| Prosciutto from Big Boy the pig. Photo: Rebecca Winters.
"I have a theory that my pigs ate the rats," Carpenter says. Realizing that her audience has been munching on slices of said pig's hindquarters, she laughed. "So enjoy some delicious prosciutto!"
Farmers are reputed to have a tough streak. They step over piles of excrement, battle gargantuan hogs and, of course, have to earn a living. Carpenter, author of "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer," seems no exception. She lives in the city, not the country, "so I can get Chinese food at 2 a.m."
The two 300-pound hogs she raised in what she calls the Oakland, Calif., "ghetto," also enjoyed Chinese takeout. She read about her adventures in urban farming on a Brooklyn, N.Y., rooftop adjacent to a 6,000-foot, 30-crop rooftop farm built by Goode Green and tended by farmers Annie Novak and Ben Flanner.
Dumpster diving, fish guts and the cost of rooftop farming, after the jump.
| Novella Carpenter reading on a Brooklyn rooftop. Photo: Rebecca Winters.
As the audience ate canapés featuring veggies from the garden -- lettuce, herbed goat cheese and cucumber on bread -- Carpenter spoke of the grislier aspect of farming. She has raised chickens, rabbits, goats, turkeys and swine. Having to step over the pigs' excrement every day was wearying, and they are not tender creatures: Carpented admitted that although killing some of her animals was difficult, eating those pigs was not, and she'll never raise them again. She and her boyfriend would scour for the pigs' food themselves in the streets of the Bay area and out of the dumpsters of restaurants.
| The farm and the view. Photo: Alex Van Buren.
The pigs, unlike her goats, which she says she's smitten with, began to "nibble" her as they grew fond of her and the fish guts, Chinese doughnuts and other scraps she brought them. The nibbles turned more urgent as they grew older. Carpenter grew leery when an older Southern neighbor declared, "You go into a pig pen with a cut, they'll eatcha alive!"
With the exception of the giant swine, Carpenter has killed every animal she's raised, which she sees as being part of being a conscientious carnivore. She had help from a Yemeni neighbor in slaughtering one of her beloved goats. He came over in traditional garb and his wife sang while he cut its throat.
Of course, this raising-then-killing sounds wearying, and it was. "For a while, killing everything, I felt like the witch in 'Hansel and Gretel,'" Carpenter says. She's bought a mama goat to remedy this problem, at least for a while. "I was ready for a long-term relationship."
Regardless of the unsavory topic, the audience seemed to relish the tales of guts and glory. This journalist went back for seconds of the savory, salty prosciutto -- rat-infused or not.