Building the Land Library: Step by Step


Ann Martin & Jeff Lee, co-founders of the Rocky Mountain Land Library.

As 2018 draws to a close, we wanted to catch-up with the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s co-founders, Jeff Lee and Ann Martin.

Jeff and Ann have been booksellers at Denver’s Tattered Cover for over 30 years. Back in the 90’s, while on a book-buying trip for the store, they came upon St Deiniol’s Residential Library in Wales. That visit was the start of their dream to create a residential library in Colorado – one focused on people and the land.

The dream has grown since that trip. Just this past month, Jeff and Ann officially donated the books they have been gathering for the Land Library, a collection valued at more than $600,000.

The Land Library social media team (LL) spoke with Jeff before the holidays. We hope to corral Ann later!

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LL: How did two booksellers acquire more than 40,000 books, plus a 95-year lease at a historic Colorado ranch?

Jeff: Wow, that’s a long story, and one that’s about many more people than Ann and I! But, as for the 40,000 books, a big part of that can be explained by the fact that Ann and I have worked at the Tattered Cover Book Store for more than 30 years. With that daily immersion in the world of books, the Land Library has grown, book by book, year after year.

Once Ann and I committed to the idea of a residential library, we also decided to take the first step by actually buying the books themselves. We felt that it was important to make the Land Library real, from the very start.

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The Cooks House at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, with Mount Silverheels in the distance. photo by Samuel Bell

LL: But you only donated the books a few weeks ago?

Jeff: Right — the books were always meant for the Land Library, we just felt it was time to make it official.

LL: OK, so you gathered a book collection valued at more than $600,000, but how did the Land Library acquire Buffalo Peaks Ranch?

Jeff: Well, other than the books, we’ve never had much money behind us. We definitely could never even think of purchasing a 1,500 acre ranch, especially one that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But by working with Park County and the City of Aurora (the ranch’s owner), we were able to sign a 95-year lease at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. We are definitely in it for the long haul!

We’re already planning our most ambitious summer of ranch renovation & programs, coming up in 2019. We hope everyone will stay tuned for that!


The Horse Barn at Buffalo Peaks Ranch.

LL: Back to the books for a minute. Last spring, Land Library volunteers moved over 1,400 boxes of books to our new Library/warehouse in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood:

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The Land Library’s new home in Globeville.

What will we find when we start opening those boxes?

Jeff: I think everyone will find great books — both eye-opening and inspiring — and there will be lots of surprises too!


Ron Dirlam, our favorite carpenter, in front of his handiwork, as the first few books hit the shelves at Globeville.

The core of the Land Library’s collection has always been about people and the land. That takes in natural history, a range of environmental issues, Western & Native American history, literature, poetry, art, and more.


Gregg Deal and his daughter perform the Invisible Loss Movement during the Re/Call Art Exhibition this past September. photo by Helen Thorpe

The Land Library’s books are also rooted in the diverse cultures that define where we all live. We’ve also sought out titles that help us live lighter on the land. In short, we hope the Land Library’s books will be used as tools for all of us, as we move forward.

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The Middle Fork of the South Platte River flows through the ranch. photo by Samuel Bell.

One other thing I should mention: There’s a certain tone that we’ve always tried to strike with the books we’ve gathered. Plenty of our titles challenge us to do better, and to fix the harm our way of living inflicts on the earth. We need those books!

But even more of the Land Library’s books are about the beauty and endless fascination of the natural world. Here’s a simple & brilliant quote from Jeff Bridges – one that fired up our current end-of-the-year Fundraising Campaign:


It’s natural to love the earth, so you don’t have to be motivated to save it out of fear, but rather because you love the gift of life and the planet.

That’s the feeling we hope the Land Library will foster, from Buffalo Peaks Ranch, to Denver’s Globeville neighborhood.

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Early morning mist at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. photo by Larry Glass.

LL: Last question: what are you reading now?

Jeff: For some reason I’ve been reading a lot of British nature writers lately. I finished up Helen Jukes’ beekeeping memoir, A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings (I loved it!), and now I’m reading Horatio Clare’s winter journal, The Light in the Dark. I’m really liking that book – it’s helping me to get a fresh outlook on our season of snow & cold!

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Jeff Lee, and one of the Land Library’s architect/planners, Ted Schultz, trading ideas in front of the Cooks House (prior to it’s new paint job!)

Step by step, book by book

Our Year-end Fundraising Campaign wraps up in a week!

Feel free to click on our PayPal donation button below, or it you prefer to write a check, our best address is:

Rocky Mountain Land Library, 2550 W. 39th Avenue, Denver, CO 80211.

THANKS SO MUCH for your Support!

Click Here for PayPal.

For more on the Rocky Mountain Land Library & South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we hope you enjoy this 7-minute video:

Building the Headwaters to Plains Network

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Buffalo Peaks Ranch. the Land Library’s headwaters home. photo by Samuel Bell

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 year-end Fundraising Campaign got off to a great start, this past #GivingTuesday! But there’s more to come over the next few weeks. The funds we raise will fuel our ongoing efforts to establish a Headwaters to Plains Network — a network of library/learning centers focused on people and the land. Each library, spanning the urban/rural divide, will encourage discovery, quiet thought, creative pursuits, and active community involvement.


The Bunkhouse and Cooks House at Buffalo Peaks Ranch

Over the next four weeks we will send out weekly updates on our plans for 2019. The Land Library has ambitious goals ahead but we’ll need your support. We are excited about what we all can accomplish in the year ahead!


Our friend (& master carpenter) Ron Dirlam at our emerging urban Land Library in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood.

Step by step, book by book!

Feel free to click on our PayPal donation button below, or it you prefer to write a check, our best address is:

Rocky Mountain Land Library, 2550 W. 39th Avenue, Denver, CO 80211.

THANKS SO MUCH for your Support!

Click Here for PayPal.

For more on the Rocky Mountain Land Library & South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we hope you enjoy this 7-minute video:


The Special Season of September

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Our amazing Eagle Scout-candidate Sam Bell just sent a terrific batch of Buffalo Peaks Ranch photos. Sam really captured the changing season in South Park!

Here’s the Cooks House, with Mount Silverheels (13,829 ft) in the distance. Next spring, the Cooks House renovation will be complete, with two new lodgings, a great kitchen & meeting place, plus a library dedicated to food, farming, and culinary traditions from across the globe.

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Sam was there at Main House’s front porch, just as the sun rose over Reinecker Ridge.

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A wonderful view of the Lambing Barn & sheds — the future site of a River Hut Library, featuring books on water, rivers & angling.

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The South Platte River is running low, but trout still abound, and the beavers seem happy too!

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The river is such a special part of Buffalo Peaks Ranch. It always feels good to make time to walk (& talk) along the meanders.

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The grasses of Buffalo Peaks Ranch have really captivated us this past summer. We would love to have a special field class next summer on the grasses, sedges, and rushes of this historic South Park ranch. Stay tuned!

Thanks to Sam Bell for sharing these wonderful photos!

From a Small Town in Dorset, Some of the Best Books We Know

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There’s a few publishers that the Rocky Mountain Land Library especially loves. So much so, that we try to have copies of each and every book they have brought to life. Little Toller is one such publisher.

Little Toller began in 2008 with a singular purpose: to revive forgotten and classic books about nature and rural life in the British Isles. They have since expanded that mission to include new books from some of today’s greatest writers on the land.


Over the years, Little Toller has introduced us to so many wonderful writers (& artists too!).


We love their focus on people and the land — the natural & cultural heritage of their region.


Little Toller books almost always are accompanied by wonderfully apt introductions by leading writers of today.


Agrarian lives are a strong theme throughout.

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So many great authors from the past have been kept in print!


Little Toller has also published an impressive list of hardcover monographs, such as Paul Evan’s Herbaceous, and Marcus Sedgwick’s Snow.

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H.E. Bates’ Down the River is already at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, waiting to be shelved at the ranch’s Rivers & Water Library, on the banks of the South Platte.


A little over a year ago, we excitedly posted about this new book from Little Toller. Hetty Saunders book is the first biography of one of the most revered and mysterious figures in modern nature writing, the author of The Peregrine, J.A. Baker. Our October 2017 post contains a wonderful short video that Little Toller produced for My House of Sky.

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Typical of all Little Toller Books, My House of Sky is a beautifully produced book, full of photos from J.A. Baker’s journals, and this one of his very well used binoculars.


Reading through Little Toller’s website is an education in itself — and so enjoyable too!

And be sure to visit The Clearing, Little Toller’s online journal of nature, landscape, and place. It’s a great way to keep up with their new authors!


What Hard Work and a Troop of Boy Scouts Can Do

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Sam Bell, giving super-volunteer Zia Klamm a hand, back in 2015.

It was three years ago that a 14 year-old Sam Bell came to Buffalo Peaks Ranch for the first time. Sam was part of our first Leopold Bench-building day. We ended that day with nearly a dozen benches that we’ve been able to spread across the ranch — giving people the chance to slow down, read a book, or just see the ranch from a fresh perspective.

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Sam was never able to shake the hold that Buffalo Peaks Ranch had on him. Many months ago he asked us about the possibility of locating his Eagle Scout Project at the ranch. Of course we said yes!

Sam came up with the plan (create a new gathering space in the old corrals), then set about raising over $9,000, along with donations of materials, tools, food, and more.

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Sam also assembled a wonderful team of volunteers that gathered this past weekend to build five more Leopold Benches, a propane fire pit (that the Boy Scouts already enjoyed sitting around on Saturday night), plus…

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A spacious platform tent with a wonderful front porch. We’ll be adding mattresses soon, along with chairs, and a camp-style writing desk.

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As the platform tent was raised, other volunteers were busy assembling Leopold Benches.

The last part of Sam’s plan included a creative nod to the Land Library:


Younger members of Troop 199 painting one of the hanging book pods.

Weather-proof book pods were hung on one of the concrete walls, along with a large hanging Map Case.

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And of course we jumped at the chance to add a few books!


Sam Bell and his never-say-never parents, Gordon & Susan!

It’s impossible to thank Sam enough for what he has brought to the ranch. This new community ranch space will be used and loved for many, many years to come. A great legacy for Sam, and all the amazing volunteers and donors!


Buffalo Peaks Ranch, once abandoned, is roaring back to life. We can’t wait for what the next year will bring!

From National Parks to Community Gardens: Public Lands Across the Globe


The Rocky Mountain Land Library has amassed thousands of books on Public Lands, from city parks to wildlife refuges, all across the globe. Among our most recent additions is Edge of Morning: Native Voices Speak for the Bears Ears, an important & very timely collection of essays on Southern Utah’s National Monument, which is also a sacred site for many tribes.


All of these books tell an inspiring story of setting land aside for the sake of nature itself, and for the benefit of untold generations.

Stories of the hard work that went into their faithful formation offers solace in difficult times.


Preserving land has never been an easy task, and it always gives us a boost when we come across the writings of a pioneer conservationist such as Sigurd Olson. Olson helped establish the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, along with several National Parks during his years with The Wilderness Society.


Fortunately, National Parks & preserves is not just an American idea. We have lots of lessons to learn from across the globe.

We’re not exactly sure where this special collection will be house at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, the site of the Land Library’s emerging residential home. But we can’t wait to begin shelving books that we all need right now — today.

For more on the Rocky Mountain Land Library at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, here’s a 7-minute video on where the Public Lands collection will be:


Re/Call the Stories of People & the Land


Gregg Deal’s Invisible Loss Movement, with his daughter Sage.

This past Labor Day weekend, the Rocky Mountain Land Library was thrilled to host a special art exhibition presented by the RedLine Contemporary Art Center. Re/Call included a stunning array of art, including film, photography, dance, sound, poetry, and more.


Out by the ranch gate: Nikki Pike’s Tumbleweed

“Re/Call was inspired by a quote from the film Racing Extinction by Dr. Christopher Clark, the Director of the Macauley Library at Cornell, where one of the largest collections of sounds of our planet and it’s creatures is catalogued:

The whole world is singing…clicking and grinding and whistling and thumping….But we’ve stopped listening.

I shared with Louise Martorano how crushed, humiliated and inspired by this I felt, and that it seemed like a job for artists. And so we started to imagine what it is to Re/Call (as Louise aptly coined our quest).” –  Mary Caulkins


Woven Basket lined with horsehair, by Eileen Roscina Richardson

Over a year ago the call went out to 19 artists from across the country. The challenge was “to reflect, celebrate and memorialize the planet and the jive of it’s creatures.”

The artists visited Buffalo Peaks Ranch, many of them for several extended periods.  This past Labor Day weekend, Re/Call came alive all across the ranch.


Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk of the Ute Mountain Tribe got Re/Call underway with a talk about gratitude, touching the earth & more, including joining with her father to offer up a Ute song.


The Barter Collective van was next to the Main House, offering writing prompts,


and plenty of typewriters where people could explore their thoughts.


Alongside the granaries: Libby Barbee & Bill Nelson’s Sound Mirror Project, employing found objects and the voices of rural America.


Tyler Jones’ Climate Story combined photography, sound and film. We love the screening room Tyler created in the Lambing Shed!

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Throughout the summer, artist Tory Tepp worked on The Forge.


Culminating in his adobe letterpress. We’ll continue to line Tory’s earthwork with words and quotes!


Re/Call came to an inspired close on Monday morning as Sarah Wallace Scott led us across the ranch along The Four Songlines she created, each inspired by an animal that calls Buffalo Peaks Ranch its home. Four of us got to wear the head masks that Sarah crafted. On Saturday night Sarah’s troupe also performed The Four Songlines:


And there’s so many artists and projects that we still hope to share with you all. But for now, we will create a Re/Call archive at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, including related objects, recordings, and books inspired by the show. Stay tuned!


Ana Maria Hernando & Kenneth Robinson Cloudwork

With thanks to the artists: Libby Barbee, Bill Nelson, Nikki Pike & The Barter Collective, Halsey Burgund, Michelle Comstock, Gregg Deal and his daughter Sage, Sarah Ortegon, Nathan Hall, Ana Maria Hernando, Tyler Jones, Eliza Minot, Eileen Roscina Richardson, Kenneth Robinson, Sarah Wallace Scott, Tory Tepp, Jeremy Wolf, Melanie Yazzie, Susannah Sayler, and Edward Morris.


We join RedLine in thanking the Town of Fairplay, the Brown Burro, Dorothy’s Tamales, Deep Water, Helen Thorpe, Jason Jones, Dave Gordon, Julie Mordecai, San Luis Valley Farmers, Jay Frost, Karl & Oscar Kister, Julie Bullock, Jamie DeLuccio & Open Sky Yoga, Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, Jeremiah Archuleta, Cirque Kitchen, White Mountain Farms, I Choose Organics, Jones Farm, Rio Grande Farm Park, A.P. Fiedler, the amazing volunteers of both RedLine and the Rocky Mountain Land Library, and Patricia Miller & Curtis Maddox and their entire Native Plant Labyrinth team.


Libby Barbee & Bill Nelson’s wind & sound piece will stay at the ranch!

Plus a special thanks to the more than 300 people who attended Re/Call. They came to both experience & participate in one of the most remarkable weekend Buffalo Peaks Ranch has ever had.


We can’t show you a picture that captures the 300+ Re/Call participants from this past weekend, but as we helped dismantle Nathan Hall’s wonderful Chime Walk to the river, we noticed this unintended piece of land art. We love the grass swale that so many feet made along an old elk path.

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Did we mention that we also had a Star Talk by Mary Caulkins, and the chance to see Eileen Roscina Richardson’s film Hiraeth, screened on the Cooks House wall?


With thanks to Mary Caulkins and Louise Martorano for giving birth to Re/Call, and to Helen Thorpe for so many wonderful photos above!