It’s always good to get word from those of you who come to LSF or who take an interest in or support it in some way or other. We like that, especially the cards of greetings and gratitude that come in at this time of year. So nice and much appreciated.

Very nice too, in fact amazing, brilliant, and heart-warming, was our end-of-year Carols by Candlelight event. It took place on a decidedly damp evening on 8th December. Down the candlelit drive, through the pouring rain, the people came, old and young, many in slings or pushchairs. By 6pm, the Cowshed was completely full, of people, sparkling lights, and the sound of seasonal music.

First on was a brilliant Jess-created shadow play, about Giuseppe, the farm’s little Cochin cockerel. Next, Jake & Darine portrayed Santa’s little helpers at play, skilfully, mischievously, and acrobatically. Then, with encouragement from Music Alive, leadership from Linda, and backing from Casey, Fergie and the Mess Musicians, we sang carols. Did we sing! Thanks to a fabulous team of helpers, and the scores of people who came, we not only had a great evening but we also raised hundreds of pounds for homeless people in Swindon at Christmas.


We are, as they say, pleased to be able to report another great year of creative, productive, and life-enhancing activities and events at LSF. You may well have been among the many hundreds of people who came here in 2018, and brought such splendid energy, great ideas, and cool creativity, for which we are very thankful.

In terms of activities at LSF, key monthly ones are our wonderful Working Weekends, without which we could not function. They have been brilliant! We got so much done, in such good spirits. And slways, such a variety of lovely people; such willingness to do any jobs; and such fun and cool conversations at mealtimes and in the evenings. Some people even chat while ‘working’! Weekends are not the only time LSF is buzzing. Throughout 2018, the busiest day of the week has usually been the Wednesday Cafe. It’s the day we open up LSF to anyone who’d like to pop in. We offer a farm walk, soft drinks, home-made snacks and lunches, and lots of play-space and chatting time. It’s lovely, to see people connecting and children running free. A number of parents have emerged from these days to be key members of the thriving LSF Children’s Project.

LSF was also in use on most other days of the week. Numerous individuals and groups hired our facilities. These included many yoga teachers, who run classes in the Hayloft; neighbour Elena’s Breast-mates, providing a chance for mothers who breast-feed their babies to meet, greet, and help one another in a welcoming setting; regular and popular Monday Health Walks; a monthly Reading Group; and a Mum’s the Word’ Writing Group for multi-tasking mothers who also want to write.
For those of us who live and work here, our own weekend and week-long courses and events are both our busiest times and our highlights. Having organsied, shaped, and chosen to host them, we have a real vested interest in them, and love ‘em. We are always interested to see who comes, what the vibe is, and how they work out.
And in 2018, they worked out brilliantly! Too many to write about in detail, and we don’t want to leave any out, so if you weren’t a participant, you’ll just have to imagine what you missed and we enjoyed! -☺


On a chilly Monday early in January, a flatbed truck reversed down the drive. Its load was a 380-kilo steel plinth, for a planned cabin, designed by daughter Rosa’s betrothed Sam, in the top garden by the wiggly hazel tree. The flatbed lorry’s hydraulic loader hoisted the plinth over the stone wall and onto the front lawn. There it lay, heavy and unmoving.
‘We’ll shift it in a day or two’ said Sam. ‘Let’s do it now!’ said Matt. ‘It will take muscle.’ said Sam. ‘Let’s find some!’ said Matt.

So we did. Casey and Fergie were called from Caravan Alley; new-build neighbours Paul and a second Sam were lured from their own muddy building site with the promise of excitement and good gossip; wwoofer Hugo was ready and waiting, as was Sam himself and along with his silently-strong young helpmate Fergus; and Matt was swiftly on the case too with muscle, mouth, and tree-mashing machine.

Operating as a decidedly cheerful team, with plenty of serious banter, we hauled the plinth across the lawn; chainsaw massacred an obstructing hedge; and within a couple of hours, had the plinth in place, spirit-levelled, and ready to be built on.

Amazingly, 10 days later, thanks to many hours put in by builders-in-chief Sam & Fergus, with able help from Hugo & Margaux... the cabin was built! Throughout the process, there were daily visits from Andrea & Matt, watching with fascination as a wonderful wooden cabin took shape.
For the next few weeks, painters, including residents and wwoofers, painted as designer-instructed; Fergus returned to complete key areas of woodwork; and in spring, Sam himself installed key interior features, including folding bed, stove, and seating.
Since then, the Garden Cabin has been used many times, as a short- term residence by visiting couples and families, as a massage studio by more than one masseur, and Andrea and Matt’s occasional holiday home.
It’s beautiful. Book it, if you can!
Around the cabin, the garden has looked gorgeous throughout the year, thanks in significant part to the efforts of our now regular gardener Grace. It’s a real help to Andrea to have the expert assistance of someone with plenty of enthusiasm and energy in the garden.


An animal-loving friend who knows how nice we are to animals at LSF brought us a mallard duck that was making too much noise to carry on living in a housing estate. She definitely quacked a lot but. Though clearly a wild duck, as in not a domestic one, she settled in well at LSF, happily tagging along with our flock of indigenous mixed breed quackers. In her movements, she was so free, full of grace and beauty, unlike our common or garden flock, which, though lovely, seemed a bit like waddling plodders whenever Miss Mallard was with them. We grew to love her, almost a bit too much. ‘She was a rare thing/Fine as a beeswing/So fine a breath of wind might blow her away... She was a lost duck-child/She was running wild. She said/As long as there's no price on love, I'll stay/And you wouldn't want me any other way.’ (Sorry Richard Thompson)
But, one day, as winter turned to spring and the sun shone, she was gone. The call of the wild had its way...

Talking of wild, one night in mid-February a decidedly wild, vicious, and predatory beast - mink we think - found its way into the hen house and killed three of our best laying hens.
Early in March, another beast descended upon us, hyperbolically named the Beast from the East. For two days, we were snowbound. In fact, the whole village was. Thankfully, we still had enough laying hens and ducks to be able to offer eggs to stranded villagers. We took a wheelbarrow load up and down Old Shaw Lane, finding grateful egg-takers all the way.
Later in the year, February’s predatory beast returned and killed eight out of nine chicks and badly-injured their mother as she fought to save them. A solitary chick was left, effectively orphaned because mother hen was too sick to care for it.
Our only named member of the poultry flock, Giuseppe, the little white Cochin cockerel, spotted the mother-less chick and, without so much as a cock-a-doodle-doo, took it under his wing, literally. During the day, he would call it to the best bits of food and at night, let it cosy up under his wing, just as it used to under its mother’s. Quite remarkable. Unprecedented in almost half a century of poultry keeping at LSF, to see a cockerel care for a chick and take it under his wing. They became inseparable. The chick thrived and Giuseppe looked pretty contented too.

In mid October, our three rabbits felt the full and fatal force of nature raw in tooth and claw, at the teeth of yet another predatory beast, which had broken through the ageing wire on one side of their pen. It had killed two, eating the insides out of one, and took the third back to its lair. On the broken wire, we found fur, on a stone beside it, a stinky poo, and all around, the smell of fox.

Another example of the natural world having its way occurred, on a wet Wednesday in November. After two years as top cock, cock of the roost no less, and with all the ‘natural’ entitlements that go with said status – best food, best mating rights, and perpetual anxiety - our handsome, long-spurred Big White cockerel (Light Sussex cross) was challenged to a duel, a cock fight, by Big Brown, Cock Number 2. The fight took place unseen by any of us, who were working indoors, out of the inclement weather. But the result of the fight was all too clear to see. Cock 1, bloodied, bowed, and cowering in a corner of the hen house, had been severely beaten by Cock 2, now standing proud among the hens, crowing to his heart’s content. This outcome left us with a breeding and dining quandary: which to keep and which to eat. This life or death problem was solved a couple of days later when defeated Cock 1 died. As poultry keepers, we are at the both the productive and grim end of thousands of years of breeding and domestication of wild jungle fowl. The four-legged livestock, aging sheep and pigs, have had no life-changing run ins with predators and are thriving.


It’s been quite a year for people linked to LSF.
As well as a succession of wonderful wwoofers – you know who you are -☺- all rounder Jess, from nearby, and friendly photographer Fernando, from Argentina via Barcelona, have both been invaluable long-term helpers and residents respectively.
It’s a real joy and sort of bonus for us, to have such a variety of good help, fine friendships, and an ever-interesting international vibe at LSF. Makes for great chat at mealtimes!
A good few of which are cooked by long-term resident Claire, when she is not helping elsewhere around the farm or cycling off to her sports therapy clinic.

In September, in a fabulous farm cottage in north Devon, surrounded by the best of friends, key resident Andrea turned 60! There followed a week of celebration, marvellous meals, groovy games, loads of good chat, and mostly wonderful walks, apart from one that was very wet.
Four months earlier, Andrea would not have been walking anywhere very much, let alone along a tricky coastal path. Her knees were not good. So, in April, she went into hospital for serious partial knee-replacement surgery, on both knees. On the day of the op, after it, in the evening, she said, cheerfully, ‘Look! I can bend my new knee!’ But the next day, she said nothing of the sort. In fact, she said nothing at all. She was too weak to speak. She was wiped out. Recovery was going to be tough.
But Andrea is nothing if not tough. Within days, she started walking again, if stiffly and with the temporary aid of a frame. Next came the crutches, and within days she was back home, and making a batch of sourdough bread. Amazing! Next, she was crutching her way up and down the stairs because, she said, her physio’s advice was, ‘Movement is key to recovery!’

Someone who does plenty of moving is home-bred Jake, if only because of his chosen profession and passion: juggling, high-lining, and circus skills. He spent the first three months of the year with girlfriend Darine and Performers without Borders working with disadvantaged children in Nicaragua. After weeks of work in urban areas, they treated themselves to some jungle japes and weekends by waterfalls but ended their trip with a ‘nightmare’ journey back home, via Chicago and Iceland, but got back just in time to put on a spectacular performance at dawn at the start of the Swindon Festival of Literature.

Meanwhile, in another world entirely, home-bred Anna started 2018 in Iraq and will finish it in Afghanistan, where she has spent most of her time this year – supporting people displaced by conflict and drought. She has witnessed the very depths of human suffering, while enduring extremes of temperature in remote field offices, food thieves in communal kitchens, precarious security situations, and (in another world again) reports of boyfriend Nil coughing blood at 7,000 metres in the Himalayas. But alongside the emotional and intellectual challenges, she finds great friendships in her colleagues and a real sense of purpose in the work, making her time in danger- zones worthwhile.

Working in decidedly danger-free zones in and around Swindon, but nonetheless sometimes tricky ones, Matt often seems to be defined by his work, his running, or his playing, and the immeasurable outcomes of all three. The Festival of Literature appears to be so loved by thousands of festival followers that, after 25 years, he has decided to change it, to a festival of the arts, hardly a dangerous move but certainly a risky one. If it works, and people love it as it is, why change it? Well, it’s to do with innovation and adventure, but there’s no space to answer more fully here. We can have a chat about it, when you are next here, at ‘the dangerous end of the table’...

Talking of change and new beginnings, what we have certainly seen this year is home-bred Rosa embarking on a momentous new adventure: marriage, pregnancy, and motherhood! Yes, after what we cannot help calling the wedding of the year, or at least our wedding of the year, this.
On Sunday morning, 9.9.’18, coincidentally National Grandparents Day, as one of us was marathon cooking in the kitchen and the other marathon running in Swindon, a baby boy was born in Cornwall, and daughter Rosa became a mother, her husband Sam a father, both of them parents, Andrea and Matt grand ones, and Jake and Anna entered some new category too. Joy was unconfined! And love and gratitude too. He was 7lbs 8oz, got named Otto Sonny Redwood Bloom, and looks terrific, dare we say, beautiful?!

And, within a few weeks, in what proved to be delightful synchrony, a succession of LSF-linked new mothers had their babies. They were Meg (sister of Holly and daughter of Heather and Neil); Alice (daughter of Lucy and Eddie); and Emma (partner to Kit, who is son of Linda and Martin). Great joy!


On a wet Wednesday in November, a white-coated bespectacled Health & Hygiene inspector turned up at LSF, unannounced of course, and ‘marched’ into the kitchen, where Andrea and two French wwoofers were making lunch for the Wednesday Cafe.
She looked at things, closely, and made notes! Then she went to the Centre and did the same there, commenting on the incongruity of a beautiful spider’s web hanging from the ceiling.
Then she came back to the kitchen and filled in her forms.
Next, she talked Andrea through them. And then and then said, ‘You are 5 stars!’... and left, as swiftly and silently as she had arrived.
We whooped with hygienic glee!

A few days later, on a windy morning, Matt went to the shop for milk and papers. There he saw red and brown maple leaves, fallen from a single tree in the village square, ‘dancing’! Yes, the leaves were dancing, swirling this way and that in the wind.
He stood, transfixed, having an unexpected but real moment of awe and wonder, watching those leaves dance.
Suddenly, round the corner, came three helmeted men in hi-vis jackets. They carried noisy machines with which they went for the leaves. Two blasted them into piles from where the other sucked them up. It was as if they were fighting a dangerous enemy.
Soon, the leaves were gone, every single one. The dance was over. And the men and machines went off too, doubtless in search of other dangerous dancing leaves.
Matt went home, perplexed, bothered, and bewildered and told everyone at breakfast what he’d just seen.

If you want to see, hear, and know more of what happens down on this farm, you know what to do. The welcome sign is up and the booking forms are online. Till we meet again, keep warm, keep well, keep in touch, and try to be patient with our government.

Happy New Year, to you, them, and us all!