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News

Paws-itively  ready for  disaster

Paws-itively ready for disaster


Dozens of local residents participated in the Pet Ready! program, which included first-aid tips for animals from Adobe Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Cristi Blackwolf, above right. Girl Scouts Rachel Torgunrud, above left, in purple of Sunnyv...

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Schools

Local students earn honors at Tech Challenge

Local students earn honors at Tech Challenge


Courtesy of Ann Hepenstal
Gardner Bullis School’s Tech Challenge Team “Fantastic V,” above, recently showed their project at the school’s STEM Expo. Teammates, from left, Brandon Son, Will Hooper, George Weale, Tripp Crissma...

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Community

Merchants, maypoles, music: Farmers' Market season launches May 1

Merchants, maypoles, music: Farmers' Market season launches May 1


Town Crier File Photo
Visitors examine the fresh produce on display at last year’s Downtown Los Altos Farmers’ Market.

It wouldn’t be spring without the return of the Downtown Los Altos Farmers’ Market May 1. The Los Altos Village Association sp...

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Sports

LA tops MV behind Beutter's big day

LA tops MV behind Beutter's big day


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High pitcher Lizzie Beutter went the distance to earn the win against Mountain View.

The number of Los Altos High hits and Mountain View High errors may be in dispute, but there’s no debating which softball ...

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Comment

Enlightened California: No Shoes, Please

I recently read a newspaper article about the newly adopted sex-education curriculum in the state of Mississippi. In the city of Oxford, the following exercise is included: Students pass around a Peppermint Patty chocolate and observe how spoiled it ...

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Business

Cobblery makes short move next door: Longtime business relocating to State Street in May

Cobblery makes short move next door: Longtime business relocating to State Street in May


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
European Cobblery owner Paul Roth is relocating his business from 201 First St., above, to 385 State St. in May.

The European Cobblery, a family-owned and -operated shoe store, is relocating to a new home just a f...

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Books

Local Author Spotlight

In an effort to support authors from Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View, many self-published, Book Buzz periodically spotlights their books and offers information on where to purchase them. Local authors are encouraged to submit brief summa...

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People

'Champions for Youth' announced

Challenge Team will honor Mountain View Police Chief Scott Vermeer as “Champion for Youth” at the nonprofit organization’s annual fundraising breakfast, scheduled 7 a.m. May 7 at Michaels at Shoreline, 2960 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View.

Lauren ...

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Stepping Out

Last go-round for 'Hound'

Last go-round for 'Hound'


Tracy Martin/Special to the Town Crier
The actors in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” – from left, Darren Bridgett, Ron Campbell and Michael Gene Sullivan – take on dozens of roles.

TheatreWorks is slated to present “The Hound of the Baskervilles...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

A yoga class a day keeps the stress away

A yoga class a day keeps the stress away


Van Houtte/Town Crier Yoga of Los Altos hosts a variety of classes, including Strong Flow Vinyasa, above, taught by Doron Hanoch. Yin Yoga instructor Janya Wongsopa guides a student in the practice, below.

It’s nearly 9 a.m. on a Monday mornin...

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Build it and the birds will come

Photo Jim Howard/Special To The Town Crier Running water from a fountain attracts an array of birds to any backyard. Placing the water feature near a shrub gives the birds somewhere to flee if they fear a predator nearby.

 

Five years ago, Jim and Meredith Howard bought a 1971 slab house with a flat concrete-paved backyard in the Bay Area and began transforming it into a habitat garden.

They wanted to create an interesting and functional space that attracted native birds and insects, learn the local native plants, improve drainage and do it all on a budget without wasting materials or hauling truckloads to the landfill.

At a recent Gardening with Natives talk, Jim Howard demonstrated how they did it. As the district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in San Mateo County, Howard was already attuned to nature, but the South Bay environment was new.

Starting with the front yard, the Howards consulted with Acterra, a restoration nursery, to choose appropriate native plants. Because the goal was to attract wildlife, they focused on species rather than cultivars.

“You don’t know what you’re breeding out and what ecological functions you’re impairing” if you use a hybrid or cultivar, Howard said.

For instance, he said, monkeyflowers bred or selected for larger, more colorful flowers are less attractive to hummingbirds than the ones found in nature. But, he noted, ceanothus and salvia cultivars seem to be as full of insect life as the species.

“We couldn’t believe how quickly” and how many birds found the garden, he said.

Birds came instantly when they installed the native plants.

They noted a huge increase after adding a water feature. Following Audubon Society recommendations, they placed the water feature within 10 feet of a shrub where birds could seek cover to elude predators.

“There’s always something going on in the yard,” Howard said.

Bushtits, for instance, will consume 40 percent of the bugs in a mature shrub. California Towhees especially like purple needlegrass seeds. Howard has observed a Townsend’s Warbler eating caterpillars from hummingbird sage plants and robins resting under yellow lupines. At least 37 species of birds visit the garden. Though crows, jays and ravens populate the neighborhood, they don’t come to this garden.

The biggest task was to improve drainage in the backyard. The Howards rented an electric pavement breaker to cut the tons of concrete into slabs, many of which they dry stacked into raised beds and used for stepping-stones. For the rain garden, they dug a hole and filled it with cobble-sized concrete chunks and then gravel, topped by geotextile. The rain garden has successfully let rainwater soak into the soil onsite rather than pooling or flowing into the street.

Howard offered advice for others contemplating an ecosystem restoration garden.

• Stick to natives. Native plants are the best food source for native insects and other wildlife.

• Go for complexity of structure, flower color and flower type. Use shrubs, trees, ground covers and perennials that offer a range of habitat niches. A variety of flowers will attract different pollinators.

• Do whatever you can. Start small, but start somewhere. It took only three summers for the Howards’ garden to look “done.”

• Learn as you go.

“You could spend a lifetime investigating what to do and know less than when you started,” he said.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Tanya Kucak gardens organically. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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