This May 3, 2023, image provided by Jessica Damiano shows overgrown grass and weeds in an unmowed lawn in Glen Head, NY. (Jessica Damiano via AP)
By Jessica Damiano
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard about the #NoMowMay movement that’s been gaining steam on social media and in eco-conscious circles these past few years.
Started in 2019 by citizen scientists in the United Kingdom, the call for homeowners to abstain from mowing their lawns during the month has spread to other countries, including the U.S.
The intention is admirable: Let your grass and weeds grow and bloom to provide food and shelter for essential pollinators like bees and butterflies early in the season, when such necessities may be scarce.
Frankly, I think it’s a terrible idea.
Some of those pollinators you set out to protect will likely get shredded up with the first mow of the season. Grass will no doubt get shaded by tall weeds, which can lead to fungal diseases. And weeds and invasive plants that take hold during the month won’t simply disappear once the mowing commences. That might lead people to apply chemical pesticides they wouldn’t otherwise use.
And what about rodents, snakes and other undesirables that also will likely avail themselves of the shelter?
Perplexed by the seemingly runaway-train popularity of the now-annual event, I called Tamson Yeh, turf specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in New York. “Is it me?” I asked.
“I think it’s a terrible idea, too,” she said. “It’s such a nice slogan, but letting the grass grow high and allowing it to do its thing, and then suddenly mowing it back is really counterproductive.”
Yeh sees the movement as a “feel-good, stop-gap measure, because if you want to have an impact, you need to establish a permanent cover for insects,” not merely temporary housing.
“Bees tell each other where the food is, and pollinators (when they discover an unmown lawn) will remember to come back to it again and again,” Yeh said. “Then on June 1st, when the food disappears, it’s not good for them.”
Hibernating insects have memories that span not only from day to day but from year to year, Yeh said. So she recommends planting early blooming shrubs, trees and plants to establish a permanent food source they can remember and rely on as adults when they emerge from dormancy.
Other problems with the practice, Yeh noted, include “confusing insects when the grass is suddenly low again. That gives predators the opportunity to take advantage of them.”
There’s also the potential to disturb a nest of bunnies when mowing, she said, calling the discovery “the most horrible experience you can have.”
An all-or-nothing approach would be better. If you really want to make a difference, consider replacing the entire lawn, or part of it, with native plants or planting a wildflower meadow. Both will provide permanency for birds and pollinators while shrinking or eliminating the lawn, which frankly, has no redeeming value aside from subjective aesthetics, anyway.
When planting for beneficial insects, Yeh advises creating a corridor or path of pollen- and nectar-rich plants for migratory pollinators to travel along instead of spacing plants far apart.
Postponing fall cleanup until spring, which spawned another movement called #LeaveTheLeaves, will create safe havens for pollinators to lay their eggs and hibernate within. To allow time for them to emerge from dormancy, wait until after spring temperatures have remained above 50 degrees for an entire week before clearing away last season’s plant debris.
For those set on letting their lawns go wild this month, Yeh cautions that “allowing grass to go to seed will kill it,” so remove seedheads if they form.
It’s also important to reintroduce mowing gradually.
“The best height for grass is 3 inches tall, but if you’re mowing it down from 5 or 6 inches, do it over several sessions,” she advised, adding that cutting grass by more than one-third of its height at one time can cause it to go into shock.
The gradual approach “also will give insects a chance to realize it’s not a good place for them anymore,” she said. Hopefully, they’ll take the hint and move on to safer spaces.
Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated Press. She publishes the award-winning Weekly Dirt Newsletter. Sign up here for weekly gardening tips and advice.
For more AP gardening stories, go to https://apnews.com/hub/gardening.
Paul McCartney’s rediscovered photos show Beatlemania from the inside
Visitors look at pictures during a preview of Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Britain, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. The exhibition consists of unseen photographs taken by Paul McCartney from the Beatles at the height of Beatlemania. The gallery will open it’s doors from June 28, 2023 until October 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
By Jill Lawless in London
LONDON (AP) — Is there really a new way to look at The Beatles, one of the most filmed and photographed bands in history?
Yes, says Britain’s National Portrait Gallery, which is providing a fresh perspective with an exhibition of band’s-eye-view images that Paul McCartney captured as the group shot to global fame.
Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan said the exhibit, subtitled “Eyes of the Storm,” is a chance “to see, for the very first time, Beatlemania from the inside out.”
The seed for the exhibit was sown in 2020, that year of lockdown projects, when McCartney dug out 1,000 forgotten photos he’d taken in 1963 and 1964, as the Fab Four went from emerging British celebrities to world megastars. He and his team asked if the National Portrait Gallery was interested in displaying them.
“I think you can probably guess our response,” Cullinan said as he introduced the exhibition to journalists in London on Tuesday.
The show includes 250 photos taken in England, France and the United States that illustrate The Beatles’ journey from cramped dressing rooms in provincial British theaters to stadium shows and luxury hotels.
“It was a crazy whirlwind that we were living through,” McCartney writes in a note present at the start of the exhibit. “We were just wondering at the world, excited about all these little things that were making up our lives.”
Rosie Broadley, who curated the show, said the gallery soon realized the trove “wasn’t just interesting pictures by a famous person.”
“It’s actually telling an important story about cultural history — British cultural history and international cultural history,” she said. “This is a moment when British culture took over the world for a while.”
The display begins in late 1963, shortly after McCartney acquired a Pentax 35mm camera. The early black-and-white images include portraits of The Beatles, their parents, girlfriends, crew and colleagues, including manager Brian Epstein.
Broadley said these images depict “a parochial postwar British celebrity” — concerts in provincial cinemas alongside now-obscure bands like Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, 16-night variety-style Christmas shows at London’s Finsbury Park Astoria.
Cullinan said the photos convey a “sense of intimacy” missing from professional photos of the band.
“This wasn’t The Beatles being photographed by press photographers of paparazzi but peer-to-peer,” he said. “So there’s a real tenderness and vulnerability to these images.”
In January 1964, McCartney took his camera with the band to Paris, capturing the city at the height of its French New Wave cool. While there, The Beatles learned that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was a No. 1 hit in the United States.
Within days, they were on a plane to New York, where their Feb. 9 performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” was watched by 73 million people, and nothing was ever the same again.
The U.S. section of the exhibit shows the band’s increasingly frenetic life. Many of the shots were taken from planes, trains and chauffeur-driven automobiles and show crowds of screaming fans and rows of police. Sometimes, McCartney turned his lens back on the newspaper and magazine photographers looking at him.
One striking shot was taken through the back window of a car as a crowd chased the band down a Manhattan street, a scene echoed in the band’s first feature film, “A Hard Day’s Night,” made later that year.
McCartney also took pictures of strangers – a girl seen through a train window, ground crew at Miami airport goofing around.
The band’s final stop was Miami, where McCartney switched to color film. The results, Broadley said, “look like a Technicolor movie, like an Elvis film.” The photos show John, Paul, George and Ringo swimming, sunbathing, water skiing, even fishing. From a hotel window, McCartney photographed fans writing “I love Paul” in giant letters in the sand.
McCartney, 81, spent hours talking to curators about the photos and his memories as they prepared the exhibit, one of the shows reopening the National Portrait Gallery after a three-year renovation.
The images were preserved for decades on undeveloped negatives or contact sheets, and McCartney had never seen them in large format until the gallery had them printed.
The project was not without risks. McCartney acknowledges he’s not a professional photographer – though his late wife, Linda McCartney, was, as is their daughter Mary McCartney. Some of the photos are blurry or hastily composed. But what they lack in technique they make up for in spontaneity.
Broadley said McCartney “was nervous about showing some of the less formally composed ones or the less in-focus ones.”
“But I think we persuaded him that we liked those because of the story that they tell,” she said. “It’s quite nice to have those ones where they’re sitting around with a cup of tea before the event.”
“Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm” is on at the National Portrait Gallery in London from Wednesday until Oct. 1.
Pride Toronto director feels connection with Jays is still strong after Bass saga
By Gregory Strong in Toronto
Pride Toronto executive director Sherwin Modeste feels the organization’s relationship with the Blue Jays remains strong but notes there are still “mixed feelings out there” as a result of the Anthony Bass saga.
“The entire community has not let go and has not forgiven,” Modeste said. “It’s going to take time. For some folks, it may take two weeks. For some folks, it may take a year.
“But we have to allow people to deal with this as individuals.”
Bass was designated for assignment last Friday before the start of Pride Weekend festivities at Rogers Centre. The move came nearly two weeks after the pitcher shared a social media post that supported anti-LGBTQ boycotts.
“I think the Jays did what they should have done, which was provide opportunities for Anthony to really reflect on his behaviour,” Modeste said. “Clearly I think Anthony as an individual has (his) own personal beliefs and the issues that (he) needs to work on. I thought the final decision, I was fine with it.
“I’m a believer that when you call people out, you have to call them in and provide an opportunity for them to change that behaviour. But I don’t think that Anthony was there. So I think they made the right call.”
The Bass story started to snowball after his brief apology on May 30. He prefaced his statement by saying, “I’ll make this quick,” before returning to the dugout without taking questions.
Linguist Edwin Battistella, the author of “Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology,” said while it was positive that Bass said he planned to educate himself, he didn’t say whether he was sorry for sharing the post or for hurting the community.
“Bass was kind of struggling there with the specificity part,” Battistella said from Ashland, Ore. “He sort of waffles about what he’s apologizing for.”
Bass was noticeably booed by home fans in his next pitching appearance.
Over the days that followed, he spoke in the clubhouse on occasion to a few Jays beat reporters.
In an interview with The Canadian Press and Sportsnet, Bass weighed in on a “really good conversation” he had with Modeste at the stadium on June 6. Modeste would call the one-hour chat a “good second step” as part of a “continuation of learning.”
Bass also revealed that the idea of catching the ceremonial first pitch on the opening night of Pride Weekend was discussed.
The front office, meanwhile, was publicly silent on the Bass developments until last Thursday, when general manager Ross Atkins was peppered with questions about the reliever and the team’s handling of the situation.
“That’s definitely too long before the organization has anything to say,” said strategic communications expert Julia Rim Shepard from Toronto Metropolitan University. “It really should be immediate. “The individual should be brought in immediately to have a conversation about how (they’re) going to go forward together.”
Rob Goodman, a former speech writer and now a TMU assistant professor in the department of politics and public administration, said there’s no “one-size-fits-all” guide for handling these kind of developments.
“I would say that in this situation, it’s as if Anthony Bass and the Blue Jays in many ways ended up in a worst-case scenario because what he did was go out and go through the motions of giving an apology that he really didn’t seem to mean,” Goodman said. “I don’t think that leaves anyone happy.”
A short time after Atkins’ first availability, Bass spoke in a scrum setting that likely sealed his demotion.
He said he initially didn’t think the video post – which described the selling of Pride-themed merchandise as “evil” and “demonic” – was hateful.
“That’s why I posted it originally,” he said that day. “When I look back at it, I can see how people can view it that way and that’s why I was apologetic.”
Atkins explained the subsequent roster move as a “baseball decision to make our team better,” adding the distraction was something that the club had to factor in.
Bass, 35, had a solid year last season but struggled over 22 appearances this year. The Dearborn, Mich., native had a 4.95 earned-run average and was used in low-leverage situations.
His planned participation in Friday’s ceremonial first pitch proceedings, which was confirmed by Modeste a few days beforehand, became a polarizing subject.
Bass’s final media scrum as a Blue Jay only raised the potential for significant awkwardness. His demotion made it a moot point.
Pitcher Kevin Gausman filled in by catching a ball thrown by longtime LGBTQ advocate leZlie Lee Kam.
Shepard said Bass’s involvement likely would not have gone over well.
“I think the climate would have been quite terrible,” she said. “I think it could have escalated to things being thrown on the field.”
Modeste, meanwhile, was on hand that night to hold up a giant Pride flag on the field before the game. Over 35,000 spectators were in attendance, many wearing rainbow flag jerseys.
“It was moving to be able to be a part of (it),” Modeste said. “You could feel the energy in the room. Yes, there are some folks that are still upset. I said to the Jays and I said to the Jays Care (Foundation), ‘Don’t expect everyone to just forget and forgive. For some folks it’s going to take longer to come back.’
“But again, we saw the spirit of wanting to come together and wanting to celebrate Pride. I can tell you it was spectacular.”
Messages left with Bass and his agent were not returned.
The Blue Jays have until Friday to trade Bass or put him on waivers. He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him US$3 million this season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2023.
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