Archive for the ‘Lives to Inspire’ Category

biblioburroboy & book burro

The latest addition to our Waterton Canyon Kids Library is Jeanette Winter’s Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia, a picture book about one man’s never-say-never passion for sharing stories and books. Jeanette Winter has written and illustrated many books for children based on true-life stories, including Wangari’s Trees of Peace, and The Librarian of Basra. Here’s what she has to say about her latest book:

Biblioburro is based on the true story of Luis Soriano, who lives in La Gloria, a remote town in northern Columbia. An avid reader, Luis understood the transformative power of reading because of his experiences as a schoolteacher. He wanted to share his collection of books with the children and adults in the isolated villages in the distant hills, where books were scarce. Most houses had none.

Luis and his two burros began bringing books to the villages in 2000. He started with a collection of 70 books that has grown to over 4,800, mostly from donations. Now the Biblioburro travels to the hills every weekend. Three hundred people, more or less, look forward to borrowing the books Luis brings.

A small corner of the world is enriched.” — Jeanette Winter

People around here love stories. I’m trying to keep that spirit alive in my own way.Luis Soriano

And here’s another fun picture book, Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown and John Parra. For more information be sure to visit the Biblioburro blogspot!

Being the book-people (book-nuts?) that we are, we especially love the following three titles from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library — each one affirms the power and value of books across the world:

cut shincamellibrary book
Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt & Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer, My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, The Library Book: The Story of Libraries from Camels to Computers by Maureen Sawa & Bill Slavin

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encompassing nature

Although the Land Library has thousands of titles focused on the American West, we have long sought a global reach, believing that lessons of land and community knows no boundaries. The Land Library has especially strong collections of books focused on Africa, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Latin America, Canada and the boreal zone worldwide — along with all-things-Arctic.

We’ll continue to grow our global collections, and we hope to have more world-wide postings in the future. In the meanwhile, here’s an excellent book to start us on our journey!

Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook, edited by Robert Torrance. This is a truly massive anthology (1,224 pages), as well as a sweeping history of the human response to nature from ancient times to the dawn of the Modern Age. Robert Torrance casts a wide net, including selections of children’s stories, tribal myths, sacred scriptures, poetry, philosophical and scientific writings. Gary Snyder writes, “What is encompassed, on a scale vaster than we could have imagined, are the many ways in which human beings have understood and represented the natural world. There are themes of gratitude, playfulness, and intimacy with the wild, running through most of it…”

Here’s a few more thought-provoking books that we’ll return to in the months ahead:
unbowedmountain hometuckertibetan steppe
Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, translated by David Hinton, Buddhism and Ecology by Mary Evelyn Tucker, et.al., Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe by George Schaller
islam & ecologyann morrisancient futures
Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust by Richard C. Foltz, et al, Houses and Homes by Ann Morris & Ken Heyman (from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library), Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World by Helena Norberg-Hodge

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reimaginingterra incognita

Much has been written about America’s declining industrial cities, and Detroit never fails to come up early in that discussion. Once a city of two million, after recent de-industrialization and middle class flight, Detroit’s population has fallen to approximately 700,000. It’s estimated that perhaps forty square miles of the city are vacant — a level of emptiness that creates a landscape unlike any other big city.

Urban blight, or a rare opportunity? That’s the question raised in John Gallagher’s recent book Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City. Gallagher gives us an inspiring look at innovative community-building projects filling the gaps in Detroit — including urban farming. He also shows how this fresh entrepreneurial spirit has made Detroit leaner, greener, and more self-sufficient.

Also pictured above: Terra Incognita: Vacant Land and Urban Strategies by Ann Bowman and Michael Pagano — a book that shows how vacant land can be used as a valuable strategic asset for cities and towns. And here’s two excellent companion books that will help you reimagine any city you might find yourself in:

small grittyrich

Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World by Catherine Tumber, and Urban Farms by Sarah C. Rich — one of the Land Library’s favorite new arrivals — a book that examines sixteen well-established urban agriculture projects across the country — including two in Detroit!

The sense of autonomy that comes from growing food and raising animals is a welcome experience at a time when the forces of the world often feel beyond individual control. Whether motivated by health concerns, environmental issues, financial constraints, or simply the creative challenge of a DIY endeavor, farming in the city is an affordable, accessible way to contribute to a healthy urban future — and to eat well along the way.” Sarah C. Rich, Urban Farms

Director Mark MacInnis has created a wonderful documentary on Detroit’s food revolution, Urban Roots. Here’s a sneak peek:

The Land Library is more devoted than ever to establishing an Urban Homestead Library for the people of Denver. We’re charged up and ready to go — and thankful for the inspiration of existing urban farms and related community projects across the country. Help us make this happen for Denver!

urban roots poster

In many ways, the urban farmers in Detroit are like most of us in that we are all experiencing the painful transition from the industrial, centralized world to a post-industrial world in which jobs are changing, the economy is changing, the neighborhoods are changing and it seems like we have no control over the outcome.
Well, enter urban farming, a way in which individuals can take control over something so critical as food that in the very act of growing it, they not only feed themselves, they also become healthier, more self-reliant and in some cases they become entrepreneurs. And most remarkable, they create a new approach to community, the economy and life overall.
” — Leila Connors, producer of Urban Roots

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Buffalo Bird Woman's Gardencatlin

Buffalo Bird Woman was born in an earth lodge in 1839, along the Knife River, in present day North Dakota. She grew up to be an expert gardener of the Hidatsa tribe, growing corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers along the fertile bottomlands of the Missouri River. In 1917, anthropologist Gilbert L. Wilson published Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians, a faithful transcript of his interviews with this remarkable woman.
In this book (since retitled Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture and the Hidatsa Indians), Maxidiwiac (as she was known in Hidatsa) talks of field preparation, planting, harvesting and storage — along with the songs and ceremonies that lead to a good crop. You get a sense of what a social occasion gardening was. When the first green corn was plucked, the women and children would gather, breaking off a piece of stalk, sucking the sweet juice — “merely for a little taste of sweets in the field.

Reading this book brings back a lost world, especially life beyond the garden rows:

Little girls of 10 and 11 years of age used to make dolls of squashes. When the squashes were brought in from the field, the little girls would go to the pile and pick out squashes that were proper for dolls. I have done so myself. We used to pick out the long ones…squashes whose tops were white or yellow and the bottoms of some other color. We put no decorations on these squashes….Each little girl carried her squash about in her arms and sang for it as for a babe. Often she carried it on her back, in her calf skin robe.” from Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden

sd nelson

Brand new to our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library is S.D. Nelson’s Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story — a faithful telling of Buffalo Bird Woman’s childhood. Full of historic photos, maps, and Nelson’s own artwork, this book beautifully captures Hidatsa life on the edge of change.

tool Buffalo Bird Woman

Digging sticks are still used in my tribe for digging wild turnips; but even in my grandmother’s lifetime, digging sticks and bone hoes, as garden tools, had all but given place to iron hoes and axes.” — from Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden

And here’s a few more excellent volumes on Native American foodways. There are many, many more on the Land Library’s shelves!

native amer gardeningpueblo
Native American Gardening: Stories, Projects and Recipes for Families by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac, Pueblo Indian Agriculture by James A. Vlasich.
Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson, Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation by Gary Paul Nabhan.

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farm together nowdeeply rooted

The intersection of food, people, and the land has produced some of the most positive and vibrant writing of today. One of our favorites in the recent crop of good books is Farm Together Now: A Portrait of People, Places, and Ideas for a New Food Movement by Amy Franceschini and Daniel Tucker. The authors visited twenty farms over the course of a single summer. Each farm is profiled with extensive interviews, along with beautifully evocative photographs. The farms are innovative in different ways, but most are dedicated to missions of sustainable agriculture, food justice, and the strengthening of their local food systems.

Here’s just three of the inspiring farm projects featured in Farm Together Now, along with links to each organization’s websites:

City Slicker Farms: bringing fresh, healthy food to the inner city neighborhoods of Oakland, California.

Anarchy Apiaries: a one-man operation in New York’s Hudson River Valley, with the mission of raising honeybees in a natural way, in the hopes of reducing Colony Collapse Disorder among the hives.

The Acequiahood of the San Luis Peoples Ditch: founded in 1852, this cooperative farm organization manages the common ownership of water in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. The ditches (acequias) delivers the water, and also ties together the entire community.

All twenty farm projects have inspiring tales to tell. The authors of Farm Together Now returned from their travels with this thought:

By understanding how these individuals are creating solutions for their lives and the lives of those whom they care about, we feel more optimistic about our future. We present their stories here because we know that a new food system can only emerge if the diversity and complexity that these folks embody are part of the discussion.

For more on Farm Together Now, be sure to visit farmtogethernow.org.

Also featured above: Lisa Hamilton’s Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness. With the ease of a born storyteller, Lisa Hamilton profiles three farmers bucking the agribusiness establishment — a Texas dairyman, a New Mexico rancher, and a North Dakota farmer. The Land Library strongly recommends Deeply Rooted, along with books such as these:

civic agriculturepublic producemark winne
Civic Agriculture: Reconnecting Farm, Food, and Community by Thomas A. Lyson, Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture by Darrin Nordhal, and Mark Winne’s Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin’ Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture. A few years back, Mark Winne joined us for a wonderful Rocky Mountain Land Series presentation, and he is the subject of one of our earlier posts.

For more good books on this rich topic, click here, and explore!

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This was one of the most surprising, memorable, and inspirational books we’ve read in the past year. William Kamkwamba’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is many books in one. Kamkwamba gives us a vivid tale of a child’s growing up in the African nation of Malawi. The African landscape is an important character throughout this story, as is Malawi’s corrupt government, and the drought and famine that brought William’s family to their knees.

Forced to leave school due to his family’s dire circumstances, William discovered a tiny volunteer-run library, and soon came across two books: Junior Integrated Science and Explaining Physics. Both of these books laid the groundwork for an unexpected find one day — one of those serendipitous encounters that libraries are so very, very good at — especially when matched with a curious mind like William Kamkwamba’s:

“…I squatted down to grab one of the dictionaries, and when I did, I noticed a book I’d never seen, pushed into the shelf and slightly concealed. What is this? I thought. Pulling it out, I saw it was an American textbook called Using Energy, and this book has since changed my life. The cover featured a long row of windmills — though at that time I had no idea what a windmill was.”

This book provided William Kamkwamba several ah-ha! moments over the next few days, chief among them, how such knowledge might help his family, and at the same time, unleash his best dreams for a future ahead:

“With a windmill we’d finally release ourselves from the troubles of darkness and hunger. In Malawi, the wind was one of the few consistent things given to us by God, blowing in the treetops day and night. A windmill meant more than just power, it was freedom.”

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a wonderful story, full of grit, ingenuity and hope! Please check out the following 3 minute video clip. Among other great images, you’ll see William Kamkwamba proudly holding up the library book that started it all!

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breaking bread

We all have one particular food so wedded to our sensibilities that it has the power to resurrect the past. During the years I worked in professional kitchens, the foods many of the other cooks and I longed for weren’t the risottos scented with saffron or the rabbit braised with fresh truffles we were preparing for the award-winning menus. Rather they were someone’s grandmother’s potato salad, an aunt’s famous gingerbread, a mother’s meatloaf. A piece of the past is what we really wanted to eat.Lynne Christy Anderson

When Lynne Anderson hung up her chef’s jacket, she turned to a career in teaching. Her first class was a roomful of immigrant adults, many of whom hadn’t been in a classroom for decades. Searching for a common language, Anderson discovered that “the language turned out to be food.

And that also planted the seed for Lynne Anderson’s recent book, Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens. Anderson visited the kitchens, and broke bread with immigrant families from Haiti, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sudan, Latvia, Morocco, Chile, Ireland, Vietnam, among other lands. “For the last few years, I have had the great privilege of hearing these stories and learning about the roles that food plays in the lives to those who have left almost everything behind….These wonderful meals came out of kitchens that, for the most part, were devoid of high-end stoves and fancy appliances. Rarely was there a cookbook or measuring cup in sight. Here, the cooking was done by feel. In backyard gardens, vegetables were harvested for dinner, or grape leaves and mushrooms were collected at coveted foraging sites….And finally, when the harvesting, shopping, and cooking were done, there was the breaking of bread at kitchen tables.

This is a beautifully written book, full of wonderful stories that span cultures and generations. Plus there’s recipes!

Given the vital intersection that exists between food and the land, we keep looking for books on the common language of food. Here’s just a few related titles from the Land Library’s shelves:

klindiensthidden kitchensarab/american
The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst, Hidden Kitchens: Street Corner Cooking, Kitchen Rituals, & Visionaries (Stories & More from NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters) by Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson, Arab/American: Landscape, Culture and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts by Gary Paul Nabhan
The Language of Baklava
by Diana Abu-Jaber (an American/Jordanian memoir), Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food & Family by Laura Schenone


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George Schaller has been described as one of the finest wildlife biologists of all time. At the age of 26 he traveled to Central Africa to study and live with Mountain Gorillas, embarking on the first field study of those gentle giants. Over the next fifty years, George Schaller’s field work took him from Africa to the Tibetan Plateau. Most remarkably, Schaller’s dogged research continually inspired subsequent wildlife protection wherever he pitched his tent across the globe.

Many, many years ago the Land Library purchased our first Schaller book, somewhere along the 8-miles of books at New York City’s venerable Strand Book Store. The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations (pictured above) was one of the first studies of the lion’s social life, and it set us on the path to gather all of George Schaller’s works, including his 2007 memoir, A Naturalist and Other Beasts: Tales From a Life in the Field (also pictured above).

Learn more about each chapter of Schaller’s remarkable life, in books such as these!

turnerpandamt. gorilla
A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts by Pamela S. Turner (from our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library), The Giant Pandas of Wolong by George Schaller, Hu Jinchu, Pan Wenshi & Zhu Jing, The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior.

For the last many years, George Schaller’s field studies have centered on China, Tibet, and the greater Himalayan region, captured in books such as these: Stones of Silence: Journeys in the Himalayas, Tibet’s Hidden Wilderness: Wildlife and Nomads of the Chang Tang Reserve, Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe.

Collecting all of George Schaller’s books has been a rewarding pursuit, so imagine our excitement this week when we opened a box containing his very latest work:

tibet wild

“This is a remarkably close-up and revealing story from the world’s top field scientist. In Tibet Wild Schaller addresses such little known creatures as Marco Polo sheep, snow leopards, chiru antelope, horse-like kiang and the peoples that live with them. He writes penetratingly, but with a grace and sensitivity that touches the heart.” — William Conway, Senior Conservationist, Wildlife Conservation Society

Before the Himalayas, before Africa, came Alaska’s Brooks Range. In 1956, as a 23-year old graduate student, George Schaller joined an Alaskan wildlife expedition led by the legendary biologist Olaus Murie:

murie exp

Olaus encouraged George’s wanderings. He believed a scientist should gather his or her data on foot, every sense alert, notebook and camera in hand….For George, the Murie expedition was to become the model for the rest of his career: exploration, rigorous science, passionate conservation, and a deep, heartfelt connection to wild places and wild animals.” — from A Life in the Wild by Pamela S. Turner.

Fifty years later, in the summer of 2006, George Schaller returned to Alaska’s north in the company of three fresh young graduate students — the next generation of field biologists to come!

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one strawsowing seeds

“Fans of Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution will be delighted by Sowing Seeds in the Desert, his last book. It is a rich treasure trove detailing how his own philosophy of farming evolved and how he decided to apply what he learned on his own farm in Japan to other parts of the world. His insights into the tragedies of taking Western, industrial agriculture to places like Africa to ‘enrich the national economy,’ and his alternative approach of working with indigenous farmers to enable them to become self-sufficient are instructive for all of us.” — Frederick Kirschenmann, author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

Masanobu Fukuoka”s The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming was one of the first farming books the Land Library acquired. Our collection has just come full circle with the arrival of Fukuoka’s last book Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security, an inspiring summation of his lifelong work to develop sustainable agricultural techniques.

Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a farmer and philosopher who was born and raised on the Japanese island of Shikoku. In 1975 he wrote The One-Straw Revolution, a best-selling book that described his life’s journey, his philosophy, and the farming techniques that came to him as he worked closer and closer with nature. This small volume eventually was translated into twenty-five languages, and helped make Fukuoka a leader in the worldwide sustainable agriculture movement. He continued farming until shortly before his death in 2008, at the age of ninety-five.

Here’s a wonderful film clip on the life and work of Masanobu Fukuoka:

masanoburoad back
Masanobu Fukuoka in the field, along with his earlier book The Road Back to Nature: Regaining the Paradise Lost (out of print, but on the Land Library’s shelves).

in field

As many of you know, the Land Library hopes to open an Urban Homestead Library in Denver, full of books on living green in the city, with titles on organic gardening, urban farms, beekeeping, city-bred chickens, goats, pigs — plus many more topics on living lighter on the land. The works of writers such as Masanobu Fukuoka, Wendell Berry, and Liberty Hyde Bailey will form the philosophical backbone of this collection. Help us make this happen!

And for more on the Land Library’s farming collection, here’s a book-filled past post:

–The Work We Do: On the Practice & Philosophy of Farming

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good food revolutiongrowing power

Will Allen’s parents were sharecroppers from South Carolina, but their son never dreamed of being a farmer — he had other plans for his life. After years on the hardwood floors of professional basketball, Will Allen built a successful career as an executive at Procter & Gamble.

But here’s the unexpected turn. Cashing in his retirement fund, Will bought a two-acre plot of land, a half mile from Milwaukee’s largest public housing project — set in the middle of a food desert with only convenience stores and fast-food restaurants to serve local residents. In the face of tremendous obstacles, that two-acre plot grew into Growing Power, the nation’s preeminent urban farm — a food and education center that now produces enough vegetables and fish to feed thousands. And along the way, jobs have been created, public health has improved, and a community in need has come together. Today, Growing Power helps develop community food systems across the country.

We’re excited to add Will Allen’s new book to our growing collection of books on the urban food movement. The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities is an inspiring place to begin!

In 2008, Will Allen was awarded the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Grant” for his work on urban farming and sustainable food production:

“Will Allen’s remarkable story, told with eloquence and compassion, conveys the universal value of social justice and real food.” — Alice Waters

greenhouse tour

Growing Power has become an educational tool for the urban farm movement, especially focused on teaching the next generation of farmers & health-minded consumers.

Here’s a few more recent books from the Land Library’s Urban Homestead shelves!

urban farmschicken gardensaquaponic
Urban Farms, Sarah Rich’s just-arrived book that provides in-depth profiles of 16 innovative urban farms, including Will Allen’s Growing Power Community Food Center; Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom (good gardens and free-range chickens can co-exist and thrive!); Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together by Sylvia Bernstein, the subject of a recent Rocky Mountain Land Series program, and a technique central to Will Allen’s urban farm.


“Will Allen is a hero and an inspiration to urban farmers everywhere. Now, with The Good Food Revolution, we learn how Allen rediscovered the power of agriculture, and in doing so transformed a city, its community, and eventually the world….Told with grace and utter honesty, I found myself cheering for Allen and his organization, Growing Power.” – Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City, and The Essential Urban Farmer.

For much more on Will Allen and Growing Power, be sure to visit their website!

And for more inspiring examples of innovative farms and farmers, check out one of the Land Library’s favorite past posts:

–Work, Enjoy, Together Now

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