|My front yard July 2013|
|My front yard in January 2015|
The front yard went from green to brown in about a year and a half. I can't explain this. It seems to have been a combination of some sort of soil deficiency, erosion and five years of drought.
I've lived in this house for 35 years. Most of that time, the yard looked like the picture on the left, green and lush, but it was a lot of work. My husband fought to keep that St. Augustine here in hot dry Texas because "it feels good when you walk on it barefoot." And it did.
It started having multiple problems many years ago. After Ronnie was diagnosed as dying in 2010, he told me some things I might try to keep it in good shape. I hated to disappoint him at this time of greatest stress and sorrow, but I didn't want to promise to do something I had no intention of doing. So I took a deep breath and uttered words I knew he was not going to enjoy. "I'll probably let the Bermuda take over."
Ronnie passed away in August of 2011.
Grief is a strange experience. It effects everyone differently. When the drought really set in, I avoided looking at the front lawn as much as possible. I went to work and came home every day, pulling into the driveway and going directly inside. With our city reservoir down to 18%, we were not allowed to water outside at all except with gray water, and that was wasted in front, running down hill in trails and running out into the street. Ronnie's beloved, manicured lawn was gone and I didn't have the energy, the strength or the ability to focus long enough to do anything to fix it, so I chalked it up to one of those things I could not change -- at least not right then.
As you can see in the photo on the right, the Bermuda didn't take over. Those small yellow areas were all that remained of it.
In August of 2014, I cancelled the lawn service that administered chemical pre-emergent, so after Christmas, I threw out a wildflower seed mixture in hopes that something would germinate and slow down the erosion that had become the biggest problem.
You've heard the expression -- or some variation of it, "when one door closes, another one opens."
I don't remember what I googled that brought Permaculture front and center on my Facebook page. I had never heard of it but I felt certain it was an open door that I should walk through.
As per instructions ( sort of) from Permaculture, I dug a series of swales all the way across the front starting just below the pecan tree.
I made the decision to allow anything to grow that had roots. Soon I had several dandelions, some thistles, hen bit and chickweed -- all the usual Texas "weeds" -- which come to find out are actually Nature's remedy for bare exposed soil -- religiously stamped out by the pre-emergent.
I bought pink evening primrose plants and seeds from the local native nursery and transplanted vinca major, sedum and other plants that I had growing in the back.
Then it started raining -- and the yard went from brown to green again in four months. Problems solved. Right?
Could have been. After reading just a little bit about Permaculture, though, and learning some about urban farming, I decided I'd like to grow food in my front yard, but now I have all this evening primrose flourishing -- replacing my lawn grasses -- just as I envisioned.
I'm not real sure what I'm going to do about that, but I planted corn in a flowerbed close to the house and I may put a couple of hills of squash in front of the corn since none of the squash plants I already have growing in back have made anything edible.
I am still excited to have green instead of brown. My pecan tree is as beautiful and sprawling as ever. And to top off all these wonderful blessings, our reservoir is 100% again and my pecan tree has a bumper crop forming.
I walk out front several times every day now to see what's new, to look at the greenery, the flowers, to appreciate it all, and to communicate with my pecan tree. I am so glad it's still with me, and I sense the appreciation it has for all my hard work.
Or is that Ronnie walking with me? Seeing the beauty of it all through my eyes, smelling the wonderful fragrance of the honeysuckle through my senses, anticipating the delicious taste of fresh harvested pecans in the fall? Even though it is all very different than what he chose when he was here, I think he approves.
And that makes it all the better.