photos and article by Amy Yeatman Seekins
I am often asked by friends and family how I am able to raise animals for our freezer. My answer isn’t simple.
As many of you know, I love my animals…all of them… every breed… every species, even the big brats. They have a place in my heart and their personalities are unique. Many of you have been to my farm and have seen the work, care, love, sweat, and dedication I put in to ensure that they all have as natural of a life as possible.
Nothing about farming is easy. I’ve jumped through electric wire and dove through barbed wire to rescue chicks from the clutches of falcons on multiple occasions. I have put my finger in the hole of a bleeding neck wound to prevent a chick from bleeding out from the gaping injury from a falcon just to save one of at least 50 chicks hatched naturally in the woods. I make sure each birth of every animal goes without problems even if it means I’m out at midnight, in the middle of a rainstorm, on Thanksgiving night, in freezing temperatures or under blazing heat.
I evaluate and keep every animal under daily observation to ensure they are all healthy and well. If one of them looks “off,” I must act on it or risk loss, injury, or sickness. When they are not well, I’m known to bring them inside, carry them with me around for chores or bring them to work with me. I make sure each animal has exactly what they need in their diet. Even some of the same species of animals can’t have the same foods, just as we humans don’t all do well on the same food.
With my work, I’m certain that I have done my absolute best for each animal to have a happy life. I know they weren’t raised on metal floors, sprayed down daily over fumes of gasses from their own feces below. I know that they weren’t put in metal crates to give birth and raise their young for weeks living in a 2’x4′ enclosure being fed some sort of diet with medication to prevent them from becoming ill due to the thousands of other animals in the same building in close quarters. I know that the eggs in my kitchen came from the hens that are sprinting across the pastures chasing moths, flies, ticks and lush grasses. I know the chickens I put in the freezer were hatched and proudly displayed by their mamas who carefully teach their young to find food and call to them for warmth, shelter in the rain, or a big fat worm they found. They weren’t raised in a huge hoop building being engorged with fattening medicated feed only to be harvested and plumped before packaging. I know the beef in my freezer stopped at the gate for their daily scratches, ran to the fence for that extra handful of long grass, and followed me around while I walked the pasture checking fence line for just the off chance that they “might” get extra shoulder scratches. They will never see the inside of a triple decker semi, or never be pushed through a sale yard to be bid on.
I’m not discrediting cattle ranchers. They put just as much dedication into ensuring their herds are well taken care of. They spend countless of hours as well to feed the masses. There’s no other way around it except to choose to buy from the farmer directly. So, I raise my own, not only for beef but dairy as well.
I’m not some animal rights fanatic either. I’ve seen who they support and see their half-truth videos. I know several dairy farmers and beef farmers and know the quality and dedication they give with very little credit at all.
There are days I want to quit. There are days I want to lay out in the pastures and just cry, but I won’t because I know His will for me. I also work two jobs outside of what we do at home. I’m up at 4 a.m. to start the chores, go to work all day, come home to evening chores and normally make it inside by 8 p.m. I’m fortunate to have some help which is my saving grace most days. I tell you this not for sympathy or pity. I tell you this because there are countless farmers that have a story. I challenge you to save up and buy a side of beef or pork, buy eggs and pastured chicken locally, and grow a few things in your yard this year. While it may seem costly initially, the benefits your family will see from naturally raised foods will out-number the expense.
I know we can’t all raise our own food, but we can buy directly from farmers, ranchers, and producers you approve of. Take time to know the individual farmer. We can all help each other. I realize it would be unrealistic to go back 101 years before the first Piggly Wiggly opened, when the foods produced were higher both in quality and nutritional value than what’s mass produced now. I feel satisfied when friends and family take a bite of Naughty Nellie homemade sausage, cooked up with the rich tasting yellow scrambled eggs the girls gave me the day before or cut into a Rowdy steak, a crisp flavorful salad with mashed potatoes from the garden, adorned with cream and butter from my milk cow, Winnie. The expression on most folks faces rewards me. Food, with flavor! Yes, I name my food and when I cook it up, I take time to remember them, sometimes with a tear in my eye and thank them for blessing my family.
I am not trying to make anyone feel bad for buying meat from the store. It’s just my personal choice. It’s for the love of animals why I do what I do.
On top of what I do for my farm, I also offer help to others doing the same. I always make myself available for questions, opinions, problem solving, or just a helping hand. I do this just as others have done for me: friend helping friend, homestead helping homestead, farmer helping farmer. I could not be where I am now if it wasn’t for others who dedicated their time to me.
I am truly thankful for those of you who have supported us along the way and for those who have taken the time to educate me. God bless you all! I look forward to seeing what lies ahead for us and with His blessings, we’ll continue. Stepping off the soap box and kickin’ back on the porch for a while.
Much love to you all!
Huckleberry Press, PO Box 141, Davenport, WA. 99122