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!

Sweet Potato Slips Available in KC

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hot off the presses!  (Well, okay, I missed the pickup tonight.) 

Steve, the organizer for the Food Not Lawns class that I took earlier this year, just posted some information about the Kansas City Sweet Potato Project and the slips that they have available for anyone interested in trying their hand at growing these.   If you're in the Kansas City area, go here to find out the pickup times and locations which includes this Saturday afternoon.  Even if you didn't place an advance order, they say they have plenty available for everyone.

I'm seriously considering growing the variety called "Black Heart" in the front yard where their vines can cascade over our 4-foot rock wall.   Since the trim on our house is black and white, I think it would  look pretty cool.

Or maybe "Marguerite" with its gorgeous lime green leaves. Thrives in any conditions and is a great ground cover.

Or check out the "Tricolor".  It's a little less vigorous than the others and provides stunningly beautiful landscaping.  And it's edible to boot!

Actually, I'd love to plant Black Heart and Tricolor together, because I think it would be stunning in striped row or something similiar to this picture.  What do you think?

And did you know....sweet potatoes will store for 1 year without refrigeration?  Plant them in June, so now's the time. 

Sharing this post with this week's Rural Thursday hop.

First Bean Harvest and How-To

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First Harvest: Just shy of a pound!

Well hallelujah, we finally got a little bit of rain last night about 2 a.m.  I woke to a pretty nice lightning show and some bed-shaking rounds of thunder.  It's been an extremely quiet, dry spring and I've been missing my beloved thunderstorms, so I just had to lie there and listen for awhile before drifting back to sleep.

But I want to talk about something that happened yesterday morning instead:  we picked our first round of fresh green beans out of the garden!  A decent 0.84 lbs to be exact.  Just enough for a couple of dinners for J. and I.

And then the great debate began later in the day.  How to cook these puppies.  I wanted to saute them in 2 tablespoons of  bacon fat from breakfast with garlic and onions and then steam them in some chicken broth.  J. wanted to just saute them in butter with garlic.  So we compromised and had them J.'s way last night and then we'll have them my way tonight.  (And, by the way, they were DELICIOUS the way J. made them.)

Harvesting Green Beans

But let's not get the cart before the horse here.  If you've never grown green beans before, how do you know when the right time is to pick them? 

Generally, bush beans mature a little faster at 50 to 55 days after you plant them, and pole (or vining) beans are ready in 55 to 60 days. You'll need to check on the variety that you're growing, because it can vary widely.  We planted Early Contender and Blue Lake bush beans back on March 27th, so we're right at that timeframe. 

Once you get to about 6 weeks, you need to start watching your bean plants for flowers that will turn into tiny little bean pods.  Beans grow extremely quickly, so timing is everything.  If the pods get too large, they can become tough, so you'll want to harvest them before that happens.

Here's a good rule of thumb to remember for when most varieties are ready for harvest:

A bean is ready to harvest when it's a little fatter than a pencil.

They'll probably be anywhere from 4 to 7 inches long when they're that diameter and maybe slightly lumpy with the seeds inside.  If they are VERY lumpy, you've waited too long.

When you find a bean that's ready to pick, just grasp it firmly near the top of the bean where it connects to the plant and use your thumb to pinch it loose.  Or grasp the plant with your other hand to steady it and lightly jerk the bean upward to separate it.  Just be careful with that second method, as you can damage the plant or break the bean pod.

Do NOT harvest beans when they are wet with dew or after a rain.  They MUST be dry.  Picking wet beans can spread bacterial blight and damage or kill the plant.  Likewise, do NOT wash your beans until right before you cook or process them for canning.  Washing them will cause black spots and they will decompose quickly.

The good news is that your bean plant will continue to produce more beans as long as you continually harvest them before the seeds within the pods mature.  Just use my rule of thumb above and you'll be fine.

So now you've got a t-shirt full of green beans and a myriad of choices for what to do with them:  freeze them, can them, saute, boil in a pot of water until they're mush.  I think the best thing to do is to eat them raw or, better yet, here's the recipe for green beans done the Cranky Puppy way:

Fresh Green Beans, Cranky Puppy Style
Fresh green beans, 1 lb
2 tablespoons bacon grease**
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (optional)
1 cup chicken broth\stock
Salt to taste (1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
Black pepper to taste

  1. Wash the green beans gently.
  2. Snap the stem end off the green beans. Some folks snap both ends, but it's not necessary.  Most beans are stringless but, if you have the string variety, pull gently down on the stem end as you remove it.  You'll be pulling toward the other end of the bean to pull the strings off as well.
  3. Snap or cut the beans into the desired size pieces (or you can also leave them whole).  We usually snap them in half.
  4. Melt the bacon grease in a skillet over medium low heat.
  5. Add the garlic and onions and saute for 1 minute.
  6. Add green beans and cook until they turn bright green.
  7. Add the bell pepper, salt and black pepper.
  8. Turn to low heat and cover with a lid.  Crack the lid just enough to allow the steam to escape.
  9. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the broth evaporates and beans are starting to soften.  As the broth evaporates, the onions and garlic will carmelize, giving you some really yummy flavor.  If the beans aren't yet cooked, you can add more broth as needed.

Enjoy!  I can't wait to have these tonight.... 
I'm sharing this post with this week's Country Garden Showcase, Tuesday Garden Party and Country Homemaker hops.

Out and About

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Just east of Gardner, Kansas. Taken March, 2012.

Once upon a time, I believe this barn was red because you can just see the hint of the remaining red paint hanging on for dear life.  I actually think I like it better this way. 
What do you think?

I'm linked up to this week's Barn Charm hop.  If you're as enchanted by old barns as I am, it's the place to be.  And if you're visiting from the hop, welcome!  Hope you'll sit down, have an ice cold drink and stay a spell.

Makin' Black Bean Brownies

Monday, May 28, 2012

Now if you told me that you were gonna make some tasty brownies with black beans in them, I would think you were certifiably crazy.  And I certainly didn't believe they would actually taste good.  I mean, you just don't mess around with this girl's chocolate goodies.  But hold onto your hats, folks, because these brownies are Y-U-M-M-Y!  They're dense, moist, and there's no hint of the "secret" ingredient.

Oh...and I guess it's worth mentioning that they're better for you as well since the ingredients aren't processed and there's no flour either (great for anyone that is gluten-intolerant).

Black Bean Brownies

(makes 16 good-sized brownies)

1 can (15 oz) of black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1/2 cup pure honey
1/2 cup unrefined sugar (can use honey as substitute)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon instant coffee (granules - not brewed)
3 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees (if you replace the sugar with honey, reduce the setting to 325 degrees.)
  2. Grease and flour an 8" x 8" baking pan.  These brownies tend to stick. Since I'm lazy, I just line the pan with lining paper and then they're easy to get out.
  3. Place all the ingredients with the exception of the chocolate chips in a food processor blender.
  4. Pulse thoroughly until smooth and well combined.

  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.  (You can do this in the food processor, but I transferred the batter to a mixing bowl to make it easier.)
  6. Pour the batter into the pan. 
  7. Top with nuts, if desired.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is dry and the edges begin to pull away from the baking dish.
  9. Cool completely before cutting.

These will go great with a cold glass of milk while we're watching "Hatfields and McCoys" on the History Channel tonight.  Can't wait to see Bill Paxton and Kevin Costner duke it out.  It's going to be epic. 

I hope everyone has an enjoyable Memorial Day!  And please take time out to remember why we have this holiday...for those who fight and who give their lives so that we can have our freedom.

I'm sharing this scrumptious recipe over on the Monday Mania, Farm Girl Friday, and Homesteader Blog Carnival hops.

My Empire of Dirt

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The gardening game has been called due to rain delay tonight, so I'm sheltering inside and listening to the man in black:  Johnny Cash's new song "Hurt".  It's a raw, hauntingly beautiful song.   I hope you enjoy listening to it as I give you a tour of what's going on in my own tiny little empire.

My cell phone camera doesn't even begin to capture the brilliant color on these lilies.

Not sure how these green beans snuck up on us. I swear they weren't there the night before!

Cabbage head beginning to form.  Notice the holes that indicate my sluggy friends have been at it.  I sprayed all the plants with an organic insecticidal soap a couple of days ago.

Sweet 2-week-old bunny snoozing in the shade of the tomato plants.

What's going on in your neck of the woods? 

Strawberry Fields Forever

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When processing strawberries, make sure you wash the berries first to remove dirt, leaves and other debris.  A colander is really useful in the process.
Want to hear something crazy?  I'd never eaten a strawberry until this year.  Strawberry jam, strawberry syrup....sure.  But not a whole strawberry and certainly not one that I just picked and plopped into my mouth.  We're getting strawberries here and there on our own young plants and they are supersweet and yummy.  Why I avoided strawberries and said I "didn't like them" I'll never know.  But there are lots of foods that this once-picky-kid is learning to like.

I wish I could say that the beautiful bowl of strawberries in the picture are ours, but they're not.  I picked these up at the store over the weekend for a steal thinking we could freeze them or that I could make a strawberry pie for J. (his favorite).

One of ours!
Sunday night, we stood in the kitchen for half an hour with J. cleaning and me slicing and the end result was about 3 quarts of berries.  Now the question was what to do with these beauties?  If you do nothing, they last only 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator.

Itching to bring out my canner for the first time this year, I tried to convince J. to let me make some jam with these but he really wanted to eat them whole.  So we opted to freeze about 2/3 of them and leave the rest to be eaten.  Freezing is easy - you just spread the berries out on a cookie tray so that they don't overlap and then stick them in the freezer for 24 hours.  These berries were pretty tart, so we mixed them with a 1/2 cup sugar per quart before freezing.

But...did you know....there are several different ways to preserve strawberries?  Me neither.  But what yuou plan on using the berries for and how long you want to preserve them can dictate which method you choose.  Also, be aware that most freezing methods will alter the color of the berries slightly (they'll be darker) and they will also be more mushy when thawed.  That may not make a difference if you're putting them into smoothies or into a pie.

Methods for Freezing Strawberries

Freeze them whole.  Wash and hull the berries, but leave them intact. Then pack them into plastic freezer containers or plastic bags, or use the cookie sheet or an ice tray.  If you pack them in bags, they may stick together.  With this method, the strawberries must be used within 2 months.

Freeze sugared strawberries.  This is the method that we used.  Wash and hull, and then either leave them whole or cut them into desired sizes.  Then sprinkle them with 1/2 cup sugar per quart of berries.  Pack them into plastic bags or containers or on the cookie sheet and then freeze for 24 hours. With this method, the strawberries can be stored up to 6 months.

Freeze pureed strawberries.  Wash and hull, then either mash or puree with a blender.  Then pour into plastic bags or individual ice cube trays. Puree can be stored up to 6 months.

Freeze strawberries in light syrup. Place washed and hulled berries in a plastic freezer. Boil together 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water until the sugar is dissolved to make simple syrup.  Then pour the syrup over the berries and freeze. With this method, strawberries can be stored up to 6 months.

Freeze with dry ice. This is the best method of freezing berries *if you have dry ice on hand*!  The key is in freezing the berries as quickly as possible and this is the only method that will keep the berries from getting mushy when they are thawed.  With this method, wash and hull, then mix berries with a crushed block of dry ice in a metal bowl.  Place the bowl in a cooler with a lid and leave the lid cracked slightly so that pressure from the gas coming off the dry ice can escape.  Wait 20 minutes. Then place the berries into a container or plastic bag and store in the freezer.  With this method, berries can be stored up to 6 months.

I hope you found this strawberry information useful - what I found the most interesting is that freezing them whole is really short-term.  My grandparents had always done it this way and I thought they would last longer.  But my grandfather was a notorious berry lover and, now that I think about it, they didn't stay in the freezer that long.  :-)

Have a "berry" good day, everyone!

Linked with this week's:  Monday Mania, Living Green, Fat Tuesday, and Country Homemaker hops.

A Day In the Sunshine

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm really getting spoiled by all this beautiful weather we've been having for the last 3 weeks or so.  It was supposed to rain last night after 1 a.m., but the storm never materialized and we woke to filtered sun streaming through our stained glass windows.  The weatherguesser said it would be 76 degrees and sunny.

On the way out the door, I noticed that my white asian lilies are blooming for the first time.

J. and I got out early and spent the day working on those little odd projects that just seem to come with owning a house and a backyard farm.  One of the bad things about using PVC fencing for your garden beds is that you can't use the weed eater around them because it will break the brittle fence.  So I have to weed by hand with some grass shears.  Doesn't take long, but it's not as fast as with a weedeater. 

While I was harassing weeds, J. was putting the finishing touches on the garage downspout which was the last "to-do" after our unfortunate truck incident a couple of weeks ago.  Finishing at the same time, we decided it was way past time to sit down, enjoy the view and have some iced tea before starting down the "honey do" list again.

This robin agreed that a break was needed after the morning's worm hunting and nest-building, so she enjoyed some time in the sun with us at the base of one of the apple trees.  I tried to get a closer shot since I only had my phone but she flew off.  So sorry for the somewhat unfocused shot!

Our resident crew of baby bunnies were hiding in amongst the overgrown grass around the beds, and they weren't happy about being woken from their mid-day snoozes.  At one point, we had three little cottontails hopping around the yard.    The good news is that they aren't coordinated enough to hop into the garden beds yet.  I picked one of them up to move him from his nap location and he jumped out of my hand and into one of the beds where I snapped this pic.  He stayed there for several hours.

One of our sweet baby bunnies sheltering from the sun under the lettuce leaves.
The chickens are quite angry with me because I won't let them out to free range, but I'm a little worried about doing that with all these bunnies running around.  A grown chicken can easily kill and eat a mouse and I'm sure they wouldn't discriminate against eating teeny bunnies.  They'll have to wait until these babies are gone or a little bigger.  It didn't stop them from giving me an earful, however, as I finished mulching the tomato beds.

As dark closed in on us, J. and I retreated to the house for dinner and to cut up some fresh strawberries that I picked up over the weekend. Out of 6 pints, we got 3 quarts of usable strawberries, all cleaned and cut up for freezing.  I'll post more about those tomorrow.

And, guess what?  We never did get that bunny fence put up.

Sharing this post with the Tuesday Garden Party, where you can check out some fabulous gardens, and Weekly Top Shot #32!

Creative Gardening With Arches

Sunday, May 20, 2012

If you were around last year, you may remember that my cucumbers, watermelons and pumkins took over the whole dang yard in late summer.  They spilled out of the raised beds and across the lawn and, while beautiful, it meant we couldn't mow that area for a month and a half. 

So I spent the winter thinking about what I could do to fix it:  move them to a different location, give them their own bed...hmmm, what to do?  And then I thought "why not go UP?"  And the idea of using arches to do that was born.  As my garden design came together for this year, I thought an arch trellis would be great to allow the cucumbers (on one side) and the spaghetti squash (on the other side) to grow up the trellis over the Contender and Blue Lake bush beans, where they would shelter them from too much sun as the summer heat grows.

I looked and looked and looked some more on Craigslist and elsewhere for some used fence panels, but there were none to be had.  So we loaded up the truck and trailer and headed to Tractor Supply where we snagged a 50" x 16' goat panel.  I have no idea why it's called a goat panel (do you?).

Once we arched it, however, we realized that it was way too tall so we cut off about 4 feet of it.  I'll use that as a trellis elsewhere in the garden.

Cutting the fence panel with a grinder was the fastest way to "get er done".  It only took a couple of minutes.

Cutting the panel left some prongs on one end.  Turns out that it was really useful to stick those down into the ground to make the whole thing more stable.  But we also sank some rebar into the ground and tied the panel to it with metal ties.  When the plants grow up, I can just see it becoming a sail in the summer wind if it's not tied down well.

Click the pic to biggify and you might be able to make out our teeny cucumber plants to the left of the trellis.  They'll be climbing shortly.  Most of the green in the middle of the arch is the bush beans and we noticed yesterday that they have teensy weensy little bean pods on them.

Turns out the panel fit perfectly within our garden bed with about an inch to spare! All that was left was to get the squash started up the trellis. One of the runners was over 3 feet long, so we couldn't have waited much longer to get this trellis in.

Spaghetti squash vining up the new arch. Crossing my fingers that this works!

What kind of creative garden ideas have you used or are thinking about using?  I'd love to hear about them....leave me a comment!

Adding to the Potato Bin

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hello there!  What's that?  What's on tap for today? 

Well, it's time to give some much-needed attention to our poor, neglected Yellow Finn potatoes that we planted in our potato bins almost two months ago. (Click here to learn how to build your own!)

They're growing nicely and, as you can see from the measuring tape in the pic below, they are about 9 inches tall.  Oops...  *blush*  We should have had these mulched about 3 inches ago, but we were too busy with our vacation.  Luckily, they're not flowering or anything, so I think we're good.

As the potatoes grow, it's best to keep them mulched with straw or add more dirt so that  2/3 of the plant are buried.  We opted to use straw because it will be much easier to harvest the potatoes and not as heavy as dirt.  In keeping with our original bin design, we added another level of boards all the way around the bin and then added a heavy layer of mulch in between the plants.  Don't worry about burying some of the leaves - that's OK.  Just pack it in there real good, but be careful not to break any of the stems or leaves. 

Here are our two bins after we were done:
Growing potatoes in bins is easy.  Add boards and mulch or dirt as the potatoes grow, leaving 1/3 of the plant exposed.  Rinse and repeat!

We also mulched the Yukon Gold potatoes that are growing in the laundry tubs as well, since they are up about 8 inches or so.  They grew really fast considering that we just planted them in late April!

While we were pulling weeds and mulching, I found a little friend hanging out on one of the potato plants.  I'm sure he doesn't eat much, but I'm not sure I want him hanging out too much.  In real life, he was about 1/2 the size shown in the picture below.  Cute, isn't he?

Speaking of baby wildlife, we noticed that a couple of our Rutgers tomato plants were looking a little chewed on.  I think I know who the culprit was.  Look who I found lurking in the tall grass right outside the garden bed?

Eyes now open and hopping about, this teeny little rabbit is about 10 or 11 days old.

I guess we have the answer to yesterday's mystery, huh?  Not long after I found this little guy, I found his brother under the rose bush.  Time to get that rabbit fence up around the garden beds, I think.

What's going on in your backyard this weekend?

I'm sharing this post with this week's Rural Thursday, Farmgirl Friday, Ole' Saturday Homesteading Trading Post,  Foto Friday and Garden Life hops.

Garden Mystery

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's a beautiful, sunny Friday morning but I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad at the moment.  Heading out to open the "magic door" for the chickens (the pop door that leads from the coop to the run), I detoured past where the baby bunnies were.  The weed pile was completely flipped over and the nest was empty.  They were there last night around 8:30 p.m. when I checked on them.

Did momma move them last night?  Did an enterprising neighborhood stray get them?  There's no evidence of any carnage.  It's a true life mystery!

May the Farm Be With You

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Need a laugh today? I ran across this silly video over on Garden Fresh Living and it definitely made me chuckle. Being a child of the 70's and 80's, anything Star Wars is fun. Hope you enjoy!

It's Always Something

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Work was like the twilight zone yesterday, and last night should have been a boring night of planting tomatoes and jalapenos in the raised beds.  And so it was.  Except for the unexpected surprises that we ran into. And I suppose that is what makes life interesting, eh?

The first surprise involved something planted in the garden that I didn't put there.  Last weekend, I weeded the garlic and tomato bed and piled the weeds up at one end, fully intending to get them into the compost pile.  But I got busy and they never made it there.  So imagine J.'s surprise when he picked up the pile to move it and found this!

Can you see them?  Look at those adorable little ears and feet!
 Apparently, Mr Easter Bunny is a Mrs. and she thought my weed pile was a great opportunity for a shelter for her little kits.  She had actually dug out a small hole in the garden bed, had her babies in it, and then feathered the inside of the nest with rabbit fur to keep them cozy.

These little guys were right where a tomato plant was supposed to go, but I didn't have the heart to disturb them any more and we put the weed pile back on top of them.  I'm sure it's cosmic bad mojo to kill babies, which is why I had made J. build a nesting box for some sparrow babies that we found when we were rebuilding our front porch several years ago on Mother's Day.  I was certain we would be struck by lightning if we killed baby birds on Mother's Day.

J.'s response to finding the rabbits?  "I wonder if she planted them feet first or head first?"  *sigh*

I guess we'll have to wait a bit to plant that tomato plant.

Then we were off to the coop where we discovered one of the Austrolorps has gone full on broody. She's been sitting in the nesting box at night rather than flying up the roost and only reluctantly gets out of the box with some prodding.  Last night, there was no moving her of her own volition.  I had to pull the box out and physically remove her.   But having seen what was under her, I don't blame her one bit!

One of these things is not like the other, kids.
That picture is pretty representative of our egg harvest everyday from 8 hens (Henrietta is still in quarantine in her chicken condo) with the one exception being the double-sized egg in the middle.  It's almost twice as big as a normal egg!  I'm sure whichever hen laid that did an extra long touchdown-dance and announcement after she laid it.  Can you say "ow?!"

Well, of course, I just had to crack it to see what was in it.

Just as I suspected.  A double yolk!  We'd already eaten dinner, so it got scrambled up along with a couple older eggs and the ladies will get a high protein treat tomorrow morning.

And so our crazy day here at Cranky Puppy ended with the sun setting on the little rabbits and me cooking up some eggs with the dogs dancing around waiting for me to drop something.

How is your week going so far?  I'd love to hear about it!

Back From the Staycay Vacay

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cranky Puppy has been strangely silent the past couple of days and I apologize for that, but we were super busy finishing up our vacation, our own "honey do" list (which included getting the truck into the shop and the garage repaired after this incident), and tackling this project for J.'s brother:

I tried to talk them into using half of this for a chicken coop so that my girls could have a vacation home, but they didn't seem convinced.

Man, we couldn't have asked for nicer weather while we were on vacay.  Except for the one day at the Baker Creek festival where it was in the 90's, it was basically in the 70's and sunny.  We got lots done and there's lots going on in the garden now, so let's take a quick tour. 

Early Girl tomatoes are already outgrowing their cages.
I snagged some Purple Cherokee and Rutgers heirlooms yesterday at Home Depot, as I managed to neglect my tomato seedlings enough that they died when I tried to harden them off.  So much for starting from seed.  I may try some more pepper plants this season, since it's really not too late.  But I wanted to get the tomatoes in the ground and going.

Cute littel Yukon Gold potato plants are now almost 5 inches tall.  I'll have to mulch these with straw by the end of the week, I bet.

The green beans are going gangbusters and already have flowers on them.  Since this is our first year growing these, I was surprised.  Shouldn't they be taller?

The bean flowers sure are pretty, aren't they?  They're so dainty and delicate.
 Just to the right of this picture is the spaghetti squash that will be overtaking these beans if I don't get off my duff.  We had the trailer out as part of our shed-building project, so I took it over to Tractor Supply and finally got my goat panel, which I'll be using as an arched trellis.  Basically, I'm going to have the cucumbers go up one of the arch and the squash up the other side, where they'll shelter the beans underneath.  We'll see how that works out.  I'll be putting that in later this week, so I'll have pics in a later post.

I did get one of my "to-do's" from April done this weekend finally - my friend, Paula, and I had our garage sale on Saturday.  That forced me to organize the garage, basement, laundry room and dining room as well as go through a bunch of our books.  I made $73 and change in 5 hours and got rid of 8 Rubbermaid containers of stuff, so I'm calling that a success.  Even if I was a month late.

What's up in your neck of the woods?

I've shared this post with this week's Barn Hop and Garden Life link ups.  Clicky to find out what everybody's up to this week!

It's National Dance Like a Chicken Day!

And these birds have some serious moves!

Thanks to J. for the calendar reference. It's amazing what you can find when you take a break from reading a week's worth of vacation email at work.

Good Ol' Downhome Cookin'

Friday, May 11, 2012

One of my items on my to-do list for last month (oops...I'm late) was to get ready for the garage sale that a friend of mine and I are having tomorrow, so I figured I better get around to figuring out what I wanted to sell and get it priced.  It turned into a much bigger organization project than I expected and I ended up completely reorganizing the kitchen, pantry, basement and laundry room yesterday.

That's when I came across the long-lost box of cookbooks that included all of my grandmother's old books and handwritten recipes and I knew I just had to share this gem with you!

Originally copyrighted 1966, printed and purchased by my grandmother in 1975 for $1.25 in Osage Beach, MO.

Peppered with categories like "Side Vittles" and "Jest Plain Foolishness", this little cookbook is ripe with mispellings, interesting folk language and a dizzying array of somewhat scary recipes for things like pigs feet, baked coon and possum, and snapping turtle stew.  I think I'll pass on those, but there are actually some really good recipes in here as well for southern style biscuits, bread, cakes and pies.  Yum!

In addition to recipes and colorful language, there's quite a bit of sage advice like this thrown in. :

  • Tea made from hot water an' corn silk will cure bed wettin' in young'uns.
  • Th' root of rhubarb, worn on a string 'round th' neck, will keep off bellyache.
  • Tie a big red onion to th' bedpost an' it keeps th' ones in th' bed from havin' cold.
  • A live snake put in a barrel of cider will keep it frum spoilin' an' keep it sweet.
  • To cure chicken pox - after th' sun goes down, go to th' chicken house, lay down an' let a black hen fly over you.
  • If you keep a mule shoe in th' stove oven it will keep hawks away frum th' chickens.
  • Thunder sours milk an' kills th' chickens in sittin' eggs.
  • A buckeye carried in the pocket will cure rheumatism.

That last one is kind of funny to me now, because I remember that my grandmother used to put a buckeye in her bra every morning.  When I asked her why, she said it "cured ills". 

Of course, I can't end this post without giving you one of the recipes and, with coffee as expensive as it is, this might come in handy.  So here goes and I hope you enjoy!

Hard Times Coffee

Short of coffee an' too pore to buy any? Here's yore answer if you have the' followin' ingredients.

Mix well 2 quarts wheat bran with 1 pint yellow corn meal  Add 3 well-beaten eggs and 1 cup sorghum molasses.  Beat well; spread on pan and put to dry in oven.  Use great care by stirring often while it is browning-this is the secret of good coffee. A handful is sufficient for two persons. Sweet cream improves the flavor of the brew, but, as with store-bought coffee, this is a matter of personal taste.

Let me know if you try this recipe - I'm afraid I don't have any sorghum molasses!

Shared as part of this week's Country Homemaker Hop.

Visiting Laura Ingalls-Wilder

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I suspect, if you're reading this, that you're familiar with and may have even read the Little House books (or even seen the TV series), so I doubt the name Laura Ingalls Wilder needs an introduction.  The house that Laura lived in and ultimately wrote the Little House books in is in Mansfield, Missouri and not far from the Baker Creek seeds location, so J. and I took an afternoon out to go visit her farm.  It has now been designated a National Historic Site and is being preserved, pretty much the way it was when she and Almanzo lived there.

For a small admission fee, you can tour the house and a museum that has a staggering amount of photos and personal items from Laura, Almanzo, Rose, Ma and Pa, Mary and Carrie.  The star of the show is Pa's Fiddle, which is still played annually at a local festival.

The house is a quaint little farmhouse with a large beautiful yard.  We toured through the downstairs (the upstairs bedrooms are off limits), and the entire house is filled with the furniture that Laura used when she lived in the house.  Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures inside the house so I can only share exterior shots of the house.

Laura, 27, and Almanzo, 37, moved to this location in 1894 after a series of misfortunes left them in debt and in ill-health.  After a 6-week journey over 50 miles and with a $100 bill representing the last of their savings, they purchased the 40-acre farm and named it "Rocky Ridge Farm".  The tour guide told an interesting story about the trip from South Dakota in which they arrived and couldn't find the $100 that had been tucked away for safekeeping.  It ultimately was located hidden away in Laura's desk.

The "back porch".  The window to the left is the music room and library and to the right is the sitting room where Laura liked to write.  I am love with that stacked stone fireplace chimney, aren't you?

Another view of the screened in summer porch.  It's evident that the house began as a smaller one and was added onto as the farm grew and became more profitable. 

I wish I could share interior pictures with you, as I found the kitchen to be really fascinating.  Laura was just 4 foot 11 inches tall and Almanzo custom built all the cabinetry and countertops for her, so they are shorter than today's modern kitchen fixtures.  An accomplished woodworker, Almanzo also built much of the furniture and the built-in bookcases throughout the house.

We were very surprised to hear that there are actually two homes on the property.  Their daughter, Rose, was a very successful free-lance writer and had a more modern house constructed as a gift for her parents.  Laura never wanted to move and refused to visit the building site until the day they were to move in.  Rose moved into the old farmhouse until she ultimately left the farm for good 8 years later. 

Despite the fact that the house was within a 15-minute walk of the old farmhouse, Laura had never wanted to move from the house that she and Almanzo had built with their bare hands, and they moved back into the old house where they lived until their deaths in 1949 and 1957 respectively.

The stone used to build this house is gorgeous and I fell in love with the tool marks in the mortar.

Nestled among the trees and on the downslope of an Ozark hill overlooking an immense field, you can see forever from this house.  On the side overlooking the field, the entire wall of the living room is a bank of french doors that open up to take advantage of the view. Rose certainly knew how to pick a location!

Well, I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the visit to this historic landmark as much as we did.  I'll leave you with a quote from Rose, one of the most influential Libertarians in the 20th century:

"Everything that an American values, his property, his home, his life, his children's future, depends upon his keeping clear in his mind the revolutionary basis of this Republic. This revolutionary basis is recognition of the fact that human rights are natural rights, born in every human being with his life, and inseparable from his life; not rights and freedoms that can be granted by any power on earth."

I'm sharing this post as part of the Rural Thursday Blog Hop.  Hop on over and see what everyone else is up to!
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