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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Down and dirty: Growing healthy soil is important


Photo By:
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Molasses, left, stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the soil, and liquid seaweed products add a range of trace minerals, both of which help plants resist pests and diseases. Photos by Tanya Kucak/ Special to the Town Crier

Organic gardeners like to say they’re growing soil, not plants.

The basis of a healthy garden is soil and the life in the soil. To evaluate soil, you can feel it, smell it, look for worms and see if plants growing in it seem healthy. Clay soil is a wonderful soil to start with because it can hold onto lots of minerals and release them to plants.

But ultimately, whether you’ve been gardening a few years or are just starting, you may want a soil test. Soil tests are problematic for organic growers because the recommendations focus on synthetic fertilizers. The solution is to analyze the soil-test results yourself.

Two new books that discuss amending your soil to produce nutrient-dense food advocate soil tests. Though the authors’ approaches are different, they are complementary. Both stress the importance of adding minerals to the soil, and both recommend far less compost than many organic gardeners are accustomed to using (at most, add a 1/6-inch layer of  compost per year). Both authors avoid dolomite lime, because its calcium/magnesium ratio is bad for most soils. Instead they recommend calcitic lime (also known as agricultural lime). Both discourage gardeners from adding too much of anything without a soil test, because even moderate amounts of some amendments can throw the soil chemistry out of whack.

In “The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient Dense Food” (New Society, 2012), author Steve Solomon (with Erica Reinheimer) takes a linear approach, once you get past the opinionated and curmudgeonly first chapters. Solomon recommends a specific $20 soil test from Logan Labs. You can analyze your own soil by completing worksheets, conveniently available online at tinyurl.com/c45cfsb, and then purchasing amendments. Solomon explains which amendments to include and how to use the worksheets. He also includes his formula for Complete Organic Fertilizer, which he considers a reliable alternative if you can’t conduct a soil test.

But soil chemistry is as far as he goes. If you’re more interested in the life in the soil, then Phil Nauta’s “Building Soils Naturally” (Acres USA, 2012) is the book for you.

Nauta presents a more detailed and nuanced discussion of stimulating the soil food web, covering soil biology as well as soil chemistry. He includes cutting-edge topics such as Brix testing, seawater, mycorrhizae, paramagnetic rock dust and culturing essential microorganisms.

The most useful part of the book is at the end – a five-page summary of Nauta’s recommendations. One of his most valuable suggestions is to add rock dust to the compost pile, where it can get chelated with organic matter to make the minerals more biologically available to plants.

He also recommends adding smaller amounts of minerals two to four times during the year, rather than all at once.

“Plants and microbes need continual access to a small amount of nutrients rather than everything at once,” Nauta writes.

He also stresses the use of molasses and other biostimulants to unlock soil nutrients.

For gardeners who don’t do a soil test, Nauta said, “it’s rare to find a soil that wouldn’t benefit” from 1/2 pound of calcitic lime per 100 square feet.

He includes a recipe for the foliar spray that he recommends using with new seeds and transplants, and throughout the garden every one to four weeks.

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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