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!

And God Made An Urban Farmer

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

J. taking a break to survey the day's work.
I was going to just post this picture but I think one thing is so funny about this that I just had to comment.  Nope, it's not the overalls or the bright orange shirt.  It's that shower-seat-turned-garden-seat.  We had been pricing those rolling garden seats and they're obnoxiously expensive!  Like $30 and up.  Shower seat at an auction?  Just $3.  And it's adjustable to different heights.  Booyah!

**If you haven't seen the Dodge Superbowl commercial featuring Paul Harvey and titled "And God Made a Farmer", take a few minutes to watch it.  I think it struck a cord with many a folk, including me.

What a Bee-yutiful Day!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Finally!  A break in the weather yesterday and we enjoyed the entire day outside in 75-degree sunny happiness.  It truly was a gorgeous day and that made our work cleaning out planting beds and transplanting trees even more enjoyable. In fact, I'm sore today from all the digging and raking but it makes me feel good knowing that it came from a hard day's work.

We also took a couple of breaks to talk to the various neighbors that emerged to enjoy the sun. I spent quite a bit of time in the morning talking with our neighbor Christine (from The Deadly Nightshade fame) as she showed me her newly tilled garden beds and plans for the yard. While we were standing there talking, their bees seemed quite lively but I thought it was just because they were "stretching their legs" after being cooped up in their hive all winter.

Boy was I wrong!  Christine came running over about an hour later to tell us they were swarming.

I've never seen a swarm before so there was no way in he-double-hockeysticks I was going to miss it. 

Look at all those bees!  Their were literally thousands of them swirling around in the air all around us but they seemed to not even notice that we were there.  None of them landed on me or tried to sting me.  It was really amazing to stand in the middle of this chaos as they whizzed past me.

The taller hive is the active hive where all the bees were living this winter.  According to Christine, the shorter hive died off during the winter and, when they opened it, there was no brood, honey or dead bees in there.  So apparently the active hive had scavenged everything out of it.  It almost looks like they are swarming over to the other hive, doesn't it? Bees are opportunists and this would be the equivalent of a live-in ready house for them.
Then, as I was talking to Christine, I noticed this on the fence.

A second, smaller swarm!  These bees were just hanging there quietly on a piece of bark stuck to the fence, presumably protecting or waiting for their queen before moving on to another location.  I'd say there were a few hundred bees here.  These were combed into a third box and given some honey.  So now Christine has 3 hives instead of just 1. 
You can see some of her pictures of the swarm over on her Facebook page
I just want to thank her for allowing me to experience that.  It truly was beautiful and fascinating and one to add to your bucket list.  Thanks, Christine!

Shared with this week's Homestead Barn and Clever Chicks hops.

He Stopped Loving Her Today

Friday, April 26, 2013

This was one of my favorite songs growing up, listening to country music at my grandfather's feet or in his old pickup as we traveled the dustry country roads.

George Jones lived a hard life but still blessed us with his unique voice and music.  We've lost another icon. 

May he rest in peace.

Mid-Week Update

Thursday, April 25, 2013

We're still riding the temp roller coaster:  it hit 71 today, but we had a frost warning last night and another tonight.  Kinda ridiculous, when you consider that this is what the garden looked like a year ago:

We transplanted those tomatoes at the end of March, 2012 and on April 16th, they had blooms on them. 
This may be our final weekend of cool weather, though (*fingers crossed*), so I'm hoping we can get the plants in the raised beds on Saturday.  We've been moving them out once it's warmed up at noon so they can get some direct sunlight and then back in again at night to keep them from the 40 degree cold at night.  Honestly, that dance is reaaaallly starting to get old.

In other news, the roofers may start the work on our house tomorrow if the rain holds off.  There's some wood rot on the trim around the dormer windows that needs to be fixed and we got several quotes ranging from $850 to over $2000 to fix it.  Being DIYers that did all the work ourselves, we know what work is worth and the guy that gave us the highest quote is...to quote J....."smoking crack".  Yes, indeed.  The roofer does contracting work also and they were the cheapest.  They said they'd replace the wood with the fake plastic stuff that looks just like the original trim for $1250 and we'd never have to worry about rot or needing to paint again.  The siding is already no-maintenance, so that's no contest in my book - $400 more to never have to worry about something that's 3 stories up?  When can you start?
Finally, I got a new toy at work and am having fun learning how to use it:  a Microsoft Surface Pro.  I'm sure you've seen the silly commercial for these.  It's like a laptop and an iPad all rolled into one.  I can now take my work and personal email and calendars anywhere I go, it can run any Windows apps including all the Office products and the coolest thing is that it has handwriting recognition.  The fact that it can recognize my weird combo of printing and cursive is utterly amazing.  I mean, I can't even read my writing most of the time.

What are you guys up to?  I've been trying to make the rounds but still have quite a bit of catching up to do this weekend.

Til later,


Brie En Croute Bites

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

J. and I spent a couple of hours on Sunday making a dinners for the rest of the week and it was fun getting adventurous with some homemade cooking.  I'm talking lasagna that must have been 15 pounds when assembled, and I used up our egg supply making bacon and cheese quiches.  If you've got extra eggs, quiche is a perfect way to use them up because you can bake them ahead of time and then freeze them.  Then just thaw and pop in the microwave or oven for a quick meal.

It's been awhile since I posted a recipe here, so I thought I would share the recipe for the snackies that we made to munch on while we were cooking.  If you've ever had brie en croute, you know that it's yummy, and gooey, and oozey and messy.  When you cut into it, it goes everywhere.  So why not make a "brie bite" that's a much more manageable finger-food size?

Heck yeah......

Brie En Croute Bites
(makes 24 small servings)
  • 2 sheet puff pastry, thawed in the frig before use
  • Filling (optional):  blackberry jam (or apple butter, apple pie filling, whatever)
  • 1 brick of brie cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, layout the puff pastry dough and cut each sheet into 9 even-sized squares.
  3. Leaving the rind on the cheese, cut the brie into 1/2" to 3/4" cubes and place one cube in the middle of each dough square.
  4. Optional:  The brie is great by itself.  But I find that the taste of the cheese is enhanced by fruit.  You can be creative here and use a 1/2 teaspoon of jam, jelly, pie filling, fresh fruits, dried fruit, or whatever you want on top of each brie cube.  Be creative! 
  5. Pull the sides (not the corners) up and box in the cheese.
  6. Then pull the corners up toward the middle so that all the insides are contained.
  7. Pinch the corners together to seal them and then give it a little twist and press it down (to form a top.)
  8. of the pastry up and around the brie/jam/cranberries and seal with a twist.
  9. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden (about 12-15 minutes).

  • Don't worry about leaving the rind on.  You won't even know it's there.
  • Pillsbury Crescent Rolls also work for this recipe, but they can be a little harder to get wrapped up. Personally, I really like the flakiness of the puff pastry.
  • These are better when they're warm, as the cheese sets up again as it cools.  You can pop them in the microwave if they start to firm up.
  • For  traditional brie en croute taste, add dried cranberries.

We'd never tried brie before, and these were really quite yummy.  Brie does have a little pungency to it but I didn't find it overbearing and the blackberry jelly mellowed it out.  In fact, it was sometimes a little difficult to taste the brie but you couldn't miss it's oh-so-good gooey cheesiness.

Let me know if you try these!

I've shared this recipe with this week's Homestead Barn Hop. You can find all kinds of stuff over at the Hop, so go check it out!

The Greening

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My, how time has flown!  This week has just been insanely busy between work, finishing up taxes, getting quotes for a new roof and some housepainting, and multiple conferences for work.  So this is the first time I've had to sit down and write a post since last weekend.  In the meantime, however, life outside my windows has gone on without me.

The tulips are blooming...

A gorgeous red Emperor Tulip turns its face to the sun. I shared this over on Madge's Weekly Top Shot.  Get well, Madge!

I can't remember what kind of tulips these are, but they're unusual aren't they?

The strawberries are waking up from their long winter's nap...

Ozark and Ever-bearing strawberries. They survived!
I'm thinking about moving these over to the blackberry beds closer to our house because it's been impossible to keep the crabgrass out of this bed.  But I need to do some research and find out if it's OK to move them now.  Anybody know?

And there are some lovely Cherokee Purple and Early Girl tomatoes and red peppers waiting for the weather to stabilize so they can be planted in the garden beds.

If the weather holds today, we'll be amending the beds and getting ready for planting.  But the temps are supposed to dip to a high of just 41 on Tuesday, so those tender plants can't go out just yet.  We had everything out in the middle of March last year, so it's unbelievable that we're here at the end of April and still dealing with frost warnings.

I just heard J. start up the mower outside so that's my cue to get outside and get to work. 

Hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday!

A New House for Henrietta

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I swear...the things we do for our pets!  We spent a beautiful day today (70 degrees!) setting up some new digs for Henrietta the Hen-Pecked Chicken.  (Read about her story here.)

It was finally time to move her out of the ramshackle pen that we built for her last May.  As J. put it, "it's looking a little dogpatch."  And that it was.  Of course, the RV and the tractor sitting in the yard may have added to that redneck-ish ambience.

Here's where Henrietta has lived for almost a year:

Yep, that's a dog house on stilts, folks.  Nothing to see here.  Move along...
That would be the aforesaid Henrietta on the right hurling insults at the bully Barred Rock in the henyard.  We had removed part of the floor to the doghouse and added the ramp for her to access the area underneath.  During the winter, we covered the whole thing with a tarp and added a heater.  I suspect that may be the reason why our electrical bill was so darn high.

Poor thing!  She basically used the ramp as a chute.  You could almost here the "TA DA!!!" as she hopped down from the doghouse, slid down the ramp chute and popped out on the ground, narrowly missing a swim in the water bowl.  I give her a consistently solid 8.3 for the landing.  That's my girl.

I snagged a nicey-priced 4' x 4' dog kennel at an auction a couple of weekends ago and, using the existing hen pen as one side of the enclosure, we were able to reconfigure it into a 5' x 10' enclosure for 'Etta.  It came with a sunshade, which will be nice on the hot summer days here in Missouri.

The nice thing about this new enclosure is that she has more space, even with placing her house on the ground.  And no more acrobatics trying to get into or out of her house.  Inside, we added fresh straw and a roost for her.  Note the quality feeder in that picture (an old milk jug).  I'd say this ought to be more acceptable to both fowl and neighbors.

We still need to finish the top and get some chicken wire around the bottom just in case the friendly raccoons that live in the sewer decide that they'd like to have some chicken dinner instead of dumpster diving. 

That's right...no need to get your eyes checked.  We have a raccoon family that lives in the sewer.  We see them come out of the storm drain and go prowling around at dusk.  I have to confess...the first time I saw them, I thought I'd had one beer too many.  But I suppose that's just another oddity that comes with living in downtown KC.

Apparently, we're not the only ones that have this problem.

Ah, well...I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  Til next time....tood-a-loo!

Shared with this week's Clever Chicks blog hop.

Rethinking the Orchard

Friday, April 12, 2013

It just doesn't seem right to rip out what I thought were perfectly good apple trees.  If you've been following Cranky Puppy for awhile, you know that we have 3 dwarf apple trees that were planted in 2011 and 2012.  Little did we know at the time that Home Depot is NOT the place to buy trees.

J. attended an 8-hour in-depth orchard class a couple of weekends ago and it covered everything you could possibly want to know about growing fruit trees including...you guessed it....never buy your trees from a box store.

Why?  It's all about the rootstock.  See, most fruit trees are grafted and the rootstock that's used can determine the tree's hardiness, how much fruit you get, how big the tree gets, etc.  For apple trees, the instructor recommends trees that are grafted onto a rootstock called B.9 (or Bud-9).  It's a dwarf rootstock that allows the tree to grow somewhere between 6 and 10 feet in height.

I can't tell you how disappointed I was when J. came home and told me that we really ought to replace our trees.  Rather than let them die, we're going to dig them up, transplant them on the 40 acres, and let them do their thing.  If they live and bear fruit, it's a bonus.  If they die, then c'est la via.

Now back to this rootstock thing.  If you ask someone at Home Depot what rootstock their trees have, they'll look at you like you've got a third eye.  Same thing with some of the online nurseries like Stark Bros.  But....if you look really hard, you can find good companies that happily list what rootstocks they use.  The bad news, however, is that all the varieties on B.9 are sold out by now.  After 2 days of looking locally and online, I finally found some in stock at One Green World and placed an order for 1 Braeburn and 1 Honeycrisp - both are semi-dwarf trees on M-7 rootstock.  They will be a little larger than the dwarf trees we're replacing at a mature height of 12 to 15 feet, which is why I only purchased 2.  They're also pollinators for each other which is obviously very important!

While I was at it, I also ordered some Northstar pie cherry trees to put outside the fence. (J. is salivating right now thinking about some homemade cherry pie.) 

We're getting intermitten 60 and 70 degree days now and this weekend should be in that same temp range.  On tap is a trip to the dump, cleaning the chicken coop and cleaning up the garden to get ready for planting.  What are you up to this weekend?

I've shared this post as part of this week's Homestead Barn Hop.  Lots of interestin' stuff happening over there...go check it out!

Vote for Cruella: It's Chicken Madness Time!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let's have a little fun, shall we?  The folks over at Backyard Farming have come up with a fun contest called Chicken Madness where you can submit a pic of your favorite chick and folks vote on the chicken that they like the best. Well, I just couldn't resist entering that picture of Cruella sporting the latest in feathered friend eyewear.

Cruella asked me to pass along this message to her would-be constituents: "Bawk!  Bawk, bawk, begawk. Bawk baaaaawk bawk chirp begaaaawk bawk.  Bawk bawk."

Translated, that means "If I win, you'll have a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.  And I promise to balance the budget, pay off the debt and procure world peace. It's so easy a chicken can do it."

Okay, well maybe not. 

But we sure would appreciate your vote in the Madness Challenge for Cruella.  The champion of the challenge wins a copy of "Your Farm in the City" by Lisa Taylor.  Since Cruella can't read, I'm sure she'd let me borrow it.

Thanks for your support!  You can vote for Cruella here.

Go Cruella!

Chickens From the Past

Monday, April 08, 2013

I'm in the middle of a long post about what we were up to this weekend as we gear up for Spring (finally!), but it's not quite finished.  In the meantime, I thought I would entertain you with something that my lovely mother-in-law emailed to me this weekend.   
She knows that I'm  lover of all things old. 
And I love this page from the 1934 Montgomery Ward catalog that she forwarded!

Back in the day, keeping a garden, raising chickens, etc., was a given.  Everybody did it.  Kinda makes you wonder how and why society changed so much.  But it does seem that more and more people are going back to these traditions, doesn't it?
Let's take a look at what some of these products will cost you in 2013:
48" galvanized chicken feeder
1934 price: $0.59
2013 price: $28.00
Barred Rock chicks
1934 price: $2.20 for 25 chicks
2013 price: $3.00 EACH! 
I wish we had those 1934 prices again, don't you?

Update on the Tomatoes and a Feature

Friday, April 05, 2013

I'm officially calling it the Tomato Disaster of 2013.
This is how my poor little grafted tomato plants look after being dropped a couple of days ago.  As you can see, the one in the middle of the back row is in particularly bad shape.  But they are hanging in there.

So now I'm stuck.  I need to get the plants that were fine and have healed grafts into more sun and hardened off, but I'm afraid that exposing the newly grafted plants will kill them.  What should I do??

(BTW, I didn't mention this before, but I'm actually using a plastic cake cover\carrier as my healing chamber for these.  It keeps the humidity in nicely and the cover is easy to remove if I need access (like to take pictures!)

I've been featured!
Black Fox HomesteadAlso, I want to give a big thanks to Jenny and Lisa over at Black Fox Homestead for featuring my post on tomato grafting. I'm honored (and really happy) that she found it interesting and I hope you did too!

They have all kinds of interesting entries in their weekly family-friendly Home Acre Hop.  I'm talking topics like homesteading, caring for livestock, gardening, recipes, homeschooling, food preservation, crafts, etc.  You know, the cool stuff.

So I highly recommend you check it out when you have a sec.

It's 70 degrees outside and sunny and I am just off work for the day.  Time for me to get a tasty beverage and head for the backyard.  Hope you're having a wonderful day!


The Latest in Garden Wear

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

I'm sure you'll see this in the latest version of Cosmo, Elle and People shortly.  All the hip celebrities are ringing my phone off the hook asking where they can buy one of their own, doncha know?

Me rocking the latest in cutting edge Hip Garden Wear by Cranky Puppy Farm. Yeah, baby!

I'm starting a trend.
Who said you can't have dirt under your fingernails and still look good?

Sometimes I'm An Idiot

Monday, April 01, 2013

Today is NOT a good day despite the fact that the sun is shining and it feels like Spring.  My little baby grafted tomato seedlings were perking up quite nicely over the weekend. So, on the way out the door to go to work, I thought I would increase their light and move them closer to the window.
And I dropped them.  Flat on their little heads.
It broke two of the grafts, so I re-sliced them and will start all over again.  I just hope I didn't kill them.  I am seriously upset about the whole thing.  In fact, I would really rather be home nursing them back to health.  I know it's insane, but I am really distressed about possibly killing them.  And they're just plants...
If these little guys live, it won't be because of me, that's for sure!

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