The Cloud Forest where Wild Coffee Grows

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Between the Great Rift Valley and the Nile lies the cloud forests of southwestern Ethiopia — the original home of Arabica, the most common, and some would say, superior of the two main species of coffee cultivated today. Author Jeff Koehler set off to discover the origins and the still alive culture of coffee in the cloud forests of Kafa. In his new book Where the Wild Coffee Grows, Koehler explores everything from the Kafa people’s foraging of wild coffee berries, to the worldwide threats of climate change and disease.

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“The forests around Kafa are not just important because they are the origin of a drink that means so much to so many. They are important because deep in the shady understory lies a key to saving the faltering coffee industry. They hold not just the past but also the future of coffee.”

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We especially loved Jeff Koehler’s intimate descriptions of how central coffee is to the Kafa people:

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“Preparing and drinking coffee is so stylized in Ethiopia that the process is known as a coffee ceremony, a slow ritual with requisite tools and a dozen unwavering steps.” — Jeff Koehler

Here’s a short clip showing the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. The aroma of roasting beans must be intense!

For more on the Ethiopian roots of the coffee culture, here’s another great book from the Land Library’s shelves:

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Elephants on the Edge

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With today’s news that the United States is reversing it’s ban on elephant hunting trophies, we thought we would dust off an old post about authors and scientists who have devoted themselves to learning as much as they can about this remarkable creature….

This may be one of the true publishing events of the past decade. The Amboseli Elephants: A Long-Term Perspective on a Long-Lived Mammal is the much-anticipated summation of what has been learned from the nearly forty year old Amboseli Elephant Research Project — the longest continuous elephant research project in the world.

The book’s editors (Cynthia Moss, Harvey Croze, and Phyllis Lee) report on their uninterrupted field study of over 2,500 individual elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Every topic imaginable is explored in this remarkable book — behavior, communication, reproduction, conservation, ethics, and more. Wildlife biologist Marc Bekoff writes: “The Amboseli Elephants is the most outstanding book ever published on these magnificent animals.”

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Lead editor Cynthia Moss’ Amboseli field work began in 1973. Her earlier book Elephant Memories (pictured above) follows one elephant family through thirteen years of good times and bad.

It’s amazing to think that it wasn’t until the second half of the twentieth century that people mounted serious studies of elephants in the wild. Here’s a few more books from the Land Library’s shelves. They all share an urgency to learn and understand before it’s too late for us, and for the elephants:

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The Elephant’s Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa by Caitlin O’Connell,

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The Fate of the Elephant by Douglas Chadwick,

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Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants by Katy Payne.

And from our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library:

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The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O’Connell & Donna Jackson (part of the Scientists in the Field series).

Lastly, there’s this important volume that begins with the sad but inevitable premise that the future health and survival of elephants is dependent on human action:

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Elephants and Ethics: Toward a Morality of Coexistence, edited by Christen Wemmer & Catherine Christen.

For more on the elephants of Amboseli, be sure to visit the Amboseli Trust for Elephants website!

William Stafford: Inviting the Quiet

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James Dickey considered William Stafford (1914-1993) a “born poet”, whose “natural mode of speech is a gentle, mystical, half-mocking and highly personal daydreaming about the western United States.”

For that reason alone, William Stafford has gained a shelf to himself at the Land Library. But we also have a personal affection for a poet who could write a line like this:

the greatest ownership of all is to look around and understand.

That’s a passage that often comes to mind as we roam across Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

Stephen Corey’s wrote: “Stafford’s dogged faith in the teaching power of nature has been matched by his persistent demand for a plain spoken poetry.” The following poem makes Corey’s case:

Listening

My father could hear a little animal step,
or a moth in the dark against the screen,
and every far sound called the listening out
into places where the rest of us had never been.

More spoke to him from the soft wild night
than came to our porch for us on the wind;
we would watch him look up and his face go
keen
till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father heard so much that we still stand
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
waiting for a time when something in the night
will touch us too from that other place.

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To read more of William Stafford’s poetry, a great place to start is The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (pictured above). And here’s two more favorites:

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William Stafford also wrote about writing:

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For even more on William Stafford, here’s two excellent links:

The Poetry Foundation

William Stafford Archives

The Perfect Blend of Pancakes and Paleontology

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This has to be one of the most unusual science books we know of: Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000 Mile Paleo Road Trip. Kirk Johnson & Ray Troll bring the paleoworlds of the American West alive in an entertaining and informative way. The cover may look like a kid’s picture book, but this is definitely a book for all ages.

Kirk Johnson, one of the world’s leading paleobotanists, is the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the recent host of the PBS Nova series, Making North America. Ray Troll’s art has been exhibited across the globe, and has found its way into numerous books (and t-shirts).

Put them together and you have — well, actually, we’re not sure what you have, but science has never been as much fun as this!

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All points bulletin: artist Ray Troll & paleontologist Kirk Johnson

You never know who you’ll come across along the Fossil Freeway:

The Land Library strongly recommends these titles as well:

t2ec16vhjhwe9n8iiihcbrpieclug_32Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the Past 300 Million Years of the Colorado Front Range by Kirk Johnson

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Rapture of the Deep: The Art of Ray Troll

for more information on Ray Troll’s work, and to order books, cards, t-shirts, posters, and more, be sure to visit his website.

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Exciting Books on Denver’s Reading List

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Last week, Denver became the latest city to require rooftop gardens or solar panels on large new buildings, which backers say will keep the outdoor air cooler, make storm water easier to manage and in general lower the cost to cool a building’s interior.

“The world-class cities are realizing that roof space is an asset for the city’s residents and for the building owners, so they’re either requiring, or incentivizing or both the use of that roof space,” said Steven Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities in Toronto.

Fortunately there are many books to help and inspire, including Rooftops: Islands in the Sky by Philip Jodidio, full of projects from across the world:

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There are also more technical resources available, such as:

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And more sharply focused books, for instance, what plants work best?

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Among the Land Library’s favorite rooftop books are many that focus on farming in the city:

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with lessons learned by urban farmers from Brooklyn to Vancouver:

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If urban farming can develop a rooftop niche, why not beekeeping in the city?

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…cities can actually be some of the best places to keep a few hives. Unlike keepers living in rural towns, we city dwellers don’t have to worry about pesticides from conventional farms spraying their fields. Rooftop hives also get ample sun and dry out faster after heavy rains; the ability to more easily regulate temperature and humidity means bees with fewer diseases. But more important, at least from my point of view, urban apiaries give city dwellers an opportunity to commune with the natural world in a small but very profound way.” — Megan Paska

Who knows, Denver’s new experiment with green roofs might inspire homeowners across the Front Range to consider their own patch above their homes:

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Small Green Roofs: Low-Tech Options for Greener Living by Nigel Dunnett, Dusty Gedge, John Little & Edmund C. Snodgrass — the first book to deal specifically with small-scale and domestic green roofs. This well-illustrated book profiles more than forty projects: sheds, garden offices, studios, garages, houses, bicycle sheds, and more.

Beyond the hobbit-like aesthetic benefits, the authors show how green roofs contribute to better rainwater management, cooling and energy conservation, noise insulation, and increased biodiversity:

…flowering plants will encourage insects such as bees and butterflies to feed on the nectar. Seed-eating birds such as finches and sparrows will come in autumn and over the winter. Beetles, spiders, and other invertebrates will make their homes among the foliage. But it’s not just animals that are drawn in: green roofs can be havens for rare plants or for native plants that are typical of your region.”

If there is one message to come out of this book, it is that making a green roof does not have to be a mysterious or complicated matter, nor does it need to be expensive. Most structures open themselves to some sort of greening.” — from Small Green Roofs

Of course, adding a bit of turf over your head is an ancient worldwide tradition. Here’s a lovely example:

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Skansen, Sweden

Visionary Austrian artist and designer Friedensreich Hundertwasser created several buildings with rooftop garden/forests. Here’s what he had to say about green roofs:

The true proportions in this world are the views to the stars and the views to the surface of the earth. Grass and vegetation in the city should grow on all the horizontal spaces, that is to say, wherever rain and snow falls vegetation should grow….I’ve worked a great deal with grass roots, putting soil on top and having things grow, but there is something strange in this, more than ecological. It is a religious act to have soil on your roof and trees growing on top of you — the act reconciles you with nature — a very ancient wisdom.

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Definitely NOT a small roof, but here is Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s Waldspirale (forest spiral), a residential complex in Darmstadt, Germany. Completed in 2000

Recalling Voices, Tastes and Traditions

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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 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:

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The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst.

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Arab/American: Landscape, Culture and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts by Gary Paul Nabhan

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A Tortilla is Like Life: Food and Culture in the San Luis Valley of Colorado by Carole M. Counihan

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Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine One Plate at a Time by Adrian Miller

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“….And finally, when the harvesting, shopping, and cooking were done, there was the breaking of bread at kitchen tables.

Planting Seeds on the Banks of the Missouri

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Hidatsa village on the banks of the Missouri River, George Catlin

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.

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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

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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.

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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

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

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Pueblo Indian Agriculture by James A. Vlasich.

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Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson

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Native American Food Plants: an Ethnobotanical Dictionary by Daniel E. Moerman

November is Native American Heritage Month. Stay tuned for more posts on the Land Library’s Native American collection!