The American Dream

Southland Sod Farms

You look at me today and you’d think I was a throw-back hippie from the 60s.  First, I’m not that old.  Secondly, what I lack in cutting on my face, I make up by cutting, trimming, planting and caring for in my piece of heaven, my home.  I was just a single wee lad of only 20 years old when I bought it.  Or, shall we say, buy a mortgage?   That’s unheard of!  Absurd! How can anyone buy a house at 20?  It’s impossible!  I beg to differ with you – it’s the American Dream!

Priorities are important in life.  It doesn’t mean you’ll miss the boat if you don’t put them in order but it means you can accomplish more when you put your mind to it.  The artist Shaggy has a version of (Girl, You’re My) Angle within the lyrics

“Life is one big party when you’re still young
But who’s gonna have your back when it’s all done
It’s all good when you’re little, you have pure fun
Can’t be a fool, son, what about the long run?”

So, what about the long run?  Let’s discover the American Dream and why it resonates with all of us.

The idea of the American dream has a different meaning for each one of us.  Back in the day, the Declaration of Independence probably started it all.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”  But, it wasn’t until 1931 in the book Epic of America where the author, James Truslow described it as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

In the ’50s, the term came to fruition faster than a speeding bullet.  This was the time when the Average Joe, the working stiff, the blue-collar worker, had employment that allowed him/her to afford the finer things in life like a car and make the purchase of a lifetime – a house.  To this day, a house is what we salivate to have.  A piece of land where it becomes a home, and it’s still within our reach.

Our primal instincts of our having dirty hands and growing things come from our forefathers of long ago who had to grow things for survival.  Today our survival is a bit different in the concrete jungle in which we live. There’s a lot of that going on in the City where that takes us away from the massiveness of working soil as grandpa and grandma did.  But fortunate for us, we have a patch of heaven we can call our own in the form of a front yard or back.

I get asked regularly on my radio show by listeners that want to know if they can take care of the yard where they rent.  Isn’t that interesting?  They don’t own it, but they want to work it.   Think of it this way; many farmers don’t own the land they farm.  They rent it!  So, why can’t we work the yard and garden where we live?  Chances are the landlord will agree (especially if they don’t have to pay for a gardener).  Now that’s pride in ownership of the domain you live in.  A reflection of you!  Nobody needs to know you rent or own your property. It’s nobody’s business.   Like a farmer, it’s the American Dream!  Take charge and make it yours.

A well-kept lawn is eye candy to the neighbourhood.  This curb appeal is a reflection of the people that live there.  But that notwithstanding, you are participating in good health.  The benefits of a healthy lawn can actually lower your blood pressure as turf has a calming effect on the psyche.  It’s a bit of nature.  The scent of a newly mowed lawn transcends you back to your carefree childhood, conjuring memories of lazy summer days rolling in the lawn playing football.  And did you know a person that’s between 185-225 pounds can burn upwards of 300 calories while pushing a 21” lawnmower for 30 minutes?  Now that’s healthy!

Let’s say we have some fun with a bit of crochet, lawn bowling or, dare I say, “tag?  You’re “it!”  Lawn games are an essential part of the American Dream.  Kids run around chasing the dog to water balloon fights and chucking the ball around the yard.  I’m fortunate to have a giant chess set on my lawn.  The pieces stand 3-4’ tall.  You hardly have to bend over to move them.  This offers hours of fun and entertainment.  By the way, did you know lawn chess one of the only games that transcends all age groups?  An eight-year-old can play with an eighty-year-old together at the same time against each other.

Nothing signifies the American Dream like a lawn party whether it’s a simple gathering of friends for a barbeque, a child’s birthday party (no clowns, please – they frighten me)  or a kids scavenger hunt.  You can participate and at the same time look fondly knowing you made it!

Nothing says the American Dream like trying to figure out who you let borrow your lawnmower, right?  I remember, as a kid having to look in garages up and down the block for our lawnmower.  We were also the first to get a push leaf sweeper, too.  You thought it was like bringing a baby home.  Everyone had to try it on their lawn.

Regardless of politics, we still live in the land of Milk and Honey.  Southern California, in particular, has the best weather on this planet, which allows us to grow most anything that others can’t.  We have choices in selecting the best types of turf for the lifestyle we have: from active weekend warriors to the person that has a refined life of just watching the grass grow.    We can grow anything, we do anything and achieve the American Dream.

Sod.  It’s good for you, your family and the environment.

Nick Federoff Horticulturalist for PBS|KLCS TV, CBS|KCAL 9 News and Radio Talk Show Host

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