Monday, September 28, 2009

Air It Out

Someone aerated our lawn while Mars and I were away in New Mexico.

"Aeration is the removal of small cores of soil to allow air, moisture and applied compost down to the root zone. The core aerator will take a one to two inch plug of soil and grass, and replace it on the surface of the lawn."

It's a good thing.

"* Oxygen gets to the roots and the soil allowing it to 'breathe'
* Organic fertilizers and nutrients get access to the root system
* Water is able to better soak the soil and reach the root system
* Tight, compacted soil is loosened up allowing the root system to grow."

This was not a random act of landscaping kindness. Earlier this year I had contracted with our organic lawn care company to perform this service at a time to be determined by them.

The morning after we got back we checked our answering machine messages. There were three aeration related ones from the landscaper -- all of them asking the same questions, and each one requesting the answers before they could proceed.

"Do you have an in-ground irrigation system? Do you have an electrical dog confinement system?"

If we did, we were to clearly mark these areas so that the core aerating equipment did not take a one to two inch plug out of either of them, and/or electrocute the operator in the process.

We have neither.

Apparently they concluded that our yard was safe because when we went through our accumulated mail we discovered a bill for the service. Later that morning we walked through our yard and noticed several holes and a number of soil and grass plugs -- although not enough to indicate deliberate lawn maintenance as opposed to seasonal squirrel acorn stashing.

Truthfully I had pretty much forgotten about the whole hole-poking exercise. And even if I hadn't, increasing the air circulation for my fescue would have been the furthest thing from my mind as we wandered the high desert landscape of northern New Mexico -- just as it was the furthest thing from my sight.

You just don't realize how omnipresent the color green is in our New England neck of the woods until you spend time in a space with considerably less water and considerably less of a lawn fetish.

The Phoenix/Scottsdale part of Arizona, which we visited several years ago, seems determined to recreate that familiar verdant ambience for its ever increasing number of eastern transplants.

New Mexico is not.

There are however areas of grass in the Land of Enchantment.

At the newly opened New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe I learned that this state had the greatest geographical diversity of any territory in the United States.

"The eastern third of New Mexico is covered by the Great Plains. The Great Plains run from a high plateau in the north south to the Pecos River. Rivers in the high plateau have cut deep canyons into the landscape. This area is used for sheep and cattle ranches.'

"To the south, dry farming and irrigated agriculture is possible. South of the Canadian River, along the eastern edge of New Mexico, the land is referred to as the High Plains or Staked Plains (Llano Estacado). These High Plains run along the Texas border in New Mexico.'

"In the central part of New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains extend into New Mexico from Colorado to the north. The Rio Grande River cuts through the Rocky Mountains from north to south. East of the Rio Grande, is the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountain range. Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico is found in this range. To the west of the Rio Grande are the Nacimiento and Jemez Mountain ranges. The fertile Rio Grande Valley provides suitable farmland using modern irrigation techniques.

"The Basin and Range Region covers about 1/3 of the state and lies at to the south of the Rocky Mountain Region. This region extends south from around Santa Fe to Mexico and west to Arizona. This area is marked by rugged mountain ranges, such as the Guadalupe, Mogollon, Organ, Sacramento, and San Andres mountain ranges, separated by desert basins. The Rio Grande River flows north to south through the Basin and Range Region and exits New Mexico in the south to form the border between Texas and Mexico."

We drove along the edge of the Great Plains when we visited Las Vegas, New Mexico. There was grass, but the predominant color was still plain old tan.

There are however occasional pockets of manmade green sod.

Monica and Bram (daughter-in-law and son) have a pre-existing small lawn in the backyard of their Santa Fe house. But their front property is xeriscaped with native plants and a minimal drip irrigation system. As is the vast majority of their neighborhood.

Many of the small municipal parks in town are covered with it. The one near the B & B where we spent two nights was watered heavily each morning for at least one hour.

There are golf courses.

I found a website entry entitled "Lawn Aerating Tips Santa Fe NM" that advocates for the use of plug aerators.

Still, unlike Connecticut, the overwhelming geographic aura in New Mexico is sand-colored panoramic vistas.

No wonder, on return, that our home base seemed viridescently claustrophobic and threatening. Emerald colored objects impinged into our social space -- constricting our view, absorbing our oxygen, demanding our attention, and requiring our continual care.

No wonder that we regularly go to New Mexico for our own personal core aeration.

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