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!

Hey, Bees..Bad Timing!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

There's a well-known beekeeper poem that comes to mind today:
A swarm in May — is worth a load of hay.
A swarm in June — is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm in July — isn't worth a fly.

 With all these back issues in the past year, I've been a terrible beekeeper.  So I was so excited to see that my first hive survived their first year.  In fact, they seemed to be flourishing.   But here we are at the arrival of Spring and the weather has been awesome and I still haven't been able to get out to check on the hive. 
So you can imagine how mortified I was when J. showed me this picture that he had captured while checking on the chickens tonight.
Yep, the bees have swarmed up into the new sugar maple that we planted last year.  I'd say they are in a mass about the size of a bowling ball and J. says they're about 10 feet up.
I'd love to catch them and put them into a second hive that I had prepared for the day I could split the hive.  Question is...it's dark outside now.  Will they stay there overnight or will they be gone in the morning?  And can I even move them with this bad back of mine?   Surgery is in 36 hours!
I guess I can't be too sad if they are gone when the sun comes up.  Swarming is a natural lifecycle of bees and it just shows that the hive was really strong and outgrew their home.  Hopefully, the old hive should still be viable and working on getting a new queen up and running.  J. certainly isn't going to check given his bee-phobia and there's no way I can do it until I've recuperated. 

This swarm may have to be the one that got away.

Finally, A Bill I Want to Open

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Who wouldn't want to see a bill like this one every month?  I wish I could say that the massive credit was due to the solar panels, but it isn't.  We held our own there and only used 4 kW the entire month of March.  The credit is from the energy audit changes that we made late last year (new windows, more insulation in the attic,etc.).  For all that work, the utility companies paid for the $400 energy audit and gave us almost $450 toward the work that we did. 
Of course, that only pays for 1/4 of the new gas tankless hot water heater that we put in. But, heck, anything helps!
4 more days until back surgery.  The oral steroids are working their magic, but I am down to one every 12 hours and they run out on Tuesday night.  So that leaves me with a day and a half of no protection.  I may try to "cheat" the remaining pills out just a bit each time to try to cover more of Wednesday.  Thursday is coming...slowly but surely. 

An Update on Me

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wow, it's been 17 days since I last posted.   A lot has been going on and not all of it is good, unfortunately.  This back pain I've been dealing with since last May has gotten the better of me.  After several months of chiropractic treatment (don't do it!), physical therapy and two epidural shots into my back, I am now facing surgery on April 30th. My first epidural wore off just shy of the 2 month mark and the second one actually made my pain worse.  Where I was just  feeling sciatic pain all the way down my left leg, now I feel it on both sides.  Actually, right after, it felt like a mule kicked me right in the butt.  Good thing that's subsided.
The thing is, it's difficult to get comfortable and has been for quite some time.  Definitely no standing because the "buzz" in my leg quickly turns into pain around the 20 second mark.  If I stand long enough, I can no longer feel my leg.  It's as if it's fallen asleep.  What little benefit I got from the second epidural is now wearing off and sitting is becoming more painful as well.  My life now consists of trying to get through each day of work and then collapsing in a painful heap on the sofa.  Except for bed, it's the only place I am not in a lot of pain.
The orthopedic doc gave my Hydrocodone, which doesn't do diddly for the pain.  I've found good ol' ibuprofen takes the edge off but then I worry about what it does to my stomach.  I don't want to trade this back pain for an ulcer. 
The neurosurgeon, who specializes in minimally invasive surgery, was concerned that my pain was "on the wrong side" because my herniation is on the right but my pain is on the left.  I guess I'm one of the 3-4% that are weird like that.  He ordered another MRI which we did on the 11th.  I didn't see the pictures, but he said it shows that the disc herniation has gotten significantly worse since the first MRI in December.  Yea!  I'm not surprised...it's evident from the pain levels.
So, for now, I am counting days until the 30th.  I just have to make it through 10 more days counting today.  The surgery is minimally invasive and is over 98% successful.  The surgeon will make a 1-inch incision in my back, insert a series of tubes down to my spine by pushing my back muscles out of the way.  Then they will remove a small piece of bone over the herniation and remove the herniated piece of disc.  Just an overnight stay to make sure I come out of anesthesia, am eating OK, walking OK, etc. is needed.
I'm so sorry I've been absent and only posting sporadically over the last year, but now you know the whole story.  I have watched life pass me by for almost a year and can't wait to get back in the game.  And, if you don't mind me asking, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I go through this.  I haven't had surgery since having my tonsils out when I was 6, so I am scared to death.

The Turn Into April

Saturday, April 04, 2015

It always seems that I'm late changing the calendar.   Just 4 days into April and this hasn't been a good month already.  J. went to check on the chickens and found Cruella dead in the coop.  He said it looked like she had gone to sleep on the roost, died in her sleep and then fallen off.
It happens I guess.  But not that long ago, she was happily scratching away in the sunny yard and newly turned garden. 

While Cruella may have been, well, a mean chicken at best, I do miss her now that she is gone. 
Here she is with her pinless peepers on.  It was the only way to keep her from pulling everyone else's feathers out and she did NOT like it!
Still, she was a gloriously beautiful chicken.  And not at all afraid of telling you what she thought about you.

As leader of the flock, she was always first in line for the treats.  Her favorites were mealworms and watermelon.
We got out Cruella and our other 3 barred rocks when they were about a week old back in late April of 2011.  Even as a baby, Cruella did her own thing.  She wasn't one to cower in the corner like everyone else. 
Cruella, on the left, already showing her independent streak.
She was the last of our Barred Rocks and will probably always be the last.  While they are great layers, they aren't the friendliest breed.  The Black Austrolorps (of which we still have 2 of our original 5) are also consistent, daily layers but are much friendlier.  In fact, they like to follow you around and talk to you.  We have some new chicks coming in a week or so and I decided to try some new breeds.  But you'll have to wait to find out what they are!
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