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!

Another Centenarian Lost

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's been raining all morning with the occasional grumble of thunder so I didn't really think about the low rumble until I realized it had been going on for more than a minute.  I turned off my sewing machine to get a better listen.  Still hearing it, I went to my window and this is what I saw.

They're tearing down the house across the street from us!  This is the one that caught fire last fall.  The house was built after ours, but we still think it was about 100 years old - a centenarian.  We had hoped that the owner would renovate it and they did pull the permits in mid-April to do that.  But they must have decided it would have been too much work or money and the permit changed to a demolition permit in early May.

Note the onlooker.  This attracted quite the crowd!
We've been watching a steady stream of utility companies come out over the last 3 weeks as they turned everything off.  That included the water department digging up the street and capping off the water pipes.  Then came the folks to take out the old mouldings, fireplace mantels, pipes, wires, window glass and anything of value.  Hopefully, they will be reused somewhere else.

If you've never seen a house torn down before,  I can tell you that it's really an interesting thing to watch.  Since there are houses on either side, the Cat operator has to be careful about how he takes everything down so that he keeps all the debris in a nice neat little pile.  Kinda like a jigsaw puzzle.

At one point, we saw a rat scrambling around on what remained of the roof.  I'm sure he was forlorn about his home being torn down.  I hope he doesn't decide that our house looks like a nice replacement!

This was the perfect day to tear this down, as there was a steady rain to keep all the dust down.  I'm sure there's asbestos and lead paint in there, given the age of the house.

Later on, they'll come back with a big bulldozer and scoop everything up and into dumpsters to be carted away.  That's 100 year old wood in there being thrown into the landfill.

Our view has changed (for the better) but it's sad to think that several somebodies could have saved this house over several decades and they chose not to do so.   And now there's nothing left but the urban vultures picking over her bones for anything valuable.

The Urban Vulture, Kansas City's official bird

Watching this, J. and I decided to put in an offer on that house that I posted about earlier.  We can't bear to see it come to the same fate.  We'd also like to buy this lot.  Look at that beautiful old walnut tree in the backyard. Wouldn't this be a great place for an orchard?

The Brave and the Fallen

Monday, May 27, 2013

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

--John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address

Back in 2002, J. went along with me on a trip to D.C. and it's so long ago that I can't even remember why we went in the dead of winter.  It was magical, though....the snow laid thick on the ground and the cold nipped at us as we walked around the National Mall until we couldn't feel our legs.   All the way out to the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials to the Capitol where we found the Missouri Christmas tree.

Looking at all the white crosses so neatly lined up at Arlington Cemetery caused us to pause before moving on.  I'm not sure what J. was thinking, but I was thinking about all those brave men who fought and died so that I could be free.  Think about what that really means.  It is truly a solemn place.  Going just a little further, I was brought to tears by the sight of J. saluting the fellow Marine who guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

It's Memorial Day.  Let's celebrate and remember all of those heroes that have sacrificed to make our celebration possible. 

Happy Memorial Day!

Our Next Project?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sitting on the front porch the other day, I turned to J. and said "You know, I should have warned you when we first got together that I'm an old house lover. I restore old houses...it's my lot in life, I think." It's true. I've never lived in a new house and, given how they're thrown up now in a matter of days with substandard materials, I will never live in a new house. At least not one that I haven't built myself. 

Old houses have character. They feel "lived in" and loved. You can feel the history in their floors, their walls, the notches on the door trim where mothers marked the progress as their kids grew up. I have a bug and it's name is renovation. And, so, I'd like to share with you what may well be our next project with a little bit of luck.

She's a beautiful true brick house built in the late 1800's - I'm not sure of the exact date and haven't had time to research the history yet.  To the left of the house is an elementary school, so the location is great.  And it's so close to our house that I can see it from our front porch.  In fact, here''s the view of the back of the house when I walk down my street about half a block.

 The empty lot in that picture comes with the house.  It could be a nice big backyard, or you could build a garage.  

When you get closer, you'll see that the porch has seen better days.  It will need to be completely rebuilt.

And the addition on the back has termite damage and, at a minimum, would need new siding.

The addition is weird to say the least. That door leads to small laundry space that's not accessible from inside the house.  Who wants to go outside in the winter to do their laundry?

The inside has some issues also, but they are mostly cosmetic.  The kitchen is a wreck and needs to be completely redone.

There's a small bathroom on the right-hand side of the picture and then the entry to the addition even further right.

The kitchen may be a wreck, but the original ornate plaster ceilings and corbels are all there and in perfect shape!  This is the dining room.

And here's a closer look at the plaster ceiling in the bow window. Beautiful craftmanship and it's rare for these to be in such great shape.

There are two original hand-painted cast iron fireplaces in the house.  The first is in the dining room and it features 3 inset tiles: a boy on the left hand side, a stag in the middle, and a girl on the right.  All of the tiles on the floor are still there and not cracked. That's unheard of...

Off the dining room (and to your right when you come in the front door) is the parlor.  The hardwood floors are beautiful and were redone about 10 years ago.  Just some cleaning is all they need.

The entire house is full of these ornate plaster mouldings.  Why the heck would someone spray paint this vintage light fixture?  Ugh....I bet it's brass underneath.  Nothing that can't be fixed.

Here's the second fireplace in the house.  Again, hand-painted and cast iron.  The house was broken into and someone tried to remove the fireplace, presumably for scrap iron.  They did break one side (which is fixable) and thank goodness they weren't successful in stealing it.

Right behind us are the entry and the stairs. They're covered in ugly carpet, but all the trim detail is still there and they're begging to liberated from all that ugly white paint.  But I am the stripping queen!

I'm pretty sure there was a stained glass window in there originally.  Wouldn't that look pretty?

When we get upstairs, we have a second small bathroom and 4 bedrooms.  Here's the master.

It's in great shape except for some missing plaster where the roof was leaking.  They put a new roof on in 2008, but never fixed the ceiling. 

It looks like the parents let the kids paint their own bedrooms.

The fourth bedroom is teeny, but would make a great baby's room or home office.  

Okay, so let's look at the positives:   this house is all brick, foundation is solid, has all new windows, and a 5-year-old roof.  The negatives are: somebody stole the furnace and AC, and cut and stole the wires and plumbing in the basement.  Other that that, it just needs some lipstick.  

The house has been vacant for several months (which is when it was broken into) and is in short sale.  The owners haven't been approved by Citi for a short sale, so this could turn into a real nightmare.  Particularly since they bought the house for $90K 10 years ago and now have it on the market for $25K.  Yep, you read that right. 

Now I just have to convince J. to make an offer  :-)

And God Made A Dog

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This is for all you dog lovers out there.

Domino is looking at me intently as I type this.  I think he may have planted this on YouTube in an effort to guilt me into giving him some bacon. Or ice cream. Or pie. Or Reddi-Whip straight out of a can.  Or maybe a belly rub.  It's not working.

In the Red

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

After several days of warnings about being in the red zone for severe weather, we're very lucky to have not been hit with anything other than a couple of nasty downpours and a 10 minute episode of 60-mph winds that drove the rain horizontal on Sunday.  That always freaks me out.  It really freaked me out when the house started groaning under the strain of the winds.  Fortunately, we didn't get any hail on our new roof.

But the weather missing us means that it went and hit someone else and my heart absolutely pours out to those folks in Oklahoma who have lost family, friends, property, and have had their world turned on end. I was happy to turn on the news and see that the number of fatalities has been revised down significantly as they pull people from the rubble.  Thank goodness for small miracles.  Actually, it is indeed a miracle that anyone survived that monster Tornado.

The sheer power of Mother Nature is amazing, is it not? 

In other news around here, our buddy Zinger (the bird that sleeps in the porch light at night) has gone missing.  I'm choosing to think that he's found a Mrs. Zinger and is off making little sparrow babies  that's much better than thinking some foul deed has been visited upon him.  Like the neighborhood cat treating him as an appetizer.

And, speaking of birds...While the roofers had the downspout disconnected, some enterprising sparrows apparently built a nest in there.  It then clogged the downspout when it rained.  And some silly Starling either dove in or fell in and I could hear him struggling all the way down the downspout on Sunday.  Since the downspout connects to an underground drain, the poor thing couldn't get out.  The only option was to rescue the poor thing by disconnecting the downspout from the drain and, upon removing the last screw, out popped a full sparrow's nest, followed by one tired and upset Starling!

Oh, and one more thing about birds.  Have you seen this crazy video?

The Night the Lights Went out in KC

Thursday, May 16, 2013

J. and I were out watering late last night when the neighborhood went dark.  I heard a pop and saw the back of our house go black.  No street lights, no nothing.  Do you know how disconcerting it is to be in the middle of the hood in a big city and it's pitch dark?  So I finished watering the new trees while J. called the power company and then we sat on the front porch and enjoyed the nice weather while we waited for the power to come back on.  Honestly, it was such a nice night that I was tempted to just go to bed and open up all the windows. 
So that kinda threw my idea for a blog post last night out the window. No power, no laptop. 

The power did come back on right before we were getting ready to go to bed and, by then, I was too tired to post.  While you're waiting for me to get my act post together today, how about having a laugh at something my sis-in-law sent along in email?

Can I get an Amen?!

Monday Minutiae

Monday, May 13, 2013

J. got a new book today and the title just cracks me up.  This guy used to have a website called HogOnIce.com where, of all things, he made fun of Nigerian email scammers.  Really funny stuff.  But it's defunct now and lives only in the dusty annals of Google's wayback machine.  I'm looking forward to flipping through the recipes and getting a good laugh.
BTW, if you want to see someone else getting silly scammers to do funny things and take pictures of themselves doing it,check out 419eater.com.  That link goes to the pictures, but the stories are funny also.  It's amazing how easy it is to scam the scammers.  Since I deal with this crap every day at work, I do get some satisfaction out of knowing that they might be on the receiving end of a scam once in awhile.
But anyway, I digress.  Back to eating what you want....
And what do I want to eat? 
That strawberry.  It's the first of the year!

Dreamy, Creamy Mac and Cheese

Saturday, May 11, 2013

For years, I've been in pursuit of the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe and have just never gotten it quite right.  Some folks do cottage cheese (yuck!), or add eggs (who wants scrambled eggs in their mac and cheese?) or use only Velveeta (good, but not perfect).  To me, the perfect mac and cheese is insanely cheezy, the cheese sticks to the macaroni, and is oh-so-creamy that it just makes you melt when you eat it.

Well, folks, I think I've finally found it.  We made this last night and J. kept going back for more.  And I'm not going to tell you how many helpings I had.  Like all good home-cooked recipes, it does take a little bit of time to put together but, trust me, it's worth it.

Here we go...

Dreamy, Creamy Mac and Cheese

Total Time: About 1 hour 20 minutes (Prep:  45 mins, Cook:  35 mins)


1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
3 cups whole milk *
1 cup heavy cream *
2 8-ounce packages sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided   **
1 8 ounce package extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded  **
1 16-ounce package macaroni, cooked
4 ounces Velveeta, cubed in small cubes
* If you don't have heavy cream, you can substitute 2 cups milk and 2 cups half-and-half for the milk and cream ingredients
** I use 1 Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp and 2 Vermont Sharp White Cheddar so that it's more white than yellow.  You don't have to use these, but do make sure you  use high-quality cheese and not just the pre-shredded stuff


  1. Put some water on to boil and prepare the macaroni as you would normally.
  2. While the macaroni is cooking, shred the cheese either by hand or in a food processor.
  3. In a big skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  4. Whisk the flour in slowly and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Cook and whisk continually for 2 minutes.
  6. Add in salt, pepper, cayenne, and garlic; stir to combine.
  7. Gradually whisk in milk and then cream (or milk and half-and-half).
  8. Cook and whisk continually until mixture is thickened (about 8 to 10 minutes).
  9. Add in half of the sharp cheddar cheese; stir.
  10. Add in all of the extra-sharp cheddar cheese; stir until smooth.
  11. Add in the Velveeta; stir until smooth.
  12. Add 1/2 of the noodles to the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch casserole dish.
  13. Add 1/2 of the cheese mixture onto the top of the noodles and mix it all together so that the noodles are completely incorporated into the cheese.
  14. Add the remainder of the cheese and noodles and repeat.  It will look like it won't all fit in the dish, but trust me, it will.
  15. Sprinkle with the remaining sharp cheddar cheese. (Optional: if you like a crunchy top, consider topping this with some crushed crackers or crispy onions.)
  16. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes or until the top is slightly browned.

I used rotini noodles because all the folks on the noodle do a better job of capturing all that yummy, cheesy goodness.  And fair warning:  this makes ALOT of mac and cheese. 

If you try it, let me know what you think.  And if you "kick it up a notch" by changing the ingredients or adding something, I'd love to hear about it.  Hope you enjoy this recipe!

I've shared this recipe with this week's HomeAcre hop and Homestead Barn hop.

Henrietta's Little Secret

Thursday, May 09, 2013

It seems there's always something happenin' around here and today was no different. After giving the girls' coop a nice Spring cleaning, I was tidying up the yard and realized that I hadn't heard or seen hide nor hair of Henrietta (or is it feather?)  Normally, she's out in her pen telling me all about her day or the latest gossip but she was nowhere to be seen.

I'll confess, all manner of dark thoughts crept into my head as I got closer to her house.  Did a racoon or possum get in?  Is she dead?  Oh, please, don't let it be.  I can't lose two birds in one week.

I can't quite make it out.  What IS that?
So I crept even closer and found her sitting just inside the house under her roost.  She wouldn't budge or "talk" to me when I called to her, which is odd for Henrietta.  I think she's the most talkative bird I've ever known - second only to Kermit, the official spokes-hen for the flock.

I finally got Henrietta moving by giving everyone some mealworms.  And that's when I discovered her dirty little secret.

That little stinker has started laying eggs again!  We had given up on her, as she hasn't laid since she was badly pecked back on March 29, 2012.  I guess she is feeling comfortable in her new house, because that little chicken was sitting on 12 eggs.   

This calls for a celebration!  Anybody have a recipe for mealworm cake?

Raising the Roof

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

We can officially wipe one goal off the list as done, as the hard-working guys from Ehrhard Roofing just finished putting the new roof on the house.  No more leaks!

The bad news?  Somebody put their foot through our office ceiling.  Not once, but twice! 

Those wires you see in the picture are the TV, phone and networking cable that we ran throughout the whole house.  It all comes back to a patch panel in the white cabinet at the bottom of the picture.  We decided to use a drop ceiling in this room in case we ever needed to get to the wires for some reason.  So there isn't a "real" ceiling in there.

The aluminum panels are salvagable and we were able to bend them back into shape.   But we lost one support and we're trying now to see if we can find matching paint.  I think we used Martha Stewart metallic copper but we'll have to see if it matches.  I already have to repaint the walls - I really don't want to do the ceiling also!

I was on our roof almost 14 years ago to the day! 
As with all projects on this old house, we found some interesting stuff.  We sign and date everything when we do a project so we laughed when we found the plywood that we fixed the roof with back in 1999.  It's 1/2" and had some damage on the gutter end, so we had the roofers replace it with 3/4".  They also shored up the rafters and put in some additional insulation.  We should be nice and comfy now.

An even more surprising find was this:

It never ceases to amaze me what folks did to recycle back in the day.  This old license plate was used as flashing on one of the dormers.  It's in pretty good shape and is going to join my other old license plates from the 1920's and 30's on the wall of our garage. 

We find all kinds of crazy stuff like this in our house:  old coins, blank checks from the late 1890's, jewelry.  Somebody in the house must have been either a boozer or lived during Prohibition, because the attic was full of old liquor bottles.  The house was split up into 4 different apartments back in the 40's and one of the bedrooms (now our closer) was a kitchen.  Under the linoleum in that room, we found perfectly preserved Kansas City newspapers from that era.  One of the front page headlines reads "Nazis Bomb London".  We got absolutely nothing done that day except perusing those old papers.  I should dig them out and share some of the classified ads with you, because they are quite a hoot.

Til later,

Heads Up: LDS Canneries to Stop Canning on June 26th

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

(Thanks, PreparednessPro!)

As Kellene mentions in her blog post, LDS members are encouraged by the church to have a year's supply of essentials on hanmd (food, water, etc.).  They are the ultra-preppers in our society (not that there's anything wrong with being prepared for an emergency when it happens.)  LDA canneries have long been the go-to place for high-quality canned goods, canning and prepping items, and they provided the much needed facilities and help for folks who don't feel comfortable doing it on their own at home (or who don't own canning equipment).

They're not completely closing up shop - members and non-members can still purchase pre-canned food after June 26th, as well as bulk foods and other supplies.  But it's disturbing that folks won't be able to can at their locations.  Apparently it would be too expensive to bring the canneries up to meet the onerous OSHA and FDA standards.  That's our government working for us!

I've purchased from them before and found LDS to be very reasonably priced (the cheapest on mylar bags!) because they sell at cost and they don't charge sales tax.  The package I received was packed very nicely and I received it quickly.  I am definitely going to make additional purchases from them.  If you're interested, you can see the items that are available by browsing their order form.

The Kansas City cannery is open to anyone, although you do need to call and make an appointment if you want to use their canning equipment.  Here's their contact information:

          3601 NE Kimball Dr
          Kansas City, MO 64161
          (816) 453-2398

Since I'm on vacation today, I think I may try to swing by and check it out this afternoon.

Please consider supporting the local LDS cannery and, if you use them, make sure you get there before June 26th! You can find information about your closest cannery or browse the online store at https://www.lds.org/topics/food-storage.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with the LDS church and didn't receive any compensation for this post.  I just really like their mission in helping to get everyone, even non-members of their church, under self reliance and being prepared.

No Happy Post Today

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The storm has passed but we still have cool weather in its wake.  I untarped the strawberries, tomatoes and peppers and they appear to be just fine.  The strawberries were standing up tall reaching for some light, so it was definitely time to uncover them.  We'll tarp them again tonight and then, as temps warm starting tomorrow, we'll hopefully be able to leave them uncovered permanently.

What I'm sad about...REALLY sad about right now is that I checked on Daisy Bill, the baby dove, and he didn't survive the storm despite my fashioning him a shelter and straw nest.  I think it was probably a combination of the extreme cold and mama Dove not feeding him because of the weather.  I really was pulling for the little bird and am now second-guessing myself that I should have brought him in and put him under the brooder light.  It's a grim reminder that we are all here at the whim of Mother Nature, cruel mistress that she is.

J. thinks I'm silly to care so much for a wild bird, but I've been that way all my life.  I sometimes joke that I like animals more than people, but there's probably more truth than joke in that statement.  Of course, J. has learned to put up with it.  Several Mother's Days ago, when we were rebuilding our front porch, we discovered a nest of baby sparrows.  It was hotter than tarnation and we were exhausted, but I couldn't bear to destroy those babies just because they were in our way.  And it seemed to me that we would be asking for a whole double truckload of bad karma if we killed them on Mother's Day.  So we stopped what we were doing and made a makeshift bird house out of some scrap lumber, moved the nest into it and hung it on the front of our house.  J. grumbled the whole time.  But the mama bird found her babies and fed them until they grew up and left that nest.  Then we took it down and finished our project.  Like I said, I'm a big softy - especially for baby animals.

Later today, I'll bury Daisy Bill's little body in the backyard next to the beloved dogs that we've lost.  Just seems like the right thing to do.

Not Fit For Man Nor Beast

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Did somebody not get the memo that IT'S MAY??!!  
Not only are we forecast to break the record lows for the lowest temps in May today, but it's also been sleeting and snowing all day. Fortunately, most of it isn't sticking.  Yet.

Last night, we were out in shorts and t-shirts trying to get ready for this crazy weather.  Everything got tarped and you can see the strawberry beds on the left and the tomato and pepper beds on the right in the pic below.  We used tomato cages to make a tent and added a heater to keep it nice and cozy in there until this stuff passes.  Fortunately, it's supposed to be back up in the 60's on Saturday and then go up from there.  I'm crossing my fingers that my little plants survive!

And the snow starts....
Not only am I worried about the plants, but I've also been agonizing over what to do with Daisy Bill, the baby dove.  I know, I know...he's a wild bird.  But he's also a baby and I have a serious soft spot for baby animals.  I just can't bear to think of him out in the cold without a mama to warm him up.
Here he is yesterday under our Japanese Maple.  I caught Mama Dove feeding him, so I know he's being taken care of. 
Can you spot the little guy in this pic?

I checked on him when I got him this afternoon and found him huddled under the tree where he was still getting sleeted on.  What to do?  I suppose I could take him inside and put him under a brooder lamp, but I don't have the faintest idea of how to feed him.  But I just couldn't leave him like that.  So I made him a little shelter and a bed of fresh straw. At least that will keep him dry and somewhat warm while we all weather this late Spring storm.

You can see his little behind right above that yellow arrow.  Note the straw bed that I made for him.

Yes, I'm a big softy. 

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