Wisconsin Spring

Patches of snow and green grass in a backyard scene.

Winter’s Last Breath – April 18, 2011

Here in southern Wisconsin we are anxiously awaiting our annual seven days of spring. We have cool summers, beautiful falls, and frigid, interminable winters. Spring, a season on the calendar, in actuality barely exists. Except for about seven glorious days, we move  from winter straight into summer. During the months of April and May, flowers and blooming plants struggle to fulfill their genetic destinies, only to fail as a surprise frost kills them. Day after day of cold rain dampens the spirits and forces everyone inside. Earlier this morning, here in Janesville, we had a hail storm. No one will be surprised if it snows on Memorial Day.

The one exception to the dampening effects of Wisconsin spring is grass. In my neighborhood grass is an evolutionary success story. Nothing stops it. Apparently, it has the ability to grow under the snow. (See the photo above.) The first day after the winter snow melt, green grass peeks out, just waiting to be mowed. As if on cue, my neighbor across the street began mowing immediately with the first hint of green. In the past three weeks he has mowed his grass six times. With the assistance of humans, grass manages to beat back all rivals. Trees, weeds, vetches of all types – none of these stand a chance against Wisconsin grass. On my block the only true competitors to grass are dandelions, and they are seriously endangered. Despite the insidious threat of dandelions, grass in my neighborhood is probably the greenest in the nation. In the last month a caravan of lawn care trucks and vehicles have made their annual pilgrimage to this part of town. TruGreen, Lawn Doctor, Scott’s Lawn Service, and others have all been here. I’m guessing that lawns in this part of Janesville have more chemicals on them than the lawn at the White House or the greens at Augusta National. And, they receive more care. From early morning to the last rays of light at dusk, the sound of lawnmowers is synonymous with the advent of spring.

Every neighborhood, however, has some blight. No matter how picture-perfect the majority of lawns, or how conscientious the residents might be in taking care of them, there will always be someone in their midst who fails to comply with prevailing social norms. Unfortunately for my neighbors, that “someone” is me. I am currently supplying several square blocks with dandelions. My backyard is a lush yellow carpet of blooms just waiting to become seeds that sail gently on warm breezes into my neighbors’ yards. Readers should note that I have not taken on my reprobate status willingly. Dandelions are a formidable opponent. They are winning, and I am losing. I have tried spraying them with chemicals strong enough to kill songbirds and small pets, but without success. I read on the Internet that digging up each dandelion plant and spraying the remaining roots with vinegar will kill them. This sounds like a good idea, but it will take me sometime to dig up some two million dandelion plants currently thriving in my backyard. It may be that my only option is to fill in my yard with gravel and spray-paint it green. Hmm . . . I wonder how much gravel costs.

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