Welcome to my work on the philosophy of household. I hope that the works of great philosophers—my study has focused on ancient thinkers—can provide helpful insights into the challenges of running or simply living in a household today. Here is an overview of the new and upcoming resources on this site:
Household 101: A Minicourse
This very brief course (a few pages) gives an overview of the basic structure and purpose of a household. This serves as a foundation for the other resources.
Articles on Household
Wednesday Household Quote and Reflection
Every Wednesday, I post a brief quotation on household life from a great thinker, followed by a short reflection. To receive the update in your email inbox, click the “Subscribe” button at the top right of the home page and fill in your email address. To receive this weekly update on Facebook, click here to like my “Bacon From Acorns” Facebook page.
Explanation of the Title
“As this animal feeds chiefly on mast…this food produces not only fat but a pleasant flavor in the flesh.” Marcus Varro (116-27 BC)
Anyone who has fattened, or ‘finished,’ pigs knows how much they eat. It’s not that they eat a disproportionate amount; rather their conversion ratio of food to meat is excellent. The simple fact is that they eat a lot, and most of what they eat is not grass or leafy forage. Having only one stomach, not four like cattle, sheep and goats, their ruminant cousins, pigs need the fat and protein provided by richer feeds. One way to finish them is with corn, and other grains. But this is both expensive, and not ideal from a stewardship perspective. Much energy is required to grow grains, and these grains could often be better used for other purposes.
But what the pig lacks by its not being a ruminant, it makes up for in its willingness to eat most anything. Its ability to convert kitchen and garden ‘waste’ into pork is proverbial. Here we see why the pig traditionally had a place in almost any household economy, by yielding meat with relatively no cost.
Oak trees are plentiful and fruitful in most eastern hardwood forests. Their fruit—acorns—are a traditional symbol of abundance. As soon as I read that pigs eat acorns, and that indeed the practice of fattening pigs on acorns is a time honored American and European tradition going back at least to Homer, I knew I had stumbled onto something good. Most summers the acorns in our woods are more plentiful than the squirrels, deer, and miscellaneous other mammals will ever consume. Many acorns end up simply returning, through decomposition, to the earth from which they came. This is where my pigs come in: they forage for these acorns, turning this naturally abundant feed into quality pork.
And quality it is. Many consider acorn fattened pork to have the best taste, and now scientific research is revealing its superior nutrition. It’s as though nature is saying: “This is the way it’s supposed to be.” Indeed, as in so many things, when we begin with what is given to us, when we have eyes to see a natural order, our own actions can be most fruitful. Xenophon seems to have this in mind when he writes, “For you’ll gain more produce by sowing and planting what the land readily grows and nurtures than by sowing and planting what you want.”
Thus the fabulous quality of bacon from acorn fattened pigs has for me pointed to a philosophy of household. It points to a wise and generous disposition in the given order of things: an order that we are to discover and follow.
This site is dedicated to mining the works of great thinkers for assistance in this project of discovery and stewardship. It is intended to be for all households: urban, suburban, or rural. While most ancient writers focused on the rural context, it is my hope and conviction that their reflections can be applied fruitfully to any household.