How does your yarden grow?

Welcome to the April edition of the Simply Living Blog CarnivalGoing Green cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about going green and environmentally friendly living. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.


When we bought our house, the previous owner gave us a tour of the property, proudly pointing out all the features we were silently eliminating–the flood lights on every corner of the roof (“You can make it look like noon at midnight out here!”), the shrubs, pruned into perfect cubes worthy of a mid-range hotel, and the grass. He described his schedule for fertilizers, seeding, mowing, pesticides. He recommended brands of this and that.

He was, until just last summer, our postman. I always felt a little bad when I saw a package on the porch and knew he’d walked through our yard, where we had, ever since we signed the papers, been actively destroying the grass.

JC has a grass allergy. He gets just miserable when I mow (oh, and he can’t mow). We didn’t want pesticides or fertilizers out on the grass where our children would roll around in it. We asked ourselves, “Why do we all have lawns anyway?”

Mowing is hard work.

Here’s the impact of the American obsession with green, flat, uniform landscapes:

  • A Yale University study found that Americans use 600 million gallons of fuel every year just for mowing their lawns.
  • In the Western US, people use lots of water creating meadows in the desert. Even here in Virginia, many people use sprinklers to keep their grass green.
  • Conventional fertilizers are derived from fossil fuels. To make a 200-pound bag of fertilizer, manufacturers have to use enough natural gas to heat your home for a year.
  • Pesticides wash off of lawns and into waterways, where they endanger fish and other wildlife.

Why would we want to participate in that? We started a multi-year permaculture project to slowly eliminate the grass and replace it with other low-growing ground covers.

The first problem is the grass. It makes a tight mat of roots in the top layers of the soil. The first summer, we tried digging it up, whacking the dirt out of the roots with a trowel, and then seeding. This was labor-intensive and took For. Ever. I spent all summer working on it and barely managed to clear 50 or so square feet.

The next summer, we got smart. More specifically, we got chickens.

The girls.

We built a movable coop and bought a portable electric fence. We could shift the chickens around the yard, relatively easily. They laid eggs and provided entertainment, but those were mere byproducts–the thing we really wanted them for was their pecking beaks and their scratching feet. Those chickens could clear the whole enclosure of every last speck of grass in two or three weeks flat. Their poop is great fertilizer. They aerate the dirt with their feet, while mixing their poop in.

For the past several years, we have been moving the chickens around the yard, seeding with ground cover mixes, and reducing the area we have to mow. If we are able to stay here this summer, we plan to get more birds and possibly finish the de-grass-ification of our yard.

The neighbors are baffled. “You’ll change your mind when you have kids,” they told us. “Kids need grass to run around on.” Thanks, but ours is doing just fine on clover, creeping jenny, and speedwell.

We are astonished every year at the increasing biodiversity of our yard. Sometimes, we clear a patch of earth and don’t get around to seeding it in a timely fashion. The grass occasionally takes advantage of our delay, but, more often, we get local volunteers. The plants that offer themselves require no maintenance–no watering, no fussing. They were designed to live exactly here, and they do.

We are seeing more and different birds every year. When we first moved here, we saw doves, robins, and cardinals. Now we see chickadees, nuthatches, bluebirds, woodpeckers, orioles, indigo buntings, and many more. The woods are noisier every spring.

We have naturalized our lawn with daffodils, crocus, constellation of blue stars, and lily-of-the-valley. The whole yard is our garden.



Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating eco-friendly living solutions into their everyday lives. We hope you will join us next month, as the Simply Living Blog Carnival focuses on Daily Lives!

  • Green Renovating: A Lot, A Little, Not So Much Laura at Authentic Parenting ponders about the many things that have an impact on eco-friendly renovating
  • Growing Native in My Flower Beds – Destany at They Are All of Me takes the guilt out of her flower habit by switching from high maintenance flowers to native plants which not only lessens her gardening load, but also benefits the local wild life.
  • Baby Steps – Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares how her family became more sustainable, one step at a time.
  • A Greener Holiday – Sara from Family Organic discusses the overwhelming amount of “stuff” that comes with every holiday and talks about how to simplify instead.
  • Forcibly Green–Obligatory Organic – Survivor at Surviving Mexico talks about her family’s evolution from passive to active green and sustainable living.
  • Giving It Away – Juliet Kemp of Twisting Vines writes about the role of Freecycle, the giant karmic lending library, in her simple and green living.
  • Simply Sustainable – Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses her family’s attempts to live in harmony with the earth by living simply and more sustainably.
  • How Does Your Yarden Grow – Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassafras writes about an ongoing permaculture project, converting her grass lawn into a mower-free paradise.
  • Green? – Is it about ticking the boxes? sustainablemum shares her thoughts on what being green means in her life.
  • Using Cloth Products To Reduce Household Waste – Angela from Earth Mama’s World shares how her family replaced many disposable household products with cloth to reduce their household waste.
  • Going Green in Baby Steps – Joella of Fine and Fair shares some small, easy steps to gradually reduce your environmental impact.
  • Are You Ready To Play Outside?! – Alex from AN Portraits writes about gardening, and playing in the dirt, and how it’s O.K. to get dirty, play in the dirt, play with worms, for both adults and kids.
  • Lavender and Tea Tree Oil Laundry Booster – At Natural Parents Network, Megan from The Boho Mama shares an all-natural way to freshen laundry.


Aili Written by:


  1. April 16, 2013

    Grass doesn’t grow naturally in our corner of the world. We too have come to appreciate the natural biodiversity of the area.

  2. April 16, 2013

    Ah, how wonderful that the plant diversity (and growing native) in your yard is contributing to local wild life! I had to chuckle, picturing your poor mail man, but I’m with you. I’m not sure why people put so much care, money and poison into maintaining a lawn. While we have grass, it’s not something we place effort into keeping.

  3. April 16, 2013

    This has been an argument at our house. As an ecologist and someone who grew up in the country, I see the need for a healthy “lawn” to be diversified. As someone who grew up in suburbia, my husband has long thought it should be single species. He is slowly coming around, but it has been a struggle for us. Actually, one of the best things to change his mind was having children. He went from wanting to have chemicals put on the ground to kill what he referred to as weeds to not wanting them next to his children. Thank you for sharing!

  4. April 16, 2013

    I love this! We also live in a corner of the world where the grass just grows on its own. We’ve never used anything on it to help it along either.

  5. […] How Does Your Yarden Grow – Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassafras writes about an ongoing permaculture project, converting her grass lawn into a mower-free paradise. […]

  6. April 18, 2013

    I am so on board with this! My husband is military, so we move around a lot. Because of the moves, we always rent, but I’m tucking these ideas in my head for when we settle down. For now, when we have a yard, we proudly let dandelions grow without care while our neighbors give us the stink eye and through pesticides all over. Yuck!

  7. April 18, 2013

    *throw not through… I need coffee.

  8. […] around here this year. They also dig up the grass and fertilize the ground, part of our ongoing permaculture/”yarden” project. Eventually, they will start to lay eggs. Chickens are […]

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