Get Your Autographed Copy of Mariano’s Crossing


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To receive an autographed copy of Mariano’s Crossing, you may buy a copy using a button below. The first button is for shipped orders. If you have the opportunity to visit Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, please select the second button and pick up your copy from the ranch gift shop; stop by and say hello!

Mariano’s Crossing is also available from most book stores (please support your local independent book store!), in addition to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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The Future of Agriculture: Mark Shepard to Speak at Sylvan Dale Ranch Jan. 8-10

image001If you’re at all concerned about the food we eat and how we grow it, you’ll want to attend this special workshop with Mark Shepard, acclaimed author of Restoration Agriculture, on January 8-10 at Sylvan Dale Ranch.

Mark is one of the world’s foremost authorities on perennial eco-friendly agriculture.  Topics include soil restoration, multi-species grazing and water management, all keys to meet the challenge of sustaining Northern Colorado’s rich agricultural heritage in the face of unrelenting development pressure.

The program includes a site visit to Sylvan Dale’s Big Valley, where Mark will apply his concepts to a real-world project we’re calling “Living West.” It’s purpose is to establish collaborative enterprises in agriculture, housing and education that contribute to the preservation and rejuvenation of a 500-acre working landscape, sustained by renewable energy, recycled waste, and water conservation.image002

The workshop is sponsored by the Heart-J Center for Experiential Learning and Spring Kite Farm.  I hope you will join us by registering for this exciting event.  For the full schedule, click here.


David Jessup, Sylvan Dale Ranch


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Time to bring the herd down from the back country


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Tour of Historic Sites from the novel Mariano’s Crossing

Book Tour Group at Red Ridge

Book Tour Group at Red Ridge











Please join David Jessup for a fun and informative presentation and tour that explores the real-life people and places that inspired his award-winning historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing.

We’ll begin with breakfast at Sylvan Dale Ranch, followed by a presentation and a walking tour of the ranch grounds, including Indian tipi rings and the remains of the original Alexander homestead dugout in the riverbank, which was exposed during the 2013 flood.

Next, we’ll take a driving tour and visit the site of the old Weldon School, the Medina Cemetery, Namaqua Park (Mariano’s original Crossing), and Red Ridge, the novel’s imagined location of John Alexander’s hideout and Lena’s secret gravesite.  We’ll enjoy a boxed lunch on Red Ridge and wrap up our tour with wonderful views and a group discussion.

The Red Ridge segment of the tour will require carpooling in four-wheel-drive vehicles, or some may choose to climb the last half-mile on foot (calculate a half-hour fairly steep hike up an old quarry road bed).

COST:  $68.00.  Includes breakfast, lunch and all tour activities.

REGISTRATION:  On-line at, Or send a check to Heart-J Center, PO Box 150, Masonville, CO 80541, with “HJC book tour” in memo line.

Register by September 18.  Tour limited to 30 people.

Questions?  E-mail, or call (970) 481-8342.


9:00 AM  Breakfast in the Sylvan Dale Heritage Roundup Room.

9:30 AM  Historic photo slide presentation:   Mariano’s Crossing – From Fact to Fiction.

10:00 AM Walking tour of main ranch grounds, including the original William Alexander Homestead, the original bridge location, old barn, Indian tipi rings, and view of Mt. Alexander.

11:00 AM  Depart for driving tour, car caravan to the Weldon School ruins, Marianna Butte, Medina Cemetery, and Mariano’s Crossing near Namaqua Park.

12:30 PM.  Lunch on Red Ridge, the “Hideout,” overlooking the river valley below.


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Review – The Home Place, by Carrie LaSeur

The Home Place, by Carrie LaSeur

This book has it all:  an amazing combination of mystery, romance and family dysfunction, with dark secrets from the past.  Above all, it’s an ode to kind of pull that brings you back to the place you grew up, even after you’ve tried to leave it.  I have felt this pull myself drawing me back to our family ranch in Colorado.

In this case, The Home Place is a ranch east of Billings, Montana.  The author has a gift for evoking its hold on her protagonist, Alma, a successful young Seattle attorney who has tried to escape it.  Alma returns to Billings for the funeral of her drug-abusing younger sister, Vickie, who has died under mysterious circumstances.  During the next six days, Alma tangles with an unscrupulous oil developer trying to acquire her family’s home place, a brutal uncle and his sickly wife, her gay brother, and her degenerate sister’s circle of unsavory friends.  As she works to solve the mystery of her sister’s death, she must find a way to take care of her seven-year old orphaned niece, and choose between her Seattle boyfriend and her Billings high school sweetheart, a rancher named Chance Murphy.

Carrie LaSeur is adept at weaving back-story into the unfolding present in a way that doesn’t detract from the drama.  As an author myself, I was captivated by the way she uses gestures and expressions to convey emotion and by her use of images like this one describing tough frontier women as winter aspens,bare of ornament, stark, giving the appearance of death, yet green and resilient at the core, and tied to the place and the people with a vast network of unseen roots.”  And her opening lines personifying the cold in Montana gave me, well, chills.

I couldn’t disagree more with the reviewers who dismiss this book as a romance novel disguised as literary fiction.  It’s got a bit of romance, to be sure, but it is so much more than that.  I give it five stars.


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Little Sleepyhead, by Elizabeth McPike

Here’s a book for the little ones.  A sweet, bedtime story to read to one, two and three-year-olds.  It’s gentle rhymes are the kind of verse that when repeated, will pop back into children’s heads after they are grown up.  We sent the book to our new grandson, Orion, and can’t wait to read it to him when we see him next.

Liz McPike is a friend of ours who for many years served as editor of the American Educator.  She has a great sense of what works in early childhood education, and has brought that knowledge and experience into this charming little book.

David and Linda Jessup

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Book Tour by Laura Pritchett

One of my favorite authors may be coming your way. If you live in any 51sZLbsMZLL._SL160_of the cities listed below, be sue to attend Laura Pritchett’s reading and book signing event. She’s a prize-winning author from northern Colorado, and is a neighbor of ours. Two of her previous books are among my favorites: Hell’s Bottom, Colorado and Stars Go Blue. Many of the same characters populate both stories, including an Alzheimer’s victim to tries to avenge the murder of his daughter before his disease makes it impossible. Very gripping. I haven’t yet read her new book, Red Lightning, but it sounds great as well: a woman who abandons her baby daughter to smuggle illegal aliens seeks redemption.

June 20, 5 pm, Skylight Books Los Angeles, CA 
June 26, 2 pm, BookPeople of Moscow, Idaho
June 27, 7 pm Auntie’s Books, Spokane, WA
June 28, 3 pm, Elliott Bay Books, Seattle, WA
June 29, 7:30 pm Powell’s Bookstore Hawthorne Portland, OR
July 1, 7 pm,  Book Bar, Denver, CO
July 13, 7 pm, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
July 14, 7 pm, Powerhouse Arena, Brooklyn, NY

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Can you invent a term for what these pigs do? Enter our Naming Contest Today!

Unloading the pigs in the pasture


When Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm put his pigs to work making compost out of the manure and wood chips in his barn, he coined the term, “Pigerator” to describe what they do.

We need a new term to describe the work pigs are doing to one of our pastures at Sylvan Dale Ranch.

The pasture is an unproductive swath of sod-bound fescue just south of our Big Valley Lakes. The forage lacks variety because the fescue chokes out any other plants that try to sprout there. Our cattle graze it every year, but the soil is compacted and the growth is meager. This pasture badly needs regeneration.

The traditional remedy is to spray the old grass with herbicide to kill it, then plow, disk, harrow, reseed, and fertilize, then let the new pasture grow for a year to get established. Unfortunately, this method harms soil fertility. As an alternative, we tried mob grazing with cattle. By packing a large number of 1300 lb. cows into a small area of pasture, we hoped the churning impact of cow hooves would damage the fescue enough to allow a new seed mixture, broadcast on the ground and “planted” by the cows, to germinate and add some variety to the pasture.

It didn’t work. That fescue sod is tough!

Enter the pigs, courtesy of Spring Kite Farm, a new Sylvan Dale agri-partner. Michael Baute and Meghan are young farmers based in Ft. Collins, Colorado. For several years they have successfully grown vegetables to supply local customers and restaurants, and were looking for more land to lease in order to expand operations and introduce pigs, chickens and goats into their mix of offerings. Sylvan Dale Ranch raises grass-fed, grass-finished beef, along with enough hay to fuel our horse heard and get the cattle through the winter. Why not join forces with Spring Kite Farm and together, create a truly holistic, comprehensive agriculture operation?

At some point during these discussions it dawned on us that pigs might be able to do what the cows couldn’t: churn up the pasture enough to weaken or destroy the fescue as a prelude to re-seeding. Pigs don’t just graze, they root. Those amazing snouts might turn enough soil and gobble up enough of those pesky fescue rhizomes to open up the sod for new plants. Worth a try. We decided to start small to see if it works

You can see the results in this video Pretty impressive, we think. Pigs doing the work of machines. What should we call them? What should we call the work they are doing? We’ve started googling synonyms for “plowing” and for “pigs” to come up with ideas, but we haven’t got there yet. Here’s where you come in.

We invite you to a naming contest! Use the “Comments” feature on this blog to send in your entry. A distinguished panel of judges will select the winner!

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Mariano’s Crossing Tour – View from Red Ridge


Was this ridge the secret grave site of Lena Medina, the fifteen-year-old daughter of Loveland’s first settler? According to David M. Jessup’s historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing, the beautiful young girl could have been buried in a place like this after her distraught Indian mother stole the girl’s body from their home on the Big Thompson River.

Thirty participants visited this site during the May 17 tour of historic sites depicted in the book.

“Wow! What a ride and what a beautiful place,” said one participant after ascending to the cliff top.“ Another said, “it was a very special day for all of us. David Jessup was so knowledgeable of the history of the ranch and of course of his book.”

The tour, sponsored by the Heart-J Center for Experiential Learning at Sylvan Dale ranch, began with brunch in the ranch dining room followed by a walking visit to the original ranch homestead next to the river. Other sites included the restored Medina cemetery, the old Weldon school, and Namaqua Park, location of the original stage stop and trading post established by Mariano Medina in 1858.

The tour was sold out several days in advance, and a waiting list established for the next tour, to be scheduled sometime in September. To get on the wait list, contact To purchase a book, visit

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The Reporter Herald posts an article on upcoming historical tour

History and fiction combined in tour of Mariano’s Crossing

By Jessica Benes

Reporter-Herald Staff Writer

POSTED:   05/13/2015 03:31:40 PM MDT


Mariano’s Crossing

“Mariano’s Crossing” is available at or on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. His next book, a prequel to this one, is almost reading to be published.

Find out more about the tours at

David M Jessup surveying flood damage at Sylvan Dale Ranch

Standing on the bridge over the Big Thompson river where the road was washed away by flood waters, David Jessup, owner of Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, talks with a man surveying damage Thursday, September 26, 2013 in west Loveland. The guest ranch sustained heavy damage in the Front Range flood. (Lilia Munoz / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

In David Jessup’s story, “Mariano’s Crossing,” he uses history and creative fiction to answer the “why” of many mysteries in Mariano Medina’s life.

Mariano Medina was one of the first settlers in the area before Loveland was Loveland.

History is full of holes. There were rumors that Medina’s wife, Takansy, stole their daughter’s body, who died at 15, and buried it in a secret place. There were rumors that Medina tied his son onto a horse and that his son died that way. There were rumors that Medina shot a man off a ladder while the man was working on his roof.

Jessup, who owns Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch with his sister, Susan Jessup, will host a tour on Sunday of historic sites used in his book.

Visitors will take a walking tour of the main ranch and look at a site of Indian tepee rings and a wall that was part of the original homestead of William Alexander, who settled with his family on the property in 1864. The wall used to be beneath a lodge that was destroyed by the September 2013 Front Range flood.

The tour will also include a drive to the site of the old Weldon School and to the Mariano Medina Cemetery near Namaqua Park. Jessup will also show viewers the location behind the Big Thompson School that he used in his book as the fictional burial site of Lena Medina and John Alexander’s hideout.

“We did a previous tour back in the spring of 2013. There was so much demand for it that we scheduled another in September 2013,” Jessup said. “Then, you know what happened in September 2013.”

The flood that came down the Big Thompson River dug out a big chunk of the Sylvan Dale land and took out several buildings. The ranch is back on its feet but can only serve half the people it used to. The ranch used to have lodging for 60 people for overnight stays and now are at around 30.

Jessup said the tour is available for only 30 people but they are compiling a waiting list for more tours at a time and date to be determined.

“Mariano’s Crossing” is available at or on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. His next book, a prequel to this one, is almost reading to be published.

Jessica Benes: 970-669-5050 ext. 530,


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May 7th – Mariano’s Crossing – Loveland’s First Family, Fact and Fiction

Join author David Jessup for a virtual journey into post-gold rush Colorado, when Mariano Medina, a Mexican trader, became the richest man in the Big Thompson valley. What caused the mysterious death of Mariano’s daughter, Lena? Why did Mariano’s Indian wife steal Lena’s body from their home? These questions, and more, will be explored in depth using historic images from the museum’s collection. Contact: David Jessup at (970) 481-8342.

Mariano's Crossing Book CoverDavid-JCost:          Free

Time:         5:00pm-6:00pm

Location:   Loveland Museum/Gallery, 503 N Lincoln Avenue, Loveland

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