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!

A House for $1400

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Every year, the county holds a tax sale for any properties where the owners haven't paid the property taxes for 3 years.  I've gone before to one of these sales just to see what the process was like but have never bought anything.  You have to register at least 10 days ahead of time and jump through some hoops to prove you don't have any convictions for property code violations.  Owners have up until the time their property is sold to pay the back taxes and save their property from the sale and, amazingly, there are lots of people that wait until the last minute.

The sale is held on a Monday in August (could they pick a hotter month?!) on the courthouse steps here in Kansas City.  This year's sale was this past Monday and the weather on the day of the sale didn't disappoint - the heat index was around 105 degrees.  Fortunately, the sale is on the north side of the courthouse so we were in the shade of the building all day.  But it was still hot!  The only thing that made it bearable is that some friends from the neighborhood were there trying to pick up some vacant lots to expand their urban farming operation and we ended up chatting all day while we waited for our properties to come up for sale.

J. and I like to exert our "sphere of influence" in the neighborhood right around our house, so we were looking for properties to rehab within a 5 block radius of where we live.  There were 3 properties all on the same street that caught our eye.  2 of them got saved from the sale by the owner.  But I was able to snag the last one for just $1402.01 after no one bid against me!

So here's a glimpse of our next project (at least what we can see is behind all the overgrown trees and weeds!:

The original front door is still there.
It's  a 2-story all-brick home built in the late 1800's with an extra lot on the side, which makes for a great yard.

Looks like we need to board up the back door and mow the yard.
Total square footage in this 2-story is 1922 sq ft and, according to Zillow, it has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  I suspect there's at least 3 bedrooms in a house this big.  J. and I peeked in one of the few windows that we could see into and the house is full of trash but it looks like all the original woodwork is intact and in great shape.

I love the arched window.  Why would you cover that up!?
 The tree has wreaked havoc on this porch and the concrete porch slab has collapsed.  I suspect this isn't the original front porch anyway, since it's cinderblock.  All the woodwork on the porch is in great shape, however, so we'll tear out the concrete and cinderblock and replace it with something that would have been on the house originally. If only we knew some porch experts.  Oh wait...that's us!

But just look at the detail on this house.

We don't exactly own the house yet....we have to wait for a court hearing in December to get final approval of the sale.  The sales are rarely overturned, however, so we should own this beauty in just a few short months.  That gives us time to finish up our solar project and get mentally prepared to do another rehab.  We're going to change this neighborhood one house at a time.

A house for $1400.  Amazing, isn't it?

The Great Divide

Thursday, August 28, 2014

So where are we with the solar project?  We've had a stretch of hot, dry weather so what better time to get out and play in the dirt.  It's about 100 feet from the solar array in the backyard to our house and city code requires that the wiring be buried in 1" Schedule 40 conduit the entire way.  Normally we would only need to bury it 15", but our electrician-on-retainer told us it would need to go to 24" under where we want to pour a concrete driveway. 
Adding to the fun was this elevation change from the backyard to behind the garage and the really tight space between the retaining wall and garage.  The Dingo has a trencher attachment and we really wanted to use it rather than digging this by hand.  Had we done that, I think the neighbors would have found both J. and I lying comatose in the back yard.  Not that we're strangers to hard work, but did I mention the heat index was over 100 degrees?  When you can guzzle water all day while you're working outside and never have to pee, you know it's hot.

Fortunately, the Dingo fit in that tiny space with just an inch on either side.  It was a tight fit!  First we had take out the retaining wall that was in the way.  Then the Dingo made short work of digging it out to 24" but we hit an old brick retaining wall AND a 6" concrete pad.  The Hilti mini-jackhammer came to the rescue.

The it was off to the races with the trencher.  The trench goes all the way to the back support for the array where we'll mount a junction box to pull all the wires together.  Then it travels across the backyard under where the new driveway will go and down behind where the retaining wall was.  Our plan is to put steps here so it's easier to get into the backyard.

And behind the garage.  This was really hard to trench, since the dirt had nowhere to go due to the tight space.  The nice thing about this part is that it was in the shade all day!
And, finally, behind the hot tub and air conditioner to the edge of the house.

There were lots of areas where we had to go back and clean the dirt out of the trench by hand to get it to the correct depth.  Believe it or not, a Shop Vac is the easiest way to do this unless you want to lay face down in the dirt.  I'm sure it looked funny to see us out there vacuuming - especially since it was getting dark.  But we were looking skyward and hoping it didn't rain before we could get the trench inspected.  Can you imagine the muddy mess that would make?
The good news is that we got it done in time to get it inspected today.  We beat the rain that's supposed to happen tomorrow.  And really good news...we passed the inspection!  After all the drama, the city inspector didn't even pull out his measuring stick to check the depth.  In fact, he spent most of the time griping about how he wants to do solar panels but his HOA won't let him.  My response?  Move!
Anyway, that was the green light that we needed to get everything wired up and ready to hook up to the grid.  Once everything is wired, we'll have to pass one more inspection and then we can flip the switch and turn the panels on.  Woohoo!
But, for now, J. and I are enjoying some much-deserved ice cream after filling that darn trench back in.  It's done....so time to finally relax.
This post has been shared with this week's Homestead Barn Hop.  Go check it out!

Has It Been A Month Already?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Holy cow...this month has flown by and I certainly didn't realize it had been that long since I posted on here.  As usual during the summer, life happens and there's so much going on to take my attention away that the blog has taken a back seat.  But it's time to get back in the ol' office chair and catch up with everyone and also catch you up on what we've been doing these last 30 days!
We've been doing some solar work and it's been slow going because my back has just not been 100% this entire time.  3 weeks ago and after 4 weeks of back pain, I put on my big girl pants and swallowed my fear of chiropractors and went to see one.  He's a "no crack" chiro and it didn't hurt at all so I'm not sure what I was scared of.  In fact, it has helped immensely and I'm proud to say that I am now mostly pain-free.  I get a tweak every once in awhile but we're still working on it.  The only bad part about it is insurance doesn't pay anything until my $2500 deductible is met but after that they pay 100%.  The office visits are $42, so it's going to take awhile to get there.  I usually pay an extra $20 and have them do an ultrasound treatment on my lower back because it feels like a massage and those tight muscles just loosen up instantly with it. 
Wow, I've turned into my grandmother.  I seriously didn't mean to launch into a "what ails you" discussion but that's been the biggest hurdle I've been dealing with this month.  There's nothing worse than a bad back!
Anyhooz....I wanted to get a post up here to let you know we're still around.  My next post will be about our new project, and then I've got pictures of the trench we're digging for the solar.  We're hoping to get that project wrapped up soon.

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