What does a couple do with 30,000 books on the Rocky Mountains and the West? Build a library for them, of course!
That’s where HistoriCorps comes in. It is the dream of book-loving duo Jeffrey Lee and Ann Martin to transform Buffalo Peaks Ranch into the Rocky Mountain Land Library. So, they’re leasing the ranch’s 1500 acres of land in Fairplay, Colorado and connecting with organizations like ours to help see that dream come to fruition. HistoriCorps is helping in transforming the deteriorating Buffalo Peaks Ranch on the property from barns to books. This July, two small ranch houses on the property were the object of volunteer work for two weeks.
Volunteer manager Rebecca Curry and I visited the ranch to lend a hand for two days during the first session week. Since this was my first experience with an overnight project (the Boettcher Mansion project I visited in April was a daytime project), I got a great lesson in HistoriCorps project management!
Here’s what happens on a typical project:
- Volunteers arrive after dinner on the day before a project in order to set up camp and get to know one another. (Note to self: If you’ve never set up a tent on your own before, try it out in your living room before trying to figure it out in rain and wind in the field!)
- 7:30am: Rise and shine to grab some delicious breakfast in the big tent. All meals are provided by HistoriCorps for volunteers and meals are typically made by the crew leader on a project. In this case, Buffalo Peaks’ crew leader and cook was Kat Wiesebecker. For breakfast, we had scrambled eggs, fried veggies, and fresh fruit. Yes, coffee is essential every morning, too.
- 8am: Safety stretch circle begins around this time every morning, for every project. Usually, stretching is accompanied by a Question of the Day, often provided by one of the volunteers. Questions Becca and I received were Who is your hero? and What is your definition of inner peace? Questions of the day give volunteers a chance to get to know one another better and get the group moving and talking early on!
- 8:30am: Get to work! Hard hats on, masks on, paint brush and scraper in hand. Don’t forget the sun screen! Projects are always work – be prepared to get uncomfortable and learn something new – that’s part of the fun of a HistoriCorps project. Never been up on a roof before? You might get the chance. I’ve never scraped off lead paint from a building before, and doing that for hours on end in the blazing sun is an experience, for sure.
- 10am: Grab some water. Find some shade. Learn something new. All the volunteers learn from one another and from the project supervisor and crew leader. On this project, we had fellow volunteer John show off his window glazing skills, and Hazel and Wayne were more than happy to take on the task later on.
- 12pm: Lunch time! Crew leaders are basically the heroes of any project. When they’re not working hard hammering nails, painting some siding, or climbing up a roof, they’re preparing each and every meal, and making sure you have enough to keep you going throughout the project. Normally a wide variety of options is available. On this particular day, there were hamburgers, deli meat, 4-5 varieties of bread, peanut butter and jelly, salad, and plenty of snacks. You’ll never go hungry on a HistoriCorps project.
- 12:40pm: Back to work to finish up the day’s tasks.
- 3pm: Take a break. HistoriCorps knows that volunteers love to learn about why they’re scraping paint all day long so we often have the people in charge of the project come by to explain about both the history and future use of the site. Since Buffalo Peaks Ranch is intended to be a Land Library, we got a peek into the main house where some of the books are currently stored. Architectural renderings were posted on the walls and volunteers got a real sense of what the site might look like once all the work is completed in a few years. Collectors Ann and Jeffrey even stopped by a day later to talk to the volunteers about their dream. How amazing to know your work is contributing to something so historic and something so important for tomorrow!
- 6:30pm: Dinner. Most dinners are similar to lunches, where it’s a free-for-all with plenty of options. Our crew leaders are fantastic cooks – especially since they’re cooking out in the field without the traditional supplies and appliances! Sometimes, volunteers get a treat, like we did – we got to head into town for the night to visit a brew pub, where all the volunteers got to bond over a glass of beer, chips and salsa, and some pulled pork sandwiches.
- 9pm: Lights out. Well, really, it’s up to you when you turn your tent light out. But once it gets dark, many volunteers need some alone-time to digest the events of the day and rest up. Sometimes a camp fire gets volunteers up and about until the wee-hours of the night (in other words, 10pm), and sometimes a nighttime stroll is called for just admiring the heavens above. Whatever you end up doing, it’s almost always a reflection on the day previous and looking forward to the one to come!
No matter what HistoriCorps project you choose, you can be assured that the job will be rewarding – both in meeting new friends and learning new skills, as well as in knowing that your work has gone to restore a little piece of history. So get out there!