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My Progress Gleying a Pond With Pigs  RSS feed

 
benjamim fontes
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Michael Newby wrote:Here's a couple of pictures updating the pond's progress filling. The first one the pond had just covered the little mini swale I made a little lower in the pond and the second one shows that the pond had just made it to the little shade lean-to and I had to take it down. Now that it's cooled down a little it seems to be filling quite a bit faster probably due to less evaporation.

Great job, Michael Newby!!!
We have a little pond in a porous soil but we have a lot of water. Now it is full of water. This photo is from the time the little pond was "having" the "first" water...
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Michael Newby
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The fish survived the winter!
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Julia Winter
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Can't wait to see how it greens up this spring!
 
Cris Bessette
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Michael Newby wrote:The fish survived the winter!



I have two small ornamental ponds with hundreds of gold fish. Started with like 5 fish about 4 years ago. The ponds have frozen over many times, and they always make it.
 
benjamim fontes
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Michael Newby wrote:The fish survived the winter!

Nice gold fish!!!
 
Michael Newby
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Thanks for the encouragement everyone. I was pretty confident that the goldfish would have no problem but there's always that little nagging doubt in the back of the mind: "Did I manage to screw something up without realizing it?"

The willows are already starting to bud out with their great little furry harbingers of spring, it has me really excited about this coming year.
 
Zach Muller
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Hey Michael I am doing a similar experiment and was wondering about the smells throughout the beginning of the process. Did you smell pigs the whole time? Did you smell the "pond smell" as the bacteria were forming and being pressed on by the pigs? Any notable stages of smells or stenches? I guess by now things smell like an established pond. I'm more at the stage of expecting an algae bloom and im smelling duck manure but also some other anaerobic type smells, so I'm curious about your experiene. I am considering inoculating the water with existing pond water at this point to encourage that algae bloom type of thing.
 
Michael Newby
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Zach - I still haven't really gotten the pond/swamp smell. I had a bit of the pig smell but really only when I was right there when a pig did its business. That's been one of the things that I've really liked about raising pigs like this. When they've got plenty of room it eliminates a lot of the negative things that people associate with pigs.
 
Michael Newby
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So I'm trying again to get cattails established in the pond. This time I put in about 10 single reeds with roots and then wrapped a little bit of fencing around the area to keep the ducks out. I'm hoping that if I keep the ducks out for a couple of months the reeds will establish enough that the ducks can't rip them out.

An even more exciting development (for me at least, you might be really into cattails...) is that I managed to borrow a friends backhoe, get the next pond area prepped and now we've got 6 pigs running around doing their thing. This pond will be a little bigger than the first one at around 45' across. The round pond shape isn't my favorite but I'm going to try to increase the edge effect by putting some large conifer root wads along the bank.
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reeds in their protective cage
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Cheapest pond builders I've found!
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Happy pigs
 
Robbie Asay
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What a fantastic project! This makes me wonder if it can be done with most any kind of soil. I'm glad to see that the goldfish made it!
 
Tracy Wandling
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Your success gives me great hopes for establishing ponds in my sandy soil! Looking forward to summer pics of your established pond, and how the new one is progressing. Yay Pigs!
 
alex Keenan
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very cool results, I can why this works because you have two actions going on.

1)
Rooting, wallowing, and trampling activities compact soils, which in turn disrupts water infiltration and nutrient cycling.

2) pigs create something like a septic dranfield
A traditional septic drainfield has two types of bacteria present, aerobic (uses oxygen) and anaerobic (doesn’t use oxygen). In this system, when water containing nutrients flows into the soil absorption area, a biologically active film develops. This slime layer (commonly called the “biofilm or bio-mat”) is composed of bacteria and their waste products. This slime is actually a chemical compound secreted by the bacteria to anchor themselves to the bottom and sidewalls of the drainage piping, the aggregate in the absorption bed, the soil interface, and to each other to prevent being washed away by the water flow through the septic system.

"The Russian-devised version for dams uses a slurry of animal waste (pig manure) applied over the inner base and walls of the dam in multiple, thin layers, which is then itself covered with vegetable organic matter such as grass, leaves, waste paper, cardboard, etc. This is all then given a final layer of soil which is tamped down and the mixture is left for several weeks to allow the (anaerobic) bacteria to complete their task, at which time the dam is ready for flooding."

as a side note
"Many deer perform wallowing, creating wallow sites in wet depressions in the ground, eventually forming quite large sites (2–3 m across and up to 1 m deep). However, it has been claimed that only some species of deer wallow; red deer (Cervus elaphus) particularly like to wallow but fallow deer (Dama dama), for example, do not wallow. Even within the red deer species, there is variation between sub-species and breeds in wallowing behaviour. For example, although wapiti do wallow, they and crossbreds are less inclined to wallow than European red deer".
 
Len Ovens
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alex Keenan wrote:
"The Russian-devised version for dams uses a slurry of animal waste (pig manure) applied over the inner base and walls of the dam in multiple, thin layers, which is then itself covered with vegetable organic matter such as grass, leaves, waste paper, cardboard, etc. This is all then given a final layer of soil which is tamped down and the mixture is left for several weeks to allow the (anaerobic) bacteria to complete their task, at which time the dam is ready for flooding."


Hmm, makes me wonder if something similar to this technique could be used to replace plastic in the umbrella of a wofati. (or PAHS building of another sort)
 
C. Letellier
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Len Ovens wrote:
alex Keenan wrote:
"The Russian-devised version for dams uses a slurry of animal waste (pig manure) applied over the inner base and walls of the dam in multiple, thin layers, which is then itself covered with vegetable organic matter such as grass, leaves, waste paper, cardboard, etc. This is all then given a final layer of soil which is tamped down and the mixture is left for several weeks to allow the (anaerobic) bacteria to complete their task, at which time the dam is ready for flooding."


Hmm, makes me wonder if something similar to this technique could be used to replace plastic in the umbrella of a wofati. (or PAHS building of another sort)


It shouldn't work long term. The reason is 2 fold. First is that the organic matter dam must be constantly protected and renewed by the material around it. In the wofati instead you are creating an environment where its growth is discouraged and the growth of predator/digestor organics is encourage. So over time it would tend to self destruct. Second is the fact that unlike plastic this material does leak a little continously. So now you are bringing in some moisture and also likely leaking radon gas. Not good for long term human health. Especially if you seal the building so you are not wasting energy heating it in the winter. Stick to the plastics.
 
C. Letellier
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This is interesting because where I live is pure clay and I am in the middle of an area where bentonite is mined on a huge scale. I will share a few things learned here. First off just because a dirt particle is really fine doesn't make it good clay. True clay that is good for pottery and forms good seals is special because of the shape of the particle not just the size. Its chemistry matters too because it has to react with the polar nature of water to form a sort of bond with the surface tension of the water. Clay that is the best for pottery and also the best for sealing is made up of little flat particles. When the potter is turning them on the wheel they are actually arranging those particles into a sort of plywood type layers as they work the clay. This is part of what gives a thrown pot its strength. In sealing those flat particles stack together sort of like shingles keeping the water out. It is the interaction of the shape of the particle, its inherient chemical electric charge and the surface tension of the water that forms the seal. It is not just about sediment grain size.

That said realizing the rock in your area might not make good clay here is a way to maybe make some clay. Growing up one of my neighbors had a rock tumbler made from an old tire powered by the irrigation ditch. The tire was a really deep smaller truck tire. There were 2 mounts for it through the years. The first was some plywood sides screwed to the beads with an axle through the middle to some oilite bearing blocks out of an old squirrel cage fan. To open it one side was unscrewed from the tire. The other used the rim and spindle from the front end of a vehicle and the tire bead was screwed to the rim. A loading hatch sealed with bolts and a pieces of inner tube was built into the rim. Either way there were a could of sections of tire bead screwed down inside the tire to promote a tumbling action rather than a sliding action And paddles that ran in the ditch were screwed to the outside of the tire. This could take rocks that were the size of baseballs and reduce them to marbles over the course of a few months. Thing is that it was also making lots of fines in the process. So is this a cheap way to maybe make clay in your area and let you polish rocks at the same time? The residue will include some tire material which might cause this to be a NO! but it was amazing how well the rubber tire survived action that polishes granite. He use the same tire for over a decade. The tire wore out the original mount and was moved to the next mount.
 
Tracy Wandling
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Hi Michael;

I'm curious to know how your pond is doing. And how is the new one progressing? Are you having continued success? I'm very interested in following along with your pond experiments, as our sandy soil had me thinking a natural pond was out of the question, but your initial success gave me hope!

Let us know how it's going.

Cheers
Tracy
 
Michael Newby
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Wow has this summer flown by!  Sorry about the lack of updates, life has had me running lately.

The first pond is doing great.  The reeds that I planted in the spring really took once I protected them from the ducks.  I think I'll leave the cage around the reeds until next spring then use it to establish some plants in another part of the pond.

This next weekend we have a big get together at one of the local lakes for some fishing and camping and I plan on bringing back 30 or so crawdads to populate the pond with.

As far as the new pond's progress, it's been kind of slow going.  One of the main reasons I think this is the case is that the pond's bottom is pretty broad and flat compared to the first one.  This means that the pigs have a broad area to choose to wallow in so their compacting action isn't as concentrated in any one spot.  In the first pond is started as a small puddle then as it sealed and held more water it got deep relatively quick so the pigs could only really wallow a small area when it was shallow and then just along the edges as it got deeper.  I have a feeling that once the water gets deep enough in the new pond that if forces the pigs to wallow just along the edges then things will start to progress a little faster.  As it is I'm planning on having pigs back in the same area next year to finish.  Hopefully by the time I've got this pond sealed I'll also have my fencing finished and will be able to change over to doing a rotational grazing system with the pigs.

One cool thing is that there are already some volunteer willows sprouting along the 'creek' flowing between the two ponds.
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The reeds have filled in nicely
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12' tall wall'o'willows
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Ducks on the pond
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New pond progressing
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Volunteer willows
 
Michael Newby
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Here's a good picture of the fist pond:
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Looking like a pond
 
Tyler Ludens
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That pond seems like kind of a miracle - so encouraging!
 
Michael Newby
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Thanks Tyler!  I've been really encouraged by how much the water quality seems to be improving lately.  If you look closely at the pictures you can see that rocks on the bottom are now visible where they weren't just a couple months ago.  As I get more water plants established the water clarity should improve even more - I might go swimming in this pond yet!
 
Tracy Wandling
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Thanks for the update, Michael. This is beyond encouraging for those of us with no clay! This is the only natural pond gleying project I've found that shows the progress, with great photos and commentary. Really well done. I'm reading through the thread again, and will be sharing it with others!

Thanks again!

Cheers
Tracy
 
Miles Flansburg
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Wow, I think geoff lawton should do a video of your pond building to inspire the world !
 
Mark Roeder
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Thank you for the updates! I was just thinking about how you were progressing. Not to make your head swell, but this has been fascinating from the get go. Your updates are very important.
 
elle sagenev
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Zach Muller wrote:Hey Michael I am doing a similar experiment and was wondering about the smells throughout the beginning of the process. Did you smell pigs the whole time? Did you smell the "pond smell" as the bacteria were forming and being pressed on by the pigs? Any notable stages of smells or stenches? I guess by now things smell like an established pond. I'm more at the stage of expecting an algae bloom and im smelling duck manure but also some other anaerobic type smells, so I'm curious about your experiene. I am considering inoculating the water with existing pond water at this point to encourage that algae bloom type of thing.


Just thought I'd comment because the pond my pigs gleyed is really small. They've been gone months and thanks to the ducks the whole thing is still really green. I can't say I ever noticed a smell though.
 
Moritz Reichartz
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Hey Michael.

I just wanted to thank you for the amazing documentation work you have done here. I am very intersted into sealing ponds with pigs and your posts encouraged me big time! Can't wait for more upades.
 
Jesse Philips
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Hey Michael! Just popping in to belatedly say how amazing this project is, looking forward to seeing more progress this summer! Did you have to do any permitting to establish this pond on your property?
 
Sarah Joubert
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Hi Michael, thank you for the amount of effort and detail you have put into this thread. I saw it years ago when you started it-think I remember reading up to the willows rooting bit. It looks fantastic. What a change, well worth the effort and such a welcoming space-both to humans and wildlife.

I didn't have a use for the application then but do now! My neighbor has some pigs which are a nuisance(problem) and I have now got an old man made pond site that I want to regenerate(solution)! I had forgotten about your thread and came by it via Tracy Wandling's thread on the projects page that I visited to start my own thread on our project. Serendipity really as I have been mulling over fixing the pond for some time now. I went so far down the rabbit hole I haven't started my thread yet!

It's so inspirational to see what happens if we would just start. I look forward to your continued updates.
 
Moritz Reichartz
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Hi again. After talking about the pig-gleying technique with a permaculture friend, he was shocked and told me, that pigs manure is "4 times stronger plus 4 times longer to decompose" then human manure, and also pigs manure 4 times as much as humans do. So he said, gleying a pond with 4 pigs for 30 days would accumulate an equal amount of manure in one spot as 64 people manuring in this pond for 30 days, which would have a catastrophic effect on the soil on site for a long time. I got really insecure about the whole technique. Is there anyone, that knows about the chemistry of pig manure and the over manuring effect, this pig-gleying technique could have?

Thanks.
Moritz
 
Julia Winter
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I'm curious as to why your friend thinks manure will ruin soil.  Some manures, like chicken manure, will "burn" plants via too much nitrogen, but in general manure has been landing on the soil for millenia, with very little problem.

When the pond was first being made, it could not have supported fish, I'm sure the nitrate and nitrite levels in the water were toxic to fish, but those compounds are taken up by algae and more complex plants and in the long term, as you can see, fish were quite happy in this pond initially made from a pig wallow.
 
Cody DeBaun
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Your friend is quite right- any gleying process will catastrophically alter the soil. It's an anaerobic process forming a water/airtight seal across the top of a section of ground, which will alter the makeup of that ground indelibly. I don't think that's a bad thing in this case though, the whole point of gleying is to take an area of ground and transform it into a pond by sealing it with a biofilm generated by certain bacteria.

I don't think there's anything especially bad about using pigs for this process- sepp holzer talks about how many of the ponds on his farm were made by his pigs. Pigs have been used to create a gleying effect for generations.

 
Moritz Reichartz
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Thank you for your answers.

Happy to hear that by gleying this way I will not introduce any thread to aquifers or to lower laying pieces of land, because the manure will turn unaerobic and will be "digested"  in a different way than through compost.

Anybody ideas about the stated 4 times more intense manure?

All the best.
Moritz
 
Marco Banks
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Moritz Reichartz wrote:Thank you for your answers.

Happy to hear that by gleying this way I will not introduce any thread to aquifers or to lower laying pieces of land, because the manure will turn unaerobic and will be "digested"  in a different way than through compost.

Anybody ideas about the stated 4 times more intense manure?

All the best.
Moritz


Pig manure certainly smells 4 times as intense!  :>


I'm not sure what your friend means by "intense".  That's not really a scientific term.  All carbon based biomass eventually deteriorates.  It all eventually decomposes and gasses off.  Some is more stable and slower to decompose (like biochar) while other biomass disappears quickly (that pile of grass clippings in your compost pile).  All manures decompose quickly due to the high nitrogen content and the microbial life therein.  I don't have much experience in working with pig manure, but I don't see how it would be that biologically different from cow, horse, sheep or rabbit poo. 

Thinking about it another way, if biomass didn't deteriorate quickly, the Amazon rainforest would be miles above sea-level and the world would be lopsided due to all that growth.  More biomass means more decomposition.  Only where the environment is so low in oxygen does that biomass accumulate (river deltas, that are fed constantly and the carbon accumulates accordingly).  This was the origin of the oil fields that we are now extracting from.

The reason gleying works is that in the anaerobic environment of the pond, it is much much slower to decompose.  But if you don't continue to add to the thin carbon layer at the bottom of the pond (leaf drop, duck and fish poop, humus washing down from upstream) even a well gleyed pond will eventually leak. 

Those pigs won't be mucking around in that pond forever.  Within 2 years, once the water fills it up, you won't smell a thing and any evidence of pig manure will be long gone.  Find out what your friend means by "intense".  Unless the diet of your hogs is something really toxic (medical waste?  Nothing but McDonald's leftovers?), poop is poop and it all decomposes eventually.  We're not talking about a 10 acre manure lagoon somewhere down-wind from a Smithfield factory hog farm in North Carolina, fed daily by the waste of 1000 GMO and hormone-fed hogs.  3 little piggies will not turn your little slice of this earth into Love Canal.
 
Matthew Lewis
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Really great thread Michael, looking forward to more updates!
 
Moritz Reichartz
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Thanks Marco. You took my last doubts. Pig gleying will be started soon.
 
Elizabeth Rose
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Amazing! Great pictures.
 
Todd Parr
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This may well be my all-time favorite thread on permies.
 
Michael Newby
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Wow, thanks for all the encouragement and good words.

First I'll just apologize for the fact that I'm really not very good at regular communication with others, especially online.  I guess I'll just use the excuse that I'm really an introvert at heart.

As far as the ponds go it's still a learning curve.  The established pond has gone (mostly) through it's first winter and I've noticed that it loses level after a good hard freeze then thaw.  I'm pretty sure that it's the freeze heaving the soil along the water line.  Couple that with the low clay content giving not-so-flexible soil and the relatively thin seal the pigs made gets compromised all around the pond.  Over time it does seem to seal itself back up and the level comes up to the spillway but it can take weeks.

The re-sealing of the ice-heaved pond might go faster if I still had ducks in the pond but alas the predators got to them.  Needless to say fencing and other predator-proofing is pretty high on my list for this year.  The chickens fared much better and enjoy their regular walks to the pond for water so at least I'm still getting their inputs near the waterline.  Since a blue heron discovered the pond not as many of the big fish made it but there's still 5 of them and hundreds of the small guys.  The cattails and the willows are just starting to wake up, I think the cattails are established enough for me to remove the protection.

The second pond didn't just hasnt gone as well as the first - I don't think it ever really got much deeper than the picture I posted last summer.  I'm sure that there were multiple things that caused this:  A major part, I think, is the fact that the pigs had much more room, with a larger flat area that they preferred to hang out around for doing their business, so less material to gley.  Another factor could be that I didn't really spend as much time pulling the larger material out so it was probably more difficult to seal as well as less comfortable for the pigs to wallow.  The third thing I've thought about is that the pond is getting it's water from the overflow of the first pond so it's water supply fluctuates more and is simply less due to seepage and evaporative losses from the first pond.

I am planning on keeping pigs in the second pond area again.  I'll probably tighten up the pen a little to see if I can force them into the pond area more often as well as go in and pull out a lot of the larger material from the pond before I bring them in.  I've thought about trying to get some green matter like grass clippings but I'm kind of organic matter poor around here besides wood chips which I don't think would lend themselves to the gley technique.

Things haven't really woken up from winter yet (we just got 3 inches of snow two day ago) so it's all still a little boring looking but I promise I'll try to get some pictures the next halfway decent day so you all can see how it's progressing.
 
Michael Newby
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As promised, some pictures.

The first few are of the first pond, showing the willows and the reeds.

The next couple show how much growth the willows have put on.  Hard to believe that these were just sticks hammered into the ground not that long ago.  It looks like this fall I'll be able to harvest willow whips for fencing and whatnot.  We've already found that they make the best marshmallow sticks around.

The last picture shows what little progress we've made with the second pond.  At this time I'm not sure when I'll be putting pigs back in there, too many variables to consider.
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Pond with willows
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3 log benches
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Reed patch
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Lots of growth
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Thick trunk
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2nd pond site
 
Jay Angler
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Hi Michael,

Are you around to post an update? I'd love to know how it looks after two years. I really need to make some pocket ponds on parts of our property. Even if they don't hold water all year, if they help to slow storm run-off, it will be worth it.

Has anyone had experience of using geese or Muscovy to get the same effect?  Would their splashing make the pond too aerobic? Ours certainly seem capable of introducing small fine particles to a bucket of water!!

Thanks
 
Michael Newby
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Yep, I'm still around, just terrible at the regular updates thing.

I did manage to snap a few pictures this morning of how the pond is coming along.  I planted a few water lilies about a month ago and they're putting leaves out but no flowers yet.

The second pond hasn't really had much going on.  I didn't put enough effort into making the bottom of the pond into an inviting wallow area so the pigs never really concentrated their activities in one place.  I'll be trying again this summer...
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Pond is waking up from winter
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Water lilies
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Another view of the water lilies
 
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