LAKE STEVENS — It was the week before Christmas, and all through the house, all the creatures were stirring.
Four cows, six dogs, seven turkeys, two sheep, a gaggle of goats, 30-something chickens, two peacocks, too many roosters.
OK, so not all are actually in the house. Only five of the dogs share the digs.
But all are on the 4½-acre property that serves as an animal sanctuary and a Santa letter hub.
In front is an illuminated 5-foot red mailbox marked “Letters to Santa.” Dozens of kids drop their wish lists into the box at 4105 147th Ave. NE at the edge of town.
Santa Schultz writes back.
It wasn’t what Lena and Brian Schultz intended when they moved here from a Marysville cul-de-sac three years ago to try country life.
She’s originally from Bothell and he’s from Tacoma.
“He wanted property and we loved the area,” she said. “We always fostered dogs.”
The house came with about 30 or so old hens.
“A chicken retirement home,” said Lena, 47. “People started asking us to take farm animals. A peacock moved in. She showed up one day. Wilhelmina. I guess she is really a peahen. Her owners came to get her and she made it clear this is where she wanted to stay.”
“The goats moved in almost right away,” said Brian, 52. “Then we got a deaf sheep named Jon that I saw online at a rescue out on the peninsula. We have deaf dogs. So this was fate.”
They also brought back Dave, a sheep raised at the rescue when his mom couldn’t take care of him. He became the title of a children’s book Lena wrote, “A Sheep Named Dave,” which will be available Jan. 10 on Amazon.
“He was just so friendly. He was like a big woolly friendly dog. He was just so cool,” she said.
This is a forever home for many of the animals.
“Nobody here is ever eaten,” she said.
The home’s purported past was intriguing.
“We were told the house was built around 1885 at a different location and moved here in the 1930s as a wedding gift,” she said. “We were told the main post office burned down and they used this as a temporary one.”
Upon moving in, Brian posted something on Facebook about how it used to be an old post office and had a direct line to the North Pole.
People said they wanted to drop off letters, so the couple put a little mailbox to Santa by the road.
The first year, in 2020, it drew about 30 letters.
They got a bigger box, one shaped like an official postal mailbox, but bright red not blue. No postage required.
“Last year we got 100 letters,” Lena said. “We don’t know the kids. They drop them in and Santa writes back.”
They are well over 100 this year, thanks to the magical powers of social media. The other day, 35 letters arrived.
Every child gets a personal response. “Each one is written specifically for the kid,” she said.
Even those that came too late by snail mail last year were answered.
“We had a sack of letters. We were driving all over town delivering letters,” she said.
This year, they set a deadline of Wednesday.
They write the letters by hand at night, with their five indoor dogs underfoot, after the farm chores are done. She works from home doing IT for AT&T. He is retired from the elevator trade.
The sanctuary is named Living Aloha Farm. The couple were married in Hawaii and at one point planned to move there. Now they have too many mouths to feed.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterbrown.
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