Hog heaven: Michael Perry’s ‘Coop’


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Michael Perry lives in rural Wisconsin on a farm with his wife, two daughters, a vintage truck and an assortment of animals, which he writes about in ‘Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting.’ He explains in an interview with Powell’s that he’s not running a big professional farming operation.

I think we’re doing what a lot of folks are — getting a few chickens, getting a few pigs, just trying to raise more and more of our own food. And we’re not at the cutting edge of this; you look at people like Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan — these are the people who are really leading us.... I’m sort of writing about the rest of us, who are trying to figure out a way to incorporate these things into our day-to-day lives while probably, truth be told, paying the rent mostly through other efforts.


But what’s encouraging is that I’m seeing more and more of it. This idea that you have to be just a farmer or just a writer is kind of a new thing. If you look back a few decades, the plumber used to have a few chickens in the back yard. It’s not about becoming a farmer; it’s about incorporating those things into the rest of your life.

Powell’s asks with some horror about pigs -- apparently they’ll eat humans, if it appears that humans are what’s for lunch. ‘Yes, they’re omnivorous, and that includes you,’ Perry says. ‘It’s nothing personal; the pig’s just hungry. And to be fair to the pig, I don’t know why we’re shocked about them eating us when many of us quite happily eat them.’

Tending pigs and chickens is pretty time-consuming, which doesn’t always jive with a writer’s schedule. Perry, who can write for 16 hours at a stretch, also volunteers as a local emergency responder and plays in a band. And this spring he’ll be busier than usual, as his long list of appearances will take him across Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest -- leaving his wife holding the feedbag.

-- Carolyn Kellogg