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Las Vegas v. Houston, Part 2

16 Feb 2014
I have committed one of the greatest sins available to me in Sin City, which is saying a lot in a place that markets debauchery in all available extremes. Worse yet, I have done it in the Sinless Suburb, Boulder City, which allows neither casinos nor liquor stores.

I have planted grass.

My friends back in Houston will laugh at that. Subtropical Houston exists at the nexus of a coast, a forest, and a swamp. The humidity is so high that the shade offers no relief, and the night's temperatures do not vary much from the day's. Everything grows in Houston. You need a machete to keep it at bay, because the grass will grow head-high in a season if you let it.

Now I live in the River Mountains by Lake Mead, perched about four hundred feet above the Las Vegas Valley to the west and Esmeralda Valley to the south, where Boulder City located its solar power plant and its upcoming drone testing base. That's not very high by Rocky Mountain standards, but compared to pancake-flat Houston, where I lived at 14 feet above sea level (it said so on a street sign), living a half mile up means something.

The mountains are really just piles of ugly dirt and rocks. The entire area is inhospitable to plant life in the extreme, as I found out last year when I made my first efforts at potted plant life - efforts that shot out the starting gate at full speed, but did not go the distance.

Why is planting grass a sin? Water. The area is in its twelfth year of drought. Lake Mead is sitting at historical lows, so much so that one of the intake pipes for water access may soon be above water, and hence unusable. In an effort at water conservation, a few years ago the water authority started offering a $1,900 one-time payment to anyone who replaced their lawn with xeriscaping.

I try not to be a hateful person, but I hate xeriscaping. I want grass. I miss green plant life. I miss practicing Tai Chi barefooted in the grass on a reliable, level surface. In Chinese culture I was born in a year of the wooden horse. In the Five Element paradigm wood is associated with the color green, spring, and liver health (let's save that part for another time). Wood baby that I am, I like green. I should mention that in no part of the Chinese pantheon is found brown, the color of the desert.

This year I have a house with a completely undeveloped side yard. Desolate, forbidding, and nasty are words that come to mind when I try to describe its appearance, but there is the advantage that houses on each side prevent it from getting much direct sunlight, which is so deadly here, but allows a lot of indirect sunlight. So instead of potting plants, I am planting, but face new challenges.

The native soil resembles tawny cement, without the gardening-friendly attributes we normally associate with cement. It crumbles away to a depth of two or three inches, then resists all attempts at pulverative rehabilitation.

Having never grown grass before, I deemed the circumstances inpropitious for planting seed. The cost alone of so much bagged soil - 40 bags would barely do the trick, by my estimate - was prohibitive, so I decided to try sod. My main area covers 200 square feet, but the oleander bush I bought, native to the desert, should grow substantially, so I am really only looking at about a 120 square foot area. For my initial effort I bought 50 square feet, in long rectangles of five square feet each. Six of them I placed together, and the remainder in staggered stripes. I am filling in the empty spaces with dirt, in the hope that the grass will grow and fill in the empty spaces. I have seen that done before, but have always wondered how well and how quickly it worked; I may get impatient and buy more sod.

This morning my newly planted grassy area looks nice, but is only large enough for a standing post meditation. For Tai Chi I still have to go to the park, which is where I am headed right now.

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