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.

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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!

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

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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!

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The Emergence of Woodchucks & Thoreau for Our Time

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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.

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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

Cesar Chavez Day 2014

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Robert F. Kennedy called Cesar Chavez “one of the heroic figures of our time.” Chavez founded and led the first successful farm workers union in the country — the United Farm Workers of America— giving migrant workers a voice against a powerful agricultural industry. Throughout his life Chavez fought for social justice, better pay, and safer working conditions. The tools he used were the nonviolent ones of strikes, fasting, and boycotts.

Just in time for this coming Monday’s Cesar Chavez Day is the first comprehensive biography of this visionary leader — Miriam Pawel’s The Crusades of Cesar Chavez. Author Peter Matthiessen, one of the first to write about Chavez, comments: “Miriam Pawel’s new biography, massively researched and expertly written, is a welcome expansion and enrichment of her earlier study, The Union of Their Dreams. Together they represent the definitive story of this charismatic farmworker and controversial leader whose courage and near-genius invigorated the stormy history of American labor.”

Also pictured above: John Gregory Dunne’s insightful look at Chavez and his movement’s first days. Delano: The Story of the California Grape Strike takes us back to September 1965, when Filipino and Mexican American farm workers went on strike against grape growers in Delano, California.

Food, land, and social justice — just a few reasons why the Land Library devotes a full section to the story of Cesar Chavez and the movement he ignited — full of books such as these:

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The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement by Susan Ferriss & Ricardo Sandoval, Voices from the Fields: Children of Migrant Farmworkers Tell Their Stories by S. Beth Atkins, Sal Si Puedes (Escape if You Can): Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution by Peter Matthiessen

And here’s a few inspiring titles from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library:

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First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez & Robert Castilla, Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull & Yuyi Morales, The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jimenez

Harvesting Stories at Masumoto Family Farm

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This is a very special book, not just because it’s about peaches and the surprising things you can do with them, but because it’s also about growing peaches, the farming life, and most uniquely, because it’s composed by a family.” — Deborah Madison

Masumoto Family Farm is a fourth-generation family farm located twenty miles south of Fresno, in the heart of California’s great Central Valley. Over the years, the Land Library has happily followed the farm’s progress through the pages of David Mas Masumoto’s many books, starting with Epitaph for a Peach, and most recently Wisdom of the Last Farmer.

Now along comes one of our favorite new books of the year — The Perfect Peach: Recipes and Stories from the Masumoto Family Farm by Marcy, Nikiko, and David Mas Masumoto. Here’s Mas and Marcy’s daughter Nikiko describing their brilliantly conceived book:

Just to be clear, we Masumotos have an agenda. We want more people to love peaches. This book is part of our ongoing attempt to share our love with a wider audience. We want to empower everyone to cook and eat peaches. You will find recipes, essays, snippets of stories, and kitchen tips woven throughout this book. We think of it as a literary cookbook. Our desire is that you will savor reading it in two ways. We hope that you will enjoy our recipes and that they contribute to wonderful shared meals and your own creation in your home kitchen. We also hope that you enjoy parts of the book like a novel — a way to learn about farming from the voices of people who actually work the earth and understand more about the realities we live while growing peaches…

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The authors of The Perfect Peach: Mas, Nikiko, and Marcy Masumoto

The recipes in The Perfect Peach have us counting the days before Colorado’s first harvest — time enough to dream about prosciutto-wrapped peaches, peach salsa, pizza with grilled peaches, peach liqueur, peach pie, peach cobbler, and of course, peach shortcake:

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I ate my first homemade shortcake at my grandma’s house. I remember loving the hearty biscuit-style cake that contrasted perfectly with the sweet strawberries. My version of peach shortcake follows in this tradition: the biscuit is more substantive than it is sweet, which provides the perfect excuse for eating this shortcake for breakfast or dessert. I suppose that there are some things that we inherit without knowing it. I am grateful for how my grandmother’s cooking wisdom remains in my life.” — Nikiko Masumoto

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With the Land Library’s strong focus on people and the land, Mas Masumoto’s earlier books form the heart and soul of our collection. Mas’s books are essential, especially books such as these:

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Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring, and Harvest Son: Planting Roots in American Soil

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Heirlooms: Letters from a Peach Farmer, and Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land.

And here’s a book trailer for Wisdom of the Last Farmer, which includes a terrific visual tour of the Masumoto Family Farm!

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The Masumoto Family: Korio, Nikiko, Mas, Marcy, and two of their most essential partners.

along with a second short film clip, with Mas in the orchard, tasting a peach:

For more on The Perfect Peach and the Masumoto Family Farm, be sure to visit their website!

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The eighty-acre organic farm currently grows seven peach varieties and three nectarine varieties on twenty-five acres. Raisens are grown on thirty-five acres, and the remaining acres are now part of a wild farm program, a nice way of saying “open” land. The critters love it; all farms should have something wild.” — Mas Masumoto

Zora Neale Hurston & The Power of Books

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Inspired by books and stories, Zora Neale Hurston eventually found a way to stretch her limbs:

“In that box were Gulliver’s Travels, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Dick Whittington, Greek and Roman Myths, and best of all, Norse Tales. Why did the Norse tales strike so deeply into my soul? I do not know, but they did. I seemed to remember seeing Thor swing his mighty short-handled hammer as he spread across the sky in rumbling thunder, lightning flashing from the tread of his steeds and the wheels of his chariot….That held majesty for me….

In a way this early reading gave me great anguish through all my childhood and early adolescence. My soul was with the gods and my body in the village. People just would not act like gods. Stew beef, fried fat-back and morning grits were no ambrosia from Valhalla. Raking back yards and carrying out chamber pots were not the tasks of Thor. I wanted to be away from drabness and to stretch my limbs in some mighty struggle.”

Always in search of inspiration, the Land Library will continue to return to a central theme over the next few weeks: the intrinsic value of reading, the power of books, and those first moments — our childhood encounters with the printed page. Our continued source of inspiration for these posts will be Maria Tatar’s Enchanted Hunters: the Power of Stories in Childhood (pictured above), a wonderful blend of scholarly insight and personal memoir. Maria Tatar has also included an invaluable appendix which records writer’s recollections of how books changed their lives — writers such as Zora Neale Hurston.

Next Week — Chet Raymo & the Roots of Wonder

Finding that One Place

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Last week’s post announced the April 27th Colorado premiere of The Legend of Pale Male, Frederic Lilien’s award-winning film celebrating the story of what happened when a red-tailed hawk (Pale Male) suddenly nests along the high-rise apartments surrounding New York City’s Central Park. The result: one of the best films we’ve ever seen on nature in the city!

A central character in Pale Male’s story is Charles Kennedy — naturalist, poet, and photographer. Marie Winn offers this personal insight in her book Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife: “When I first met him back in the early 1990’s, Charles was trying to become a birdwatcher. His goal was to find every bird mentioned in a book called Falconer of Central Park, and I think he was up to 65 out of the book’s 150 species on the day I ran into him. When a young red-tailed hawk arrived in the park a few months later, Charles put his list away. He had lost his heart to a single bird. That was when he and I began to follow Pale Male and the wildly successful nest on Fifth Avenue.”

Charles Kennedy’s red-tail essays and photographs are compiled in Pale Male & Family (pictured above, and thoughtfully edited by Steve Kennedy). Pale Male may have captured Charles Kennedy’s attention — but not all his attention. He was just as likely to drop to his knees to watch cicadas emerge, or spiders weaving their webs. Day turns to night, and Charles and his friends would lead nightly excursions into America’s greatest urban parks. Or as Charles Kennedy wrote:

the sun drops
the cold slides in
owl time

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Steve Kennedy, Charles’ nephew, has edited his uncle’s essays, haiku, and photography in the book Owls of Central Park. Steve writes in his introduction:

The last time I was with Charles was two weeks before he lost his battle with cancer. During that last quiet time together, what he most wanted to do was read to me from his newest compilation, his ‘owl book.’ He had engaged his friends in producing, by hand, large copies of the book — in part to keep them from focusing on his deteriorating health, and in part to make sure it was finished and available to his close network of friends and family. As Charles read his book about Central Park owls he charged me with tending to his large body of written and photographic work. So this book has a special place in my heart. It also is a favorite among Charles’ friends and acquaintances.

This memorial plaque can be found on a bench in Central Park, not far from where Pale Male flies to this very day:

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Friends choose a particularly apt haiku from Charles Kennedy’s notebooks, to honor Charles’ many days (and nights) in a place he loved best.

Here’s a wonderful volume that preserves more of Charles Kennedy’s work:

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The Fish Jumps Out of the Moon: Haiku of Charles F. Kennedy, edited by Steve Kennedy and Dan Guenther.

SAVE THE DATE!!

Charles Kennedy’s books will be available for purchase at the Colorado premiere of The Legend of Pale Male (Saturday, April 27th, 6:30pm, at Denver’s Montview Presbyterian Church). All proceeds will benefit The Bloomsbury Review — a literary legend in its own right.

You’ll love the film’s trailer (below), and keep your eyes open for Charles Kennedy, always searching the skyline for the most famous red-tailed hawk in the world:

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

And for much more of Charles Kennedy, be sure to visit the beautifully done site, kennedyworks — exploring the life and works of charles francis kennedy.

Preserving a Quiet Place, and Our Earthly Roots

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By making Florissant a national monument in 1969, the United States guaranteed protection to an important natural place, a quiet place where we can think about our earthly roots. Looking up, we can watch the kestrels dive like blue angels in search of grasshoppers, while we stand in the graveyard of a great fallen community — the Florissant ecosystem of the Eocene. Here, with the wonder of a child, we can take the mental journey back through the geologic ages.” — Estella Leopold

In the summer of 1969, one of the world’s premier fossil beds nearly became an A-frame housing subdivision. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument was saved by a grassroots group of scientists, conservationists, and local ranchers, along with a precedent-setting legal team. As Estella Leopold, one of the founding members of the Defenders of Florissant, once commented, “How can a group of citizens take on the real estate establishment? Well…it’s love and science and good lawyers.

This Saturday, the Rocky Mountain Land Series (in partnership with the Aldo Leopold Foundation) is honored to welcome Estella Leopold, co-author of Saved in Time: The Fight to Establish Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado — a first hand account of a classic environmental battle that has many lessons for today.

For details on Estella Leopold’s Land Series program, please click here!

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Estella Leopold’s co-author, Herbert W. Meyer, also wrote the classic work, The Fossils of Florissant — the subject of a truly memorable Land Series program in 2003.

If one of the pleasures in visiting Florissant is seeing the landscapes and imagining what they were like in outline 34 million years ago, what makes the experience so vivid is the incredible preservation of the fossil-bearing rocks themselves. It is a far different experience than looking at a set of hand-sized fossils on display in a glass cabinet.” — Estella Leopold

Forty years later, some of the early Defenders of Florissant return to what is now Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument — without an A-frame in sight:

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Estella Leopold, Tom Lamm, former Governor Dick Lamm, Attorney Victor Yannacone, Jr., and Superintendent Keith Payne celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

The fight to save Florissant is one of Colorado’s greatest stories of conservation, grassroots activism, and devotion to the land. A land ethic that runs deep in the Leopold family, from Estella’s early days at her family’s Sand County shack:

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For much more on the Leopold’s ongoing legacy, be sure to visit the Aldo Leopold Foundation‘s website, which includes a special section on Estella Leopold.

See you all on Saturday!

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At the Sand County shack, 1939: rear: Aldo & Estella Leopold, Luna, Starker(kneeling); front: Nina, young Estella, and Gus, a treasured dog that has everyone’s attention.