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.
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!