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Advice on a 40 acre farm in Cheyenne, WY

Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 997
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
ok, heres a couple pictures taken from google maps and edited in paint

one is with planned areas, the ones that aren't labeled have no plan at this point i will come up with something eventually but right now im in the begginning planning stages, the marked out ponds are just kinda put in where google maps showed sloight depressions, i haven't been out there in a while and normally when i do go out there its all just getting stuff at or dropping stuff off at the shop there within the owner's area

the wild's preserve may not be very wild as is who knows but i figured i might just leave it there as is
the owner of the land(my uncle who i will be leasing the rest of the land from) wanted the lower right section left alone so he could design a home

the land itself is pretty much just flat, super windy land, dry for the most part, an average rainfall of 14.1 inches and average annual snowfall of 60 inches, this winter hasn't had much in the way of snow
average summer temp is 73F
average winter temp is 23F
i have witnessed as high as ninety something and as low as -36F or so, 40 something below with windchill
there are occassionaly tornadoes every few years but for the most part just extremely high winds
it is considered a semi-arid climate, this property is more sever climate than intown, in town is supposedly zone 5 but even outskirts are much more like zone 4
it looks on google as if there was once a field there of some sort, i think hay but im not certain
the soil is pretty sandy and in the draw the bottom is pretty much just sand thats been deposited, so sealing ponds is gonna be interesting i believe, but possible
this is all tenative plans for the final layout of the land

most straight lines are either pipelines between ponds or wooden troughs for water to run through with the exception of the property line of course
the draw runs through our land not just in it so the actual draw itself cannot be dammed or anything as we dont want to interfere with other peoples water rights, hence why i thought i'd probably just leave the part of it that runs through the west arm of the property alone for wilds preserve, on the right i am damming before the water runs into it and for the stream that runs from the large pond to the small one north of it i am running pigs through to make the soil good for a stream and then building a swale to the downhill side of it so that the water doesn't need to run through the draw at all and the lower(north) dam will be dammed before it hits the draw, leaving it to run just as it always has

concerns are
1. that i cannot effectively seal the ponds if there is too much sand in the soil
2. if the ponds are all figured out then the debate between me and my uncle is whether we should construct so that wind blows over as much of the pond's surface as possible for maximum gas exchange, or if we should block wind to the ponds to prevent evaporation and keep what little water there is on the land trapped in.
3. i plan to do a small field based on a mix of three sisters planting techniques and backtoeden mulching techniques, the three sisters inspired field will have way more than just 3 varities of plants in it, thats simply the basis for the design, now the only place where i will have a reduced wind this summer will be in the draw that originates on our property (and currently feeds the draw we will avoid damming) however there are two problems with this location, one is that every few years the rains hit hard and the draw is pretty much washed out, making planting there somewhat risky, my secondary concern is that i will be improving this soil only to remove it in a year or two when i dig out the pond

i will post another picture of what i plan to do this year in the next post


[Thumbnail for planned areas for property.jpg]

[Thumbnail for property outline.jpg]

[Thumbnail for waterway plans for property.jpg]


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Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 997
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
here is a quick edit of this years planned plantings the dark grean is the planned windbreak
and the light green is the planned three sisters garden, probably not to scale but general area i was wanting to work, nto withing the ponds planned area but i may move it after discussing with the property owner, we'll see


[Thumbnail for first year plantings.jpg]

mike mclellan


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 75
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
    
    3
Devon, I applaud your ambition to turn that short grass prairie into a more diverse area. Having lived in central Wyoming for over thirty years, I know you have some severe challenges on your hands. First, and foremost to my thinking is how to slow down, deflect or modify the wind. For those who haven't experienced Wyoming, you have almost no idea how hellish the wind blows for days at a time almost any time of year and there is invariably a breeze to gale almost daily anywhere in the eastern half of the state south of the Bighorn mountains. I would suggest spending your efforts for the first few years in establishing windbreaks, especially to the west and southwest of any and all features. Your picture, if oriented with north to the top only shows windbreak on the north side of the property. I realize some heavy winds come out of the north during winter storms BUT the prevailing winds are from the west and southwest so I would suggest placement to modify the prevailing winds. I know there are some good examples north of Cheyenne and some experimental plantings of windbreaks up around Chugwater next to I-25. The people at the Cheyenne Botanic Garden have taken over management of the old USDA High Plains Experiment Station north of Cheyenne. They may be able to provide you with some insight as to species you could use. I know a few of the plants that survived after the decades of neglect were used to create new ornamental species by High Country Gardens in Santa Fe and the Denver Botanic Garden.

I would suggest your windbreaks be designed such that you capture as much blowing snow as possible. You know how huge the drifts get in the area but that's FREE water. That or incorporate some snow fencing to assist in your windbreak growth.
How deep do you have to go to water? I know a friend who installs yard sprinklers for the McMansions north of town there and he told me that many of the "shallow" wells produce only a very few gallons per minute. I know you have the Ogallala aquifer in your area but it's down a ways and how deep can you reasonably go for water? I know it's not used by Wyoming farmers like it is for heavy irrigation further east and south of Wyoming. Will you plan to irrigate certain areas, at least in the beginning?
I know from my work experience with the BLM (many moons ago) that lots of people in the state seal their ponds with bentonite. Is this a possibility for you? My personal thought on pond siting is don't let the wind low across more surface than necessary. I believe your pond(s) will get plenty of agitation/aeration with those insane winds even if every pond is heavily sheltered by shelter plantings. Design to reduce evaporation. I decided that in Wyoming, it was the wind, not the cold that was the absolute controlling factor as far as plant growth went. The drying effects are so severe.
I wholeheartedly agree with your wood chip mulching idea but remember you've got to keep that stuff in place in the beginning so slow that wind down.

Best of luck. I hope my thoughts weren't insulting. I spent a LOT of time in eastern and central WY and love the place.
Devon Olsen


Joined: Nov 28, 2011
Posts: 997
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
    
    6
thank you for the response
the plan is to eventually have trees all over, especially being that even tall trees only work for 200-300 ft or so i believe, so that windbreak drawing was just this years planting plans
which also lead to a question of directly sowing the tree seeds in a thick mulch layer on top of soil, is this plausible?

and yes the wind gets terrible, 3-5 of the last 7 days have been bad enough that I-80 has been closed due to the wind from RS to Cheyenne...
on the snow drifts yes that is definately something i would like to do, they get very big sometimes, so lots of water, the question i suppose is how i go about that because its not all on one level and a swale may not work so well, so a big HOW?

there is a well on the property now near the shop, not sure how dep it goes, maybe 150-250ft or so? but it gets good flow, not planning on irrigating though i was thinking i would water the beds after planting to help with germination and then let mulch do its thing, with the widow water pumps on the ponds that will eventually be there, a few gallons a minute may be ideal in that i am not trying to drain any shallow wells in the area, simply attempting to help keep the water there, some of the pumps function only to pull pond water from lower ponds up to some the higher ponds
thank you for the advice on the wind surface, my uncle feels the same and you may just be right, besides ponds are much more enjoyable if there isn't a killer wind bitin your face off while you fish

good point on keeping the chips in place, what about lining the beds every few feet with boulders if i can get them(not too implausible for me at this point) to trap heat and raise the wind up above the beds?

this first year i plan on just planting some annuals and some windbreaks, the seeds for which will cost about 400-450 dollars altogether
bentonite may eventually be a plausible business idea, but i have no idea how likely that is until i have made some money this first year and have some idea on what to expect, i would like to know how to seal a pond without it though preferably, you know the less input the better for substaining business without having to charge customers more, being as sandy as the soil is though clay liner may be the only option

again thanks for the advice, nothing insulting to me one bit, but all of it seemed helpful, just to get other opinions wieghed in on the matter

mike mclellan


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 75
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
    
    3


good point on keeping the chips in place, what about lining the beds every few feet with boulders if i can get them(not too implausible for me at this point) to trap heat and raise the wind up above the beds?


Have you seen the landscape netting used to hold mulch (usually straw) in place. It's used a lot in WY and I would guess other windy places. I've seen it commonly on road ROW reseeds and oil/gas pipelines in the state. Boulders would be interesting to try but remember the wind will increase in any and all gaps between rocks and will tend to scour away the chip mulch.

"which also lead to a question of directly sowing the tree seeds in a thick mulch layer on top of soil, is this plausible? "

My personal tendency on seeding for your windbreak would be to plant seedlings and provide protection until they are up an going a bit. That's what I'm doing up here in MT where I live now. Not nearly as windy in the Helena area but there's enough wind to make it worthwhile to set up some windbreaks here, too. I just know how nasty that wind is around Cheyenne and how it could in a very short time remove any mulch not almost nailed down and there goes your seeding effort.

on the snow drifts yes that is definately something i would like to do, they get very big sometimes, so lots of water, the question i suppose is how i go about that because its not all on one level and a swale may not work so well, so a big HOW?


Would constructing sort of a modular snow fence be workable? You could put it up for a couple of years in area A until your woody vegetation is clearly established, then take it down and move it to the area B to capture snow there. I'm not familiar with any particular design, but I'm guessing there are people on this forum or even people in the area around you who are handy and could help in the design. Just a thought.

Be sure to check with your local extension agent. He/she may have some good advice as well. UW has a sustainable ag program now and someone over in Laramie might be able to help with some
ideas especially concerning getting your plantings established. If your uncle knows an old railroad section gang type, they might have some good advice about snow fencing. Those ones along the UP line are huge and tough as can be. It may even be possible to get a shop class at Central, East or Cheyenne South to help build some movable snow fence. You provide the materials and they provide the labor. The kids get experience in doing something practical. Hope this helps.

Go Pokes!
Danielle Venegas


Joined: Jun 13, 2014
Posts: 73
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
This is super old, I know. How is it going? Not a lot of permaculture happening in WY. I'm in the same general area as you, Burns. We have NO running water through our property though. So I was wondering how yours was going along.

P.S. I use rock as mulch. It's the only thing I can get to stay in place.
 
 
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