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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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Worried about watering? Consider conservation during drought


Julie Orr/Special to the Town Crier
A homeowner transformed this former pool into a native garden paradise with a boulder water feature.

Given the lack of rainfall, Gov. Jerry Brown recently declared a drought state of emergency, asking residents to conserve water in any way possible. One of the easiest ways to protect the precious water supply we have in reserve is to use less in our landscapes.

When clients ask me to help them become more water-wise, we review two main things: reducing irrigation by using drought-tolerant plants to create beautiful landscapes, and reusing water creatively in the home and the garden.

If a homeowner has a lawn that is too big, underused or in poor condition, an easy fix is a lawn reduction or complete removal. Replacing a lawn with either site-appropriate plants like California natives or Mediterranean plants – or a combination – not only looks great, but is also more interesting than a boring monoculture of lawn.

Where lawns are necessary because they are used as play surfaces for children, consider low-water native sod blends that, once established, could survive drought conditions.

As an incentive, some water districts offer rebates of up to $1,000 for residential lawn removal. For more information on the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency’s Lawn Be Gone program, visit bawsca.org/water-conservation/residential-water-conservation-programs/lawn-be-gone.

Another great way to conserve water is to reuse it by installing a greywater system. Greywater is water that is used once in the home and then a second time in the landscape. These systems are often connected to a washing machine (for simple systems) or shower, bathtub or faucet (larger systems).

Greywater is preferable to rainwater harvesting for garden irrigation simply because it is a year-round water source that doesn’t require large storage capacity.

For clients with higher budgets, a closed-loop system is a great choice. Rainwater is used to supply water to the home’s toilet, laundry and showers in conjunction with greywater, which sends that same water (not toilet water – that’s considered blackwater) back into the garden. Therefore, the municipal water gets used as a backup source only.

Greywater is best for irrigating trees (including fruit), shrubs and perennials. Because greywater tends to run alkaline, it is perfectly suited to neutral soils or alkaline plants such as natives. I don’t recommend it for any root crop vegetables (like carrots, whose roots have direct contact with soil) due to the slight chance of human contaminants getting onto your edibles.

After you install a greywater system, you’ll need to use greywater-safe household products like salt-free detergents and bathing products. Also, local code requires that your irrigation be on a drip line buried 2 inches deep by either soil or mulch to avoid airborne pathogens.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a greywater lecture hosted by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. John Russell from WaterSprout stated: “A family of four can save about 38,000 gallons of water per year with a greywater system, and I’ve never been turned down when requesting a permit from the city.”

WaterSprout promotes five greywater systems from the simple to the complex. Pricing varies because each project comes with its own unique site requirements and challenges, but there are solutions for every budget. For a wealth of information including diagrams, visit Russell’s website at watersprout.org.

If you are concerned about saving water, have a conversation with a professional landscape designer who has experience in sustainable solutions and water-wise designs. Landscape designers often have the resources and knowledge to help you build the right team for your project.

Julie Orr is a landscape designer and member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. For more information, call 468-8020 or visit julieorrdesign.com.

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