KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: ponds

Beware the Label “Free Range”

Everyone knows that poultry labeled as free range is better than poultry that isn’t, right?

Sadly, you might have to think again!

According to the USDA website, which controls and manages food safety and food labeling, all that is required of producers who raise meat labeled as “free range” or “free roaming” is that they must “demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”

So what does this really mean? It means that producers can raise their birds with less than 1 square foot of space each, they can raise them on a concrete floor, under fluorescent lighting, living on layers of their own poop, as long as they have “access to the outside.” Access to the outside can mean a small door that leads to a parking lot, a fenced in concrete slab, or a lovely pasture. You can see the problem here…

Free range or organic doesn’t actually say anything about how humanely the birds are raised, or whether or not they actually ever go outside and enjoy the sunshine, grass, and bugs.

Industrial chicken porch

This is a “porch” in a commercial poultry operation that counts as “access to the outside.” Image from

Your best bet as a consumer is to buy locally, and get to know your farmer so you can really be sure of how your meat and eggs are raised!

So what does the life of a truly free range duck look like here at KW Homestead? Check out the video below to see how they live…


Small Scale Catfish Pond Stocking

How do you stock catfish in small pond? Particularly one that’s not easily accessed from the road or driveway?

Most pond stocking companies offer delivery services for their fish, and have big hoses and tanks to get the fish into your pond. But because our recent batch of twenty five, 8-10″channel catfish was such a small order (they only cost $20), delivery wasn’t really an option. Luckily, the fish company is able to fill up some heavy duty plastic bags with water, and some extra O2. This gives you plenty of time for a short drive, and doesn’t stress the fish out too much in the process.

catfish stocking small pond

Carrying catfish in a plastic bag down to the pond

Once we got home, it was a simple matter of dumping out some of the excess water and then lugging a big ole pile catfish over my shoulder and down to the pond. The fish people had left their tanks open all night, and the water was nice and cold, so we didn’t bother acclimating the fish to our pond water. We just dumped them out.

small pond catfish stocking

almost there…


catfish small ponds

Free to grow and eventually turn into catfish sandwiches

All in all, a very simple chore, very doable for 1 person. each bag had about 12 catfish in it, so it took 2 trips (about 10 minutes). So,if your thinking about stocking your small pond with fish, be they catfish, bluegill, or bass, don’t worry about bagging them up and bringing them if you cant find someone to deliver them. This would work even better with smaller sized fish, and you could probably stock a decent sized pond entirely with bagged fish if you planned it carefully.

We only added the 25 larger catfish because our pond is in pretty good balance, with a somewhat high population of small bluegills and some larger bass.They seem to doing well, its hard to tell, but we haven’t seen any floaters since the pond was stocked 3 days ago.

The Catfish Have Arrived!

A big warm welcome to the 25 newest members of Kuska Wiñasun Homestead!

stocking catfish homestead

channel catfish are great fish to stock in small ponds for both meat and fun

Yesterday we picked up twenty five, 7-10″  channel catfish from Carolina Fish Hatchery and brought them back to their new home, our 3/4 acre pond.They were double bagged, given a shot of oxygen in their water, then placed in 2 of our big plastic totes while we drove home to release them.  They held up well during the hour drive, and so far there are no floaters at the pond.

With some luck, and a diet of small bluegills, they’ll be “eatin’ size” in no time! Stay tuned for more updates on how and why we stocked our small pond with channel catfish!


We finally got some duckweed! What’s duckweed, you ask? Duckweed is a tiny ,floating aquatic plant often found in lakes and ponds. It is considered invasive by some, and it will spread if left unchecked. In fact, under ideal conditions duckweed can double in size every 24-36 hours. It is extremely efficient at pulling nutrients out of water, so it is often found in small ponds with large catchment areas and runoff.

duckweed kiddie pool

duckweed growing in a kiddie pool

Duckweed can be used as both a fertilizer high in nitrogen, or as livestock feed high in protein. Chickens, rabbits, goats, horses, pigs and of course ducks will all nibble on duckweed. Fish, especially tilapia, will completely annihilate it, so it’s best to keep it away from them if you want any left to regrow. Duckweed is also used in greywater systems where it thrives on the high nutrient water, and is then composted to safely cycle the waste water.

duckweed homestead

duckweed can double in weight every 24-36 hours under ideal conditions

For now, we have our duckweed in a kiddie pool while we figure out a way to best utilize it. The goldfish in our hand dug pond have gotten a few snacks, and they love it so we need to figure out a way to keep it from being completely decimated. But we plan on using it as a supplemental source of protein for our laying birds, and as another way to cycle nutrients on our homestead. Duckweed!

Pan Fried Bluegill with Coconut Curry Sauce

I went fishing at the pond and the water was low and clear. I caught plenty of 12 inch bass, and a handful of nice sized bluegill. The bass were released to eat as many small bluegill as possible and encourage larger ones, but the hand-sized sunnies ended up in the frying pan. After a quick gut and scale, I sprinkled some salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika and curry on the fish and fried them in coconut oil until nice and crispy.

curry bluegill

Coconut Curry Bluegill with Jasmine Rice


I then removed the fish and added a lot more curry powder and some more coconut oil and fried some onion. Next came some green pepper and then a handful of our dried basil and some garlic. After this cooked a bit, I added equal parts coconut milk and chicken stock until I had a little more sauce than I wanted to end up with. I cooked this down until it thickened up a bit, then spooned it over the hot fish and warm jasmine rice. MMM… good.

bluegill curry

Yeah… It was good.

Bluegill, bream, perch, sunfish, or whatever you want to call them are some of the tastiest and sweetest whitefish around. It also helps that the best thing you can do for a bluegill population is to harvest as many as possible so that their growth isn’t stunted. So get out there with some worms and bring some bluegills home!

Micro Pond Update

We got some rain on Saturday, just a little but it was enough to completely fill the pond I started to dig. It’s 3 feet at the deepest spot, probably holding close to 300 gallons of water, and has a large catchment area that includes at least two of our garden swales.

hand dug pond permaculture

Our small pond full of water after 1 morning of rain

It’s muddy, and I’m not sure if I want to line it or not. The positives of lining it are better clarity and less leaking through the sides and bottom. The positives to an unlined pond are less materials, easier installation, and increased water filtration in the surrounding soil. We’ll see.

The small pond will create a unique habitat and micro-climate near our garden which will attract all sorts of beneficial wildlife like frogs, lizards, dragonflies, and birds. These helpful characters will help control insect populations, giving our crops a better chance to make it to harvest. The water in the pond will also act as a temperature regulator, helping to moderate both hot and cold conditions. The water in the pond will also be available to use for irrigation, and during heavy rain events will backflood into our most downhill garden swale.

This small, hand dug pond will make our garden more efficient and increase the amount of edge. By slowing down and storing more energy/water, we increase the productivity of our system in an ecological way and are able to obtain yields that were unavailable to us before. All these, and many others, are reasons to consider adding a small pond to your garden if you don’t already have one. If you do have one, how is working? What sorts of interactions and consequences have you observed?

Hand Dug Pond: Stage 1

First off, happy birthday Heidi!

Today felt like spring. I was excited and invigorated, so I decided to do some outdoor chores.

I pruned our dwarf apple trees, and started my apple propagation by cuttings experiment (more on that another day). While walking around the yard and enjoying the weather, I revisited an idea I had about digging a small garden pond near our raised beds.

hand dug pond

Some of the tools I used to dig our micro garden pond.

I’ve researched and Googled tiny ponds a few times, and I just felt like trying. I used a few different tools; a shovel, mattock, maul for tamping, and some post hole diggers, as well as a wheelbarrow. I moved from one tool to the next depending on what worked best at the time, for about 3 hours, and the end result is a nicely shaped, roughly 5 ft. diameter oval pond that is 3 feet at the deepest below ground level.

I’m not yet sure if I will impound any water with a dam, but I did separate the topsoil from the subsoil, which is primarily mineral rich clay.

hand dug pond

The beginnings of our new 5 ft. diameter and 3 ft. deep tiny pond.

There are a few options for the final layout of this small pond, and It has the potential to interact with all of our garden swales. I may even have it completely surround our yaupon holly onto an island. We’ll decide soon.

I learned a few things today, that hand digging a micro pond is not that difficult, and that you can accomplish significant water capture very quickly. Also, don’t overload your wheelbarrow in muddy conditions. It will get stuck and tear up the land, or worse fall over and spill it contents in the wrong place. This concept would apply to bigger earth-movers as well in any other permaculture mainframe installation.

I’ll keep you updated on the hand dug pond, and I recommend getting out there and playing in the mud. You can really, really learn a lot about your land when it’s up to your chest!

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