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This article is a followup to a recent discussion in the OHH Farmgirl Forum about raising Guineas. I thought we’d shed a little more light on these fascinating birds. Learn why you should experience them for yourself – or not.

Guinea Fowl may be a little gray, but there is no gray area when it comes to people’s reactions to them. They are a love ’em or hate ’em kind of bird with no in-between.

The Cons

The first thing anyone, even their most devoted fans, will tell you about Guinea Fowl is that they are NOISY. They chatter and cluck, they chirp and squawk, they screech and they scream. They are not a quiet bird.

As for their other not-so-positive qualities, there are a few to be considered:

  • Guineas don’t understand or care about property lines and borders. They are vagabonds and wanderers. For the most part, they will stay on their home turf if there are enough weeds, seeds, and bugs to occupy them. But don’t be surprised if your new “fresh from the city” neighbor calls in a panic about the “giant chickens with horns” that are invading her backyard.
  • Just like their ancestors in Africa, Guineas are seasonal layers who will hide their eggs. If they are confined so you can collect eggs, don’t expect them to be deposited in a nice nest box. In protest, they’ll drop the egg on the floor, in the middle of the path, or wherever the nest box is not. If you want eggs, you’re going to need to be a detective.
  • Baby Guineas aka “keets” are delicate for the first few weeks after hatching. Guinea Fowl hens are mostly neglectful mothers. They abandon the nest once a few keets are hatched and are immediately back to their wandering walkabout ways. The little keets can’t keep up and become lost or chilled as mama goes about her business.
  • Guineas hate to be confined. They become nervous and destructive and will terrorize any other birds penned with them. They are best being out and about and busy. When the birds are young or new, you may have to initially coax them back into their shelter after they’ve been out for the day. They can usually be bribed with mealworms and chicken scratch aka treats.
  • Don’t expect your Guineas to become pets like chickens or turkeys. They are a standoffish bird who doesn’t care if you’re there or not, unless you’ve brought them goodies.
  • Seedlings and young plants can be destroyed by the incessant scratching of Guinea Fowl. They are notorious diggers so you will want to keep them away from new or sensitive plantings.
The Pros

Fortunately, there are a lot more pros to keeping Guineas than there are cons. These cool birds have a lot going for them. One of their most highly touted benefits is their insatiable appetite for ticks and other bad bugs. Guinea Fowl are one of the most efficient and natural forms of bug removal available. Other pests they search out include ants, spiders, beetles, tomato worms, grasshoppers, flies, wasps, snails, etc. If it moves, they’re after it. Other reasons people raise Guinea Fowl include:

  • Guineas are mostly self-sufficient and low maintenance. They prefer to forage for their own creepy crawlies and weeds rather than depend on you for food. Treats are a completely different issue though. Keep in mind they do need to be supplemented during the colder, bug-free months. They are also a hardy bird that is far more disease-resistant than other poultry.
  • Comic relief and entertainment are a side-job of these unique birds. To see them run after a butterfly or mouse is hysterical as they stick their wings out with their heads down and run as fast as they can – while squawking of course.
  • Guineas are appreciated by many farmers and ranchers as they discourage venomous snakes and rodents. They will also flush out destructive birds in orchards or vineyards.
  • Similar in taste to pheasant, Guineas are a great source of meat. They mature quickly and are considered a delicacy in some countries.
  • Just like livestock guardian dogs, Guinea Fowl will act as the protectors of chickens and other animals in a mixed flock or barnyard. They are always on alert and vigilant to anything new or dangerous. They’ve been known to go after predators in a large, noisy group.
  • You don’t have to worry about people (or your own family members) sneaking up to your property. The guineas will sound an alarm and often run out to meet the intruder or resident. They will greet your own truck in the same manner as they greet a car they’ve never seen. It’s all the same to your Guineas.

So what do you think? Will Guinea Fowl be your next addition to the homestead? Let us know!

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Sewing Tips for Beginners – What’s In Your Sewing Box?

Sewing Tips for Beginners

Machine sewing is an important skill. Imagine being able to make custom drapes or one-of-a-kind Halloween costumes. For a beginner, a trip to the local fabric and craft store can be overwhelming with its vast array of tools and equipment. Whether you are interested in making custom garments, DIY home projects, crafts or simply want to be able to hem and mend, having a well-stocked sewing box is the best way to meet every challenge. Here are fifteen important sewing tips to having a complete sewing kit.

A Good Quality Sewing Machine

The most important, and most confusing, sewing tool you are going to purchase is a sewing machine. These machines come with a vast array of features and many price points. If this is your first sewing machine, make sure the machine has a few basic features: a forward stitch, backstitch and zigzag stitch. A built-in buttonhole option is also helpful. Check reviews on the machine you select and pay particular attention to what reviewers have said about the ease of use. Once you become more proficient, you can always upgrade to a more complex model. Before you run out to the fabric store to stock your sewing basket, check to see if some of the items are included with the sewing machine because many come with basic tools.

Bobbins and a Bobbin Case

While most sewing machines come with a bobbin, one is never enough. You will need a bobbin for every thread color you use, and if you only have one bobbin, you will be constantly emptying it and changing the thread color. Start with at least a dozen bobbins. As your collection of bobbins begins to grow, consider a bobbin case to keep them organized and accessible.

Sewing Machine Needles

Sewing machine needles come in different sizes for different fabrics. Purchase a package of needles that has a combination of sizes. Regular point needles are perfect for woven fabrics and ballpoint needles work best for knits. It is very common, especially when learning to sew, to break sewing machine needles, so make sure you have several backup needles on hand.

Fabric Scissors

Good fabric scissors are one of the most important tools in your sewing basket. Specially designed to cut fabric, these scissors come in several styles. Angled shears are most like regular scissors and are a good choice for the beginning sewer. There are also fabric scissors that have a spring action. While these can be easier on the wrist and hand because you push the blades together instead of pulling them apart, they are also trickier to use. Because paper and other non-fabric materials dull a good pair of sewing scissors, make sure to only use them on fabric. Rotary cutters are also a great way to cut fabric, but add them to your sewing basket after you have become a little more proficient.

Pinking Shears

Pinking shears are scissors with zigzag teeth. They can be used to cut woven fabrics to keep them from fraying. While not necessary, they are a nice addition to a beginner’s sewing basket because they give a seam a finished look.

Thread Snips

Sixth on our list of sewing tips is a good pair of snips! Thread snips are small, spring-action scissors. They are much easier to grab and use when you have a few threads to cut. Keep them beside your sewing machine for easy access and have an extra pair by your iron so you can snip threads as your press your seams.

Seam Ripper

Mistakes are inevitable. A good, sharp seam ripper will make it much easier to remove stitching. The sharp point and razor edge slips into stitches easily, cutting through them without damaging the fabric. Seam rippers are also used to cut the fabric in the center of a buttonhole.

Thread

Before you embark on any sewing project, stock your sewing basket with basic thread colors. The absolute essential threads you always want to keep on hand are: black, white, khaki, navy and red. Not all threads are created equal. Thin shiny threads are often not as sturdy and tend to break when sewing. Threads on cones might look like a bargain, but they are made for sergers and are thinner and might contain knots. When purchasing fabric for a project, select a good dual-purpose thread in a color that matches the material. For heavier fabrics like denim, purchase a heavyweight thread. If you are making a project that will have a lot of stitches, consider purchasing several spools of thread. There is nothing worse than running out of thread in the middle of a project.

Pins and Pincushion

When selecting sewing pins, select a long, good-quality pin. Pins with plastic balls or flowers on the end are easier to grasp. Longer pins are more versatile for beginning sewers because they can get through thick layers of fabric. If you plan to sew with a lot of knits, ballpoint pins are a good choice.

Make pins easier to contain and grab by placing them on a magnetic pin holder or in a pincushion. For a safe place to store pins, choose a traditional pincushion that looks like a tomato. These often have an emery-filled strawberry hanging from the center. Periodically push your pins into the strawberry to keep them sharp and free of burrs. Another option to keep your pins from cluttering your workspace is a magnetic pin holder. These make picking up pins a breeze.

Hand Sewing Needles

No sewing basket is complete without a set of hand sewing needles. Even when sewing by machine, finishing touches like hems and buttons are usually sewn by hand. Choose a variety pack with multiple sizes and have the right needle for every project.

Needle Threader

A good needle threader is a handy tool to own, especially for the beginner. Thicker threads are sometimes hard to fit through the eye of a needle. A needle threader makes it a breeze. The simplest threaders are a folded wire in a holder. While they are effective, the wire tends to break or pull out of the holder. Consider a more substantial device if threading needles is a challenge for you.

Sewing Gauge

Most sewing gauges are six inches long and have a sliding marker to help you make consistent measurements. They are perfect for measuring seam allowances and hems. Consider placing one near your machine and another by your ironing board, because these are the two places you will reach for them most.

Measuring Tape

In addition to a sewing gauge, you need a measuring tape. While most frequently used to take body measurements, you’ll be surprised how many times you will reach for one. They can be used to help you follow the grain of the fabric or draft patterns as you become more advanced, and are a great sewing tool for measuring curved pieces of fabric.

Yardstick

While a measuring tape is great for many measurements, when determining hem length of a garment, you need a yardstick. Opt for a metal yardstick and use the firm edge as a guide for your rotary cutter once your skills advance.

Iron and Ironing Board

This one might seem like the weirdest  of the sewing tips, but a good iron and ironing board are two of a beginning sewer’s most important tools. Carefully pressing seams as you sew gives a polished finish to your garment. Choose a quality iron with a steam feature. The ironing board should be sturdy and easily adjusted to suit your height.

Whether you are learning to sew yourself or introducing your child to the art of stitchery, a well-equipped sewing room is a must. Having the necessary tools on hand before you get started is important to the success of any sewing project. Whether you want to save money by doing your own alterations, ensure a perfect fit by sewing your own garments or want to discover the joy of DIY crafting, sewing is a wonderful skill to learn.

 


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