Karen Deger McChesney avatar

Growing up in Illinois, Karen’s favorite escape was to ride her bicycle to a forest preserve, sit under a tree and write stories—from wonderings and poems about nature to creating fictional characters. Her insatiable curiosity led her to work as a magazine writer, public relations practitioner and high school English teacher. Karen has always woven her passion for the outdoors into her work, including teaching urban youth to garden, hike and ride a bike. Today, Karen teaches writing and storytelling to youth for Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities and Redline Contemporary Art Center. And, she’s deep in revising a young adult novel, personal essays and more magazine articles. Being outside still sparks her muse, especially taking photos and hiking along the historic railroad track behind her family cabin in Fairplay, Colorado, and meeting ranchers and historians. Karen serves on the Advisory Board of Educators for Free Spirit Publishing. She lives in Denver with her husband and a lot of books. Karen loves skiing, cycling, cooking, birdwatching and laughing and eating homemade guac with her husband and grown stepson.

Lavender: Another Reason to Visit the Hill Country

In a recent interview with LAND, Cathy, the interim president for Texas Lavender Association, talks about the adventurous spirit of the lavender industry in the Hill Country.

Farming for Stories

Farmers have been working full-time and writing for centuries; meet present-day farmer-writers Wendy Swore, Adam Nordell and his wife, Johanna Davis.

Maple syrup vacuum tubing system in front of a sugarhouse

Brewing Up New Uses for Maple Syrup

My mission was, and is, to find new products to make maple syrup. The maple industry is growing experientially! In 2000, New York made 200,000 gallons of maple syrup. The USDA statistics estimated 820,000 gallons in 2019. The average American only uses a few ounces a year of maple syrup. Yes, to put on pancakes! But, the average American uses large amounts of beer, wine, and alcohol. It came together for me: maple is a ...

Aspens in Fall

Tuning in to the Symphony of Nature

Turned off by traditional concert venues, Smith took his cello off the ground and into the trees. High up into the trees! He built a hunter’s stand-like wooden platform, and roped it so high up in an Aspen tree that he had to conjure a way to climb up. His solo performance, Music for the Birds, enamored audiences, especially because, they got to watch Smith with cello in hand climb up a rope and carefully ...

Rocky Mountain Land Library, Buffalo Peaks Ranch

Connecting Books, Land & People

After reviewing students’ design proposals and brainstorming, everyone agreed that Hayden Ranch wasn’t a fit. It was missing one key absolute—a cultural landscape. “It had to be the interaction between people and the land or people in place over time,” explains Vlahos. The right fit would be all about “taking an old place and transitioning it to a new use . . . that could take on a new life that drew community to it.” ...

Campers Using Apps to Rent Private Land

When the Barley’s purchased the farmhouse, the only remaining structure on the 52 acres, they envisioned sharing the history of the land—giving “history lessons” and showing off their rare photos. But, like many first-time landowners, it was daunting to think of paying the property tax. Enter Tentrr, one of a growing number of Airbnb-type online booking platforms and apps for campers to find and instantly reserve spots on private land across the U.S. With state ...

cranes flying over water

Looking Out For Our Fine-Feathered Flyers

Every August, Nancy and John Merrill flood a hay field on their ranch so that flocks of Rocky Mountain Greater Sandhill cranes can eat and rest during their staging season.

View of culturally modified tree cross-section

Culturally Modified Trees: Living Sculptures Waiting to be Discovered

Don Wells and his fellow retirees kept seeing oddly bent trees on their weekly hikes in the northern Georgia mountains. They were intrigued with the ancient giants. Wells happened to meet neighbor Elaine Jordan, who wrote a guide book, Indian Trail Trees, after interviewing Native Americans about these trees. He started taking her to the trees and photographing them. Trail Tree’itis hit and suddenly, the retired civil engineer was starting a whole new career.