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!

Trick or Treat?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hen House and their World Record Apple Pie

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I'm not sure if I mentioned on thsi blog that I'm an extreme couponer - yes, one of those crazy people that you see on that show "Extreme Couponing" on TLC.  One of my favorite stores (and one of the only ones here in Kansas City that doubles coupons) is Hen House.  So I couldn't pass up the chance to go to their annual Holiday Celebration.  They were handing out coupon books for a free grocery item every week + some other great manufacturer coupons.  So J, my friend Paula and I headed out to check out all the excitement.

Before we even got in the door, we saw this adorable little guy from Good Natured Family Farms.  He's just 3 days old!  And he didn't seem to mind all the folks wanting to get their picture taken with him.  By the way, if you're not familiar with Good Natured, they're a local consortium of small family farmers that are bringing their organic milk and other products to the Kansas City market.  They had several samples of their products, including their white and chocolate milk, at the Celebration and they are all delish! 

I'm really glad they had dessert ready for me when I got there:

You're looking at an attempt at the world's largest French Apple Crumb Pie by the chefs at Tippins (now owned by Hen House).   They're not quite done in this picture - in fact, they're putting the crumb topping on with a squeegee!   Couldn't you just dive right in?  But seriously, this is one monster pie.  Check out these stats:
  • The Pie—8’ round by 2’ deep (752 gallons) weighing a total of 5,787 lbs
    (not including the pan)
  • Graham Cracker Shell—300 gallons or 1650 lbs
  • Apple Pie Filling—400 gallons or 3600 lbs
  • French Crumb Topping—52 gallons or 312 lbs
  • Vanilla Whipped Topping—225 lbs
The really cool thing about this is that they said they were going to donate the entire thing to Harvesters once the record was confirmed. 

The Celebration is setup like your traditional home show or IT vendor show in that there are booths and you can visit the ones you're interested in and pick up free food samples, coupons, and information.  The $5 ticket was more than worth it because we all left their stuffed to the gills, with a free rose bush, and reusable bags stuffed with fresh fruit and food.  Oh, and we got to see the Purina Incredible Dog Team in action and posed in front of the 25 foot tall Roberts Dairy milk cow.   If we could have gotten that out of the convention center, it would be gracing my backyard right now.  ;-)

But  THE best part of the entire thing?  The Louisburg Cider Mill had slushes made from their apple cider.  Paula and I kept going back for more of those, stomach ache be darned.  Ohhhhh, so good!

Pumpkins: To Eat or Decorate?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This was my first year growing pumpkins and, even with a late start in the garden, I was still blessed with 6 beautiful pie pumpkins.  The seed that I used was from Gurney's and they're called "Spooky" pumpkins.  With a name like that, and with Halloween just around the corner, I thought it was fitting that they go on the front porch railing.  They're way too small to carve at around 5 lbs each, but I still think they look good there.

Seriously, though...I'm drooling over the thought of homemade pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie.  Each one of these should give me about 1 1/2 cups of mashed pumpkin, which is almost enough for the recipe I use.  I always love to try everyone's recipes, so here's mine if you want to try it:

Pumpkin Pie Bread
Makes 2 loaves (1 for you and 1 for a friend!)

Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cook Time:  1 hour
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce (or 1 cup vegetable oil)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. If you are using fresh pumpkin, it will need to be prepared and cooked.  See the instructions below.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture alternately with water. Divide batter evenly into two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
  5. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. For best flavor, store wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for a full day before serving.

Preparing Fresh Pumpkins

  1. Wash the exterior of the pumpkin (do not use soap!)
  2. Cut the pumpking in half.  A serrated knife with a sawing motion works best.
  3. Scoop out the seeds and scrape the insides until the stringy stuff is cleaned out.  I recommend saving the seeds to either roast or to plant pumpkins next year! Just place them in a bowl or water and rub them between your fingers until clean.  Then spread them out on a clean paper towel to dry.
  4. Cook the pumpkin.  There are several ways to do this:  stove, microwave, pressure cooker or oven.  I like to use a double steamer on the stove because it's quicker.  You may need to cut it into smaller pieces to get it to fit in the steamer.  It's ready when it's soft enough to scoop the insides out (about 20 to 30 minutes).
  5. Use a tablespoon to gently scoop the cooked pumpkin out of its skin. Mix it gently (I use a hand blender affectionately known as the "boat motor") and you should have pumpkin puree.  It's that simple! 
  • If it seems to watery, you can use a coffee filter to strain out the water before using the puree for baking. 
  • You can freeze the puree and use it later.  It should last a year or more in the freezer.  However, do NOT can it!   Click here for reasons why you shouldn't can pumpkin puree.

Girl's Night Out

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The girls had a great time tonight playing in the leaves and gobbling up mealworms from my hand.   Fiona even decided to hop up on my knee to say hello.

New Milestone: 6 Eggs Today!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Food Day 2011!

Monday, October 24, 2011

"...too many Americans are eating diets composed of salty, overly processed packaged foods clad in cardboard and plastic; high-calorie sugary drinks that pack on pounds and rot teeth, but have no nutritional benefit; and fast food meals made of white bread, fatty grain-fed factory-farmed meat, French fries and more soda still."

Amen!  I'm by no means a food nazi (I do love my double cheeseburgers), but I did come to the realization last year that what I was eating really wasn't all that great-tasting and one of the big reasons why I am overweight.  I used to love Chicken McNuggets and french fries from McDonalds.  But, when I stopped to *really* think about it, I think it was more in love a childhood memory of them.  When I really thought about it, the chicken had the consistency of cardboard and even less taste and the fries are so salty that they're inedible.  It was that epiphany (and a healthy fear of what's going on with the economy) that got me started on the urban farm path and a desire to eat healthier.

There are a couple of different events going on today in Kansas City to celebrate Food Day - here's the link to the biggest one.  If you're not in the Kansas City area and would like to find a Food Day closer to home, check the official Food Day page.  You can search on the map or by zip code.  Or you can celebrate on your own through simple choices:  trade the soda for water or a cheeseburger for a salad. 

Happy Food Day, everyone!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Well, after a beautifully perfect and sunny 70-degree weekend, we got our first taste of fall today.  It was rainy and chilly with a high of just 55 degrees!  Tomorrow night is supposed to bring our first frost, although we usually don't see those low temps since we so close to the heatsink of the downtown concrete and steel.  I suppose that's one advantage of being in an urban setting.

I closed one of the windows in the coop and lowered the sash on the other one to keep the girls nice and toasty in this cool weather.  They rewarded me today with 3 eggs *in the nesting box*.  Seems like they are getting in the groove with where to lay those eggs. 

We're still getting a ton of tomatoes and I grabbed two pockets full this evening after I put the girls "to bed".  I think I may go ahead and cover the plants tomorrow night just in case it does get cold enough to frost. 


Caterpillar says...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

...another bad winter?!?! 

While raking leaves today, we found a couple of these little guys.  In the picture, he's all curled up in his "I am spiky and not good to eat" pose.  Or maybe he just doesn't like to have his picture taken.

Folklore around these here parts says that these "wooly bear" caterpillars are predictors of the weather.  No, it's not whether they see their shadow or not.   They're supposed to have an orange band in their middle - the more orange hairs they have, the milder the winter.  The more black hairs they have, the rougher winter will be.  Some folks even say that each of their thirteen segments represent the 13 weeks of winter, and you can tell how many bad weeks we'll have just by counting the black segments.

As you can see, this guy is all black.  That's just like last winter, which was a bear and a half with all the cold and non-stop snow.  Despite his bad prediction, we sent him on his way.

By the way, J. says this is a "woolly peter", but I think he's pulling my leg.  I, however, am not pulling your leg and you can read more about these interesting little critters here.

Itty Bitty Baby Tomato

Now what the hell am I supposed to do with a beefsteak tomato that's the size of a marble?

Follow the Flagstone Road?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Now that's it cooler, J. and I decided to spend the day tackling the flagstone path that I wanted to put between the two garden beds and leading up to the coop.  We picked up the flagstone earlier in the summer when it was 98 degrees and quickly decided that it was way too hot to work on laying it down.

The path had grown up with some grass and weeds, despite the fact that I had laid down thin plywood over most of it.  So we spent some time shoveling that up and trying to level the space.  If the path looks tilted in the picture, that's because it is.  The whole backyard has a slight slope toward the street and we decided to keep that to help with run off.  I certainly don't want puddles or ice accumulating on the path!

Even with all our prep work, we still had to hand-level each and every stone.  We discovered half-way through that we only had enough stone to finish about half of the path, so we headed off to pick up some bigger stones.  It took about an hour to get all of these laid (in between conversations with interested neighbors).  Then we put new dirt between them and planted some new grass.

I think the colors in this stone are really beautiful and complement the color of the coop.  What do you think?

Happy World Egg Day!

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's the second Friday in October, and that means it's World Egg Day.  And we're just clucking with excitement here at CrankyPuppy Farm.  In fact, we celebrated the occasion by having 3-egg omelets with Sargento extra sharp Vermont white cheddar cheese and Bob Evans sausage.  Deeeeeelish!

How will your family be celebrating this important holiday?

Milestone: 4 eggs today!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mother Nature Has a Wicked Sense of Humor

Monday, October 10, 2011

My friend Paula and I were skulking around at Hen House market today during our lunch break and picking through the adorable little bin of pumpkins that they had for just 50 cents.  I was thinking I would spruce up the office with a little autumn cheer.  And that's when I found Mick.

You see it, right?  That pumpkin seems to be.....well.....smiling at us!  Here, let me fix it for you:

I think he's definitely alot cuter than his namesake, Mick Jagger, don't you?

Fakin' It

Friday, October 07, 2011

I wish the ladies would recognize all the hard effort that J. and I put into building those b-yootiful nest boxes by actually laying their eggs in them and not on the floor.  I thought maybe they might need a hint, so I bought a fake wooden egg from MyPetChicken and placed it lovingly in the box.  It looks unbelievably realistic, including little speckles just like a real egg.

Guess what?  It actually works.  We only had one egg on the floor this week and the rest have been in the box.  I guess the power of suggestion does work.

Egg on a Soft Shell

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Sometimes things just don't go right.  And that's no different for chickens when it comes to egg-layin'.  I went out this morning to gather up some tomatoes and eggs and that's when I found it - my first soft shelled egg!  I'd read about such egg fart oddities on the Backyard Chicken forums, of course, but nothing prepared me for what it felt like when I picked it up.  Think of a completely formed egg with a ziploc bag as the shell.  It was all mushy and weird.  I had to be careful to not break it.

Picture provided by A Half Past Life
I brought it in the house and sat it on the counter, fully intending to take a picture of the darn thing.  Well, life happens and I got busy and didn't make it back to take the picture until just now.  And guess what?  The egg had collapsed in on itself and was hard as a rock!
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