Tue07292014

News

LASD, BCS boards finalize 5-year agreement

LASD, BCS boards finalize 5-year agreement

Bullis Charter School board members unanimously approved a five-year agreement with the Los Altos School District just before midnight Monday. The agreement, also unanimously approved by LASD trustees earlier in the evening, outlines facilities uses ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand int...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building in L...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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