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!

God Bless Willis Carrier

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It's still hot!  And that's what all the puppies look like at my house right now.  This is our 4th day straight of excessive heat warnings and it doesn't look like that will end until early next week.  Thank goodness!  It's so hot that the girls are laying hard boiled eggs!  *ba da BOOM!*
 97 degrees at 10 p.m.  tonight.  This does not bode well.
I hadn't been out more than 5 minutes on my way to water the garden and chickens and I was sweating like I'd stepped out of a sauna.  All the rain that we got late last week has now evaporated and the ground is hard as a rock. I thought I was going to have to use dynamite to get the garlic out of the ground tonight.  As it was, I broke a hand spade.

So, with this heat, we are watering pretty much everyday to keep the tomatoes from cracking.  The rest of the garden actually looks really good considering.  The cabbage heads are coming along nicely.  No more problems with bugs eating the leaves after I sprayed with Bonide Bt (it's organic!)

The watermelons are blooming and starting to stretch their legs, and our first spaghetti squash is starting to turn yellow.  We could pick it now at about 8 inches long, but I'm going to wait for it to turn.

One thing that is funny is the stevia plants.  They didn't like it outside, so I brought them in to water them in the sink and they LOVE it there.  Love the wet and the cooler temps, I guess.  I don't have the heart yet to kick them out but they will eventually need to find a new home.  Maybe in a window sill somewhere.

Stevia is really interesting.  You can pop the leaves right into your mouth and they taste like sugar.  They're a great natural way to flavor your tea, you can bake with them, etc.  You can dry the leaves and use them later.  A very cool plant!  I think I may post some more about it over the weekend.

Well, I need to go pay some bills and get organized for the weekend.  Since it's so hot outside and J. took care of the mowing last night, we'll be working on inside projects all weekend. 

Oh, and who's Willis Carrier?  The inventor of the electric air conditioner.   He's A-OK in my book.

Stay cool, my friends!

I'm sharing this with this week's Tuesday Garden Party.

Play Me Some Mountain Music

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Look what the UPS man brought me today!

That's right...yours truly is fixin' to learn how to play the banjo.  I used a whole slew of Amazon points and got this for less than what a used one would cost.  Can't shake a stick at that.  I can't wait to annoy my noisy hoodrat neighbors across the street with this as I sit out on the front porch channeling Earl Scruggs while J. cleans the shotgun.  Payback is hell, kids.

Okay, I'm just kidding.  In all seriousness, I grew up listening to "old school" country and bluegrass and I never lost my love for it. There's just something melodic about the banjo and I've always wanted to learn how to play it.  That and the fiddle, but I think I better slow down and take it one at a time.  By the way, did you know that the banjo is a percussive instrument (like drums)?  You don't strum the banjo like a guitar - you strike the strings.  I play piano, but this will be my first true stringed instrument and, to tell you the truth, I'm a little scared intimidated.

This Morgan Monroe Cascade is a beautiful banjo with mother of pearl inlays, rosewood bridge and engravings.  It's a piece of art.  When I unboxed it tonight, I just had to sit and look at it before I even took it out of its case.  It's that gorgeous.  And I am a very lucky puppy.

Now I'm off to start learning how to play this thing.  Thank goodness for YouTube and the Internet.  Anybody know any good banjo teachers in the KC area?

Muy Caliente!

Monday, June 25, 2012

One sure way to forget that it's 100+ degrees outside is to eat some of J.'s famous (or is that infamous?) 4-alarm salsa.  it is in the pic in all its fiery glory.  I could tell what he was doing as soon as I walked in the back door because it singed the hairs right out of my nose.

It's been so hot outside the past two days that there's no way I'm venturing outside other than to go to work and make sure the chickens and the garden have water.  So I have no new garden pics to share with you tonight, but I thought I would give out some linky love to some new cyber friends and great blogs that I've come across in my latest digital wanderings.

First, a great big thank you for Laura over at Laura Williams Musings for featuring me as part of last week's Carnival of Home Preserving!  It was my first time participating, so it's an honor to have her select me as one of the feature posts.

Next, I'd like to direct you over to one of the blogs that I follow closely.  Mary Ann over at Calamity Acres is not far from me and was one of the first bloggers to link to Cranky Puppy Farm and I am forever indebted to her for sending some of you my way.  Her dogs are adorable, her farm is gorgeous, and she is *this* close to enjoying it full time after she retires in just 8 weeks.  If you want to read an interesting story, go over and find out about her recent house guest.

Okay, now how about some yummy recipes to go along with that salsa? Might as well heat up the kitchen some more.

Trish over at Mom on Timeout has a great post with lots of pics on how to make perfect biscuits just like grandma every single time.  Oh, how I needed the tips that she provides!

Sarah is making my favorite dessert over at Sarah's Kitchen.  I had these at Panera Bread and almost fell out of my chair.  They are THAT good, people!  If you are a chocolate lover, you've gotta try them.

And last but not least...how about celebrating the Fourth of July with these scrumptious rootbeer float cupcakes from Cupcake for Party?  They're made in shot glasses and so adorable.  I may have to make these for the gang at work. 

There are so many creative ideas being shared and I love reading about what everyone is up to.  If you've posted about a creative idea or recipe, please share it with us by leaving a comment. 

Now pass the chips, will ya?

Creative Ideas for Labelling

Sunday, June 24, 2012

If you've been buzzing around here this week, you know that I made jam out of 4 lbs of the most delicious-looking strawberries I think I've ever seen.  Whether frozen or preserved, strawberries don't seem to last very long around here.  But I've had some friends and neighbors drooling on my foot when I told them what we were doing, and that got me to thinking about giving some of it as gifts.

But I hate just handing someone a plain ol' canning jar.  So I thought I would have some fun with it today and make my own labels.  Might as well be somewhat productive since it's 95 degrees outside with 3000% humidity.  All of this took me about 10 minutes total.  First, let's start with the labels:

How do you like those names for the jams? 

(Okay....there are some inside jokes there that I need to let you in on.  Our youngest dog, Domino, likes to "woo hoo".  When you say those words, he starts running back and forth down the hallway, up onto the furniture, and generally going nuts.  I picked "Sneak-A-Lick" because that's what our dogs are always trying to do when we're not looking.  And "Ornery Streak" because Domino has a white streak of fur on the top of his head and we refer to it as his ornery streak.  He is one cute little brat, that's for sure.)

Now...before you think I'm a creative supergenius.  I happened to run across a site called the Jam Labelizer, which has these designs and allows you to change the colors and wording.  So you can make these also!

Step 1.  So the first thing I did was print out the labels with my color inkjet printer.  These would look great with a color laser but mine shot craps.  I played around with the sizing and printed a couple of different sizes so that I could use the bigger size as template for some card stock and then use the smaller one as the actual label.

Step 2.  Use stencil adhesive to attach the bigger size label to some card stock (I used red since it complimented the label color). I had this card stock already, but a full sheet is just 40 cents at Hobby Lobby. 

Step 3.  If you want, you can also use a different design paper on the back.  I chose to use the red and cream design above and decided to make it the same size as the label.  Looking at it now, I wish I had made it the same size as the cardstock.  Use regular adhesive to afix the paper to the back of the card stock (the side that doesn't have the label.)

Step 4.  Carefully cut around the outside of the jam label.

Step 5. Remove the label from the cardstock. This is where using stencil adhesive comes in handy, because it will peel away very easily and not leave any sticky residue behind.

Step 6. Carefully cut around the outside of the smaller jam label.

Step 7. Using spray adhesive, afix the smaller jam label to the front of the card stock.

Voila!  Here's how it looks....

Step 8.  Use a hole punch to put a hole in the top of the label.

Step 9.  Cut a circle of fabric approximately 8 to 9 inches in diameter.  Again, here's your opportunity to be creative.  I tried felt (25 cents at the craft store), cheap muslin, and a bandana (99 cents at the craft store). 

Step 10.  Place the fabric circle on top of the jar and use a rubber band to hold the fabric down.  I can never find a rubber band when I need one, so I had to skip this step.

Step 11.  Use string, yarn, raffia or decorative ribbon to affix the fabric on top of the jar.  I tied mine in a knot and then threaded one end of it through the hole in the label.  Then I just tied a pretty bow.

Felt looks okay..but not my favorite.   I can't believe this took just 10 minutes to put together.
The bandana is my favorite!  I think it really dresses it up.  But I think it would look better with a cream ribbon now.

Other Ideas:
  • Place the fabric under the canning ring.  I think there are white rings, but I've never been able tind them.
  • Leave the date off the label and laminate them.  That way they can be used over and over again and you can just write the date they were preserved on the label with an erasable pen. 
  • Print these on label paper and stick them on the jar or the canning lid.  (Personally, I would do the lid.  I hate trying to get labels off the jars when you wash them!)
  • Use old dish towels for the fabric.  A white towel with red stripes would have looked awesome.
  • Personalize the labels with stickers, metallic writing, stamps or other crafts.
  • Come up with your own design  The possibilities for creativity are endless!

Well, I enjoyed sharing this with you as much as I enjoyed making them.  I love seeing what other people are doing, so if you've got some ideas for creative labelling or dressing up your canning jars, I'd love to hear about it.  Please leave me a comment!

Curling Tomato Leaves

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm sad tonight.  Sad because I had to pull up one of J.'s beloved Early Girl tomato plants.  It has been giving us so many beautiful tomatoes for the last 2 weeks that our counter is covered with them.  But, unfortunately, it has been feeling poorly for that long as well.

It all started with yellowing leaves at the bottom of the plant almost two weeks ago and I didn't think anything of it.  We've had such weird weather and it's not uncommon for the bottom leaves on a tomato to yellow or die off from stress or too much watering.  The other tomatoes seemed fine.

Then the bottom leaves started to curl a little on the edges.  Again, not a big deal.  Tomato leaves will often curl in response to stress - either too much water, not enough water, too hot, too cool.  Yep, it's not always easy to diagnose what a tomato patient is trying to tell you and they don't habla English.

Despite my wishing and praying, the curling progressed up the plant and the curls got tighter until the leaves were completely rolled like a cigarette.  (Someone suggested that I might smoke those leaves, but I'm not sure that's a good idea since tomatoes are part of the nightshade family.)  At this point, the plant appeared to be shrinking and the top growth was stunted.  There were tons of tomatoes that were ripening, but no new flowers.  Other than the curling, there were no spots on the leaves.   However, some of them were starting to show a green and yellow mottling.  Had there been spots, I might have guessed a fungal problem.

That's my poor tomato plant on the left and it's healthy neighbor on the right.  They were literally side by side.  Since the other plant didn't seem to have any of the curling or stunted growth, I was pretty certain that this wasn't environmental.  Several thorough searches turned up no evidence of bugs, mildew or anything else out of the ordinary.  With all those ripening tomatoes, I wasn't sure what to do.  So I turned to the Great Google. 

Here are a couple of great sources that I found along the way that help with diagnosing tomato problems:

What I found was horrific and disappointing to say the least.  This is either Tomato Leaf Curl Virus or Tomato Mosaic Virus or Curly Top Virus.  There is no treatment or remedy for either one of them.  It's a virus that is transmitted via insects or even a gardener's touch.  If you touch an infected plant and then a healthy one, you can transmit it.  Ugh! 

So I scurried out to the garden and ripped it out and bagged it in a trashbag to avoid spreading the infection.  And I am praying that my heirloom Cherokee Purples and Rutgers aren't infected.  No variety of tomato is resistant to this virus.  I will be watching them like a hawk, that's for sure.

I'm sharing this post as part of A Rural ThursdayFarm Fresh Friday, Garden Life Linkup, and Farmgirl Friday.  Clicky to see what other folks are up to!

She's Mean and Green

Thursday, June 21, 2012

After alluding to it all week and leaving you in suspense, I guess I should finally introduce the newest member of the Cranky Puppy Farm family. 

*queue wrestling announcer's voice*

And in this corner....
Weighing in at just under 5000 pounds....
With the equivalent power of 50 horses under her hood...
Capable of running a 12 foot brush hug without breaking a sweat...
And fresh from auction in Orrick, Missouri...
I give you the MEAN, the GREEN...


* Hubby with tools and kick-butt Dodge Ram not included.

On This First Day of Summer

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What better way to celebrate the first day of summer than a turn around the garden to see what's growing on.  I mean "going" on.  LOL.

While the onions are harvested and the onions are pulled, the potatoes are flowering and setting fruit.  It's so windy that I couldn't get a non-blurry picture of their beautiful flowers for you. 

But I did manage to snag some pics of the slower moving veggies and fruits.

J. can't wait to get his teeth on one of those heirloom Cherokee Purples.  And I can't wait to see their beautiful color as they start to ripen.  Purple tomatoes! 

Next up we have some more greenery from the peppers and jalapenos. 

That naughty lettuce may get taken off my naughty list if I can harvest some seed from it.  I'll be posting about how to do that in the next week or so. 

The next picture, I am SOOO excited about it.  Somehow, overnight, the first spaghetti squash showed up and it's almost 5 inches long already!  How does it grow that fast??!!  I mean, there's no way I just overlooked it for a couple of days because it's growing on the trellis and it's right at eye height.  It amazes me sometimes how quick the garden grows when it takes off.

We have very few Romas and I'm afraid now that I didn't plant enough of them to get a decent harvest.  I really wanted to can up a bunch of tomato paste and sauce.  I guess I will be visiting the farmer's market if we don't get enough.

Let's see...what else is going on?  The Early Girl tomatoes are gigantic monsters and fell over in the wind yesterday evening.  We haven't pruned the suckers off these in the past couple of years but I think I will do that next year to see if I can keep them to a manageable size.  We had to stake them with T-posts to keep them upright and off the watermelons, which are just starting to vine. 

And the cucumbers have blooms on them and they're starting to wind their way up the trellis.

It almost hit 100 a couple of days ago but we have rain possibly coming tonight and a day of respite coming after that with a forecasted high of just 88.  JUST 88.  Funny that I can say that now, because 88 if pretty darn hot, actually.

What's going on in your world on the first day of summer?

I'm linked up to this week's Tuesday Garden Party.  Go check it out!

Jam Session

Monday, June 18, 2012

What do you do when you luck into 4 pounds of big, juicy, luscious strawberries and you've already got a freezer full of them?

Make jam, of course!

5 full pint jars and 1 for the frig later and I am one tired puppy.  Tomorrow, I'm off to talk to someone about an exciting job opportunity and then I have the rest of the day off.  I'm hoping to spend that time stopping by an awesome bakery called WheatFields and then working on some really cute labels for the jam we just made.   I'll have pics of those and also the newest addition to the family.

Wish me luck!

Pharm Prepping

Heads up for anyone who's a doomer, prepper, homesteader or just like being prepared.  J. and I were in Walmart over the weekend and they had a huge bin of stuff from the pharmacy for just 88 cents each.  This isn't "close to expiring" stuff either.  Most of it expires in 2014. 

As you can see, I couldn't resist picking up some things to augment our own medicine cabinet.  Who wants to head to the local CVS and Walgreens when you're sick?  I'd rather have it available.

That NiteTime stuff is the equivalent of Vicks NyQuil, which is a godsend if you've got a bad chest or head cold.  Knocks you out until you're over it.  And the Allergy Relief is cetirizine, which is the same thing as Zyrtec.  I take that little white pill every day to make my allergies bearable, and I'd much rather pay 88 cents than $17.99.  We dug through the whole bin and only found the 3 of these, unfortunately.  Otherwise, I would have had a whole cart full of it.

Tussin is the equivalent of Robitussin, which sells for about $4.00 a bottle, and the Mucus Relief is 400 mg guafenisin.  Best snotbuster on earth and the main ingredient in Mucinex.  Again, if you have a bad sinus of chest congestion, it's just the ticket to get it broken up and out.

Overall, this was a pretty awesome score.  Our farm's pharm is now well stocked and we used the leftover budget for a new addition to the family yesterday.  I'll be posting pictures later.  But for now...a hint....it's BIG and green.  *big smile*

Harvesting and Storing Onions

Saturday, June 16, 2012

If there's one good thing about this warm, dry weather we've been having, it's that it's perfect for onions.  I've been hovering over mine for about two weeks now waiting for the majority of their stalks to fall over.  They reached a pretty respectable 2 feet tall, despite my moaning all spring that I am a terrible onion farmer.  I was really afraid that I had planted them too deep or that I had left them in the ground too long.  And, of course, there were the naughty onions that tried to flower.  But other than fretting over them, I haven't done anything to them other than throw some straw around them when I planted them on January 30th. 

That's almost 6 months of waiting, so onion farmers must be some really patient people.

Harvesting Onions

The big question I needed to answer as a first-time onion grower was "how do you know when your onions are ready to harvest?"  Here's what I found from extensive research.

You can actually harvest bulb onions at any time, as the green stalks are edible and great in salads.  But, if you are growing onions for storage, the rule of thumb for pulling up the bulbs is to wait until the majority of the stalks have fallen over and the ground is dry. 

No need for digging...just grasp the onion plant by the thick stem and pull.  They come up rather easily, as onions are shallow growers.  I only had one monster onion that gave me a little grief and I had to use the hand spade.

Preparing Onions for Storage

Once they're pulled, move them to a location that is out of direct sunlight (like your porch) and place them on a screen (like an old screen door laid flat) so that air can circulate around them and dry them out completely.  Some folks swear by leaving them out in the sunlight for a couple of days, but just be aware that white onions will discolor if you do this.  I'm moving mine onto the front porch.

As the onions dry, any soil remaining on them will also dry and fall off.  Brush off any remaining dirt to encourage the drying process.  When they are dry and flaky like the ones you buy in the grocery store, put them in a mesh bag and hang them in a cool, dry place.  They'll store for about 6 months if you follow these simple steps.

TIP:.  If you're like me and don't have any mesh bags, old panty hose are perfect for storing onions.  Just put one in, tie a knot in the hose, and repeat for each onion.  As you use the onions, just untie the knots or use scissors to snip the hose and free the onions starting at the bottom.
I'm pretty  happy with my first onion harvest.  A couple of them were about 2.5" in diameter and I had one set of sisters (2 onions that grew together), but the majority of them were pretty large at about 4 inches.  These are insanely easy to grow and can even be grown in containers, so I encourage you to give onions a try in your own garden.

It's gardening and canning seasons, everybody!  You can get some great ideas on the Garden Life, Farmgirl FridayOle Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Carnival of Home Preserving blog hops. 

Prairie Spring

Friday, June 15, 2012

Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing lilke the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.


I thought I would link up to the Fridays Fences hop today with this picture of a really cool fence that J. and I passed as we were cruising the back roads outside Liberty, Missouri (just north east of Kansas City).  Here it is presented with a beautifully vivid poem by Willa Cather.  Hope you enjoy both as much as I do!

Oh, No, You Didn't

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ever have awesome plans only to have a monkey wrench thrown in them?

I had planned the most awesome posts for you both yesterday and today and, like most days, I was using J.'s phone to take pictures because my phone is always....well.....completely dead.  I don't know why, but charging my phone seems like doing laundry or clipping your toenails.  You don't do it because you want to.  With all our technology today, can't someone invent a phone that charges itself?

Anyhoo, J. and I were out and about Tuesday night with the chickens and watching them have a good old time with some leftover corn on the cob.  He grabbed Henrietta to put her in for the evening and she pooped on him.  I mean all the way down the front of his shirt and shorts.  She has never done that before.  And she wasn't particularly upset with him, so it just must have been bad timing.

The bad news?  He didn't check all his pockets before throwing everything in the washer and his brand new phone from work was in his shorts.  Oops.  A new phone and all my pics are gone *like that*.

So, until I can retake my pictures tomorrow, I can only entertain you with that picture above of a beautiful old barn taken through my windshield as I passed through Illinois on my way to Indianapolis a couple of months ago.  The dirt on the winshield even makes it a little airbrushed.  I planned it that way.  NOT.

Crankily yours,

Daily Dose of Cute: Chicks!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Before we get to the cuteness, I just have to ask:  why don't I have one of these?  Okay, so they start at $650 which is way out of my budget.  But darnit...they are adorable!  Who wouldn't want one of these as a stylish addition to their living room?  *sigh*

Oh well... on to the cute!  My friend Paula's daughter Amanda recently got some new additions to their household, courtesy of MyPetChicken.com.  These little girls are various shades of bantam chicks and 100% adorable.  Just ask Stormy the Catahoola, who would spend all day watching them if her mom would let her.

The really funny thing about these chicks is that they would jump up about 3 or 4 inches when the flash went off, causing me to affectionaly start referring to them as "popcorn chickens".  Hahahaha...  I know, that's really bad.

Anyhoo, prepare to be cuted and don't forget to click to biggify the pictures.

The little lavender chick in the forefront is Amadeus.  This poor little chick had a seizure over the weekend and passed away much too early.  Amanda (and all of us) are heartbroken and she lovingly buried Amadeus in the backyard.  Good bye, sweet chick.  Unfortunately, seizures in banties are more common than you think.

If only I had room for some cute little chicks here on the farm!  I guess I will have to live vicariously for awhile.  They are cute, aren't they?

Have a good one,

I've linked these precious little fluffy butts up to this week's Rural Thursday hop.
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