We’ve got a big swimming pool out in our back yard. Well, not back but alongside the house. This is our first house with a pool. Didn’t have one in San Diego – our lot there was alongside a canyon and not really wide enough, and the weather was a little cool anyway. When we looked at houses in Vegas in anticipation of our move we had several requests: first was no homeowners association, I’ve discussed that concept before and I do not plan on ever living in a place where someone else can decide what I should do with my house and yard.
Our second request was for an older house with a big yard. Down in San Diego we were fairly close to downtown. The house was built in 1929, and the lot was a little over a half acre (1675 sq meters), with a portion of that rambling down a hillside into a canyon. We had a large garden and liked doing outside stuff. Las Vegas is filled with new housing developments, and we looked at many. Drawbacks were that all of them had homeowner associations, and it seems people buying new houses in Vegas didn’t do much outside, as the lots were barely larger than the houses; usually less than a meter between homes and around a three meter deep back yard. I guess it’s the heat here, people just stay inside with air conditioning and don’t do things outside. We ended up with a house built in 1969 (old for Vegas) with 0.6 acres (2,000 sq. meters).
Las Vegas started out with the train station and train yard over a hundred years ago and grew out from there. Then in the 50’s casinos started growing southward along Las Vegas Boulevard, just outside the city limits (to avoid city taxes). Apartments were built just east of the casinos to house workers, and then the valley started filling up in all directions from these central areas. The Las Vegas area now has almost 2,000,000 people living here. The Las Vegas valley is relatively flat, so development built outward fairly consistently, with no big open areas left unfilled. Most housing is single family homes, with no large central concentration of apartments or condos, so we are really spread out. The valley is about 20 miles wide (32km) with mountains down both side, and developments now spread out east and west right up to the mountains. Most new construction is southeast to expand the city of Henderson or towards the north.
Some people built homes away from the city core, and you can drive around the valley and recognize these little pockets of older places by the groupings of larger trees. We live in a desert, so far this year we have had around .6 inches (2cm) of rainfall. Native vegetation is just low bushes scattered around, with no trees, so anything over a meter high has been planted and watered fairly recently. Older homes usually have mulberry, pine or salt cedar (tamarisk) trees. These types of trees require a lot of water, and with recent water restrictions are not planted anymore, but were popular plantings in the 60’s. Many homes around us have tall (20 meter) pine trees, while our house has two large olives out front and a big peach tree and an ash out back. Some type of beetle is attacking the pines, and quite a few big trees in the neighborhood have succumbed and are standing all brown and dead.
Most older homes have gone through several owners since construction, and with the heat and sunshine usually one of the owners put in a pool along the way. Ours is a rather large rectangle, about 6 x 12 meters. It’s not heated but there is a cover that rolls up at one end and is pulled across by a motor to close. We usually keep it covered, to keep out the dirt and slow evaporation. With the bright sunshine and warm days the water temperature is now up to 34c (94f) which makes it rather pleasant to float around in. Last night we were out there at sunset, enjoying the warm water and darkening skies. While we have converted most of the yard from grass to low water desert landscaping we did keep a large section of lawn out back, where the peach tree is planted. Being one of the few lawns in the area this attracts a lot of birds, so our yard is usually quite noisy with all of the comings and goings and arguments. A large group of sparrows like a big bush (3 meters high, 2 wide) on the side and quite a few spend the night in it. This leads to a lot of chirping at sunset which dies down as it gets dark. We imagine them all saying good night to each other, over and over. A small group of bats nest somewhere in our neighborhood, and they fly over the grassy area catching insects.
So we float in the water listening to the decreasing chirping and watch the bats flit back and forth overhead as the stars appear. Usually cold drinks are on the edge of the pool to provide refreshment. We can just see the tips of the taller casinos down on the strip over the eastern wall, but some trees we planted out there are getting big and that view has decreased. It’s just a very pleasant way to quiet down and end the day.