Wed07302014

News

‘Brown is the new green,’ says local water district

‘Brown is the new green,’ says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spendi...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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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

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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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

CARSTEN HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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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

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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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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Big prize escapes Los Altos family this year, but giant pumpkins still dazzle neighbors

10.13.2013 KassoPumpkinHaulingParty-7630b
Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The gourd-y details: The Kasso family shows off its prize pumpkins to Covington School students.

As local youth scour farmstands to pick the perfect pumpkin to take home, they may think they’ve found the big one – that is, until they venture down Marvin Avenue in Los Altos to the Kasso house.

Pumpkin envy may set in as their jaws drop in awe at gourds so large they could fit the bill as Cinderella’s coach.

Growing big pumpkins – tipping the scale at 686 pounds this year – is a labor of love for Suzanne and Chris Kasso and their two children.

“We like to garden and we like to experiment, so growing big pumpkins is the best of both worlds,” Suzanne said. “We also like to tinker and troubleshoot and learn and grow. It sets a good example for the kids.”

At their fourth weigh-in at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival Oct. 14, the couple’s pumpkins were dwarfed by a 1,985-pounder, but they took home prizes in the the Most Beautiful category.

After their weigh-in, the family stopped by Covington School as it adjourned to let their children share their giant pumpkins and answer classmates’ questions.

The Kassos plant big pumpkins along the edge of their driveway, where neighbors stop to pose for photos in Halloween costumes and marvel at how large the giants are until Thanksgiving, when the family painstakingly harvests seeds and saws the pumpkins into smaller pieces for recycling in their compost pile. The family then feeds the soil that will birth next year’s pumpkins.

The Kassos said they didn’t really know what they were doing when they started their growing tradition nearly 10 years ago.

“We got a 60-pounder and thought, ‘Wow, this is the biggest one we’ve seen,’” said Suzanne of their initial attempt.

Shortly after, they enrolled in a class hosted by the Los Altos Hills Parks and Recreation Committee and realized that there was both a science and an art to growing big pumpkins. Simply popping a seed from any garden store into unprepared soil wouldn’t generate the magic needed to produce large pumpkins.

Prepping for pumpkins

The Kassos said their hobby requires year-round attention, starting from the day after they pluck the pumpkins from their vines.

“As soon as we move this guy out, we begin prepping for next year,” said Chris of what happens behind the scenes. “You can have good seeds, but if the soil isn’t good, it’s not going to grow.”

It’s not exactly a trade secret, but the family’s on-site compost pile of chicken and horse manure along with other organic waste is a critical element in their success. Starting in fall, they rototill and fertilize the ground where they grow their pumpkins to prepare the optimal bed.

Then the hard work begins. Germination of the subtropical plants poses challenges. The seeds must be started indoors and kept at a temperature of at least 90 F until they take root. Once the pumpkin plants are transplanted outdoors, vigilance is essential. Chris uses plant cages to protect the tender vegetation from little critters like squirrels. He and Suzanne spend time nearly every day during the early growing season digging trenches, as the plants’ vines seem to grow exponentially. By harvest, the pumpkins’ tentaclelike vines can extend more than 60 feet.

“Every year we learn something new,” Chris said. “Maybe by the time I retire, I’ll be able to grow one that’s 2,000 pounds.”


Kasso Family cultivates pumpkin prowress - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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