GRASS HOUSES

by Talleen Hacikyan

Last spring my next-door neighbor, Roger, and I planted lawns on the exterior walls and roofs of our houses. We opted for premium fine fescue grass. It is shade-tolerant and drought-resistant and produces a lush green.

Roger designed a remote-controlled mower inspired by manual grass cutters. He calls it the Robomow. It is a red reel with five flame-hardened steel blades, designed for superior cutting. This magnetic contraption grips the wire mesh that holds an eight-inch layer of earth on the bricks.

We do not mow the roof, preferring the natural look of an untended field. We are convinced that this wild vegetation, in conjunction with our wall lawn, is responsible for the eighteen-percent decrease in our electricity bill. We heat less in winter, and we do not air-condition in summer, even during record-breaking heat waves. This year my wife planted sunflowers on the roof. She is convinced that this decorative touch will further improve the insulation. The only problem is the thud of squirrels when they plummet to the roof after precariously hanging onto the flowers to feast on the seeds.

At first our grass houses appalled the neighbors. When the contractor arrived with his team of landscapers and construction workers, everyone came to watch the facades of our split-levels being covered with dirt. Mrs. Harding, from across the street, teamed up with her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Vincelli, and crusaded house to house with a petition requesting the city to outlaw our lawns. In retrospect, our dwellings did look somewhat like mud huts during those first two weeks before sprouting.

Roger and I are on the cover of Suburban Living. Garden Décor’s July issue featured a centerfold of our golf course-green semidetached houses with the Robomow leaving a heart-shaped trail of sheared grass. RTV Television aired a four-part documentary, “The Grass Is Always Greener on the Rooftop.” They praised our mayor for encouraging such an innovative, environment-friendly project.

Since Roger and I had not applied for a permit from the urban planning department, the municipality had no knowledge of our scheme. However, news of our grass houses spread faster than our fescue. With city elections coming up, and electricity poles plastered with the smiles of younger candidates, the mayor cashed in on this opportunity for publicity. He published a letter in the local paper, congratulating us for embellishing the neighborhood and for being such exemplary, visionary citizens.

The Hardings put their house up for sale. It sold in one week. Potential buyers lined up halfway down the block for their open house. The Vincellis are not selling. Since the media blitz, property values on our street have shot up twenty percent and real estate agents predict a ten-percent hike next spring, as soon as Joe Vincelli seeds his house.

GRASS HOUSES  Last spring my next-door neighbor, Roger, and I planted lawns on the exterior walls and roofs of our houses. We opted for premium fine fescue grass. It is shade-tolerant and drought-resistant and produces a lush green. Roger designed a remote-controlled mower inspired by manual grass cutters. He calls it the Robomow. It is a red reel with five flame-hardened steel blades, designed for superior cutting. This magnetic contraption grips the wire mesh that holds an eight-inch layer of earth on the bricks.  We do not mow the roof, preferring the natural look of an untended field. We are convinced that this wild vegetation, in conjunction with our wall lawn, is responsible for the eighteen-percent decrease in our electricity bill. We heat less in winter, and we do not air-condition in summer, even during record-breaking heat waves. This year my wife planted sunflowers on the roof. She is convinced that this decorative touch will further improve the insulation. The only problem is the thud of squirrels when they plummet to the roof after precariously hanging onto the flowers to feast on the seeds. At first our grass houses appalled the neighbors. When the contractor arrived with his team of landscapers and construction workers, everyone came to watch the facades of our split-levels being covered with dirt. Mrs. Harding, from across the street, teamed up with her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Vincelli, and crusaded house to house with a petition requesting the city to outlaw our lawns. In retrospect, our dwellings did look somewhat like mud huts during those first two weeks before sprouting.  Roger and I are on the cover of Suburban Living. Garden Décor’s July issue featured a centerfold of our golf course-green semidetached houses with the Robomow leaving a heart-shaped trail of sheared grass. RTV Television aired a four-part documentary, “The Grass Is Always Greener on the Rooftop.” They praised our mayor for encouraging such an innovative, environment-friendly project.  Since Roger and I had not applied for a permit from the urban planning department, the municipality had no knowledge of our scheme. However, news of our grass houses spread faster than our fescue. With city elections coming up, and electricity poles plastered with the smiles of younger candidates, the mayor cashed in on this opportunity for publicity. He published a letter in the local paper, congratulating us for embellishing the neighborhood and for being such exemplary, visionary citizens.  The Hardings put their house up for sale. It sold in one week. Potential buyers lined up halfway down the block for their open house. The Vincellis are not selling. Since the media blitz, property values on our street have shot up twenty percent and real estate agents predict a ten-percent hike next spring, as soon as Joe Vincelli seeds his house.