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!

We're Generating Power!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I've been sick since Tuesday with some nasty respiratory thing that's going around the office.   Just an hour ago, I was on the phone with someone from work when the phone suddenly went dead (we have Google Fiber) and I heard a bang.  At first, I was a little freaked out and then I realized...Kansas City Power and Light was here swapping out the utility meter.

I was in no condition to try to make my way all the way down into the basement and mess with the inverters, so J. had to throw the switch when he got home.  How exciting!  Now we just have to figure out whether everything is working OK, which means we need to figure out how to get everything registered on SolarEdge's monitoring portal and hook the inverters up to a network switch so they can report back to SolarEdge. 
And figure out how to read that new meter.
Stay tuned...there's more to come!

The Truck Has Been Found

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We got the call first thing this morning.  They found the truck in downtown Lawrence, locked and the keys gone.  Along with the radio and all the stereo equipment.  And the cute little stuffed Tigger head hanging from the rearview mirror.  Really??!!
Other than that, the truck seems okay.  No dents or major issues.  Whoever took it wiped it clean, took all the stuff out of the glovebox, took the $20 emergency money in the visor, locked it and walked away.  They probably would have come back for it, since they took the key.  The expensive toolbox full of tools was untouched, thankfully.
The dealer is taking it back to finish the work and then we'll go pick it up.  And somebody is going to write us a check for our time and a new stereo.

Anybody Seen Our Truck?

Monday, October 27, 2014

A couple of weekends ago, J. headed out to go to an auction in Lawrence, which is about 35 miles from where we live.  He never made it.  Right as he turned on the road to go the auction, the brakes went out on the Dodge.  If that wasn't bad enough, he was in a spot where he could barely get intermittent cell coverage.  After many dropped calls, I was finally able to get him the number for the local dealer and he had it towed over there.

Fast forward to this morning where he gets a phone call from them. The guy asks "Ummm...by chance, did you come pick up your truck over the weekend?"  You can imagine J.'s reaction to that one.
 "No.  Why?"
"Well, we can't find it."

Yep, it was stolen from the dealer's lot.  Why they didn't have it locked up over the weekend is beyond me.  So the cops were called to do a report and the guy that last worked on it admitted in front of the officer that he couldn't remember if he followed dealer policy and dropped the keys in the box or not.  The keys are missing so my guess is that he left them in the truck.  If that wasn't bad enough, they admitted that there had been scrap thefts recently right next to the dealership and "maybe they stole the truck to haul off the scrap?".  Um, wouldn't that be another good reason to lock it up?

And then they had the audacity to tell J. to turn it in on his homeowners policy and they would reimburse him for the deductible.  Um, no.  That won't be happening.

I am so mad right now I could spit nails.

Diggin' for Gold

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Today was all about our poor neglected garden.  Full of weeds and tomatoes that think it's Spring again because of all this nice weather.  The bees have been visiting the tomato flowers and they're heavy with green tomatoes.  In late October!  I couldn't bring myself to rip them out just yet.  Maybe this weather will hold and they'll ripen.  We did manage to find 2 that were ready.
Our baby Yukons in May

But the real star of the show was the Yukon Gold potatoes.  Time to dig those bad boys up and see if we have redeemed ourselves as potato farmers.  It seemed like a great year for potatoes.  The plants were tall and green.  I didn't see even one potato bug this year, but the grasshoppers were thick as thieves in late summer after the potatoes were pretty much done flowering.  The leaves looked like swiss cheese when they were done. 

So then I hurt my back and we were busy with the solar project and the garden went on the back burner.  In fact, we only planted tomatoes and potatoes this year because we were so busy. 

Now the question was how to dig potatoes with a bad back?  The answer is sitting in a chair.  Actually, it was team effort with J. popping them up with a potato fork and me raking them out and throwing them in a bucket.  Since I can't bend over and pick them up, I was using one of those reach-y tools to grab them.  Hahahaha...yes, it was quite a sight. 

When all was said and done, we ended up with a 5-gallon bucket full from two 10' rows.  Not bad, I guess.  The pic below may be missing a few of them as they ended up as mashed potatoes. 

If you've never had Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, you haven't had mashed potatoes.  They're so smooth and buttery all by themselves that you don't have to add anything to them.  Absolutely delish!

Hello, Fall

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The leaves have been turning for about a week now and we've been closely watching our little maple tree that we planted back in June to see what color the leaves will be.  It was sold to us as an Autumn Blaze, so it should be a shocking bright red.  I'm not expecting much showiness this year since the tree is probably still trying to get its footing after 4 months in new ground. 

But I was pleasantly surprised to see it finally start turning.  The walnut trees are almost completely bare, having heralded the coming weather change early.

The bees are flying around like crazy gathering up what little pollen remains and getting ready for winter.  The weather couldn't be better for this...70s and sunny.  It feels like winter is far off today and for now...

Fall is here!

I See You

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Am I the only one that can't resist messing with a preying mantis?  I found this one hanging out on the back door header and looking like it could pounce on me if I tried to walk in the door. 
Try moving your finger back and forth in front of one to see how they react.  I swear they move like robots.  This one swiveled it's head like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. 

Water Storage

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Here's another confession:  I'm a Craigslist troll.  I must check Craigslist 12 times a day looking for that elusive bargain.  It's part hobby, part obsession.
One of the things I'd like to do is setup a way to capture the rain water coming off the solar panels and store it for when we need to water the garden.  Why spend money on city water if we don't have to? 
So I was super happy to run across a Craigslist ad for food-grade 275 gallon IBC totes for just $80.  These normally go for over $100, so that's a decent price.  J. and I headed up into the northland after work to go look at them.  The guy that was selling them probably had 10 of them sitting in his side yard.  We loaded up 2 of them in Kermit (our green trailer) and headed for home.

We already have one of these tanks and we used it to water the trees that we planted on the farm.  Now I just need to rig up some guttering on the panels and tie all three of them together.  But that project will have to wait until Spring.
Are you collecting rainwater?  Have a novel way of doing it?  I'd love to hear about it - leave me a comment!

Energy Usage Progress

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I sat down to pay bills this morning and, while I'm out on the power company's website, I like to pull down our latest usage numbers and see how we're doing.  With all of our efforts toward swapping out our light bulbs for LEDs and using smart outlet strips like this one, we should be seeing it pay off. 
Those numbers above are comparing the month of September from 2013 and 2014.  A 31% decrease from this time last year is not bad, but the weather has been pretty temperate as we're enjoying a prolonged Indian summer.  But an average of 60 kWh is still way too high.  What's interesting is that I also pulled the daily usage numbers for this month and the average is just over 25.  The difference?
We turned off the air conditioner in late September.  Using the air conditioner more than doubles our usage! 
The average monthly usage for folks in Missouri is 1060 kWh per month, or just over 35 kWh per day.  So we're not doing too bad.  But we've still got more bulbs to swap out for LEDs and more stuff to unplug, so I bet we can get our average usage under the roughly 45 kWh that our solar array is going to generate every day.  We'll get credits for what we don't use, so maybe that will help pay for the air conditioner that I'm just not willing to give up on those hot summer days!
Have you come up with some creative ways to save power?  I'd love to hear about them!

I've Been Summoned

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Tucked in between the chiropractor bills and catalogs was this little nugget from the mailman.  We were originally told that the hearing to finalize the sale of the $1400 house wouldn't be until December.  But apparently Jackson County is in a toot to get their back tax money as quickly as possible and now the hearing is scheduled for early November. 
Maybe if we're lucky we'll still have this Indian summer weather then.  A girl can hope, right?  We've got several trees that need to be cleaned up and, even though the front porch floor needs to be demolished and replaced, that will probably have to wait until Spring.
In other news, we've got a neighbor who is willing to help us out with cleaning out the house.  Charles has been helping Dave and Christine (of TheDeadlyNightshade fame) with cleaning out the cottage that they're working on. I think that is winding down, so the timing on our project is perfect.  When I first met Charles, I thought he was such a nice guy and a great father to a beautiful little boy.  He told me this weekend that he was blessed and given a second chance at life.  Apparently he used to be a gangbanger and he said, during that time of his life, he didn't think people could be good.  He said he's just trying to make a life for his kids and make them happy. 
He went on to say that, even if we couldn't afford to pay him, he would help us.  Well, I believe a man should be paid for a good day's work. I'd rather give the money to Charles, a neighbor and really hard worker, than to a big company. 
We've got quite a nice little community shaping up here.  And we need more people like Charles in this world.

Where Did September Go?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

For the life of me, I don't know where September went.  Perhaps it flew by us when we were focused on getting the solar project to the finish line.  We're so close that I can now see the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel".  At any rate, I had a month's worth of posts in my head that I wanted to get on here and didn't, for one reason or another.

So I'm spending this stormy first night of October filling in the gaps for you on what we've been up to for the last 30 days.  That's right...I broke the cardinal rule of blogging and am backdating a bunch of posts all the way to September 1st because I'm also using this blog as a kind of historical record of "the farm".  The posts are full of mayhem, misadventure and even a mystery, so have fun reading (at least I hope you're still here!)

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