Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

The Great Jailbreak of 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sunday mornings are supposed to be quiet.  At least that's the rule in Cranky's world.  I hadn't been up that long and was hanging out with the pups in our super-airconditioned office when J. burst in and brought our tranquility to a screeching halt.

"Your chickens are in the neighbors yard."  He said it rather breathlessly as well, I might add.  Like he had just ran up the stairs.

My first thought was "Now how that could be?" and then quickly raced to thoughts of the roving dogs in the neighborhood, chicken rustlers intent on stealing them for a free chicken dinner, the owls that live next door and other scary images.  My poor chickens could have befallen a terrible fate.  But all I could croak out  in my still-sleep-addled state was 'What?!"

"Your chickens are out of the coop and in the neighbor's yard.  Apparently, we didn't close the door to the run last night and they got out."

Ah, well, actually what happened is that I thought J. had shut the door when he put Henrietta back in the coop and he thought I did it.  Oops.  Big oops.  I am now wide awake.

I debated running out there in my jammies (which is a t-shirt and shorts) but thought I better get a little more presentable and put on a bra and some shoes.  After all, I did have to go over to the neighbors.  So, like a flash, I was down the stairs and out the door.  I don't think my foot even hit the back porch as I sprinted across the yard.  And what do I see?

Taken from our yard and the coop is just to the right of me inside our fence.  There's an opening in the vinyl fence to the left where the driveway comes in (and no gate). Did they wander past here, through the driveway opening and back down the outside of the chain link?

Seven chickens on the wrong side of the fence staring back at me.  They are nervously trying to figure out how to get back to their coop but the darn fence is in the way.  We can see it - why can't we get there!?  I have no idea if they flew over there or if they somehow wandered around the 50 feet of vinyl fence and then down the side past 60 feet of chain link.  I think they flew, since they don't like to be too far from home and that would be a long walk where 1/2 the time they wouldn't be able to see their house.  For those of you who didn't know it, chickens are homebodies.  At least mine are.

So I trudge through the neighbors yard and landscaping, which I am hoping doesn't consist of any poison ivy and try to grab them and put them back over the fence.  It quickly is apparent that isn't going to work.  So I try shooing them back down the fenceline.  But they get nervous about not being able to see their house and dart between my legs and back down the fence.

Aha!  But we are smart humans.  J. grabs the mealworms and as we throw them behind us, the chooks follow us around the fence like a couple of pied pipers.

Where was #8?   Still in the coop.  But she came out to give everyone a scolding and a welcome back. 

Reunited!  (Now tell me you can't read that word and immediately channel Peaches and Herb. Be honest!)
I love happy endings.  And lesson learned....I will always double-check the doors to ensure there are no more chicken jailbreaks in the future.

I'm sharing with this week's Country Garden Showcase.

How To: DIY Erasable Calendar

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I bet you'll never guess what the weather is here.  What?   How'd you know that it's over 100 degrees and hotter than Hades?  You must have ESP.  *sigh*  Next week will be a repeat and more of the same.  I'm starting to feel like I'm in that movie Groundhog Day.  You know...the one where Bill Murray wakes up and it's the same day every day?  Yep, I'm starting to go a little stir crazy. 

Today, I thought I would give my idle mind something to do rather than watch the boob tube.  I've been on an organization kick and have been wanting to setup an organization center in the kitchen.  One thing that bugs is me is that we don't have a way to keep track of all the stuff we want to do:  concerts, auctions, tons of local festivals, birthdays, etc.

I've seen some other craft bloggers do different versions of framed glass calendars and thought that was a neat idea. 

How To Repurpose A Picture Frame Into An
Eraseable Calendar

Supplies:
  • Picture Frame -  I purchased a cheap black frame on sale for 50% off.  It would have been better if I could have repurposed an old frame, but I don't have any and I didn't feel like braving the heat to check the thrift stores of garage sales.  (Did I mention that it's hot?)
  • Desk calendar - if you don't have one of these, you'll have to use a ruler to layout the calendar grid manually
  • Sharpie or other permanent marker
  • Clear sticker paper for your printer (for printing the days of the week)
  • Background of your choice - fabric, wallpaper, scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, etc.
  • Dry-erase marker - fine point works better for writing appointments on the calendar

Instructions:

  1. The idea behind this "erasable" calendar is that you draw the calendar grid on the inside of the glass with a permanent marker (a.k.a. Sharpie).  That's where having the desktop calendar comes in handy.  Put the glass on top of the calendar and then trace the lines (using a ruler, of course).
  2. If you screw up or the line isn't straight, use nail polish to remove the marker and start again.  It comes off easily with the polish but you otherwise have to really scrape to get it off.
  3. I decided to print the days of the week on some Avery clear sticker paper, cut them out and adhere them to the inside of the glass.  This paper is available at any craft store.  Make sure you get the correct paper for your printer, as it is available for both laserjet and inkjet.  Also, if you are going to do this, keep in mind that you have to print the days of the week backward.  I used the text function in Paint to type in the days, then selected them all and used the "rotate" function to turn them backwards.  Pretty easy!
  4. Put the glass back in the frame.  You might want to make sure you don't have any fingerprints on the glass.
  5. Cut your background fabric or paper andplace it in the frame.
  6. Reassemble the frame.
  7. Use a dry-erase marker to fill in the dates and your appointments on the front of the glass.  When it's time to change months, just wipe the glass clean and start all over!

I think the fun part of this is the opportunity to be creative with the background.  My kitchen is sponged with Ralph Lauren black, metallic silver, metallic bronze, and metallic blue\silver.  (Sounds crazy, I know, but everyone LOVES it.  If you want to see something scary, paint your kitchen with a base coat of black! )

But I digress.  I found this large damark fabric that I fell in love with and it was perfect:


I wasn't happy with the way the days of the week stood out.  That Avery label paper isn't completely clear.  So I decided to try a lighter wrapping paper that we already had in the closet.


Ding!  I think we have  winner.  It will be easier to read the calendar with this lighter background.  And the labels for the days don't stand out so much.

And, finally, I thought I would have some fun with this.  How about a background made out of those leftover paint sample cards from Home Depot or Lowes?  These are Martha Stewart metallic paint cards that I've cut into 2" squares and taped together.  I'm not sure I like it with the fabric, but you get the idea.  Think of all the colors you could mix together!


As I'm typing this, I've got a couple more ideas.  How about using vinyl letters on the outside of the glass and taping off the grid for the calendar?  Then you could use glass etch to permanently etch the calendar.  It would be permanent, though, so the frame wouldn't be reusable unless you bought new glass.  With my method, it's easy to turn it back into a picture frame.

Well, I would have hung this in the kitchen where it belongs but my handyman is snoring on the sofa right now.  So I can't even put it up myself or the hammering will wake him up.  Drat!

If you make your own variation of this calendar or have some creative ideas on how to improve it, I'd love to hear about it.  Leave me a comment or drop me an email!





Come and craft with the rest of us at DIY Linky Party, Saturday Spotlight, Saturday Night Special, Sunday Showcase and Nifty Thrifty Sunday, Thrifty Treasures, Motivated MondayMasterpiece Monday, Creative Bloggers Party, Craftomaniac Mondays, Mop It Up Monday, Make It Pretty Monday, Tutorials and Tips, Made By You MondayI Made It MondayMore the Merrier, Metamorphosis MondayMake the Scene Monday!, Nifty Thrifty Tuesday, Get Your Craft on TuesdayUncommonly Yours, All Star Block Party, Show Me What Ya Got, Share the Love,, Wow Us Wednesdays, Homemaking Linkup, Home is Where the Heart Is, and Wicked Awesome Wednesday.

When Life Gives Your Cucumbers, Make Cucumber Soup

My cukes are just about the only thing left in my garden that hasn't keeled over in this heat and drought.  That and the Romas.  But, despite that fact, I have tons of blooms but no cukes!

So I was really  happy when Hen House ran the special earlier this week for locally grown cucumbers for just 25 cents each.  I picked up 4 of the most mammoth cukes you have ever seen.  In fact, I should have weighed them before I set to work on making the most delicious cold cucumber soup.

Have you ever tried this?  If not, you must!  I had it for the first time earlier this Spring and fell in love.  It's creamy, it's cold, and so light on your tongue.



CrankyPuppy's Cool-Me-Down Cucumber Soup
Easily serves 4 with leftovers; prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

3 large cucumbers (or 4 medium-sized)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (I often omit this)
3 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1/2 tablespoon dried dill)
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pint buttermilk
1/2 pint plain or Greek yogurt
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preparation:

  1. Peel the cucumbers (they're so slick, it's easier to use a potato peeler than a knife.)
  2. Cut them in half and remove the seeds. My technique is to use a paring knife to get most of it, then use the tip of a spoon and the rest scrapes right out.)
  3. Sprinkle the cucumbers with salt and let them stand 30 minutes. This will draw some of the water out of the cukes.
  4. Drain the excess water off.
  5. Chop the cucumbers coarsely and put the pieces in the blender along with scallions, dill, lemon juice, buttermilk, and yogurt. Blend at high speed.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Chill well before serving.  I like to top each bowl with chopped scallions, sprigs of mint, or fresh shrimp. 

The flavors continue to blend as this soup sits, and it hits peak max flavor at about 2 days after you make it.  But you can eat it as soon as it's chilled also.  It's so light that it's really more of an appetizer or snack, though.  Also, you can substitute sour cream for the yogurt or heavy cream for the buttermilk and add more dill for taste.  I'm not a huge dill fan, so the recipe above is what I use and it's quite "dilly" enough for me.  ;-)

By the way, my cost to double the recipe and feed up to 8 people was just $4.37!  ($1.28 for 1 quart of buttermilk, $2.09 for 1.5 pint plain yogurt, and $1.00 for cucumbers; everything else was fresh from the garden or in my pantry).

So, if your garden is doing great and you end up with more cucumbers than you know what do with, this is a great way to enjoy them. 

Hope you enjoy!

Ode to Joy

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I just saw this over on the 500 Dollar Tomato blog and had to share it with you. 
One of the comments was "Why can't all of our lives be so in sync and filled with such joy and enthusiasm?". 

Can I get an "Amen"?





Mysterious Sphinx

Friday, July 27, 2012

We had a very mysterious guest yesterday here. His rather foreign-sounding name, Hyles Lineata, made us wonder where he came from and how far he had traveled to get here.


He didn't have a riddle for us, but he was gracious enough to hop into my hand so that I could get a better look at him.  That's when we saw his true colors. 


You can see how large this White-Lined Sphinx Moth is compared to my hand.  The colors and markings on his wings are just gorgeous.  His head and body were covered in short hairs, giving him the appearance of being furry.  I tucked him away safely in our flower garden after taking this picture.

While I didn't see any others, these moths do tend to congregate in groups.  I suspect he was resting up to drink some nectar from my roses, phlox or the myriad of dandelions in the yard before he continued on his travels.


While we didn't get to see him drink, apparently they hover over flowers like a hummingbird does and suck out the flower nectar with their long proboscis.

What a neat visitor!  Did you have anything interesting or unexpected happen today?


Wishing the Day Away

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Driving home from a doctor's appointment late today, a shadow fell over my car.  It too me a minute to realize that it was a cloud blotting out the sun.  In fact, it was downright cloudy and that's something we haven't seen here in weeks.  With temps hitting 106 today, it was a small but welcome respite from the neverending glare of the sun beating down on us.  I am tired of being inside and running from car to work and car to home.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.

That picture is the sky taken from my back patio tonight right before J. and I left to have dinner with some friends.  I had just enough time to snap the one shot and to say a silent prayer that those dark clouds would rain down on us.  That prayer was answered with just seven raindrops on our windshield and no more.  It is not yet to be.

There are other dark clouds in our lives right now.  A co-worker, a friend, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer several months ago.  I know many of you know what that means.  He has fought a long, hard fight but it is now coming to a close.  In just 24 hours, he has gone from being someone making plans to have lunch to someone who doesn't recognize his family.  While his spirit persists, his body is shutting down.  I am sad, of course, for losing this person from my life, sad for his family and friends, sad that I didn't get a chance to know him better and angry that this would happen to such a good person.  And, in reflection, I am thinking about how fleeting life it is.  This could be any of us.  If I could have one wish, it would be to take this kind of pain away for Dan, for his family....for all of us.

Sorry to be so negative today in light of the fun post from last night. But today has thrown a loop as life always does. I want to thank everyone who has entered the giveaway so far, as I couldn't help but laugh out loud at some of the entries.  I think the folks in the doctor's office thought I was a bit nuts.

Good night, everyone....


Giveaway: Let's Play "How Hot Is It?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


This is what greeted me on the patio when I got home from work tonight.  We lucked out and got an awesome deal on six of the Ball half-gallon canning jars at Feldman's home store on Sunday.  J. had beat me home and was using them to make some sun tea which slightly distressed me.  Not because I don't like sun tea (I LOVE it!) but because I had just gone to the store and the frig was full.  I mean, I don't think I could even fit a pickle in the sucker.

So I asked J. what he was going to do with that tea and, without missing a beat, he said "well, I was going to put some ice in there and drink it."  A half gallon!  The poor man is going to be in the bathroom all night.

(That does look like some tasty southern style sweet tea, doesn't it?)

Oh, and that's my new gardener's hat that I bought a couple of weekends ago - also on sale for half price.  It reminds me of that hat that Chevy Chase wears in Fletch II where he's singing Zippy De Doo Dah.  J. says it's a riverboat gambler hat.  Whatever that means.  I just think it's cool.  The only way that it could possibly be cooler would be for it to have a fluffy bee on a sproingy stem sticking out of the hat band.  I suppose that might attract some certain amorous flying insects, however, so maybe I should re-think that plan.

Giveaway:  Enter to win a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card!

Anyway, how about a contest to celebrate this heat and the fact that I'm now over 200 posts here on the Cranky Puppy blog?  I thought it might be fun to see who can come up with the most creative ending to the oft-heard-lately question "How hot is it?" 

The Prize:  A $10 Amazon gift card delivered electronically to the winner via email.
The Deadline: Oh, let's let this go 'til the heat breaks.  Let's say August 4th.
Rules
  • You must be a follower of Cranky Puppy to win.
  • You can enter as many times as you like by leaving a comment with a creative answer in the form of "It's so hot that __________". 
  • If there are duplicate entries (e.g., two people enter the same answer), then only the first person's entry will count.
  • This is a purely subjective contest where I am the sole judge.  No randomization here, folks.  I'll be picking what I think is the best entry in the contest. The more creative you are, the more you make me laugh, the better your chances of winning.
  • I will announce the winner here on the Cranky Puppy blog on Sunday, August 5th..  The winner has 48 hours to respond and claim their prize.  In the event that they do not respond within 48 hours, the prize will go to the runner-up.
  • Other legal mumbo jumbo here...blah blah blah

Why don't I start this thing off with a couple of my own?

It's so hot that.....  my chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs?

Or how about this:

It's so hot that.... the tomatoes are melting!?


I know...weird, huh?  That's one of my poor, sun-scalded Early Girl tomatoes that I picked tonight.  I've never seen anything like it.

So good luck with the contest and I'm looking forward to reading some rip-snorting hilarious entries. 
  
Good luck and have fun with this!

Blog Awards

Monday, July 23, 2012

I am so excited about having been nominated by Lisa Lynn over at Little Homestead on the Hill for the "One Lovely Blog" and "Very Inspiring Blogger" awards.   


          


Thank you so much for thinking of Cranky Puppy and congrats on your own awards, Lisa Lynn.  I am truly honored to be on the list with 14 other really awesome bloggers.  (You can check out the other blogs at her post here!)

So I believe the way this works is that I'm supposed to tell you 7 random things about myself AND...here's the fun part....I get to nominate 15 other blogs that I find lovely and inspiring.  This is just too much fun.

If you promise not to tell......here are 7 random secrets about moi:

  1. I was 40 when I ate my first pickle. (I was one of those picky eaters that moms hate!)
  2. I'm learning how to play bluegrass banjo.
  3. My favorite flower is the iris (so many varieties!)
  4. I was blessed to be raised by my grandparents who grew up during the Great Depression. They taught me the value of money, hard work, and thrift.
  5. Despite #4:  a couple of years ago, I realized my life-long dream of owning a vintage piano. Our parlor is now graced by a beautiful 1893 Steinway baby grand.  Sometimes I just sit and drool over it.  And, yes, I do play.
  6. I'm an extreme couponer.  I used to have a coupon blog and I still teach classes.
  7. I have a soft spot for men with orange Converse high tops.

Okay, enough about boring ol' me.  Let's get to the good stuff. 

It was really hard for me to pick 15 lovely and inspiring blogs because I read so many of them.  Everything from homemaking, preserving, urban homesteading, quilting, crafts, gardening, and existential basketweaving.  (Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.)  I can easily come up with 50 blogs that deserve these awards.  But I guess the rules say 15, so here they are in no particular order:

(**if you're on the list and want to decline, I promise I won't hold it against you.  Just let me know!)

















That's a great list and I recommend you hop on over and check out these lovely and inspiring blogs toot-sweet.  That means "as soon as you finish your coffee" in American-speak.

Thanks again to Lisa Lynn for the nod and to all of you, my readers.  Seeing and reading what everyone is up to puts a smile on my face every day. 

Beat the Heat: Watermelon Slushies

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Is your mouth watering yet?

I'm sure you're tired of hearing me and all the other bloggers talk about how darn hot it is - I know I certainly am tired of talking about it.  It's not going anywhere, so let's move on to a slightly cooler topic, shall we?  I thought I would talk about one of the ways that I like to stay cool and refeshed on a hot summer day.  Watermelon smoothies!

These are a perfect way to use up extra watermelon that you might have in your fridge.  And they're completely healthy to boot.  Watermelon is full of antioxidants and is about 92% water, so it will help keep you hydrated and flush out .  My recipe will fill 3 pint jars.

Watermelon Slushies

 Ingredients
  • 5 cups watermelon (seedless or seeded, depending on your preference*)
  • 10 ice cubes (optional if the watermelon is frozen ahead of time)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp honey (optional - personally, I don't like the taste of honey with watermelon)
  • Sugar (to taste if the watermelon is not as ripe and sweet)
  • Mint leaves for garnish
  • Red sugar (if you want to sugar the rims of the glasses)

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
2. Serve in your favorite glass with a sprig of mint and a garnish of leftover melon. 

*Did you know that watermelon seeds are supposed to help reduce bloating? The food processor will grind these up, so you won't even know the seeds are in there.

This is the simple recipe that I use, but there are also all kinds of variations.  You might consider trying one of these add-ins:
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt to make it creamier
  • 1 cup lemon or lime sherbet
  • 1 can ginger ale or citrusy soda like Sprite or 7-Up
  • 12 oz container of frozen lemonade or limeade
  • 1 cup strawberry ice cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • whole strawberries - replace 1 cup of the watermelon with strawberries for a sweeter taste
I promise I won't tell if you slip a little something something in there.  Like an ounce of voka or Everclear?

And here are a couple of other ideas:

Watermelon sorbet:  Freeze the slush mixture and then reblend it for a nice sorbet with dinner.
Melon pops:  Pour the slush into popsicle molds for a sweet treat for the kids.

Trust me, watermelon slushies are really good.  I hope you'll try this recipe out and, if you come up with any interesting twists on this recipe, I'd love to hear them.


1966 Ford Pickup. I Rule.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I'm channeling Lester Burnham this evening - if you've seen American Beauty, then you probably get the reference to this scene where Lester lets his wife know about his "new" 1970 Pontiac Firebird - the car of his dreams.  I love that dang flick.   

But I didn't quit my job or blackmail the efficiency consultant.  Nope...this is all about a man named J. and a dream.  A dream of a pickup truck born the same year as he was:  1966.  And it's a finally a reality.

Behold the 1966 Ford pickup.  Grab your hubbies, ladies, because we're about to engage in some serious old truck love. 


Whoa....not so close!  Back it up a little bit....


At 46 years old, she's not perfect but alot of work has been done to the body and the cab mounts (which are what tend to rust out on these).  But we all have a little wear and tear on us when we hit 46, right?  The window is cracked, the window seals are shot, and a couple of the trim pieces are gone off the body, but the body itself is just about right as rain.  No dents!

She's straight off the farm in Lincoln, MO where she was toting firewood and hay.  According to the owner, who was at the auction, the 240 straight 6 engine was rebuilt by Ford and only has about 1000 miles on it since the rebuild.  He also added 6 new tires, new exhaust, new heavy duty hitch, new water pump, and a new battery.  She's got good bones.



Did I mention she's a 3/4 ton dually with a flatbed?


I can see her with a shiny new black paint job, fresh chrome grill and Cranky Puppy Farm signs on the doors.   And maybe some Rhino lining on the flatbed.

She's styling on the inside also.  Check out the gear shift.


And the dash is pretty original and in great shape.  This truck was never fitted with radio!  I can't wait to get my hands on it and make it shine again.


And here's J. driving her home from the auction last night in Sedalia.  He looks right at home with his farmer's straw hat, doesn't he?


When I first met J., he owned a black long bed 1966 Ford pickup that we both loved.  Heck, I used to tease him that I fell for his truck and he was just a package deal.  LOL.  

1950?  Nope, just J. showing his ShaNaNa cool. Note the cigs rolled up in the sleeve.  Those orange Converse are the reason we ended up together.  Who can resist a man in orange high tops?.

But, for some crazy reason, he decided to sell it.  And we've mourned that decision ever since.  We've searched far and wide for a replacement and it's taken a LONG time but we finally found her.  It was love at first site when we pulled into the auction lot last night.  We had to fight off one other person but we weren't to be denied.  She was all ours.

And the best part about it?  The huge smile on J.'s face. 
He owns a 1966 Ford 3/4 ton pickup and
HE RULES!

Chickens and Heat

Friday, July 20, 2012


The Jeep marked it at 108 degrees this afternoon as I was heading home from work.  That's just utterly ridiculous and uncivilized in my opinion.  But I guess we're stuck with this weather for the foreseeable future, which is at least until the beginning of August.  And no rain anywhere near us.
We're now watering trees and shrubs because we're afraid we're going to lose everything.  The zoysia we put in 8 years ago is dead, I think.

I talked to a friend earlier in the day who told me his dog had died and he had to bury him in the backyard.  Sad to hear that (a neighbor's dogs killed this little pup) but the interesting thing is that he said to me "I can tell you that even 4 feet down there's no water."  He had to use a pick axe to dig the hole because the ground is as hard as concrete.

I've been extremely worried about the chickens in this heat and have been giving them some cold treats and fresh cold water.  Even though they're molting and have lost alot of feathers, they are extremely stressed in this heat.  As a result of the heat and the molt, egg production is now down about 50%.

Barred Rock panting in the heat. It was 98 degrees at 9:30 p.m. when I took this picture.

Chickens start to get stressed when temps go above 80 degrees, although some breeds are more tolerant than others.  When I was looking at which breed to get for our backyard flock, it was important to me that we get a variety that can tolerate our Missouri weather, which is jokingly referred to in the state as "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes."  In all seriousness, the temps can range from -12 F to 110 F on the high end.  Those are extremes, but it can happen.  We're seeing that extreme heat right now.  So we settled on Barred Rocks and Austrolorps because they're a bigger breed and are heat and cold tolerant.

You can tell if a chicken is heat-stressed because they act just like dogs:  they pant because they can't sweat like humans can.  Panting releases some of the heat, and they are also cooled by the blood flowing through their combs and wattles.  As a result, chicken breeds without combs will be more stressed because they don't have that cooling system.  You'll also see chickens squat and hold their wings out to let air flow under their wings to cool themselves.  The Barred Rock in the picture was doing that just before I snapped the picture, as were the rest of the ladies on the roost.

So, short of installing central air in the coop, what can you do to help your chickens beat the heat?  I thought I would share a couple of things that I do as well as some other tips.

Provide shade.  If you live in a hot climate, you should consider shade when thinking about where to place your coop.  Our coop is under a huge oak tree and gets shade for much of the afternoon, which can lower the actual temps by at least 10 degrees on a hot day.  It also keeps the roof from heating up and retaining heat.  As you know, our coop is attached to a 10' x 10' dog run, and we added white plastic corrugated roofing panels over half of that to provide additional shade.  In the heat of the summer and winter, we sometimes add tarps over the top to provide additional shade as needed.  Chickens that have no shade will often stay indoors where the air flow might not be as good, so shade is an extremely important way to protect your chooks from the heat.

Provide lots of fresh, cool water.  It goes without saying, I think, that you should place the waterer in the shade to keep the water cool and keep it from evaporating so quickly.  One trick for cooling the water is to freeze a 2-liter of water and then put it in the waterer or hang it over a pan.  As it melts, it will provide a cool drink for the birds over a longer period of time.  Short term, you could just put ice in the waterer.  The important thing here is that they will always need access to water.  The best way to kill your chickens in a heat wave is to let their waterer run dry.  I put waterers in both the coop and the run and refresh it daily (or more often if needed).

Provide air circulation.  Keep the doors and windows open to allow air movement and make sure the roof is properly vented so that heat doesn't get trapped against the ceiling.

Provide a way of cooling off.  You can also consider putting a fan, swamp cooler or even an air conditioner in the coop.  Just a small amount of air movement can go a long way toward keeping the animals cool.  Just think what a breeze does for us humans on a hot, summer day.  Also, just hosing down the walls and roof of the coop can help as well.  Chickens don't like to be sprayed with water but, if you're concerned about their stress level, you can mist them lightly.  You might consider putting a sprinkler so that it sprays through one corner of their run so that they can explore it on their own. 

Or here's an idea:  how about freezing ice packs and putting them in their nesting boxes?  They should stay cool for up to 5 hours.  Just make sure you put them in a Ziploc bag first (to keep the chicken poop off them. I really don't want to put a poopy ice pack back in my freezer.

Provide a dust bath.  Another way that chickens cool off is through dust baths.  Make sure they have access to dry, loose dirt for dusting their feathers.  The process cools their skin, comforts them, and also keeps mites and other parasites away.  With the dry weather, we have no shortage of dust but you can also use ash for your fireplace, for example, in a box for them to use for dust baths.

Provide cool treats.  My chookies love frozen bananas and watermelons as a cool treat.  As always, however, don't go overboard.  And never feed them corn in the heat, as it increases their body temperatures.

Stay cool, my friends!

I'm linking up with this week's Rural Thursday,  LHITS Friday DIY Linky, Farm Fresh Friday, and Farm Girl Friday hops.


It's Salsa Time

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Yesterday was a good day indeed.  J. and I met the air conditioning repairmen in the middle of the afternoon to replace the condenser fan motor after a tech earlier in the week said it was overamping and would likely fail soon.  With temperatures in the 106 range and getting hotter, that qualifies as an emergency in my book.  The good news?  They tested it with two different ampmeters and both said it was within normal range.  $583 saved and crisis averted!  You have no idea how relieved I am.

So that gave us a little more time to devote to slicing up all those tomatoes and jalapenos for our epic salsa-fest.  I guesstimate we have somewhere around 8 pounds of tomatoes waiting to be salsafied and canned up.  So J. set to work on the chopping while I watered the garden and the chickens.  Not a quick chore in all this heat, I can tell you that! 

J. showing off his hot chopping skills and his shiny Wusthof knife.  He says you can tell alot about a man's character by the cutlery that he uses.  He's such a knife snob.
Everything for our salsa making came was fresh picked from our garden except the lime juice and some of the jalapenos (blame the rabbits on that one!)  I can't tell you how satisfying it was to chop up these beautiful veggies that we have lovingly nurtured all Spring.  And we will love them all winter with all this canned salsa!

Here's the recipe we used and it's been tested and approved for canning.  Of course, you can use this for fresh salsa and not can it.  But, if you do can, you can make more or less of the salsa - just make sure you keep the ratios exact.  Otherwise, it may not can right and could spoil.

Tomato salsa from slicing tomatoes
Yield: 4 to 6 pints

Ingredients:
4 cups slicing tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 cups green chilies, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 ⁄2 cup jalapeƱo peppers, seeded and finely chopped (no need to peel; 2 whole)
3/4 cup onions, chopped (1 medium)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups vinegar (5% acetic acid) or substitute lime juice
1 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
2 tbsp. oregano leaves (optional)
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro (optional).

Directions:
  1. Peel and prepare chili peppers.  See below for instructions on peeling peppers if you're not sure how to do that.
  2. To peel tomatoes, dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split, then dip in cold water and remove skins.
  3. Core and chop tomatoes.
  4. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Ladle hot salsa into clean, hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace from the top of the jar.
  7. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed.
  8. Wipe jar rims and cap with properly pre-treated lids.
  9. Process in a boiling water canner. (See state elevation map on inside front cover to determine processing time.)
  10. Process time in a boiling water canner for hot pack pint jar for the appropriate time for your elevation.  Generally, this is 15 minutes for 0-1,000 feet or 20 minutes for 1,001-6,000 feet.


How to Remove Skin from Peppers
To remove the tough skin from peppers, first slit each pepper along the side to allow steam to escape when you heat them. There are two methods you can use:
  • Oven or broiler: Place peppers in a hot oven (400° F) or broiler for 6 to 8 minutes until skins blister.
  • Range top: Cover hot gas or electric burner with heavy wire mesh. Place peppers over the burner for several minutes until skins blister. After heating, place peppers in a pan and cover with a damp towel. Allow to steam for 5 to 10 minutes. Slip off skins, discard seeds, and chop.
Muy caliente! I'm sharing this as part of this week's Carnival of Home Preserving.  Go check it out!

Chubby Chicks: Part I

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Well, if my posting has been a little sparse, it's because I've come down an old-fashioned summer cold.  Or something that makes you lose your voice and have a non-stop headache.  As if that wasn't bad enough, yesterday I had an awful stomache ache also.  Gak! 

So I didn't get much done and never did make it to that salsa yesterday, although J. prepped about half of the tomatoes.  He'll need to pick up some jalapenos from the store tonight because we just don't have enough.  Darn rabbits ate all the leaves off our jalapeno plants!

But, as you can see, I did get a little bit done at that Chubby Chick quilt.  I'd like to have it done before I start my intermediate quilting class on August 8th.  I got everything cut out today, so everything you see in the picture represents the components of the quilt with the exception of the backing and binding.  Here's a version of the finished quilt for reference.  I decided to do mine in a combination of navy and lime green fabrics. 

Yesterday, I cut out the following:
  • 25 squares of white\light fabric for the chick backgrounds, 6.5" x 6.5"
  • 4 squares of white\light fabric, 3.5" x 3.5"
  • 48 squares of white\light fabric, 3 7/8" x 3 7/8"
  • 32 rectangles of white\light fabric, 3.5" x 6.5"
  • 5 strips for of white\light fabric for inner border, 3.5" x width of fabric
  • 25 scraps of different lime green fabrics for the chicks themselves
  • 64 squares of green\blue fabric for the flying geese in the border, 3.5" x 3.5"
  • 48 squares of navy polka dot fabric for the pinwheels between the chick blocks, 3 7/8" x 3 7/8"
  • 6 strips of lime green fabric for outer border, 3.5" x width of fabric
This finished quilt is small at just 60" x 60" and consists of 25 chick blocks (16 facinng right and 9 facing left). The pattern comes with templates for the chicks and their beaks, as well as a tracer template for the feet and eyes.  I used fusible webbing to attach the body of the chicks and their beaks to the ivory background fabric and then traced on their feet.

Since we're making pinwheels and flying geese for this project, the easiest way to do this is to start with a diagonal line on the wrong side of the fabric.  So I did alot of line drawing on the back of both the white and blue\green squares:


Now I'm all set to start sewing.  The next step is to use the machine to finish the applique with a blanket stitch around the chicks (in lime green) and around the beaks (in orange).  This will be a learning experience for me, since I've never done applique before.  There will be lots of practicing!

And, finally, I'll use a tight zigzag stitch to embroider their feet (also in orange).

Anybody got any tips for a beginner at machine applique?  I'll admit, I'm kind of intimidated by it and afraid I'll mess it up. 

As I'm writing this, I see that we might hit as high as 109 degrees this weekend.  I guess I'll have plenty of time inside to work on this quilt.

Stay cool, my friends!

I've shared this with with Get Your Craft On Tuesday.  There are some really creative entries over there.  Go check it out!
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