How an anarchist commune for queer people grew a haven in conservative rural Colorado

via The Denver Post

CUSTER COUNTY — Two sets of headlights headed straight for the geodesic dome house that serves as the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch’s headquarters.

Outside in the deep dark of Colorado’s Wet Mountain Valley, the people who live at the ranch prepared to defend their home.

For weeks, they had received threats online and warnings from others in the area that the rhetoric against the leftist, anarchist alpaca ranch commune for queer people had intensified. The day before, March 4, someone aggressively tailed the ranchers’ truck down the washboard county dirt road as they drove home. The ranchers thought the headlights could be those people coming to harm them. They grabbed their guns.

Then the headlights swerved away. It was the neighbors coming home down their dirt drive, which follows the alpaca ranch’s fence line for a bit.

The Tenacious Unicorn Ranch stood down, relieved.

“I think that moment proved that this is home,” said Penny Logue, one of the ranch’s founders. “We were ready to defend it.”

J Stanley gets close to young ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

J Stanley gets close to young alpacas inside the barn at the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch outside Westcliffe on April 13, 2021. The crew at the ranch are always armed.

For about a year, the Tenacious Unicorn ranchers have called home a 40-acre plot of hardscrabble land about 20 minutes south of Westcliffe, the seat of rural Custer County, population 4,700. About nine people live on the ranch at any given time, though that number changes as people come and go from the property.

Logue and her business partner, Bonnie Nelson, created the ranch as a place where queer people can live and work safely and without fear. Along with the human occupants, the property is home to about 180 alpaca, a few dozen ducks and chickens, a herd of gigantic Great Pyrenees dogs, a flock of sheep, a few goats and a handful of cats.

“The birth of the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch was really in response to watching the trans community get hammered under the Trump administration,” Logue said. “We wanted to make somewhere where queer people could thrive — not just escape, but actually do something. We wanted to build community.”

The ranchers love the valley and Westcliffe. The community has been welcoming and incredibly helpful, they said. But after stories about the ranch appeared in High Country News and on Denver’s 9NEWS, they have received online threats and faced increased in-person harassment, they said. In one 48-hour period in early March, they were followed in their truck and caught armed people trespassing on their property twice.

The harassment prompted increased security measures, like cameras, lights and the ongoing installation of 1.5 miles of 6-foot fence around the entire property. But it hasn’t changed the group’s mind about settling in the conservative ranching valley. When they felt threatened, their neighbors offered help.

“We’re a haven for a vulnerable group of people, so it’s doubly important that it’s safe,” Logue said. “It’s not a normal occurrence for queer people to just have exclusively queer space.”

Penny Logue, founder and owner, bottle ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Penny Logue, founder and owner of the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch, bottle feeds hungry lambs under the light of a heating lamp on April 13, 2021. The ranch, located outside Westcliffe, raises Alpaca, sheep, goats, lambs, ducks, and chickens. Penny Logue founded the ranch about 13 months ago.

Sixteen-hour days

Logue and Nelson chose the valley as their home because it was affordable and would support their dream of a working farm.

They moved in March 2020 from a ranch they were leasing in Larimer County after falling in love with the dome house property. Every day they watch from their home as the sun and clouds play on the jagged Sangre de Cristo mountain range, in all of its moods. At night, the sky is so dark they can see the stars’ colors.

The group shares food, a bank account and chores. Ranching is hard work, said Logue, who grew up on a Colorado farm. Animals must be fed, poop scooped, fences mended. Sixteen-hour days are normal. There are many sleepless nights, like when the ranch’s lambs were born in the middle of a cold snap.

Shearing the herd once a year yields nearly 2,000 pounds of wool, which they turn into yarn to sell. They also pick up work from other ranches or communities, like digging fences or cleaning out barns. Nelson worked for a bit as a driver for an Amish man. They also raise money online.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Bullet proof vests, and other armament lays on the couch inside the main house on the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch in Westcliffe on April 13, 2021.

In their downtime, the ranch residents cook and eat together in the dome house, filled with food, manuals on alpaca health and bulletproof vests adorned with patches showing a rifle on the trans pride flag.

The walls in the main room are bedecked with several large rifles, a 5-foot sword and pride flags representing some of the identities of the people who live there: non-binary, lesbian, agender and asexual. There’s also a red-and-black flag stating, “Sometimes antisocial, always antifascist.” New people arriving at the ranch cry with relief sometimes when they see the flags hanging, Nelson said. It can be tedious living in a world where people see you as “other.”

“We all want to get away from everything because there is so much pressure and stress brought up by just existing,” Nelson said.

The ranch can especially be a safe place for transgender people who are transitioning and who may not want to be in the public eye during the process. Logue said she worked during part of her transition and was met with stares and many questions.

“Having worked retail from beginning to mid of my transition, I can tell you that the world is not kind,” Logue said. “It is unpleasant to be in the public eye during your transition. Offering a place to do that privately is really important. And who doesn’t want to be surrounded by alpaca all the time?”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

A lone alpaca stands on a hill in a field at the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch outside Westcliffe on April 13, 2021.

“An old-school conservative Christian county”

On top of the stress of raising herds of animals, the ranchers have navigated a tension between the ranch and some of the valley’s residents that began after a Fourth of July parade in Westcliffe.

In town that morning running errands, the ranchers saw people carrying Confederate flags and banners with the logo of the Three Percenters — one of the prominent anti-government militia movements in Colorado that is classified by the Anti-Defamation League as far-right, antigovernmental extremism.

The ranchers later posted on social media denouncing the flags, which made people angry. Then, in the High Country News article published in January, Logue called the event a “fascist parade.”

Penny Logue for a portrait while ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Penny Logue stands with her AR-15 near the barn on the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch outside Westcliffe on April 13, 2021. She also carries an FN Pistol around her leg.

The Sangre De Cristo Sentinel — a weekly conservative publication in Westcliffe — republished the magazine story but included lengthy editor’s notes at the beginning and end. The notes, written by publisher George Gramlich, called the ranchers a “hypocritical bunch of hate-filled xenophobes” and said the article was “very, very disturbing.”

In an interview Wednesday, Gramlich walked back some of the language in the note and said the article was generally well done and that the Tenacious Unicorn ranchers are good people. When asked which part of the story he found disturbing, Gramlich pointed to the quote calling the Fourth of July parade fascist. That sentence felt like an attack on the community as a whole, he said.

“There could have been a Three Percenter flag there, but basically people can bring their own flags,” Gramlich said. “We’re not excluding anybody.”

Some in the community agreed with Gramlich’s rebuke of the comment, letters to the editor and social media comments show. Others disagreed.

“The article does not imply that the community as a whole is not good,” one Westcliffe resident commented on Facebook.

The Sentinel has also re-printed several transphobic cartoons and commentary pieces from websites like The Daily Signal and The Federalist.

“This is an old-school conservative Christian county. Folks here have never seen any folks like them before they moved in,” said Gramlich, who has lived in the valley for nine years.

The Tenacious Unicorn ranchers said the publication stirs up transphobic sentiment in the area, though they mostly try to ignore the articles. The backlash they’ve faced has also drawn people to their aid, they said.

Stephen Holmes, owner of Peregrine Coffee in Westcliffe, said much of the angry rhetoric toward the ranchers has come from “a small radical minority” that feels like they have more power in town than they do. Holmes and the Tenacious Unicorn ranchers have grown a friendship over the past year.

“I’m a Christian, I’m a minister, and I’m a Bible teacher,” Holmes said. “People might think that would provide a big gap between me and people like Penny and Bonnie, but there has not been that gap.”

“I think people should try to get to know them,” he said. “They’ve been extremely kind to me.”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Bonnie Nelson brings gasoline over the fence to fill the generator at the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch on April 13, 2021.

Last month, when the ranchers found the trespassers and were facing increased online threats, they asked for help. People from across the country came to the farm to provide guard services. For all of March, the ranchers and volunteer armed security guarded the property 24/7. The ranchers often wore heavy vests with bulletproof plates as they went about their chores and tried to leave the property as little as possible.

On Wednesday, Logue and Nelson still wore their handguns as they worked around the property, even though the tension had started to ease.

“Doing what we do, people are going to hate us,” Nelson said. “If you’re doing things right, the right people are going to hate you.”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Penny Logue brings out a bag of feed for dozens of alpaca at the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch outside Westcliffe on April 13, 2021.

Nationwide expansion

The vast majority of the community, however, have welcomed the ranchers, Nelson and Logue said. They’ve joined in with other alpaca farmers in the area to pool their fibers and have them processed in bulk to create hats and socks.

Logue and Nelson hope to expand the ranch so that more trans and queer people can live with them. The dome house already is filled with people.

“We can’t literally house every trans person in this country,” Nelson said. “They won’t all fit in this valley.”

The long-term goal is to help other queer groups start similar communes across the nation. Logue and Nelson envision helping other groups with downpayments, co-signing loans, teaching others how to raise alpacas and donating starter herds.

“I would love it if you could stay at a Tenacious Unicorn from California to New York and never have to stay in a cis hotel,” Logue said.

The group plans to soon fly three flags on the property: one representing the transgender community, one red-and-black flag representing anti-fascism and one pirate flag. They’re not interested in trying to hide who they are.

“We’re not leaving,” Nelson said. “We’re building our foundation stronger.”

J Stanley holds up her AR-15 ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

J Stanley holds up her AR-15 inside the main house on the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch outside Westcliffe on April 13, 2021. Behind her hang a variety of flags which include, from left to right, the non-binary pride flag, the lesbian flag, the agender flag and the asexual flag.

There are 38 Comments

Why single out "metal" bands? If my knowledge of Western popular music is correct, LGBTQ folk would be most likely form Emo-Techno bands, or in this particular rural situation, Techno-Folk or Acoustic Analog Emo-Folk?
Ironically, Metal genre band members are more likely to NOT own guns because they spend all their money on drugs and only experience paranoia when they are going through substance withdrawl, or have already died from gunshot wounds self-inflicted earlier on in their formative years.

Imagine enslaving hundreds of non-human animals, breeding them, violently shearing them against their wills and calling your space a “safe place” and calling yourselves anarchists.


speciesism is definitely something we need to confront. land projects are awesome, but we don't need to perpetuate domination-over domestication projects. re-wilding, growing medicinal herbs, permaculture, animal sanctuarys, etc. would be more in line with a biocentric anarchism in these days of mass habitat loss, mass extinction and climate crisis.

It's been fairly established that domestication predates sedentary civilized lifestyles. This started with domestication of dogs, then horses where they existed. Cats could have been around since humans exist. Domestication of birds appears to be very old as well, even tho I find any caged house animals to be a rather digusting practice.

This current civilization is based on cars, and massive industrial animal exploitation.

I think there's a need to draw a clearer line between the ruthless, inhumane exploitation you got in the industry and scientific research (and now on fucking Youtube, as animal "experiments" vids have been a new fucked up trend lately), and some small-scale farmers or even ranchers whose living depends on building and maintaining a healthy relationship with animals.

A question's also gotta be asked on the issue of domesticating people (i.e. having children, and then students, employees, etc) or how it's better than

Are practices such as beekeeping also animal exploitation or just helping bee life in contexts where bee colonies are endangered by corn & soy monocultures? I know some urban civilized anarchos could go experience rural life a bit more just to see that domestication isn't one single thing regardless the context and intent.

there is no "healthy relationship with animals" if you are exploiting them. there is no anarchy if beings are being enslaved and used as resources. speciesism shines a light onto this hypocrisy.

let's just not pretend that it's one thing when it really isn't.

I think that someone can use animals in a way that's respectful of their an example, you could milk cows that live happily and peacefully.

However, the issue in the end with the people in the article is they've got so many damn animals, and the only ones which are not exploited are the cats and dogs. I dont understand how this even healthy for the ranchers...large scale animal use is not something that appeals to me at all.

have you ever tried to milk a cow that is only producing enough milk for her baby to drink? or in your imaginary scenario is this a grieving, masochistic cow whose baby died in child birth and she requires humans to get all the milk from her because she cannot bear to have it in her body and wrote "please milk me before it goes to waste, dear human saviors," in the dirt with her tear filled face?

have you ever been used? did it make you feel happy and peaceful?

indeed there are many issues. however, anarchy including the exploitation of other beings is not one of them.


That doesn't say a whole lot. Have you ever managed cows for milk? I haven't, but I'm not moralistic (like Kevin tucker) who thinks that all domestication is bad or out of the question for anarchs.

I know that with milk cows you have to feed them more so they produce more milk, does that necessarily imply some sadistic control? I dont know. I have a cat and dog which I spoil and luckily where I live they seem to be pretty healthy and pleased with things. I can't "re-wild" them to the absolute, and it would probably be considered cruel and neglectful if I did.

"milk cows you have to feed them more so they produce more milk"

how much more ? what kind of food? where does that food come from? more importantly, how many people on the planet can sustainably drink milk and still have habitat for wild places, for forests, for clean water? who gets to decide who does and doesn't get to participate in the spoils of the earth? and what about the fact that the cow is not going to produce milk unless the are impregnated. what happens to the calf? what if the calf is male and cannot be raised for milk?

dig deeper.

"... sustainably drink milk..."

unless you are some green capitalist, how does make ANY sense to think about that?

You want me to dig deeper? How 'bout you dig deeper. The sustainability logic doesn't make any sense whatsoever to me. But what can i expect from internet trolls?

Calm down son, no one is coming to take your cheese away from you, someone just pointed out some facts and asked you to think about them. If trying to look at the interconnections and ramifications of things really doesn't make sense whatsoever to you, you might try addressing what was said and explaining your reasoning rather than reacting with 'No, you!'

that my cheese was under the threat of being attacked or stolen from me! DELUSIONS....DELUSIONS...

I checked my privilege and it's just fine!

As a rural anarchist I’d like to thank you for the reasonable comment and not another inane, uneducated, and baseless take on living with animals that aren’t house cats and dogs. Living with animals (mostly sheep, couple goats, rescued roosters, barn cats and couple dogs) it’s always comical to here animal welfare takes from people like the posters above whose only experience with animals is likely activist documentaries on YouTube. Monolithic thinking at its finest.

You make too many assumptions, friendo.

The alpaca farm in question is not a rescue. Rescues and sanctuaries are not what is being discussed. At all.

Maybe check yourself if humans who care about the welfare of non-human animals bothers you so much.

would not eating a plant qualify as "the exploitation of other beings"? or are you of the (ideological vegan) belief that life forms lacking a "central nervous system" do not qualify as "beings"? be you jainist?

here's the thing. plants and animals are different. one is not more important than the other, but differences matter. plants get their life source from the elements (sun, water, earth, air). animals, including humans, have to eat plants to get that life source. some animals are true carnivores and have to eat other herbivores, but humans are not. most plants actually want to be eaten as that is how they spread their seeds to reproduce. most often you do not have to kill the plant to benefit from its food offering, nuts, fruits, leaves etc. some plants live out their life cycle and then ask to be eaten. obviously i am not talking about industrial agriculture but natural lifecycle. compare this to the terror and pain inflicted when you kill an animal. and i believe plants are sentient and have intelligence and definitely qualify as 'beings'. like i said, just different.

"plants get their life source from the elements (sun, water, earth, air). animals, including humans, have to eat plants to get that life source. "

sorry to disagree, but as an animal, i am able to get sun, water and air (and earth) directly from their respective sources. of course turning those elements into food that will sustain me requires my effort. that effort might be growing particular plants, finding particular plants, or finding an edible animal - all done with the respectful knowledge that for me to live, others must die. if i kill another life form - be it plant or animal - i do so with respect and gratefulness. industrial food production is an abomination, regardless of what kind of food. living in balance with one's surroundings does not take only one form.

do you close your eyes and whisper “thank you for giving up your life innocent little animal that totally wanted to die to feed me so i don’t have to get my nutrients from plants” as you slit its throat in a totally humane throat slitting ceremony? does the spirit of the animal whose flesh you are consuming whisper back from the spirit realm, “no problem, anon 11:50. i’m so grateful you were respectful with my corpse!”?

when you go to heaven when you die, god will be so pleased with your respectfulness and give you magic powers and let you lead the gryffindor wizard club. in heaven. where everything is fine.

As I wrote that's the issue with industrial exploitation. Furthermore, while I always like cheese and ice cream, cows and their exploitation for milk was NEVER NEEDED. It's part of the colonial culture of having imported these bad proto-industrial practices from Europe, as well as introducing new plants.

Humans are meant to drink mother's milk, the very though of drinking from a cow or goat is kinda weird, lol. But as usual what's "normal" can't be "weird", according to normies at least. As for cheese, well there'd be a funny potential for babies to be used to produce it, as at a very early age their poo is really just cheese, or a digested and fermented mother's milk, and doesn't taste, look or smell anywhere like shit. Tho does that mean we should start exploiting babies for their cheese instead? Not sure...

But in my region you had plenty of small cow farms either transiting to corn crops or selling to corporate corn producers. How's that bad? Well, all bad. Especially for the bees either wild or domesticated.

Like the other commenter's saying, there are species who're fine with a level of domestication. Such as the bees, again, but also horses and donkeys, whose bodies are strong enough to pull or carry stuff and support humans.

Horses and donkeys also fucking LET YOU KNOW when they don't wanna do something, and they're tough nuts. I know it by experience. This is why the only choices for humans is either to build a good relationship with them -which includes a lot of communications and affection- along with a bit of conditioning, or to torture them with whips and heel spikes. The latter practices are controversial and were related to early colonial cultures and industrialization. A good horse rider earns the friendship of his familiar, and it's the same with other domesticated animals.

You don't do that with a car... even tho there's plenty of schizo normies treating their cars as it is was a living being.

15:39 hits it on the head. being in relationship with other beings of ANY species is a prerequisite for a balanced life imo. seeing non-human life (whether plant, animal, etc) as either inferior or as a simple resource for consumption is appalling.

And I'm pretty sure there's still many farmers who don't see their domesticated animals as "inferiors", without having needed anti-speciesist books or lectures, even if they still might see them as a source of economic sustainability... which ain't totally cool.

Nevertheless, these "Horses and donkeys (also fucking) LET YOU KNOW when they don't wanna do something," acting as willing accomplices because according to you are cognitive being capable of thought) still powered numerous Empires to the heights of exploitation and warfare and along with their other hooved domesticated mammalian cousins contributed to the deforestion of the planet because of their preferrence for pasture land.

"still powered numerous Empires to the heights of exploitation"

No it didn't. Empires have invented the repressive means to subjugate and coerce horses into falling in line... militaries didn't "waste time" getting friendly and cozy with their horses. They were purchasing or seizing them from horse trainers who used the whip. They were domesticated by/for brutality just like guard dogs are.

Oh you pitiful yahoo specimen, don't you know that  Houyhnhnms are rational equine beings and are masters of the land, contrasting strongly with the Yahoos, savage humanoid creatures who are no better than beasts of burden, or livestock. Whereas the Yahoos represent all that is bad about humans, Houyhnhnms have a settled, calm, reliable and rational society.
We horses are the true conquerers of humanity!!

her baby didn’t die in child birth. her baby had the misfortune of being born male which is udderly useless to a dairy farm so he was sold to the anarchist veal farm commune down the road so her delicious milk could be extracted for human consumption. she was then kept pregnant through forced artificial insemination and her other babies suffered the same fate if male and if female they suffered her fate. when her body is spent she’s sold to the anarchist hamburger commune down the road to be ground up into delicious hamburger. her daughters continue the cycle of milk production for the anarchist dairy commune. rural farm life so magical.

The heterosexual llamas are castrated, not for ideological reasons, but because the quality of wool fibre is improved.

Man, the vegans/animal lib ppl are just KILLING yo asses in the comments this week!

i don't think in terms of animal liberation but in terms of total liberation. while of course this manifests in concern for more than human animals and vegan is a way to address that, it takes a larger biocentric view of all relationships in connection to the living earth. so trying to think holistically to better understand the bigger picture in terms of planetary biodiversity loss, extinctions, pollution, climate change and spiritual and cultural connections.

my grandparents lived with a handful of cows who they named after their children. the cows' milk was shared among the humans and the baby cows. when the cows got sick, they got ate.

i thought it was a great place to live, for humans and for cows, but NOPE - they should've just been desert-ifying the landscape growing soy instead! fuck you grandma!

or you could not grow soy or cows (equally as destructive ecologically) and just eat vegetables?

question: what did your grandparents cows eat? the majority of soy grown in the world is to feed cattle. so if they didn't grow soy then they likely imported it or other grain feed. if they grazed the land than they were definitely contributing to the desertification of the landscape that you seem concerned about. either way, it's unsustainable and destructive even on a 'free range' 'organic' scale.

sweet about naming the cows after their children. when your grandparents kids got sick did they get ate too?

"the majority of soy grown in the world is to feed cattle." ahem!

The big boost in soybean production occurred during WW2, as there was a huge need for mass production, but mass monocultural production just kept growing afterward... So the commenter's grandparents may or may not have fed their cows with soybeans... yet weeds and cereals were cheaper.

Just on top of my head...

#1) Animals doesn't need to be fed soy from brazil to produce milk.
The restructuring of ag in post ww2 era has reduced the numbers of animals and at the same time increased the amount of milk produced.
There are breeds of animals (landraces) adapted to foraging and roughage, which produces less milk, but with better fat and protein content (sheep, horses, goats, cows).
Oats and peas can also be grown on the farm to supplement the feed (or root vegetables) and help out with crop rotations.

#2) Animals can be reared with respect and care. They can also be kept lactating without an eternal cycle of calfing. Calves can be kept with their mothers, but restricted from drinking from the cows. Cows can be kept on pasture even in cold/freezing weather (they survived the iceage just fine) through proper pasture management.

#3) Animals doesn't need to compete with humans for food, but can utilize areas we cannot. They are also great waste recyclers.

#4) Proper animal care and pasture management can increase biodiversity. Meadows are a good example, so is pastured forests and mountains and hedgerows.

#5) Milking cows who are not intensively managed will live long lives. I've milked cows who were 18 years old. In industrial ag they live around 4-5 years.

#6) Mixed farming is a good idea - it is very resilient. Remove a globalised economy and industrial farming and you will have to source a lot of your foodstuffs locally. In cold, wet years the grass still grows and you still have animal products when row crops struggle. Wool is also a very nice on cold, wet days...

We need to eat much less meat, there is no question about it. In some places you probably don't need any. So in some cases veganism makes sense. But for some people and some places meat (wild or tame), fish and milk makes sense.

Why do they have all these guns around the llamas? Imma bout to call peta.

Yikes, I've heard there is a deadly llamavirus which can cross over from llamas to humans?

When their turn comes our alpaca brothers and sisters will make no excuses for the terror.

Blessed are the alpaca that burn your prisons to the ground.

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