Water, so common on our lucky blue planet, will always remain a mysterious substance — one that inspires gratitude, wonder, conflict and concern. Given the global importance of this increasingly limited resource, the Land Library is always excited to add another important volume to its water collection. Books such as these:


Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water by Juan Esevan Arellano. The word acequia has its roots in the arid Middle East. This insightful work pays homage to like cultures across the globe, especially New Mexico’s time-honored irrigation system that balances the needs of community with the limits of water in the West.
Also pictured above: Kurt Fausch’s For the Love of Rivers: A Scientist’s Journey, with streamside reports from the Rocky Mountains to Japan’s Hokkaido Island. (“With deft storytelling and poetic prose, Kurt Fausch conveys the mystery and magic of flowing waters.” — Sandra Postel).

And just published, here’s two more good books on water in the West:

trout culturenative

Trout Culture: How Fly Fishing Forever Changed the Rocky Mountain West, a fascinating environmental history by Jen Corrinne Brown, and Rivers, Fish and the People: Tradition, Science, and Historical Ecology of Fisheries in the American West, a collection of Pacific Northwest studies, edited by Pei-Lin Yu, combining both traditional knowledge and recent scientific discoveries.

So there you have it, the most recent handful of essential books for a Western Watershed Library. One that we are planning to locate here:

The Lambing Barn at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. (photo by Berry Oliver)

The Lambing Barn at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. (photo by Berry Oliver)

With Buffalo Peaks Ranch lying so close to the South Platte River’s headwaters, water will always be a central theme to the Land Library’s resources and programs. Our planned River Hut will house a Watershed Library, full of books focused on one of the next century’s most critical natural resources.

We have been diligently gathering books on water in the American West, but we’ll also have water-related books from across the globe, including these two from Great Britain:


Simon Cooper’s Life of a Chalkstream, a lyrical look at one of England’s natural treasures: over 150 streams flowing wide, shallow and clear, thanks to the natural filter of headwater chalk hills. Plus: a British natural history classic, H. E. Bates’ Down the River, a journey along the River Nene and the River Ouse, full of flora, fauna, not to mention the keenly observed life of villages along the way.

For more on Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s future Watershed Library, take a glance at one of our past posts — full of wonderful books that will soon find a home on the banks of the South Platte River!

Headwaters to Plains, and Across the Globe


Jean Giono once wrote: “There are times in life when a person has to rush off in pursuit of hopefulness.” Well, whenever the Rocky Mountain Land Library rushes off it’s usually in pursuit of good land-inspired books to add to its 32,000 volume collection. After all, we have a hayloft to fill at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, along with plans for a book-lined space for inner-city Denver, part of our Headwaters to Plains Learning Network.

Here’s a glimpse at a few of the Land Library’s latest arrivals:

gessnerrxy mt ecology

Two Guides to Western Wildlands: David Gessner’s All the Wild That Remain: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West, plus George Constantz’s Ice, Fire, and Nutcrackers: A Rocky Mountain Ecology, a wonderful introduction to the spine of the continent.


Wildlife Studies from Across the Globe: Wolves on the Hunt: The Behavior of Wolves Hunting Wild Prey, from three leading wolf biologists of our day, L.David Mech, Douglas Smith, and Daniel MacNulty. And from the forests of southeast Asia, William deBuys’ The Last Unicorn: A Search for One of the Earth’s Rarest Creatures (the saola, the first large land mammal discovered in over fifty years).


Shepherd Tales from Across the World: With sheep being an important part of Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s history, we couldn’t pass up these two wonderful books: The Art & Science of Shepherding: Tapping the Wisdom of French Herders, edited by Michel Meuret & Fred Provenza, along with John Bezzant’s Shepherds and Their Dogs, a fascinating look at this age-old partnership — full of evocative black and white photographs.


Books at the Heart of a Movement: In this case the importance of biodiversity as told through the Collected Papers of Michael E. Soule: Early Years in Modern Conservation Biology. And secondly, the latest book on the vital importance of connecting kids and nature: Scott Sampson’s How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature.

color of foodnatasha

And Here’s a Book All About Hope! Natasha Bowen’s The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming is a beautiful and wonderfully conceived collection of portraits and stories highlighting an often forgotten agricultural story. Natasha Bowens’ quest to explore her own roots in the soil leads her to unearth a larger story of culture, resilience, and the reclaiming of traditions. For more on the work of Natasha Bowens (pictured above), be sure to visit her website The Color of Food.

A special day at Buffalo Peaks Ranch

A special day, with melons, at Buffalo Peaks Ranch

A part of our obligation to our own being and to our descendants is to study life and our conditions, searching for the authentic underpinnings of hope.Wendell Berry


Just a short week ago, little did we know that a New York Times article on the Rocky Mountain Land Library would become one of the most shared Times’ articles of the week. The wave that came our way was mighty, as we received over 800 messages of support from across the country!

We have spent the last week getting back in touch with everyone, thanking them for their support, enthusiasm, and donations. We’ll spend the next many weeks incorporating the great ideas and practical advice we’ve received.

We’re also inspired by the knowledge that there are so many people, far and wide, who care deeply about the places where they live, and the power of books to connect people and the land.

So what’s next? Well, thanks to the funds raised in the last few days we are now able to fully funded HistoriCorps (A Workforce Saving Places) to complete the re-roofing of ALL the core buildings at Buffalo Peaks Ranch — a necessary step before people (and books!) arrive at this historic South Park ranch.


There are a few more volunteer spaces for HistoriCorps July re-roofing, read more here!

With leaking roofs off our list, the Land Library will be hosting a very full summer of ranch tours, star parties (taking advantage of South Park’s dark skies!), along with programs, workshops, and field trips led by the likes of former State Geologist Vince Matthews, and artist Sherrie York! We’re finalizing our summer schedule right now, so stay tuned!

Thanks to you all for taking the time to reach out over this past week. Our highest hope is to keep in touch with all of you. There’s lots of hard work and exciting times are ahead. Please join us!


And of course we are incredibly grateful to The New York Times for coming to Buffalo Peaks Ranch, Julie Turkewitz for her wonderful article, and Michael Ciaglo for taking photographs (two of which are gathered here) that made people from across the country yearn for the Rockies!

South Park's Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library's global collection of books on people and the land -- from the Arctic to the African savannas.

South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s global collection of books on people and the land — from the Arctic to the African savannas.

We find our place in the world through land and stories, and the Rocky Mountain Land Library unites our passion for both.” — Mark Fiege, author of The Republic of Nature: An Environmental History of the United States

Books are the tools we love best. They have a way of connecting people across the globe, and over the centuries. Books help us discover and celebrate the beauty of our improbable blue world. And books provide us with the tools we all need to live lighter on the land.

Our webpages (listed above) describes the Land Library’s books, programs, and the emerging Headwaters to Plains Network — a series of book-lined spaces, encouraging discovery, quiet thought, creative pursuits, and active community involvement.

Over the years, our website has also featured posts on some of the books that excite us to no end. You’ll also see that we report on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we all have to restore a historic Colorado ranch. Set in the high mountain grasslands of South Park, Buffalo Peaks Ranch will soon be the headwater site of a residential library — a place where you can come and stay for as long as you like.

Read about concrete corral stalls given new life as artist studios, our plans for a Land Library for inner-city Denver, complete with its very own Seed Library.

But as you’ll see from many years of web posts, we are happiest when reporting on books inspired by a sense of wonder, and hopeful for an even brighter future ahead.

books 3

Stay tuned for much more from the Land Library in the months ahead!

The Rocky Mountain Land Library is like a gene bank for words, it’s our way of saving the past for the future. — David Mas Masumoto, farmer and author.

For more information on the Rocky Mountain Land Library, please contact jeff@landlibrary.org, 2550 W. 39th Avenue, Denver, CO 80211 (office location), 303-321-3574

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 its 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!


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:

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!


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.


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!


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