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!

A Surprise Visitor Yesterday

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Something interesting (and possiblyo A-WE-S-O-M-E) happened yesterday while J. and I were over working on the house.  I was around back prepping the broken windows for the replacement glass that we were about to go buy and then went around to meet J. so that we could leave and get some lunch.  He wasn't out front as I expected, so I hung out by the Jeep and waited.  And then I heard him inside talking to someone.  Is that a woman's voice I hear as well?

Apparently, a really nice lady had been driving by, caught J. outside waiting for me, and had stopped to inquire if the house for sale.  She said she loved the house and wanted to see the inside, even though it's not finished and it won't be on the market for another 2 weeks. She was really excited about it - it was obvious.  We exchanged contact information and made arrangements for her to stop by with her hubby today after church and parted ways.  I could barely contain my excitement at the idea of having such a nice person for a neighbor AND the possibility of selling the house before we even put it on the market!

So imagine my surprise when I'm upstairs painting the deck railing yesterday afternoon and J. comes strolling up with the couple in tow.  She said that she was so excited about the house that she couldn't wait until Sunday and wanted her hubby to see it immediately.  J. and I jung back while they wandered through and we listened to their comments.  Bathroom is small, no central air conditioning, concerns about the neighborhood.  Nothing that we hadn't anticipated, but we helped them see the potential of the new roof, new kitchen and bathrooms, updated wiring and plumbing and new high efficiency furnace that could easily accomodate a new air conditioner.  I heard them say alot of "we could do this....we could do that...". They said they would be in touch and left.

I really don't like showing a house with all the construction debris and half-stripped wallpaper on the walls.  Most people cannot see the potential in a house and only focus on the negative.  But this woman said she didn't mind, because she restores homes.  Let's hope that's the case!


A Step Back in Time in Jamesport

Friday, September 28, 2012

Well, after losing my phone and then not being able to get the pictures off of it (I ended up having to Bluetooth them to my laptop!), I finally can sit down and show you some scenes from our trip to Jamesport last weekend.
To start off, Saturday was beautifully sunny, and J. and I left the house in shorts.  When we got to Jamesport, the wind had kicked up and it was actually a little chilly.  Yeah, fall is here!
As we drove into town, we noticed that there were fall decorations everywhere.  Look at those mums!  They were selling them for just $8.00. In Kansas City, that size is going for $10 to $20!
I just noticed that it looks like somebody might have had themselves a snack of the corn!

First, we parked the car.

Okay, that's not our car but we did park next to where the Amish folks left their buggies and horses.  I just had to snap this pic - if you look closely, you can see the Mizzou sticker in the middle of the caution triangle.  Somebody is a fan!  Another one had a sticker that said "Powered by horse. Watch out for the exhaust!"  Seems the Amish have a good sense of humor.
Downtown was abuzz with people shopping and demonstrating crafts like candle dipping and spinning.  There was old time music and yummy smells from the kettle corn vendor wafting through the air in the background.  Then we ran into this friendly Jamesport citizen.

He wasn't too much on words, but he looked friendly enough.  For $20, you could pick out a shirt, hat and overalls or jeans and stuff them full of hay to create your own scarecrow to take home.  The kids were having a blast with it.  The crows on the hat are a great touch.
And then I turned around and fell in love.

Clyde the half Clydesdale, and Larry the Percheron, were pulling carriages through the town.  Larry (an interesting name for a horse, don't you think?) was quite the poser and liked to have his nose rubbed. Clyde was a little skittish and looked like he could use a good brushing, but I was still love-struck.  Honey, forget the miniature goats.....I want a horse!

Then everyone made way for some old time dancing.  While the banjo, guitar and fiddle played, the caller (the lady in the middle of the picture) called the dance moves.  You can tell from the look on her face that she kept everyone in line.

It was nice to have that as entertainment as J. and I were waiting in line for lunch at Gingerich's. If you find yourself in Jamesport and want fabulous service and some awesome fried chicken and homemade pie, this is your place.  That explains why the line streamed out the door and down the block.

With tummies full, we set off to explore the rest of Jamesport.  Further down the main drag, we came across the first brick house ever built in Jamesport.  It dates back to 1857 and I thought how they had exposed the back to show the original brick and horsehair plaster on the back was interesting.  Sadly, a couple of window were broken and it appeared to be in use as a storage area.

In addition to the stores on the town square, there lots of craft vendors in Jamesport Park and in the visitor center.  One gentleman was there selling old house parts and antiques and we spent quite a bit of time talking with him.  Among his wares, we found a porch post that perfectly matches the columns on the porch that we're working on and took it off his hands for just $30.  That was an incredibly lucky (and cheap!) find and it's going to look great once I strip it and paint it and J. gets it anchored on the porch. 
All in all, what a great day trip back in time.  In fact, the small town feel very much reminded me of growing up in mid-Missouri.  If you're into quilting, the famous Amish quilt auction is coming up on Saturday, October 13th.  They'll have hundreds of Amish-made and other quilts for sale.  I think I'm going to make a trip up again just to see that.
I hope you enjoyed Jamesport as much as we did!
 I'm sharing this post with this week's Farmgirl Friday blog hop.  Go check out what other folks are up to this week!

These Kids Are Amazing

Monday, September 24, 2012

Let me start by saying I'm an idiot.  I left my phone at work, so I can't post the pictures from our trip to Jamesport as I had planned to tonight.  Duh!  I swear I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached sometimes!

So...since I've backlogged with work I've brought home, I have to make this short. 

I present for you a trio of really incredible kids: the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys!

I can only hope to be able to make my banjo sing like that kid someday....


Oh, yoo hoo!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Well, hi there!  My how time flies and I can't believe it's been 5 days since I last posted?!  And it's already the last day of summer.  Time has just gotten away from me.

J. and I have been hard at work on refurbishing the deck on the old house, which entails rolling on deck cleaner, then scrubbing, powerwashing and restaining.  It sounds backbreaking but it's really not that hard - it's more time-consuming than anything else.  We're putting on a new product called Desk Restore, which you roll on with a special textured roller.  This product has sand in it and is really thick, so it does a great job of filling in the cracks.  But the process feels a little like painting with mud.  I'll have pics for you when we're closer to being done.

On top of that, I came down with a nasty cold on Monday and haven't felt like doing anything.  I love fall, but why do I always end up sick?  The weather change, I guess.

Tomorrow, we're taking a break to have some fun, though:   it's Heritage Days in Jamesport, Missouri.  I have been waiting for this all year!  Jamesport is home to one of the strictest Old Order Amish Colony in the world.  These "plain people" use no electricity and use horses for their transportation and in many aspects of their daily lives (even for churning ice cream!)  They are renowned for their beautiful quilts and outstanding handmade furniture.

The highlights of the festival are an open air market with what I hear is wonderful food, live music, and I'm hoping to learn lots from all the "lost arts" demonstrations like soap making, weaving, candle dipping and open fire cooking.  Are these lost arts? I suppose they are among the majority of society.

So to kick things off, how about a recipe for Amish Friendship Bread?  The idea behind this is that you make the starter, then give some to your friends so that they can make their own.  And, of course, when they make that bread, they share it with their favorite cranky puppy, whoever that might be.  (What?  It's me, of course!)

Amish Bread Starter

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°F)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 cups milk


On Day 1: Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes.  In a large glass or plastic bowl, sift together 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Make sure this is thoroughly mixed or it will get lumpy when you add the milk. Using a wooden or plastic spoon, slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture.  Cover the bowl loosely with paper towel, cloth, wax paper or plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature (do not refrigerate).

On Days 2:  Do nothing.

On Days 3 & 4: Using wooden or plastic spoon, stir the mixture once a day.

On Day 5: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour and 1 cup milk. Stir with a wooden or plastic spoon until everything is well-mixed.

On Days 6, 7,8 &9: Using wooden or plastic spoon, stir the mixture once a day.

On Day 10: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour and 1 cup milk. Remove 3 cups of mixture and give 1 cup each to three friends. Save what is left for yourself and make.......

Amish Friendship Bread

  • 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar

  1. In mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
  2. Divide the dough evently into two well-greased and floured (or sugared) 9"x5" bread pans.
  3. Bake in 350° oven for 40 to 45 minutes.
  4. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pans.
TIP:  You can have some fun trying different additions to the batter before baking.  How about adding raisins, chopped apples, drained and crushed pineapple, candied fruit, coconut, mashed banana, dates, chopped nuts, and/or chocolate chips?  If you decide to add, use 1/2 cup of the add-ins.


I'm sharing this recipe with this week's Farmgirl Friday hop.  Go check out what other folks are up to!

This Is Rural Missouri

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Yesterday morning found J. and I at an auction in Pleasant Hill, Missouri about 4 miles north or Harrisonville off Route 291.  The auction was a hoarder's dream and most of it looked like it hadn't been taken care of.  While I waited for J. to big on some tools, I amused myself with a box of "Successful Farming" magazine from the 1950's.  Had we stuck around longer, I would have bought them and had great fun with the content here, but we didn't stick around.
But what was pleasant about this little auction in Pleasant Hill was the opportunity for me to get up close and personal with an exquisite example of the charming old barns that dot our great state. 

She has obviously seen better days, but she's absolutely captivating.
Just look at that roof line.  And the lightning rods at the top!

I love the horseshoe over the doorway.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one mesmerized by this old barn's charm, because I could hear children playing and singing inside the barn, but I wasn't daring enough to fold myself through that child-sized door and go inside. 

The property was for sale as well because the elderly owners were moving into town.  I overheard an old-timer say that an inspector had looked at the old farmhouse and recommended that it be torn down.  I certainly hope the barn doesn't meet the same fate. 
Shared with Weekly Top Shot and Barn Charm

Vandals and a Trip to Iowa

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The unfortunate reality of living in the inner city is that we have to deal with alot of poverty and the occasional theft and\or vandalism.  Yesterday, J. discovered that someone had tried to get into the house that we're working on by busting out 3 windows on the back side.  There were no signs that they entered the house, however.  Since they didn't even try the doors, we suspect it was the same person that tried to kick in the back door a couple of months ago.  That was unsuccessful for them as well, as there are 3 2"x4"s barring the door from the inside.  Old house:  2, thieves:  0.

The worst part?  They used a crappy old shovel that I had left in the back yard.  And I *knew* I shouldn't have left it there.  I just had a feeling when I tucked it under the deck that I should take it with me and I ignored my gut feeling.  Ladies, you should always trust your intuition.

It really makes me mad that I now have to spend time replacing glass and glazing the windows when we've still got 3 more rooms to paint and other work to do in the house.  And all because some jack*ss wanted to steal some copper to fuel his meth addiction.  You know the world would be a better place if we could all just follow the rule we learned in kindergarten:  if it's not yours, HANDS OFF!

Whew!  Sorry.....just had to get that off my chest. 

On a lighter note, I'll be packing in just a few moments to leave on a road trip to Des Moines overnight for a work conference.  I'm driving, and a couple of friends from work are coming along, so it should make for a fun 3 hour drive as we chat and be-bop to 80's music.  I'm just hoping that we don't run into that big storm that is coming our way.

When Puppies Attack (PIC HEAVY)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wouldn't that be a great title for a new show on Fox?  Our youngest pup, Domino, could have been the star of the first episode.  Here he is in all his cute puppiness.  I think he's around 11 weeks in this picture.

Don't let that innocent and cute puppy face fool you.  J. and I were trolling through some old pictures last night and came across this series of Domino as a puppy.  He has been a little rapscallion from the day I brought him home.

Take that!  Now that I'm done eating your camera, I'm going to eat your pants, too!
Or maybe I'll attack Finn and eat his head instead.  Nom nom!
Let that be a lesson to all of you.  I may be adorably cute, but I am really a viscious attack dog.

Let Them Eat Cake!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

I guess it's official now:  I am one year older wiser.  And, to celebrate, J. and I spent the entire day painting.  Yippee!  We did sneak off for some dinner with friends last night and finished with a celebratory piece of Double Fudge Coca-Cola Cake at Cracker Barrel.  I'm not a huge fan of cake, but you can get me out of the house for that any time.  Even better...since it was my birthday, it was FREE.
Sorry to be so boring this weekend, but we are still hard at getting this painting done.  I am hoping we get it knocked out today and then I'll be back to our regularly scheduled drivel.
Hope you enjoy your Sunday!

A Potato Farmer I Am Not

Friday, September 07, 2012

We were supposed to have a cold front cross over us last night and send some more showers our way, but it seems to be taking its sweet time.  I took advantage of the reprieve to do the chicken chores - they got a banana for a treat - and I also wanted to dump the Yukon Gold potatoes that I had planted in the laundry tubs.

Both tubs had lots of vines growing in them earlier in the summer but were now dying back.  In the first tub, this is how many potatoes I found:

Boy was I disappointed.  But I still had one tub to go and all bets were on it.  So I dumped it over and here's what I found:

What you see if what you get folks:  just 1 good-sized potato and 3 smaller ones.  *sigh*

I'm thinking it's the combination of the oppressive heat this summer and I think I should have put more dirt in there.  Contrary to what I had read, all the potatoes were in the dirt and there were none in the straw.  Oh well, I still have the potato boxes to dig through, so maybe I've actually got some potatoes in there.  We'll try Yukon Gold again next year.

When I moved the tubs to dump them, I discovered that I'm growing a bumper crop of grubs and something very disturbing.

Look closely in the yellow circles and you'll see what I mean.  Termites!  Not surprising, I guess, since this is where an old tree was cut down.  But, in the interest of being a good neighbor, this just won't do.  I'll be buying some termite stakes later today.  Ugh...nasty things.

In the rest of the garden, which I am pretty much ignoring at this point, the once-written-off tomatoes have set some more fruit and I have some cucumbers!  How they got this big without me seeing them is beyond me.

Well, I'm on vacation today but it's not much of a vacation:   it's time to go work on the house some more and maybe sneak in a little more "me" time since it's my birthday tomorrow.  I'll be 26.  And, if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell also.

This post is part of this week's Farm Fresh Friday and Farmgirl Friday blog hops. 

Our Project: The 1893 Victorian

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I've never really talked about the how or the why behind how we came to own this poor forgotten beauty across the street from where we live. But, since we're devoting most of our time to it this month, I think it's time that I tell that sordid story and show you some "before" pics. As the month goes on, I thought it would be fun to share the "after" pictures so that you can watch this grand old lady come back to life along with us. 

Here she is in all her beauty on the day I bought her:

I particularly love the charming front stairs held on my one nail and the missing panes of glass in the attic.
This was late 2008, so the bare trees and grey day certainly add to the feeling that this house is haunted.  In fact, looking back at these old pictures of this house and our own house always elicits a "What the h*ll were we thinking?" from either J. or I.

But, if you can look past the outdated roof, the obvious need for a paint job and the failing porch, this house had GOOD BONES.  4000 square feet of a true brick house with 18-inch thick walls.  She was built to last.  And could you not imagine yourself on a porch swing?

It didn't look much better from the back either.  The deck is over 20 years old and, with 16 foot spans between the posts, it wasn't built correctly to begin with.  There are broken windows and an overgrown yard.   But none of that deterred us.  We also saw beauty in things like this stained glass window:

You see, this house was owned by the first neighbor to ever come over and welcome us to the neighborhood.  Harold was a noted Kansas City historian and the author of several books about Jesse James and the Younger brothers, who made their home not far from KC. Having lived and raised his children in this house for 39 years, life had thrown several bombs his way that resulted in him refinancing the house with a Countrywide mortgage.  You can probably guess the rest of the story.

We tried in vain to help by taking over his mortgage and just having him pay us rather than the bank.  We desperately wanted to keep a good neighbor and save a beautiful old house from falling into slumlord hands.  But the bank wouldn't even talk to us.  Instead, they continued down the foreclosure path and ultimately kicked Harold out of the house and threw alot of his things into a dumpster when he couldn't move them fast enough.  No wonder the banks have a bad name.

All brick and stone.  This house will be here long after after we've left this earth.
If there is a positive in all this, we were to benefit from it. The bank finally put the house on the market for 1/3 of what we originally offered them:  $19,000.  I remember being giddy with excitement that we might be able to afford that house and get Harold back in it.  It all worked out in the end and, after we fixed the old plumbing, put in a brand new kitchen and fixed both bathrooms, he moved back in.  We asked that he pay only $350 in rent and we would pick up all utilities.  This would help him out and we would have our neighbor back and someone to keep an eye on the house.

But hard times are hard times and things didn't get better for Harold, much to our dismay.  He was habitually late on his rent or just didn't pay us for over 2 years.  Carrying the house and utilities was difficult for us as well, as we had our own mortgage and utilities.  Before he moved out about 8 months ago, he had gotten an advance for another book on Jesse James and was able to catch us up, but it was decided that he needed a cheaper apartment and his moving out would allow us to finish the renovations and put the house back on the market.  I want to see someone buy this old gal and love her as much as we do.

And here we are today.

A Bit of History

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Is it just me or does it seem that Labor Day always entails alot of work?  One of these days, I swear I'm going to do NOTHING on Labor Day...no schedules, no festivals, no plans, and absolutely no honey-do lists.  I couldn't wait to get back to my job today so I could get some rest from the weekend.

As you know, J. and I are working our fingers to the bone right now on the old house across the street from us.  But today I want to share a bit of history of our own painted lady that we were able to find in the water company archives.  It's the original water permit from when the house was finished in 1899!

If you look closely, there are some really interesting artifacts on here.  It's permit 1414, which means our house was one of the early houses in Kansas City to have indoor plumbing. But I find the lower left-hand corner to be really interesting.  Cows, horses and vehicles?  Did they really base the water rate on how many of these the person owned?
Information is sparse, but it makes sense that they didn't have water meters in 1899.  And it probably follows that someone with livestock would probably water their animals with city water if necessary.  I'm not surprised that none are listed on this permit, because our part of town was fairly well-to-do with many houses being built by the up-and-comers that were benefiting from the housing and construction boom during the 1890's.  So far, we've been unable to track down the mysterious "J. Smith" that is listed as the permit owner.
I find it incredibly cool that the water company would still have this piece of history and be willing to give us a copy.  They have these dating back into the 1880's if you're interested in locating the one for your old house.  Additionally, all structures standing in 1941 were photographed and are housed in the archives.  Those are available also for a small fee (to pay for the copy). 

When we bought our house in 1998, it looked very much the same as it does here except it was in serious need of a rehab both inside and outside.  That double-decker sleeping porch wasn't original to the house, so we shored it up to keep it from falling off and waited until we had saved up enough to tear everything off and start over.  There were motorcycles parked on the hardwood floors and parts being washed in the clawfoot bathtub, plastic deer targets in the staircases, and a kitchen sink being held up by 2"x4"s.  The real estate agent was griping about people who kept stealing his for-sale sign.  But somehow a couple of young 20-somethings saw the potential and, after 13 years of blood, sweat and tears, we have a pretty darn cool house that's just 6 minutes from work for both J. and I. 

And that's how we became "urban pioneers".
Tomorrow, I'm going to take you across the street and introduce you to THE PROJECT.  You won't believe the before and afters.
There's a new blog hop that I'm sharing this with:  go check out the inaugural Down Home hop over at Tilly's Nest!

And the Heavens Opened Up

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Rising this morning, I'm greeted with a beautiful and cool morning's sun shining in through the stained glass in our bedroom.  I can hear a wren singing her 3-noted song to me not too far away.

That's a nice change from yesterday when the outer arms of tropical depression Isaac were smacking the heck out of us.  Despite weakening greatly as it came inland, it still managed to spin all the way into the middle of the country and pass just southeast of us. The result was just over 24 hours and 5 inches of good, steady rain.  The fact thast it fell slowly meant that most of it soaked in instead of running off; in fact, the weatherman this morning said that about 95% of it soaked in so the local rivers rose but there wasn't really any flooding.  It felt odd, though, to have our weather come from the east rather than the west over the Rockies. 

Now don't get me wrong...we are more than glad to have gotten the rain that we got.  But I'm a sun-worshipper and I swear I've got chlorophyll running through these veins, so I always wilt and feel tired when the sun is not out.  I believe they call that "seasonal affective disorder" and, boy, do I have it.

Since it was raining, J. and I spent all day yesterday finishing up the paint rolling on the 2nd floor, replacing light fixtures, cleaning up, and prepping for the carpet guys to lay the new carpet.  We pretty much wore ourselves out, though.  Today, we're going to take it easy this morning and go out for a decent breakfast and then hit Lowe's for the lumber we need to fix the deck and put a new railing on the wrap-around front porch.  It will be nice to be working outside for once.

Tonight, we're planning on hitting Santa-Cali-Gon Days in downtown Independence.  That's an annual fall festival that celebrates Independence's history as the place where the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails started.  With a carnival, street vendors and great music, it's always a fun time.  Me?  I'm there for the root beer chuggin' contest and the fresh funnel cakes!

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