This is a pretty busy time of year for us on the Hretz Homestead. We’ve added 7 new chicks to our backyard flock. All the seedlings have been planted. The flower beds have been extended, as have the gardens. An additional two truckloads of mulch dispersed. Plus planted new flowers and 10 tiny trees. If you want to know more about garden prep and such, check out my previous garden post here.
Lantanas are some of my favorite flowers we have planted. The flowers themselves are tiny clusters of fairy size bouquets. I prefer the yellow and pink variegated ones but they also come in other colors and solids as well. These plants get big and bushy with flowers all summer long.
We first had these in New Mexico, where they came back every spring. In Virginia it must be too cold so I had to replace them all. I guess that simply makes them an annual.
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A Rose by any other Name
We also added lots of roses this year. Some were found on Craigslist for a cost of digging them up ourselves. This added about 8 new-to-us-roses to the flower bed behind the house.
Today I’ll be introducing you to Agnes the Ameraucana. I’d like to tell you about her as an individual chicken. You will learn a bit about her personality, appearance, and eggs.
I spend quite a bit of time observing and interacting with my chickens. It was important to me from the very beginning that my chickens were comfortable being handled and around people. I felt this was important for both their health and safety.
Agnes the Ameraucana
Ameraucana was my number one chicken breed request. Ameraucanas are usually friendly, they lay blue eggs and are a medium size at 4-5lbs.
But who is Agnes the Ameraucana? To start, Agnes was the very first chicken I chose. We got her and all our current chickens at Jamestown Feed & Seed. She was brown with darker stripes, she was running around in the pen with the other chicks, she was very active. Agnes was one of two Ameraucanas we picked up on March 23rd, 2017.
When I picked these chicks I purposely chose two very different colors. I was new to chickens and wasn’t sure how a chick would look compared to the adult, fully feathered, chicken. I wanted to see how each color chick changed as it grew. Jamestown Feed & Seed only had two colors available, there are eight colors in the Ameraucana breed.
If you are interested in some early blog posts on our chickens be sure to see this post and this post.
Agnes as an Indivual
Agnes the Americauna is as advertised very friendly, she always checks to find out if I brought treats and is one of the first to take food from my hands. However, as soon as the food hits the ground she prefers to peck it from there. This is probably why she is so busy, always looking for bugs and any other food she can find.
Agnes is a bit of a loner. She tends to find a spot a bit off from the others to get her scratch in the mornings. She also will often be on her own when free ranging. Agnes likes to find spots under bushes or along the back flower bed to forage for bugs and tasty plants when free-ranging.
Though Agnes is always ready to come running to me when I come out of the house she is the last to arrive as she is farther off in her foraging. She doesn’t want to miss the guaranteed snacks I might be offering.
I often give them Grubblies or mealworms and Chicken Chew from my hands to encourage friendliness. Often they get kitchen scraps and fresh sprouts as well. And I want them to come to me when I call for safety reasons, too.
My favorite Feature
I love Agnes’ little cheeks. She has what I think are referred to as Muffs. Tufts id feathers on either side of her beak giving the appearance of chubby cheeks. Makes me want to pinch her sweet little cheeks like a Grandma.
The feathers on this sweet little hen are a beautiful mix of browns, many of the feathers have a golden center that almost sparkle in the sunlight.
Ameraucanas are bred to have the blue egg gene. I was especially excited to have blue eggs in our egg basket. I have three blue egg layers, Agnes is one of them, the other are Kittie and Louise.
What I didn’t anticipate was that Agnes, our oldest chicken, would be the very last to start laying eggs. She absolutely was. In fact, she Introducing her very first egg on Christmas Day! Her eggs tend to be a medium size egg, just slightly smaller than the other two blue eggs I get from Kittie and Louise. Her eggs also tend to be smoother almost shiny compared to the other two.
How we named our Chickens
As I’m introducing you to our chickens I thought you’d want to know how we decided to name our chickens.
The chicks were named in alphabetical order as they came to our home. Not all the chicks came on the same day but rather spread out over a few weeks. Therefore, you know Agnes the Ameraucana was the very first chicken simply by her name!
As I planned and researched in preparation to get chickens I decided we would refer to them as The Ladies. I wanted to verbally separate them from the dogs who we refer to as The Girls all the time. Going along with the Ladies idea I felt that old fashioned names would suit them very nicely. You might say they all have “Old Ladies” names.
Agnes the Ameraucana Pin It for later
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Agnes. Should I do a full series of chicken introductions? Let me know in the comments. Have any questions?
The first thing I do in the morning is let out the chickens and clean the coop. Then coffee. Always coffee. River of Dreams is perfect to knit while my brain is absorbing caffeine from the coffee to wake up. Usually, I have Instagram stories playing. I knit about 10-12 rows a day. true too, is i move a little slow in the mornings. So now you can understand why it’s taking so long to finish.
You will remember from previous posts, the pattern River Of Dreams by Lauren Rene, was written in conjunction with the anniversary of LYS Flying Needles. I love that this shawl has a playful mix of colorful stripes throughout. The yarn I’m using was a kit from the shop created for this shawl. It also included an exclusive color, River Of Dreams, there are five colors in all. I’d say I’m about 75% done with my shawl.
Some changes I incorporated
I decided to work a garter stitch border rather just Stockinette as the pattern is written. I knit 10 rows of Garter giving me 5 ridges, then 5 stitches of Garter on each end. It’s my preference that the edges to lay flat. Which is why I went with the garter stitch border.
I’m not really the type to set New Year’s resolutions. I always want to be working on bettering myself and our quality of life. I know I need to do things like exercise more, eat healthily and be more patient, always.
So rather than specifically have a resolution here are the things I want to focus on;
make the most of our acre and grow food, and actually eat it
focus on getting chemicals and toxins out of my life, that means you too, diet Pepsi
find my people, I’ve been a hermit this past year
In a nutshell, we are already planning what we want to grow, will refocus on shopping places like the local farmers market and the newly opened Earth Fare, clean up our eating with help from the previous two, and put myself out more in the knitting world and visit my family.
Short and sweet with the intent of accountability. Next time I’ll tell you a bit about my nephew’s visit with my mom. Anthony, too, is a huge fan of our chickens.
Until then I’m off to measure my gauge swatches on my January Gansey for the knit along I joined.
Happy Knitting, gardening, cooking or whatever brings you joy.
What came first, the egg or the chicken? In our case it was the chicken. We have ten of the twelve we originally started with. Shortly said, we had one chicken that developed a cross beak and she was unable to eat enough to sustain life and she went to chicken Heaven. Bea was very friendly and sweet as could be. You can see a short video of her looking for me on Instagram here.
Then there is Frida. Frida was one of two straight run Polish Crested Chickens we purchased. These were the only straight runs we bought, all others were sexed and determined to be pullets or female. They were an, OMG! they’re so cute, impulse buy. We knew we had a chance of having one and possibly two roosters. But I was optimistic and named one Frida and the other Ester.
And, yes, I’ve been told Ester should have an H and it’s spelled ESTHER. Having said that, I don’t care, I have spent my life spelling my name (and the names of our kids) so why not give sweet, little, Ester her own spelling, too?
Anyway, I’m telling you about Frida. Frida turned out to be Fred. When I told this to my son, Rick, he asked why I needed to change the name just because the chicken was now known to be a boy? He was right, damn it! Gender equality and self identifying for everyone and I kept referring to him as “her” anyway. SO, Frida the Rooster was hence forth known as the Drag Queen Rooster, Frida!
You might note- Frida as some Purple feathers. Well, Frida is all black except for the feathers on the very back of her head, those are white. When the hens weren’t pulling every damn one of the white feathers out! I swear. She looked like a Friar, no pun intended. So I kept spraying the white feathers with a thing called Blue Coat which is an antiseptic for animals. The spray dyes the skin blue and as it happens, white feathers purple.
As we moved further into the summer and the chickens were all reaching maturity, eggs were getting laid and Frida was getting frisky. The more Frida matured, the more aggressive she became. That in itself isn’t a bad thing. She protected her flock. Frida gave Cali (one of our dogs) a lesson in messing with chickens 101 and as a result she now has a very healthy respect for chicken personal space. Eventually Frida decided she didn’t like me collecting eggs and started kicking dirt and jumping at me. This continued to progress and I researched how to handle it. In spite of my efforts she became very agressive and even drew some blood from me. It seemed she was destined to go live on a farm somewhere.
So Chuck listed Frida on the Williamsburg Trash and Treasure FB Group and someone called and said he would like Frida, he was hoping to cross breed with his hens and see what interesting mixes a Polish Crested would bring to his farm. Off Frida went. And peace reigned in the run again.
That’s how we ended up here, months later with a Broody Hen and no fertilized eggs for her to hatch. Instead she has been spending the better part of two months sitting in nesting boxes whether they actually had any eggs or not. She has long since stopped laying herself, which is too bad because she lays pretty blue eggs. She is one of two True Blue Whitings we have and her name is Louise. She is a pretty yellow and golden brown and very sweet. I removed her from the nesting box several times each day and at night to put her on a roost. She never stays out long.
Today. Today I took drastic measures. It’s a brisk 55 degrees and sunny. After spending lots of time debating on different ideas I decided to take the plunge, well for Louise to take the plunge actually. It is recommended to but a broody chicken in cold water with the thought that this will lower their body temperature (which is elevated when the go Broody.) I put her in a big bucket of cold water and held her there for 4 minutes. At first she was very unhappy but quickly relaxed and waited it out. Once I released her she ran off and spent quite a long time preening herself and fluffing all her feathers as they dried.
I also decided to “lock” her out of the chicken run all day in hopes the colder day would aid in the cooling of her temperature. Since the gate is shut I have had to play gate keeper to the hens in order for the other hens to have access to the nesting boxes, since they are still laying. I haves pent the better part of the day outside or looking out windows to see who is trying to get in the run. And unfortunately Lou has been up there more than I had hoped. I keep chasing her off and she goes but reluctantly.
Maybe I should have kept my Attack Drag Queen Rooster and let her hatch some. Maybe next time I’ll ask Stephanie to purchase some fertilized eggs from her friend on my behalf.
Today is the first sunny day after rain on and off for the last few so the chickens have found a nice sunny, dry spot to take a dust bath. Click this link to watch a couple minute video. If you haven’t seen chickens dust bathing they look rather strange. I find it entertaining and I’m sure you will, too.
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.
I tried to find a moment or two each day to add a few rows. I started knitting on my color 2 four days into the project. As I was knitting along on Color 2, Madelinetosh’s Tosh Merino Light in the color Plaid Blanket, it hit me. I’m using Color 1 as color 2. [Insert image of me hanging my head head in shame here] I mislabeled them when I put the yarn labels together in order 1-7.
You can see I did it almost from the beginning, before I even took my official photos for my Ravelry project page. I guess I had a brain fart. I new what the swatch order was so I cannot explain it. Today I will be starting over, in the correct order.
Just for the official record the color order is as follows;
Black Elephant, Acheron
Tosh Merino Light, Plaid Blanket
Malabrigo Mechita, 866 Arco Iris
Tosh Merino Light, Coquette Deux 341
Malabrigo Mechita, 5 Aniversario
Dragonfly Fibers Pixie, Middle Earth
Black Elephant, Sunflowers
At least this way I get fun extra knitting on this project. Really get my money’s worth out of the yarn by knitting it twice. Get the chance to start the KAL again! Just trying to get enthusiastic about restarting…..
I must’ve missed September. I can’t imagine how it’s already October. We have been in a huge detox mode here at my house. Maybe that is why I feel I missed it, too busy. I’ve been working my way through closets and drawers and cupboards. I’ve also made a commitment too use up any excess we have in the pantry, freezer and toiletry cupboard. I’ve always had spare this and extra that. It has gotten excessive. I think it’s is because we have such a large family I needed to have a lot of back stock. Like shampoo. When 7 people are showering in one bathroom you go through so much of it that having only one back up meant I might not have time to get to the store before we were well into the back up bottle or even completely out. But now, we are so few living at home and we have 3 showers it takes forever to use up a bottle, I hardly need to have a back up, let alone more than one. Hence the rethinking. And the sorting. As a plus, I haven’t seen the inside of a Target since at least August.
As I’m spending a portion of my free time clearing out things I’ve got less knitting time. I’m working on all the same projects and I’ve started a few new ones. As I went through my closest I decided to make the lifestyle choice of only wearing sweaters I hand knit. I donated all my store bought sweaters and am determined. Therefore, I started a sweater for myself. My daughter, Hanna, also started the same sweater for herself; so we are having a KAL. We are knitting the Louise Cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge. I really like the simplicity of the design and the playfulness of the colors. I’m quite aways into the sweater and I really like the yarn and the gauge I’m getting. I’m using Cascade Eco Plus wool. It is one of my go to yarns.
I’ve found the Louise Cardigan to be somewhat challenging. I’ve made pretty good notes of what I did and hopefully can explain to Hanna so her first hand knit sweater goes smoothly. The pattern has some omissions on important parts and directions that aren’t very clear. I’m particularly frustrated because I purchased this pattern for $7, I feel that if a pattern is being sold there is an expectation of clear instructions and any errors get caught through test knitting and proof reading. I looked through Ravelry at all the notes other knitters made while making this. I didn’t see anyone else having too many issues so it is possible I’m the one with the problem and not the pattern. Here’s a link to my project notes.
Another new project I started is the Mitten Garland Advent Wreath by Kathy Lewinski. I am not very good at color work, Fairisle, so I thought this would be a great way to brush up on my skills. I’m using Knitpicks Palette yarns. I grabbed two different color packs. Peppermint Icicle and Herbal Wreath. I’m using a 47″ #0 circular needle for magicloop. It’s a slow process. I’ve knit and ripped out the first mitten no less than 7 times trying to get my tension even. I think I’m there but it really requires a lot on mental concentration. Like, nothing I’ve knit in awhile. It’ll be interesting to see if my speed and focus catch up to my usual level. I’m not sure if I’ll get all 24 knit, for sure not for this Christmas!
Today I filmed a video about knitting the Heel Turn section of a sock. If you want to check it out here’s the link. I get a lot of questions from new sock knitters regarding the gap in this section like what do I mean “The Gap?” so I hope this is helpful.