A Common Landscape?

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It’s not the pristine wilderness where most of us form life-long ties to the land, but from the more common landscapes of grassland, pasture, parkland, and meadows — the edge zone between wilderness and where we live. Just published, The Field Guide to Fields: Hidden Treasures of Meadows, Prairies, and Pastures makes for a one-of-a-kind addition to anyone’s natural history shelves. We love its focus on landscapes long in association with man, as well as its celebration of worldwide rural traditions. Author Bill Laws tells a story rich in history, flora, and fauna, born from this vibrant borderland.
Please pick this book up and you’ll also discover one of the most beautifully illustrated and designed books of the season!

Finding this fun new book reminded us of many other Land Library titles, all united by their attention to rural traditions. Here’s three!

Field days poetryclearing landoliver rackham
Field Days: An Anthology of Poetry, edited by Angela King & Sue Clifford, and published by one of our all-time favorite groups:
Common Ground (more on them in future posts), Clearing Land: Legacies of the American Farm by Jane Brox, The History of the Countryside, Oliver Rackham’s classic study of the British landscape.

The Green Hour

green hourgo wildnature's playground
Spring has sprung, and it’s time to get outside and explore — especially if you’re a kid! The National Wildlife Foundation has a terrific website (GreenHour.org) that encourages adults to give children a “green hour” everyday — a time for unstructured play, and more to the point, a chance to muck around a bit in nature.
Todd Christopher, the creator of GreenHour.org has just written a book full of activities and tips — The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids.
For more tips & fun projects here are two other favorites (pictured above) from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library: Go Wild! 101 Things to Do Outdoors Before You Grow Up, and Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors — both authored by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.

As the spring gets underway, don’t forget the palm sized, many-volumed Golden Guide series. You probably remember them from your childhood, and they’re still a terrific resource — virtually a portable library for naturalists of all ages:

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Here’s a safe bet: we have a lot to learn, and we always will

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Our most recent post featured books on the natural history of Ireland. Although the Land Library has thousands of titles focused on the American West, we have long sought a global reach, believing that lessons of land and community knows no boundaries. The Land Library has especially strong collections of books focused on Africa, China, Tibet, Mongolia, Latin America, Canada and the boreal zone worldwide — along with all-things-Arctic.
We’ll continue to grow our global collections, and we hope to have more world-wide postings in the future. In the meanwhile, here’s an excellent book to start us on our journey!
Encompassing Nature: A Sourcebook, edited by Robert Torrance. This is a truly massive anthology (1,224 pages), as well as a sweeping history of the human response to nature from ancient times to the dawn of the Modern Age. Robert Torrance casts a wide net, including selections of children’s stories, tribal myths, sacred scriptures, poetry, philosophical and scientific writings. Gary Snyder writes, “What is encompassed, on a scale vaster than we could have imagined, are the many ways in which human beings have understood and represented the natural world. There are themes of gratitude, playfulness, and intimacy with the wild, running through most of it…”

Here’s a few more thought-provoking books that we’ll return to in the months ahead:
unbowedmountain homegaviotastibetan steppe
Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai, Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China, translated by David Hinton, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World by Alan Weisman, Wildlife of the Tibetan Steppe by George Schaller
islam & ecologyann morrisancient futures
Islam and Ecology: A Bestowed Trust by Richard C. Foltz, et al, Houses and Homes by Ann Morris & Ken Heyman (from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library), Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World by Helena Norberg-Hodge

Wouldn’t it be grand to open an Irish branch of the Rocky Mountain Land Library??

atlas rural landscapeulster
The Rocky Mountain Land Library’s celtic roots run deep. For the past 25 years, we have been building a strong collection of books on the natural history of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales — with a special emphasis on the Hebrides and Ireland’s western islands. On the occasion of Saint Patrick’s Day, here’s one of our favorites: Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape edited by F.H.A. Aalen, Kevin Whelan, and Matthew Stout.
This handsome atlas explores the rural landscape as a defining element of Ireland’s national heritage. Far more than a collection of maps, this book is thickly illustrated with photos, drawings, diagrams, and charts. An excellent text presents a narrative where layer upon layer of natural & cultural histories intertwine. Detailed descriptions are given of building styles, field and settlement patterns, archaeological monuments, villages, woodlands and bogs. Abundant maps open your eyes to Ireland’s glacial past, along with its rich heritage of stone circles, ring forts, sacred wells, Cistercian monasteries, and much more!

We’re also excited about the publication of The Natural History of Ulster by John Faulkner and Robert Thompson (also pictured above) — the first comprehensive study of the natural history of Ulster Province in the north of Ireland!

Here’s just a brief sampler of other Irish books that have found a home on the Land Library shelves. Which begs the question, wouldn’t it be grand to establish a Land Library in Ireland, perhaps along Dingle Bay??

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A Pity Youth Does Not Last: Reminiscences of the Last of the Great Blasket Island’s Poets and Storytellers by Micheal O’Guiheen, Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness by Tim Robinson, Nature Guide to the Aran Islands by Con O’Rourke, The Complete Guide to Ireland’s Birds by Eric Dempsey & Michael O’Clery, Twenty Years A-Growing by Maurice O’Sullivan (a Great Blasket Island memoir), Ireland: A Smithsonian Natural History Guide by Michael Viney.

E.O. Wilson’s Brave New World

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E.O. Wilson is regarded as one of the world’s leading biologists, and for many, one of the most persistent voices for conservation across the globe. He is the author of over twenty books, including his opus The Ants, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
The Land Library has always been excited to add another E.O. Wilson book to our shelves, and today’s arrival is no exception — Anthill, Wilson’s first foray into fiction. Set in the Alabama of Wilson’s youth, Anthill follows the adventures of a modern-day Huck Finn. Two critical comments caught our eyes. Diane Ackerman writes: Thick with the spell of nature, Anthill is a powerful tale of ant empires and a boy determined to save them. And John McCarter, the president of the Field Museum of Natural History, makes us want to drop everything and read, read, read: This is the way I will teach natural history to my grandchildren.
Congratulations E.O.!
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Wild fibers stitching us together

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Wild Fibers magazine — one of our absolute favorites! It’s hard to think of a magazine that better captures the link between people and the land. The folks at Wild Fibers describe their one-of-a-kind, beautifully produced quarterly as an “exploration of the animals, art, and culture, of the natural fiber industry.” Their focus is worldwide, from the Peruvian highlands and the Mongolian steppes, to the Scottish Hebrides and the American Southwest.

And you don’t have to be a craftsperson to love this magazine. Each issue tells the rich and complex story of people, craft & community. Please visit Wild Fibers website to learn more!
Wild Fibers south Ameryakred
As many of you know, the Rocky Mountain Land Library is planning to locate a majority of our 20,000+ volume book collection at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, set in the high mountain grasslands of Colorado’s South Park. The ranch has a history of sheep herding, and thanks to a recent donation, we’ll be setting up a weaving & natural fibers studio, tapping into South Park’s heritage. We also continue to add to our collection of books focused on this incredibly rich intersection between people and the land:
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Living with Sheep by Geoff Hansen & Chuck Wooster, Blanket Weaving in the Southwest by Joe Ben Wheat, Living Fabric: Weaving Among the Nomads of Ladakh Himalaya by Monisha Ahmed, The Natural Knitter: How to Choose, Use, and Knit Natural Fibers from Alpaca to Yak by Barbara Albright, A Dyer’s Garden: Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers by Rita Buchanan, In Sheep’s Clothing: A Handspinner’s Guide to Wool by Nola & Jane Fournier, Livestock Guardians: Using Dogs, Donkeys, and Llamas to Protect your Herd by Janet Dohner

And here’s our most recent addition! It’s the type of book we never would have imagined someone had written, but we’re so glad they did. This one-of-a-kind volume is a richly illustrated exhibition catalog celebrating the tent & yurt bands of Central Asia:
Tent Bands of Central Asia

When Global turns Local: Climate Change in the Rockies

How the West was Warmedpika
As the tell-tale signs of climate change are felt at the local level, such as the decline of the mountain pika, it’s extremely helpful to have a book such as How The West Was Warmed: Responding to Climate Change in the Rockies. Editor Beth Conover has assembled more than forty journalists, scientists, business leaders, and policy makers to tackle questions of drought, melting glaciers, pine beetle infestations, and all the other widespread changes ahead. Joining Beth Conover (the original architect of the Greenprint Denver program) are authors such as Stephen Trimble, Auden Schendler, Laura Pritchett, Brad Udall, Diane Carmen, Lisa Jones, Kirk Johnson, and Michelle Nijhuis (who writes on What’s Killing the Aspen).

There are several comprehensive climate change studies available, but few have such a regional focus. There are, however, several excellent books devoted to specific aspects of the complex predicament facing us all:
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A World Without Ice by Henry Pollack, Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming by Anthony Barnosky, Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future by Jeff Goodell, On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear by Richard Ellis

Over ninety percent of the RMLL’s Waterton Canyon Kids Library is devoted to the wonders of nature, unchanged over time. Laying this groundwork of caring and concern, we also address today’s grittier realities. The power of books & learning has never been more needed!
laurie davidpika's tailLynne Cherry
The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming by Laurie David & Cambria Gordon, A Pika’s Tail: A Children’s Story about Mountain Wildlife by Sally Plumb & Lawrence Ormsby, How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate by Lynne Cherry & Gary Braasch

Herbs Hanging from the Rafters

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Henry Beston, author of The Outermost House, described Herbs and the Earth as “part garden book, part musing study of our relation to nature through the oldest group of plants known to gardeners.” Beston’s wonderful prose leads us through the history, lore and uses of herbs. He wrote this book from his study in his farmhouse in Maine. Beston called it his herb attic — book-lined, with bunches of dried herbs hanging from the rafters. This is clearly a book written by someone in love with his subject. Beston himself considered this book among his finest writing.
The Outermost Housecape cod map
The Outermost House is the book that most people know Henry Beston for, and it remains in print to this day. In the 1920’s Beston spent a year alone in a small dune cottage along Cape Cod’s eastern shore. What came from his isolation with sand and sea was one of the greatest meditations on the land that we have. He hoped to “know this coast and share its mysterious and elemental life“, and he succeeded brilliantly.

To Make the World My Own

Dune Boyfrom Dune Boy
Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist by Edwin Way Teale

The long summer days of his earliest boyhood were spent at his grandfather’s farm on the edge of Indiana’s dune country. Lone Oak Farm was Edwin Way Teale’s training ground as a naturalist. “I was out-of-doors from morning until night, running barefoot and in overalls, a straw hat protecting me from the midday sun.” He knew every stone, met all the birds, mammals and insects — and like many a young naturalist, he diligently set about the establishment of his very own natural history museum.
Looking back on his boyhood, Teale wrote: “The debt I owe my grandparents most of all is the freedom they gave me, freedom to roam the acres of corn & wheat & potatoes, the woods & swamps, and to make this world my own.

As the twig is bent…

There are several excellent childhood memoirs of naturalists, including The Story of My Boyhood and Youth by John Muir, and The Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland by Robert Michael Pyle. Here’s three more from the Land Library’s shelves!
My Family & Other AnimalsE.O. WilsonFar Away & Long Ago
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, Naturalist by E.O. Wilson, Far Away and Long Ago: A Childhood in Argentina by W.H. Hudson.

Bone Wars in the American West

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The Bone Hunters: The Heroic Age of Paleontology in the American West by Uri Lanham

This is one of the great adventure stories in American history. The central characters are the 19th century scientists and explorers who found in the dry rugged western landscape rich evidence of lost worlds of swamps, cycads, and dinosaurs. Uri Lanham takes to his task with real exuberance, telling the stories of Charles Sternberg, Ferdinand Hayden, Joseph Leidy, and others — men who found their “gold” in legendary fossil beds, such as Wyoming’s Como Bluff.
But the focus of this drama clearly falls on O.C. Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, famed scientists, notorious rivals, and leaders of warring parties of paleontologists on the plains. Not to spoil an ending, but Uri Lanham concludes his book with a passage that might make you cringe, and perhaps nod your head: “Finally there is durable, intelligent, well-focused hatred, a long-range creative force as powerful as love. Here Cope and Marsh trully excelled. Even though dragging fantastic loads of what are generally called human frailties, they managed to create on the way a new understanding of the earth and its life. No higher human achievement is possible.

The Land Library has hundreds of paleontology volumes, and here’s just a few on fossil hunting in the American West:

Bone Wars Tom Reawyomingmarsh's dinosaurs

Bone Wars: The Excavation of Andrew Carnegie’s Dinosaur by Tom Rea, A Triceratops Hunt in Pioneer Wyoming: The Journals of Barnum Brown and J.P. Sams, Marsh’s Dinosaurs: The Collections from Como Bluff by John H. Ostrom & John S. McIntosh

not to mention many, many more books for young readers, housed at our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library!

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Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards: A Tale of Edward Drinker Cope, Othniel Charles Marsh and the Gilded Age of Paleontology by Jim Ottaviani, et. al., Dinosaur Mountain: Digging into the Jurassic Age by Deborah Kogan Ray.