Los Angeles, CA — If getting older has taught Mitch Pickering anything, it’s that you can’t hold onto the past. “I was just spending all this money on a losing battle.” After years of fighting that battle, he’s finally ready to allow nature to take its course. His yard is going bald — but that’s okay!
“My dad’s yard was bald and I was always afraid it would happen to me too. So imagine how I felt when I first noticed it was thinning out a few years ago,” says Mitch. “There it was, my worst nightmare!” He got in the car and drove straight to Lowe’s to buy fertilizer, the first trip in what would become a ritual. He’d spend the next few summers in the yard, watering, weeding, and yes, fertilizing, in order to maintain the thick yard of grass he was used to.
“He was obsessed,” says Mitch’s wife, Claire. “I kept telling him it didn’t look that bad, but he wouldn’t listen.”
Despite his efforts, the grass continued to recede steadily, year by year. “I really panicked when my neighbor pointed out the bald patch in my backyard. I was so embarrassed!” He hit that spot especially hard with fertilizer. When that failed, he resorted to something he had always made fun of others for: sod.
“It was so obvious,” says Mitch and Claire’s neighbor, Pat Benson. “Was I really supposed to believe it just disappeared overnight?”
Weekly fertilizer purchases and climbing water bills began to take their toll on the Pickerings’ bank account. Before California’s drought was declared ‘over,’ they faced heavy fines on top of the regular expenses. “At a certain point, I had to be honest with myself. Is all this cosmetic work really worth it?”
Then he had an epiphany. “When I finally stopped focusing on my own lawn, I was able to look around and see that mostly everybody had browning grass, if not completely bare lawns.” He realized there was really nothing to be ashamed of.
Embracing the baldness, Mitch now sports a proudly barren yard. He and Claire have been much happier for it. “I actually think it’s kind of sexy,” says Claire, scratching the dirt playfully.
“Droughts, air pollution, wildfires — there will always be something I want to change about where I live, especially as all that becomes more prevalent,” he says.
“But if I can learn to accept it, it’ll all be much easier to deal with.”