The Pissing Off of Summer Lawns

Way to go Falmouth. The Cape Cod town that is home to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, one-third of Cape’s estuaries, and the state’s Alternative Septic System Test Center  wants to restrict lawn fertilizer in an attempt to cut back on the amount of nitrogen flowing into its estuaries; those coastal ponds and embayments that tragically have a tradition of turning colors and killing fish.

Guess who doesn’t like the idea?

In this morning’s Cape Cod Times, Sean Teehan reports the town is working on a bylaw that:

“…would prohibit nitrogen-containing fertilizer applications between Oct. 16 and April 14 each year. It would ban applications during heavy rain or within 100 feet of water resources and bar applications to turf of more than one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each year.”

Yes, most  of the nitrogen polluting the harbors, bays, coves, coastal rivers and streams of Cape Cod comes from urine, aka wastewater. It also comes from dogs who take dumps during their beach walks, Canada Geese who deposit their green cigar turds, and, most maddeningly, those big ChemLawn trucks with their sloshing tanks that trundle down streets with names like Oceanview and Seaview and then spray their chemical contents all over the lawn of some CEO’s starter castle so it will look all lush and green like the back nine at Augusta when Courtney gets married to Alistair this summer.

Opposed to Falmouth’s bylaw are:

  • The Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals
  • The Retailers Association of Massachusetts
  • Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.
  • Assorted local landscapers

They are arguing to the Massachusetts Attorney General that Falmouth’s proposed bylaw conflicts with a pending regulation that would let the State Department of Agricultural Resources regulate the stuff. Seems logical to categorize lawn grass as agriculture. I  enjoy tucking into a nice bowl of mower clippings myself.

Unfortunately, it appears Falmouth is pushing for the fertilizer limits so it can discharge some of its effluent from its wastewater treatment plant, a request the state has said no to because the town is already exceeding its nitrogen limits:

“DEP officials granted a discharge permit for Falmouth’s wastewater treatment plant on the condition that the town eliminate other sources of nitrogen in the groundwater, Town Counsel Frank Duffy said. They ordered the town to look into controlling fertilizers.”

The Cape Cod Commission and every other town on the Cape needs to get a copy of Falmouth’s bylaw and enact it from the Sagamore Bridge to the Pilgrim Monument in P-town.  Cleaning up dying harbors and bays seems more important than lush lawns or a green golf courses overlooking floating mats of brown slime and algae.  Wastewater treatment solutions, sewers, composting toilets, and the like may take decades to happen, but banning or cutting back on fertilizer can happen now and make a bit of a dent as well as a strong statement that the Cape can be mended and not written off like Long Island or South Florida.

Last July Falmouth’s Little Pond suffered a fish kill when warm weather and eutrophication depleted the oxygen in the salt pond and left a lot of dead striped bass on its shores.  Another fish kill happened in North Falmouth the year before.

Lawn lovers of the Cape, think twice this spring before you load up the SUV with a couple bags of TurfBuilder and spread it over your grass. Embrace the Brown and let it die this summer. Save on your water bills, your back, and your future and just say no to the ChemLawn.

If you want to take care of your lawn, then do it organically. There’s a lot of free advice, I’d start with which has an interesting history of the lawn, and how in America, it is a relatively modern phenomenon with roots in Levittown on Long Island:

“In the middle of the 20th century, three overlapping developments helped promote the lawn across North America. The first was Levittown, one of the first cookie-cutter affordable-dwelling suburbs, built between 1948 and 1952 by Abraham Levitt and his sons William and Alfred on Long Island. This was the first American suburb to include lawns already in place when the first tenants took possession (see Levittown: Documents of an Ideal American Suburb).

“The Levitts, who also build subdivisions in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Cape Cod [emphasis mine, ed] , and Puerto Rico (several of them also called Levittown), pioneered the established lawn, which residents were required to keep up but forbidden to fence in. The importance of a neat, weed-free, closely-shorn lawn was promoted intensely in the newsletters that went out to all homeowners in these subdivisions, along with lawn-care advice on how to reach this ideal.”


Some resources on the topic of limiting fertilizer runoff:

Town of Nantucket Regulations: these are proof local municipalities can take some steps to limit landscaping fertilizer impacts.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition has a ton of stuff on the topic: 

Google is Fickle and Unfaithful but I Keep Crawling Back

In this day and age of “ecosystem” commitments, when a consumer needs to declare their allegiance to a platform such as Apple’s, Microsoft’s or Google’s in order to get the promised impact and benefits of an integrated world of synchronized accounts, content and media across the screens that dominate their lives — their phones, tablets, PCs and televisions — it’s a bit like getting engaged and married in the hope their betrothed partner will be faithful and keep their promises.

Google is maddeningly unfaithful and indecisive. Let me count the ways.

  • Perpetual Beta: How long did Google News carry a “beta” tag, four years? At least it still lives. newsbeta
  • Quick to bail: Remember Google Wave? The overhyped something or other that no one could figure out what to do with except it felt kind of brilliant and got the SMDB’s* all worked up? Gone in less than a couple years. googlewave
  • iGoogle personalized home pages? Those throwbacks to the day when personalization was the killer app and you could create this awesome start page for your browser which could be customized with widgets …. terminal and going to die in November 2013. igoogle
  • Google Notes: I like the idea of a notepad I can scribble random crap on and then access through my browser on multiple machines. The Google note pad did this. And then it didn’t. Killed off for reasons unknown. googlenotebook
  • Google Health: park your medical records in the cloud and the next time you get whacked by a tuk-tuk in Bangalore the doctors can log in and pull up your last cholesterol test results and see what prescription drugs you’ve been taking. Gone.googlehealth
  • Google Reader: the RSS news feed aggregator that was simply awesome in its elegance, its ability to share (wait, they are killing that off too), and its sheer greatness for aggregating the hundreds of feeds I subscribe to into one great interface. Soon to die……well, at least I can wait for Google Glass or a Prius that drives itself.

David Pogue writes in this morning’s New York Times about Google’s latest addition to its wonderful world of seamlessly synchronized stuff across browsers, android tablets and phones: Google Keep.  Google fanboi that I am, I dutifully installed it on my phone, my Nexus 7. and will eventually find a way to get it on the desktop of my PC. It’s Google’s answer to Evernote — the note taking, reminder, to-do list thing I occasionally use and also have installed across my devices.  Why Pogue gave up an entire column on this little utility is beyond me, but he does brilliantly voice some suspicion over Google’s fickle ways (and inspired me to rant in agreement):

“In time, Keep could become a pinboard — a — for your entire life.

“Unfortunately, the last thing to remember isn’t quite as cheery: Google has a habit not only of creating great things, but also of killing them off. The timing of the Keep announcement was chilling, coming only a few days after the announcement that, in July, Google will shut down its popular Google Reader site. It’s a smooth, attractive RSS feed reader — something like a customizable, constantly updated magazine of articles you might like.

“Google has killed off notepad apps before, too. In 2009, it shut down Notebook, its first Evernote-type program. How will you feel if you entrust your life’s data to Keep — and then learn that Google chooses not to keep Keep?”


Applications, websites, grandparents and puppies all die eventually. I miss XyWrite, the first word processor I mastered back in the pre-Windows days of DOS but I’ve since moved on and don’t try to keep it alive like some Stephen King pet in the evil magical woodlot of eternal zombie life. Other people miss Twinkies. But when I start banking my personal crap, my photos, my music, my writing, my notes, my phone numbers and all the other digital ephemera that is me on someone’s cloud, and then they pull the plug on it …..well, pardon me while I call a private investigator to check their cheating, fickle heart.

And let’s not go down the path of knowing Google’s SkyNet is reading my email and sticking ads against it. I like to whistle past the graveyard of privacy.


*=Social Media Douche Bags

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