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!

Around Here

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ding ding ding!  Round 2! 
Another 7 inches of snow fell overnight.  That's in addition to the 9 inches we got last Thursday.  Ugh!  What happened to my 60 degree weather!?
I woke up and peeked over my down comforter at the golden glow coming through the window.  It was snowing heavily outside, coating everything with a fresh blanket of white.  So beautiful!  J. and I spent several hours this morning digging out 3 of our neighbors.  We picked up a snowblower for just $85 at an auction this summer and, boy, are we glad we did that now.  It was slow going with this heavy, wet snow but we did okay as long as we took our time.  It was nice to get out and see everyone - it was almost like a block party!  The only folks that weren't in a good mood were the chickens.  Not pleased about having snow in their run, they opted to stay in the coop all day despite me opening the pop door. 
The bad part is that now we're so sore that we can't move.  Us desk-job people aren't used to all that hard labor, I guess.  If I could move, I would have gone out and taken some pictures to share with you so we'll have to make do with some from after last week's storm. 

Uh, Houston, we have a problem.  The roof on the addition on the back of our house is shot and needs to be completely replaced.  It's barely got a slope to it and I'm surprised that the shingles have kept he water at bay for this long.  But you can tell from the picture that the water is going behind the gutter and it's caused some kind of structural issue on the roof overhang.  We're going to have to move this up to the top of the "fix it" list for when the weather gets better.

All the water fom those icicles was landing on my patio furniture and these little apple trees that I failed to get planted last fall, turning them into ice sculptures.  The ice on the chair arm is about 4 inches thick on the top.  What I found really strange is the big sideways icicle - see if in the upper left-hand corner hanging off that tree limb?  How weird is that?
This morning we heard the loud crack that we didnt' want to hear.  The heavy snow has made the gutter even worse and it's sagging even worse that in the first picture.  Nothing to be done about it now until we thaw and let's hope that's soon!

THE Most Beautiful Seed Catalog on the Planet

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whoopee!  After no mail delivery last Thursday and Friday due to Snowmageddon, I was so happy to see the mailman yesterday.  That's especially true since he brought me a very special delivery that I've been waiting on - my 2013 Landreth Seeds catalog.

Folks, if you haven't seen a Landreth's catalog, you haven't seen a seed catalog.  I talked about this when I got my first copy last year, but I think this 229-year-old seed company has clearly outdone themselves this year.  Look at that cover!  That's an original image from the 1930's and the catalog is full of these type of beautiful, historic illustrations and photographs - they're so beautiful that you could frame them and put them on your wall (if you can bring yourself to tear up the catalog!)  The cost for this beauty?  Just $5.00.

Among the pictures, you're sure to learn from the historical information that's provided.  Here's an example:

"Melons are native to the continent of Africa. Many wild forms of melons and watermelons can still be found there today. Though it is not known when melons were first cultivated, it is believed that prehistoric man may have gathered and saved the seeds of the sweetest melons, and this practice led to cultivation. Seeds and wall paintings found in Egyptian tombs indicate that melons and watermelons were under cultivation in Egypt at least 4000 years ago....Columbus brought melons to the New world on his second voyage..By the 16th century, melons were being cultivated in North and South America."

Interesting, huh?  I had no idea that what we normally refer to as cantaloupes are actually muskmelons.  Did you?

This year' catalog was accompanied by a separate catalog that highlights Landreth's heirloom bulb collection and is full of antique watercolors of many of the flower bulbs that they carry.  I flipped through this and am realizing that I'm going to have to spend some time looking at the 24+ varieties of garlic.

Well, this is the last piece in the puzzle for my garden planning this year.  I guess I have to get serious now, even as the snow lies deep on the ground.  On the heels of 9 inches of snow 4 days ago and a light meltoff today, they're forecasting another 12 inches starting tomorrow night!  Sounds like I might have another work-at-home day on Tuesday, so I'll be spending my "lunch break" on the sofa with hot chocolate and the Landreth's catalog.

If you are looking for seeds for your garden or flower bed this year, I hope you'll consider Landreths. There are so many companies failing right now and I can't bear to think of this company, the 5th oldest corporation in America, being dealt the same fate.  For goodness sake, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both bought seed from Landreths.  Let's keep this American treasure alive!

I've shared this post with this week's Barn Hop. Go check out what other folks are up to over there!

Winter's Cruel Return

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A view at 10:00 a.m. from the back deck looking over the garage at the chicken coop. 

Ol' Man Winter sure is a mean one!  Despite it being February, we've enjoyed several warm days in the 60's asnd we've gotten spoiled.  As he does just about every year, the Ol' Man is taking another swipe at us so that we don't forget he's still around.

When I got up a little before 6 a.m. there was nothing happening outside but the weatherguessers were saying that it had crept within the I-435 loop around the city.  After they said western Kansas and Colorado were basically unpassable, I emailed the office and told everyone to work from home.  No sense in risking life and property when we can do our jobs from home.  By 7 a.m., the winds picked up and the snow started flying.  It quickly became so thick that we couldn't even see the chicken coop in the back yard!  We've gotten about 9 inches of snow in the last 3 hours and it's not slacking off one bit.

Meanwhile, they have closed the Kansas City International airport, there are multiple pileups on the highways (including a 20-car pileup south of here), and they're considering closing I-70 (the biggest highway that crosses both Kansas and Missouri).

J., the dogs and I are watching all this unfold from our safe, warm house.  The chickens don't want anything to do with it either and are spending the day on the roost.  We'll be going out to check on them and take them fresh water and scratch as soon as the eye of the storm gets here.

In the meantime, I'd say this calls for some hot chocolate....what do you think?

Toasty and warm,

On the Rising Cost of Milk

Monday, February 18, 2013

A lonely barn somewhere out by Tonganozie, Kansas. The diamond window caught my eye.
I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice the rising prices and decreasing sizes at the grocery store. But after running to Hy-vee to do the shopping, I was shocked tonight to find that milk - ALL milk gallons - are now over $4.00 a gallon here.  Skim and 1% had been hovering around $3.85 but, sometime in the last week, they have shot up another 5% in price. 

We received our electric bill last week and, after they raised rates again, it's over 15% higher than last year even though it's been another mild winter.  KCPL has raised rates 7% every year since 2009 and they just got approved to raise rates another 9.7%.  I don't know about you guys, but I've only had one 2% raise since 2009 so I'm  now going backwards in term of take-home-pay that I get to keep.

J. and I headed to Cabela's and Bass Pro Shop this weekend and were amazed at what we saw.  No ammo to be found anywhere (other than the really expensive Hornady self-defense stuff).  And imagine a 25 foot gun case at Bass Pro with only 12 or so guns in it.  I've never seen anything like it in my life.  A friend at work said that his wife had several people at her church that were new gun owners and they asked if he would teach them how to shoot.

Funny thing is, our own Missouri legislature is trying to confiscate all guns and turn law-abiding gun owners into felons in they don't turn over their firearms within 90 days.  House Bill 545 has a snowball's chance in hell of passing, but it's still alarming.

Folks, we are in for a bumpy ride and it's going to get worse.   

It's been awhile since I joined the Barn Charm Hop. If you love barn porn like I do, that's the place to find it!

Happy Birthday to Ya

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy Birthday, J.!  I hope you enjoy learning how to play your new fiddle.

The fiddle is supposedly one of the hardest instruments to learn to play - at least that's what the folks at FolkMusician.com told me.  They said it would sound like you were killing cats for the first 6 months.  But, actually, I think J. might be a natural and this new fiddle has some really beautiful tone.

After a lick and a sniff, Domino says "What the heck?"

"I'm pretty sure the Devil Went Down to Georgia doesn't sound like THAT."

A Night with the Dead

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Walking Dead, that is!  J. won free tix to The Walking Dead Live last night, which is one of three live appearances by the cast of the hit TV series "The Walking Dead" on A&E.  (I don't know why I had to mention that...anybody above ground has at least heard of this show or they are completely addicted like we are.)  I can't believe that Kansas City got one of these. 

(And, ladies, if you're like a number of people that I work with that are madly in love with Daryl on the show, start scrolling.  Because he's in the second picture below!)

Step 1.  Mount up in your trusty anti-zombie vehicle and head out.  Park in the next town over because parking in downtown KC is terrible.  Walk briskly because it's freezing outside.  And don't forget to stand in line for 20 minutes because they only have one door open to the Midland Theater.

Step 2.  Find out you've actually got VIP seats complete with a hostess that takes drink orders.  And your seats are on a comfy couch right by the door.  Score!

Step 3.  Settle in for an hour and a half of fun, sometimes not-so-family-oriented discussion.  Daryl has always been my favorite character on the show but I actually found myself liking Merle (Michael Rooker) better in person. He's very personable, energetic and has a great on-stage presence .  Norman Reedus (Daryl) seemed surprisingly immature young because I thought he was in his 30's (he was actually born in 1969).  (BTW, Daryl-lovers:  did you know he has a metal eye socket in his left eye due to a car accident??)

Anyway, it was interesting listening to them talk about their characters, behind-the-scenes stuff, etc. and they took questions from the audience as well.  Greg Nicotero, renowned special effects creator and director of The Walking Dead, wouldn't give any hints as to what is going to happen during the second half of Season 3, but he did say "there's some REALLY good stuff coming."  Bring it on, Greg!

Then it was time to spill out into the night and head home.  Imagine our surprise when we opened the theater doors to find this:

Fresh, wet snow plopping all around us.  It was a pretty mushy walk back to the car, but we made it home without losing any body parts to the zombie hordes. 

Menu for the Depression

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I suspect I may be the only person on earth that was happy to get a books on the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl for Christmas.  Yep, I asked for them on my list.  My grandfather was born in 1919 and lived through both of those and, as we sat in lawn chairs in the garage and drank sun tea out of mason jars, he would tell stories that amazed me.  Our house always had plenty of food in it, so I couldn't imagine not having a crumb in the kitchen. 

One of the books that J. got me off my reading list is "The Great Depression", which is a collection of eyewitness accounts put together by David A. Shannon.  When I unwrapped the book, it wasn't a slick cover reprint; rather it's an old library book that still bears the stamps of all the people that have checked it out and read it.  That only makes it all the more charming.

Men sometimes waited hours in line for a bowl or soup and a hard roll at the local soup kitchen.
As you know, many people didn't have much back then.  Thinking about our downward-spiraling economy, I think there are many lessons to be learned from those that lived through it.  One central theme in the book is how families ate during that time.  Would you eat these?


Toast, rice, grits or cornbread in hot milk
Toast with milk gravy
Water-fried pancakes
One eyed Sam – piece of bread with an easy over egg in the center
Oatmeal mixed with lard
Corn meal mush
Popcorn with milk and sugar – they ate it like cereal!
Banana slices with powdered sugar and milk


Chipped beef on toast (my grandfather said they called this "sh*t on a shingle" in the Army)
Gopher, turtle, squirrel and rabbit - including roadkill
Potato soup – water base, not milk
Dandelion salad
Tomato gravy on rice or biscuits
Gravy and bread
Toast with mashed potatoes on top with gravy
Fried corn mush
Boiled cabbage
Hamburger mixed with oatmeal
Chicken feet in broth
Fried bologna
Warm canned tomatoes with bread
Fried potato and bread cubes
Bean soup
Baked apples
Salted tumbleweed (*during the Dust Bowl)
Sliced boiled pork liver on buttered toast (slice the liver with a potato peeler)
Spaghetti with tomato juice and navy beans
Anything with eggs, since most folks had chickens
Spam and noodles with cream of mushroom soup
Rag soup: spinach, broth and lots of macaroni
Garbanzo beans fried in chicken fat or lard, salted, and eaten cold

Or how about these sandwiches?

"Jam" sandwiches - jam two pieces of bread together
Cucumber and mustard sandwiches
Mayonnaise sandwiches
Ketchup sandwiches
Sugar sandwiches
Onion sandwich
Lard or bacon grease sandwiches
Fried potato peel sandwiches
Butter and sugar sandwiches
Tomato sandwiches

My grandfather also had a favorite dish of stewed tomatoes in shell macaroni that he would make once a week.  When I asked him why he liked it so much, he told me that they ate it all the time when he was growing up because they didn't have much else.

Wheat is pretty central to lots of these dishes and, ironically, it was very abundant and sustained many families through the Depression.  In a later post, I'll talk more about the Dust Bowl and why it was ironic that wheat was abundant.  Now that our grain mill has arrived (yeah!), we are working to stock up on wheat berries and other grains and continue to learn how to make different kinds of bread. 

Having chickens for eggs and meat, pigs and maybe a dairy cow or goat, as well as homegrown and canned veggies also helped to sustain families through these hard times.  And they didn't waste anything - did you see the chicken feet soup on the list? 

What do you think? Could you live comfortably on this diet? I suspect I would be missing my chocolate in less than 24 hours.  And, thinking about our society and most of the people I know, they wouldn't last very long.  Heck, I know people that won't eat anything out of a home garden or that's been made from scratch.  I think that's even stranger than a bacon grease sandwich.

Repurposing an Old Pillow

Monday, February 11, 2013

My cheapo bed pillow went flat and it just couldn't be coaxed back into fluffiness on matter what I tried.  Time to replace it, I guess.  But what to do with the old one?  I just couldn't bring myself to put it in the trash, given that we're trying to recycle and repurpose as much as we can.
Enter the doggie bed in our office.

The dogs had worn the padding down to nothing in the bottom. Given that our spoiled pooches' favorite place to lay down is on top of 4 pillows on the sofa, I realized that this was a great place to use that old pillow.  Especially since new dog beds like this are more than $30!
So I tacked the corners of the pillow back to make it more round and fit in the dog bed.  Then I covered it with $3.80 in matching fleece and added a zipper so that I could easily wash everything. 

This was my first zipper and it's not perfect, but I think I did a pretty good job. I'm sure the dogs won't mind.  This was a really easy project that took me less than an hour while I was sitting and watching The Walking Dead last night.

And here's a happy customer trying it out for the first time.

What have you done lately to recycle or repurpose?  I'd love to read about it in the comments or send me an email if you'd like to do a guest post.  Have a great day!

This post is shared as part of this week's Clever ChicksShow and Tell Saturday, Homestead Barn Hop and Mop It Up Monday blog hops.

Pullin' a Houdini

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I was making the bloggy rounds this morning and, over at Razzberry Corner, I found this video of an amazingly ornery and smart "lock-picking" horse.  *sigh*  Maybe some day I'll have room for a gorgeous, black horse like this one.  Enjoy!


1893 Victorian: The Laundry Room

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Having rediscovered my library card recently, I've been having some fun reading some old books full of household hints from the turn of the century earlier.  Ladies, we have no idea how easy our lives are in this modern world!  Mondays were wash days and it was an all day affair.  No throwing the dirty clothes in the washer and heading out to drink tea on the front porch.  No, sirree, Bob!
Before we start the pictures of the 1893 Victorian's laundry room, I thought it might be fun to share an excerpt from one of these books with you.
If any fruit-stains are on napkins or table-cloths, lay the stained part over a bowl, and pour on boiling water till they disappear. Ink can be taken out if the spot is washed while fresh, in cold water, or milk and water; and a little salt will help in taking out wine-stains. Machine-oil must have a little lard or butter rubbed on the spot, which is then to be washed in warm suds. Never rub soap directly on any stain, as it sets it. For iron-rust, spread the garment in the sun, and cover the spot with salt; then squeeze on lemon-juice enough to wet it. This is much safer and quite as sure as the acids sold for this purpose. In bright sunshine the spot will disappear in a few hours.
–from The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking
by Helen Stuart Campbell, 1880
They obviously didn't have OxiClean or Shout back then.  I'm really curious as to whether the salt and lemon juice thing works.  I may just have to try this out on an old rag.
Anyway, on to the pics of the last room on the bottom floor.  Here's the view as we walked into the laundry room on the day we bought the house.  The owner was using this as a kitchen even though it had no appliances in it.  Bachelors, I swear....

That's the door to the back deck.

Turning 180 degrees.  Kitchen on the left and dining room to the right.
This room was in great shape except for the worn linoleum on the floor.  The walls were perfect and just needed a good coat of paint (along with the trim) and we added a new stick down vinyl floor that looks like tile.  How about a before and after?  Does that brighten up the place or what?

How about a new light fixture for even more brightness?  This one is so cool that I'm trying to figure out where I can put one in our house  It tilts, which means you can direct the light anywhere in the room.

And, finally, here's the original farmhouse sink after being cleaned up.  I attached the apron with some velcro to hide the plumbing and provide for some storage space. 

Well, that's it for the downstairs.  We have one more post to go where I'll cover the stairs and the upstairs and we'll be done with the 1893 Victorian and back on to gardening and chickens.
Until later,

The Day Has Come

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

J. counting the days down on our whiteboard
It's hard to believe that we've been waiting for this moment for over 3 months.  I'm not exactly known for being a patient person. It's reminded me of being a kid and patiently waiting for Christmas to get here.  You try to ignore it.  You try to dampen your excitement.  The date never seems to come.

Well, it's finally here! We're meeting Christine and Dave at the title company at 1 p.m. today to close on the 1893 Victorian. We're both happy and sad about it. We've loved that house for 15 years now and are proud that we were able to bring it back to life. It looks beautiful from our other side of the street.  To lose it is a sad event, but it's overshadowed by the happiness that it's going to a family that will breathe true life back into it and will love it the way that we have. I can't wait to hear about little Emily's adventures playing hide-and-go-seek in that huge house.

Today is the day that we get new neighbors. Friendly, honest, down-to-earth folks that we instantly felt we could be friends with. I couldn't be happier!

The Music of Spring

Sunday, February 03, 2013

This was my reaction when I heard that Mr. FluffyPants didn't see his shadow this morning.

One must wonder if ol' Phil doesn't get a bit tired of being dragged out of bed early on February 2nd, only to be assaulted in front of a large group of people before he even had time for morning coffee.  I certainly would be a bit curmudgeonly.
I have found myself piled on the sofa today, surrounded by stacks of gardening magazines and seed catalogs. The pile keeps growing, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the stacks are breeding like rabbits.  Certainly, I haven't made a dent in them at all.
As I flip the pages, I have an idea buzzing around my head like a busy Spring bee:  should we rip out the raised beds and go full tilt on a huge garden?  Methinks that it might be time.  It certainly would be alot more work, particularly since the soil isn't ideal.  We'd need to truck in some really good nursery soil to get started and then work hard on amending it every year with overplanting and compost.  Given the list of things we'd like to plant, we may not have a choice but to do this.
But like fine honey, this idea needs more time.

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