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 Nasty Winter So Far

Monday, December 09, 2013

Heavens!  Well, we haven't gotten all that ice and nastiness here, but we did get a dusting of snow a couple of days ago.   This is day 3 of me having the stomach flu (yeaaa...) and, with the temps dipping down to the low teens for over a week, I had to run out and check today to make sure Henrietta was doing OK out there all by herself.  The cold air hit me like a chair in the face.  Wow, is it cold!

J. set her up with a new "furnace" in her coop and we had wrapped most of the chain link with tarps, so she seems to be nice and toasty so far despite the weather.  Now if we could just get her to actually go in the coop by herself rather than roosting on top of it!  Poor J. has been reduced to duck-walking under the roof of the pen, grabbing her, and stuffing her, amid much protest and squawking, into the coop.  She must agree that it's nice in there, because she doesn't come out until morning.

As if having a patient to take care of wasn't enough, J. also has had to deal with the fact that our on-demand hot water heater blew its control board and it's not under warranty.  So we've been without hot water upstairs since yesterday.  I couldn't stand it any more and washed my hair in the kitchen sink downstairs.  That's something I haven't done in a loooonnnngggg time.  The new board should be here tomorrow and, hopefully, I will be back at work and come home to a nice hot shower.  *sigh*

Also, hopefully, I'll feel much better tomorrow and can get back on track with posting because I've got a ton to share about what we've been up to.  In the meantime, I did come across a funny photo on ICanHazCheezburger that I thought I would share.  I couldn't help but giggle when I saw this.

 What do you think?  Photoshop or not?

Way Over the Top

Friday, December 06, 2013

Hi, all-

My apologies for having been offline for the last 2 weeks, but I've got some crazy stories to catch everyone up on.  Alas, I won't have time until this weekend when things finally quiet down a bit.  In the meantime, I just HAVE to post something that J. found on the Neiman-Marcus website.  We went a little over the top in building our chicken coop, but this so-called Beau Coop is WAYYYYY over the top. Don'tcha think?

Photo by Neiman Marcus
I wonder how many people will be whipping out the credit card for this baby at $100,000?

Now, granted, it includes a consultation, grounds survey and two additional onsite visits from an "expert".  And it does have a chandelier (every well-heeled chook should have one of those, right?)  But I'm pretty sure my hens are quite happy and my raised garden beds have done quite well for well under that budget. Her coop doesn't even have a trellis over the door or a fancy mural on the wall like ours!

Tell you what....if you're reading this and you've got the money to burn on this thing, give me a ring.  I'm willing to help build you a similar chicken palace and FOUR raised beds for the paltry sum of $75.000.  It's a bargain!

A Potato Farmer I Am?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

With cold weather coming and our plans to change the garden next Spring, I needed to get the potatoes dug out this weekend.  Truthfully, I was pretty sure I was going to find nothing in there.  You may remember that we tried rather unsuccessfully to grow potatoes in plastic laundry tubs in in 2011. We didn't grow potatoes, but we did have a bumper crop of bugs!

Then we built some raised potato bins in 2012 and, after a scorching hot summer that year, the potatoes died and we were too comfy in the air conditioning to even venture out and dig around to see if anything was left.

This year, we had a full bin of volunteer Yellow Finn potato plants (well, I certainly didn't plant them!).  Digging them out was pretty easy - I just grabbed two of the vertical corner boards and tilted the whole bin over (click the link above to see how the boxes are built) and then used a hand spade to pop them up.  They were all very near the surface, so it was easy peasy..

As you can see, I got a dizzying array of sizes!

Most of what popped up first was those little bitty ones that are about the size of a pea.  Talk about discouraging!  But the more I dug, the more the larger ones started to show up.  Those potatoes on the right are about average size for Yellow Finn, which are very similar to Yukon Gold.

I also found a couple of plants that I thought were really educational about how potatoes grow.  Check this out...

The plant grows upward from the original cut potato (from the eye) and then the roots form just above that.  The new potatoes then grow from those roots.  You can really see those little potatoes forming on that plant on the left.  Neat, huh?

By the time dusk arrived and I was finished with the two bins, I had about half a bucket of potatoes - some are edible size and the others I think I'm going to use for seed potatoes for next year. 

Potatoes have a long shelf life and will easily last 7 or 8 months if cared for and stored properly.
So why don't we go over some tips for using and storing them?

  • Clean potatoes before storing them. If you have sandy soil, just brush the soil off.  But if you have sticky clay soil like me, the potatoes will need to be washed. Make sure they are completely dry before placing them in storage or they will mold.
  • Once they've been cleaned, they need to cure for a week to 10 days in moderate temperatures (65 degrees) and high humidity (85 to 95 percent).  This will harden them off and heal any injuries caused during harvest, so they'll last longer.
  • Sort out any injured and diseased potatoes before storing them long-term. You'll want to east the ones that you hit with your shovel, any that have bad spots, etc. within a month of harvest because they won't last long.  
  • Put the best potatoes in well-ventilated containers and store them in a dry room with constant temperature of 35 to 40 degrees and moderate humidity. The room should be kept dark, as light will turn them green and make them unfit for table use. Discard potatoes with an excessive amount of greening because they can actually be poisonous.
  • Grow potatoes that keep well. Red potatoes don't keep as long as yellow or white varieties. Thin-skinned potatoes don't last as long in storage as those with thick skins, such as Russets.
Well, I know I have sure learned a lot about potato growing, and I hope you picked up a tip or two also.  If I were a Boy Scout, I'd be asking for my Potato Farmer patch because...well...I think I can now say I know how to grow potatoes.  :-)

Fall Arrives at the Farm

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Whee! I'm back after a short hiatus -  J. and I went on a much-needed vacay to Branson, Missouri where we had a great time (even if I did come back with a cold that took me down for the last couple of days).  We planned the trip around a Charlie Daniels concert and, let me tell ya:  the man is a living legend.  He played at the Oak Ridge Boys theater, which was an incredible place to see a show, and what made it even cooler were all the vets that were in the audience.

Anyways, I've got some pictures to share from that trip in another post, but I wanted to focus first on how the farm looked when we left it. 

Everything seems to partying on as if it's still summer! 

Teensy little watermelons...

...forming on nice green vines...

...tomato plants loaded with green tomatoes...

...and the potatoes are sprouting because *someone* didn't dig them up quick enough.  Ahem!

When we got back on Veterans Day, I had planned to start on the garden cleanup but the weather turned freakishly cold that afternoon before I could get started.  Pretty much everything has died back now so we'll start on that today (in 45 mile an hour gusts!)

J. and I have been discussing some big plans for changing how the farm is laid out.  We're going to take out some of the raised beds and do a larger in-ground garden next year.  We'd like to get a load of horse manure and mix it with leaves to really get a nice garden plot going.  The eastern most bed is coming out to make way for the greenhouse that will, hopefully, let us get a jump start on plants in the Spring.  I'm so excited!

A Guy After My Own Heart

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Many of you know that I'm a tried and true Jeep lover- at one time, we had 3 of them in our "stable".  My old black 1999 Cherokee has 140,000 miles on it (low for a 1999!) and has been relegated to hauling farm stuff and pooches, but it will have to rust into nothingness before I get rid of it.  I love it that much!  So I had to giggle when J. sent me this ad that he had seen posted on Craigslist.  Jeep owners are a breed apart and I think this demonstrates that perfectly.  It's almost worth a trip down to Oklahoma to meet him.

WARNING:  Some foul language included!

1997 Jeep Cherokee  (XJ)
220K Miles
4.0 L in-line 6
AUTOMATIC Transmission
Bright Red
Straight Stock
Crank Windows, no cruise, no tilt, no delay wiper, no nonsense


Here's the deal, kids:
This is a Jeep Cherokee.  This is not a luxury SUV, or a maintenance-free disposable import.  It has solid front axles, wind noise, and character.
It's a Jeep.  It rides like a Jeep.  It drives like a Jeep.  All of these are GOOD things.
It is not new, it is not pristine, it is used.  This will be apparent in the pictures.

If you do not own a toolbox, have never changed your own oil, and are scared of firearms: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you have been posting on facebook all about how excited you are for pumpkin latte season: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you get offended easy and often, whine to your co-workers, and bitch a lot: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you feel you are owed anything in the world & have a bullshit job where you fail to produce: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you own a bieber album, white oakleys, affliction t-shirts, or those candy-assed stitched-pocket jeans: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.
If you consider the 2nd Amendment an anachronistic relic and have never owned a firearm: THIS VEHICLE IS NOT FOR YOU.

If, however, you have BALLS OF STEEL and consider adverse weather an excuse to do stupid shit: THIS IS YOUR JEEP.
Do you laugh at danger, and tempt fate? 
Have you ever uttered the words, "Hold my beer and watch this ..."?
While bored at work do you pick targets at random and think, "I could hit that from here with the .22 ..."?
Have any of your friends quit hanging out because you were too much fun?
Do you have the number of a friend with cash memorized for bail?
When you pass an abandoned flatbed farm truck along a fenceline do you consider taking on another project?
Is your ol' lady really sick of the random piles of parts, greasy footprints, and empty beer bottles in the garage?
    -could you not care less?
Do you have Jalopnik saved on your laptop AND smartphone?
Do you own a service manual for every vehicle you ever owned?
Do you still miss your first ride?
Can you carry on a two hour conversation discussing tools, scars, and hi-lift jacks?
Remember when tool companies had the balls to put half-naked beauty queens on their calendars?
Do you consider the Prius an abominable affront to the Gods of displacement, torque, and All Mighty Internal Combustion?

If you answered in the affirmative to the preceding: THIS IS YOUR JEEP.

-I am the second owner.  First owner barely got it dirty and engaged the front axles once.
-I have remedied this excessive caretaking with muddy roads and a pile of fun.
-The motor uses a little oil.  How much?  I don't know, I'm not collecting statistical analysis points. 
    I check the oil, I fill the oil, I drive.  Not enough to bother me. 
-It leaks a little oil.  How much?  Not enough for me to care.  It has 220,000 miles, Poindexter!
    If you have a vehicle with 220K NOT leaking or burning oil, it's empty!
-Rear bumper has a big-ass crease in it.  I dented it backing into a concrete pole.  Sober.
    We drove away giggling, for the record.  Haven't fixed it.
-Driver's side door was caught by the wind, whipped forward, got into the LF quarter panel.
-Radiator has a small leak.  Pinhole.  I can replace the radiator or you can.  Really doesn't matter
    A new radiator and hoses will run $145.  If you don't want to replace them I will. 
    Add $250 to the price of vehicle.  This includes radiator, hoses, and labor (beer).  A freaking bargain.
-The badass little 4.0L bullet-proof in-line six starts and runs like the proverbial champ.
-Tranny and 4WD operate perfectly
-Tires will need replaced in a couple thousand miles.  I haven't upgraded because I had plans:
    Had planned a small lift, upgrade to 17" Wrangler wheels, and more aggressive tires.
    Life got in the way - it ain't happening. 
-Zombie stickers on the right rear window stay.  My daughter's idea, take it up with her.
-Flogging Molly sticker stays as well.  They kick ass, so there. 

-Why are you selling?
    I can't justify owning it anymore.  Motorsickles, kiddos, work, travel, and beer have consumed my time and money.
    Someone else needs to appreciate the Jeep for what it is:  awesome mechanical artistry.

-What's wrong with it?
    Radiator.  Small oil leaks.  Driver's side door cosmetic issues. 
    And it's pissed it has been neglected and parked.  It needs rescued.

-Does the 4WD work?
    Hell yes.  Like a Dickensian Orphan. 

-Will you sell me the [engine / tranny / rear door / axle / etc.]?
    No.  I'm not in the salvage business.  Buy the Jeep.  Love the Jeep. Give the Jeep a home.

-Will you take [insert ridiculously stupid low number here]?
    No.  If I wanted [ridiculously low number] I would have asked [ridiculously low number]
    Want a cheap car?  Get your kid that lowered tuner piece of shit honda project down the road. 
    I think I'm plenty cheap for this bad mofo.

-Why is it still stock?
    Because I bought it for a daily driver with the intention of turning it into a project.
    I haven't had the time to do so.  So I am selling it.

-Can I put a 6" lift and giant tires on it?
    I don't give a shit.  But be sure to use quality components and for God's sake - get it aligned after a lift!

-Would this make a good car for my daughter?
    Hell.  Yes.  Not only a good car, a learning experience.  Introduction to vehicular maintenance.
    Additionally, there isn't really enough room in the back for that little bastard she's dating to try anything.

-Can you deliver?
    Within reason.  I'd drive it a hundred miles or so.  But really, you should come get it.  Look it over.  Have a beer.  Etc.

-Will you take a check / cashier's check / Western Union Transfer / Nigerian Promissory Note?
    Would you take a ball pein hammer to the forehead?
    No.  I'll take Cash.  Period.  Bring cash or don't show.

-Will you ship to -?
    No.  See above.

-No, really, all I have is [lowball dollar amount]?
    That's great, I don't give a shit.  Unicef ain't running this deal, and until they do I want $1750. 
    Why?  Because I don't HAVE to sell this little beauty.  Truth be known, I'd rather keep it.
    But if it's going to a good home - I will sell.  Unless you're an asshole - then no sale.

-Why are you such a dick?
    Everything is relative; you should see my friends.

Any other questions, feel free to reply to this email and ask.

Almanac, Schmalmanac - I've got Persimmons!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We all know about the Farmer's Almanac and perhaps its biggest use comes from weather predictions for the year.  Heck, I even have it over on the right side bar.  The thing is...it's notoriously ambiguous and OFTEN flat out wrong.

Yesterday, the local weather forecaster said it was going to stop raining in early morning and it rained all the way up to about 2 p.m.  Which should make all of us ponder:  if they can't predict the weather the next day reliably, how could these so-called scientists be 100% sure about global warming?  Inquiring minds want to know!

But who needs almanacs or weather forecasters when you've got persimmon seeds?  (I'm on a persimmon kick this week after posting that scary persimmon tale over the weekend.)  Yessirree, Bob, persimmons aren't just for dessert.  They've long been used to foretell what kind of winter weather we can expect.

The truth is in the seeds, you see. Wash them off and then hold them standing on their side (like a football kicker) and then carefully slice them open.  You're guaranteed to see 1 of 3 images:  a fork, a knife or a spoon.   Tiny little cutlery!  But what does that have to do with the weather?  Let me explain:

Spoon:  Think "shovel".  This is bad news, because it means there's going to be lots of snow.
Fork: It will be a mild winter with not much snow.
Knife:  The weather will be icy and cold.  Think "cut you like a knife".

The catch is that the persimmons have to be grown locally, so you can't just go buy some at the grocery store and try this.  Unfortunately, we have no persimmon trees anywhere near here in the inner city so I couldn't try this myself.  However, the local news station got some and opened them to find all spoons.  Definitely BAD NEWS after the cold, snowy winter we had last year.

Now I just need to find my go-to forecaster around these here parts...the woolly caterpillar.  Last year, he predicted a cold winter and he was right.  Where are you, little guy?  Anybody seen him this year or is he still hibernating?

What do you think?  Are these ways that Mother Nature lets us know what she has in store?  Or it all just hogwash?

Buh-bye, Mr. Mouse

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I am become death.  The mad poisoner.  

One of the bad things about living in an old house is that it's holier than swiss cheese and impossible to block all the holes.  The Victorian's actually built their houses to "breathe" because of their use of indoor fireplaces, gas lamps, etc.  

So, every fall, this little guy and what seem like 50 of his cousins try to find sanctuary against the coming cold by wiggling their way into our house.  Our 2nd floor office must be on the official Mouse Travel Guide, because that's where they end up.  Presumably, that's because that's where the dog food is.  What puzzles me is that they never end up in the kitchen, which is right below there.  But, in the office, there are lots of nooks and crannies to hide in and the food is always at the right height for a mouse (on the floor).

And so, every fall, I wage a war against these illegal aliens.  Poison is my weapon of choice because they take it back and share it with their friends and the war is over quickly.  For some reason, they like to die in the open (making a run for it, maybe?), which is good because I really don't want to smell dead mouse in the walls.  The only gotcha is that we have to watch for the bodies so that the dogs don't "play" with them.

While I know some people are going to be upset with me for posting this and say things like "Oh, he's so cute. Why don't you use a humane trap and put him outside?" or "How can you post such a garish thing as a dead mouse on your blog?"  Let me just say.... I do feel very conflicted because I actually find mice to be quite charming and, as they are small, furry and cute, my first reaction is to pick them up and pet them.  I mean, look at those adorable whiskers on the mouse above.  I find myself making up little stories about their lives and where they've been.  (Okay, maybe not...)

The thing is:  they don't belong in my house and, by crossing the threshold, they have sealed their own fates.  Sticky glue traps are just as inhumane, as they die slowly through starvation. Is snapping their little necks any better? And catching them and putting them outside only insures they will either come back into my house or someone else's.  Did I mention they're dirty little creatures that normally carry some kind of disease?

So, Mr. Mouse, while you are absolutely adorable in your little toilet paper sleeping bag, you and your friends have got to go.  That includes your 7 distant cousins I found living in my chicken coop. Consider yourself evicted.

I've shared this post with Camera Critters.  The rules didn't say anything about no dead critters, so I hope they're not mad!

A Spooky (Persimmon) Tale

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall is my favorite time of year so it seems my memories of falls past seem to glow a little brighter than just about everything else.  Growing up, my grandfather would always send us over to Old Man Simmons' place to ask him for some persimmons.  My grandfather loved to eat 'em and the Old Man had the only trees in town.  He lived over by an old bridge on the outskirts of town in this decrepit old Victorian farmhouse that just about every kid in town (including me) thought was haunted.  It was pretty dilapidated with a weathered grey exterior and, quite frankly, looked somewhat abandoned.  The one sign of life was a light that burned constantly in one of the downstairs windows behind some tattered curtains.  In fact, every kid in town KNEW with absolute certainty that Old Man Simmons' house was haunted.

And, of course, persimmons ripen in October and we all had our young minds on the scares of Halloween, so the effect of the creepy exterior and crooked, bare persimmon trees in front just heightened our fear. Put the persimmon trees in front and a bunch more junk in the yard and this could be the Simmons' house :

Did I mention it was supposed to rain that afternoon, so the day was cold and very overcast?  The clouds were dark and low in the sky, pregnant with the rain that would later pelt me as I pedaled home.

That first year, I convinced a couple of strong-hearted friends to make the bike ride over to the Simmons house with me.  I was scared as a kid can be and no one - not one of my friends would cross the curb and go to the door.  My grandfather was adamant that I had to go ask permission before I took any persimmons.  The leaves swirled around us as we stood there for 10 minutes while I pulled together as much courage as I could to step onto the stone sidewalk, half buried and forgotten under the swirling autumn leaves.  I was feet from the luscious orange persimmons, but the thought of instantaneous death or entrapment by Old Man Simmons should I dare to try to steal one was enough to keep me from temptation.

I inched my way up the sidewalk to the porch and turned around to find every stinkin' one of my friends gone!  I pictured them furiously pedaling back home to tell their Mom to call the police, certain that I had become the "latest victim".  Do I run back to my bike or keep going?  Before I had a chance to decide, the door creaked open.  I'm now quaking in the new tennis shoes I'd gotten for school.  And then I hear "Well, hello!" in the sweetest little voice.  A small, grandmotherly-looking woman with her hair in a bun stepped into the doorway, drying her hands on her apron as if she'd just finished making cookies.  I could almost smell them wafting out of the doorway.  Wait...was she one of those evil witches who tempted kids into her lair with the promise of candy, cakes, ice cream and all those other sugary goodnesses that our parents wouldn't let us have?  Aaaaarrrghhhhh....the urge to run had come back with an urgency!

"What can I do for you, sweetheart?"  The question snapped me back into the moment.  "Uh...uh..uh....my grandpa sent me to ask if we could have some of your persimmons".  The words tumbled out with the alacrity of a jet engine.  I was shaking like there was an 8.3 earthquake going on underneath me.

"I see. Who's your grandpa?"

I swear my teeth were chattering as I told her.  The cold October wind picked up and the leaves  dance around me like some kind of evil ballet troupe.

"Well, of course.  We've known your grandfather for years.  You can take as many as you want.  Do you want to come in and warm up a bit before you go pick them?"

It was starting to rain.  One of the shutters, missing one of its hinges, creaked in the wind.

I didn't take her up on that offer, instead opting for thanking her and tucking as many persimmons into my backpack as it would hold and then doing the kid's version of "getting the hell out of there."

I would, however, in the following years, get to know both Mr. and Mrs. Simmons for the wonderful people they were.  They ran an antique shop out of the bottom of their house that was actually more of a junk shop, but it was filled from floor to ceiling with things that kids considered to be wonderous treasures.  Their house became a haunt of mine (no pun intended) and they would often let me paw through their items for sale and choose one for free.  I spent alot of my allowance money there also.

The Simmons' were both such nice people and it was until much later that I learned from someone else that they had lost their son, their only child, in a tragic accident several years before the day I set foot on their crumbling front porch.  I suppose they had become introverts after that, given the state of the house.  To this day, I think of them with a sense of both wonder and sadness.  They are both long gone and I wonder if the house is still standing.  If I ever make it back there, I'm making it a point to go by there and check.

I never told my grandfather about that first venture to see Old Man Simmons.  I've always wondered if he sent me there knowing  the absolute ghoulish fright it would cause in all of us.  I suspect he was grinning as we gathered our backpacks and took off on our bikes that gray afternoon to go get him his beloved persimmons. 

Do you have a frightful tale from your childhood?  Somebody make the hair stand up on the back of your neck?  Scare the heck out of all of us - leave a comment!

Blast from the Past

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sorry to be away (yes, Mary Ann, we're still alive!).  We've just been ludicrously busy the past couple of weeks and the blog has suffered because of it.  J.'s mom had hip surgery two weeks ago and she seems to be recovering nicely and is up and around now.  (Hi, Linda!)

There's a good chance that we will finally hear about the project house this week.  The rumor is that they've received the long-awaiting documents that should clear up the title problem.  After so many false starts, though, I'm not holding my breath.

I had to share this unbelievable sight with you because I couldn't quite believe my own eyes either!  This is the gas pump when I filled up the tank this weekend at Hy-vee.

Nope, it wasn't broken...just good couponing! If you add in the $8.00 online rebate that I found while we were shopping, I paid just over $4.00 for a full tank of gas.  I can't even remember the last time gas was 61 cents per gallon.  In fact, I tried to look it up and the best I could find was that gas was 99 cents in 2000.   And milk used to be under $2.00 a gallon.  Do you guys remember that?


Those were the good old days!

Moral Statistician

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I've been awfully cranky lately, as have a lot of folks I've talked to, about all the shenanigans going on in Washington on both sides of the aisle.  So that got me to thinking about this great piece from Mark Twain.  He certainly had a way with words:

~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~**~~** ~~**~~**~~

I don't want any of your statistics; I took your whole batch and lit my pipe with it.

I hate your kind of people. You are always ciphering out how much a man's health is injured, and how much his intellect is impaired, and how many pitiful dollars and cents he wastes in the course of ninety-two years' indulgence in the fatal practice of smoking; and in the equally fatal practice of drinking coffee; and in playing billiards occasionally; and in taking a glass of wine at dinner, etc. etc. And you are always figuring out how many women have been burned to death because of the dangerous fashion of wearing expansive hoops, etc. etc. You never see more than one side of the question.

You are blind to the fact that most old men in America smoke and drink coffee, although, according to your theory, they ought to have died young; and that hearty old Englishmen drink wine and survive it, and portly old Dutchmen both drink and smoke freely, and yet grow older and fatter all the time. And you never try to find out how much solid comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment a man derives from smoking in the course of a lifetime (which is worth ten times the money he would save by letting it alone), nor the appalling aggregate of happiness lost in a lifetime by your kind of people from not smoking. Of course you can save money by denying yourself all those little vicious enjoyments for fifty years; but then what can you do with it? What use can you put it to? Money can't save your infinitesimal soul. All the use that money can be put to is to purchase comfort and enjoyment in this life; therefore, as you are an enemy to comfort and enjoyment where is the use of accumulating cash?

It won't do for you to say that you can use it to better purpose in furnishing a good table, and in charities, and in supporting tract societies, because you know yourself that you people who have no petty vices are never known to give away a cent, and that you stint yourselves so in the matter of food that you are always feeble and hungry. And you never dare to laugh in the daytime for fear some poor wretch, seeing you in a good humor, will try to borrow a dollar of you; and in church you are always down on your knees, with your ears buried in the cushion, when the contribution-box comes around; and you never give the revenue officers a full statement of your income.

Now you know all these things yourself, don't you? Very well, then, what is the use of your stringing out your miserable lives to a lean and withered old age? What is the use of your saving money that is so utterly worthless to you? In a word, why don't you go off somewhere and die, and not be always trying to seduce people into becoming as ornery and unlovable as you are yourselves, by your villainous "moral statistics"?

Now, I don't approve of dissipation, and I don't indulge in it either; but I haven't a particle of confidence in a man who has no redeeming petty vices. And so I don't want to hear from you any more. I think you are the very same man who read me a long lecture last week about the degrading vice of smoking cigars, and then came back, in my absence, with your reprehensible fire-proof gloves on, and carried off my beautiful parlor stove.

Along for the Ride

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Look who decided to hitch a ride home with me last night...

A friendly katydid!  I don't have any photo editing software on this PC, or I would have lowered the light on his face, but it does a nice job of highlighting the leaf-like veins on his wings.  I see tons of preying mantises, but I have never seen one of these in person!

Despite being rather large at aout 4 inches long, I didn't notice him on my hood until I started driving and he did fine holding on at low speed until I got out of the parking garage, pulled over and did the photo shoot.  Then he calmly climbed into my hand and I deposited him in a field where he wouldn't get smooshed.

What a neat little creature!  Anybody know exactly what kind of katydid this is?

The Endicott Pear, A National Treasure

Monday, September 30, 2013

Picture courtesy of the Danville Library

Cruising the Internet this weekend, I came across this absolutely fascinating story and thought I would share it with you.

The Endicott Pear Tree is one of the first fruit trees planted in the United States and, at 383 years old, it is still alive and bearing fruit!

It was planted sometime around 1630 by settler John Endicott, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and his children and history has recorded him as saying the following upon its planting:

"I hope the tree will love the soil of the old world and no doubt 
when we have gone the tree will still be alive."

Obviously it has! It's weathered storms, vandalism, and  saw the birth of our nation.  When it does leave us, it will live on through future generations, as the USDA's seed bank has successfully produced a clone of the tree.  Let us all hope that this nation of ours is as steadfast as this beautiful tree.

To read the article that prompted this post, go here.  It's fascinating!

It's Never Easy

Saturday, September 28, 2013

It's never easy to say goodbye, is it?  

This week has been a really difficult one for a reason that has caused me to not be very social.  It's the reason why I've stayed away from here until now.

J. is away for a business conference so I've been playing bachelorette most of the week.  Cooking for one is hard, so I've been going out by myself (which I also hate).  The dogs are freaked out and keep looking all over the house for him, only to finally give up and lay in the hallway so they can spring up and greet him when he comes home.  They finally fall asleep there, disappointed.

For a couple of weeks now, we've been watching our oldest Pomeranian, Foster, slowly deteriorate. It started with not being able to get up and down the stairs, so we carried her.  Then she stopped joining us in the parlor and stayed in the back room on her doggie bed.  Walking the 25 feet was just too much for her.  When J. left on Tuesday for his trip, I went off to work and came back to find her markedly worse.  She wouldn't eat or drink any water, and I carried her out to go potty and back in again.  That night, I told J. that he might come home to find Foster had left us.  Wednesday, I worked from home so that I could keep an eye on her.  I finally got her to eat some tiny bits of cheese and pork, but she couldn't keep anything down. Thursday came and she really couldn't keep her hind legs up.  I felt it was a race against time, as J. wasn't going to be home until Sunday. 

Last night, she could barely stand at all.

This morning, I ran Domino and Finn to the groomer and then raced back home again.  Foster had been breathing hard and I knew in my heart that her time was close.  It's odd how we sense these things, isn't it?  I gathered her up with me on the sofa, stroked her gently, and told her that we loved her, that she had been such a good dog, and that it was OK to leave us. 

She died in my arms about 20 minutes later.

I am a complete mess and sobbing like a baby right now.  Foster was the first dog that J. and I had together.  She was the most clever dog I've ever seen.  
One evening after we bought our house and had spent the day tearing down walls, we brought back some Arby's and had dinner sitting on the floor of what would finally be our master bedroom.  J. had bought one too many roast beef sandwiches, so he wrapped it back in the bag and sat it on a bottom shelf on the bookshelf thinking he would eat it later.  I didn't realize he had done that, but I kept seeing Foster going in that room.  For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what she was doing.  She was checking to make sure it was still there!  17 hours later, when we left the house, she went in there, grabbed it, unwrapped the roast beef sandwich and ate the whole thing!  The only evidence left was the wrapper in the middle of the floor.

And then there was the time she pulled a pizza box off the table and we came home to find her in the middle of the pizza.  She had eaten all the toppings off and left the crust.I think that's when we decided that we really outta do a better job of putting food away.

Foster had an invisibility cloak of some kind because, despite my keeping an eye on her constantly when she was a puppy, she could somehow disappear, reappear under the china cabinet, poop, and then reappear as if nothing had happened. I swear I never took my eyes off her!

Foster babysitting Finn as a puppy
When she was a baby, she looked like one of those "koosh balls".  All black fur, with no discernible legs, a little pink tongue and shiny black eyes.  She liked to chew on electrical cords, but somehow only the ones that weren't plugged in.  She certainly did a number on the feet of my computer desk.  Smart as a tack, she ruled the boys (Domino and Finn). 
And she had the most adorable "I'm going to bite you face" that you've ever seen.  She weighed only 12 pounds, so her teeth were the size of pencil points.  But she looked like the Mama Alien from that Aliens movie when she bared them.  

Foster and Domino.  A basket of orneriness!
Wow.  She graced our lives for 17 years and it's hard to believe she is gone. I'd like to think that she's off stalking roast beef sandwiches in a far better place now.

We love ya, sweet baby. 

One More Reason to Eat Local

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

We now interrupt our normally gregarious, somewhat whimsical blog for this *ahem* disturbing news...

From Reuters:

Smithfield Foods Inc shareholders on Tuesday approved the pork giant's $4.7 billion sale to Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd (000895.SZ) in what is shaping up as the biggest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm.

The closely watched transaction, valued at $7.1 billion including debt, is expected to close by September 26.

The deal, which aims to satisfy China's increasing appetite for pork, marries two of the world's largest pork producers and had faced scrutiny over China's high-profile food safety failures, concerns over U.S. pork supplies and U.S. national security.

But earlier this month, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment cleared the way for the deal, removing an important hurdle.

More than 96 percent of the votes cast at a special Smithfield shareholder meeting on Tuesday were in favor of the acquisition. The votes cast represented 76 percent of Smithfield's outstanding common shares, the company said in a statement.



Anybody else worried about this?  First of all, there's no way I'm eating anything packaged or processed by Smithfield now.  I can only assume that they're doing this because the Chinese can't solve their own food contamination issues (cadmium-ridden meat or pesticide-laced milk, anyone?)  How about finding maggots in your Shanghui sausage?  Yum!

From the Bottom Up

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This pepper caught my eye last night because it's literally ripening from the bottom up and there's a clear line between ripe and not ripe.  Kinda cool!

No news on the house yet.  We're now off contract because the amendment expired last Friday, but I've been assured that the lender is working furiously to resolve the issues.  I guess we'll just have to wait and see.  Patience, however, is not one of my virtues.

Not that it's been hard to wait with all that tasty pig in the refrigerator.  We've put off the bacon-making to this weekend when it will be really nice outside. But, in the meantime, we've been pigging out (*snicker*) on pork chops.  Nom nom nom!

Last night, I let the chooks out for some recess time in the garden while I changed their water and filled their food.  J. likes to call this their "ultra recess".  Henrietta decided to sneak in the big coop at dusk while no one else was looking.  I considered leaving her in there overnight, but it wasn't long before one of the other Austrolorps noticed her and started trying to peck her.  Bless her heart!  She wants so badly to be part of the flock and let me know she wasn't happy that I plucked her off the roost and put her back in her own enclosure.  But I'd rather she be angry with me than pecked to death.  

What's up in your neck of the woods?

Hog Butchering 101

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Some girls get diamond earrings, new shoes, or a vacation for their birthday.  Me?  I got a whole hog butchering class. And I loved it!

The Local Pig, a butcher shop about 2.5 miles from our house, does two classes: whole hog butchering and sausage-making.  I've always wanted to go to one of these and J. was sweet enough to enroll us this past weekend.

We showed up at the appointed time to find freshly made Andouille sausage sandwiches and Boulevard beer waiting for us.  Nothing like getting all liquored up and playing with sharp knives!  I'd say there were about 11 people in the class including us, so it was a nice cozy group.  

Then they brought out our victim, which I quickly nicknamed "Wilbur".  C'mon...I know you've watched Green Acres.  Admit it!

The group gathered around a large butcher block table while the owner of Local Pig and our instructor for the afternoon, Alex Pope, began the class by explaining that they only locally source their pigs from farms where the pigs are raised humanely and spend their time running around on grass rather than cooped up in a feedlot or barn.  In fact, they put their sources up on the wall for everyone to see.  In front of us, we had the two halves of a lovely Berkshire Duroc raised by J.J. Green in Higginsville, MO, which is about 50 miles due east of KC.

Then, for the next couple of hours, we drank beer and learned how to break down a pig.  Surprisingly enough, there are no bandsaws or fancy equipment needed.  All you need is a large table, a filet knife and a bone saw. That's it!  So it wouldn't be that hard to break down your own 1/2 a pig to save money.


We started with the tenderloin in the middle of the pig by cutting off the leaf fat to expose it, then removing the tenderloin, which is right along the spine.

To break down the pig, you start for the read and move forward.  Step 1 was to cut off the flank.  Then remove the back leg and separate the ham.  Each person did 1 or 2 cuts and then the circle moved around so that the next person could have a turn.

As we moved forward, we exposed the chops.  Yum! 

As you cut, you have to be careful to not cut into the meat.  Many of these cuts required precision, as we followed right around the bone to remove it.  In the shot below, we're using the bone saw to cut through the ribs.  Watch those fingers!

And here's J. separating the Boston Butt (or shoulder).  He was definitely the most fashionable butcher-in-training in the class with that Hawaiian shirt.  You go, honey!

Mmmm, tasty pulled pork or pork steaks.  Pork steaks are my fav and I had no idea before this class that they came from the Boston Butt.  I guess that explains why they are so yummy.

Once we finished the first half-pig, we moved on and did it again on a second half from a different pig.  It was interesting to see some of the differences between the two.

And then, finally, we left Local Pig with 10 pounds each of the pork we had just cut up (with some final trimming help from some of the other staff).  I hit the piggy jackpot, because we cut the last Boston Butt in half (we did the first one in quarters) and I got one of the halves!  We'll be having pulled pork tonight for dinner.  :-)   And we also halve several pounds of pork belly, so we'll be making bacon later this week.

What's that?  Of course I'll have pictures for you!

Winding Down

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Summer garden, still hanging on

It looks like summer may be losing its grip, now that the high-90s weather has broken and the morning are cool and full of crickets singing.  I think they are as happy as I am about the changing of the seasons.  We are praying for rain - we're down about 5 inches for the year - but watching Colorado warily because we certainly don't want any of those flood waters here.  Lord knows we had enough of that mess back in '93. 

So with Fall gearing up, the garden is starting to wind down.  The hybrid tomatoes and peppers are still going gangbusters, but the heirlooms are almost done.  *sniff*

My experiment with growing the watermelons up the arch trellis was an interesting one.  As they ripened, they picked themselves by falling off (I never put any support under them).  I doubt that would work with a heavier melon, but it seemed to work well with the Sugar Baby melons because they only weigh 3 pounds at their heaviest.  And the vines made for some nice shade for the green beans.

Speaking of....I've left the last of the green beans to brown on the vine so that I can gather the beans for next year.

What I do have a bumper crop of now are those hopping fiends, the grasshoppers.  Everywhere!  Are they the cleanup crew? Not much left for them to chew on, thankfully.  But there are definitely more of them this year than there has been in the last 4 or 5 years.  Are you seeing this at your place also?

Finally, it's with a heavy heart that I mention another winding down.  Our neighbors next door had their 17-year-old dog, Sheba, pass away on Saturday.  She was a sweet puppy that had been a fixture in the back yard since we moved in.  They asked if they could borrow our post hole digger since they didn't have a decent shovel.  Our neighbor, C., has health problems and gets dizzy very easily, so he had no business out there trying to dig a hole in the rock hard ground.  I told him that we had a new Dingo that could do the work for us, and that it did.  Lickety split!  So Sheba now rests in the same yard that she inhabited all of her life. We'll miss you, old friend.

As with everything in nature, though, out of old comes new.  During this time of the year, I always feel a little impatient about getting started with the cleanup.  This year, we'll be changing things around quite a bit:  ripping out three of the raised beds in favor of an in-ground garden, and building a greenhouse from those hotel windows that I bought a month ago.  But there are still green tomatoes on the vine and I'm not going to pull those plants up just because I'm antsy.  Am I the only one that feels this way in the Fall?

Impatiently yours,

I've shared with this week's Homestead Barn Hop. There's lot of stuff going on over there - go check it out!
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