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!

On the Eve of 2012

Saturday, December 31, 2011

What a beautiful day!  65 degrees and sunny on the last day of the year is hard to believe, particularly since last year we had snow on the ground and it was only 3 degrees!  As I write this, the wind is whipping around the corners of the house and the noticeable chill in the air tells me that the front has finally arrived.  Our high tomorrow is supposed to be half of what it was today.

I suppose it's natural for us homo sapiens to see the end of the calendar year as a time for reflection on what was and what is to come.  2011 was an interesting year as J. and I started our journey toward building this little mini-farm in the city and long-term planning for our move to our larger farm.  That seems a long way off, since we probably won't make it there permanently until retirement.  But, you know, time seems to speed past me even faster as I get older.  We have been blessed in 2011, though, in that we haven't been impacted by job loss, or serious health issues, or anything major.  And, yes, I am knockin on wood that it stays that way.  It is definitely not something that I take for granted.

If anything, 2011 has been one long learning experience.  And perhaps the most important lesson I learned is what I don't know.  There is definitely so much more.  But we did make great strides this year:
  • Built a beautiful chicken coop
  • Raised 9 chicks from the time they were 2 days old and they're happily supplying us with eggs and entertainment on a daily basis
  • Cleaned out the fence lines and re-fenced the entire back lot\farm
  • Planted an organic raised bed garden full of several varieties of tomatoes, jalapenos, pumpkins and watermelons
  • Started a small orchard of dwarf apple trees and planted blackberries and strawberries
  • I attended an 8-week long canning\preserving class and, not only did I put away some tasty salsa, but I also roasted my own pumpkins and used them to make pumpkin bread.
  • Got our water issues taken care of with the purchase of a Big Berkey from Ebay 
  • Continued to add to our food stockpile and cleaned the basement out so that we could better organize everything
  • Procured a 1988 Terry Taurus travel trailer that we'll be taking up to the real farm next year after we finish renovating it.  That will give us a place to sleep if we want to spend the weekend up there, as well as a much-anticipated bathroom!
Here's our coop and two of our raised beds - new in 2011!
There were some sad moments this year as well.  My boss lost his wife of 40+ years right before the holidays.  And J. and I said goodbye to the first puppy that we raised together.  Chase, a beautiful black lab mix with soulful golden eyes, left us early in the year.  The ground was frozen solid but it didn't matter to either of us - we both shed more than a couple of tears as we labored to bury him in the backyard.  He was a rescue puppy and not much past weaned when we got him.  J. always described him as "sober as a judge" because the odd thing about Chase is that he never wanted to play.  But he loved being near people and was smart as a tack.  Even now, it's bringing tears to my eyes to think of him, and I hope he is somewhere chasing rabbits in the warm sunshine.

Well, the new year begins in just one short hour.  I can't wait to see what 2012 will bring us here at Cranky Puppy Farm and to you as well, my dear readers.

Wishing all of you a good night and nothing but happiness in 2012,

Now We're Cooking: Cast Iron

Monday, December 26, 2011

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year?  A 12" Lodge cast iron skillet.  Made in the good ol' USA, yes sir.  Just seeing a cast iron skillet stirs up memories of heavenly smells emanating from the kitchen as my grandfather fried up sliced potatoes for dinner. 

The skillet came pre-seasoned and J. also gave me some cute stocking stuffers to go with it - some silicone scrapers and a handle cover.  I questioned the pre-seasoning, though.  If you're familiar with cast iron, it has to be properly seasoned and that means it gets better the more you use it.  It's practically non-stick once it's seasoned and it heats so evently that it's very easy to cook with (unlike some of my cheap non-stick pans).  So we got to work on the seasoning by making...you guess it....fried potatoes!

I had been looking for used cast iron all over the place last year - at auctions, estate sales, etc.  I saw one Lodge skillet at an auction but we didn't stick around long enough to see what it sold for.  It was the middle of summer and we had gardening to tend to.  People hold onto these things, because they will last a life time.  But if you do find one used, you can bring it back to life even if it's been let go to rust.  Just take some steel wool to it to remove the rust and the start the seasoning process again.  
So how do you season cast iron?  It's easy:
  1. Rub the entire skillet with oil.  Canola, vegetable oil, or lard is fine, but I'd stay away from olive oil.  If your skillet has a lid, cover the lid as well.  Don't soak it so that it's dripping- just rub the oil in so it's uniformly covered.
  2. Put the skillet (and lid) in the oven and at 300 degrees and leave it for an hour.
  3. Remove the excess oil, either with a paper towel or rag.  Some folks say to rub it with coarse salt, but I don't do that every time. 
So what interesting things did you give or get for Christmas?  Any I the only one that got cookware?  (LOL)  And if you have any favorite cast iron recipes and are willing to share, I'd love to hear them.  Please share!

And All Through The House

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Is this Prancer permanently preserved in ice? 

I confess...I cannot resist Victorian ornaments.

Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

Visions of Sugarplums

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O Christmas Tree

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our annual tradition (if you can call it that) has been to make hot cocoa and decorate the Christmas tree while we listen to some beautiful classical Christmas renditions.  J. hauled the tree up from the basement for me and, while it's been much too warm outside to stir up the cocoa cravings, we still had a good time decorating.  My other tradition has been to buy or create one new ornament every year and I think this is the first year that I haven't gone out on my annual ornament hunt.  I am having a hard time getting in the holiday spirit - possibly because of the weather or maybe it's the economy that has everybody down.  But the tree always helps my mood and I think it is beautiful.  Someday, *crossing my fingers*,  we will throw away this fake tree and replace it with one grown on our farm.

Giggles on Aisle 9

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sometimes in life you encounter those little things that just make the corners of your mouth turn up into a little smile. You know what I'm talking about - those random little funnies that are completely unexpected unserious acts in an otherwise serious world.

I had one of those moments in front of the meat counter at Hyvee today and ended up giggling like some demented crazy woman. And this is why....

Yep, no need to check your glasses.  That's a pig's head made entirely out of ground pork sausage.  I guess it was a slow day in the meat department.

Lovin' This Weather!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's almost 60 degrees today with less than a week to go before Christmas.  It certainly seemed odd to be out shopping today in short sleeves and no jacket. But I'm certainly not complaining - in fact, sorry to disappoint all you snow lovers, but I'd be perfectly happy if it stayed this way all winter.

J. and I spent the day shopping and fixing the gutter on the girls' coop.  We had never finished the downspouts and, with all the rain and snow forecasted for next week, we thought we had better get it done while the weather was cooperating.

Then it was off to organize for our Secret Santa giveaway next week and start wrapping.  Looking at the pile of stuff to be wrapped, I think we might just get done by Christmas if we start now.  I'm worn out already!

Merrily yours,

Today is National Poinsettia Day

Monday, December 12, 2011

We've always enjoyed having poinsettias grace our mantel, so I was looking for a great deal on these.  I can't believe some places want anywhere from $7 to $13.99 (Hen House Market!)  This year, we lucked out and found some coupons for $2.00 off any holiday flowers so I snagged two beautiful poinsettias for just $1.99 each.  One will go on our mantel and I'll take the other to work to brighten up the office.  And now how about some fun facts about this Christmas plant? 

Did you know.....
  • They are native to Mexico and the Aztecs used them to produce a red dye?
  • Poinsettias were introduced to the U.S. in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, hence the modern-day name.  Poinsett was an American botanist, physician and Minister to Mexico who sent cuttings of the plant he'd discovered in souther Mexico to his home in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • 90% of all poinsettias are exported from the United States?  They are commercially grown in all 50 states and contribute $250 million to the U.S. economy.
  • There are over 100 varieties?  My favorite is the peaches and cream.
  • December 12th (today!) is National Poinsettia Day.  The day was established in July 2002 to honor the Poinsett's death.
  • It is completely untrue that they are poisonous to pets and children?  In fact, according to the American Society of Florists, no consumer plant has been tested for toxicity more than the poinsettia.
Wow, I certainly didn't know all that.  Did you?  Does the poinsettia have a place in your home for the holidays?

I Guess It's Official

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Oops...the Farmer's Almanac said our first snow wouldn't be until the week of the 17th!

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Remember this from Sesame Street? That's the the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw this egg.  And then I thought, "Well, that had to hurt!"  Something like the equivalent of us humans squeezing out a football.  Eeeeyikes.....

In all seriousness, this is the second humongous egg that someone has laid this week and it's caused me to ultra-curious as to what causes it.  Is it normal?  Do I need to be concerned?  Is this the return of the double yolks or even triple yolks?  A newbie chicken farmer has lots of questions.

Thank goodness for Google because I was able to find lots of great information on this odd phenomena.  Prepare yourself, because you are about to learn more about chicken ovaries and egg laying than you probably want to know.

Hens are alot like us human women in that hormones dictate the development of an egg.  In good layers, a yolk is released approximately every 23 hours and the ovum travels through the reproductive system until a complete egg is formed.  The majority of the egg's time is spent in what's called the "Shell Gland" where the outer shell is added - in fact, it will spend about 20 hours in that gland.  And then, as the egg is laid, the protecting coating or "bloom" is added.  What's happening when we get a double-yolked or triple-yolked egg is that two yolks are relased at the same time or in rapid succession or, for some reason, the first yolk gets stuck in the oviduct.  Apparently, it's pretty common in new layers as they get the hang of it.  And, althought there are some breeds that are more generically predispositioned to laying  multi-yolked eggs than others, there is a still a probability of just 1 in 1000 that an egg will have multiple yolks.  Fascinating, no?  If you really want more info with helpful (gross) pictures, go check out this site.

I'm not sure which of the girls laid these as they are different colors - it may very well be that one is from one of the Austrolorps and the other from a Barred Rock.  I thought I might be able to tell by which hen was walking funny.  (Just kidding.)    Maybe I should start referring to the Austrolorp's as Aus-triches.  (*giggle*)

Okay, enough with the corny jokes.  Hope you're enjoying your day,

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