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!

Solar: It's All About Location, Location, Location

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Welcome to the sixth post in the series related to our solar energy project.
 Click here to start at the beginning!

According to our figurin' from the last post in the series, we know we need 32 panels rated at 305 watts each for our system.  That's not quite 10 kW (32 x 305 watts = 9,760 watts or 9.67 kilowatts). 

32 panels is ALOT.  And they'll take up a lot of space:  each panel is about 18 square feet, for a total of 576 square feet.  In fact, if we stack them in 4 rows of 8 panels per row, we'd have a rectangle that was 14 feet by 44 feet (on average). 

Most importantly, your solar panels need to point at the sun.  Here in the Northern Hemisphere, that means we point our panels DUE SOUTH to capture the best sunlight.  In the Southern Hemisphere, their panels would point DUE NORTH.

So where the heck are we going to put these at?  
Our complicated roof

Certainly not on the roof of our Victorian house with all its peaks, valleys and dormers.  To the right, there's a Google satellite picture of our roof line and I've highlighted the lines in green.  Yep, no place to put 32 panels up there.  Not only that, but we just had our roof replaced also.  Even though the solar industry claims to have leak-free roof mounts available, it would make me nervous to have all those screws through the roof to hold the panels down.  Lots of people do roof-mounted solar arrays but we can't....so we need to find somewhere else to put them.

So what other options do we have?

Well, we've got a detached garage that we built 5 years ago.  But it's shaded by our neighbor's tree in the morning and our tree in the afternoon\evening.  It's also not big enough to hold 32 panels, so that won't work either.

What we do have is the vacant lot behind us that we affectionately refer to as "Cranky Puppy Farm".  That's where our raised garden beds and chicken coop are located.  As you can see by the larger Google satellite image below that was taken at about 10 a.m. during the height of summer, there's a large amount of space that's clear from shade all day.  I've indicated where the panels could go with the red box.  Note that we'll probably have to move the chicken coop, so I'm glad that we were smart enough to build it on skids in case we needed to move it in the future. 

North at the top, South at the bottom
Placing the solar panels on a racking system on the ground is referred to as a ground-mount solar array.  As we'll see in later posts, there are specially designed racks to accommodate this kind of installation.  Whether you're doing a ground-mount or a roof-mount, you'll need to include the cost of the mounting equipment in your total costs for the solar project.

Whew!  Now that we know we have a location for our panels, in our next post we'll look at solar panel choices and talk about the system we've decided to install.

If you're interested in more on our solar project, please check the "Solar Project" section on the bar to the right.

Solar: Sizing Our System

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Welcome to the fifth post in the series related to our solar energy project.
 Click here to start at the beginning!

Time to get back to talking about our solar project!  When we last talked about this, we were astounded at what big energy hogs we are. At an average daily usage of 45 kilowatt hours (kWH) per day, we're using a good 33% over what the average American household of 4 uses! 

So why is that important?  Because the first decision you make when looking at "going solar" is how much energy you need to generate (or want to generate).  Do you want to try to generate 100% of your energy or just offset 50% of it?

In our case, there were several things to consider:

  • Our utility company is offering a $2.00 per watt  rebate and it's capped at $50,000.  That means we can install a system up to 25 kilowatts and get fully reimbursed.
  • The rebate requires that the system be operational no later than June 30, 2014.  After that, the rebate drops to $1.50 per installed watt.
  • If the system is under 10 kilowatts, the utility is required to approve an application within 30 days.  If it's over 10 kilowatts, they have 90 days to approve or deny.  If they took the entire 90 days, we'd be looking at not having approval until mid-May and that wouldn't give us a lot of time to get everything installed.
  • With a system over 10 kilowatts, the utility and city have additional requirements: more expensive city building permits, we'd be required to have $100,000 in additional liability insurance on the property, etc. 

Since we want to take advantage of the larger rebate amount, we pretty much decided that 10 kilowatts was the max size for our system - we'd be assured quick approval and also it would be manageable in terms of size for us DIYers (as we'll see in just a minute).

Now I'm sure you're thinking "But that's only about 1/4 of the energy you use each day!"

This is where we need to talk about the difference between kilowatts and kilowatt hours.  Solar panels are rated in watts, and there are 1000 watts in a kilowatt.  If you have a 250-watt solar panel, that means they are rated to produce 250 watts per hour under ideal conditions (no cloud, sun directly above them, etc.)  But the sun shines more than 1 hour per day (except for you poor folks up in Seattle or Portland).  When you're sizing your array, the  next piece of information you need is the "peak sun hours" for your location.  Here's a chart for Kansas City:

The sun's higher in the sky in the summer and more directly overhead, so it makes sense that we get over 6 hours per day that are ideal for solar during those months.  Conversely, we get just 1/3 of that in the winter months.  These numbers apply only for our location, so you'll need to find the peak sun hours for your specific location by doing a Google search (there are lots of sites out there).  Here's a map that provides a good rule of thumb for each state:

Now we have all the information we need to determine how much a solar array can generate each day.  The formula is this:

# kilowatts  X  peak sun hours  =  kilowatt hours generated

In our case, we'll plug in the numbers for our proposed system as follows:

10 kilowatt (kW) system  X  4.5 hours  =  45 kilowatt hours (kWH) generated per day

Since we're using an average of 45 kWH and our 10 kW system can generate that much per day on average, then we can come close to offsetting a large chunk of our energy.  But not all of it...solar panels only generate energy when the sun is shining so we'll still need to use power from the electric company during the evening or when it's cloudy outside.  An arrangement where you are tied to the grid through your utility is called netmetering and, in most of these arrangements (including ours), you'll receive credit for the extra energy that your solar panels generate but that you don't use.  That would help offset the energy you'll use at night.  By the way, solar arrays that are tied to the grid are also referred to as grid-tied.

There are also off-grid systems that are stand-alone (not tied to the grid).  They're self-sufficient and are great for locations that may not have utilities readily available.  In order to store energy for use at night, these off-grid systems use a bank of special batteries to store the energy generated by the solar panels during the day.  These batteries are expensive and our utility company frowns on their use for grid-tied systems, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on them.  If you're interested in learning more about this, just Google "off-grid solar" and you'll be overwhelmed with all kinds of information.

Okay, so what does a "10 kilowatt system" look like?  The answer is that it depends.  Not too long ago, 190-watt panels were all the rage.  But technology marches on and, while 250-watt panels are still favored by installers (at least here in KC), there are now panels available in the 305-watt and 310-watt range.  The higher the wattage per panel, the less panels you will need.  That also means they will take up less space and your cost will be less.

As an example, let's use 250-watt panels and do the math on how many panels we'll need.  Remember, a kilowatt is 1,000 watts.  Therefore, the number of panels we need is:

10,000 watts   /   250 watts per panel   =   40 panels

Now let's look at the same 10 kilowatt system with 305-watt panels:

 10,000 watts   /   305 watts per panel   =   32.8 panels (round down to 32)

Since solar panels are generally around 3.5 feet x 5.5 feet and cost around $320 right now, using the more efficient panels is saving us 126 square feet of space and about $2,560 in the cost of the additional 8 panels. 

This post has gotten pretty long-winded, so I'm going to stop right there for tonight and come back tomorrow and pick up where we left off.  Next up, we need to talk about finding a location for our panels and then we'll talk about the specific system we selected. 

Stay tuned!  If you're interested in more on our solar project, please check the "Solar Project" section on the bar to the right.

I've shared this post with this week's Down Home Blog Hop and Backyard Farming Connection Hop.  Go check them out!

Views from the Western Farm Show

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's Saturday, which is normally "run around" day for J. and I, but we took a couple of hours out of our busy day to stop in at the Western Farm Show that's going on this weekend at the American Royal.

We were just here for the Home and Garden Show, but this Farm Show is definitely bigger in size.  The bottom and top floors were packed with all kind of farm implements, including some pretty big boys.  When the tire is almost twice your height, you know it's used for some SERIOUS farming.

I had to practically drag J. away from the massive John Deere display.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he left a trail of drool through the American Royal.

This trailer advertising wrap caught my attention and I couldn't help but giggle.  Not very good advertising,though since, for the life of me, I can't remember who the company was or what product they were selling!

In conjunction with the show, they're holding a truck and tractor pull.  I haven't been to one of those since I was a kid and we both wanted to go, but they want $27 a ticket!  I remember tractor pulls as one of those free events that pulled you into the State Fair or the local harvest celebration.  Not that I'm being a cheapskate, but don't you think $27 is a bit much for one ticket?   If it had been more like $10, we would have gone.

Here's one of the modified old school tractors from the Pull...a modified White 2-85 called VooDoo. I think it looks like something out of the Mad Max movies, don't you?

And there couldn't be a tractor pull without the John Deere green making it's presence known.  Check out the exhaust pipe on this puppy:

Finally, I wanted to share my favorite bronze statue with you at the Royal - this is a pair of draft horses named Lottie and Maude.  Just beautiful....

I'm not sure we really got any usable information from the Western Farm Show, since it is geared more for serious farmers and not hobby farmers like us.  But, hey....it did entertain us for a couple of hours.  If you're around KC, you might check it out, as it runs through Sunday.

On another note, we've picked our solar panels and vendor.  Several folks have comments or contacted me asking for more information, so I *promise* I'll be back next time with detailed information about panels we chose, where we're buying them, etc.

Stay tuned!

Thunderstorms and...Snow?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This is the view from my windshield on the way home tonight.

The one thing you won't see is any trace of the 10 inches of snow we got last week.  Yesterday actually hit a balmy 65 degrees.  That may have caused me to say some naughty words, but I can neither confirm nor deny that.  Why can't we get 65 degree sunny days on the weekends in February??!!
Crack of thunder as I type this and I think I hear the telltale ping PING! of hail on the roof.  I bet the chickens are less than amused about this late winter storm ushering in colder weather.  They have been happy to get out of the coop and stretch their legs in the sun.  I bet they're really going to be ticked if we get that snow they're talking about tomorrow.  Come to think of it, I'll be ticked also.  Damn that Punxatawney Phil!
I'm still gathering data with the new Efergy electricity  monitor and hope to have some concrete information to share with you soon.  The biggest milestone was writing the check for the solar panels today.  The amount gave me heart palpitations.  I have much to share with you in the next couple of days, including what our plans are and where we're going to put the panels!
But for now, it's late and I'm going to enjoy this thunderstorm by laying in bed and listening to the thunder.  Am I the only one that finds it relaxing?

Bringing Out the Big Guns: Efergy Energy Monitor

Saturday, February 15, 2014

(This is the fourth post in our DIY solar project.  Click here to start the beginning.)
I am in full-on battle mode to find out what the heck is using so much energy in our house and have been spending a ton of time with my new friend, the Kill-A-Watt.  This fight is about to get real, though.  I can practically hear the freezers and dishwasher quaking in fear.  That's right...I've got a new toy ally called an Efergy Elite Wireless Energy Monitor. 
The Kill-A-Watt process is slow, because you have to leave the appliance plugged in for at least 24 hours to capture a true picture of how much power a device is using - that's especially true for things like freezers that cycle on and off.  So you can only do one device a day.  The Efergy monitor looks at the bigger picture by reading the actual current flowing through the wiring from your meter to the your breaker panel and then calculates the power consumed. 
I picked this up from Amazon with a gift card for just $84 and it arrived yesterday - just in time for me to hook it up this weekend.  Here's what I found when I opened the box:

Components of the Efergy Elite Wireless Electricity Monitor

It's a pretty simple design, actually.  The box in the upper right hand corner is the receiver that displays the data. The oval thingy in the middle of the picture above is the transmitter.  The two smaller boxes with the cables coming out of them are the clamps that go on the wiring.  There's no need to cut wires, as these "clamps" open up so that you can place them around the wire and then snap them shut. 
J. was out helping his mom with a project today, so I put on my big girl panties, swallowed the lump in my throat (I'm a little scared of electricity), and down the basement stairs to the main breaker panel I went. 

Breaker panel before and after the Efergy installation

It took longer for me to remove the front panel than it did to install those clamps. They fit loosely on the wiring and went on easily.  Once they're on, put the AA batteries (included) in the transmitter and then plug the leads from the clamps into the bottom.  Then pop the other 3 AA batteries into the receiver and press a button and voila!  You've got energy usage data! 

Yikes...we were at 1.307 until the furnace kicked on!

The display shows the amount of energy currently in use as well as the cost per day (if that level is maintained).  There are 4 buttons on the top that allow you to configure different settings and view additional screens.  One of them provides the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions related to your energy usage.  It also displays the temperature and humidity for the room the receiver is in, which is kind of a cool feature.  And you can set it to sound an audible alert if usage goes over  an amount that you specify.
The receiver is wireless so you can take it from room to room with you and even up to 3 stories from the transmitter.  The data that is displayed is real-time and it updates every 6 seconds, so you can almost instantly see how turning something off or on impacts your whole house energy usage.  Since installing it almost 4 hours ago, I have been wandering around with my notebook flipping lights on and off and writing down the results. 
While the receiver will keep track of historical averages for the day, week and month, I'd have to buy the separate Efergy hub to track specific data throughout the day. The hub is another $60+ so I opted to wait and see how effective the Efergy monitor was before spending too much on it.  The hub tracks all the energy usage information throughout the day and sends it to Efergy's servers where you can monitor it on your Apple or Android devices or on your PC.  If you're a geek like me, you'll like the idea of being able to download all that data and build spreadsheets and charts out of it.
I have to confess that I'm hooked already.  It is so much fun to see that immediate impact of unplugging or powering off!  This is going to be much faster than going around with the Kill-A-Watt and it should allow us to also figure out energy usage for those big appliances that we can't monitor with the Kill-A-Watt.  I'm off to go do some more testing and, shortly, I should be able to share some results.

Click here to go to the next post in the solar series where we'll talk about how to size a solar panel system.  (If you're interested in more on our solar project, please check the "Solar Project" section on the bar to the right.)

Sweets for Your Sweetie

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day is tomorrow!  Can you believe it?  If you've got a special someone (or just want to treat yourself), then this is a super quick and easy recipe that might be a great way to start the day.  I'm a cheese danish N.U.T. so, for me, this recipe is really dangerous.  I may have to forget about it before I gain 50 pounds from eating all that cream cheese.

Anyway, on to the recipe...

Fresh out of the oven and ready for icing and my teeth.
Easy Crescent Cheese Danish
Servings:  8 servings    <----- (or one or two, if you're me!)


1 package of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough without perforations (or Crescent Rolls)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened and at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons heavy cream
Splash vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla and set aside.  TIP: It's important that the cream cheese is at room temp or you'll have trouble combining everything together.
  3. Unroll the crescent roll dough on a cookie sheet.  I like to line the sheet with parchment paper first so the danish doesn't stick.  If you're using regular crescent rolls with the perforations, pinch the rolls together to seal the perforations.
  4. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center of the dough in a strip that is about 3 inches wide.
  5. Cut 1/2 inch diagonal strips up each side of the dough in the same direction.
  6. Fold 1/2 inch dough pieces up over filling from one side and then the other to get a braided pattern. At the ends, fold in the excess dough and then braid.
  7. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the filling is set and the dough is golden in color.
  8. Set aside to cool.
  9. In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, vanilla and cream to create icing. You may need to add more cream to get the desired consistency.
  10. Drizzle icing over danish.

Maybe spice things up by sharing a slice with your sweetie tomorrow for breakfast?  Enjoy!

I've shared this recipe with this week's Home Acre Hop!

It Was So Cold

Monday, February 10, 2014

Question: How cold was it?
Remember me mentioning that the temp was hitting -12 last week?  It was so cold last week that...
(drum roll please)
....when J. bent over to work on something on the tractor, his hat touched the metal and froze to it!
(Too bad I don't have pictures.  When he told me about it, I kinda pictured this scene from "A Christmas Story"!)

Fortunately, it didn't require the fire department or the cops to free his hat.

Our Goal: Keep $800,000 Away from The Power Company

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Welcome to the third post in the series related to our solar energy project.
 Click here to start at the beginning!
WARNING: Math ahead!
I'm an energy hog and I'm not proud of it.  Let me tell you how I came to this realization recently and how what I found out might be of use to you. 

You can't talk about implementing solar without first looking at your energy usage.  What I'm going to talk about in this post applies to everyone, though, and not just folks like us that are interested in going solar. 

I'll admit to being that person...the one that grumbles about their high energy bills and then grudgingly writes the check to the power company.  When they raise their rates every year as our provider, Kansas City Power and Light (KCPL), has over the last few years, this puppy goes from cranky to downright surly.  On average utility rates increase 6% to 8% every year - KCPL has raised theirs 7.3%. In 2009, the increase was 16.4%.  So it's safe to assume that we can only see increases coming in the future.  The kicker is that our energy rate is really darn low (10.7 cents per watt) compared to the rest of the country.  Hawaii is over 34 cents per watt!

One nice thing that KCPL provides on their website is a history of your energy usage and I was absolutely mortified to find that our average energy usage over the least year was:

  • Around 45 kWH (kilowatt hours) per day.  The average American household uses around 30 so we are definitely energy  hogs!
  • A total of 21,904 kWH used last year. The average American household uses anywhere from 10,000 to 14,000!
  • At a cost of $2,551.34
  • We're about 33% over average! 

Where is all that power going!?  It's not like we leave all lights blazing 24 hours a day + 5 blenders on non-stop + 6 loads of laundry a day.   It's just the two of us here.  So I am now on a mission to figure it out and try to get us down to average usage which would result in just shy of $1,000 savings per year.  If you couldn't use an extra grand per year, then you might be tempted to stop reading.  But wait....

I'm 43 so, if we use the average life expectancy for women, I have about 30 years left.  (Ummm...typing that made me anxious.  Doesn't seem like a lot of time left, does it?!)

Now let's leave the solar stuff out of the equation and say we save $1,000 per year just by lowering our energy usage.  That means we would have an additional $30,000 in our pocket over the remainder of my life.  If we let it sit in the bank!  Using Dave Ramsey's investment calculator, if we invested that money in the stock market at the average rate of return of  11.69%, those energy savings would grow to $255,884.37!  That's just with cutting our energy usage by 33%.  If we do this project and go completely solar so that we're paying nothing for electricity every month, that savings turns into $800,000 over my lifetime.

You think that's awesome?  Check this out...if I added that money consistently to my existing retirement account rather than paying it to KCPL, I'd be this much richer:


Still with me?  Now the question is how to get our usage down. 

As a first step, I'm going to start looking at what are called PHANTOM LOADS.  I'm talking about all those ghostly appliances that stay plugged into our outlets and are sucking up power even when we think they're not. 

  • See that clock on your coffee pot?  Sucking power.
  • Think your sleeping laptop isn't using power when it's plugged in?  Sucking power.
  • You turn your TV off when you're not watching, but what about your cable box? Sucking power!

The Kill-A-What in action
How do I know this?  I put this whizz-bang gadget called a Kill-A-What on my Christmas list last year.  Santa didn't disappoint, and I've been measuring energy usage on our appliances ever since.  I've found some surprising things.  Like my 24" Energy Star monitor still uses 0.12 kWH even when it's in sleep mode.  So does my laptop *if* it's plugged in (which it always is). 

Amazon sells the Kill-A-Watt P4460 for $26.00, so it's affordable and will easily pay for itself in energy savings.   The first thing I did was to go around the house from room to room and make a list of everything that is plugged in.  Don't forget your kitchen appliances!  And especially don't forget those freezers and refrigerators.   Then pick what you want to test.  Unplug the appliance, plug the Kill-A-What into the outlet, and plug the appliance into the single outlet in the front of the Kill-A-What.  If you program in your electrical rate, it will show you both the kWH the device is using as well as the cost.  Typically, I let these run over a couple of days because some devices cycle their use on and off.

I'm still testing but I hope to come up with a spreadsheet that shows all the "phantom loads" and how unplugging all this stuff could help us meet our goal.  Each one may seem small but when you add them all up together, I think it could be significant. 

After that, we need to look at the big ticket stuff: furnace, freezers, appliances, hot water heater, etc.

What do you think?  Think a 33% reduction is doable?  If you've got ideas for getting energy usage down, I am all ears!

UPDATEClick here to go to the next post in our solar series where we're talking about a cool tool to help you figure out what vampire appliances are sucking your energy.

I'm sharing this with this week's Farm Girl FridayDIY Linky and Homestead Barn Hop hops. Go check them out!

Watch out below!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

It seems there's never going to be an end to this nasty Winter.  After watching everyone else get dumped on around the nation, it's now our turn.  A beautiful 10 inches of snow fell yesterday and last night, bringing the city to a quiet standstill. J. and I were lucky enough to get to stay home yesterday and today as our employers were smart enough to close in preparation for the storm.
It's bitterly cold in the aftermath of the storm.  We hit 4 degrees this morning and the wind chills aren't expected to go above 0 all day today.  Thursday is forecast to drop through the floor to a record-breaking low of -14.  Yikes!  It's never been that cold in my adult life.
Compare that with what our normal temps are this time of year:

It's this time of year that we worry about the animals because that kind of cold can be deadline.  The chicken furnace is keeping the girls' coop at a comfy 50.3 degrees right now.  And Henrietta is cozy in her new condo in the basement, but she's a little lonely so I'll go spend time with her after I do a little house cleaning and laundry folding.
Having these two days off work is "found time" - time to take care of things that are always at the bottom of the list and never get done like filing paperwork or doing taxes.  (Done!) 
And I've been a busy little bee researching and planning for the solar project.  One of the first recommendations is to try to get your energy usage down so I've been flitting around the house with a Kill-A-Watt trying to figure out what's using energy around here.
What's a Kill-A-Watt?  Tune in for my next post and find out how this inexpensive little piece of equipment can help you find big savings!
Stay warm my friends!

Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka and Other Events

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

I've got some more local events for the Events Calendar and these are really good!

Hooray!  The Mother Earth News Fair that we attended last year is back again in 2014.  It looks like they're moving from Lawrence, Kansas to Topeka and that's probably because they were pretty constrained in that park setting last year.  If you're local and are interested in attending this year (I highly recommend it!), then you might want to go ahead and pick up your tickets because they're half price right now.  The Fair is the last weekend in October and tickets are just $15 per person right now for an entire weekend pass.

Oh, and for those of you who are not local, check out one of the other 3 locations: Puyallup, WA; Asheville, NC; and Seven Springs, PA.  Tickets for those locations are half price right now also.

Back to local events....the Kansas City Community Gardens and Growing Growers organizations have also released their 2014 workshop schedule.  I've added these to the Events Calendar, and you can cruise the list here:

Kansas City Community Gardens Workshops (www.kccg.org)
All workshops are approximately 90 minutes long.

Feb 4 - 6:00pm:  Selecting, Planting and Caring for Fruit Trees and Berry Plants
Feb 7 - 12:00pm: Selecting, Planting and Caring for Fruit Trees
Feb 11 - 5:30pm: Growing Early Spring Crops
Feb 14 - 12:00pm: Selecting, Planting and Caring for Berry Plants
Feb 21 - 12:00pm: Growing Early Spring Crops
Feb 22 - 9:00am: Get Growing a Community Garden
Feb 24 - 6:00pm: Growing Early Spring Crops
Feb 28 - 12:00pm: Vegetable Garden Basics

March 3 - 6:00pm Selecting, Planting and Caring for Fruit Trees and Berry Plants
March 4 - 6:00pm Raised Bed Gardening
March 7 - 12:00pm Raised Bed Gardening
March 8 - 10:30am Planning and Planting your Schoolyard Garden
March 10 - 6:00pm Vegetable Garden Basics
March 14 - 12:00pm Growing and Cooking with Herbs
March 17 - 6:00pm Vegetable Garden Basics
March 24 - 6:00pm Growing Early Spring Crops
March 28 - 12:00pm Cooking: Spring
March 31 - 6:00pm Vegetable Garden Basics

April 1 - 6:00pm Growing Tomatoes Peppers and Sweet Potatoes
April 4 - 12:00pm Planting and Caring for Vine Crops
April 7 - 6:00pm Growing Tomatoes, Peppers and Sweet Potatoes
April 8 - 5:30pm Growing Tomatoes, Peppers and Sweet Potatoes
April 10 - 6:00pm Get Growing -­ Water
April 11 - 12:00pm Growing Tomatoes, Peppers and Sweet Potatoes
April 14 - 6:00pm Raised Bed Gardening
April 28 - 6:00pm Growing Tomatoes, Peppers and Sweet Potatoes

May 2 - 12:00pm Insects in the Garden
May 5 - 6:00pm Cooking: Spring
May 6 - 6:00pm Spring Harvesting and Growing and Cooking with Herbs
May 13 - 5:30pm Growing and Cooking with Herbs
May 16 - 12:00pm Dealing with Animal Pests

June 6 - 12:00pm Freezing your Harvest
June 7 - 10:00am Gardening with your Family
June 16 - 6:00pm Insects in the Garden

2014 Growing Growers Workshops

February 24 - 4 to 7 pm
Farm Start-Up, Accessing Land & On-Farm Crop Storage
Location: Kansas City, KS
Cost: $15

March 14 and Saturday, March 15
Good Agriculture Practices & Food Safety Modernization Act
Location: Kansas City, MO

March 17 - 4 to 7 pm
Production Planning and Plant Propagation
Location: Belton, MO
Cost: $15

March 31st - 4 to 7 pm
Diversifying Markets: Farmers Markets, CSAs, Wholesale and Farm to School Programs
Location: Kansas City, MO
Cost: $15

April 7 - 4 to 7 pm
Spotted Wing Drosophila
Location: Lawrence, KS
Cost: $15

April 19 - 9 am to 2 pm
Introduction to Soils
Location: Kearny, MO
Cost: $30

May 12 - 4 to 7 pm
Post-harvest Handling
Location: Kansas City, KS
Cost: $15

June 2 - 4 to 7 pm
Small Farm Equipment and Drip Irrigation
Location: Olathe Horticulture Research & Extension Center (35230 W. 135th St., Olathe, KS 66061)
Cost: $15

June 14 - 9 am to 2 pm
Introduction to Small Fruit Production
Location: Powell Gardens (1609 US Highway 50, Kingsville, MO 64061)
Cost: $30

July 12 - 9 am to 2 pm
Insect, Disease, and Weed Management
Location: Lawrence, KS
Cost: $30

July 21 - 4 to 7 pm
Low-till/No-till Cropping Systems
Location: Kansas City, MO
Cost: $15

August 9 - 9 am to 2 pm
Farm Business Planning and Management Workshop
Location: Kansas City, MO
Cost: $30

August 25 - 4 to 7 pm
Introduction to Cut Flowers
Location: Kansas City, MO
Cost: $15

September 22 - 9 am to 2 pm
Scaling Up Your Business/Packaging & Grading Produce
Location: Lawrence, KS
Cost: $30

An Abundance of Apples = Apple Cake!

Sunday, February 02, 2014

We're still working our way through those 30 pounds of free apples, so I thought I would use up a couple of them by  making some apple cake for our little Superbowl party today.  Trust me...this cake is so yummy and moist that it won't last until the halftime show. And it's a great way to use up some apples that are past their peak of freshness.

Apple Cake (A La Cranky Puppy)


3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup oil (substitute of 1/2 applesauce to make this healthier)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups finely chopped apples (about 4 medium-sized apples)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk (or apple or orange juice)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Glaze topping
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup whipping cream


  1. In a large bowl: combine the flour, sugar, soda, and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl: combine eggs, oil, applesauce, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  3. Chop the apples and nuts. I like to rough chop the apples and then pulse them in the food processor to make this step easier.  Stir them into the egg mixture.
  4. Add the egg mixture to dry ingredients, just until moistened. 
  5. Spread the batter in a greased and floured 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes.
Glaze topping
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter and cream.
  2. Cook and stir till bubbly and all of the sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly. Drizzle warm sauce over cake, when it has cooled for 5 minutes, so it can seep into the cake, keeping it moist.

This cake is so moist that it doesn't really need the glaze topping.  You can bake this as cupcakes or in two 9" round pans as well and it's equally as good.  I didn't have any whipping cream this time, so I substituted what I did have (Reddi-Whip) and it came out perfectly.

So next time you've got some apples that are a little past their prime, don't throw them out.  I hope you'll try this recipe.  Enjoy!

I'm sharing this recipe with this week's Homestead Barn HopDown Home Blog Hop and Clever Chicks Barn Hop.  Go check them out!

Goodbye, January! (And Good Riddance)

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Repeat after me:  "Spring is right around the corner!"

Here we are on the first day of February and I can confidently say that I'm not going to miss January's cold and snow one bit.  Of course, we woke up today to about an inch or so of snow on the ground.  With a forecast of possibly 5 to 10 inches more on Monday, it doesn't seem like February will be much different from it's sister, January.

I just changed the almanac forecast for our region (Region 5) over on the sidebar and it sure sounds different from the weatherman's comment that "February will be the coldest and snowiest month this winter."  Ugh, it pains me to even type that.  I am so ready for Spring that I'm bursting at the seams. 

Speaking of almanacs....I've always been fascinated with them since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.  My grandfather bought and used them religiously, planting his garden based on what they said the weather would be and the phases of the moon.  We always had a great garden so it must make a difference right?  I can remember sitting on the picnic table "reading" the almanac (looking at the pictures) at a very young age.  And I buy them every year. 

Recently, I came across someone that was selling a crateful of almanacs that included almost everything since 1900 + many dating way back into the early 1800's.  I just had to have them. 

It's interesting to see how the almanac's have changed over the years.  As you can see, the newer ones are larger and much more expensive (20 cents in 1838, 35 cents in 1966 and $5.95 for the 2014)!  But the content has changed significantly also.  Gone are the local stories, proverbs, and poems.  For example, here's a page from the 1838 Almanac:

 The old almanacs are kinda hard to read until you understand how they're organized.  For example, the weather forecast is indicated in italics (see above where I've underlined the different forecasts with different colors.)  They usually had a poem for each month and then a story or two on the side.  I thought it was interesting that they noted George Washington's birthday on the 22nd, so I checked the 2014 Almanac and it's there as well.  And, while there are other famous people's births referenced on their respective dates, Washington's is the only President's birth that is still referenced in the Almanac.  I wonder if that's a nod to the history of the Almanac?  Interesting, huh?

I should close with the good news that we made it on the guest list for the Department of Conservation's Maple Sugaring class on March 1st (the one I tried to get into last year and it was full on the first day!)   A big "thank you" to my MIL who I'm sure had her finger poised over that redial button until she got someone to answer.

Well, I'm off to go clean and organize a little bit before sitting down with the gardening catalogs.  Stay warm, my friends...spring is coming!

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