Despite the intardnet drama that often surrounds restaurant reviews, sometimes a wonderful story can be found in the random pile of posts that is this blog.
Here, the story of a certain Mr. Lefty and his cute piglets shall be told.
Lefty Ayers is a man with epic interests. He sculpts found art, he does wood burned paintings, he’s an artistic welder, he’s a loving husband, a rancher and a roaster of whole hogs. Oh, he also reads blogs. Or, at least, he read my blog.
Early this spring, I received following details concerning his ranch:
Our leased ranch is 120 acres hidden in the oak and pine covered mountains above Quail Lake. The Sandburg Ranch was started in 1897 and for the most part was known for it’s apples sent in to LA in the 1920′s and 30′s. Some apples still grow from trees that are almost 80 years old.
Our pork program has had very good responses from what we raise on a very healthy feed menu. The Berkshires are a new part of what we are doing. Our first ones will be ready for an early summer revealing BBQ here at the ranch. The fresh loins with all the trimmings will be set up for all those that are wanting to try our pork. Unfortunately, there won’t be acorn finished ones until latter in the year.
Dropping the typical hyperboles, it is sufficient to simply say: some people got excited after happening upon the words: “pork”, “acorn”, “LA”.
A month and a half after the initial email exchange, 2 LA boys (the term “boys” used loosely) and an Iowan poet decided to spend an idyllic afternoon wrestling shoats into their new playground with built-in acorn buffet at Reride (nay, Sandburg) Ranch. Ultimately, we discovered there is a tremendous difference between personalities such as the LA Cowboy, and Mr. Ayers, a not-so-urban cowboy.
First, please toss out any image of what one may perceive as organized ranching, think a homestead near the Castaic Lakes, just outside the boundaries of Angeles National Forest, instead. Much of this land used to be an apple orchard. Once upon a time, a unique apple variety literally called the “Sandberg”, now “heirloom”, produced tons of apples from 2000 trees. Now, horses roam, and scout troops come for camp outs and bonding time. Near the house, prolific century old oak trees can be found. And with oaks, come acorns. With acorns, come fatty fat fat piggies.
On this particular afternoon, the Ayer family (and friends, bearing butter churned fresh from local cream) sat us down under the great tree and we had ourselves a Saveur centerfold worthy feast. There were skillet fried chicken, potted biscuit, slow cooked beans, and gentle crisp winds from the nearby forest.
After lunch, the magical process of pigs digging for acorn was witnessed by our entire lot after the lucky Berkshire shoals were wrangled into their new make shift pen. Here, the 2 piggies acted as if they were in nature. There was no trough, no feed, no corn. They simply snouted away the loose top soil and went to town on the fallen nuts. For weeks, this is all they feasted. To supplement their diet, everything and anything produced on the ranch’s ground is thrown into feeding ritual; apples, eggs, wheatgrass, etc. Reride Ranch is a pig’s immovable feast.
Going back to the business of eating pork — 6 months after the initial contact, Lefty sold a (blue butt) hog raised mostly on milk and mishmash of pasture & eggs, etc., to a butchering class hosted by Opa’s Craft & Chef Neal Fraser of the temporarily closed Grace. McCalls Meats should have received the first of the FDA approved processed Berkshire raised on a mixture of acorns, milk & pasture as of this post. By now, localvores in Priuses should all be asking the question: how can I eat these cute little things? One, contact Opas Craft, I hear he’s smoking a big ass chunk of ham. Two, contact McCalls and request Lefty’s Berkshire. Three, check back on this space. Reride Ranch is a small operation, and there’s a definite difficulty in amortizing the cost of hog rearing. By supporting this rancher, and requesting his pork, we’re able to further Lefty’s cause of raising ranch fresh acorn fed Berkshires (and by God, maybe someday even Mangalitsas???) within the greater Los Angeles region, at a sustainable cost structure to us all.
Click on all pictures to enlarge:
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