By Ashlee Gilbert, Reporter
February is the shortest month of the year, although it always feels like the longest. It’s usually the month we experience the coldest harshest point of winter. The water troughs keep freezing over, the gate latches and coop doors get iced shut and the frigid wind burns my skin. Every single thing that can break, will break, at the most uncomfortable and inconvenient time possible. Spring feels so close, yet so far away. With its silent beauty, mother nature is here to remind us that she isn’t quite done yet, leaving frosted windows and crunchy ground beneath us as reminders.
Here on Littlefoot Farm we’ve had an eventful month. Our first chicks of the year have already begun to feather out, but not without their own trials. The coldest night of the year came and the heat light keeping them alive shattered, leaving glass scattered throughout the brooder. My husband hurried home with a replacement while I picked glass from their bedding and rushed to get them all onto a heating pad. I replaced the bulb and hoped for the best. I then decided to do a head count, just in case, and I discovered I was short one chick. The escapee had ran around the building, leaving a trail of little poops for me to follow. She managed to pick up a mouse trap on the tip of her wing feathers (luckily not her legs), then decided to hide behind a shelf and got the trap wedged between the wall. With a little luck on our side, they all survived and are doing well. We also finished fencing one of our pastures and hung gates in preparation for springs new additions. One of those additions is a bull that was just born on a neighboring farm (You’ll be reading about them next month), he’s a Dexter-Jersey cross. For those of you who haven’t seen a dexter calf, they are born very small and are absolutely precious.
The last few days have been bitter and dark, but they haven’t been without their own blessings. In the mornings while doing my chores, I’ve heard cheeseburger birds. One of the neighbors had a robin in their yard and my fruit trees in the orchard are beginning to bud. Things are beginning to come alive again, the sun is lingering longer with every passing day. The cold is finally making way, allowing for new life to sprout and grow.
Over at Mt Loft Hay the spring brings a long list of things to do. While the ground slowly thaws they start preparing for plowing and planting, eventually mowing, raking, and bailing hay. They are spending their days tending to their fields and their critters, most of which are for their own personal use. They also have a logging business and offer sawmill services. With all of this, you can imagine they are busy people, but I haven’t even mentioned their most exciting venture.
Tecla and her family raise draft horses, specifically focusing on The American Brabant. While they have been in the horse business for 17 years, they just recently switched to their larger counterpart within the last 4 years. Their farm is now home to 10 beautiful giants, ranging from youngsters in training to retired and relaxing. These horses are bred for work, they pull wagons to feed all of the other animals on the farm as well as for sleigh rides and charity events.
The American Brabant is a shorter draft, with sturdy thick bones. They are generally a very calm horse with willing personalities. This makes for a perfect worker and addition to any farm wanting to preserve an older way of life. They can till, disc, log, and pull wagons or carts. Teclas first came from way up north in Canada, a pregnant mare. She gave birth to an absolutely stunning stud colt, who is now the center of their breeding program.
For the last three years they have held a sledding day, each year growing larger with more people showing up. They have a fire burning to keep the chill away or to cook hotdogs and smores. Anyone can show up, sled down the hill, and get pulled back up to the top on a horse drawn wagon. This is a free event and they welcome anyone to come and enjoy their winter wonderland. On top of the events at their house, they have also taken a team of horses and a wagon to a local charity event called Santas house. It’s a 3 day event just before Christmas where the community is invited to bring their children to meet Santa, choose a present and get a wagon ride. If all goes well, this spring they will host their first annual spring plowing event. If restrictions allow, it will be held in March or April.
Mt Loft Hay holds these events for free every year, with more to come, just to give the community an opportunity to connect with their beautiful horses. Showing off what these horses can accomplish is enough of a reward, although Tecla did say that at every event, she could feel the appreciation from those attending. That just leaves her wanting to figure out more ways to include us all in what they are doing.
I think that’s something that most family farms have in common, the willingness to encourage and share with others. I have yet to find a farmer who wasn’t willing to teach me something new or share their way of doing things. The same way that Tecla invites Stevens county to her home, the same way she strives to share her life with others. I arrived at her home feeling welcomed and left a little more knowledgeable. I would recommend her without a doubt to anyone who needs some guidance with draft horses, or just someone like me who enjoys getting to see those magnificent animals working.
Mt Loft Hay and Livestock
Mark and Tecla Speed
5429 Hwy 231
Ford WA 99013