Sunday, December 2, 2012

Poona Kheera cucumbers

Our tag line at Second Act Farm is "...where every seed tells a story...".  This phrase reflects our interest in learning more about the food we grow and eat.  It prompts us to look for interesting varieties of vegetables that we've never found in our local grocery stores.  Once we've tried them, we want to share what we've learned with our friends, family and customers.

During our first season on the farm, we grew "Poona Kheera" cucumbers   This is an heirloom variety from India - named after the city of Poona, also known as Pune, which is one of several cities in India that Mike has visited.

The Poona Kheera is a smooth-skinned cucumber with a mild, slightly sweet flavor. What's surprising about them is their color.  As the fruit matures it changes color from white to golden yellow (shown) to a russet brown.

Here in Columbus, Indiana we have a large Indian population, but there are only a few options for finding foods native to India.  We'll be growing Poona Kheeras next year and expect them to be a popular item at our local farmers markets.

- Mike

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The New Chicks at Second Act Farm

We've learned a crucial lesson this summer:  There are not enough hours in the day to learn how to farm and blog, too.  Since it's been a couple months since we started the blog, you can probably tell where our time has been spent.  But we're catching up now, and have a few stories to tell.  Here's the first one.

We had talked about getting chickens this summer, but had not acted.  Then in late May we saw the ad on craigslist - a turnkey chicken setup:  6 hens, a coop and all the equipment and feed.  The owners were a neat couple, Mike and Erin, who were moving from Nashville, Indiana to Elkins, WV.  They had determined that they couldn't move the chickens, so were selling the whole deal...lock, stock, and coop, as it were.

We drove over on a Sunday afternoon and talked with Erin.  She showed us the coop and the ladies.  We gave her a down payment on the spot.  The coop was great.  Nashville Mike had spent a lot of time building it, and it looked like it would last for years.  The only hitch was the size - it was almost 6 feet wide, 9 feet long, and almost 9 feet tall.  At least one other potential buyer had backed out when confronted with the large coop.  He simply couldn't move it.


Our Mike arranged to rent a big dual axle trailer from a local rental company, then got our friends Ian and Rob organized to go to Nashville with us on the afternoon of May 24th.  This was, coincidentally, our 36th wedding anniversary.  Mike joked with Mary several times that she was the luckiest woman he knew - nobody else was getting chickens for their anniversary gift.  (Mary laughed, but Mike sensed she was not really amused...)

It looked like an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies coming back into Columbus from Nashville, with the coop lashed down to the trailer, and the the roof panels flapping in the wind.  Every other car that passed us honked and pointed - "Hey, dude, you're about to lose the roof!".  We smiled and waved - "Thanks.  We know, that's why we're driving so slow!"

 Back at the farm, Rob, Mike and Mary gave the coop a few good heaves and rolled it off the trailer onto its new roost next to our old hen house.

Mike spent Friday morning putting up a fence around the new coop and the old hen house.  By 10am, our ladies had a spacious new home.  They even helped arrange the dirt around the foundation. (Spoiler:  It didn't take any encouragement to get them to help.  Put a pile of dirt in front of a chicken and she will immediately start to level it out.  Helpful some of the time...except when I wanted the dirt in a pile!)

In the weeks since, we have had lots of fun watching the birds, learning their habits, and adapting the environment to suit them.  We've also had one tragic night...which we will recount in a future post.  For now, it's enough to say that we transplanted six healthy chickens from Brown County to Bartholomew County, and have enjoyed the output - a dozen fresh eggs every 3 - 5 days.

~ Mike

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Here We Are!

Hello, and welcome to the Second Act Farm blog. We're happy you're here.

"We" are Mike and Mary.  We've been married for 36 years, raised three great kids, and have maintained a great sense of adventure throughout our life together.  Early on we struggled to make ends meet - two 70's liberal arts majors with no readily marketable skills.  But we have been blessed to live our lives in an America that offered great opportunities to anyone willing to work hard.  We have worked more jobs than we can count, sometimes more than one at a time, and have learned valuable lessons from each one.  Over time we found our niches and built our careers.

We have traveled together to many areas of America and Europe - exploring them on foot, looking for the unique experiences that are missed by the tour bus traveler.  In our travels we have experienced the comfort of hot soup on a damp London afternoon.  We have tasted local wines made at small Tuscan vineyards.  We have snorkeled in Hawaii.  We have hiked through Boston, New York and San Francisco -savoring the unique sights and smells of each major city.  Every place we have visited has taught us something, and we have tried to bring that learning back to wherever we call home.

We have lived in small towns and medium-sized cities, in apartments, houses and condominiums.  They have been interesting places, but have always had an underlying sense of impermanence.  We never lived in a place that felt like "the" place - the home of our dreams, the place we would grow old in.  There was always a sense that this place would do for now, but the next place would be better, closer to the ideal.  That missing element kept us moving.  We've joked with friends that we keep cars longer than we keep houses.  (Both of our cars are over 10 years old...but each has been parked in 4 different driveways.)

Last year, in our last house, we spent several months contemplating a major remodel.  We had some great plans drawn up that would have transformed our 1960's vintage home into a magazine quality space for entertaining.  The prospects were exciting, but the cost estimates made us think twice...or three times...or four.  What was it we were looking for?  We realized that we weren't interested in living in the latest space from Architectural Digest or Dwell, nice as that might have been.  The house was on a quiet street, on a beautifully landscaped lot.  Out the back, we looked over a pool and across a city park - a view guaranteed not to be spoiled by development.

But something was missing.  Something kept gnawing at us, just below the level of consciousness.  Nice as it was, we found that we couldn't grow a vegetable garden - the back yard was too shady.  Was that it?  Really?

Then, late last fall, Mary had an epiphany.  She saw an article on Facebook - a reflection by a hospice worker on the regrets she heard her patients express on their deathbeds.  There were numerous variations on a theme:  I wish I had done this or that when I had the chance.  Now it's too late.  I'll never get to do it.

Mary listened, and reacted.  "Look", she said, "We used to talk about wanting a farm.  I still do.  If we're ever going to do it, it needs to be now!"

"Yes", Mike answered.  "I remember.  We used to talk about it all the time.  OK.  Let's do it."

Thus the search began.  This spring, 2012, we moved to a six acre farm outside Columbus, Indiana.  We've named it Second Act Farm, a name we'll explain in a future post.  For now, what you need to know is that it represents a dream deferred, but not forgotten.  If you're reading this first post in the summer of 2012, you have probably been in conversation with us about our vision and objectives for the farm.  You have been incredibly gracious and supportive - not one of our friends or family members has called us crazy, at least to our face.

We are creating this blog to document our experiences.  Through it we will report our successes (cheer us on!) and our failures (learn with us!).  We hope you will enjoy the posts that follow.  If you have stumbled on the blog through a referral at a later date, we hope you will find something instructive - some information that will allow you to move forward without making the same mistakes that we did.

Either way, we welcome your comments and value your opinions.  Thanks for going on the journey with us.  We expect it will be a lot of fun!

Mike & Mary
Second Act Farm
Columbus, Indiana