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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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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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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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