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News

Police stress need for low speed in school zones

Police stress need for low speed in school zones


Town Crier File Photo
After two recent accidents involving cyclists and motorists, police urge caution – on both sides.

After two recent incidents of vehicles striking student bicyclists, Los Altos Police urge residents to exercise caution whe...

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Schools

Gardner Bullis School debuts new Grizzly Student Center

Gardner Bullis School debuts new Grizzly Student Center


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Students line up to check books out of the library in the new Grizzly Student Center at Gardner Bullis School.

Gardner Bullis School opened its new Grizzly Student Center earlier this month, introducing a lea...

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Community

Home improvement workshop scheduled Wednesday (Oct. 29)

The County of Santa Clara is hosting a free informational workshop on 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 26379 Fremont Road.

The workshop will offer ways single-family homeowners can increase their homes’ energy efficiency. Eligible i...

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Comment

Off the fence: TC recommends 'yes' on N

The Town Crier initially offered no position on the controversial $150 million Measure N bond on Tuesday’s ballot. But some of the reasons we gave in our Oct. 15 editorial were, on reflection, overly critical and based on inaccurate information.

We ...

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Special Sections

Long-term solutions emerge as water conservation goes mainstream

Long-term solutions emerge as water conservation goes mainstream


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Forrest Linebarger, right, installed greywater and rainwater harvesting systems at his Los Altos Hills home.

With more brown than green visible in her Los Altos backyard, Kacey Fitzpatrick admits that she’s a little e...

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Business

Local realtors scare up money for charity

Local realtors scare up money for charity


Photo courtesy of SILVAR
Realtors Gary Campi and Jordan Legge, from left, joined Nancy Domich, SILVAR President Dave Tonna and Joe Brown to raise funds for the Silicon Valley Realtors Charitable Foundation.

Los Altos and Mountain View realtors raise...

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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

DAVID S. NIVISON

DAVID S. NIVISON

David S. Nivison, 91 years old, and a resident of Los Altos, California since 1952, died Oct. 16, 2014 at home.  His neighbors had recently honored him as the “Mayor of Russell Ave., in recognition of 62 years of distinguished living” on that ...

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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

ECYS opens season Sunday

ECYS opens season Sunday


Ramya Krishna/Special to the Town Crier
The El Camino Youth Symphony rehearses for Sunday’s concert, above.

The El Camino Youth Symphony – under new conductor Jindong Cai – is scheduled to perform its season-opening concert 4 p.m....

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Spiritual Life

Christian Science Reading Room hosts webinar on prayer and healing

Christian Science practitioner and teacher Evan Mehlenbacher is scheduled to present a live Internet webinar lecture, “Prayer That Heals,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Christian Science Reading Room, 60 Main St., Los Altos.

Those interested ...

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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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Kid-friendly equals bug-friendly in the garden


Photo By: Tanya Kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Tanya Kucak/Special To The Town Crier

Native mock orange, right, attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects. In the spring, the large shrub is covered with fragrant flowers.

Bugs, insects, creepy crawlers, birds, butterflies – any living organism children can relate to – are among the easiest ways to engage children in the garden, according to garden designer Alrie Middlebrook.

“(Children) like getting their hands dirty and wet” in worm bins, compost, ponds and the vegetable garden, and they like seeing “what’s alive in the soil,” she said.

Middlebrook heads the California Native Garden Foundation, which offers garden-based classes for children in grades 2-8 at its outdoor learning laboratory in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood through its Environmental Laboratory for Sustainability and Ecological Education (ELSEE) project.

The goals and hands-on approach of ELSEE are similar to those of the Los Altos School District’s Living Classroom Program, said Living Classroom founder Vicki Moore.

Both ELSEE and the Living Classroom teach about plants not as individual, interchangeable entities, but as part of an ecosystem and in relation to the animals that depend on it.

To teach pollinator relationships, for example, ELSEE starts with a butterfly. Following its life cycle, the children learn about the butterfly’s host plants during its larval phase (caterpillar). They then explore that same butterfly’s nectar plants in its adult phase.

“The butterfly wouldn’t be there without the plant,” Middlebrook said, so a discussion of pollination leads back to the importance of plants in the ecosystem.

Students learn about the parallel evolution of the butterfly and those critical host and nectar plants.

For those planting a butterfly garden, it’s important to realize that caterpillars eat host plants. If you want butterflies, expect plants to get munched.

To design kid-friendly gardens, Middlebrook focuses on protecting ecosystem services before choosing specific plants. Healthy ecosystems provide such services as pollination, nutrient cycling, water purification and climate regulation. A good garden design allows the natural cycles and processes to operate. In practical terms, the design challenge is to avoid disrupting the natural systems, Middlebrook added.

Following are some design elements that help preserve ecosystem services.

• Don’t use impervious surfaces. Instead, choose pervious concrete or decomposed granite where a hard, uniform surface is needed. Or use stepping stones, gravel or some other surface that allows water to be absorbed into the soil rather than running off.

• Keep rainfall on site. Rain barrels and cisterns can hold a small percentage of annual rainfall, but a small pond, a dry well, grading or other techniques may also be needed to divert water from storm drains.

• Use locally native plants to attract native pollinators. Choose plants that occur together in the wild to more closely approximate a native ecosystem.

• Use local materials. It takes a large amount of energy to transport materials long distances. This energy is a factor in the “embedded cost” of the materials.

• Avoid pesticides and herbicides. Instead, encourage more life in the garden. Attract the bugs that prey on plant-eating bugs by planting native insectary plants from the appropriate ecosystem. Plants such as yarrow and globe gilia have tiny flowers that attract a wide range of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Let your population of aphids grow enough to attract the beneficial insects that eat them.

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

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