Rancho Cappuccino Case Study: Is It Beautiful?

| 2/7/2012 11:26:04 AM

Carolyn and I won’t be bringing in a panel of landscape architects and interior designers to judge our efforts around our farm and home. If we did, we probably wouldn’t get high marks. The shrubs along the front of the house are overgrown. The sidewalk is crumbling here and there. The arbor I built in front of the chicken house looks ungainly – some might say ugly. But the expert’s assessment doesn’t matter. The objective evaluation isn’t important. It’s the aspiration toward beauty that provides motivation and joy.

We’ll be replacing the shrubs one of these days and repairing the sidewalk. I’m going to get some vines to grow over my arbor and disguise it.

Suburban lawns on two sides, a strip of woods on the east and a big field of corn or soybeans on the north surround our farm. Our natural pastures probably look unkempt to some people, but a couple of neighbors have commented that it’s nice to see the grass growing tall in the spring. Around the house, we leave about half the grass unmown through the summer. Those undisturbed patches of prairie are my favorite features on the property. Indian grass, two species of bluestem, several species of grama, buffalo grass, switchgrass and two dozen other species compete for space out there and grow tall, some of them soaring well above our heads. At the height of summer you can’t see our biggest bull in the middle of a pasture in grass six feet tall. In the parts of our yard where we don’t mow or graze, the height and density of the plants is a monument to nature’s bounty. The grass is taller than our heads and so thick that walking through it is like plunging through deep snow. It moves continuously in the wind and changes color over the course of the season, from an intense green in spring to a prairie kaleidoscope as the grasses mature in late summer, flashing a hundred shades of green, yellow, purple and red in sun. I try to take photos as the year progresses, but they never quite capture the beauty of it.

If you live within sight of Biscayne Bay or Mount Rainier you probably find my passion for 50 acres of manure-strewn Kansas prairie quaint – or maybe pathetic.

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

I always found the land here fairly attractive. The natural savannah is easy on the eyes. The exposed limestone in the hillsides gives it a Western flair I like. The air smells good here, grassy with a hint of juniper.

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