I’ve never had a Hydrangea bush before. Luckily this house has 3! They are just coming into bloom. I noticed the buds yesterday. Do Hydrangeas have buds? I guess the flowers just before they open are buds?
Any way. I noticed them yesterday. They range in colors from purple to pink. As you may know, I have a great love of all things Red, White and Blue. My dining room has fallen into that realm accidentally. But my front porch is all about the Red, White and Blue intentionally. So, these Hydrangeas clearly need to be blue. Off to Lowe’s we go. [Max works there so we always choose Lowe’s over that other place with the orange logo.] I picked up fertilizer to add acidity to dirt around the Hydrangeas to encourage blue blooms. Among the fertilizer I also got several more bags of River Rock, it seems we have a never ending need for more rock. Did you know the more the soil is acidic they are blue, the more neutral they are purple, the more alkaline they are pink?
They have to be blue, am I right? We need more blue to offset the red. GO TEAM Red, White and Blue! (Side note; I’m thinking about adding my other bistro set to the porch as well.)
With the current colors ranging from purple to pink, definitely not blue, I’m hopeful its was not too late to add the fertilizer for this year. Next year I will get it out there earlier.
But this is not what is so interesting about my notice of the Hydrangea’s flowers…………The interesting part is actually all about the knitting!
Later in the day I was knitting on my Chevron Shenanigans shawl. And it hit me. The colors were the same as my Hydrangeas! I had no idea as the thought never occurred to me. I bought this kit last fall I think. While I still lived in New Mexico for sure. I’ve not given much thought about Hydrangeas or their colors previously. [How many time can I say Hydrangeas in one post!?!] Much less chosen colors of yarn for Hydrangeas. I’m using yarn from a Fade kit I purchased on Etsy from Woolfiend.
Well, I’ve decided I need to rename my shawl and henceforth it is the Hydrangea Shawl. I have a new perspective on creating color combos and project names. This shawl calls for five colors and you fade them into one another similar to how the Find Your Fade shawl is. Fading colors is exactly what the Hydrangea flowers are doing! Tip-Fading is super trendy still and can be great for stash busting.
I love to work chevrons and this one with short rows is fun and feels fast. I’ve developed a strategy using stitch markers that enables me to need to only glance at the pattern for reminders and to confirm stitch counts. There are 18 rows per section, and 22 sections for the large size I’m making. I’m currently about to start section 13. As you work the short rows, stitches are left behind, to be worked again later. In this case they are reintroduced in row 17. I use a stitch marker for each set of rows to make counting easier for me.
I’m using the small purple one to denote rows 1-2, the dragonfly one for rows 3-4, then the pins for each of the for consecutive rows3-4, then rows 13-14 & 15-16 are easily counted so I don’t mark them. I use the pink locking marker to count where the short row stops as I work towards it, I then replace it with the previously specified markers. This is working great, I can stop at any point and know exactly where I am in the sequence. And, unintentionally, the marker dish happens to be the Hydrangea colors as well! Bonus.
So this week I’m laying pretty low as I hurt my foot somehow a few weeks ago. Doing yard work probably. Since it’s still bothering me I’m trying to stay off it as much as I can. That’s giving me a bit of extra knitting time so I won’t be complaining. I do have a doctor appointment next week with a podiatrist if it’s not any better. Until then.
This morning I went out to check the nest and discovered the front door wreath nest has two eggs! They are so tiny in the nest. I wonder if we will have more, one new one each day? I checked on Tuesday and there were no eggs. I thought maybe the nest had been abandoned. I haven’t seen the bird, but we do have the AC on so the front door is always shut. I left it open today to see if I can catch a random glance of the bird. The bird building the nest was a House Finch and I assume these eggs are the same.
In the House Finch nest in the hanging flower basket, we still have eggs, no baby bird yet. Tuesday when I checked the nest there were only four eggs and today there are five! Very exciting!
The Sparrows have all hatched and are keeping their parents very busy providing food. There’s lots of chirping and activity in that hanging flower basket. I’ll also mention here there is lots of movement on the new birdhouses in the backyard. The momma bird is constantly going in and out. I assume feeding babies. I can’t see inside the houses as the doors are very small and its dark inside.
I’m taking today off from yard work and spending the day knitting. I started the Chevron Shenanigans by Stephen West last Sunday. I’m just about to start Wedge #6 which introduces the second color. I’m planning to do at least this entire wedge section today.
This week I also put in some quality time with my Hermione’s Every Day socks. I realized my change in the way the second sock was striping was because my gauge was off. With the second sock being knit at a looser gauge, so I frogged that and started over.
It will be much better if both socks end up the same size. I don’t mind starting over. I really like to knit and this way I get a finished project I’m happy with. I also want to mention the Biggest difference between a good knitter and an excellent knitter is not that the excellent knitter doesn’t make mistakes. But rather they know how to, and do, fix their mistakes.
I spend most of my knit teaching time helping knitters discover what the mistake was and how to fix it. To me it is so important to fix those mistakes. In my knit projects I find if I don’t fix the mistake, all I ever see is the mistake, and that makes me crazy.
I’m off to meet with a second cup of coffee and my knitting!
I wouldn’t say I love to garden. But I do love to have beautiful gardens. My mom is a gardener for the love of gardening. I’ve learned a lot from her. She has always had beautiful gardens. Flower gardens, vegetable gardens even just beautiful grass. I want those things, too. I’m not afraid to do the work, the removal of overgrown gardens is part of that. When we bought this house the areas around the front and back were mostly shrubs that maybe had been here since the house was built. The first thing we did was remove all these shrubs. Max and Tim spent a week just doing that!
We prepared the earth with compost. We installed gutters to protect the gardens from washing away in the rains. As part of the control water during the rains we also created “dry streams” which is something that was required for all property in the city limits in Las Cruces, NM. And it really works great to direct rain where you want it to go.
We then planted lots of plants. Many are annuals since we have so much ground to cover. We have Geraniums, Snapdragons, Marigolds, Coleus, and Petunias. We also planted some perennials, Lavender, Day-lilies, Roses, Dragons Blood, Pachysandras, Hostas and several other varieties. It’ll be awhile before they fill in but its looking good. I’m pretty happy with our progress.
In addition to compost and plants we’ve spread 23 yards of wood chips! 23 yards!!! we have several large areas we’ve made into flower beds and added wood chips to areas under our large trees, since no grass seems to be able to grow with the shade, intending these areas to be shade gardens instead.
Now we have full flowers gardens the length of the front and back of our house. We’ve planted so many things. Hopefully they all do well. We have to contend with deer and rabbits. And obviously birds. So all plant choices need to consider these things.
I think it s starting to look pretty dang good. If I do say so myself. My mom planted all the pots when she was here last. They are filling in really nicely. And I think they make the front door seem to pull forward from the house, I hope that makes sense. It’s very welcoming and I look forward to having many guests.
We’re still working on the backyard. Since we’ve now purchased a riding lawnmower and a weed whacker the grass is looking really good. Along with the purchase of the mower we also purchased a shed in which we can store it. We couldn’t find a riding lawnmower rated for an acre or more that would fit in our existing shed doors. as a result we’ve renamed the shed to the Cottage. This way when you say “It’s in the shed.” it’s clear where the “thing” is.
Part of our yard work this week was getting wood and putting it in our yard, stored for the winter. A man, Roy, that Chuck works with was generous and gave us about a cord of wood, Pecan and White Oak. Another man he works with, Gary, offered his trailer to move it here. Tim and I emptied the trailer onto a simply made Wood Rack. He loaded the wheel barrow and moved it to the pile, I unloaded it onto the rack. This worked really well and we had it done in just a few hours. I researched some ideas on pInterest and found this one. It was easy and seems to be perfect. We had some overflow and put that on a pallet that the lawnmower was on when it was delivered. Now we need a could Ax and a hatchet.
Happy landscaping. A little curb appeal goes a long way. I guess my so called knitting life isn’t so much about knitting these days.
This is Frida, but I’m thinking she is a he, so really this is Fred. When we decided to have chickens we knew we wanted all pullets, which are chickens that have been sexed to ensure they are female. You pay a bit more for the guarantee. When I went to pick up our White Leghorns they had also just received in a bunch of Polish Crested, they were so cute, I tried to resist. Not very hard, obviously. I chose two, a black and white one and a brown one. Because these were a straight run, not sexed, I knew I could end up with a rooster, or two.
The brown one is Ester, she is half the size of Frida/Fred. They both are friendly and easily let me “catch” them and hold them a few minutes.
Our neighborhood, Queens Lake, is in Williamsburg but we are considered rural residential. There are different rules for different districts within the city. Because we are rural we can have chickens, one chicken for every 2500 square feet of property with a maximum of sixteen chickens. We hope to have them free range the back yard but so far they are sequestered to the chicken run. I have worked hard to make the run a fun chicken space. I understand chickens can get bored and I don’t want that. That’s when they find trouble.
We did have two chickens escape this week. I had Covered about 50% of the area above the coop but had run out out netting. Apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough to get some more. It is now 100% covered. I understand the number 1 killer of backyard chickens are dogs. I certainly will do what I can to prevent untimely deaths. Cali, our Chihuahua/Beagle mix, has a very unhealthy interest in the chickens.
I also have a special needs chicken. This is Bea, she is an Ameraucana.
She has developed a scissored beak. If you want more information I am directing you to my favorite chicken blog, The Chicken Chick.
She tells you about this better than I can. But basically so far Bea is doing well. She eats and drinks with the only noticeable problem is she sometimes can’t pick up treats from the ground or my hand. Small things like clovers sprouts can be too small for her to grip. I’m keeping a close eye on her and I always try to hold her for a few minutes to really acclimate her to handling, but she doesn’t love it. I want it to be easy to check her out and if need be give her some help with out her also being afraid to be handled.
This is my Production Black, I think. I have one of these and two Cuckoo Marans, They all look alike. I can’t tell who is who. But they are rather friendly and easy for me to pick up and hold. They are curious little ones and always are right there to see what I might have in my hand. Lately they have been loving sprouts, clover, wheatgrass, alfalfa and such. I started some sunflower and radish sprouts. I’m sure they will be ready to try those, too.
I’m learning a lot about chickens. And there seems to be lots of adjusting as they teach me more and more everyday about what they need. So it’s petty interesting around here. Next on the chicken run agenda is to create a box garden with wire cloth frame over it.
I think we probably need to name our property. You know, like a real homestead. Since we are installing gardens and have chickens and all. I need a clever or witty name. We live on Horseshoe Dr so maybe the Hretz Horseshoe Homestead. Have and ideas?
As you enter into our neighborhood there is a sign posted that says this is a Bird Sanctuary. From my experience that certainly is true. I’ve seen birds in our yard I’ve never seen in real life before, such as the Eastern Bluebird. I’ve seen Blue Jays, and we have those here, too. An assortment of woodpeckers, finches, thrashers, mockingbirds, cardinals and sparrows. More birds than I can recognize from a glance or from far off. We’ve added some extra feeders and suets cages to encourage than to stay long enough for me to pull out my new bird watching binoculars! Then I can look them up in my bird book to identify which bird I have.
We still have Robins. The Robin that started a brood with three eggs a few weeks ago is still here. Only one egg seemed to have hatched. The one bird is fully feathered and I expect will be heading out of the nest any day now. The momma is still diligently supervising and bringing food but she doesn’t spend time sitting in the nest any longer. You can see theres still at least one, but probably both, of the other eggs still in the nest. I wonder what would cause them not to develop enough to also hatch.
We also so far have one new baby sparrow! Hopefully all these little ones will make it. Both momma and papa Sparrows are taking care of this brood, they take turns never leaving the nest unattended for more than a moment. I think we also may have another Sparrow nest in the tree as I regularly see more than two female and males looking through the grass for worms right in the front yard.
As a new development we have House Finches setting up a nest in the third of our hanging flowers! The finches also seem to be tag team the build. With male and female bringing nesting supplies.
Our Winter Wrens in the bird houses in the back yard must be sitting on eggs by now. Rarely do I see any activity. Unless you get to close to the house! You’re likely to get dive bombed from the little door. They do not want you too close. I was putting wood chips around the flower bed the first time it happened. It scared the crap out of me! The bird hit my hand and flew right back in. It happened so fast I never really even saw the bird.
I know that is what is was though because it happened again. But this time when I went to get the mail! This time the bird flew off and I investigated a bit. I saw that a different bird had built a nest in the newspaper box! SO the next time I went to get the mail I made a plan. I was real quiet, I walked slow and peeked in. And there in the nest was a tiny Winter Wren! AND THEN SHE FLEW OUT RIGHT AT ME!!! That will get your heart racing.
What birds do you have in your yard? Any Idea why the Robin’s eggs didn’t hatch?
I’m going to keep watching those birds! Happy birdwatching.
Edited to add:
I just went to go outside on the front porch…….To my surprise I saw the beginning of a new nest. In the wreath on my front door! I guess I will have a front row seat. and have to forbid my family from using this door for the nest several weeks.
Just like Mary and Joseph, when there is no vacancy at the inns (aka hanging flower baskets), you find yourself in the manger.
Our house is basically set up in two parts. The main house has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, dinning room, family room, living room, and kitchen. The other side of the house originally was a two car garage. At some point to was incorporated into part of the house with two bedrooms, a half bath, laundry room and what I use as a mudroom. Giving us a 5 bedroom and two and a half baths house. I use one of the five bedrooms as my craft room and it is one of the two bedrooms at the far end of the house. The other bedroom is Hanna’s/guest room. All of these spaces have builtins that make them feel like they have alway been a part of the house. That is something I love about this area of there house. Following are a few pictures of how the room looked when we bought the house.
This room will have many different functions, but the main one is storing and will allow space for my knitting and other many craft desires to have a proper home. This is greatly reflected with how this room is decorated. I like to decorate with functional pieces as well as some of the fluff added in a room that makes it feel finished. I used Chuck’s warping board (for weaving) and the sock blockers my brother made me for Christmas one year and paired it with a natural dye grouping that had been framed, this was a Mother’s Day gift from my younger kids. Decor that is useful.
With the builtins and a closet that is all shelves I have pretty great storage. I put all of my yarn into plastic bags to protect it from moths, there seem to be a abundance of those tiny white moths that want all my yarn. I put one of our sofa tables in here, it works great for winding yarn and using it as a counter height work space. The table previously had a life as a coffee bar in the Casita in our New Mexico home. I’ve purposely left the center of the room free of furniture. This gives me the perfect place to lay out my blocking boards for blocking large knitted items such as shawls. The blocked item can then stay pinned out for plenty of time, undisturbed by people or dogs while it dries. I’ve very quickly realized the quick drying time afforded me by the desert air in New Mexico has been replaced by lllllllloooooonnnnnnngggggg drying times in the humid air of Virginia.
Another really great use of this open space is for me to do yoga. Not to mention it has a life as an extra guest room. This floor space allows us to set up a blow up bed in the event we have extra guests beyond our guest room capacity. This came in very handy with when my mom and her friend, Judy, came to visit and again when we had the Hretz reunion here.
You might think this is where I do my knitting. In reality most of my knitting is done in the evening when we have time to watch tv or in waiting rooms at dr appointments. Lately it’s been more of the latter rather than the former.
I found a cute vintage dresser that is a sweet, little, green painted thing. It fits perfectly under the window which, gives me another place for a lamp and I used it display a shawl Chuck wove. This house doesn’t have many overhead lights, so lamps it is. When I found the llama lamp at World Market I knew it had to live in this space.
Paint is one of the cheapest ways to change the feeling of the place. I’ve always loved turquoise and it is perfect for a craft space, don’t you agree? This is a Sherwin Williams 6765 Spa. I don’t know if it is spa but it for sure is Crafty. I love this space and need to spend more time here. Knitting or not.
The knitting. If your here for the knitting, and many are, there isn’t much. But here is what there is.
I’m on the second sock, still of Hermione’s Socks. I’m about the start the pattern on the leg. This means I’m barley into the second sock (hangs head in shame) and so far my spiral striping in not spiraling. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure I really care. I’m not sure I don’t really care. But I am going to keep moving ever so slowly along. I’m sure if I hadn’t started the other pair of socks, The NO Purl Monkey socks by Cookie A I would’ve finished the other ones. In all fairness I did start the new pair as a gift that is on a time crunch.
I’ve also made a little progress on my Magic Stripes scarf. I’m not quite halfway done. It’s really a fun project and I wouldn’t mind just knitting away on this until it’s done. I do have an itch to start a shawl. I’m thinking about Chevron Shenanigans by Stephen West. Chevrons are some of my favorite knit stitch combinations.
There you go. Now let’s go knit!
Happy Knitting or what ever craftiness your feeling today.
We moved into this neighborhood, Queen’s Lake, the first week of February. It was a beautiful neighborhood with two pools, playgrounds, and even a lake. I fell in love with it. Back in December when we looked at this house had in no way prepared me for the true beauty of the place. Shamefully, I don’t have any pictures, but I will try to do justice to it.
First off, you drive to the neighbor via the Historic Colonial Parkway. This is a peaceful drive which is tree lined and very much like a step pack in time. This is not a typical road, there are no lines denoting lanes, there are no street lights, and the exits are discreet with the only signs being brown and white street signs set lower than usual of to the side. There are beautiful brick bridges were other streets cross the parkway, they add beauty while discretely hiding the moderns roads. As you travel down this scenic drive you will find many historic plaques telling you of the historic importance of this area, from John Smith and Pocahontas to the Siege of Yorktown where General Washington beat Cornwallis. (If you have ten minutes watch the videos on the history channel in the link.) Not to mention all the exciting this that happened and are still happening in Colonial Williamsburg, also a stop on the parkway. But I digress.
Once you exit the parkway and drive a couple hundred feet on Hubbard Lane you’ll turn onto Lakeshead Dr. This is a mile long street that leads into the east side of the Queen’s Lake neighborhood and also to the Quarterpath Park. Lakeshead is bordered to the right and left by a natural wooded area creating a lovely canopy of green foliage and completely blocking off your view to the Colonial Parkway and smattered into the left you will see an occasional beautiful home, one of my favorites is the first house which is a charming colonial style, two story, green house. You immediately feel like you have ventured off into the country. Turning onto East Queens you can’t help but notice how this spring has proved to be incredibly majestic, most of the houses on this street have huge Dogwood trees, both white and pink, and there are hundreds of Azaleas in an array of colors. Red, white, pink, coral, fuchsia and so on. The Daffodils were also glorious this spring, There is so much beauty in this neighborhood. You really should plan to come see us at the end of April beginning of May. It is breathtaking.
I know we are full into our spring, in addition to all the plants and trees awaking the birds are busily making homes and starting new families. We have not one, but two, bird nests in our hanging plants on the front porch. I have tried to discretely snoop and take a few pictures. We have a Robin’s nest in the one. Did you know Robin’s eggs hatch after only 12-14 days? The other nest is a Sparrow’s. While the momma Robin tends to her nest solo the Sparrow’s are a two bird production! I’m not really sure exactly which Sparrow it is, the eggs are white with very faint brown speckles.
I was quite surprised how tidy and perfectly round the Robin’s nest is. Several years ago my brother, Andy, made a Robin’s perch and Bat house for me as a Christmas gift. I just assumed the Robin would make a sloppy nest. Apparently they do like a platform to build there nest on rather than a house but the are very good architects.
Two Saturday’s ago we attended Art on the Square in Williamsburg were there were hundreds of artists selling their creations. We found these super cute birdhouses made by a very charming couple from a farm in the Shenandoah Valley in Virgina. They are the Fly Home Birdhouses, and for all my Michigan peeps they attend the Ann Arbor Art Show. We scored two of them. I placed them in the flower bed directly behind our house. Within days we had a Wren setting up home! As luck would have it, it is in the house we placed directly behind the living room window. We have a front row seat to all the action.
I think this is a Winter Wren. It’s a tiny little thing and seems to be working in tandem with a male to build the nest. It has been great fun watching as they try to fit sticks ad all sorts of seeds and tree fluff into the box.
Since I seem to be all about the birds, let me continue onto the most important birds around here. The chickens! I haven’t updated my blog nearly as much as I would like to, and we have done lots of work around here in the yard. My main goal was to finish updating the chicken coop so we could move them from inside the house to the coop. This weekend that happened!
The previous owners had chickens here before we bought the house and they converted one of the side sheds to a chicken coop. I assume, like the other side it was originally just storage. The first thing we added another set of nesting boxes as you can see in the picture below. Ours are the unpainted ones and the painted ones were already here.
The previous owners cut holes in the walls and covered them with wire cloth and plastic sheeting. I assume to create windows but as it was winter they covered the open windows with the plastic. The ground is cement and over all I’d say the coop is pretty secure from potential predators. The first thing we did was put actual windows in, allowing us to open or close them depending on the weather. We covered the exterior of the windows with wire cloth to prevent access via the screens from predators. I spent a lot of time reading books and various internet things about what is best for chickens. I found the Chicken Chick to be a favorite resource. I love her book and her blog. I’ve implemented several of her ideas and am so far pleased with them.
We also finished the walls with bead board so that they are completely covered. I believe the leftover bead board from a previous master bathroom renovation had been used to cover part of the walls in the coop. We picked up two sheets at Lowe’s and finished the job. We also used two panels of white plastic trellis to cover the ceilings to prevent the chickens from possibly hitting their heads on roofing nails. We then moved the nesting boxes to the righthand side and lowered them. A tip from the Chicken Chick, she said chickens will sleep on the highest point and you don’t want the nesting boxes to be where they sleep in order to keep them cleaner and therefore have less chance of poop on your eggs. Also, on the Chicken Chick recommendations, we added two roosts and a poop deck. (A poop deck is under the roosts and all the poop lands on this and you can easily scrape it into a bucket to dump into a the compost.) It works like a charm! I painted everything with outdoor paint, mainly so it would be durable and painted wood is less likely to absorb moister than unpainted wood. We added a couple inches of sand to the bottom, which will dry quickly in the event it gets wet, I can scoop poop out with a cat litter scoop and it won’t decompose and mold.
I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Since I’m a total nerd, I decorated it a bit. We built some frames that we covered in wire cloth to go under the poop deck. This is for two reasons. One, to prevent chickens from congregating under the deck where I will store their food and stuff in a large tub. Two, in the event of a sick chicken needing separation do to pecking or whatever. This is where we will put any new chicken we introduce to the flock. We still need to build a door but right now the tub seems to be blocking the opening just fine.
The chickens have made themselves at home and are very happy. I snapped this picture last night at about 9pm. They are all tucked up in bed, nice and tight. On the highest spot in the coop. Super glad I rearranged things.
I not nearly enough to report on the knitting front. I did FINALLY finish my Find your Fade for the KAL at Flying Needles. Which I haven’t even managed to get there to show the completed project, ugh. I still have not blocked it, although, I’m thinking I might not. I like that it is extra squishy. I love how it turned out.
Sometimes I feel like I’ll never have the free time to produce any mentionable knitting here. I’m still knitting the same pair of Hermione’s socks, I am now on the second sock. I did start a pair NO Purl Monkey socks, this is a fun project. I haven’t even created a project file for them on Ravelry yet. This weekend we are traveling to Cincinnati, OH. for our niece, Katherine’s, graduation. She is now a Nurse! I’m looking forward to sharing in this special occasion with her. As a bonus- I have car knitting time! WhhooooooHooooooooo!