Wondering how this all came about? Read the first post here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


If you're going to eat half a pig, the first thing you need to do is get your hands on half a pig. I think Benjamin Franklin said that. And never have truer words been said by a balder, drunker, unfaithfuler 18th-century politician.

For my money, after extensive research and going through a complicated vetting process, you can't do better for your half-pig dollar than Troubled Acres Farm near Kenyon, Minnesota. Combining modern savvy (they have indoor toilets) with traditional time-tested farming techniques (battered straw hats and sleeveless t-shirts), Troubled Acres is an oasis of wholesomeness in a tired, cynical world.

Also it's my brother and sister-in-law's place.

You'd be crazy NOT to buy your pork from this man!

Since buying the farmstead, Lou and Robin have been escalating their livestock collection. From chickens and ducks to turkeys to a goat to pigs (the first pair was named Hamlet and Cutlet) and cows (including Lur-lean and Wellington), their little patch of heaven has become home to many of God's most delicious creatures. And while they and their kids are renowned eaters, they've been able to sell off shares of some of the larger animals to friends and family.

This year, when my wife and I went down for the annual Memorial Day get-together, we learned that a half share of one of their pigs was still available.

If you know me, you know that I am a logical man, not prone to flights of-- hey, what's that shiny thing over there? A scrap of tinfoil caught in a tree? AWESOME!

So my wife and I bought half a pig. But we're savvy pig buyers, not about to buy a 'pig in a poke,' as it were. (We're also both writers, and not about to miss what may be the one chance in our lives to use the term 'pig in a poke' literally.) We walked down to the pigpen to check out the goods.

These were 'dirt pigs,' living in an indoor-outdoor pen with plenty of fresh air, walking space and mud. They ate grain and lots of vegetables (my brother works for a produce wholesaler, so the pigs get "unwanted quality-challenged produce," in his words. "Avocados and peppers give them a hint of a southwestern motif."), plus family leftovers (what pig doesn't love spaghetti?) Rumor has it dirt pigs taste better than their barn-raised cousins.

Criminy, I can hardly keep from jumping the fence and eating him NOW!

As sophisticated, enlightened omnivores, my wife and I feel the pigs' spiritual care is just important as their physical well-being. An anecdote to show how sensitive my brother is:

When one of the pigs passed away unexpectedly, my brother found himself in possession of more than a William Hootkins' worth of immovable, inedible animal.

Get it? William Hootkins? The actor who played Rebel pilot
Jek Tono Porkins
in the original Star Wars? Also kind of a
big guy? No? You people are killing me. Sharing my wry literary
humor with Philistines like you is like casting pearls before
swine... Speaking of casting and swine, back to our story.

Some people would have simply dug a hole and buried it, or had a service come and dispose of the carcass. But not Lou. These pigs were like his - well, not children, but maybe some neighbor kids. So he did what any grieving man would do: rolled it into the front-end loader on his tractor and raised it unto the sky, so as to be closer to Heaven (and out of reach of coyotes.) The next day, in a solemn ceremony, he puttered over to a neighbor's field at about 6 miles per hour and, with their permission, released it into the wild. For as the saying goes, if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, AAAAA! ZOMBIE PIG! SHOOT IT! SHOOOOOOT IIIIIT!

Shannon and I were touched by this story, and we knew we had found our pig dealer. While we don't know exactly which pig was ours, I like to think it was this happy little fellow:

I named him De-Pork Chop-ra. Get it? Sounds like Deepak Chopra, the
world-famous spiritualist and philosopher? Heh heh... sigh. Seriously. Philistines.

And with that, we were on our adventure: The first step down the road of finding ways to eat half a pig in one year's time. Our pig still had some growing to do, and we had to decide how we wanted him processed and how we were going to store all that meat... but that's for another day.