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Most folks automatically think of chickens when it comes to fresh farm eggs on the homestead, and I love my chickens. But ducks also produce delicious eggs, and they’re definitely worth considering. Like any other homestead animal, there are pros and cons to raising ducks that you’ll want to think about before you bring them home. Continue reading to see if ducks might be a good fit for your homestead as well as some useful tips to help you get started.

The Pros
  • Ducks are great for pest control in the garden. If you love to garden but hate using dangerous pesticides, ducks could be the perfect solution. The nice thing about ducks is that they don’t dig up the ground as chickens do. You’ll want to keep them away from your very young seedlings, lettuces, and ripe strawberries. Otherwise, you can give them free reign to hunt for bugs, slugs, and snails in your garden.
  • Ducks are cheap to feed. Ducks are excellent foragers, and they can literally feed themselves. Let them free range through your garden, and they’ll eat everything from worms, fly larvae, and mosquitos to snails. They will even graze on grass, and they’ll love to eat your kitchen scraps.
  • Ducks produce delicious eggs. Duck eggs have richer, more buttery taste than chicken eggs. Even better, they proved six times more Vitamin D and twice the Vitamin A of chicken eggs.
  • Many breeds are dual purpose. Many breeds of ducks not only make great egg layers, but they can also provide delicious meat for the freezer, too.
  • Ducks like to graze on grass and weeds. Let your ducks run in your yard, and you won’t have to mow as often.
  • They produce great fertilizer. Whether you let your ducks forage in your garden or on your lawn, they’ll leave wonderful fertilizer behind wherever they go.
  • Ducks are very winter hardy. Ducks are tough birds! In general, they do well in just about any kind of weather with a proper shelter to protect them from wind and snow.
  • Ducks never eat their own eggs. Egg eating can be a common problem with chickens, but I have never heard of, or experienced, ducks having this problem.

 

The Cons
  • Ducks can be messy. Ducks are at least as messy as chickens, and probably even more so. Be prepared to clean out their house often and change their water at least a couple times a day.
  • Ducks are noisy. They are social animals, and they like to talk to each other, a lot! Expect to hear them talking back and forth a lot, and their alarm sounds are especially Personally, I enjoy the sounds of ducks in the yard, but if you have close neighbors, the noise is something to consider.

Some Tips to Help You Get Started with Ducks on Your Homestead
  • Choose a breed that suits your needs. With dozens of breeds to choose from, there’s sure to be one that’s perfect for your homestead. I personally love Indian Runner Ducks for egg production and pest control around the homestead. They are land ducks, so they don’t require a pond, just a water dish deep enough to dunk their heads in. They produce eggs year-round and have sweet personalities. Other popular breeds for homesteaders looking for good egg production include:

Khaki Campbells- Another favorite of mine, Campbells are hardy ducks that lay lots of eggs and have great personalities. They are land ducks, too, so they don’t need a pond or pool for swimming.

Welsh Harlequins- Harlequins are great foragers, and they’re super docile. They don’t lay as many eggs as some other breeds, but you can still expect about 150 eggs each year. They are also large enough to be a meat bird, so they are dual purpose.

Anconas- Anconas are another dual-purpose bird, and their meat is generally less fatty and has better flavor than Pekin ducks. Their eggs are either white, cream or blue and you can expect them to lay about 250 eggs per year.

Magpies- These adorable ducks are super friendly, and they make great pets. Their eggs are usually white, but sometimes they can be green or blue.

  • Start out with a pair. If you’re not sure about getting ducks for your homestead, start out with just a pair. Ducks are very social, so they will be lonely if you try to keep just one, but two will give you a good idea of how they’re going to do in your particular situation.
  • Feeding your ducks properly. Although your ducks will forage for most of their own food, its’ best to provide them with free access to a quality duck pellet. Proper nutrition will ensure that your ducks lay as many high-quality eggs as possible.
  • How much water do your ducks really need? Above all, make sure your ducks have access to plenty of clean drinking water. They need access to water that’s deep enough to dunk their entire head. Most breeds of ducks will also love to have a little kiddie pool to swim in but be prepared to clean it daily.
  • Providing suitable housing for your ducks. Your ducks will be vulnerable to predators, so they will need a shelter that will keep them safe, especially at night. Ducks are more winter hardy than chickens, but you should still protect them from wind and snow and make sure they have shade in the summer. They don’t usually use a nesting box as chickens do, but they will probably go into their house to lay their eggs. A “chicken tractor” or a movable hutch along with an electric poultry net fence both make great options for keeping ducks.

While I love my chickens and they will always have a place on my homestead, I love ducks, too. Each bird has its purpose, and there’s no reason not to have both. But even if you’re not entirely sold on the idea of getting chickens for your homestead, ducks are definitely worth considering.

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Family Heirlooms: How To Restore A Quilt

By J. E. Davidson

Beautiful quilted coverlets are often passed down through generations in a family. Heirloom quilts give us a sense of our family heritage and can evoke cherished memories. You may have inherited a family quilt that has seen generations of use and love, or picked up a worn antique quilt at a rummage sale or auction. It may be possible to restore a well-worn antique quilt so that it can still be used and admired for years to come.

Quilts that have strong sentimental value or historical significance should be taken to a quilting professional for restoration or conservation. If you don’t have basic sewing skills, now is not the time to learn! Practice basic skills on inexpensive muslin or cast-off clothing scraps before attempting to repair an antique quilt yourself.

A quilt that has been well-loved may have seams that are coming apart, rips or tears where the batting may show through, dirt and stains, or missing pieces of fabric. Seams that are coming loose can be easily repaired by turning the raw edges under and using a whip stitch to tack the edges down. Check for areas of stress on other parts of the quilt before beginning, since repairing one seam may cause another to come loose.

A torn spot can be easily repaired by using Fine Fuse, a fusible web. Slip a piece of Fine Fuse under the torn spot and gently bring the edges together. Touch the spot with the tip of a hot iron to melt the web and stabilize the tear. Practice the technique on muslin first, since it is a permanent bond and cannot be undone.

When a small section of the quilt is missing or damaged, you may be able to replace it with vintage fabric or a modern reproduction. Match the new piece according to the color and hue of the original fabric, and don’t worry so much about matching the pattern exactly. Cut the new section to match the seam lines, and applique the new piece on top of the damaged section.

For quilts with larger sections that are missing or damaged, you may be able to use part of the original quilt. For instance, you may be able to remove the last row of blocks to replace damaged blocks in other sections. It will be necessary to rebind the seam at the end with this method. This may turn your quilt into a wall hanging, but it’s better than letting a beautiful quilt languish a drawer because it isn’t presentable! When the binding is replaced, keep it authentic. Straight edge binding was usually used in quilts before 1900; bias binding was used afterwards.

Badly frayed areas may be covered with a sheer fabric to make the quilt serviceable again. Tulle and chiffon are inexpensive alternatives to silk crepeline or Stabiltex often used by professional quilt restoration services.

Batting, the fill between the top and back of the quilt, may need to be replaced. Again, keep it authentic, and use a high-quality cotton batting (not polyester) to replace the original antique batting. It will be necessary to remove the original quilting stitches (the stitches that hold the front and back together) and replace them. If you’re not a quilter yourself, you may want to ask a quilt shop or other experienced quilter to replace the batting for you.

Don’t wash your quilt before beginning the repairs, unless it is absolutely filthy. Antique fabrics require delicate handling, and washing the quilt may cause raw edges to fray badly enough that they can’t be stitched.

You may be able to vacuum loose dirt and dust off the quilt. Lay the quilt on a flat surface and place a fiberglass screen over the area to be vacuumed. Be sure to tape the edges of the screen so the exposed edges don’t snag the quilt. The screen will allow the vacuum to suck up dirt without raising the fibers. Using the brush attachment and the lowest power setting, run the brush lightly over the screen. Vacuum the entire top of the quilt, and then turn it over and do the back. Vacuuming is often adequate to make the quilt presentable.

Quilts that aren’t dirty enough to require washing, but merely have a musty odor, can be freshened up by hanging them outdoors on a breezy day. Keep the quilt out of the direct sunlight, which can fade the colors quickly. Place a clean sheet over a wide railing and lay the quilt on top. Never use a clothesline or other narrow edge to hang a quilt, which can cause stress and damage to the fabric.

Never dry-clean an antique quilt. Dry cleaners use strong chemical solutions that may damage antique fabric, especially if it is silk or wool. Cotton quilts may be wet washed if absolutely necessary, but test the fabric first to see if the colors are going to run. Antique quilts were often made with home-made dyes which are unstable and run or fade easily. Rub the surface of each different fabric with a dry Q-tip. If the color comes off, the dye is definitely going to run. If the fabric passes the dry test, try it with a moistened Q-tip. If color comes off, it is possible that the dye will run. It’s best to leave the cleaning to an expert.

If you’ve determined that the fabric and batting are washable, and colors aren’t going to run, then you can wet wash your antique quilt in the bathtub. Run four to five inches of cool or tepid water into the tub and add a mild detergent such as Liquid Ivory or Orvas. Orvas is a very gentle detergent that is pure sodium lauryl sulfate. It is sold in quilt shops as Quilt Soap, but can also be found at livestock supply stores. Lay the quilt on top of a fiberglass screen which has been placed on top of the water. Sweater drying screens work well for this step. Pat the water through the quilt, don’t wring or agitate the fabric, and don’t let it soak. You may want to use a “dye mop” as an added precaution, to absorb any color that does happen to leach out of the fabric.

Rinse the quilt thoroughly in cool water until the water runs through clear and no suds remain. Press the water out of the quilt, and blot it with a towel. Lift the quilt out of the tub on the screen, since the fabric will be even more delicate when it is wet. Lay the quilt flat to dry on a sheet. Drying the quilt indoors on the floor is best if you have room. Direct a fan toward the quilt to help it dry more quickly. Outdoors will work if you can keep the quilt out of the sun; lay a clean light sheet over it to keep nasty things from falling on it out of the sky. Once the top feels dry, flip the quilt over and let the back dry.

If you don’t have a screen handy, you can put the quilt directly in the tub. The purpose of the screen is to hold the quilt out of the water so any dyes that run don’t settle back in the fabric, and to give you a way to lift the quilt. When removing the quilt from the bottom of the tub, don’t grab it by the corners or edge! Remember to always handle the quilt very carefully when it is wet. Use your forearms to lift the wet quilt, supporting as much of its weight as possible.

Although hand washing is strongly recommended, quilts that are in good condition and made of washable fabrics and battings can be machine washed. Do so at your own risk; there is no guarantee the quilt will come out of the washer in as good a condition as it went in! Getting wrapped around the agitator can cause seams to open and delicate fabric to tear. Decide if you want to risk your beautiful heirloom quilt to save the effort of hand washing. If you’re determined to wash your quilt in the washing machine, use a large washing machine on a gentle cycle at the highest water level. Choose a detergent that does not contain fragrances or other additives, and don’t use products meant for washing delicate woolens. Chemicals in these products can turn antique cotton fabrics yellowish. Remove the quilt as soon as the machine finishes the rinse cycle to prevent any color bleeding. Tumble it in the dryer on a cool setting.

Store your quilt properly when it isn’t being displayed, to prevent further deterioration. Clean the quilt, if it truly needs cleaning, before storing it. Untreated wood and cardboard can emit chemicals that cause antique fabric to break down. Excessive light, either natural or artificial, can fade the fibers. Don’t store antique quilts in a plastic tub. Roll your quilt in acid-free paper and store it in an acid-free box or tube to prevent undue deterioration. Keep the box in a cool, dry spot, and be sure the quilt itself is absolutely dry so mold and mildew don’t cause permanent stains. Every few months, take the quilt out of storage and refold it along different lines, or you may end up with permanent creases.

Once you have restored your quilt, it’s a good idea to document what you have done. Iron a piece of muslin to a piece of freezer paper (both cut to 8-1/2″ x 11″), and use your typewriter or laser printer to print the information, or use indelible ink to write the information on the muslin by hand. Include information about the origin of the quilt, even if it’s only to state that you found it at a rummage sale. Document any repairs you have made, and any other pertinent information. Peel the fabric label from the paper and hand stitch it carefully onto the back of the quilt. You could even make a pocket from the label to hold other important papers relating to the genealogy of the quilt or the family.

Repairing a damaged quilt can be a rewarding, but painstaking, process. Before beginning the attempt decide whether you have the time, patience and skill to make the effort. If you don’t have the confidence for the project, perhaps it is best left to professionals to restore your quilt. Professional restoration includes cleaning and repairing the quilt so that it is in a useable condition. There will be no apparent rips or worn areas, although the quilt may not be returned to its original condition.

The professional may suggest conserving a badly damaged quilt or one with historical significance. Conservation stabilizes the condition of the quilt, so that more damage doesn’t occur, but no repairs are made that can’t be undone. Even a badly stained and damaged quilt can have great sentimental value. Those tears and stains may bring back memories of curling up in front of the TV with the family quilt to keep you cozy, or jumping on Grandma’s quilt-covered bed as a child. Professional conservation may allow you to keep that beloved, although perhaps unsightly, heirloom quilt in the family.


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