Our homestead has been recognized by the National Wildlife Federation along with the Florida Wildlife Federation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. We achieved certification by creating gardens that offer food, water, cover and places to raise young for wildlife and maintaining them in a natural, sustainable way.
We were able to achieve this largely in part due to my husband’s hard work on our natural pond, our herb & vegetable garden, amble fruit trees, converting our shed into a coop and also raising free-ranging chickens and ducks organically which provide food for friends and family.
1. Chopped straw vs pine shavings in the coop has proven to be a great experiment. I didn’t know what to expect but I’m super excited to report that the chopped straw seems to stay cleaner longer and has been much easier to spread around..
2. Peppermint is a wonderful thing to grow in the garden, especially when you have chickens. Certain plants (like peppermint) will spread and take over. I use it daily in the coop, for the chickens to snack on and also, to freshen up the coop. Planting a small above ground garden in a tub, box, etc.. with herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Peppermint, Lavender will be your coop cleaning friend.
3. If you decide on chickens, go big or go home. Within 3 months, we had moved the chickens from the small coop we had, into our shed (more about shed coop on the blog). It doesn’t matter how fancy it is, you’ll soon realize that you’ll want more space. There are so many options, it might even be worth it to build your own.
4. Chia, flax, clover and wheatgrass are great to grow around your yard, especially when you have chickens. They will forage and get extra nutrients from these things but they’re also super easy to get going, they sprout within a few days and provide awesome ground cover.
First we got chickens, and the chickens needed a coop. So we turned our shed into a coop. When we got ducks though, what they really needed was a nice and natural pond.
After doing a little research, I learned there are many types of ponds that you can build yourself, much easier than I had imagined also. Somewhere in the search for inspiration, I decided that making the pond as natural as possible would fit our homestead lifestyle much better than installing pumps and waterfalls and using artificial chemicals to keep the water clean.
A natural pond not only spoke to our lifestyle but also kept in line with our low maintenance creed.
If you’re thinking about a pond, it’s as simple as starting to dig, and that’s exactly what I did. I picked out the spot, roughed in the shape and started to dig. I took out some rocks, and a few roots but mainly just started to dig. I wanted to go down a little bit further than the maximum depth I wanted to make up for the liner and under-liner material, and I wanted some areas deeper than others, so keep that all in mind as you dig.
Once I got the shape and depth, I dropped in some old carpet pieces to protect the liner from any roots that might try to puncture it, then followed that with the liner. I tried the best I could to make the liner smooth to the kidney shape we dug. The liner overlapped some on the soil and I kept it in place with some rocks around the border.
After this, I filled it up with water, and that was the last time other than topping off here and there I’ve had to add water. It’s mostly now filled by rainwater.
As far as a “natural pond” goes, plants are your filter so choose them carefully. There are plenty of plants that help, but I think looking at actual natural ponds helps to give you an idea what plants grow in your area and which ones help sustain a natural aquatic biome. If you’re lucky you can forage some for yourself and cut the costs.
Another concern was mosquitos, this easily was addressed by adding guppies, mosquito fish, and goldfish. They kept the water moving a bit and actually eat the mosquito larvae.
Simple additions like little solar fountains or sprinklers can help keep the water moving to discourage mosquitos also and help oxygenate the water some.
Lastly, make it your own! Plant around the edges, add solar lights, enjoy larger fish like koi, or just enjoy the natural aquatic pondscape you’ve made and the local plants you’ve foraged.
Here are some progression photos:
It can be as simple or as difficult as you like, but with my creed of simple being better, a natural pond is a fun, creative way to make the most out of your backyard or property and yes, the ducks love it!