flaming bag to hurl at me, let's lay out some facts or at least some informed opinions that I'll use to make my case.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Poultry Power


It started innocent enough. Jean's friend in NH asked if we wanted chickens, and of course the answer was, "yes!" They gave us a small coop and all we needed to do was build an enclosure and get a permit from the city...

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Arizona Adventures

I’ve never been one to shy away from biting off more than I can chew, so when Glen tossed out the idea of a one day epic 100-mile ride along the very remote Arizona Trail, I was in. I even started to train for it, but then, well, life got hectic, and “training” turned into drinking lots of coffee hoping that it would be a suitable replacement for proper sleep, diet, and exercise. 

It wasn’t.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Let Me Tell You About My Shovel

William Macy's Shoveler from the 1999 Mystery Men

I’ve mentioned before that I’m always looking for convenient and efficient ways to get tools out to the trails. Many times the best tool for the job is relatively big, or heavy, or both, and in those cases I will either schlep that stuff out by foot or load up the bike trailer. 

There are, however, some pretty kick-ass tools out there that are strong enough to do real work, yet packable enough to stow in a bag. 

Enter the DMOS Delta Shovel. Available in both steel and aluminum, it folds down to be easily carried in a back pack, and it extends to allow you to dig, move rocks and do anything you want a shovel to do.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Get Off My Gravel


So, the buzz has been that USA Cycling has its eye on gravel racing. Not to be left behind, the UCI is apparently looking too

I would like to point out that this is not new. I found a Cyclocross Magazine article from 2015 where USAC's former CEO, Steve Johnson said, “The gravel segment is the Wild West of bike racing, and it really needs us right now.” 

Dunno... seems like gravel riding and racing have done just fine.

2019 Video Recap

Just a video montage of some of the rides we (Racer-X) slayed in 2019. X Gon' Give It To Ya.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Hitting the Trails with my Big Boy

That's a Silky Big Boy that I'm talking about...

It seems like trails ALWAYS need work, from minor fixes like moving some branches to major builds or re-routes; it's hard for me to be out riding or running without seeing something that needs attention.

One of the recurring problems we've had over the last few years in my neck of the woods have been blow downs. Yeah, we get PLENTY of small (and not so small) branches that can easily be moved, but we also get many large branches and whole trees that come down with the wind.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

911-Rider Down!

I AM LOOKING FOR COMMENTS (commend box below): I will update and refresh with new info as applicable.

Let's face it, accidents can happen anywhere as can medical emergencies. A little slip of the tire can lead to that "perfect crash" with a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, vascular injury or any or all of the above. I took a handlebar to the groin a year or so ago and was convinced that I had a traumatic femoral artery dissection (the softball sized hematoma that almost instantly developed was one of the reasons...). Likewise, even the healthiest of us are not immune to the possibility of a heart attack; or a simple bee sting could lead to anaphylaxis.

So, do you stay inside and play video games? No, you live life to the fullest because living in fear isn't living. My job probably has me a little more focused on the things that can go wrong, and that perspective also has me think about what I would do if I was out in the woods and had to deal with a medical emergency on the trails.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Stowe!

For many people, think mountain biking in Vermont, and you're going to think about Kingdom Trails. And, that's for good reason, the trails in East Burke are world-class and getting better every year. But, Vermont is a big state and there are plenty of other spots to ride. Jean and I had a free get-away to Stowe so I thought it would be a perfect chance to see what's going on in that part of the state. I had seen some killer video of various trails and I wanted to check 'em out.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Rose Mountain Rumble--2019

This marks the fourth year in a row that we've done the Rose Mountain Rumble in Lyndeborough, NH, and every year the ride it's been awesome (2018, 2017, 2016).

Great course, great support and amazing post-ride food.

Before I get to the ride, let me mention the nearby accommodations...

One year, Jean and I camped at a campground in Brookline, NH called Field and Stream, It was, and is, a favorite campground. Another couple of years we camped at Salisbury Beach State Park campground. A different vibe, and a little too far to be convenient. This year we were going to go back to Field and Stream but we waited too long and couldn't get two sites (for ourselves and LizDan and their travel trailer), so Dan found a campground in nearby New Boston, NH called the Friendly Beaver.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tour de Heifer, Brattleboro, Vermont

The combination of camping, Vermont, and a good gravel ride makes for a perfect weekend in my book.

Those three factors came together on the weekend of June 8th & 9th as Jean and I, along with the illustrious Liz & Dan, brought our travel trailers to Brattleboro, Vermont, for the Tour de Heifer.

Brattleboro is one of my favorite towns, with a cool downtown and an amazing farmer's market, books stores, antique stores, coffee shops, and restaurants (like the Whetstone Brewery with great beers and awesome outdoor seating). We were there last year for the West Hill Grinder and had been looking forward to a return--the Tour de Heifer was the perfect reason.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Waterbury Area Trails Alliance Gravel Grinder

Well, it's spring 2019, so that means rain... April, and so far early May, have been rainy, rainy, rainy. Mountain bike trails are a mess, and events like the Muddy Onion, Rasputitsa, and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance (WATA) gravel grinder have been impacted by the rain in one way or another. I did the Muddy Onion, and while it was a bit muddy, I fortunately finished right before the cold deluge began. Rasputitsa is on my bucket list, but I haven't committed yet, and this year's course seemed miserable with not only rain, but sleet and snow.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Connecting the Green Dots

I'm not one of those people that's lucky enough to live next to a huge national or state forest. I can't roll out of my back door and climb foothills or mountains, and just disappear into the wilderness. I live in the 'burbs, just north of Boston, close to major highways, commerce, and other aspects of residing in a relatively dense population.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Muddy Onion 2019!

muddy onion gravel ride montpelier vermont onion river outdoors
"Fun, fun, fun," that's my summary for the 2019 edition of the classic Vermont gravel ride, the Muddy Onion.

Be sure to also check back to past Muddy Onions: 2018 2017 2016

Starting and finishing in beautiful Montpelier, and hosted by Onion River Outdoors, the Muddy Onion has been a staple on my spring ride calendar for a few years now.

We've been blessed with generally great weather for previous years, but the forecast leading up to this year's event included lots of rain. Between the late snow melt and the precipitation, some of the pre-event course pics looked like it would indeed be a muddy onion.

The lovely wife and I headed up Friday, grabbed our ride numbers, had some great food and chillaxed at the Inn at Montpelier. As if obsessively checking the weather app... okay, multiple weather apps, would alter the predictions, I just about wore out the "refresh" part of my screen. Get pics & video here (below)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Oh... the elbow!

worst case of medial epicondylitis that has ever been endured by a human
I've been working in healthcare for more than 10 years, the majority of that in emergency medicine. I teach at a number of universities including Tufts, University of New England, and Mass. General Hospital's Institute of Health Professions. It is with that background and experience that I claim that I have the worst case of medial epicondylitis that has ever been endured by a human. That's right, no human has experienced the elbow pain that I have, and a lesser man would be in tears.

You might scoff, and say, "ha, that's just golfer's elbow," and that's where you'd be wrong. Yes, technically medial epicondylitis is commonly known as golfer's elbow (the opposite of tennis elbow which is lateral epicondylitis, on the outer part of the elbow), but I don't golf, so, ha!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

More Kingdom Trails!


I've been up to Vermont A LOT this year... gravel rides, mountain bike festivals, races, it's all been good because I do love the Green Mountain state. As the season winds down, some friends and I made one last sojourn before the leaves were all down and the temps dipped below freezing.