A Brief History of the Lawn Mower
Before the 19th century, only the owners of stately homes had lawns. In order to keep the grass low they had two choices: to have a flock of sheep (think of NYC's Central Park’s Sheep Meadow and the house and sheep stable that eventually became the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant) or to employ a team of dedicated people who were scything, gathering and carting away grass. Compared to our lawns today those lawns were not very smooth and even.
Finally, the introduction of better mechanicals, drive chains and Bessemer’s new lightweight steel, made the small push mower practical. By the end of the 19th century, the lawn mower was a part of gardening life, a status symbol. Having a lawn signaled to your neighbors that you were well to do. You did not need the lawn area to plant vegetables, you could afford to buy them. Budding also invented the monkey wrench- familiar from the factories of WWII and the saying ‘throwing a monkey wrench into the system’ , but his lawn mower’s descendants have changed the world forever.
Where we are, we have abundant annual rainfall and loads of lakes and streams. Greenswards and open land to play are a gift of nature. But not everywhere is suitable. In his fascinating book “At Home”, Bill Bryson noted that ‘In the United States, lawns cover more surface area (50 thousand square miles) than any single crop. 60 % of all water that comes out of taps for all purposes is sprinkled on lawns. 70 million tons of herbicides and pesticides are soaked into our lawns. Our lawns may not be as green as one might think!’
So unless you have abundant water and are organically inclined, the current water wars in California should give us all pause in how we use our land and nurture our environment. For us, green expanses create bounty. The 'edge effect' in biology brings diverse creatures to our property and joy to us. If your land is different, then you can work with what nature provides to achieve the same - but different panorama.