KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Category: his thoughts (page 1 of 13)

Muscadines: Wild, Domestic, and Encouraged

There’s nothing quite like a fresh picked muscadine grape that has only traveled the distance from the vine to mouth via your hand. No sprays, waxes or added sugars necessary. These delicous fruits are a great pick for organic gardeners, and others interested in edible landscaping in the South.

Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) work so well here in North Carolina because they are our native grape. They are resistant to our most common pests and diseases, such as Pierce’s disease and Phylloxera which can wreak havoc on popular V. Vinifera cultivars like Merlot, Cabernet, and Chardonnay. While these familiar favorites can be grown in NC and other Southern States, you have to be careful with variety and site selection for your vineyard, and pay particular attention to rootstocks and soil characteristics before planting your backyard vineyard.

Muscadine Harvest

Fresh picked Muscadine Grapes

While planting muscadines on your property is definetly a productive option, wild muscadines are extremely common in our forests and woodland edges and are a great option for wildcrafters and foragers. In fact, this harvest of grapes was one we foraged from wild vines growing along the edge of our pond.

Wild muscadines tend to ripen over a period of a couple weeks in late summer/early fall, so it often takes multiple trips spaced out over time to gather the fruits from one vine. Of course you won’t get them all, and many birds and mammals will feast on the ones left behind or drop to the ground. On our farm, the free range ducks, chickens, and heritage turkeys relish these sweet treats as they fall from vines that can reach up to 60 ft tall in the canopies of oaks, hickorys, and pines.

Wild Muscadine Grapes

Wild Muscadine Grape Vine Ready to Harvest

Wild vines aren’t always the most productive, and the ones that are growing in mature trees are often too high to harvest anyway. The best vines are those that are growing along smaller trees and shrubs that are easily accessible to human hands.

Once you find a vine like this, one option is to tend to it like you would a planted vine. Selective pruning to remove dead wood and overgrowth of foliage, as well as some light pruning of nearby vegetation to let in some more light will help to ripen more fruit. Some vines can even be lowered onto supporting vegetation that is makeit easier to harvest these delicous grapes.

This type of “wild encouragement” is an easy way to increase fruit yields that benefit both you and nature. As long as you are careful, and make sure you aren’t messing around on protected property, this can be a very positive human interaction with the landscape.

Whether you’re planting improved varieties of muscadines or foraging from wild vines, these vigorous natives are delicous fresh out of hand, or in wines, jellies and jams. Happy picking!

What’s Up at KW Homestead? Animal Picture Edition

We are running full steam here at the homestead this Spring season! Between selling our free range Pekin duck and duck eggs at the Corner Farmer’s Market, kickstarting and expanding our garden, and getting ready to offer the most nutritious, delicious, truly free range chicken in Greensboro, time is flying by!

But so much is happening here, that we wanted to share some of it. This brief post will focus on the animals here at the homestead, a quick check-in with some of the stars of the show.

pot belly pigs on pasture

Our young weaner pigs getting moved to fresh pasture.

dexter cattle pasture

Ruby, our new Dexter momma checking things out.

dexter calf

Little Johnny is doing great! He loves running around and exploring.

freedom rangers on pasture

The Red Rangers are out of the brooder and out on pasture!

pasturd poultry greensboro

Our 2 African geese stand guard inside the electric fence and sound the alarm if anything goes awry. Or if they get bored.

Stay tuned for a plant update, and more details in the future!
And don’t forget to reserve your Free Range Chicken or Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey today!

What Do Free Range Turkeys Eat?

Our flock of heritage turkeys are getting bigger everyday and will be nice and plump when Thanksgiving rolls around. They spend their days free ranging and foraging the fields, pastures and woods of our farm, but what do they actually eat?

heritage turkeys greensboro

Free range turkeys enjoying the sun.

First off, we supplement them with the highest quality non-GMO feed available. They get a small amount in the morning, and a bigger ration when the sun starts to set to entice them back to the safety of their coop. Because we raise the slower growing, heritage Bourbon Reds, they aren’t as interested in the feed as a modern factory raised bird. They seem to prefer to forage for their food.

Our turkeys graze on green grass, clover, and other broad leaved plants. I have seen them devour a thick stand of pasture, and jump up to grab a midair bite out of 6 foot tall amaranth plants. They eat anything green, from chicory to plantain, and this helps to produce that wonderful rich flavor and the amazing health benefits of pastured poultry.

heritage turkey winston salem

Because our heritage turkeys are out on pasture for their entire life, they develop flavor that can’t be found in a supermarket.

In addition to the green portions of plants, they also eat a fair amount of seeds. Some they pick off the ground, and others the harvest directly from the plant. We have stands of lambsquarter, grain amaranth, sorghum, and chia, and I have seen the turkeys eat them all.

One thing they love are surplus vegetables from our organic garden. They seem to favor heirloom tomatoes above all else.

thanksgiving turkey triad

Searching for seeds and bugs.

But they don’t eat just plants while out on pasture. They also hunt and chase all sorts of insects and bugs. Grasshoppers are a rare sight on our farm now that the turkeys roam the fields.

And boy do they roam. While they spend a lot of time in the open pastures, they also range the wooded acreage too. Mature oak and hickory trees provide a hearty mast crop of acorns and nuts that the turkeys strong beaks and gizzards make short work of. This is another important aspect of their flavor development, and contributes to the terroir of all the animals raised on our property.

piedmont heritage turkeys

Reserve your free range bird today!

As you can see, your heritage thanksgiving turkey has been busy free ranging for both its food and it’s flavor. There’s still time to reserve your bird this year and lock in the special $7/lb. price. Please check out our heritage turkey page for more information on how to order.


On Catching Pigs (Almost)

We didn’t get him.

We came close, oh so close, but we didn’t get him. The pig that is.

His number has come up, and our plan was to isolate him for a few days before the deed was done, but after an exciting evening complete with blood, sweat , and tears, we didn’t get him.

silvopastured pigs

“Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Bacon should not be highly rated.” ~Thomas Paine


2015 Apple Harvest

Harvest season is upon us! In addition to the wild blackberries we put up, we harvested apples the other day from our somewhat deformed backyard Apple tree. This tree was planted by the previous owners of our homestead and forgotten to the point that it was almost completely engulfed by a massive honeysuckle vine.

Our first year here, it produced only a few small and tart apples that were eventually all eaten by deer, but after removing the honeysuckle and some heavy pruning, we were rewarded with a 32 pound harvest last summer.

This winter, I pruned it even more, and actually grafted some Roxbury russet scion onto a few potential leaders. Serious pruning of any fruit tree should be carried out over several seasons, so as not to shock the tree too badly.

apple harvest yield culls

our 2015 apple harvest, sorted and ready for processing

This year, we harvested a little over 40 pounds of apples. Now that’s not the 4-7 bushels that I talk about in my post on the value of a fruit tree investment, but it is a lot of apples for, other than a little pruning in winter, and 20 minutes of picking in Summer, essentially no input. No fertilizer, insecticide, fungicide, herbicide, or irrigation.

Now of these 40 pounds of apples, I’d say that only 15% are “grocery store” apples. That is nice and plump, with no blemishes, bruises, funny shapes or insect bites. We’ll eat these fresh and savor every bite.

the grocery store apples: blemish free and plump.

The rest of the apples will be processed and preserved. We are plan on drying/dehydrating them.  Of these apples, the non grocery store apples, most of them contain either a few minor defects, or 1 large defect. They also tend to be a bit smaller, and more oddly shaped. This doesn’t effect the flavor though and they should dehydrate fine. 70% of our apples fall into this category.

processing apples with minor defects, nothing major to see here

The next batch of apples have more serious defects, often a major soft spot that will effect its shelf life, or many medium sized defects. These apples are often small, and we are going to have to cut around the bad parts when we dehydrate them. They are still usable, but the yield of fruit on them is low. I’d say about 10% of the apples fit this category.

these guys are still usable, but the yield is low and they don’t store well

The last category are the culls. They’re pig food. These apples are either too small to mess with, or almost completely covered in defects and soft spots. Drops and rotten apples fall into this category and they will be fed to the pigs who will enjoy them thoroughly. The remaining 5% fall into this category.

culls. not worth messing with, a.k.a. pig food.

All in all not too bad, and we will definitely update you when we start dehydrating apples!

Cleanup Ducks

Our flock of Golden Layer and Cayuga ducks are a hungry bunch. They spend their days hunting bugs and nibbling on weeds in between twice daily feedings of our non-gmo feed.

feeding ducks

Some of our ducks, lining up to be fed

We keep them on a pretty tight diet, otherwise they would get a little too big and their egg laying would suffer down the road. As such, they are always on the lookout for a snack, usually a grasshopper or a bite of clover, but their ravenous appetite can be put to other use on the homestead.

turkey tracto

hungry ducks following and cleaning up after the turkeys

You see, our heritage turkeys are currently in a move-able tractor that we paddock across the pasture daily. They also get a ration of non-gmo feed, but they tend to waste a good bit of it, especially the smaller pieces. This is where the ducks come in handy. Because they are so keen on finding food, we can easily herd our flock to the recently vacated space left by the turkey tractor where they furiously search for and cleanup any leftover and wasted grain. They glean a fair amount of food value form the turkey leavings, which otherwise would go to waste.

A win-win for all!


Hickory Leaf Session Beer

 After a quick fermentation, my hickory leaf gruit, while still young, was ready for some tasting.

All in all, it’s not bad. Very drinkable, refreshing, and a definetly not overpowered by the hickory leaves that were used in place of hops. I’d say that the 5 ounces of fresh leaves were just enough to balance out the malt sweetness without imparting too much bitterness or off flavor. They let the yeast favors come through, some subtle fruitiness, a mix between Apple and apricot maybe.


hickor y leaves beer

hickory leaf session gruit brewed without hops

Now that I know that you can indeed produce beer from hickory leaves, I want to try pushing the envelope a bit further and see if I can brew a hickory leaf IPA with no hops. I may start off trying 1 pound of dried leaves, just to see if I can find the upper limit. 

The leaves on their own are not unpleasant, and have a grassy, meadowy, slightly tannic taste. I’m excited to see how this one ages, and equally excited to know that at least for simpler beer styles without a lot of hop character, hickory leaves are a fine bettering substitute for the homebrewer.


What’s Fermenting at Kuska Wiñasun Homestead?


But not your typical ale. This experimental concoction is relatively straightforward, save for one tiny detail. There are no hops in it.

hickory leaves beer

Amber ale with hickory leaves

Gasp! That’s beer blasphemy! Off with his head!

Hold on, lets talk this through. Now while I enjoy hops, IPAs, pale ales, and Double Dry Hopped Double IPAs  as much as the next craft beer enthusiast, they are not the only game in town. Hops are a relatively new innovation on the brewing scene, really coming into prominence in the last  500 years or so. Before that, brewers, brewsters, and alewives used different combinations of herbs and spices to bitter and balance their beer.

These “Gruits”, or herbal beers, relied on plants such as yarrow, bog myrtle, mugwort, wormwood, rue, rosemary, and heather to balance out the sweetness of fermented malt beverages. The history of gruit is a fascinating one that involves propaganda, the Protestant Reformation, and secret and sacred recipes that were passed down for generations.

While these herbs have a long history of being used in brewing, I chose a different avenue for my beer. Hickory leaves.

hickory leaves bittering homebrew

Fresh hickory leaves ready for the brewpot

I got the idea from Scratch Brewing, a small experimental brewery in IL that frequently uses foraged and locally farmed ingredients in their brew-house. They brewed up a few batches that used hickory leaves in place of hops for bittering. Seeing as how we have plenty of hickory trees here, and no hop vines yet, I thought it would be cool to experiment with them in a small batch of homebrew.

hickory leaf beer

Hops are just 1 of many plants that can be used in brewing

I ended up adding 5 oz. of whole, freshly picked hickory leaves to my 5 gallon batch. Green hickory leaves have a not unpleasant taste to them. They are slightly astringent, but clean tasting and “green.” We’ll see how this one turns out.

One note of importance: Hops are an excellent preservative in beer, so this beer won’t be able to be aged for any length time and will have to be drunk relatively quickly. I guess I can live with that.

How Much Feed and Water do Ducklings Need?

Now that you have your day old ducklings  in their brooder(seriously, aren’t they cute?)it’s time to feed and water them.

feed ducklings

baby ducks!

What to feed them?

We feed Non-GMO Starter, a 22% protein mash that provides all the nutrients and energy for fast growing baby ducks. We also like to throw in a chunk of sod from the pasture, to give them some exposure to soil microorganisms, grit, grass and bugs.

ducklings grass

learning how to graze pasture!

How much do they eat?

The rule of thumb for ducklings, and most other baby animals, is to give them free choice access to their feed for the first days/week. After this point, ducks that are being raised to breed, or for egg production, are best off being fed a restricted diet based on age. This helps to control excessive weight gain, which can lead to lower fertility and decreased egg production.

ducklings water

ducklings are very messy, the paper towels help somewhat to keep their bedding dry

Metzer farms has a great article on the daily feed/water consumption and manure output for ducklings based on age. According to this chart, our 67 ducklings should have eaten .5 lb of feed each over their first week of life, or about 33.5 lbs. total. Judging by whats left in the 50 lb. bag of starter, I don’t think they have eaten quite that much, but they were traveling in a box for 2 days, so that might have skewed the figures.

The chart also shows that each duckling will drink almost 1/2 gallon of water during their first week of life, and up to 2 gallons of water per week as they get older. I think that our duck nipple waterers help them drink more efficiently though.

ducklings funny

you talking to me?

As for manure output, after 1 week, ducklings deposit almost 1 pound each, and by 7 weeks they are dropping 7 pounds each per week! That’s a lot of fertility! Now, these numbers are “wet” numbers and are mostly water,but still, that’s pretty impressive.


*Tired of feeding chemical genetically modified chicken feed to your flock? Check out our freshly milled, non gmo layer feed!

Non GMO Duck Starter

What do you feed 67 day old ducklings?

Non GMO Duck Starter!

In this video our new ducklings give their opinion on our 22% protein Chick Starter feed. It’s high in protein and nutrients for rapid growth and development of goslings, ducklings, and chicks and made from 100% GMO free ingredients with no antibiotics or hormones.

If you are in Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Stokes or Rockingham county make sure to pick up a bag of the freshest Non GMO feed in the Triad. It’s duckling approved!

We also have layer, broiler/grower, pig, and any other livestock feed you can think of, as well as organic fertilizers and mineral supplements. Find out how to order here.

Older posts

© 2018 KW Homestead

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑