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aldo sitting

Many years ago, Aldo Leopold, one of conservation’s central figures, came up with a very simple design for a bench to be used at his family’s Sand County farm. The design is perfect for the benches Buffalo Peaks Ranch needs. With a few Leopold Benches, we’ll be able to spread them across the ranch’s landscape, giving people the opportunity to find a quiet spot to read, sketch, or simply experience the quiet of this high mountain ranch.
larger planbench sketch

Plus, we love that the benches have such a direct connection to Aldo Leopold, an author whose work is so central to the Rocky Mountain Land Library mission to help connect people to nature & the land!

So this past Saturday a hardy band of volunteers gathered in the corrals to build the Leopold Benches the ranch will need.

x-toolArray

Tools were assembled, and plans made. Team Leaders Ted Schultz and Todd Matuszewicz scoured used & recycled timber sources, and gathered as many hand tools as possible. Ted and Todd came up with an ingenious plan that not only dealt with the ranch’s current lack of electricity, but actually helped us all appreciate the old hand-tool ways of building.

Meanwhile, in another generous stroke of fortune, Kim Mailes, one of our HistoriCorps re-roofing heroes from earlier this summer, returned from his Missouri home with a wonderful one-seat version of the Leopold Bench (pictured below). He wowed us with his prototype, then volunteers assembled three more.

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It didn’t take long before the corrals became a literal beehive of activity. Here’s a few more great photos of a very inspiring day at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

Winner's on Saturday's Best Brother-Sister Team -- Ben & Meredith Sherrill getting it all figured out.

Winner of Saturday’s Best Brother-Sister Team — Ben & Meredith Sherrill getting it all figured out.

Todd Matuszewicz & Colton Mailes bearing down on another Leopold Bench

Todd Matuszewicz & Colton Mailes bearing down on another Leopold Bench

Bob Dragonfly & Charlie Lavender reshaping old timbers into something new.

Bob Dragonfly & Charlie Lavender reshaping old timbers into something new.

Teamwork -- Zia Klamm & Sam Bell getting it done!

Teamwork — Zia Klamm & Sam Bell getting it done!

With plenty of time for fun -- Team leader Todd Matuszewicz, Bob Ballard & Ben Sherrill enjoying the day!

With plenty of time for fun — Team leader Todd Matuszewicz, Bob Ballard & Ben Sherrill discussing the finer points of hand tool use.

By the end of the day, ten sturdy Leopold Benches built, with the makings for more that we'll assemble on our next workday!

By the end of the day, ten sturdy Leopold Benches built, with the makings for more that we’ll assemble on our next workday!

Back at the Main House, one of Kim Mailes' outstanding one-seat Leopold Benches, alongside a very handy Dog Bench.

Back at the Main House, one of Kim Mailes’ outstanding one-seat Leopold Benches, alongside a very handy Dog Bench.

With great thanks to our amazing team of volunteers — friends of the Rocky Mountain Land Library forever:

Ted Schultz, Todd Matuszewicz, the Mailes family (Kim, Carol, Colton & Audrey), Susie Fredericks Nulty, Diane Betts, Kim & Ken Luedke, Ben & Meredith Sherrill. Bob Ballard, Anna Kongs, Charlie Lavender, Tom Wylie, Glenda Leader & Marc Janis, Nancy Wood (& Bob!), Lynn Lafleur Dragonfly, Bob Dragonfly, Zia Klamm, Bill Threlfall, and Sam Bell.

Aldo's inspiration

Here’s a few Aldo Leopold books we set up on the Front Porch — something to inspire the day!

Stanzas & Stones

A tent full of poets, with Mount Silverheels up valley.

Our poet’s tent, with Mount Silverheels up valley.

It’s been a memorable couple of weeks, as the Land Library hosted our first two workshops at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. We led off with a day-long poetry workshop taught by Jodie Hollander (author of The Humane Society). It was such a beautiful day for an outdoor class!

A quiet moment toward the end of the day as folks spread across the ranch to write a few lines inspired by the day's workshop.

A quiet moment toward the end of the day as folks spread across the ranch to write a few lines inspired by the day’s workshop.

The ranch provides plenty of quiet places to sit, think, and imagine. The ranch, and the entire South Park region, provides everyone such a powerful learning landscape. Something that we definitely enjoyed this past weekend, as we followed Vince Matthews on an eye-opening geological field trip across South Park:

vince @ ranch

Before hitting the road, we all gathered on the front porch, as former Colorado State Geologist Vince Matthews prepared us for all that we would soon see in the field.

Man in Black: Vince Matthews describing the importance of the Pierre Shale to valley formation in South Park.

Man in Black: Vince Matthews describing the importance of the Pierre Shale to valley formation in South Park.

Little by little, the landscape of South Park became clearer, with layers of sheer wonder — like staring up at a star-filled sky.

topRedPass

Reading the Rock Record: our hardy group huddles up by the story-filled road cut atop Red Hill Pass.

Vince pointing out a truly impressive lateral moraine -- evidence of South Park's extensive glacial history.

Vince pointing out a truly impressive lateral moraine — evidence of South Park’s extensive glacial history.

Thanks to Jodie Hollander, Vince Matthews, and all attendees, the Land Library is fired up for even more classes and programs in 2016!

But for now, we have one more workshop scheduled for this season: The Illustrated Journal, taught by artist Sherrie York. Maybe we’ll see you in September?

in americaworld

Historic fires are sweeping across large parts of California as we post this piece, and all signs point to a very active fire season in the Far West.

Given the central role of fire in shaping the Western landscape, the Land Library long ago committed to building as strong a collection of fire-related titles as possible. Luckily, early on, we realized that the work of environmental historian Stephen Pyne was the place to begin as we pieced together our collection. Stephen Pyne spent fifteen seasons as a firefighter on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, between 1967 and 1981. Since that first-hand experience, Pyne has written over a dozen books on fire, including two comprehensive classics, pictured above: Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire, and World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth.

And here’s three more books from Stephen Pyne:

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Fire on the Rim: A Firefighter’s Season at the Grand Canyon (Pyne’s own memoir), Vestal Fire: An Environmental History, Told Through Fire, of Europe and Europe’s Encounter with the World, Smokechasing (a collection of over thirty fire-related essays).

For more on fire, the Land Library strongly recommends the following volumes from our shelves:

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Fire Ecology in Rocky Mountain Landscapes by William L. Baker, Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness by Omer C. Stewart (a history of Native American use of fire to manage plant and animal communities).

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Two Classic Accounts of Historic Western Fires: Young Men and Fire, Norman Maclean’s account of the tragic 1949 Mann Gulch, Montana fire (a book that occupied the last fourteen years of Maclean’s life), The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved America, Timothy Egan’s riveting account of the massive 1910 Blow-Up. The Big Burn also supplies a concise history of the early days of the U.S. Forest Service, under the leadership of the remarkable Gifford Pinchot.

But, after the fires die down, what comes next??

phoenix
Thanks to adventuresome seeds and spores, life comes back after most wildland fires. The Land Library’s latest acquisition presents the story of forest recovery following a major Australian conflagration: Forest Phoenix: How a Great Forest Recovers After Wildfire by David Lindenmayer, et.al.

smallerpope francis

“Historians looking back often recognize turning points, but ordinary people living through them rarely do. Sometimes, however, a book catalyzes thought into action. Uncle Tom’s Cabin did this, and so did Silent Spring: they called attention to facts that had long been known but upon which people had failed to act. Like those works, Pope Francis’s Encyclical is a call to action that insists we embrace the moral dimensions of problems that have heretofore been viewed primarily as scientific, technological, and economic.” Naomi Oreskes

Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality has been called “the most astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years” (The Guardian). It is also addressed to every person living on the planet, urging us all to take up the challenge of caring for our common home.

Copies are arriving at bookstores in the next few days. Let the conversations begin!

pecked & pointed

Rock painting was our species’ first artistic adventures, our first celebration of the natural world, maybe our first crucial step into reflective self-consciousness. Tony Hopkins’ extraordinary artistic project, to witness this art from the chalk-hills of England to the shaman caves of South Africa, and then paint the paintings himself, gives a uniquely sympathetic insight into this first flowering of the human imagination.” — Richard Mabey.

For over twenty years, British artist Tony Hopkins has traveled in pursuit of the globe’s most remarkable rock art sites. The result is one of the most intriguing books we’ve seen — Pecked and Painted: Rock Art, from Long Meg to Giant Wallaroo, a wonderfully rich volume full of the author’s photographs, field sketches, finished paintings, and extensive journal entries. Hopkins truly went far and wide in his rock art quest: Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Sudan, Egypt, and the American Southwest. No two sites were the same, but as Tony Hopkins describes, something universal shines through:

Whatever its meaning when the earth was young, rock art speaks to us now of a time when people lived their lives close to nature, in tune with the rhythm of the earth. It is no coincidence that most rock art is associated with what we think of today as wilderness areas, the far reaches of temporal and spiritual existence, wild landscapes where the past is still visible in the present, where what is most special has to do with the way we respond to nature.

Hopkins’ words perfectly describe why the Land Library has built a 20 year collection of books devoted to prehistoric art. Starting with North America, with volumes such as these:

serpent sacred fireplains indianlegacy on stone
The Serpent and the Sacred Fire: Fertility Images in Southwest Rock Art by Dennis Slifer, Plains Indian Rock Art by James D. Keyser & Michael A. Klassen , Legacy on Stone: Rock Art of the Colorado Plateau and Four Corners Region by Sally J. Cole.

But before long, those universal themes mentioned above, led us to seek out volumes such as these:

dreamtimehunter's visionbahn
Rock Art of the Dreamtime by Josephine Flood, The Hunter’s Vision: The Prehistoric Art of Zimbabwe by Peter Garlake, Prehistoric Rock Art by Paul G. Bahn

along with Jean Clottes’ classic and comprehensive World Rock Art:

world rx art

We’ll have a special corner at Buffalo Peaks Ranch dedicated to rock art from across the world. What a shelving party that will be!

Click here for Harry Smith's Sunday Today Show story!

Click above for Harry Smith’s story on Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

The Sunday Today Show just aired NBC’s second report of this past week on the progress being made at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

This morning’s piece perfectly described the Land Library’s plans to create a book-lined residential learning center on the banks of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. Reporter Harry Smith (a true lover of Colorado’s wide open spaces) also sensitively captured the stark beauty of this historic high mountain ranch. It was a real pleasure having Harry and his NBC crew at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

We hope you enjoy the video clip above. There’s more news to come from this exciting summer, but for now we’ll close with a few photos as the last few roof shingles were nailed into place. Thanks to HistoriCorps and all its remarkable volunteers for your hard work and dedication, and many thanks to our major funding partner for this summer’s roofing project, the South Park National Heritage Area!

Last touches: Steve Harris on the Bunkhouse's ridgeline

Final touches: Steve Harris finishing off the Bunkhouse’s ridgeline.

Such a great team! the last row of the Cook House's cedar shingles fall into place

The last rows of cedar shingles fall into place on the Cook’s House.

Harry Smith and his NBC Cameraman learn more about “cowboy engineering” from two HistoriCorps volunteers.

Last Friday, the second week of HistoriCorps’ Buffalo Peaks Ranch re-roofing project came to an end with some very special visitors. Harry Smith and his NBC Nightly News crew flew into Denver on Thursday, and by early Friday morning we all met up at the ranch for a glorious blue-sky day in South Park.
HistoriCorps hardly missed a beat in its workday, and as you can see from the photo above, Harry Smith was determined to keep up.

HistoriCorps -- a Work Force for Saving Places. Learn more about what they do!

HistoriCorps — a Work Force for Saving Places. Learn more about what they do!

Each week brings a fresh new crew of HistoriCorps volunteers. They’ve come from across the country, and as far away as Portsmouth, England. How do you thank amazing people such as these? We’ll definitely find a way — and we hope everyone will return to the ranch when there’s a warm light in the windows, and books on the shelves!

The Bunkhouse gets a long-awaited new roof!

The Bunkhouse gets a long-awaited new roof!

The work has been slowed a bit by afternoon rains, but every day brings progress, and always something new. The volunteers have loved the ranch for its natural surroundings and its impressive accumulated history. There’s lots of examples of classic cowboy engineering in all the buildings — those simple, practical solutions to keeping the warmth in and the water out.

And next time you see the Cook's House it watertight with fresh cedar shingles! (photo by Marilyn Hunt)

The next time you see the Cook’s House it will be watertight, with fresh cedar shingles! (photo by Marilyn Hunt)

Our thanks goes to HistoriCorps, its volunteers, and the South Park National Heritage Area for the funds that made this summer’s three week re-roofing project such a success. And thanks to Harry Smith & the NBC crew for coming so far to cover a story about bringing new life to an old ranch!

Stay tuned to NBC Nightly News!

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