Newsletter February 2008

It’s the end of February. Today a glossy blackbird needed help finding its way out of the Centre dining room. Perhaps it was looking for somewhere cosy to nest. Melissa has just returned from a walk with Max, bearing a large parsnip given to her as a present by a neighbour! The violets are out – you have to go on hands and knees to get their delicate scent. Lou the lamb does mad dashes along the veranda, and her jumping twirls of (what certainly looks like) delight at being alive bring smiles to our faces The ducks are laying more eggs than we can eat. There are chicks on the way (but we are not counting them yet). It must be spring!

At the end of January, ex-resident and basket-maker, Norah came for her annual visit to harvest willow from the wild garden. We have lovely purple and golden stemmed varieties. Rosa and Ruby have woven some of it into a little living willow dome for children to play in, while the rest Norah will use on her basket making courses. (There’s one here in June!).

Every first Sunday of the month a little work party gathers in a snippet of ancient woodland, a short walk away. This month we were coppicing – cutting hazel, ash and willow trees down to almost ground level, where they will later re-sprout and grow long stems suitable for hurdle-making and fire-wood. The process opens up the woodland allowing sunlight to reach the undergrowth, which then encourages a great variety of woodland flowers to flourish. On a smaller scale, we’ve been doing similar work to our woodland fringe here on the farm.

We celebrated Shrove Tuesday with a pancake eating feast! A nice reward for the centre decorators, who were finding a lot more needed to be done than was initially thought – but isn’t that always the case? We hope you will notice the fresh paint and new curtains when visiting this spring!

There were daffodils on the table for Claire’s birthday in early February. Planted by Wwoofers at their September AGM, they are coming up in all sorts of surprising places. The poultry have found a way of posing with them, and looking picturesque.

The middle of February found us hosting a second Compost Ambassadors training day, run by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Swindon Borough Council. Dick Kitto (who died at a ripe old age a few years ago) – one of the founders of Lower Shaw Farm, and great compost guru of the 1970’s - would be delighted to know that the compost message is getting through to so many people – the day was fully booked for the second time! Derek, our own present day compost guru, worked hard on his heaps – see the photo!

We have had good help from three wwoofers (volunteers on organic farms), Felix from France and Halina and Richard from Germany. They have been good company, and helped with many tasks - from marmalade-making, to willow pruning, to painting, and helping on the Activity Day.

The half term Children’s Activity day was blessed with good weather – lunch outside in February? The children enjoyed tunnelling in the pile of wood chip, learning German, doing a garden bird-watch, making food for wild birds, making a living willow structure, sewing badges from recycled fabric, baking bread, juggling, and playing, playing, playing!

The February Working Weekend was fully booked with enthusiastic volunteers, clearing the front verge of brambles, and uncovering an ancient boundary wall, not seen for a good few years. And did you know we have a ha ha? Paul fixed a new front gate, which swings beautifully and is lamb-proof! We also thinned some overcrowded trees, sorted out the woodshed, cleared litter from all around our boundaries, cleaned windows, made paths, and sowed the first seeds of the year.

It was also the lantern-making weekend course, so Mary Maguire (of ‘Magic Lanterns’) was instructing a small group to make beautiful little lights from recycled aluminium cans, and how to use wire and paper to make a string of exotic jewel-like lanterns. A finished one adorns the beam in the centre. Some of us put on an (almost) instant performance of Tamlin, directed by Beth Shaw, at dusk, around the old Irish yew, and the new willow dome, illuminated by newly-made lanterns! - And both lantern makers and volunteers had energy left to sing around the campfire late into the night!

March and April will be busy spring months – lots to do in the garden, the Café reopening on Wednesdays, and the following events:

Working Weekend
14-16 March

Fertility Awareness Course for Women
Saturday 15 March

Easter Activities
(Fully booked)

Spring Activities
4-6 April

Creative Music
11-13th April (some reduced price places available – please ask)

Yoga & Massage
25-27 April (only a few places left)

Holiday Activity Days for 5 to 12 year olds
Wed 9th and Thur 10th April

Pizza Making in the Earth Oven
Friday 18th April

Come and see us soon!