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 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.
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