Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas cake

I did it.  And it has snowflakes.

A lot of frustration, and wondering WHY I chose  a square shape (tricky business), but in the end it all came together.

Mind you, the kitchen is coated in icing sugar dust, and the cats are walking through sneezing and looking disgusted.  No appreciation for things that are not tummy rubs, cat food or warms....

Lets all hope it tastes good, and travels well! It is going to London with us next week, so here's to no sudden braking incidents on the

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year where ever you are in the world next week.

Thursday, 12 December 2013


This afternoon I did something which I have wanted to do for a long long time.

No, I did not run amock in a garden centre with an unlimited budget!..... I went to a cake decorating workshop.

What a great way to spend the afternoon!  We had so much fun and finished the session with mince pies and mulled wine and a cup of tea.  Lots of laughter and chatting as well as exploring our artistic side in icing.

Before I went, I had said I wanted to do snowflake patterns, but after seeing a cake with holly on top changed my mind and wanted to do something similar.  A girl is allowed to change her mind.

We started with fruitcakes made by Bev,
and she took us through covering them with marzipan,
then sugar paste, (modelled expertly by Janice),
and then decorating with sugar paste.
  Lots of sticky, sugary fun.

Aren't we a clever bunch?!  Three completely different ideas starting with the same basic cake and icing techniques.

Bev is running classes at her home this week and next, so book in quick.  A great Christmas present for a family member or friend, or just a nice treat for yourself.  You can find her at

 Classes will also be available next year with other themes (ie; Easter etc).  Check out her website, some of the cutest things ever can be found there.

My holly decorated cake will be raffled to support the Combined Services Support Group this saturday lunchtime in Fenioux at Café des Belles Fleurs. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013


Off to Paris for a few days for my Birthday.  Looking forward to seeing all the lights, and to do a bit of shopping with the girls.  Can't wait to see everyone.  It has been far too long.

I hope it is clear skies and no rain whilst there.  Last trip it rained miserably and was very windy.  Am hoping for good weather so I can stroll around, and to enjoy a chocolat chaud sitting outside a café people watching.

Lots of catching up and eating out will be done.  Think I am going to need a holiday to get over my short break.....  this little country mouse isn't used to the fast paced city mouse lifestyle anymore!

Back this time next week with an update on the big city life.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Glorious sunset

Tonight I was driving home from a Christmas party (yes, already!!!) and had to stop and take photos.  The sunset was magnificent.

When I arrived home I ran out the back and took this shot looking down towards the river.

The colours were extraordinary and it felt warm - even though it definately wasn't!

We have already had one snow fall, and a few frosts (some light, some hard), with the frost last night turning the fish ponds on my journey into patinoires.  Lucky I have pretty much finished up in the garden for the year.  Will put some extra straw around my rhubarb and strawberry plants tomorrow, then I am done till late january when it is time to prune the apple trees.

A few of the locals have said it is going to be a hard winter this year..... let's see what eventuates.  In any case, I am ready with full store cupboards and freezers.  Chimneys cleaned and emergency candles in place.  Plenty of "projects" to keep me busy, and lots of lovely friends in walking distance to share a cup of tea and a walk in the brisk sunshine.

Life is good here.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The magic of quinces

One of my favourite things about autumn is that quinces are in season. 

Yes, I know, they are ugly and a bit weird.  Hard as rocks and completely inedible raw..... but cooked they become the most incredible edible imaginable.

Applying heat to these ugly ducklings transforms them into aromatic jewel toned swans.  It is a true culinary magic.

There is an old quince tree in the orchard, and it was laden with fruit.  I gave away bags of it to friends and acquaintances.  The rest I cooked into jelly and paste. 

For days the kitchen - whole house in fact - smelt heavenly.

My hands, however, felt like they had been through a few sessions with the inquisition and lost out.... badly lost out.

There are many tricks and hints on the internet for preparing quince.  Before you go ahead and try them out, let me tell you that they DO NOT WORK.  Save yourself some heart (and hand) ache.  You can thank me later.

The only thing that makes it easier is to wash the fruit in a sink of hot water and let them rest a good half hour before trying to prep them.  The water needs to be hot enough that you can just barely put your hands in it.  This seems to soften the skin slightly and makes it a bit easier to peel them.  Cutting and coring is still hard work, sorry.

To make jelly from quinces is the simplest recipe there is.  Quinces are very high in pectin, so they don't need to much heat or sugar to reach a jelling point.

First, wash, peel and cut into chunks about a kilo or so of quinces.

Put in large pot with about a cup or so of water (I actually cooked them in a pressure cooker to save time) and bring to simmer.  Cook till fruit is rose pink and tender.

Drain off liquid into a measuring jug.  Hopefully you have about a litre of liquid.  If not rest fruit in a strainer over jug and let all the juice drip out till the fruit pulp is fairly dry.  A jelly bag is great for squeezing out the liquid without getting pulp into it (pulp makes the jelly cloudy when it is set).  If still a bit short, top up with water.

A litre of liquid needs about 600g of sugar.  Put liquid and sugar into a saucpan and bring to boil, stirring frequently.  Once setting point is reached bottle and use prefered method of preserving.

Quince Paste
The leftover pulp is now going to be turned into quince paste.  You know the stuff that you spend a fortune to buy at the deli.... yes that stuff.  It is delicious served with wild boar (or any game meat for that matter!) and most people think it belongs on a cheese board.  Personally, I prefer it with meat, and take my cheese plain or with a little salad as the French do.

Place reserved fruit pulp (which looks a bit revolting at this stage - see photo above) into a large saucepan add about 500-600g sugar(depending on sweetness of fruit) and heat.  You must stir constantly!!!  You want to cook off the remaining moisture and turn it into a claggy, gluey mess.

Once this texture is reached, turn out into a baking paper lined tray and smooth surface. 

Place in a slow oven (100celcius) for a few hours till it takes on a solid feel.  Think of a rubber ball and you are aiming for slightly  You should be able to push on the surface and it rebounds instead of leaving a divot.  I leave the oven door slightly ajar so any moisture escapes and it dries faster.

When cool, slice and put into a lined container with a tight fitting lid and put into fridge.  Will keep for months if you don't cross contaminate with an unclean knife (yes I am talking about you double dippers who reuse a knife that has been used on something else!).

Perfect for bringing out at Christmas or for gifting to foodie friends and family.

I always add half a lemon to the fruit when I first cook it.  There is no need for the lemon, I just like the hint of flavour that it adds and the balance that it brings to the finished jelly and paste.  You could add spices to the jelly such as cinnamon etc if you wish to have a real wintery warmth and perfume.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Garden work

 In between rain storms, I am dashing outside and gradually getting our ornamental garden in shape. 

I would love to have something as pretty as that pictured above, (gardens at Invalides in Paris), but think it will turn out more rustique and organic.... oh well, c'est la vie as they say here.

Monday, 21 October 2013

la vendange

Last week saw our neighbours grape harvest come to an end for this year.

It was the first time I have participated in a French vendange.  Hard work (all that bending and scrunching into weird postures to make sure you get every grape), but a lot of fun also.

We picked red and white grapes.  Jean will turn them into wine - or more likely they will end up as Pineau, a local speciality.

I took home some of each and made grape jelly....... well, what else do you expect from me?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Autumn Abundance

Life has been a bit busy lately.  Firstly, we had family here for a month, so that was fun.  No time for blogging though as any spare time was spent in the garden.

In fact, quite a few days I had them helping to prepare the bounty of the garden into winter stockpiles.  Well, I say they helped... but in fact my Mum seemed to eat as much fruit and green beans as she prepared..... hmmm.  All good though as we had more fruit and veg than we could cope with.

My arriere cuisine is filled to the brim with jars of compote, stewed fruit, jams, sauces, syrups and condiments.  The cellier is stockpiled with parsnips, potatoes and carrots, with more potatoes in one of the dependances.

 In one week I lifted over 130kgs of potatoes!  This does not count the potatoes I have lifted for eating over the summer.  A bit of a shock as it did not look like that much on the ground.  I had 2 rows like the one pictured.  Next year we may just put in one row I think.  Thank goodness for generous neighbours with tractors and potatoe lifters!

We did buy a second freezer, and it is cram packed with veg from the garden.  I have prepared enough green beans, courgettes and kale to last us till next harvest.  Also lots of blackberries, mirabelles, plums, raspberries and other sweet treats filling the shelves. 

Just waiting on the pumpkins to ripen and I can bring them in to add to the collection.  There are some citrouille and butternuts, along with something else that I have fogotten the name of.

I feel a little bit like a squirrel hoarding food away for the winter.

There have been a few fails.  For some reason the rhubarb and peach compote did not want to remain in the pots, and proceeded to ferment and fizz all over the shelf.  Really upset about that one as I adore rhubarb and peaches.  My first batch of tomato sauce did not work either.  It was simply pressed tomatoes with fresh herbs.  Think the herbs needed to be cooked or blanched before adding to the sauce.  I threw them in whole as it looked pretty, and so I wound up with mouldy sauce - even though they were put through a water bath.  Oh well, live and learn.

I do think I have done alright though considering I did not have a big steriliser and have been processng in small batches on the stove.  A huge time saver was my lovely pressure cooker which was an early birthday/Christmas pressent.  So nice to cook things in 30minutes instead of 6hours.

Now it is time to prune the plum trees, and tidy up the rest of the garden.  The apples need to wait till later, so at least the pruning is a bit more spaced out this year.

About 150 bulbs have gone in to the ground so far, with another few hundred to go.  My lawn is looking nice and shows real promise for being lush and verdant next year.  I have been attending gardening workshops at a local nursery, and have quite a few cuttings quietly sprouting away, ready for planting next spring.  Next week we look at dividing plants, so I will increase my stock again.  We have a real liking for grasses, geraniums and lavenders, so they are going to be the main plants, with others scattered amongst them for interest.  Photos will have to wait till next year though as nothing to see now.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


...and suddenly, there were plums.....

Plums by the hundreds!

All different shapes and sizes, and colours.

All ripe at the same time.

All begging to be made into something, - anything.

What to do?

Well there is only so much jam you can make before you have to say no more.  ... and I do not eat jam, so it would only be poor Wayne who would be going through it.  He does not eat that much bread or toast, so it would take him a lifetime to get through it.  So jam is not going to be practical.

In desperation I turned to bottling. 

A quick scour through my books (which took quite a long time actually as I have a whole bookcase dedicated to cooking, food etc) and I found an easy method for preserving fruit.  This has been my saviour in the quest to use the bounty of our orchard.

Basically you take ripe - but not too ripe - fruit and wash and dry before deseeding and packing in to glass jars.  A layer of sugar goes between each layer of fruit.  Then you close the lid and put in a pot of water and boil.  Voila!

Of course there are measurements and timeframes to take in to account, but it is super easy and quick.  Perfect as I am picking kilos of fruit each day.

I do prefer the fruit in light syrup to jams and other sweet treats, and know I will enjoy these even more come winter when I can make compotes and other treats with our own fruit.

For now I have beautiful jars to look at when I open the cupboard in the arriere cuisine.  Bliss!

For now, it is back to the kitchen to start on the tiny mirabelle plums.......

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Cold courgette soup

I know, sounds revolting.... and the pictures of it do not look appetising either..... but seriously, this soup is delicious!

Normally cold soups leave me, well, cold.  If I think of gaspachio I think of cold insipid onion flavoured red water. Blergh!  Not my thing at all.

This however is packed with flavour, refreshing and can be eaten hot or cold.  Much nicer and really easy to make in big batches when you have a glut of courgettes. Simply freeze the excess and thaw for hot or cold soup another day. 

Foods that can do double duty are important to me right now as I have run out of freezer space already, so anything that is going to be squeezed in now, has to be worth the effort of rearranging and making fit in any available centimetre.  Think there is going to have to be a new (bigger) freezer budgeted in before the end of summer to be honest.

The garden is bursting with goodies now.  I have countless kilos of beans (of many types), super sweet peas, sorrel, herbs (too many to list), kale etc etc in the freezer.  We have started getting fruit from the trees, and the hedgerows are starting to fruit as well.  The little wild plums are soooo cute and such a deep purple.  The little cherries are quite tart and nice to snack on while I work in the garden.
 I am in heaven!  I love foraging, and love being able to go in to the potager, or for a walk to the forest and to look at what needs picking and plan our meals around that.  Bliss!

As summer has hit with force, and we are experiencing temps in the mid to high 30's, something cool and refreshing for dinner is perfect.  This has been in the mix every week since the courgettes started fruiting.  Another favourite is melon de Charentaise (our region of France) with dry/smoked ham and feta cheese.  Full of flavour, but cooling and refreshing after a long hot day.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Cold Courgette Soup

This is not really a recipe, more of a guidline.  I normally see how many courgettes I have ready, then pull up a potato plant.  Some of the spuds go in to the soup, the rest for another meal.  When I don't have enough parsley in the garden I use lemon thyme.

1 or 2 potatoes - depending on size
5 or 6 courgettes
pinch of white pepper
half teaspoon (or to taste) of nutmeg
fresh parsley

Wash veg and cut into smallish chunks.  Do not peel potatoes - that is where the fibre and vitamins are!

Put in to pot with a cup or so of water and bring to boil.

Add pepper and nutmag and parsley.  Cook till potatoes done.  Do not overcook or you will be left with a grey flavourless sludge!!!!

Whiz in blender or with hand blender.  It should be a lovely green puree.... which unfortunately does not photograph very well....hmmm.

This is the perfect stage to freeze excess. 

To serve, add some sour cream/soft cheese (eg; laughing cow, etc)/sprinkle of parmesan/croutons/herbs whatever you fancy.

NOTE:  Yes, there is no onion, garlic etc in this recipe.  This is because I am not allowed these vegetables.  My recipes are relying on herbs and other flavourings to give them a boost at present.  Feel free to add it if you like, but the nutmeg flavour will be masked.

You can make it a thick or thin soup by adding more liquid after pureeing.  It is nice as a hot soup with a bit of milk added to thin it slightly.  Makes it more substantial and filling.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Before and After

We have been working continuously to restore and renovate our fermette over the past 8 months.  Some of it is not clearly evident, such as the rewiring of the electricity, while other parts jump out at you.  This is the case with the chicken coop area.

I had to get some help with this space.  It was too much and too overgrown for me to manage on my own.  Luckily I had met someone who does this kind of work, and so they kindly agreed to take on the challenge.

The results speak for themselves.  Where initially there was a tangled wreck of chicken coops, pigeon house and rabbit hutches surrounded by jungle, there is now a pleasant open space ready to be fenced in and used. ... well after reroofing the chicken coop of course.

So here are the before (above 2) and after (below) shots to keep you amused.
As you can see there is a huge difference!

A lovely friend has also gifted us the roofing materials, so we can reroof the chicken coop and rabbit hutches now.  Very generous of them and greatly appreciated!

Recipes at end of week as I will be baking and cooking ready for an afternoon tea/sausage sizzle on saturday.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


Whilst awaiting the renovation of our chicken coop, I spend time each day with the neighbours chickens. 

I love chickens

One of the hens recently went broody, and hatched a clutch of 13 chicks, or poussins as they are called in french.  They are soooo cute!  Peep, peeping around the garden and running  hither and yon.

The mother was very pretty and a super hen.  Unfortunately, she was attacked and killed by one of the dogs in the village a week ago.  Wish people would not let their dogs run free, especially hunting dogs - as this one was.  It entered the garden, which is completely fenced and secure, and killed the hen and 4 chicks....  leaving its trail of destruction through the garden before escaping and returning to its home.

Anyway, the remaining chicks are doing well and hopefully will survive to adulthood.  I managed to pat one of them last thursday, and friday had them follow me in the garden.  Super cute!

Finally, we are experiencing summer weather here, and the veg garden is starting to show results.

I spent this morning picking spinach, lettuce, green beans and courgettes.  Along with much weeding.  Hopefully things will start to crop more heavily and I can put away the produce for winter.

My corn was decimated by deer and hares.  I have about a third of it left.  The strawberry plants have been eaten to ground level by the deer as well, so no fruit from them this year.

If this keeps up I have decided the only cure is to eat more venison........ home grown of course.....

The neighbours raspberries have been fruiting like crazy.  There have been numerous friends coming over to pick fruit, and it still looks like the bushes haven't been touched!  I have made a few batches of jam, and frozen a few kilos of fruit for making frozen drinks and ice creams etc later on.  Some of the fruit was bigger than my thumb.  Enormous and absolutely delicious!

There is a sureau at the bottom of the terrain which is in full flower.  However, this year there will be no elderflower champagne..... not after last years adventures!  Instead I will hold out for the baies and make jelly and syrup.  Much safer option.
I promise to post some more recipes soon.  There is a salmon recipe with sorrel that I want to share, and a spinach dip which is obligatory at all parties with our friends as it is sooo delicious.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Today in a thunderstorm that flooded our courtyard and had water rising into the house through the laundry pipes, I picked currants.

Well, what else can you do when catastrophe is looking you in the face? 

I was seriously worried that both our house, and the neighbours, would be flooded out.  The rain was so heavy and went on for about 3hours without cease.  Jean started bailing out their undercover area, and I started worrying. 

Luckily it eased off just at the door lintels and so we were saved from a flooded house.  The laundry and arriere cuisine were awash though, which will take a week or so to dry out properly.  The waterline was a centimetre from our doors, phew!

As always when stressed, worried or upset, I cook.  So when the rain eased off enough I went out in my cagoule and sabots (weather proof jacket and gardening shoes typical of this region) and checked the orchard and outbuildings.  Whilst there I noticed the currants were ripe, so back to the house for a deep bowl and return to the orchard for some berry picking.

Sophie declined to asist as it was simply too wet.

I picked about a kilo each of red and white currants, and there are many more kilos still to be gathered in the days and weeks to come. 

Whilst I am typing this the house smells of warm berries drying in the oven and the sun is shining through the windows.  A complete change from this morning!

 I love the look of white currants.  They are like little pearls.  Very pretty.  Am hoping that they dry well enough to keep for making fruit cakes later in the year.  It will be very satisfying if we get some grapes also off our small vines and I can dry them to use as well. 

Have been reminded that not enough photos of the house on the blog.  Sorry about that.  The main reason is that the work we have been doing has not made any cosmetic changes to the house - as of yet.  I could post photos of wiring and holes made in walls, but they just do not have the same appeal to me as a nice flower of fruit or view of the village.  So here are 2 photos to keep you going.  The above is taken from what will be the garden area looking across to the courtyard and house.  I say "will be the garden area" as it is not started yet.  At present it is a field of mud and weeds.  Due to missing the opportunity to sow lawn earlier this year, I now need to wait till september.  Not being able to do heavy work has also put a bit of a dampener on my garden plans and delayed everything a bit.  Oh well, when it does come together it will be worth it.
This photo is a view from near the orchard towards the rear of the garage and atelier, and the grenier.  The overgrown mess to the left is hiding the chicken coop, rabbit hutches and pigeon house.  I had made a huge amount of progress clearing it all out before I fell ill, and now after months of nothing it has regained its vigour (in fact I think it has profited from the cutting back!) and has grown back bigger and badder than before.  Sigh.

You can see my nearly finished clothesline though.  Black enamel posts and bright red line.  Super cute!

We have no cherries left on our tree thanks to the weather.  Our neighbours, however, have one tree which had a good crop (not fabulous, but enough to share).  So late this afternoon a group of us spent a pleasant half hour picking cherries and chatting.  It was a lovely way to pass the time and as always we had a lot of fun.  Jean likes to tease everyone, and it is a good laugh to try and outwit him or think up a good ripost in french to get him back.  Anita had her little dog, Violette with her.  She spent the time sitting on the grass watching the silly humans strain to reach the fruit, and eating the ones that fell to the ground.  I have never known a dog to love cherries like she does!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

encore pivoines

My second lot of peonies are now (finally!) flowering.  They are a lighter pink than the first ones, and a smaller shrub as well.  Still absolutely gorgeous and I am loving them just as much.

The roses are all starting to bloom also.  I have numerous different types and colours.  This one is near the gate to the terrain.  Small flowers with a lovely sweet scent.

A lovely creamy yellow with a blush of rose colour on the outer petals.  Really big buds, but not perfumed at all.

This strange little one which is such a dark red it is almost black.  I say strange as the whole plant is probably only 5cm tall!

Finally, this climbing rose which is such a vibrant red it was difficult to get a good photo.  Seemed to just glow and have no definition in most of the shots.  Nice perfume though, and I have a bunch on my desk to enjoy whilst at the computer.

Lots more roses still to bloom.  Am enjoying my walk each day looking at the changes in the gardens of the village and admiring the colours and scents.  Many good ideas coming together for our garden. 

Will start lanscaping the garden and lawn area during summer, and planting will start in autumn and be completed in spring/summer next year. It is frustrating to not have a lovely garden to sit and enjoy the (brief!) days of sunshine, but I want to plan properly and then do the work properly so that it all comes together into my vision of a relaxing and beautiful space.  Do not want it to just develop organically and then have loads of work to change things to how we want the final result to look like.  It will be worth it in the end though.

Potager is coming along nicely.  Carrots seem to be a bit of a miss this year, but everything else is surviving the extraordinarily long, cold and wet winter and springing forth.  Hopefully we will start seeing some proper spring/summer weather soon and get some good yields.  Unfortunately the cold has killed off most of the cherries.  Saturday and sunday I noticed most of the fruit (only half ripe sadly) had dropped off the tree..... just when we had all stopped holding our breath and started thinking that the cherries would crop....  So now the second year of no cherries in this region.  sigh.  Oh well, plenty else to occupy our tastebuds in the orchard.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Guess what I found in the potager

No, not Peter Rabbit..... Pierre le Lievre

This tiny little hare was in the potato patch this afternoon.  So cute and soft and warm. 

Had a cuddle and then released him where I found him.  He was so small that he would still be milk fed, so didn't want to disturb him too much.  Hopefully his nest wasn't far away.

Hares make a nest on top of the ground and there is one baby per nest.  The mother comes by a few tiles a day to feed the the baby and it stays in its nest the rest of the time.

Will have to check out exactly where he lives and keep an eye out for more babies.  Luckily we hadn't trimmed along the drystone wall yet, so it will now be left for another few weeks to give him and his brothers and sisters a chance to grow up and move out of home first.

What a lovely thing to find on French Mothers Day!

Saturday, 25 May 2013


One of the things I love about the fermette is the fossils that are everywhere.  Either embedded in the stones that make the fabric of the buildings, or tucked into gaps in the stonework.

They are mainly ammonoids, but from time to time there are other sealife fossils as well.

I like the little snail nestled against the fossil.... kind of like he is hoping to be disguised by it.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


On my walk a few weks ago, I came across a field filled with these beautiful flowers.

Do you know what they are and why they are so important in the ecosystem?

They are fritillaries, a bulb which only grows in grassy flood meadows that are free from pollution and fertilisers.

A patch of these means your land is in good condition, and everything is as nature intended.  If they disappear something is wrong.

Quite often these flowers are disappearing from nature as intensive farming techniques and excess use of chemicals is becoming the norm.  They are considered an endangered species nowdays.

We are quite lucky to have fields with literally hundreds of them.  A testiment to the farming techniques which have been practiced here since the beginning of settlement ( going back a few thousand years on this particular spot!).

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Scents and scenes of spring

 I have had my first peonies burst into flower.  Absolutely gorgeous!  I was playing around with monochrome and colour images and so here is one of each, taken a few minutes apart.
The quince tree is flowering at present, and the flowers are really pretty.  Similar to apple blossom when fully open, but the buds are a tight swirl.  It is a very attractive tree to have in the garden.

I have white, lilac, and purple lilacs blooming in the garden.  Quite a heady sensation to walk between the orchard and the boundary hedge.  You are sandwiched between apple trees in full bloom, and lilacs, with bees busily buzzing back and forth between the two.
Not sure if these are going to be red currants or gooseberries..... We shall just have to wait and see.  I asked my neighbour if he knew and he said "groseille" - but which type of groseille he couldn't say.  Hmmmm, personally I am hoping for groseille à maquereau (gooseberies) as we both love them and they can be eaten in so many ways.... but I think they are going to be red currants from the way they are in sprays off the main stem.
Tomatoes, zucchinis, capsicum, aubergines and corn were all planted today.  The potatoes, beans, carrots, garlic and onions went in last week.  Once I have decided exactly where to place the asparagus beds they will go in also.  Already have 5 plants (all a few years old so ready to plant now and most importantly we can pick next years growth with no waiting!) so need to get moving on that this week.  Thank goodness I have many willing and able helping hands to get things done this year!