Such a great night!

We’re thrilled to announce that October 20th’s Pie Factory Pop-up was an overwhelming success. Over 300 people turned out to explore the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s new urban home. The Puritan Pie Factory is a dream-come-true location for what will likely be the final link in the Land library’s Headwaters to Plains Network of place-based learning centers.

Here’s a slide show that starts with the very first day of clean-up at the Pie Factory. Thanks to Ben Sherrill, Stephen Shoup, and Wendy Campbell for capturing these fun days at the Pie Factory:

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So much to clear & organize, followed by many days of clean-up….

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Still using the industrial shelving in place, we finally tackled the happy task of unpacking books; putting some favorites on display, but all the while knowing we have more than 1,500 book boxes to go!

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Slowly but surely the Pie Factory was transformed,

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with wonderful books to enliven the space!

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Our thanks goes to all the generous artists and class leaders that made our Silent Auction a success. Such a beautiful corner of this wonderful warehouse space!

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Pie is good! We had 150 handheld pies, and over a dozen full-size pies — devoured with gusto by the end of the night. All the pies were kindly donated by wonderful community-minded businesses: Dawn Dennison & Crust, The Long i Pie Shop, and Five Points Pizza

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Plus a delicious, over-the-top array of food that everyone sang the praises of — all from the kitchens of Chef Sterling Robinson from Billy’s Inn and North County.  We even had a few kegs of pie-inspired beer thanks to Alex Guest & Hopwares!

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People (of all ages!) loved looking through the books!

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And then there was the sea-foam Cadillac. You had to be there….

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Thanks to everyone for coming out that beautiful autumn night, and to our Pop-up sponsors: Aurora Water, Chelsea Green Publishing, Davis, Graham & Stubbs, Denver Water, and Lighthouse Writers Workshop!

See you on Thursday Night!

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The Puritan Pie Factory in autumn, a wonderful photo taken just this past weekend by super volunteer Wendy Campbell. Thanks to Wendy for taking a break from the hard & gritty work, to capture the Pie Factory in transition!

Come join us this Thursday night as we celebrate the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s new inner-city Denver location, the last piece of the Headwaters to Plains Network that includes South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch, and our Waterton Canyon Library. For the past many weeks, volunteers have been cleaning, and clearing space in Denver’s Puritan Pie Factory for the first few Land Library books to arrive:

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The Pie Factory’s major themes will be nature in the city, urban homestead topics, and kids and nature — with plenty of books on the natural and cultural heritage of the American West.

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Eventually we’ll erect over 125 bookcases donated to the Land Library by the Tattered Cover Book Store. But on Thursday night you’ll see us display books using whatever is on hand at the Pie Factory:

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Water will always be a big theme at all the Land Libraries along the Headwaters to Plains Network. Here’s a few that have found a temporary home in a claw-foot bathtub.

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So many great books — it’s hard to pick just one to feature!

Click here for more information on this Thursday’s Pie Factory Pop-up, plus how you can get a ticket ahead of time, or at the door! 

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There will be food, drink, music, and of course, lots of books and lots of pie.

Thanks again to Wendy Campbell for her wonderful photos, and to all our amazing event sponsors:  Aurora Water, Billy’s Inn, Chelsea Green Publishing, Davis Graham & Stubbs, Denver Water, Hopwares, and North County restaurant.

The Story of the Land, from Headwaters to Plains

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You can sense the change of season at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. But just as the summer winds down at the Land Library’s headwaters site, we have exciting news to report back here in Denver. The Rocky Mountain Land Library will soon be opening it’s third place-based learning center at Denver’s old Puritan Pie Factory, located in the historic Curtis Park neighborhood. This urban branch is designed to help connect people to nature — not the distant natural history of our nearest National Parks, but the nearby nature of the neighborhoods where we all live.

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The Puritan Pie Factory at 26th & Champa.

We have two city-inspired collections that we are anxious to share, namely a Kids Nature Library (with thousands of books on bugs, birds, bats, and more), along with (what we’re calling) an Urban Homestead Library, featuring books on nature in the city, with many volumes on green-living, including hundreds of titles on edible landscaping, urban farming, beekeeping, raising chickens, and much, much more.

With thousands of books as an inspiring resource, the Purtian Pie Factory will be home to workshops and classes, nature clubs and activities for kids, neighborhood gatherings, plus artist & craft studios. If the community has a creative need, we would love for the Pie Factory to help fill it.

For instance:

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Some of our favorite books are on seeds (really!). Along with seed books, we’ll be setting up a Free Seed Library, much like this wonderful photo from the Manitou, Colorado Seed Library.

 

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How about a Teaching Kitchen for both kids & adults? Over the years we have noticed that the intersection of food & land is a perfect place to feel those connections we all have to nature and the land! (This fun photo is from the Organic Teaching Kitchen in New York).

Thanks to the visionary owners of the Puritan Pie Factory, so much is possible! Over the next few weeks & months we’ll all be learning more about the Pie Factory and the Curtis Park neighborhood. Who knows what new ideas and programs will emerge as we explore this amazing opportunity together!

Many of us are especially excited that the Pie Factory is already part of Denver’s Beat Tour. Just next door to the factory is the site of Neal Cassady’s boyhood home.

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We’re already stacking up our Beat books, everything from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road to Gary Snyder’s Riprap Poems!

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Let there be Pie! From Headwaters to Plains, from South Park to Curtis Park:

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Swapping Seeds and Stories

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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!

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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:

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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:

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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!

Lessons from Cuba, After the Thaw

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With the great help of many, the Land Library keeps moving forward with plans to establish an Urban Homestead Library for inner-city Denver. Making ready for that happy day, we continue to add many more urban agriculture books to our collection. Our most recent acquisitions may come from 90 miles offshore, but we know for sure that they will offer inspiration for our Mile-High City.

Carey Clouse’s Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture From the Ground Up tells a very hopeful tale. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s, Cuba’s lifeline was suddenly cut. With fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides disappearing overnight, Cubans began growing their own organic produce wherever they could find the space — on rooftops, balconies, vacant lots, school grounds. By 1998 there were more than 8,000 urban farms in Havana, producing nearly half of Cuba’s vegetables.

Farming Cuba vividly reports from Havana’s orchards, gardens, chicken coops and pig pens — giving hope to any city bent on providing healthy local food, neighborhood by neighborhood. Here’s two more wonderful books to inspire any state-side urban farmer:

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Sowing Change: The Making of Havana’s Urban Agriculture by Adriana Premat, and Unfinished Puzzle: Cuban Agriculture, the Challenges, Lessons and Opportunities by May Ling Chan & Eduardo Roach.

With the recent thaw in U.S.–Cuba relations, wouldn’t it be wonderful to follow-up with a lesson-learning exchange program between urban farmers separated by 90 miles of ocean, and a mutual, unfortunate past?

For more on Cuba’s urban farm plots, here’s a terrific film clip from the BBC’s Around the World in 80 Gardens:

Our Wild & Moveable Feast

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A couple of years ago, the Rocky Mountain Land Series was lucky enough to host Gary Lincoff for his authoritative (and extremely fun) book, The Complete Mushroom Hunter. In his latest book, The Joy of Foraging, Lincoff takes on the entire plant kingdom. This is a wonderfully illustrated handbook, and Gary’s enthusiasm is certainly infectious. He’ll have you searching out nuts, wild fruits, edible greens — and even seaweeds. Along the way, you’ll learn much more about the place where you live.

That’s exactly what happened to John Lewis-Stempel. Looking around his English farm he saw a trout flash in the brook, mushrooms sprinkled across his fields, and a squirrel eating hazelnuts. That led him to think, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could live on what nature provides for free? The result is one of the most unusual and well-written books we’ve read in quite sometime: The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food (also pictured above).

Here’s John Lewis-Stempel on the humble hazelnut: ” There is no sensible reason for me to be out at eleven at night, shining a torch up into the leaves and incipient catkins, gathering hazelnuts. Whatever is left on these few last trees will remain till first light, when I will have to come back anyway with a shepherd’s crook to pull down the high branches, an exercise impossible to combine with torch-holding. I am picking solely to do something to satisfy a squirrel-like urge to store up for the oncoming winter….
Hazelnuts are more amenable to the jaw when roasted, when they become starchy, like semolina. Roasted hazelnuts can also be pressed for oil. The process is laborious and the amount of pale amber oil that can be obtained from a pound of nuts is to be measured in parts of a teaspoon. Hazelnut oil is precious. Outside of duck fat, it is the only cooking oil I can obtain from the land.”

Here’s two more books on the art of feeding free!

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Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, Langdon Cook’s foraging tale from the Pacific Northwest, and A Feast of Weeds: A Literary Guide to Foraging and Cooking Wild Edible Plants by Luigi Ballerini.

As for urban foraging, we’ve been really inspired by the work of this group:

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The London Orchard Project plants new community orchards, rejuvenates neglected ones, and (in one of their strokes of sheer genius), they map existing London fruit trees, all ripe for foraging:

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Pinpricks of Change

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The year is young, but here’s our favorite new book of 2015 — Urban Acupuncture: Celebrating Pinpricks of Change that Enrich City Life, by architect and three-term mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, Jamie Lerner.
What makes a city great? Lerner points to a city’s parks and neighborhoods, its music, art, and community celebrations. It all comes from “pinpricks of action” — projects, people, and initiatives that ripple outward to uplift city life.

On a personal note, this book is pure inspiration for the Land Library as we continue to work on establishing a inner-city Denver learning center celebrating nature-in-the-city, and the empowering world of urban homesteading.

Also pictured above: if the urban future is to be bright, it needs to shine at the neighborhood level, and that’s why we especially love Jay Walljasper’s book The Great Neighborhood Book: A Do-it-Yourself Guide to Placemaking (pictured above) — a volume full of practical solutions for the continued revitalization of the urban landscape.

And here’s two more books we can do without:

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Community Orchards Handbook, by the most creative land & community organization we know, the United Kingdom’s Common Ground, and City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardening in America by Laura J. Lawson.

Stay tuned in 2015 for more inspiring books, and news of the Land Library’s Headwaters-to-Plains learning network, stretching from South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch to the neighborhoods of Denver!