Canyon Wren Farm is an organic farm located in Grand Junction, Colorado adjacent to the Colorado National Monument. This stunning location is perfect for all kinds of outdoor recreation: hiking, mountain and road biking, rock climbing, and skiing. At the farm stay, you will find repose with delicious home-grown sustainable food and generous hospitality.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

 two from the test site

two from between the dock and grass plants adjacent to test site

bacteria dominated soil, adjacent to test site,

2-15-2015 anaerobic alfalfa and Happy Frog samples

 two from the anaerobic alfalfa and goat waste.

Seven fields from the Happy Frog material.

soil test site II

 I had a pile of recycled greenhouse glazing here for 3 or 4 years.  Finally, I put it on craigslist at a very low price, and it was gone in 24 hours.  This is what was underneath, and I decided to get it seeded today.

The surface is pretty bare and dry.

I removed the posts, and sampled the soil below where the stack sat, and sampled the soil adjacent to where the pile was, in two places.  The first was dry annual weeds last year, the second in between a grass plant and a dock plant.  

I also dug a little hole to expose a view of the horizons, and took a sample from the bottom of the pit.

Later I looked at all the samples under the microscope.

 I mixed together and seeded oat, wheat, barley, alfalfa, red clover, blue gramma, white Dutch clover, and salad burnet.

Then I put a sprinkling of "Happy Frog" soil amendment / potting soil  over the top of the seeds.  The idea being that the fungi, nematodes, protozoans and bacteria will colonize the plot.

I need to cover the whole thing with some kind of mulch, just a thin layer, to retain the moisture.

Another need for protection, my friends the guineas.

 Here is the alfalfa the goats refuse to eat and of course have trampled and pooped and peed all over it.  It looked dry on top, but underneath it is wet.  It smells of ammonia.  That means it has been anaerobic, and I kept a sample of that too.

But I decided to use it anyway, though it may not have been the best idea.  I thought since it would not be anaerobic
anymore, and there won't be much of it.

Here is the goat material on the north half of the test plot
 Dry material, saw dust and alfalfa with minimal goat excrement mixed in.

Dry material used on south end of plot.

And, to keep the guineas off, and provide wind protection.

It is mid February.  Normally, the ground is still frozen, but not this year.  We've had spring weather for a month.

When the seeds germinate, I'll remove the pallets and posts, and move to the next place to get seeds started.

And when the seeds have germinated, and it seems safe, I'll sample the soil again and compare with the samples I took today.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I want them.  I planted and lost a couple of bare root trees about 6 years ago.  I don't think the soil was ready, nor was I.  I did not get the warm wall built to the south of them and they died.

Fall of 2013, I was able to get seeds from a woman who lives in Northern India.  She

got pomegranates grown in Kashmir.   Thank you Becky!

I germinated about a quarter of the seeds in the fall or 2013, potted them along.

Here they are in April.  Getting hardened off.  I put them in the sun every day, for increasing numbers of hours until I can leave them out all day.

If it gets really cold during this process, they stay in the greenhouse.

Click these photographs.  Most will get bigger, and show more.

I meant to get them planted out earlier, but this is what it was like when I was ready to plant them out.  We'd had our first frost.  The rust colored plant is a rose geranium.  The next dry thing, some dry grass, is vetivert, an other plant that does not like the ground to freeze.  Another sensitive plant sharing the mulch is lemon verbena.

    The pomegranates are actually planted in this mulchy fall plot:

See the dry twigs with yellowed leaves (above)?
With my shirt for contrast, they are more visible (below).

When the ground got a lot colder, I put another foot of mulch over the top, and I am hoping for the best...

What am I doing here anyway? spring 2014

I follow land stewardship practices which increase the fertility of the soil while crop production is underway,  practices that create richer soil each successive year, and in produce something to be harvested.
My goal is to enrich the soil, increasing complexity, productivity and stability of the soil community,  bacteria, fungi, protozoans, nematodes, microarthropods and earthworms,

To quote Joel Salatin, "Earth is not a reluctant partner, she will bequeath abundance if we will only help".

I am trying to help my light sand with clay.  My first baseline sample by Peter Donovan's Soil Carbon challenge showed less than one percent organic carbon.  There was also some carbon in the form of calcium carbonate, which carbon is not available to the soil microorganisms.

For six years prior to Peter's sampling, I grew as much biomass as I possibly could.  Mostly it was in the form of Kochia, Russian thistle, aka tumbleweed, bind weed, sunflowers and cheat grass.  Each year I stacked the dry material, hoping it would protect the earth below from the UV of the sun, the sere desert winds, and slow evaporation from the soil.  Most of it just waited there in piles, with out enough moisture to decompose.  It was not doing much enrichment.

I was of the opinion that animals would both disturb the surface and compact the soil, and as my first love is the soil, I wanted none of that.

I since learned of the theories of Alan Savory, and the restorative actions of the proper level of grazing.  I got a goat, and began to encourage more green biomass.   One goat was not enough.   That's where I am now, in the early spring of 2014, contemplating how to get more eating going on and more green biomass for the goats to eat.

To increase the fertility of the soil while a crop is in production, to generate more in the system than was carried away, I bring the goats in at the rate the feed is coming up out of the ground.  Their digestive tract is a sort of speed composting system.  In go fresh greens and the dry cellulose roughage (the stuff that still sits on the desert sand 6 years later), it is  fermented chewed and rechewed, and comes out 24 hours later moistened, finely ground, with microorganisms that contribute to the soil's microbiological community.

The goats will eat what ever there is to eat, and move every few days to a new piece of the field.   This year, it's likely I'll have to feed some wonderful non gmo organic alfalfa from across the valley.   The soil will have the benefit of the hay the goats don't eat, as well as the hay they DO eat.  When I am bringing in feed it is easy to see that the soil will have more at the end of the season than it did at the beginning.  In the meantime, I will be milking the goats, making chevre and feta, learning about the more complicated cheese making processes.

Soil Carbon Site Update photos

Last time I posted was July of 2013, after Peter was here for my baseline soil tests.

Yikes.  I forget  how to sign on, and get very frustrated.  Having figured it out again, I'll see how I do this time.

In case you are curious, here is a link to the report he posted, including photographs he took when he was here to test my soil.  Follow the link, at the bottom of the page enter CWF it has to be capitals), click "generate" right beside it beside .  Pause a few seconds, then scroll down, the report will appear beneath.

The pasture and soil are making great progress.

This is the study area in May of 2014,  Looking east.

And here it is in July of 2014, a year after I brought water to it, and seeded it.

I have plenty of manure, wood chips and such, and make use of them elsewhere on the property.  In this area, I am careful to not add carbonaceous material in the form of compost or mulch.

I seeded it, I've reseeded, and I've transplanted seedlings from other places, but I really want to see what plants can do.

I've put goats on to chew it up and trample it down, and leave their manure and urine.  I also heard Elaine Ingham speak about inoculating the soil with microorganisms, and made a few batches of soil microbe soup, and poured that on.  It's going pretty well I think.

These next photos are of different areas of the pasture/garden, but I had the same amount of vegetation in the study area. 

This is mid summer, before the goats moved in.

And here are the hard working doelings, eating everything.
This is late October, this area too was shoulder high and green.  Most of what is growing here is annual, at this point.  It looks like maybe I let them eat too much, but what is left here is dead sunflower stalks, and dead kochia. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Soil Carbon Project

Last winter after attending an ag conference, where I heard Fred Provenza speak, I found the soil carbon coalition website, and began to learn more about the connection between soil carbon and ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, and climate change.

In July Peter was here and took baseline soil samples.  I had him locate the test plot in the barest place in my field, as that is what I started with everywhere but the orchard and the original lawn.

Eventually, when he has time to update the website, you will be able to see my test plot on the day he took the first samples by clicking here.

Last week I gathered as much sweet clover seed as I could get from my plants and spread it in the area where I am planning to establish warm season grass and mixed pasture.  The soon to be pasture encompasses the entire sample plot for the soil carbon project.

Today I seeded big bluestem in that part of the field.  This post is just to record what I did.

First I cleared most of the weeds, made some creases, ran water, adjusted ditches and flow.

Today I scratched the surface, scattered seed on the down hill side of every crease, and the interior side of edge creases, and raked it to cover the seeds.

Then, because the literature says big bluestem likes it, I stomped it down, then ran water again, and again, and again.  I'm hoping to see germination in a week.  In warm weather conditions, it is important not to let the grass seed dry out, so its water, water, water.

The soil is warm enough for plenty of weed seeds to germinate, but few of the annual weeds will have time to set seed before frost.   Just in case they try it, I put out plenty of substitute weed seeds, purple amaranth, calendula, kale, arugula, radishes and a few others from my seed box. 

I have some more seeds to add, but I will wait to list them until they are in the soil.