Elephants on the Edge

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This may be one of the true publishing events of the past many years. 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.”

Lead editor Cynthia Moss’ Amboseli field work began in 1973. Her earlier book Elephant Memories (also 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, The Fate of the Elephant by Douglas Chadwick, Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants by Katy Payne.

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

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!

As many of you know, the Land Library’s collection has a global focus, not just books on the Rocky Mountains. One of our favorite sections of the library is focused on the natural history of Africa!

South Park's Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library's global collection of books on people and the land -- from the Arctic to the African savannas.
South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch, future home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library’s global collection of books on people and the land — from the Arctic to the African savannas.

On the Honey Trail with Eva Crane

ec201Trained as a nuclear physicist, world renowned bee expert Eva Crane is easily one of the most intriguing and accomplished figures who have found their way onto the Land Library’s shelves. Her sudden shift from quantums to bees came on the occasion of her wedding in 1942. Among the wedding presents that day was a working beehive — a thoughtful gift meant to help the young couple cope with stingy wartime sugar rations. That it did, but it also set Eva on a lifelong fascination with bees, beekeeping and honey hunting.


For the next fifty years Eva Crane visited over sixty countries on the trail of the honey bee. Her travels yielded over 180 papers, articles and books, culminating in The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (pictured above), a hefty tome that Paul Theroux called a masterpiece “for its enormous scope and exhaustiveness, and for being an up-to-date treasure house of apiaristic facts.

Eva Crane’s passion and dedication went beyond her own work. She founded one of the leading institutions of the beekeeping world, the International Bee Research Association. After her death in 2007, the IBRA published a special tribute to its founder, Eva Crane Bee Scientist, 1912-2007 (above), the latest (but hopefully not the last) Eva Crane volume added to the Land Library’s shelves!

Bees and Beekeeping: Science, Practice and World Resources (1990), another classic volume from Eva Crane.

And here’s the very first Eva Crane book the Land Library was lucky enough to find. We were in search of good books on rock art to add to our collection, and, lo and behold, in a dusty bookshop in New York’s Lower East Side we came upon Eva Crane’s The Rock Art of Honey Hunters, a fascinating study of over 150 sites across the globe!


Parlez vous francais?


Well, if you don’t speak French, no worries — read on! Recently, a Land Library friend donated one of the most remarkable books on bees and beekeeping that we have ever seen. Eric Tourneret’s Le Peuple des Abeilles will always have an honored place on the Land Library’s shelves!

The text may be in French, but Tourneret’s photographs speak volumes. Many of the photos give such an upclose view of the bee’s world that you’d swear Tourneret strapped cameras to the backs of worker bees:


A steady stream of incoming bees, with pollen baskets full.

In some ways our personal inability to read the text liberated us to focus on the incredible patterns of another world:


Eric Tourneret also turns his lens on an equally fascinating creature: the beekeeper:

french beekeeper

Le Peuple des Abeilles tells the tale of beekeepers employing both modern and traditional techniques. There are wonderful photo-essays on the capture of wild swarms, and the never-say-die efforts of urban beekeepers — including a few atop the Paris Opera House!

Eric Tourneret has seen a hidden world through his lens, and we’re happy he shared it:

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If you don’t speak French, or if you someday hope to speak Bee, you’ll really enjoy this short clip!

Someday we hope a publisher issues an English translation of Le Peuple des Abeilles — but then again, we have loved the visual odyssey we’ve been on, unaccompanied by words!

Assume the Stillness of a Tree

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J.A. Baker spent ten years observing the peregrines along the east coast of England. His obsession yielded a mountain of field notes and this classic study of a most elusive bird. The Peregrine is also one of the most unusual (and memorable) books we have on our shelves. Barry Lopez sums it up perfectly when he wrote that Baker’s book was “one of the most beautifully written, carefully observed, and evocative wildlife accounts I have ever read.”

As you read The Peregrine it’s almost impossible not to slow down, re-read, and copy down passages. Here’s one of our favorites, on the simple art of watching:

“To be recognized and accepted by a peregrine you must wear the same clothes, travel by the same way, perform actions in the same order. Like all birds it fears the unpredictable. Enter and leave the same fields at the same time each day, soothe the hawk from its wildness by a ritual of behavior as invariable as its own. Hood the glare of your eye, hide the white tremor of the hands, shade the stark reflecting face, assume the stillness of a tree.” Advice a young George Schaller or Jane Goodall would appreciate!

also pictured above: A peregrine painting by C.F. Tunnicliffe, from his book The Peregrine Sketchbook , one of our all-time favorite sketchbooks:


And here’s three more books on the peregrine falcon, from the Land Library’s raptor shelves:

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The Peregrine Falcon by Derek A. Ratcliffe, Return of the Peregrine: A North American Saga of Tenacity and Teamwork by Tom J. Cade & William Burnham, In Pursuit of the Peregrine by R.B. Treleaven

The Emergence of Woodchucks & Thoreau for Our Time


In the early 1850s Thoreau committed himself more fully than ever to his journal. At the time of his death, he had written two million words in this private storehouse, filling seven thousand pages in forty-seven volumes between October 1837 and November 1861. He came to realize that his most important task was attending the natural phenomena of everyday life, and at one point he half-jokingly complained that his observations were becoming more scientific and less poetic….He created a huge calendar of annual natural events, recording the first blossoming of wildflowers and the return of migrating birds, the emergence of woodchucks and the duration of snowstorms.” — from Michael Sims’ The Adventures of Henry Thoreau

It’s astounding to think of the legacy Henry David Thoreau left us, after only forty-four short years on the earth he loved so well. Thoreau lives on, and he always will on the Land Library’s shelves!

In the past few months we were thrilled to add two more books to our Thoreau collection. Both volumes bring a fresh new Thoreau to our worried age of climate change and nature-deficit disorder. We learn about the always aspiring, sometimes faltering writer (and sharp-eyed naturalist) in Michael Sims’ The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man’s Unlikely Path to Walden Pond. Sims’ goal is to “find Henry” rather than “applaud Thoreau”, and that he does. Rebecca Solnit writes: “The closest you’ll ever get to going on a walk with Thoreau is reading this book.”

While Thoreau walked he observed and meticulously recorded nature’s details — to an extent we never fully appreciated until reading Richard Primack’s Walden Warming: Climate Change Come to Thoreau’s Woods (also pictured above). Primack is one of the current-day scientists who are mining Thoreau’s journals and daily logs for clues to the creeping climate crisis we all face. Primack, professor of biology at Walden’s near neighbor, Boston University, writes:

In the past, Thoreau directly called our attention to the issues of protecting nature, ending slavery and unjust war, and the need for simple living. Today his journals and his unfinished calendar of nature can give us further insights. His records of plant flowering times at Walden Pond and in one small town in Massachusetts convey a much larger truth. The changing climate is already affecting the plant life that forms the base of the food web upon all life depends.

And so Thoreau’s legacy takes on an even deeper significance.

waldenhenry david's house

A library can’t have too many editions of Thoreau’s classic book, but one of our favorites is Jeffrey Cramer’s annotated Walden. Thoreau is a strong presence at our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library too. We especially love Steven Schnur’s Henry David’s House.

No matter where you live, urban or rural, we all have our own Walden Pond. Attention, and devotion, is all!

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.” from Walden

Dusty, Dull Books on a Land Library Shelf

fodder cover

Why did this book become the Land Library’s page-by-page preoccupation over the past week? It’s title might seem a bit dull: Fodder and Pasture Plants, written by George H. Clark and M. Oscar Malte, and published in 1913 by the Department of Agriculture, Canada.

But here is where our reading experience changed. Our sense of touch was engaged first. The 100-year old cloth cover gave us a tactile pleasure that no modern dust jacket can provide. As we delved into the text, there was much to learn from Clarke and Malte’s complete botanical description of each plant, unexpectedly enlivened by occasional quotes from the likes of Xenophon, Pliny, Virgil, Chaucer, and Shakespeare!

Books are built of chapters and parts. Here’s the part we love best from our century-old copy of Fodder and Pasture Plants: more than 25 full-color plates, from the brush of Norman Criddle. Here’s just two of Criddle’s beautiful depictions:

brome grass

Brome grass is extensively grown in Hungary, where the climate is much like that of the Canadian West…


Red Top is indigenous to all European countries, Northern Africa, North and Central Asia, and North America.

from the preface:

It is, therefore, the purpose of this book to provide, in a form convenient for reference, fairly comprehensible information about those grasses, clovers, and other fodder and pasture plants that are generally to be of value in Canada.

Yes — and maybe something more!

Our thanks goes to the folks at Small Farmer’s Journal. Their recent feature led us to the Land Library’s most recent acquisition — Clarke & Malte’s Fodder and Pasture Plants!

The Black Arts Shouldn’t be So Much Fun


When we read Galway Kinnell’s poetry, we often come back to one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ odd phrases: There lives the dearest freshness deep down things. Both poets live in a “world charged“, and both find great joy in the sensuous feel of words. Here’s Galway Kinnell at his most sensuous — and seemingly having enormous fun:

Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry eating in late September.

Galway Kinnell, from A New Selected Poems

For more on Galway Kinnell (& Gerard Manley Hopkins), here’s a few volumes from the Land Library’s poetry shelves!

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A New Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell, Strong is Your Hold by Galway Kinnell, Mortal Beauty, God’s Grace: Major Poems and Spiritual Writings by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Selected Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins

Age Old Alchemy


grafting: the practice of physically joining parts of two individual plants, as with stock and scion, so that they will form a union and grow together.

I was a youngster when I joined our next door neighbor as he grafted a new apple variety to one of his well-established trees. I was dumbfounded, and still am by this age-old horticultural practice. Grafting is usually done in the spring, just before growth gets underway.

An ambitious weekend project? But first check out the books above. R.J. Garner’s The Grafter’s Handbook has been a classic for many years, and has just been released in a revised 6th edition.

An easier beginning might be Larry Southwick’s Grafting Fruit Trees (also pictured above), part of Storey’s slim but useful Country Wisdom Bulletin series.

But don’t be put off by Garner’s textbook-like appearance:


The Grafter’s Handbook is a must-have on any fruit grower’s shelf! Meanwhile, take a look at this excellent, clear-headed approach to grafting:

The grafting of fruit trees is one of the oldest of recorded horticultural practices. The Romans developed and used several grafting techniques still in use today. Early texts, cautioned that the Japanese plum could be successfully grafted onto a peach, but not vice versa.


An age-old practice, ready for the next generation:


City Wild, and a few of our favorite books!

The citizen takes his city for granted far too often. He forgets to marvel.” — Carlos Fuentes

Good news! The Land Library continues to work toward opening a Urban Homestead Library in inner-city Denver, along with our second Kids and Educators Nature Library. We’ve been devoting more and more of our resources to find some of the best urban nature books available. These books are wonderful tools, and a powerful remedy for ever taking your home town for granted!

Books such as these, that help you learn about:




stroudtree book







For the rest of this month, we’ll be featuring many more books on nature in the city — all leading up to the April 27th Colorado premiere of the award-winning film The Legend of Pale Male:

movie posterbloomsbury cover

The Land Library is proud to be a co-sponsor of this benefit screening for The Bloomsbury Review, a national literary treasure that has been celebrating and promoting great writing since 1980. We’ll be celebrating two legends that night — The Bloomsbury Review, as it launches into its next chapter, and Pale Male, the famous red-tailed hawk of Central Park, now courting his eighth mate somewhere over midtown Manhattan!

WHEN & WHERE: Saturday, April 27th, 6:30pm at Denver’s Montview Presbyterian Church

For more information on the April 27th premiere, call 303-455-3123, or 800-783-3338, or visit The Bloomsbury Review website!

We hope you enjoy this inspiring film clip!

Legends Live On

movie posterbloomsbury cover

Save the Date! The Land Library is excited to be a co-sponsor of the Colorado premiere of the award-winning documentary, The Legend of Pale Male (Saturday, April 27th, 6:30pm, at Denver’s Montview Presbyterian Church). This will be a benefit screening for The Bloomsbury Review, a national literary treasure that has been celebrating and promoting great writing since 1980. We’ll be celebrating two legends that night — The Bloomsbury Review, as it launches into its next chapter, and Pale Male, the famous red-tailed hawk of Central Park, now courting his eighth mate somewhere over midtown Manhattan!

More details will follow, but for now enjoy this inspiring clip!

Over the next month, the Land Library will share more on April 27th’s premiere of The Legend on Pale Male. Along the way, we’ll feature many wonderful books that celebrate nature in the city. Here’s two volumes inspired by Pale Male himself:

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A wonderful children’s picture book, Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City by Janet Schulman, with illustrations by Meilo So, and Marie Winn’s classic Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park.

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