On Father’s Day 2012, Danny Dineen came home to a 250-pound dead pig in his bedroom.
Cause of death?
His brother’s German shepherd had chased the pig into his room and scared it so badly that it had a heart attack.
“That night I had to string it up and butcher it,” Dineen said. “That was my first real farming experience.”
A former middle-school English teacher at Country Day, Dineen now lives on a 15-acre farm outside Lincoln.
After working at the school for three years, Dineen left teaching.
“Being a teacher is the hardest job in the world,” he said. “It was just so much work, and I wanted to have a kid and pursue my other dreams.
“It all started when I was 25—I had a garden and I ate my first tomato that I grew myself.
“It was the craziest feeling—being connected to the natural world.”
A year ago, the Lincoln house was in disrepair. Dineen said squatters had occupied it and used it as a crack den.
Dineen—who lives on the farm with his wife Eve, son Ennio and brother-in-law Nick—said they have spent the past year upgrading. Now, he feels it’s pretty “cozy.”
The house runs solely on solar power and propane. Water is pumped to the home from a well on the property.
“Having to deal with everything is a lot—from checking your batteries, to making sure you have enough propane, to pumping your septic system,” he said.
In the 14 months the Dineens have lived there, they’ve cultivated a garden with tomatoes, kale and other winter greens and a small orchard with olive and apple trees.
All these plants are fertilized by a compost pile that contains their own food scraps along with the Knee Deep Brewing Company’s leftover hops and barley.
Senior Jeffrey Caves, who was in the last seventh-grade class that Dineen taught, said that he wasn’t surprised at Dineen’s change in lifestyle.
“When he taught us, he was extremely interested in food and how to make it,” Caves said.
“He was always experimenting with making his own cheese and craft beer.”
And Dineen is indeed brewing his own beer on the farm, using hops that he grows in his garden.
Currently the Dineens have four pigs on the farm.
Of the four, two are female Guinea Hogs named Martha Plumpton and Porker Posey. Both are eight months old. When they turn 1 year old, one will have piglets and the other will be slaughtered for meat.
The other two are the eight-week-old Mangalitsa piglets. Hailing from Hungary, the Mangalitsa is a rare wooly breed of pig renowned for its rich fatty meat.
Porcini, another Mangalitsa pig, was also raised on the Dineens’ farm.
One day the 200-pound Porcini was attacked by the same dog, and was later slaughtered at a young age because of his injuries. This yielded 100 pounds of meat for the Dineens.
After being stored for eight months in the freezer, he made a reappearance in the form of a pork chop on my dinner plate the night I visited.
“We try to eat head to tail like the Native Americans and the buffalo,” Dineen said. “I ate the kidneys and liver, and we have the head in the freezer.”
But Dineen has a bigger appetite to whet.
“In five years, I would love all of our meat needs to be met through a herd or two of 16 pigs,” he said.
And if he can cut back on his day job as a child behavior analyst, he’d also like a couple cows, goats, chickens and five or six ducks.
“I just want it all, and I have a hard time saying no,” Dineen said.
“It’s still just a hobby, and I still have a day job. If the zombies attacked tomorrow it would be really hard to be self-sufficient.”
The Dineens also have a henhouse full of chickens and a few ducks that stroll around the farm.
But one bird stands out from the rest: the guineafowl.
Straight from North Africa, guineafowl are famous for killing rattlesnakes and ticks, both of which were in abundance when the Dineens arrived.
“When we first moved in, we all got ticks,” Dineen said. “After having these birds for seven months, no rattlesnakes and no ticks.”
While Dineen is working at the office or the farm, his son attends Morning Star Montessori.
Dineen sees the school, which is only 18 minutes away from their farm, as an unexpected plus.
“Its an amazing school. I didn’t think that there would be a school like this in a rural area.”
And living on a farm has changed his perception of the rural lifestyle.
“People that come out into the middle of nowhere are usually extremist,” he said.
“There are some super-left hippy people who want to live their life without anybody else telling them what to do. Then there are some super-right people with their arsenals,” Dineen said.
“But there are just the best people out here, too, because everybody has to look out for each other—all the police are 30-40 minutes away.”
Despite the lack of patrol cars and law enforcers, Dineen feels living on a farm is not all about roughing it.
“It’s not like living in a log cabin,” he said. “I still have really great Internet. Amazon Prime ships things here in practically a day.”
Dineen also has plans to build houses for his parents and parents-in-law on the property, turning it into truly a “family” operation.
“I think it’s a partnership—they took care of us and we should take care of them. And this land is going to be there for Ennio one day.”