Just over a week ago, we had an old-time hog killin’ here at the reLuxe Ranch. We have wanted to do this since we first read about it in Joel Salatin’s book Folks, This Ain’t Normal. But first we had to get a farm, then we had to raise some pigs. Actually, though, none of it would have happened without our incredible community of friends and family willing to participate in and support us in this process. That support began before we even bought the farm when we told our families and friends about our dreams and plans. No one called us crazy, even if they were thinking it. They shared our enthusiasm, challenged us to clarify our goals by asking great questions, helped us flesh out half-baked ideas, and most importantly, they whole-heartedly encouraged us to live our lives in line with our values.

Then when we arrived in North Carolina, exhausted from the move, desperate for a decent drink, we stepped into our neighborhood vineyard/brewery and were swept up in a whirlwind of great people.

They plied us with food, told us their tales of dreams made real, and much to their credit, did not laugh as two city slickers with not a lick of farming experience explained our plans. Week after week, those bonds grew, new friends joined the group, and in the space of just a few months we recognized that we had become part of something much greater than the sum of its parts. We had not just made friends, but we had found community.

Community is more than a group of people with something in common. It’s kind of this amorphous blob that mystically evolves to meet your needs. As an example, just as we started getting into the nitty gritty details of planning our pig slaughter, Linda who is one of my gardening friends asked if she could bring her husband Vassie over for a tour of our farm. As I walked them around, talking about how we just built our smokehouse to get ready for our first experience at butchering pigs, Vassie revealed that he used to be a butcher and had quite a bit of experience with homescale hog killin’. He had also recently told Linda that he had a hankering to do it again.

Vassie’s experience was exactly what we needed for our upcoming event and we were what he needed to get back into butchering. But community doesn’t stop there. The day of–when Joe and Ted, our two other experts who have been helping us all these months, met Vassie–the magic really started. These strangers worked together with such perfect synchronicity that it was as if they had done this together a hundred times. Any apprehension we had about dispatching our pigs disappeared as Matt and I realized we’d lucked into a hog killin’ all-star team. Our other friends who came to help and learn also seemed to be exactly what we needed to make this a wonderful experience. They turned out to be super scrapers, joke makers (when we need it most), and had intuitive abilities to know just when an extra hand was needed.

Our event was the culmination of an eight-month process leading up to a three day weekend that included the slaughter, converting carcass parts into gourmet goodies, and a grand party to celebrate and share the bounty. We’ll be writing several more postings about this in the coming weeks because there is too much material to cram into one sitting. But Matt and I wanted to kick off our commentary by thanking you all for being part of our lives, sharing our dreams, and teaching us so much more than just how to kill a hog. And an extra big thank you to these folks who were able to come for some or all of our three-day Hog Killin’ extravaganza:

Joe & Michelle; Ted & Michele; Donnie, Anita, Emma, & Zoe; Vassie & Linda; Aaron, Jenny, Savannah, Alan, Katie, & Elizabeth; Mark & Terry; Ken, Sharon, & Joel; Brian, Lindsay, Joseph, Thomas, Terrie, Rachel, & Collette; Ed & Myriam; Mary; Morten & Debi; Mike (a.k.a. Dad), Tim, Sue, David, Irina, Kate, Patti, and Jason.

We also want to give a special shout out to Jason (Matt’s brother) who basically forced us to get pigs when we weren’t sure we were ready. Driven by guilt, Jason spent many weekends trekking six hours by car to sleep on a rickety twin bed so that he could help feed pigs, build a smokehouse, weld our scalding vessel, and generally go home more exhausted than when he arrived. He has also given us all sorts of tools and guidance on our other projects along the way. Jason - we officially let you off the hook. It was a great experience. If anything had gone wrong, we were going to blame it on you. So in fairness, we figured we ought to at least share the credit for a job well done! We couldn’t (wouldn’t) have done it without you! Thanks also to Bridget for giving Jason some breathing room on your honey-do list - but now that the hams are hanging - Jason can get to work on your kitchen!.