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 Endicott Pear, A National Treasure

Monday, September 30, 2013

Picture courtesy of the Danville Library

Cruising the Internet this weekend, I came across this absolutely fascinating story and thought I would share it with you.

The Endicott Pear Tree is one of the first fruit trees planted in the United States and, at 383 years old, it is still alive and bearing fruit!

It was planted sometime around 1630 by settler John Endicott, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and his children and history has recorded him as saying the following upon its planting:

"I hope the tree will love the soil of the old world and no doubt 
when we have gone the tree will still be alive."

Obviously it has! It's weathered storms, vandalism, and  saw the birth of our nation.  When it does leave us, it will live on through future generations, as the USDA's seed bank has successfully produced a clone of the tree.  Let us all hope that this nation of ours is as steadfast as this beautiful tree.

To read the article that prompted this post, go here.  It's fascinating!

It's Never Easy

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's never easy to say goodbye, is it?  

This week has been a really difficult one for a reason that has caused me to not be very social.  It's the reason why I've stayed away from here until now.

J. is away for a business conference so I've been playing bachelorette most of the week.  Cooking for one is hard, so I've been going out by myself (which I also hate).  The dogs are freaked out and keep looking all over the house for him, only to finally give up and lay in the hallway so they can spring up and greet him when he comes home.  They finally fall asleep there, disappointed.

For a couple of weeks now, we've been watching our oldest Pomeranian, Foster, slowly deteriorate. It started with not being able to get up and down the stairs, so we carried her.  Then she stopped joining us in the parlor and stayed in the back room on her doggie bed.  Walking the 25 feet was just too much for her.  When J. left on Tuesday for his trip, I went off to work and came back to find her markedly worse.  She wouldn't eat or drink any water, and I carried her out to go potty and back in again.  That night, I told J. that he might come home to find Foster had left us.  Wednesday, I worked from home so that I could keep an eye on her.  I finally got her to eat some tiny bits of cheese and pork, but she couldn't keep anything down. Thursday came and she really couldn't keep her hind legs up.  I felt it was a race against time, as J. wasn't going to be home until Sunday. 

Last night, she could barely stand at all.

This morning, I ran Domino and Finn to the groomer and then raced back home again.  Foster had been breathing hard and I knew in my heart that her time was close.  It's odd how we sense these things, isn't it?  I gathered her up with me on the sofa, stroked her gently, and told her that we loved her, that she had been such a good dog, and that it was OK to leave us. 

She died in my arms about 20 minutes later.

I am a complete mess and sobbing like a baby right now.  Foster was the first dog that J. and I had together.  She was the most clever dog I've ever seen.  
One evening after we bought our house and had spent the day tearing down walls, we brought back some Arby's and had dinner sitting on the floor of what would finally be our master bedroom.  J. had bought one too many roast beef sandwiches, so he wrapped it back in the bag and sat it on a bottom shelf on the bookshelf thinking he would eat it later.  I didn't realize he had done that, but I kept seeing Foster going in that room.  For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what she was doing.  She was checking to make sure it was still there!  17 hours later, when we left the house, she went in there, grabbed it, unwrapped the roast beef sandwich and ate the whole thing!  The only evidence left was the wrapper in the middle of the floor.

And then there was the time she pulled a pizza box off the table and we came home to find her in the middle of the pizza.  She had eaten all the toppings off and left the crust.I think that's when we decided that we really outta do a better job of putting food away.

Foster had an invisibility cloak of some kind because, despite my keeping an eye on her constantly when she was a puppy, she could somehow disappear, reappear under the china cabinet, poop, and then reappear as if nothing had happened. I swear I never took my eyes off her!

Foster babysitting Finn as a puppy
When she was a baby, she looked like one of those "koosh balls".  All black fur, with no discernible legs, a little pink tongue and shiny black eyes.  She liked to chew on electrical cords, but somehow only the ones that weren't plugged in.  She certainly did a number on the feet of my computer desk.  Smart as a tack, she ruled the boys (Domino and Finn). 
And she had the most adorable "I'm going to bite you face" that you've ever seen.  She weighed only 12 pounds, so her teeth were the size of pencil points.  But she looked like the Mama Alien from that Aliens movie when she bared them.  

Foster and Domino.  A basket of orneriness!
Wow.  She graced our lives for 17 years and it's hard to believe she is gone. I'd like to think that she's off stalking roast beef sandwiches in a far better place now.

We love ya, sweet baby. 

One More Reason to Eat Local

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We now interrupt our normally gregarious, somewhat whimsical blog for this *ahem* disturbing news...

From Reuters:

Smithfield Foods Inc shareholders on Tuesday approved the pork giant's $4.7 billion sale to Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd (000895.SZ) in what is shaping up as the biggest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm.

The closely watched transaction, valued at $7.1 billion including debt, is expected to close by September 26.

The deal, which aims to satisfy China's increasing appetite for pork, marries two of the world's largest pork producers and had faced scrutiny over China's high-profile food safety failures, concerns over U.S. pork supplies and U.S. national security.

But earlier this month, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment cleared the way for the deal, removing an important hurdle.

More than 96 percent of the votes cast at a special Smithfield shareholder meeting on Tuesday were in favor of the acquisition. The votes cast represented 76 percent of Smithfield's outstanding common shares, the company said in a statement.



Anybody else worried about this?  First of all, there's no way I'm eating anything packaged or processed by Smithfield now.  I can only assume that they're doing this because the Chinese can't solve their own food contamination issues (cadmium-ridden meat or pesticide-laced milk, anyone?)  How about finding maggots in your Shanghui sausage?  Yum!

From the Bottom Up

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This pepper caught my eye last night because it's literally ripening from the bottom up and there's a clear line between ripe and not ripe.  Kinda cool!

No news on the house yet.  We're now off contract because the amendment expired last Friday, but I've been assured that the lender is working furiously to resolve the issues.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.  Patience, however, is not one of my virtues.

Not that it's been hard to wait with all that tasty pig in the refrigerator.  We've put off the bacon-making to this weekend when it will be really nice outside. But, in the meantime, we've been pigging out (*snicker*) on pork chops.  Nom nom nom!

Last night, I let the chooks out for some recess time in the garden while I changed their water and filled their food.  J. likes to call this their "ultra recess".  Henrietta decided to sneak in the big coop at dusk while no one else was looking.  I considered leaving her in there overnight, but it wasn't long before one of the other Austrolorps noticed her and started trying to peck her.  Bless her heart!  She wants so badly to be part of the flock and let me know she wasn't happy that I plucked her off the roost and put her back in her own enclosure.  But I'd rather she be angry with me than pecked to death.  

What's up in your neck of the woods?

Hog Butchering 101

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Some girls get diamond earrings, new shoes, or a vacation for their birthday.  Me?  I got a whole hog butchering class. And I loved it!

The Local Pig, a butcher shop about 2.5 miles from our house, does two classes: whole hog butchering and sausage-making.  I've always wanted to go to one of these and J. was sweet enough to enroll us this past weekend.

We showed up at the appointed time to find freshly made Andouille sausage sandwiches and Boulevard beer waiting for us.  Nothing like getting all liquored up and playing with sharp knives!  I'd say there were about 11 people in the class including us, so it was a nice cozy group.  

Then they brought out our victim, which I quickly nicknamed "Wilbur".  C'mon...I know you've watched Green Acres.  Admit it!

The group gathered around a large butcher block table while the owner of Local Pig and our instructor for the afternoon, Alex Pope, began the class by explaining that they only locally source their pigs from farms where the pigs are raised humanely and spend their time running around on grass rather than cooped up in a feedlot or barn.  In fact, they put their sources up on the wall for everyone to see.  In front of us, we had the two halves of a lovely Berkshire Duroc raised by J.J. Green in Higginsville, MO, which is about 50 miles due east of KC.

Then, for the next couple of hours, we drank beer and learned how to break down a pig.  Surprisingly enough, there are no bandsaws or fancy equipment needed.  All you need is a large table, a filet knife and a bone saw. That's it!  So it wouldn't be that hard to break down your own 1/2 a pig to save money.


We started with the tenderloin in the middle of the pig by cutting off the leaf fat to expose it, then removing the tenderloin, which is right along the spine.

To break down the pig, you start for the read and move forward.  Step 1 was to cut off the flank.  Then remove the back leg and separate the ham.  Each person did 1 or 2 cuts and then the circle moved around so that the next person could have a turn.

As we moved forward, we exposed the chops.  Yum! 

As you cut, you have to be careful to not cut into the meat.  Many of these cuts required precision, as we followed right around the bone to remove it.  In the shot below, we're using the bone saw to cut through the ribs.  Watch those fingers!

And here's J. separating the Boston Butt (or shoulder).  He was definitely the most fashionable butcher-in-training in the class with that Hawaiian shirt.  You go, honey!

Mmmm, tasty pulled pork or pork steaks.  Pork steaks are my fav and I had no idea before this class that they came from the Boston Butt.  I guess that explains why they are so yummy.

Once we finished the first half-pig, we moved on and did it again on a second half from a different pig.  It was interesting to see some of the differences between the two.

And then, finally, we left Local Pig with 10 pounds each of the pork we had just cut up (with some final trimming help from some of the other staff).  I hit the piggy jackpot, because we cut the last Boston Butt in half (we did the first one in quarters) and I got one of the halves!  We'll be having pulled pork tonight for dinner.  :-)   And we also halve several pounds of pork belly, so we'll be making bacon later this week.

What's that?  Of course I'll have pictures for you!

Winding Down

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Summer garden, still hanging on

It looks like summer may be losing its grip, now that the high-90s weather has broken and the morning are cool and full of crickets singing.  I think they are as happy as I am about the changing of the seasons.  We are praying for rain - we're down about 5 inches for the year - but watching Colorado warily because we certainly don't want any of those flood waters here.  Lord knows we had enough of that mess back in '93. 

So with Fall gearing up, the garden is starting to wind down.  The hybrid tomatoes and peppers are still going gangbusters, but the heirlooms are almost done.  *sniff*

My experiment with growing the watermelons up the arch trellis was an interesting one.  As they ripened, they picked themselves by falling off (I never put any support under them).  I doubt that would work with a heavier melon, but it seemed to work well with the Sugar Baby melons because they only weigh 3 pounds at their heaviest.  And the vines made for some nice shade for the green beans.

Speaking of....I've left the last of the green beans to brown on the vine so that I can gather the beans for next year.

What I do have a bumper crop of now are those hopping fiends, the grasshoppers.  Everywhere!  Are they the cleanup crew? Not much left for them to chew on, thankfully.  But there are definitely more of them this year than there has been in the last 4 or 5 years.  Are you seeing this at your place also?

Finally, it's with a heavy heart that I mention another winding down.  Our neighbors next door had their 17-year-old dog, Sheba, pass away on Saturday.  She was a sweet puppy that had been a fixture in the back yard since we moved in.  They asked if they could borrow our post hole digger since they didn't have a decent shovel.  Our neighbor, C., has health problems and gets dizzy very easily, so he had no business out there trying to dig a hole in the rock hard ground.  I told him that we had a new Dingo that could do the work for us, and that it did.  Lickety split!  So Sheba now rests in the same yard that she inhabited all of her life. We'll miss you, old friend.

As with everything in nature, though, out of old comes new.  During this time of the year, I always feel a little impatient about getting started with the cleanup.  This year, we'll be changing things around quite a bit:  ripping out three of the raised beds in favor of an in-ground garden, and building a greenhouse from those hotel windows that I bought a month ago.  But there are still green tomatoes on the vine and I'm not going to pull those plants up just because I'm antsy.  Am I the only one that feels this way in the Fall?

Impatiently yours,

I've shared with this week's Homestead Barn Hop. There's lot of stuff going on over there - go check it out!

O Where Art Thou, CrankyPuppy?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Captain Woodford Taylor, 1860

I'm here!  Rumours of my death after a 7-day Sudoku-playing bender have been greatly exaggerated.


Honestly, I've been moping.  I mean, sometimes you just have to feel sorry for yourself, right?  I STILL haven't closed on the project house.  There are still title issues preventing us from closing and my agent is a terrible communicator.  Apparently, when the owners bought the house, the previous owner helped out with their down payment by holding back $10,000 as owner financing.  They refi'd 11 years ago and the refi paid off that loan, but it apparently WASN'T RECORDED.  So...

  • the title company screwed up. 
  • and the title company is out of business. 
  • and the owners didn't keep their paperwork (really?!!)  that would show the loan was paid.
  • and their lender, Fieldstone Mortgage, filed bankruptcy in 2007 so who knows where any of the records are at this point.  As part of the bankruptcy, they had petitioned the court to destroy 40,000 boxes of records.  This is the same company whose Executive Vice President killed his wife and then committed suicide shortly after the company's bankruptcy was announced.
  • all of this means that, unless we can find proof or find the previous owner and have him sign a release of the lien, then NO ONE except him owns the house.  Even Citibank (the current mortgage company) can't foreclose because his lien precedes theirs.  They've supposedly hired a skiptrace to find him.  But, if he's not an honest person, he could refuse to sign the release.

What a mess.  It's no wonder the housing market keeps tanking.  How many more of these zombie houses are out there?!

Our latest amendment extending the closing ends today and I got an email yesterday afternoon from my agent stating that the seller's agent talked to Citi (the current mortgage bank) yesterday to see what they want to do and he was told to call back Monday.  If we pass our closing date today without closing, I am technically released from the agreement and can get my earnest money back.  I really want this house, but I'm starting to think that the universe doesn't want me to have it.  Maybe that's a good thing, given that the housing market is imploding again.

But that's enough negativity for today - especially since it's Friday the 13th!  How about some cuteness?  Here's my top 5 list of cool stuff I've found on the Internet this week:

  1. Baby burrowing owls and more owls (why are baby owls so cute!)
  2. Fantasic close-ups of bees and other insects - these are gorgeous!
  3. Baby goat sees herself in the mirror (for you, Mary Ann!)
  4. Hot historical hunks.  Who knew Mark Twain was so hot when he was younger?  Had I lived 153 years ago, Captain Woodford Taylor (pictured above) would have captured my heart.
  5. World's furriest cat named Colonel Meow.  I've got enough problems with Pomeranian fur, so I definitely don't need a Himalayan in the house.  Even if they're beautiful.  By the way, if you're a cat lover, check out all the stuff you can make with cat fur.  Maybe I should write my own version of this with Pomeranian fur and call it "Got hairballs?"  

I hope everyone has a fantabulous Friday the 13th - stay away from those black cats and don't walk under any ladders today.

More Canning: Crushed Tomatoes

Sunday, September 01, 2013

It's been too hot to do anything outside (99 degrees!) so I was really hesitant to do anything inside that might raise the temp.  That means no cooking.  But we've got tomatoes coming out of our ears and I really needed to finish up the canning.  We took care of the salsa making but now what to make with the Roma paste tomatoes?  I know....

Crushed tomatoes!

Useful for chili, ketchup, BBQ sauce or anything that you need tomato paste for.  And so simple to can. All you need are:
Fresh tomatoes (preferably vine-ripened, just-picked paste tomatoes)
Lime or lemon juice (can substitute vinegar) 
Salt (optional)
Canning jars (pint or quart)
  1. Place a pot of water on the stove to boil.
  2. Create an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice cubes.
  3. As with all canned tomato products, you have to prep the tomatoes.  Wash them thoroughly and remove any stems or vine and core. At the bottom of the tomato, use a knife to create an "X" in the tomato's skin.
  4. Place your tomatoes in in the boiling water.  Watch for their skins to loosen - the smaller tomatoes will loosen first.  If they start looking "raggy", use tongs to fish them out and immediately plop them in the ice bath to cool.
  5. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove their skins.  They should peel off easily.
  6. Rinse and repeat until all tomatoes are peeled.  J. and I setup an assembly line for this.  I watched over the boiling\ice bath process and then took the iced tomatoes to him at the sink where he removed the skins.  If you have a ton of tomatoes to process, having help will make things go much faster!
  7. Since it was late and we were both tired, we decided to let the tomatoes rest in the fridge overnight, which drew the water out of the tomatoes.  We then poured off the extra moisture before we canned them.  This is an optional step, but be prepared for thinner tomato paste if you skip this step.
  8. Sanitize your jars for canning.  I like to use pint jars for this because it's just the two of us and a pint is plenty for the chili that we make.  Quarts are fine, however, if you can use that much tomato at one time.
  9. Place 1/6 of the tomatoes in a large pot and crush them.  I like to quarter them as I add them to the pot, as it's easier to smash them.  Use a potato masher, wooden spoon or the bottom of a ladle (stainless ladle is my choice of weapon!)
  10. Stir until the tomatoes are close to boiling.
  11. Add the rest of the tomatoes, quartering them as they are added.   No need to crush these, as they will soften and break up as they are heated.
  12. Boil for 5 minutes.  Optional:  Use a mixer or hand blender to chop them tomatoes more finely into a puree.
  13. While the tomatoes are boiling, add 1 tablespoon lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar into each pint jar (or 2 tablespoons for quart jars).  Add 1 teaspoon salt for each pint (optional).
  14. Ladle the tomatoes into the jars, leaving 1/2" headspace.
  15. Process in the boiling-water canner for 35 minutes (pint jars) or 40 minutes (quart jars). 
  16. Remove, place on a dish towel where it's not drafty and let cool. You should hear the jars pop as the lids seal.  If not, reprocess.

And that's all there is to it.  It may look like a lot of work with 16 steps in the process, but this is super easy and a great, versatile way to preserve your fresh tomatoes for use all year round.

I'm sharing with this week's Farm Blog Hop. Have you checked it out yet?

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