With all things being equal

The day and the night that is. Happy Equinox hippies. 🙂 We are on the lighter side of it now and heading fast into Summer. 😀

True to form we spent the weekend in the garden, trying to get done all we need to do. Our fences are finished and had a test run with 5 kids under 7 on Saturday afternoon when my nephews came to visit us. Jasper, clever little fellow, showed us where the greatest weaknesses in our perimeters are within 5 minutes. The gates. They are easy to climb and we then had the chance to recite the poem “swinging on a gate, swinging on a gate. 7 little sisters and a brother makes eight” although ours was more like 4 boy cousins and Allegra makes 5 but oh well. 😉 We can easily put some chicken wire over the gates to stop the climbing but with them opening it we need to think about what steps we take.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see. A LOT of mess!

And lowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn't follow through on their threats.

A large woodpile to be moved and glowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn’t follow through on their threats.

The fences have also opened a lot more of the garden up to us which the kids have been exploring and loving. 🙂 We have some cleaning up to do there with a huge expanse of roofing tiles that need to be cleared (some will be broken up and used to create a base for the 3000L water tank we’re putting up to catch shed run off) but they’re pretty brittle sadly and not much use other than to add to cement to stabilise it or as a rock base underneath something else as the edges are too sharp to leave exposed. Another shameful waste. 😦 If anyone can think of any other uses…

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Saturday also saw me out in the front garden digging up the area where I plan to plant my asparagus. There is old lino underneath small white stones and copious weeds that need to come up. I’ve discovered though that despite some widely variable weed-mats (plastic, lino, carpet underlay etc) and other interesting gardening choices we have one thing really going for us. The garden has worms. Yeah, I was going to write that we had worms but figured a little bit of class wouldn’t go astray this once. 😉 The pebbles above the thick clay and lino layers are absolutely seething with worms. I feel like a murderer every time I dig as I can’t but help hurt some of them. So, I tried paying Jasper to collect them and move them to the hugelkultur and blueberry beds but even at 10c a worm he piked out after 40 worms.

So when I found out that my 6-year-old nephew is learning the value of money and saving up and was keen to earn his money I offered him the same deal. He collected just over 100 worms in a space probably 1×2 metres! :O We capped his earnings at $10 (as I was fast running out of money) which he was stoked with and he had a blast diving on worms like a hungry chicken whilst his dad (my brother) sat and watched (he’d hurt his back again sadly) and I dug. It was a really lovely time to be honest.

We talked gardening and worms although he prefers his worms hanging on a hook suspended in the water. I sent them home with various seeds and instructions on how to best plant them too as they are burgeoning gardeners, more for the curiosity than the intent of truly growing things I think, but I am stoked. 😀 I hope the green thumb bug sticks and Jayke continues to grow and then eat all the wonderful foods he grows. I hope for his sake the Summer is kind with warmth and rain in perfect balance (but this is Australia in a time of climate change so I’m not holding my breath) to give his garden the best possible start. I’ve also offered to buy some worm wee and castings from him when his brand new worm farm gets up and running. I spoke to my sister-in-law this morning too and after a few more jobs and a bit more pocket money Jayke had enough to buy what he had been saving for. 😀

He earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Jasper earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Sunday morning saw me finishing off the last few metres of chicken wiring under the edge of the shed to prevent escaping chooks and then for the first time in months the funny buggers were let out to free-range. They’ve been kept in to prevent garden damage as they have been marching straight under the house and out the front and have even headed towards the neighbours which, considering he trains greyhounds for racing is not in the best interest of the birds. They are now, with the fences in place and barrier wiring finished, safe and welcome in the garden. 🙂 We need to build another small free-range access door for them so they don’t need to traipse into Anna’s run and then out to the garden, and so they can wander in and out as they please (to lay and such) too but on the whole it was lovely to see them out in the garden eating bugs and grass. 😀 And destroying my gardens of course. 😦

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

We also spent some time moving wood from out the front around to the wood lean-to, finishing off setting the trampoline up and moving it back to open up the garden a bit more and just general clean up. I have 1/2 of the asparagus bed area cleared and am now thinking I will build 2 beds instead of 1 but we shall see. I hope to finish digging up the rest of the stones and weeds today but if there is no lino or other weed-mat I shall just pull weeds and build on top. MUCH easier. 🙂 I also simply MUST plant out my seeds today or I will have no tomato plants to plant out come November. So much to do and still so little time. At least I have a garden safe for the kids to run and play in. 🙂

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year and hopefully pull out some of the sticky weed.

We also spent some great time with the kids. They were stripped down for Vitamin D again for most of the day and in the later afternoon on Sunday we had 3 nudies running around the garden having a blast. We also built a pirate ship with them using a few fence palings, a bike tyre, 2 chairs and 2 kids camp chairs. They weighed anchor, had a flag pole and even caught a whale. What fun and what imaginations. 🙂

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Last night saw me fall into serious unconsciousness around 10pm. Exhaustion and bed are a great combination and I love the feeling of being so tired that I’m melting into the sheets. Sheer bliss! 😀

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

What did you get up to on your weekend? Did you get stuck into Spring planting or Fall/Autumn clean up perhaps or just enjoy the sunshine perhaps?

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Saturday in the sunshine

The weather has been rather pleasant these last 3 or so days of Winter. I had to keep reminding myself that today was indeed still Winter. It felt more like we should have been in Continue reading

Wild harvest

What better way to add to your pantry than to harvest something for free. But what about wild harvesting? Ok, I know the concept and I love it. It’s about harvesting from nature, not from other homesteaders, property owners or farmers but direct from Mother Nature, planted by her where she wills and grown by her hand entirely. That’s where, in my book, it gets a little scary.

When you’re harvesting from nature you need to KNOW what you’ re harvesting, not just pretty sure but because you haven’t planted the seeds yourself there is no manual or seed packet to remind you. Many plants are poisonous as are many mushrooms, some lethally  so and taste is no indicator so seriously, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE HARVESTING!

In this instance I knew what I was harvesting. Several sources have confirmed it and even a cursory glance at google backed me up. I KNEW what I was doing in this instance but trust me, that will not make me confident. Even knowing and being sure and convinced and all the rest I was still nervous… Just in case. I had to make sure I’d done the necessary worrying before things went wrong just in case they do. 😉 Yeah yeah, I’m a worry wart. 😛

I’ve taken these photos from Dr Google as I picked and cooked all of mine before realising I should maybe take some photos. Not the brightest spark in the fire, am I?

Pretty flowers, sadly no scent. When we cleaned up access to the creek we hacked off many of the lower branches and hence, most of the flowers and hence, most of the berries. Lesson learned. What the goats don’t eat, we will next year.

So this time we harvested our Hawthorns. Hawthorns are really beautiful trees. They have lovely green foliage, frothy white bunches of small flowers in Spring and in late Summer and early Autumn they are covered in bright red berries hanging in little clusters, not unlike a Barbie doll sized apple but in clusters like cherries. They are however, one of the most vicious trees I know. For those that are of Christian belief, this is the bush widely held to be the supplier of the branches woven into the crown of thorns. Some of the thorns are inches long! And the rotten things sting like billy-o if you’re unlucky enough to impale yourself on one. And if you’re seriously unlucky the tip will break off inside whatever unfortunate piece of flesh you stabbed yourself in. And if you are the unluckiest of the unlucky, you will react to whatever toxin is inside or on those thorns, causing the pain to increase 10 fold. When I stabbed myself I resorted to vicious methods to extract the 1mm long thorn tip embedded deeply in my hand as there was nothing short of amputation that could have possibly hurt more. Thankfully today we are victorious with zero casualties. Yay!

You really do NOT want to find out about one of these the hard way. Trust me!

So, whilst Orik slept, Jasper, Allegra and I, armed with out 15L stock pot (overkill in hindsight) headed out to the other side of the fence, keeping a wary eye out for any unwanted legless visitors (we saw none thankfully) and picked any of those lovely red berries we could find. Once we’d stripped every berry within arms reach and a few more besides we headed inside to remove leaves and stems. We ended up with 640g of berries. We’re following this recipe. I washed my haws as the berries are rightly known, threw them in Hermy the Thermy and gave them 60 mins/100*C/sp slow reverse. I did forget the mashing step but they kind of mashed up pretty well anyway. Martin picked up 1/2kg of white sugar on the way home last night. Normally this is something we never have. Sugar is refined, bleached and totally devoid of anything remotely resembling nutrition and it’s highly addictive but sadly, rapadura doesn’t really cut it for jam making. It’s different in many ways so on the odd occasion I can deal with a little sugar. I tipped my haws into the jelly bag to drain, gathering the liquid in a bowl underneath.

The liquid, around 640g (it works out similar in ml but the Thermy works only in grams) so in went all the sugar – 500g and on to 100/60 mins/sp 2. I checked for gelling. Nope, but close. 15 more minutes and I thought I had it. Into their sterilised jars, clear cellophane covers on and labels on the jars. I’ve checked them this morning now that they’re cool and a little later it will be off with the cellophane and back into Hermy the Thermy for about 30 minutes. No gel, just thick viscous sweet and delicious syrup. Bugger. 😦

Well, you live and learn and I’ve always been a little premature on the gel front. Except for the lemon marmalade I made whilst on the phone to Ing a few years back. That stuff was nearly teeth breaking! I have it on good authority that it was delicious though but I cannot attest to that being truth. Who in their right mind eats lemon peel in any way shape or form. Any peel for that matter. Bleuch!

Well, when they’re done I’ll share a photo of my 3 finished jars. 🙂

I would like to get into wild harvesting a lot more but I know I need to learn a lot more before I do. I would simply adore to be able to safely and confidently go mushrooming but I might stick to buying used mushroom compost for now or a grow your own kit. There’s too much at stake to play around with mushrooms. Or any wild harvest when you don’t have the knowledge to be honest. Still, it’s exciting to know that there is food just waiting to be discovered and picked. 🙂

A rough few weeks

It’s been a rough few weeks here really. Not all bad and not all negative but still and all, I’m looking forward to February very much as it means January will be over.

We added some more chickens to our flock last Friday, 5 more Dorkings (that’s the last of them) and 2 Chinese Silkies who will be our incubators next year. These 2 are also pets for the children. What funny sweet little things they are too. Sadly this morning when I went to check on the flock I was unable to find Mrs Silverpants, the children’s favourite silky. I eventually found her, drowned in the ducks swimming water. I have an awful feeling I heard her fall in last night too as I heard a squawk last night but figured it was the usual of a chook pecking another and thought nothing of it. The guilt this morning… And yes, I know. But I still feel awful. 😦 Blackie, our other little silkie is doing well without her companion fortunately, although I am on the hunt this morning for a replacement Mrs Silverpants. We also lost 2 of our Dorking chicks to Coccidiosis, a common enough illness that young chicks are susceptible to. That’s how John the chicken died. So yet again poor Jasper is trying to get his head around death. I am profoundly glad we kept the death of the 2 other chicks from him. 2 chicks dying has been enough to thoroughly upset him.

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Mrs Silverpants (dec) and Blackie, our 10 week old Silkies

Martin has been working hard to clean up the last bits of the old house and get it ready to rent out. The Real Estate agents are coming out tomorrow to take photos and get it listed which is very exciting. John our builder and Martin have both done an amazing job and I am once again reminded of what an amazing husband I have. I am looking forward to having that house rented out and no longer being a drain on our time. We need to spend that time here. BOY do we need to spend the time here.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs/toads found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds. I need to research my amphibians I think. 🙂

We’ve also come face to face with the information that there are venomous snakes within 50 metres of our house, a though that is sending chills through every inch of my body. Our neighbours have had to deal with the snake bites in their livestock and although we don’t know which species it is we do know that its bite is fatal to a half-grown bull calf and is likely to be a Tiger snake or a Brown snake or possibly a Copperhead too as I believe all of these are indigenous to the area. I tried my hardest to mow the vegetable garden grass yesterday but the mower hasn’t been working and conked out on me again yesterday after I got maybe 20% mowed. I’ll have another go today as tomorrow is going to be hot and that grass is LONG!

I had a bandicoot in my potato beds the other day and came away empty-handed. 😦 There may be spuds down further than I dug (I dug in about 9 inches) but it looks like the 1 thing I thought we would definitely harvest has not done what it was expected to do. The mulch layers haven’t rotted down like expected which is disappointing although I think I know where I’ve gone wrong. Once we do harvest anything that may be in there I’ll treat the 3 spud beds like compost bins and fill them up with the necessary before planting them with broad beans or the like. Hopefully by springtime I will have some compost that I can spread over the other garden beds.

I do have some good news to report though. I contacted my uncle on Saturday as we had recently purchased some used corrugated iron from him and we knew he had more. I gave him a call and teed up to purchase the rest and for once lady luck was on our side as he was driving from Bendigo to Warrnambool for work on Monday and offered to deliver it for us! We now have 30 or so sheets of corrugated iron, some ridge capping and a large metal tool box that he threw in thinking we could use it too. 😀 And at a bargain price including delivery as well! So, Monday morning saw me in the garden with a hand saw, tin snips, an impact driver, some roofing bolts/screws, some iron and the old red gum garden posts from the old home. With Orik in bed asleep the kids and I set to and built a raised garden bed to go int he greenhouse. We then loaded the trailer up with compost and filled the bed (again my wonderful husband helped here, shoveling most of a cubic metre in for us) before planting my mandarin tree (a gift from a friend who attended the home birth of Orik), the banana tree I bought from Diggers Club at St Erth the other day and a Lisbon lemon I bought last year from CERES which was pot-bound and on its last legs. Tuesday morning after we’d topped up the bed with some more soil we relocated some of the plants in the veggie garden which weren’t yet flowering and so won’t make harvest, into the greenhouse. We replanted several Siberian tomato plants and 8 or so capsicums and then filled in the gaps with seeds. We then planted radishes, carrots, purple beans, leeks, chives, rocket and coriander so hopefully in a month the greenhouse with be a verdant paradise of fresh smelling garden and burgeoning harvest. It was exciting and calming and very healing to get my fingers into the soil again. I most definitely need to do some more today. In fact the plan is to build another bed today once I finally wake up enough and locate my motivation (MUST get to bed before midnight).

Sawing red gum posts

Sawing red gum posts by hand. I used tin snips to cut the iron but no photos. Martin dislikes me using the more dangerous power-tools whilst I’m home alone.

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse

Built garden bed installed in the greenhouse

 

Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. :D

Greenhouse garden planted out. Left to right are the mandarin, banana and lemon. Behind them the transplanted tomatoes, down the right are beans then capsicums. In front of the capsicums a row of radishes and a row of carrots in the middle, rocket up the back of the capsicums, then spinach planted to the left of the capsicums, then leeks in the sectioned off part, coriander behind the leeks and chives to the left. STILL more space for more seeds. 😀

We also had a lovely visit from my parents on Sunday where we had a lovely and mostly local lunch in the garden. We had lamb riblets (the last of the non-organic lamb I had in the freezer) cooked in organic garlic, homegrown rosemary and home bottled tomatoes, served with fresh organic sourdough and salad. The salad was all organic or farmers market purchased (I’m not sure on the organic status of this stall) and it was all fresh and delicious. Dessert was sourdough cinnamon scrolls although calling them scrolls is more about their intended shape than the end result. Flopped scrolls still taste scrummy though. 🙂

Maxxie surveying his domain from on high.

Maxxie surveying our domain from on high.

Well, time to finish off the hot chocolate and get some shoes on and out in the garden or the day will be half gone. Not to mention the kids are driving me crazy to get out in the garden.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the bulbs to permanent beds.

One of 2 frogs found when we were relocating the Erlicheer bulbs to permanent beds.

Fire and a long week with the kids

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Oh so sweet pineapple chunks in juice and then pineapple juice beside it (the lighting makes it look white but it’s just the solids in the juice settling slowly slowly)

It’s been a long week. In fact it’s been a very long week and not one I would be keen to repeat any time soon. In fact pretty much the only highlights have been the delivery from a friend of some pineapples which I bottled and another blog post from 23thorns that had me chortling away like crazy as I tried to read it out loud to my husband. If you don’t already follow his blog I highly recommend it. Not only educational but extremely well written, witty and as funny as hell!

Last weeks white nectarines and apricots. Golden goodness that the kids have enjoyed on their porridge and with custard.

Last weeks white nectarines and apricots. Golden goodness that the kids have enjoyed on their porridge and with custard.

Anyway, my week has been full of misbehaving and children who obviously need their ears cleaned out or switched on( either way), mishaps, things not going to plan and mercurial weather.

Today has been a hot one. The temperatures this week have ranged from 6 degree lows through to high 30’s which makes it challenging to do simple things like put the kids to bed (summer pajamas or winter ones) and it plays with the mind when it’s freezing cold and you want to light the fire but it’s going to be mid 20’s the next day (we DID light it which just seems so very wrong in mid January). But today is also a day of total fire ban across the state where the fire risks are severe for most and extreme for the Wimmera and North Central which is pretty normal for January here. What is more concerning is the weather itself. Hot weather alone does not a high fire danger day make. But the wind today has been pretty awful, gusting back and forwards, blowing often from the north(ish), and it’s strong! The roof of the kids cubby which hadn’t yet been fastened down, has been blown off which is no mean feat given that it’s made from corrugated iron and heavy timber. I can’t lift the roofing pieces by myself. The trees were bending rather alarmingly back and forwards then side to side and anything not fastened down is probably half way to Geelong now. A pretty bad day for our local CFA’s I am guessing (my husband said they had sooty faces when he spoke to them about getting our fire hydrant refilled). I am just profoundly grateful we didn’t have extreme temperatures today. I have a feeling that had the temps been in the low to mid 40’s we would have had a catastrophic fire danger day. A Code Red day. They’re scary enough when one is living in inner suburbia… But now that we are country dwellers… 😦

It’s one of the bad things about not having the television connected. We’ve made the decision to not install it at this stage and so far, to be honest, we’ve not really missed it. We both feel that most of the news is doom and gloom, shared only to grab ratings but every now and then I realise there are things we are missing. I mean I really don’t care who plays Christian Grey in the 50 shades movies, nor what the Kardashians are up to or even particularly who wins the tennis, football, cricket etc. It just doesn’t interest me (unless it’s World Cup football in which case both Martin and I will be glued to every England and Australia game) BUT keeping up on things like severe weather warnings is becoming more and more necessary.

I read a couple of blogs today about climate change, increased average temperatures, hottest decades, hottest days on record and it frightens me. I don’t claim to be an expert on climate change, not by a long shot BUT the science is showing warming trends, temperatures on average increasing and the weather conditions are most definitely responding with greater severity. Keeping tabs on weather conditions, both locally and further abroad is starting to make even greater sense to me. I know the UK has had another very wet winter with flooding which we keep an eye on, or an ear actually as my mother-in-law always keeps us up to date with what the weather is doing over there (Martin’s brother and sister-in-law also live there as well as other relatives) and my mother’s family are spread out through New South Wales so we like to keep tabs on what’s happening there too.

This week I’ve most definitely been out of touch as our internet is once again gone so I’ve been reliant on the iPhone again – difficult. I’ve only just found out that NSW has had some of its hottest temperatures on record with catastrophic fire days although we’ve kept an ear to the ground regarding the fires near Wagga Wagga (my uncle and aunt live there) and I know there has been the hottest day recorded in Tasmania in the last week too, along with catastrophic fires there too. There have also been fires around Wallan where my sister-in-law works and her boss sent her home (all safe and well thankfully) as well as fires a little closer to our slice of paradise here, both at Ballarat and Daylesford which are both only about 30 minutes drive away. Not near enough to be personally threatening but close enough to want to keep an ear out.

Breakfast time Mummy! Wake up!!!

Breakfast time Mummy! Wake up!!!

This morning I woke up to find that one of us (most likely me but I don’t want t admit to a moment of sheer stupidity) left the spigot on the water filter in the “on” position. I’d emptied it of filtered water making my ginger beer (I’ll post on that soon) and I’d refilled the water. It takes a while for the clean water to filter through so it would have started dripping slowly sometime around 12:30 or after when I was well and truly in bed (Martin got up to make a bottle though so ha! I can blame him! 😉 ). This morning I had a puddle of water all over the kitchen bench, soaking a few bit and bobs like instruction manuals I had sitting there, and a second puddle on the floor. Topped off with an imminent food delivery, 3 hungry kids and the frustration of discovering we had no butter (there goes the idea of sandwiches for lunch to keep the house nice and cool), well, let’s just say it wasn’t a great way to start the day. Mopped up, kids eating (late breakfast in the end) and my wonderful delivery arrives. It’s my first order and I am extremely impressed! Highland Heritage Farm (Facebook page and blog) delivered, in a lovely wooden crate, my order of organic oats, cashews, own grown red onions, spuds, beans and eggs (a wonderful selection of colours and sizes) as well as some free “glut” veggies of turnips, zucchinis and also some rhubarb (not sure if you can call that a fruit or a veggie). It’s locally grown, home delivered, supporting a family of like-minded people (they also use sourdough and grow organic) and it’s beautifully fresh produce so I couldn’t be happier. I’ve used up our 7 hard won eggs today (I think my hens are broken as that’s 9 days of eggs! 😛 ) Not sure yet how to use the dozen zucchinis I have in my fridge although the rhubarb will served for breakfast I think. The turnips will also be a first time cook for me too. Never had them before. 🙂 Any recipes to share?

I do NOT want to wear this dress Mummy!

I do NOT want to wear this dress Mummy!

The rest of the week has been lacklustre. I baked some bread in Ignisa’s oven when she was lit (may as well make use of the heat I guess), but otherwise, just a bit of online shopping (for organic foods and such, not shopping for fun), dishes, toilet training (*sigh* will it ever be over?), washing washing and more washing and taking out and bringing in the chicks. Just a quiet week on the homestead I guess, punctuated by “I don’t want to wear a dress” tantrums, please don’t climb out the windows moments and all the rest. I am very glad it’s over and very much looking forward to the weekend (BRING IT ON!!!). Jasper, who helped me amazingly with putting away washing will come with me to the Ballan Farmers Market as a treat and he will get some money to spend. He knows it’s not a toy market, but a food market and I told him that they have honey, peanut butter and cheese that he might like to buy. His eyes lit up more and more with each suggestion. Too funny kiddo! 😀 We’ve also dealt with his ongoing processing of grief from the death of John the chicken. 😦 This morning he was beside himself, sobbing that Ellie was dead. It took me 5 minutes to work out what he was saying. Once I had located the missing Ellie, his stuffed toy elephant we had a chat and the world was right again. A challenging conversation.

We've found Ellie

We’ve found Ellie

We’ve managed a little more unpacking, some serious furniture rearranging (I think I have things where they work now) and more processing of larger city house into smaller country house with different priorities (more gardens, less stuff) so it’s all slowly slowly coming together. The old house is nearly empty (although the shed is another thing) The skip is also gone now which involved a very close call with 2 cats whom were unbeknownst to us hiding under the skip. I’m not sure who got the bigger fright, them when their cool hiding place on a hot day suddenly made loud noise and lifted up in the air, or me when first Minnie then Maxxie came boiling out from underneath the rapidly shrinking hole at the end of the skip! Frightened the life out of all 3 of us (they have about 8 left each I think).  Anyway, another full week and I am very much looking forward to bed.