Posted in Gardening, Instagram, Our House

Gardening

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.

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Posted in Chickens, Gardening, Homesteading, Nature

Garden Prepping

Garden prepping is in full swing here. My husband Chuck has started his seedlings. We moved some existing plants, planted last year from the front gardens, into different gardens in our backyard to protect them from deer. If I had realized the deer would be a problem I would’ve done more research when we started revamping last year. And of course, the chickens are doing their part turning over all beds in prep for planting.

Other Garden Prepping

We dug out flowers from neighbors who were looking to thin or remove perennials. Then planted them into our gardens In addition, we have reworked some of the garden beds from last year. We made some larger and added another new bed. We are trying to make the beds curved in such a way as to accommodate our riding lawnmowers ability to navigate with ease.

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Posted in Gardening, knitting, Ravelry knit projects, Shopping, Williamsburg, VA, yarn

Wool Sweaters


I haven’t knit myself a sweater since 2017. I felt this needed to be remedied. So I joined the Olive Knits January Gansey Sweater knit along.

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Photo credit to OliveKnits, Marie Greene from Ravelry

The January Gansey Sweater is a pattern written by Olive Knits. There is a KAL group on Facebook and on Ravelry where people are sharing and asking questions. There also are weekly videos discussing the technical aspects of this sweater hosted by Marie Greene of OliveKnits. as luck would have it there happen to be a few other people besides myself making this sweater at the LYS, Flying Needles. I’ve chosen to knit mine with Berroco Ultra Wool DK in a pretty moss green color. I’m using the color #83118 in the dye lot of 7C4778. I’m modifying where I start the cables to what I feel will suit my charming Apple Shape a bit better, but otherwise will be following the pattern.

I chose this specific knit along because it included a technique I always wanted to try, underarm gussets. I would not be surprised if you just read that last sentence and it didn’t even sound like a real thing. Underarm Gusset, indeed. I assure you, all the non-knitters and knitters alike, that it is indeed real and it’s a very old and useful technique.

A Gansey or Guernsey Sweater is a traditional woolen knit sweater often worn my fisherman. Now, I’m not a fisherman, but I will be wearing this sweater. And, I do enjoy learning about historical clothing, especially when it also incorporates knitting.

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As I was working along on my sweater it occurred to me it might be a good time to also go ahead and strip off the lavender flowers from the bouquet I bought at the Williamsburg Farmers Market this fall and make new sachets. While doing this I took this opportunity to add a couple drops of Lavender essential oil to some of the older lavender sachets I had made in the past. I now have freshly protected drawers in which I can store my sweater once I finish it.

I have six or so sweaters I’ve knit and a dresser full of other things knit. Mostly I knit with wool so protection against moths is really important.

So for the next week, I expect I’ll be plugging along on the stockinette body of my January Gansey Sweater. This will have the added bonus of making the fussy cabled section to be minimal. Allowing me to focus on my two oldest sons, Charlie and Ricky,  while they are here for a visit. They will be here this coming weekend. I am very much looking forward to seeing them.

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I will be starting the cables a few inches before the underarm gusset. I expect both these things will require my undivided attention. And in truth, I really want to give my boys my undivided attention, too. So I may have to set the sweater aside when I get to this point. Good thing I have several other projects I can knit as a back-up. You can never be too prepared.

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Wool Sweaters #protectwool #woolprotection #lavender #lavendersachets "lavenderesstionaloil

Happy knitting.

Short and Sweet

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
  • shop local
  • 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
  • blo more

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.

Posted in Chickens, Gardening, Home, knitting

Extra time to Knit


Around here there seems to be an abundance of yard work. Having an acre of land can be rather daunting. Especially having spent the last 8 years in the desert. Though we made plenty of garden space with raised beds and lots of flower pots we did have rocks instead of grass. Not cutting grass for so long has significantly skewed my perspective on the amount of time it takes for this task.

No grass gives you more leisure time for sure. This is our yard in NM. You cannot believe the difference of dry heat vs humid heat if you haven’t actually experienced it.

I told Max, whose responsibility it is to weed whack, that it would take me around an hour to cut the front yard. Here’s where my skewing comes in. It took me about three hours in reality! And mind you I have a riding lawnmower. Previously, Chuck or Max have taken turns at doing this job. I was relegated to this task as it’s currently one of the few I’m “allowed” to do.

A calming view of my grassless NM yard. I was probably knitting while not cutting grass here.

 

What do I mean “allowed?” Well, apparently, I’ve broken my foot bones in three places. I wasn’t even aware I broke anything.  I knew it hurt, particularly when walking on uneven ground or up and down hills and such. Some days it really hurt and others it wasn’t noticeable.

 

 

Until one day at Tim’s therapy, where I was sitting waiting for him, I dropped my kindle. I leaned forward to pick it up and I guess I put weight on my foot just right and had such a sharp pain for a second I thought I might pass out! I definitely saw stars. I set up a Podiatrist appointment that day.

After seeing the dr, and getting X-rays, it was clear I had two very significant fractures in the bone second from the left with a hairline crack in another. It was concluded that between the pain meds I’m on for Fibromyalgia and not having any initial swelling or bruising I didn’t realize it had happened.  [It’s most likely happened when I stepped wrong on a tree root raised above the ground. Probably the very one I asked Chuck to cut off that was by the chicken coop, since I always was tripping on it.] The powers that be must have decided to give me a wake up call. Saving the bones from actually breaking off by the continued stress of walking on them and therefore preventing the need for a surgery.

Our front yard in VA is  actually larger than our backyard.(The backyard has been assigned as such only because it’s the fenced in part of our acre)

So, now I have a ugly, heavy, hot, robotic-like boot I have to wear for at least 6 weeks. And orders to stay off my foot whenever possible. Which as it turns out has been a real challenge for me, I’m not a very good patient.

But it is not so bad if I look at it from the point of how much time this leaves for knitting. And Chuck, being a great support, is doing a lot of the work I usually do and both boys are helping out, too.

And I have been doing lots of knitting. With each row I knit on my shawl I gain more and more stitches. Thus, each row requires more and more time to knit. I think that I’m winning. I’ve been powering through the Hydrangea Shawl like a beast. I’m now fully into color 4 of 5. While my shawl is clearly getting more blue as I switch through the colors I think my Hydrangeas are also getting bluer with the addition of fertilizer and the rusty things I’ve added around it. (Plus I’m saving all the coffee grounds in order to spread around the roots on my SIL, Carolyn’s, recommendation.)

What do you think? Are the flowers turning blue? Right at the centers I think.

 

Happy knitting.

An unnecessary chicken picture, Ida and Gertie.

Posted in Gardening, knitting, notions, Ravelry knit projects, yarn

Hydrangeas


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.

Happy knitting!

Posted in Gardening, Pinterest, Queens Lake

Curb Appeal


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!

 

Here’s how it looked when we came to see the house the first time

This is after we moved in and had the house painted, removed the shrubs but hadn’t yet landscaped.

This is how it looks now, just waiting for flowers to get big!

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.

This is in the backyard and what you see most through our living room windows

 

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.

The Shed

The Cottage

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.