Fri10242014

News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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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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