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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 embarrassed to host friends at her home. But the self-proclaimed “water Nazi” isn’t going to let frivolous cosmetic concerns deter her water conservation efforts.

Before the three-digit rebates from area water districts took effect amid the well-publicized perils of drought in California, Fitzpatrick installed a laundry-to-landscape greywater system.

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Enjoy native plants up close


Tanya Kucak/SPecial to the Town Crier
The sharply defined bright-yellow flowers of fremontia, above, contrast with the textured orange-tinged buds and the gentle curves of the bumpy leaves.

Thoughtful and protracted observation is one of the secrets of good gardeners.

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Long live the lawn: Los Altos native offers drought-resistant strategies


Bill Steiner’s grass is green, left, even amid the drought. He followed Max Todd’s water and maintainence instructions after having his lawn aerated, Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Green lawns are not necessarily on the endangered list during the drought, according to Max Todd, a Los Altos native who owns Fairway Lawn Service.

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Los Altos landmark Four families later, Shoup House goes on the market


Courtesy of Matthew Anello
The Shoup House dining room, above, features original elements. The 100-year-old house on University Avenue earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, a nod to its legacy as the home of city founder Paul Shoup.

The house at 500 University Ave., built more than a century ago by Los Altos founder Paul Shoup, is looking for another devoted family.

The current owners, Mary and Brian Heffernan, have moved to their ranch in Siskiyou County to raise “free-range kids” (they have four girls) as well as free-range cattle and chickens. The Heffernans are the fourth family to live in the house.

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Plant placement is important


Courtesy of Mary Dateo
The tree species pictured above and below make great 40-foot trees but not such great foundation plants.

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The secret to a healthy garden: Let Mother Nature do the work


Patricia Larenas/Special to the Town Crier
A balanced and healthy yard includes edibles and California native and non-native plants.

By adopting certain practices and designing your garden to include key plant types, you can take advantage of so-called ecosystem services that build a healthy garden.

Ecosystem services are things that nature provides when the right conditions are met. The most important ecosystem services for home gardeners are pest control, pollination, soil fertility through decomposition of organic matter (composting), healthy soil leading to healthy plants, ambient climate control, moisture retention (less watering), food production and even remediation (breakdown) of harmful contaminants. I would add to the list the beauty and sense of well-being that gardens bring to our lives.

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How to keep your home safe this summer

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