a man, a plan, a gazoon

Hello everyone; yes, once again it is I, Chess the purebred border collie, here to provide you with the most entertaining and informative posts possible, while the guy I live with stares at the floor, “lost in thought”. You may remember me from such delightful posts as “Windy and Warm” and “A Partly Sad Story”, among other excellent contributions to the blogosphere.

Here I am after getting all soaking from the hose, on this very hot day.


It was a very weird day, too. Full of silliness, which of course I’ll relate to you. The guy I live with has a new gardening book.


Alternatives to a lawn. It says about the picture on the cover, “Dans notre jardin expérimental, un assortment de plantes couvre-sol à feuillage gris ou argenté compose une alternative au gazon originale, demandant peu d’entretien et resistant très bien à la sécheresse.” (The guy I live with said to quote the original, so as to seem more serious. “In our experimental garden, an assortment of ground cover plants with gray or silver foliage makes an original alternative to the lawn, requiring little maintenance and highly resistant to drought.” He would just say he’s “being all alternative and stuff”.)

So…..he says this book is really brilliant, and now he desperately wants a lawn alternative. Right now he just has an alternative lawn filled with other plants, which, for want of a better word, he’s decided to call a gazoon.

You may wonder about this. My mommy would have said “I’m not going to call it a gazoon”, very matter-of-factly, and he would of course have taken that as a signal to make a reference to the gazoon every five minutes, until she got really mad at him, at which point he would have started laughing, and she would mutter something about having married a nut. He would then say that if someone rang him up on the phone, she could say “Oh, he’s out on the gazoon, tending to things, you know.”

He found this word right after gazon in the Oxford English Dictionary (the one you need a magnifying glass for), and it says “an adapted form of the preceding, with mistaken sense.” Since gazon could be something like a bulwark covered with grass, it’s easy–maybe–to see how James Hogg mistook the word’s meaning in his epic poem The Queen’s Wake, written in 1813. A brief excerpt will give a sense of its contents.

Dumlanrig’s eye with ardour shone;
“Follow!” he cried, and spurred him on.
A close gazoon the horsemen made,
Douglas and Morison the head,
And through the ranks impetuous bore,
By dint of lance and broad claymore,
Mid shouts, and groans of parting life,
For hard and doubtful was the strife.
Behind a knight, firm belted on,
They found the fair May Morison.
But why, through all Dumlanrig’s train,
Search her bright eyes, and search in vain?
A stranger mounts her on his steed;
Brave Morison, where art thou fled?

Whew. The guy I live with certainly knows how to waste time on a hot summer day, looking up stuff like this. Here is the gazoon in the front yard. The bare areas are “standing places” for people to view the surrounding garden. The actual gazoon is comprised of some blue grama, Ratibida columnaris, and a young Mexican blue oak, Quercus oblongifolia, in a tomato cage.


In the back yard, blue grama, buffalo grass, winter fat, etc.


Of course, the guy I live with has to take my needs into consideration, if you know what I mean. So he’s working on an actual lawn in the way back, to replace the green lawn which he decided it was hypocritical to have if he started making fun of peoples’ addiction to irrigation here, which he probably won’t do, but might, but only if he got rid of the green lawn. Half-drenched in sunlight this morning.


And later in the day. This is a new lawn of buffalo grass and blue grama, with “a path” (that is, a bunch of dead grass we walk back and forth on) in between them. (The dark green in back is what’s left of the original lawn.) He says he’s going to make a real path with wood mulch, but I’m afraid he’ll want to make a gazoon of this, instead of an actual lawn; something stuffed with flowers and things.


Well, I probably don’t have to worry all that much. The guy I live with does have a lawnmower, which he likes a lot, and he enjoys mowing the lawn as much as anyone else. I’ll leave you with a picture of it, and hope we’ll never have to say the word gazoon again.


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8 Responses to a man, a plan, a gazoon

  1. Chess, the cover of your person’s new gardening book sports a gorgeous photo, but no more gorgeous than the photos of your own garden and its fauna. Of course, Chess portraits are the best. You exhibit such subtle gradations of mood and attitude.
    I wonder if your owner knows the books of John Greenlee, California grassman. He has contributed to a wonderful new garden across from the ocean in Santa Monica. The designer is a Brit, and photos give the feel of a good Constable landscape. The garden opens soon, so we’ll see. Go into today’s Los.Angeles Times and judge for yourself.

    • paridevita says:

      I would agree that pictures of me are the best part of the blog. Thank you. My world has revolved around me ever since I was tiny and showed up here and stretched my little tummy on the grass I’d never felt before. (I lived on straw before that.) Then my mommy realized how tiny I was going to be when I grew up compared to my buddy Slipper and I got to climb in her lap a lot, and cuddle. That’s how I learned the essentials of roughing it.
      He has John’s meadow book. The blue grama in back is more drought resistant than almost anything, but is really green right now because it’s been watered because he sowed some more seed there. Or something.

  2. acantholimon says:

    Truly charming poem–intrigued by the mildly amusing sexual acrobatics implied by the last couplet…You may have extracted the best parts! Gadzooks….gazoon. A word to remember! Off to the Mojave for a day or so…

    • paridevita says:

      Noticed that. Having looked through much of the book online, digitally turning the pages, I think there is no best part.
      And of course it’s Ratibida columnifera.

  3. Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

    Hello again, Chess. We also have an alternative lawn, thanks to the work of a particularly ravenous population of Japanese beetle grubs that resided in the topsoil that was brought in by the landscapers before seeding. The carefully selected mixture of low-mow, low-water meadow grasses was just lovely for approximately three months. It’s been downhill since then–scorching summers and no irrigation have made a mockery of my Grammy’s humble efforts to get some sort of vegetative cover, ANY vegetative cover, established. Grammy says she’s seen active Super Fund clean up sites with more life force than our alternative lawn, hereafter to be called a gazoon, a word with an onomatopoeic-like appropriateness, but visual rather than auditory. (Grammy is not a horticultural snob–if it’s green and it grows, she’s willing to give it a chance–some of the best stuff in her garden are volunteers. Grammy prefers to call these gifts, especially since her compost pile is well fed by countless, high-priced garden center failures.) Grampy loves having things to mow–says it keeps him fit without wasting time and money on this new-fangled thing people call a Gym Membership. Drive to the gym so they can exercise? What kind of sense does that make. Fortunately for Grampy, there are still plenty of grassy green areas for him to go at it…and for me to roll around in. Grammy, on the other hand, says she would be very happy indeed if she never ever again had to hear the sound of a lawn mower. Despite these differences, Grammy and Grampy continue to blissfully co-exist….go figure.

    And please give all my best to the guy you live with. I, too, have been witness to this “lost in thought” human phenomena and I have to say that it is not particularly pretty. I hope that you can take a moment out of your busy schedule and make an effort to snap him out of it.

    • paridevita says:

      Indeed. The guy I live with, in his shame, had to cover up the compost pile and make a raised bed. The heap of dead plants was the largest man-made object within miles.
      He would also recommend the Green Mountain Mower, pictured, which is available from Vermont Country Store, among other places. Very quiet, sharp blades, does a beautiful job, and sounds like actual work, instead of those awful gas mowers. My buddy Slipper went so crazy with the gas mower he had to be shut inside.
      As for the “lost in thought” thing, or maybe I should say “lost in ‘thought'”, I think that’s hopeless.

      • Fisher, the Wonder Dog says:

        Oh. I didn’t realize it was “thought”, rather than thought. Clearly, this makes timely intervention even more crucial.

      • paridevita says:

        “Thought”. I do believe the situation is hopeless. Ever since I’ve known him, he drifts off now and then.

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