Three years ago, who would have guessed that today I'd be farming elk? I'm not really sure I even knew people farmed elk, to be honest. I'd hunted and eaten them out west. But raise them? Who does that?
In the two and a half years since I became an elk farmer, I have been completely converted. They are amazing creatures. Handsome. Curious. Flighty. Self sufficient. Photogenic. I'm not sure I could ever go back to regular old livestock!
Before I married my husband and embarked on a fifteen year journey of suburban living all across America as a military wife, I spent my formative years working cattle and horse ranches out west. The deal when we got married was that I'd follow him around until he retired, but when he did, I got to have a farm. But I expected to be raising cattle! Or maybe horses or pigs or something. You know... something normal. Something commonplace.
Never did I expect to be raising such unusual stock as elk and now yak. Previously when I was farming/ranching, the question of what I did for a living did not consistently blossom into a lengthy and involved conversation as it does now. People want to know. Elk? You raise elk? What are they like? How does that work? They are so curious and I have come to be so fond of raising these critters, that it is a pleasure to take the time to answer.
Watching Little Girl grow has absolutely been the highlight of my time on the farm so far. What an amazing privilege I have to be the steward of her life... to make sure that she can experience what it is to be an elk in a way that is fulfilling to her. Can I replicate the exact kind of life she would experience in the wild? Of course not. Although I might argue that her life with me here is in many ways better than what she would experience out there. In my care she will never know hunger. It is unlikely she will ever have to fend off predators trying to take her or her calf. And when her time is done, she will have a clean, quick end. Nature doesn't often provide that.
I didn't intend this post to end up about death, but when you raise animals for food, inevitably, that's where you end up. Raising meat animals is a huge responsibility and I take that responsibility very seriously. Fortunately, harvesting is a teeny, tiny part of being a farmer. Most of the time, I get to enjoy caring for these amazing animals and doing everything in my power to make sure that their lives are as fulfilling and comfortable as possible. And I may take a picture or two of them.
Or maybe five or a thousand. What an amazing job I have.