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smaller coverpainted catalog

A Seed Library. The idea is simple. Pick up a packet of free seeds at your local library, plant them at home, harvest a few seeds from the plants you grow and return the surplus to your friendly neighborhood seed library. The circle is complete, but think of all the learning along the way, and how much more we are able to appreciate the natural processes on which life depends. And what a great way for neighbors to learn from each other, swapping stories and advice, along with precious seeds.

The Land Library is already planning on incorporating a free seed exchange at it’s future Urban Homestead Learning Center. We’ve been learning from several libraries across Colorado, and beyond. For even more lessons learned, we’re thrilled to have Cindy Conner’s new book Seed Libraries and other means of keeping seeds in the Hands of the People. Paul Hrycyk, Seed Library Coordinator at Seeds of Diversity, had this to say: “Seed Libraries is a must-read for anyone embarking on the task of setting up their own seed library, or those just interested in becoming more informed on the issue of genetic diversity in our food systems. It combines practical knowledge with the philosophy behind seed libraries and would be useful in your first or tenth year of operating a seed library and saving seeds. Highly recommended!”

Also pictured above: An ingenious new use for the classic card catalog, now serving as a repository for local seeds. This old catalog was lovingly painted by Linda Thistle, a volunteer at the Washington County Library in Abingdon, Virginia.

Along with seeds to share, the Land Library will have a couple of bookcases full of books on seeds and seed saving. Terrific books such as these!

orchardseedswap

An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown, and from Kew Gardens, Seedswap: The Gardener’s Guide to Saving and Swapping Seeds by Josie Jeffery.

Currently at our Waterton Canyon Nature Library, here’s two wonderful kids books that show what a compact marvel a seed is:

sleepyrobbins
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long, and Seeds by Ken Robbins

Lastly, here’s a forthcoming books we are all waiting for, along with one of our all-time favorite books on seeds, food, and land:

thor hansonjanisse ray

The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History, due out in late March, from Thor Hanson, author of Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle. And one of our favorite books on the subject: Janisse Ray’s The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food — a perfect place to begin to explore the “built-in generosity of seeds.”

To swap seeds is to keep a variety strong and valuable — a genetic currency, the exchange of priceless genetic material. How interesting that the agrarian within us understands that to survive, to keep our crops viable, we have to be openhanded. Seeds have a built-in requirement for generosity.” — Janisse Ray

The Land Library is all about connecting people to nature and the land. There are so many ways you can help us establish the Headwaters to Plains Network, with learning centers at three locations along the South Platte River — from the Headwaters of South Park to inner-city Denver. If you would like lend your support in any way that you can, please let us know!

basement

As the Land Library renovates Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we’ve had to face up to the necessity of placing over 30,000 books in storage. We know it’s only temporary, but still, we’re anxious to start shelving & sharing these wonderful books. (The photo above, courtesy of The Denver Post, represents just one small corner of one of our donated storage sites).

When we have public tours at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we break out a few choice titles, and set up a “porch library” at the Main House for visitors to enjoy. Whenever we put out the books we think of the titles we have (yes, alas in storage) from the great prairie photographer Solomon D. Butcher. Many of Butcher’s photographs are of prairie families in front of their old sod homes. Often they display prized possessions. As Butcher noted in this classic shot, the young mother photographed below wanted to reassure her family back east that all was good, and yes, they did own an organ:

solomon butcher

The David Hilton Family, near Weissert, Nebraska 1887

We feel the same way every time we set out the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Porch Library!

porch layout

All is good, and yes we have many wonderful, inspiring books to share!

When we set the books up we strive to feature a breadth of titles from many diverse disciplines, all focused on people and the land.

artist land

A good cluster on a tiny table, representing the Land Art movement, Lisa Hamilton’s Deeply Rooted (on unconventional farms), and one of our favorite collections of essays, Merrill Gilfillan’s  Rivers and Birds.

porch library

Books on trout (though the ranch is actually at 9,000 feet!), A Literary History of the American West, The Ecology of Running Waters, The Southern Cheyennes, The Natural History of Pollination, J. Frank Dobie’s The Voice of the Coyote (with illustrations by the great Olaus Murie!), and many more.

trout, mining, pronghorn

Caddisflies, mining, pronghorns, Henry Beston’s wonderful Herbs and the Earth, the Handbook of Indian Food and Fibers of Arid America, bats, ants, snakes, and the alpine tundra too.

trout

Cutthroat: Native Trout of the West, Ramon Adams’ Western Words, three volumes from Henry David Thoreau’s Journals, and a book that asks a very good question,                 Can Poetry Save the Earth?

It’s always enormous fun to see people browsing through the books, suddenly reaching out to a book they’ve never seen before!

The Abeytas, from just up the road, take a moment to sample the porch library.

The Abeytas, from just up the road, take a moment to sample the porch library.

We also put out a small desk, and make something of a still life, suggesting the quiet creativity the ranch can inspire.

sherrie york w link

And we always lay out one of Sherrie York’s wonderful sketchbooks. Do yourself a favor and visit this remarkable young artist’s beautiful website!

In many ways the Rocky Mountain Land Library is already up and running at Buffalo Peaks Ranch:

Porch Library 2014: Casey Cruikshank consults Kaufman's Field Guide to Birds of North America. By the end of the day, Casey added a half dozen new birds to the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Bird List (the handy chalkboard posted on the main house's front wall).  photo by Kalen Landow

Porch Library 2014: Casey Cruikshank consults Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds of North America. By the end of the day, Casey added a half dozen new birds to the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Bird List (the handy chalkboard posted on the main house’s front wall). photo by Kalen Landow

We’re looking forward to an ambitious ranch renovation this summer. Our goal is to make three of the core buildings (including the Main House) ready for books, programs, and overnight guests. There are many ways you can help. If you would like lend your support in any way that you can, please let us know!

mark beardsley

“Buffalo Peaks Ranch is a beautiful spot of land, the perfect home for a library dedicated to the conservation and appreciation of the land.”
Los Angeles Times

sheep storm

The high mountain grasslands of Colorado’s South Park have a rich history of sheep ranching, perhaps best captured by Myron Wood’s classic photograph above: Sheep Storm, South Park, 1967, courtesy of the Pikes Peaks Library District. Buffalo Peaks Ranch, the Land Library’s headwaters site, shared in that ranching tradition.

Our last post reported on plans to convert the ranch’s eighteen corral stalls into artist studios and maker-spaces of all types:

horse barn & stallsBuffaloPeaksRanch_77CIMG1047

With Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s historic ties to sheep ranching, and the recent donation of a fully-equipped weaving studio, we are especially excited about creating a space for Fiber Arts. We’ll have plenty of space for looms and classes, plus a dedicated library devoted to books such as these:

fleece fiberbook of looms
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius, and The Book of Looms by Eric Broudy.

dyer's gardenliving fabric
We also have many books on dyes, such as A Dyer’s Garden: Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers by Rita Buchanan. And one of our favorite sections features textile traditions across the globe, such as Living Fabric: Weaving among the Nomads of Ladakh Himalaya by Monisha Ahmed.

As soon as possible, we’ll have a regular schedule of workshops and demonstrations, inspired by new traditions and old. We would love to start this summer by constructing a warp weighted loom, an ancient craft (dating back to 7000 BC) captured in one of our favorite film clips from Norway’s remarkable Norsk Folkemuseum. This short 1947 clip is silent, black & white, and truly wonderful from start to finish:

For much more on the slow craft of Norway visit Norsk Folkemuseum’s YouTube Channel — there’s many more vintage film clips!

We hope that each corral stall will be a nesting place of creativity, but then, there’s just so much anyone can plan. And maybe that’s a good thing. Here’s what happened to one artist open to change:

mooreshhep sketch
In 1972, when the packing and crating for a major exhibition made it impossible for Henry Moore to work in his sculpture studio, he retreated to a small shed that looked out on a sheep meadow. Over the course of several months, Moore captured the scene from his window, and upon completion of his Sheep Sketchbook, it was presented as a gift to the artist’s daughter, Mary.

 
Who knows what artists will see out their windows at Buffalo Peaks Ranch?

People and the Land A story that Buffalo Peaks Ranch will tell so well!

People and the Land
A story that Buffalo Peaks Ranch tells so well!

As many of you know, Buffalo Peaks Ranch, the Headwaters home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, has been shuttered for almost twenty years now. With the help of the South Park National Heritage Area and the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Architecture, the ranch’s next chapter is being written. Here’s the latest news on one of our favorite corners of this historic South Park ranch:

The Horse Barn (soon the hayloft home for our natural history library), and the concrete corral stalls, a perfect site for art studios and maker spaces of all types

The Horse Barn (soon the hayloft home for our natural history library), and the concrete corral stalls, a perfect site for art studios and maker spaces of all types

On the farside of the Horse Barn is an old ranch complex, ready-made for today’s artists and craftspeople:

Eighteen spacious, rock-solid concrete corral stalls.

Eighteen spacious, rock-solid concrete corral stalls.

 
Here’s the plan: this sturdy line of concrete stalls will be converted into art studios, woodworking shops, a book-arts center & bindery, plus much more — including a large space for an Art Library. We already have hundreds of volumes (regrettably) in storage, including wonderful books on Western and Native American Art, landscape studies from across the globe, plus the works of artists as diverse as Emily Carr, Andy Goldsworthy, C.F. Tunnicliffe, Maynard Dixon, and Chiura Obata.

Besides books, the Art Library will also be lined with the work of contemporary artists inspired by nature and the land.

Looking out onto Reinecker Ridge, a landscape that has barely changed for the past 150 years.

Looking out onto Reinecker Ridge, a landscape that has barely changed for the past 150 years.

Each space will be a window upon the deep blue skies of South Park, its high mountain grasslands, and rich ranching history.

As you can see, the walls are strong, but there is still much work to do. We remain inspired by the support and help we have already received!

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Denver's School of Architecture, captured by the play of light in the first concrete stall

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Architecture, captured by the play of light in the first concrete stall

Stay tuned for our next post, and learn how history repeats itself in one particular corral stall!

Special thanks to Berry Oliver Photography for the use of many of the photos above.

young reader editionwilliam

This was one of the most surprising, memorable, and inspirational books we read back in 2009, and we’re thrilled that it’s just been republished in a young readers edition!

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 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:

windmill parts

“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.”

atop

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!

farming cuba

With the great help of many, the Land Library keeps moving forward with plans to establish an Urban Homestead Library for inner-city Denver. Making ready for that happy day, we continue to add many more urban agriculture books to our collection. Our most recent acquisitions may come from 90 miles offshore, but we know for sure that they will offer inspiration for our Mile-High City.

Carey Clouse’s Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture From the Ground Up tells a very hopeful tale. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, Cuba’s lifeline was suddenly cut. With fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides disappearing overnight, Cubans began growing their own organic produce wherever they could find the space — on rooftops, balconies, vacant lots, school grounds. By 1998 there were more than 8,000 urban farms in Havana, producing nearly half of Cuba’s vegetables.

Farming Cuba vividly reports from Havana’s orchards, gardens, chicken coops and pig pens — giving hope to any city bent on providing healthy local food, neighborhood by neighborhood. Here’s two more wonderful books to inspire any state-side urban farmer:

sowing changepuzzle
Sowing Change: The Making of Havana’s Urban Agriculture by Adriana Premat, and Unfinished Puzzle: Cuban Agriculture, the Challenges, Lessons and Opportunities by May Ling Chan & Eduardo Roach.

With the recent thaw in U.S.–Cuba relations, wouldn’t it be wonderful to follow-up with a lesson-learning exchange program between urban farmers separated by 90 miles of ocean, and a mutual, unfortunate past?

For more on Cuba’s urban farm plots, here’s a terrific film clip from the BBC’s Around the World in 80 Gardens:

Work is underway at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, as we prepare for our first full year of ranch renovation. Before we shelve books and offer classes and workshops, we have a few roofs that need fixing, and buildings in need of a fresh coat of paint. This coming weekend we’ll begin a regular schedule of ranch clean-up, as we make ready for the spring construction season.

Winter is a quiet time at the ranch. Sometimes we wonder if it will be too isolated, too quiet. Well, that worry went away recently after the Land Library’s architect and adviser Ted Schultz emailed us this report:

“I had the chance to drop by the ranch last Sunday during the few hours of sunset — oh my is all I can say. The winter ranch felt anything but lonely — a surprising feeling — even though not a soul or footprint. The sounds of the metal roof popping with the diminishing rays of the settling sun; the rhythmic sound of a chain knocking with the steady wind on a gate post, coyotes’ lonely yips quite nearby.

The ranch is all about the five senses. I can see people living there in the dead of winter in the most fulfilling way — the wide open solitude as a great, vital companion.”

No wonder we’re happy to begin our winter work! Here’s a few wonderful photos Ted sent us from his winter ranch visit. Enjoy!

Sun setting over Buffalo Peaks, January 2015. All that's missing is the warm glow of light through the windows, and the smell of soup and freshly-baked bread on the wind!

Sun setting over Buffalo Peaks, January 2015.
All that’s missing is the warm glow of light through the windows, and the smell of soup and freshly-baked bread on the wind!

The Lambing Barn and sheds, with a glowing Reinecker Ridge on the horizon.  Lots of snow, but as you can see, it's relatively easy to get around.

The Lambing Barn and sheds, with a glowing Reinecker Ridge on the horizon.
Lots of snow, but as you can see, it’s relatively easy to get around.

Buffalo Peaks Ranch at dusk. No elk in sight, but they'll be at the ranch any time now!

Buffalo Peaks Ranch at dusk. No elk in sight, but they’ll be at the ranch any time now!

South Park's deep blue sky and the Bunkhouse we'll be repairing this summer.

South Park’s deep blue sky and the Bunkhouse we’ll be repairing this summer.

Stay tuned for more reports this winter and spring — and think about visiting us this coming summer!

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