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!

These Arches are Green, Not Golden

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Fast Food Worker Strike Day, everyone! 
I'm waiting with baited breath to see if they get their demands to be paid $15.00 an hour.  If it works, I think I may stage a sit down strike at work and demand $100,000.  Somehow I think that won't work very well and it may actually end in someone calling security.  ;-)

Speaking of the golden arches, we here at CrankyPuppy are home to the GREEN arches and here's why:  last year, my watermelons took over the entire backyard as their vines trailed out of the raised garden beds and over the lawn.  (Did you know one watermelon plant can sprawl out over 24 sq feet?  Me neither.)  It was virtually impossible to mow around them, which means they also encouraged a big stand of weeds. 

Common sense dictates that we not repeat that experiment, so I decided to try and grown them up an arch this year.  So far, it's been a HUGE success!

You're looking at a 14 foot long goat panel that I bent over last year and grew squash on (click to see pics).  That experiment didn't end well but it was more due to the heat and squash bugs than failure on my part.  But the watermelons are doing much better.  In the picture, this is the outside of the trellis where the plants were planted.  You can see all the leaves are sticking out the back.

Then, if you look on the inside of the trellis, that's where all the good stuff is.  It almost looks like a constellation of planets made out of watermelons.  I am going to be rolling in watermelons in a month or so!

I just realized I got chicken bombed in this photo!

Little Sugar Baby watermelons just hanging out.  I estimate the larger ones are around 2 to 3 pounds.  One thing I was worried about was whether the fruits would get so large that they'd fall off the vine, but they seem to be holding just fine.  I may go out soon and make some hammocks for them out of some old panty hose so that they have some support from the bottom.  From what I've been reading, you need to do this when they reach the size of a baseball and some of these are definitely that size or a little larger.

Aren't the little baby ones adorable?  I just had to snap a closeup of one.  It's not much larger than a grape. 

Those are green beans under the arch. They like the shade that the watermelon vines are providing.

The one thing about growing watermelons (or squash or cucumbers) on a trellis is this:  you have to stay on top of the vines every single day because they grow so fast.  You have to "train" the vines onto the trellis or they'll just flop back down toward the ground and then you'll have a mess on your hands.  As they grow, they'll throw out tendrils that wrap around the trellis wire.  Mine are over the top of the arch and starting their way back down the other side.
Anybody up for a seed spitting contest?

Saturday Stills

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hi, I'm back! 
After a week of hiding because of the blistering heat, I've found that I'm still alive and desperately needing to put a post on here. 

It's very rare that you don't end up cooking in your own juices within 5 minutes of setting foot outside here at the end of the July.  But we are being blessed this weekend with 79 degree weather and a beautiful sunny day.  We spent a fun time this evening talking with the neighbors and I ventured out to pull some weeds and check on the garden. 

I guess the world does go on without my constant attention, because here's what I found:

This just in!  Chickens still like the bug buffet in our yard....

Looking good, ladies.  Looking good!

The Roma tomato plants have definitely been busy.  I see some sauce making in our future!

And here's one of the peppers to go with it.  
Please ignore the weeds - they were exiled soon after I took these pics.

The much-awaited Honeycrisp apple trees are literally bending under the weight of the apples now.  J. and I may have to rig up something to help them bear the weight.  I can't wait to sink my teeth into one of these!

And the blackberries are starting to ripen...

We've been getting one or two here and there, but not enough for a big bowl of ice cream or pie.  They're coming though! That is,  if we can keep the birds out of them.  I've been convinced that the darn neighborhood birds have been eating them before we can pick the ripe ones and I now have proof.  While were sitting on the patio with the neighbors, we heard an uproar from the blackberry bush where a blackbird was trying to make off with one of our berries.  It may be air rifle time.  :-)

Finally, I discovered that we're not the only ones engaged in some renovation activity. It looks like a spider has been busy building a funnel trap underneath one of my Roma tomato plants.

I waited to see if the creepy little homeowner would show his face, but to no avail.  He must be shy.  Or maybe he's out at Home Depot getting some more building supplies.  Seems like it always takes us about 184 trips to that place for whatever project we're working on.

Hope everyone is doing well!  I'm off to make the bloggie rounds now to see what you guys are up to.

Giving the Old Deck a Facelift

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Have you ever heard someone say "an old house is never finished"? Well, it's true.  Having owned and loved several of them, I can say from experience that it's undeniable.  Our current house is no different.  But that's ok, as I like to putter around and I suppose doing DIY projects keeps me off the street and out of trouble.  ;-)
The thing is...I hate staining decks.  We chose a black stain to go with our house colors and it just won't stay looking good for more than 2 years.  I bet I've stained this thing 5 or 6 times.  Who wants to spend their Saturday afternoon in the summer putting down messy stain? 

We've got two decks - one on the 2nd story off of our "office" that's about 8 feet by 12 feet, and a smaller one off our back door that's about 5 feet square.  As you can see in the pic above, it needs some TLB and the trim needs to be painted again.  By far, this poor thing gets the most weather.

Over at the 1893 Victorian, we had used a new product by Rustoleum called Deck Restore to great success and it made that old deck look like it was brand new.  It comes in 40 different colors (including black!) with a limited lifetime warranty but, since it's a fairly new product, the question still exists as to how it will stand up over the years.  But, hey, I'm game as long as it lasts longer than 2 years.

The only bad thing is that a gallon of this stuff only covers 50 sq ft with 2 coats, so it's pricey.  We ended up using two 2-gallon packs at a cost of $39.98 each.  Given that stain is $25 per gallon, I don't think the price is too bad if it lasts a lot longer.

This stuff comes with a special roller that has air pockets in it to hold the Restore, which is about as thick as Skippy peanut butter.  You don't so much as paint it on with the roller - it's more like you squeegee it on.  The instructions say to roll in one direction but, in our experience, it doesn't make a difference if you go over it.  Because it's so thick, it fills in any cracks or splinters up to 1/4 inch thick on old boards so it will literally make an old deck look brand new.  Fortunately, our boards were in great shape.
As you can see, we taped everything off before we started because this stuff can be quite messy.  If you've got an elevated deck (our air conditioner sits under our larger deck), then you're going to want to put a tarp under there, as this stuff WILL squeeze through the cracks.  We also put cardboard all around on the patio just in case this stuff squirted, got slung, etc.   It's basically stain with grit in it so it will stain anything it lands on, including you.  Trust me, I know this from experience.
What J. and I found that works the best is to use a brush to shove the Restore color in the cracks first.  Otherwise, if you just use the roller, you'll end up with the sides of the boards not being covered.  Just use a brush that you don't love, as it will be so gunked with Restore when you're done that it won't be usable for anything else.  One other option would be to use their matching stain to do the cracks with a paint brush.  Since all our handrails are painted rather than stained, it didn't make sense to buy a gallon of stain just to do the cracks, so we had to make due with the thick stuff.

And there's the finished project.  This actually didn't take too long with me painting the cracks and J. doing the rolling. It dries and can be walked on in 24 hours.  So far, I really like it because the old deck was slicker than snot in the winter time when it was icy.  This is much more non-skid and it seems impervious to doggie toenails so far.  It certainly looks better than before.

Cleanup is with soap and water, so very easy.

Now I have to give the trim a fresh cost of paint and touch up the back door. 
Like I said:  an old house is never done!

DISCLAIMER:  I didn't receive this product for free (Darnit!) and this isn't a paid advertisement.  Just a DIYer
here that really likes this product.

A Day for Firsts

Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm so upset about the situation with the house that I just really don't want to talk about it right now.  Maybe in a couple of days.

In the meantime, how about some positive news?  We got our first tomatoes!

The fat tomato in the upper right hand corner is our first Cherokee Purple that we pulled (and J. promptly ate it on a hamburger last night, so I'm glad I took the pic fast!).  The 3 red tomatoes in the middle of the picture from top to bottom are our first Roma, followed by our first 2 Early Girls.

Then a straggler strawberry sitting next to our first blackberry!

On Saturday, J. and I attended Tomato Fest at one of the local farmer's market and they didn't have many tomatoes.  Seems odd, doesn't it, being tomato fest and all?  But we did find a few.  One gentleman had some Cherokee Purple tomatoes that were terribly eaten up with cutworms.  Only the small one on the right side of the picture was decent, so we bought it thinking it would tide J. over until ours ripen.

In addition to the nice bunch of carrots, we also found some purple potatoes.  I've always wanted to try those since seeing them on a episode of Chopped.  If you roast them, they keep their purple color throughout.  When we make them, I'll post some pics.

Apparently I missed some garlic when I harvested last year, because it came up again as volunteer.  I went ahead and pulled them and dried them.  The bulbs are smaller, but I'll be able to use them this fall to start another crop.  A first - volunteer garlic!

And, finally, on Saturday, Christine and Dave from The Deadly Nightshade (our new neighbors!) threw a really fun soiree.  We spent a lot of time talking to a couple who moved from Colorado and bought a huge Victorian house about 3 streets over from us.  I love how you can meet new people and just instantly know you're going to be great friends.

Anyway, it was a potluck so J. and I tried another couple of firsts..... 

Cheesecake tarts topped with fresh raspberries

Mini apple and cherry pies made in a muffin tin.  So easy and cute!

How do they look?  They were scrumptious and must have been a big hit, since we came home with an empty plate.  If anyone wants the recipe or directions on how we made these, let me know and I'll post it.

By the way, I'm sharing this post with this week's Homestead Barn Hop. Go check out what other folks are up to!

Late Night Stakeout

Friday, July 12, 2013

Not me.
 Besides me ABC's and 123's, the one thing I remember from kindergarten was that good boys and girls keep their hands to themselves.  Being an INTJ, I strongly believe in the rule or law and good vs. bad.  That J = "judging" and trust me...I find myself doing it all the time. And I love that the INTJ personality is sometimes referred to as the "mastermind".  Bwwaahhaaaaahaaaa!  (That's an evil laugh, folks.)

Anyways...as you know, I've got an accepted offer on the house around the corner from us and we're waiting on the bank to approve the short sale.  The owners moved out months ago, so I've been keeping a close eye on it.  J. and I went to a private screening of "Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire" last night (excellent movie, BTW) so I decided to stop by and just walk around the outside of the house because I'd noticed the storm windows on the upper floor were opened sometime during the day.  Maybe it was just the sellers getting the last of their stuff out.

As I approached the back door, I could see that the blinds in the window near the back door had been torn down.  Peeking in, I could see one of the clawfoot tubs on its side and I knew there was a problem.  I tried the door and it opened easily.  So I went inside with J. right behind me. 


That clawfoot tub used to be in the 2nd floor bathroom.  And I'm sure the kitchen sink was in the kitchen.  In the bathroom, the vanity top was missing as well as the toilet.  They were no where to be found.  Then I made it to where there used to be a really nice beveled glass front door.  As in past tense.  As in THE FRONT DOOR WAS COMPLETELY MISSING.  Thank goodness they hadn't tried to take off with the hand-painted cast iron fireplaces.


INTJ's really hate thieves.  Why can't they just keep their hands to themselves (a.k.a. off other people's stuff?)

We needed to make it to the movie, so we didn't go upstairs.  I have no idea what kind of damage may have been done while they tried to get that clawfoot tub down the narrow, curved staircase.  On the way, we called my agent whose response was similar to mine.  Crap.  She said she would call the listing agent (who would call the sellers) and then the bank in the morning to see what could be done and then call me back.  I didn't have much confidence that anyone would take any action to secure the property last night, so I decided to stake it out.

Yep, me in my Jeep with a long-range telephoto lens, binoculars, cell phone at the ready.  It was a nice, balmy night so I was comfortable sitting there just watching.  Actually, the neighborhood was quiet (except for a raccoon that came barreling down the street like his *ss was on fire), so it was nice to feel like I could hear myself think for once.

What did I see?

Nothing.  I finally went to bed at a little after 2 because I've got to go to work today and needed some sleep.  I'll check the house again on my way to work and we'll see what comes of this when I talk to the realtor. 

We Can Move Mountains

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

I hope you had a fun 4th of July weekend and still have all your fingers and toes!  It usually sounds like a ground war is going on outside our windows over the 4th, but this year was different.  Not alot of neighbors shooting off any fireworks - is that an indicator of how bad the economy is?  Maybe..

We were busy little bees over the weekend with some house projects.  I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but I am an avid Craigslist shopper and love me a good deal.  I spotted a granite island top that someone had listed for just $150 and the wheels in my head immediately started spinning. This would be a cheap island top for the "new" Victorian that I've got a contract on.  By the way, we're still waiting for approval from the bank for the short sale.  But, if that deal falls through,, we'll just take it out to our farm and use it when we build our house.  Heck!  It's so cheap, we could use it as picnic table!  LOL.

Did I mention that this thing measured out at 7 feet by 4.5 feet and weighs somewhere around 650 pounds?

So J. and I were happy to have a building project, as we gathered the materials to make an 7-foot-long A-frame to transport the granite.  For some who don't know, even though granite is extremely hard and durable as a countertop, it has to be transported standing up on end or it can potentially crack.  The really pretty granites that have veining in them like marble are more prone to this, but it's still a good idea to move it correctly by leaning it at 10 degrees and giving it full support.  We put the whole thing on 350 lb casters with brakes so that we could roll it around easily and get it in the trailer.  When all was said an done, the A-frame cost almost as much to build as the granite.  But all the materials are re-purposable when we're done with it.  Or I suppose we could go into the granite-hauling business.

It's called an A-frame because of it's shape.
The hard part?  Getting the slab up onto the A-frame.  With the casters on, we had to lift it over 8 inches.  And granite is sliicccccckkkkk.  There's literally nothing to hold onto. We had J.'s brother help us because I've got the upper body strength of an 8-year-old Boy Scout.  These guys are strong and they thought they could just get under the slab and lift it up while I stood on the other side of the A-frame as a counterweight. Nope!  Together, they could lift one end up, but there was no deadlifting the entire thing.

At this point, I said "We're 3 really smart people.  I know we can beat this rock!"

After some thinking, we tried to winch it up with a come-along.  The metal was biting into the 2x4 and threatening to snap it so that didn't work.  The granite wasn't budging.  Someone threw out the idea of running to Home Depot for a 4x4.  But we had the granite pulled out from the wall where it had been leaning and we would have had to stand there and hold it while someone ran to the store.

More thinking ensued.  And then it hit me.  Why don't we slowly lift each end with a series of pieces of 2x4's.  Pick up one end, put a 2x4 under it.  Pick up the other end and put a 2x4 under it.  Then repeat until the whole thing was up about 6 inches.  Then one end onto the A-frame and then the other.  Thank goodness....it worked.  Granite was safely on the A-frame, we easily got it into the trailer, and no one was missing any fingers or toes.

Just goes to show you....if you put your mind to it, you can literally move mountains!

You Don't Look a Day Over 237

Thursday, July 04, 2013

It's our birthday!
This is perhaps my most favorite picture from our D.C. trip back in 2002.  It was a cold evening, with snow on the ground - so cold we couldn't feel our legs as we walked around the National Mall.  The sunset, as you can see, was gorgeous.  I fell in love with this statue of Thomas Jefferson and, in particular, the quote from one of his letters that rings the rotunda right above it:

"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against
every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
On this Fourth of July, please take some time from the fireworks, tasty barbecue, and fun to gather your friends and family and remember why we celebrate this holiday.  It isn't about all that.  Today is all about the birth of this great nation and the freedom that we hold so dear.  We shouldn't take it for granted because it can slip away when we're not looking.  It's already happening.

I hope all of you have a safe and happy 4th!
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