2019 Workaway – Hannah and Vicky

February 17 to April 28, 2019

Hannah, Vicky, Darlene and Ken

Our Workaway experience continues successfully. Hannah and Vicky were a delightful couple who answered our call for a housesitter for April. When our plans suddenly changed to include a cruise in March as well as the planned trip to see the grandkids in April, they agreed to arrive early and brave a Manitoba winter.

Booksey enjoying a nap with Vicky

Hannah is from Australia and Vicky from Germany. They met here in Canada while on a Workaway experience. I have to admit I was a bit worried about the two of them alone here during the winter. Manitoba has been known to throw out some pretty wild weather in March. However, there was no need to worry as they embraced the chance to experience a Manitoba winter. While they didn’t get to experience -40C, like we had in early February, they did get some pretty cold weather.

 

 

 

Vicky and Hanna

Their job description was pretty simple – walk the dog twice a day, feed the dog and cats, keep the house warm and take care of my plants. Despite the sometimes very cold weather, they faithfully braved the cold to give Hanna her much loved daily walks. As well, both cats, Booksey and Sox, enjoyed their abundance of animal love.

 

 

 

 

Keeping our house warm is not as simple as it sounds, as we use a wood burning stove to heat the house. Each morning, they awoke to a chilly house (around 15C) and had to get a fire going. While we had a good stock of wood for them to use, they did need to forage for small stuff – kindling – to get the fire going. I was very impressed at how much they enjoyed the wood heat and how well they adapted to cooking and baking with a wood stove. We arrived home after each trip to find a pot of homemade soup and a loaf of homemade bread waiting for us. How’s that for a homecoming!

Vicky making her favorite chickpea spread

Both Hannah and Vicky are vegans and I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss many topics with them. They quickly learned the basics of whole food plant based eating and enjoyed the use of my well stocked pantry and collection of cookbooks. Both turned out to be excellent cooks.

 

 

 

 

 

Making perogies

They also volunteered at the town’s perogie fundraisers and turned out to be excellent perogie makers.

Over 400 dozen perogies made

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vicky making Energy Balls

Hannah had to return to Australia the end of March, but Vicky stayed on alone to housesit in April when we went to BC. She did really well alone, not minding the solitude. In fact, without Hannah who was the primary cook, she became a proficient cook in her own right. Before she left, she made up a bunch of healthy snacks to tide her over on her 24 hour travel back to Germany. You can find the recipes posted here on Ponderosa Cooks.

Thank you Vicky and Hannah for taking great care of our home and sharing your love with Hanna, Booksey and Sox. We are so happy to have the chance to get to know you and hope you will be back to visit your Canadian home again.

 

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2019 Visit to BC

April 15 to 25, 2019

Baba and Gigi with Jacob Astrid and Nora (who is not happy at the moment)

We celebrated Easter in BC. After our cross continent trip to Miami last month, we decided we had enough of driving and flew instead. We spent a few days in Kamloops with Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora before Christopher, Emily and Astrid arrived for the Easter weekend. After the weekend, we drove back to Vancouver with Christopher, Emily and Astrid and spent a few more days with them before flying home. It was great to see everyone again and spend some time with the grandkids we are growing up so fast. Jacob is now 42 months, Astrid is 34 months and Nora is 19 months.

Kelsey, Jacob and Nora met us at the airport with this super cute sign.

With the Aubuts, we enjoyed an outings to gymnastics, the pool, hiking, the river and the skateboard park.

Baba hiking the Kamloops hills with Jacob and Nora

Kelsey, Jacob and Nora on our hike.

Baba, Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora enjoying the beach along the river.

Matt and Jacob showed us their moves at the skateboard park.

Once Astrid arrived it got even more fun, with three young people to keep us busy. Baba, Gigi, Christopher and Emily all took turns with the stomach flu. Luckily Matt, Kelsey and the kids avoided it. None-the-less, we enjoyed Easter egg hunts, the wildlife park, the park, making pizza and pancakes, doing crafts and just plain having fun.

Kelsey putting on three pairs of shoes.

Jacob, Astrid and Nora enjoying the pizza they helped make.

Easter egg hunt in the backyard

Jacob and his pail of eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Astrid and her pail of eggs

Nora with her Easter Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craft time

A very tame crow came to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Vancouver, Baba and Gigi enjoyed 2 full days with Astrid. We visited Science World, Mommy’s work, the library for story time and made cookies.

Astrid at Science World

Astrid making cookies with Baba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora

 

Christopher, Emily and Astrid

Thanks for the great visit. Can’t wait to see you all again.

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We Have Worms!

March 29, 2019

Yippee, we have worms again! Not the intestinal kind, but the composting kind, the vermiculture kind – red wigglers.

Composting with Worms_Grade 3 Science Project

When Christopher was nine years old, we bought a small package of composting worms while travelling through Saskatoon SK on our way home from a holiday. He was about to go into Grade 3, and the worms would be a great Science Project – Composting with Worms. (And yes, his mother was perhaps little too enthusiastic about science projects, and perhaps a tad too over involved. Perhaps.) On getting home, we did our homework and soon our worms were happily reproducing and eating away at our compostables.

Besides the Science Project, I also wanted worms to be able to compost year round. Our family of five vegetarians produced prodigious amounts of kitchen waste over the winter, which when added to the frozen compost pile, resulting in a rather stinky heap come melt time in spring. The worms allowed us to compost kitchen scraps inside all year long. The outdoor compost pile was reserved more for garden waste and less for kitchen waste.

 

1999 Kelsey Composting Science Project

Over the years, our little vermiculture project grew and grew. It served as a basis for more than that first Grade 3 Science Project. In fact Kelsey went on to be a composting expert, expanding her composting knowledge year by year. She was the recipient of two Sustainable Development Awards at the Provincial Science Fair. A grand thing for our lowly worms. As our worm population grew, I gave away many a worm composting system to interested friends.

Alas, over ten years ago we decided to get out of worms. At the time, we had ample composting space at the Ponderosa. Since we were travelling back and forth from the city weekly, we decided to take the compost to the Ponderosa and get rid of the work of maintaining a worm composting system.

A worm composting system is not very labor intensive, but it does take some time to maintain a good worm bed. I can’t say I miss my worms, but I do miss the poo! The worm poo that is. Worm castings are like gold. They are nutrient rich and a great source of humus. They are fabulous for starting seedlings (mixed with potting soil). Since I am now starting all my own seedlings, I decided its time to start making worm castings again.

Rubbermaid container with holes drilled on the bottom and along the sides for aeration and drainage

Today, my sister Sheryl arrived with a welcome present – a small tub of red wiggler worms from Amanda (Trevor’s girlfriend, lucky guy to have a girlfriend with worms!). Luckily I still had my worm bins, including a small one used for display at Science Fairs. The perfect size for my new small family of worms.  My worm bins are just Rubbermaid containers that have holes drilled on the bottom and around the sides for aeration and drainage. The lid also has holes in it. Then all you need is something underneath to capture any excess liquid.

 

 

 

1999_ Christopher and Kelsey doing the newspaper shredding

Shred up some newspaper (thanks Ken and Theresa for the ongoing supply of newspaper). This task brought back great memories. The kids used to do this task for me in our kitchen on McInnes Place. I didn’t meed much today to fill the small container, but we used to have to shred a huge amount to fill to large bins. They had a lot of fun doing it too.

Worm bed ready with damp newspaper and eggshells for grit

Moisten the newspaper until it is like a damp sponge. Fill the worm bed, adding some grit for the worms (they are toothless and need something to help break down the organic matter in their stomach). Previously I used ground egg shells. Luckily Sheryl had some for me. As we no longer eat eggs, I will have to figure out a more vegan option (maybe sand?) or rely on Sheryl for egg shells.

On top spread a layer of kitchen scraps. I emptied the contents of my compost pail into the food processor to create nice finely chopped organic matter as a special welcome treat for my new house guests. While they are getting established I will try and keep their food finely chopped so that they can eat more, poop more and reproduce as fast as possible.

Lastly, my lovely worms were added.  They wasted no time burying into moist bedding to escape the light. As an active worm bed produces a fair bit of liquid, I placed the container inside another similar container without drainage holes. As the bed gets too damp, I will add dry shredded newspaper to absorb some of the water, keeping liquid runoff to a minimum.

My worm bed is safely tucked away under my kitchen sink, as my basement is too cold for them. They prefer a temperature around 18 to 22 C. When they outgrow this small container, I will get Ken to build me one to custom fit this space.

Seedlings

In the meantime, my seedling starts are doing fine in the sunroom with added light from grow lights. We repotted some this week (peppers, sage, thyme, celery, stevia and lemon balm), using a mixture of soil from my garden and worm castings from sister Sheryl’s worm bin. The tomatoes, eggplant, watermelon and cantaloupe were planted this week but have yet to germinate. Next week I will start the brassicas.

Vicky repotting seedlings

 

 

 

I can’t wait for the grandkids to meet my worms. Hmmm, maybe they will be interested in doing a Science Project with Baba. A whole new generation to work with!

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Holistic Holiday at Sea

March 3 to 14, 2019

20190306_Ken Divina

We have just returned from a most amazing holiday. I know I had decided I would not travel in the winter any longer (see Snow or Sand), and I did stay home this winter for two weeks while Ken went to Mexico. Then, last fall a link to the Holistic Holiday at Sea appeared on my Facebook feed and I was intrigued. Imagine a cruise to exotic ports, vegan food, and a stellar lineup of health, wellness, fitness, animal rights, meditation, yoga and cooking experts all in one place.  I let Ken know, if he wanted me to travel, this was a holiday I would consider. Sadly it was booked up for this year and we went on a waiting list. In January we got an email saying 30 spots had opened up. We booked immediately and were soon on an epic vegan adventure.

Due to our last minute booking we were unable to get a good price on airfare and decided to drive instead, after all, we are retired. While the car trip was bum numbing, we did get the opportunity to see the southern states, visit friends and relatives, and make a stop at Disney and Graceland. (If you are considering this option, I did the books when we returned and found that adding driving and the extra 13 days to the trip made it about equal to airfare. But our car is  fuel efficient, averaging 5.5 l/100 km or about 50 miles per gallon. Not factoring in the wear and tear on the vehicle travelling over 9,000 km)

The cruise was aboard the MSC Divina, and amazingly, half the over 4,000 passengers  were vegan. That in itself was mind blowing. Every meal, every lecture, every class, we sat next to kindred souls and we met so many amazing people from all over the world. They ranged in age from babies to over 80. Some came for the speakers, and some came just for a holiday without diet concerns. Most of us attended copious lectures, and some just enjoyed the pool and ship amenities.

PRESENTERS

While at sea, our days were full of lectures from world class experts. Below are a few of them:

20190312_Klapper Campbell Esselstyn panel

Question and Answer Panel with Dr. Micheal Klapper, Dr. T Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

 

  • Experts in health – Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Michael Klapper, Dr. Ron Weis, Brenda Davis RD, Virginia Harper
  • Wellness experts – Nelson Campbell, Dr. Ilana Newman (Korean Hand Therapy), Dr. Will Tuttle
  • 20190308_Kim Campbell Ken Darlene

    Book Signing with Kim Campbell

  • Expert Chefs  – Kim Campbell, Chef AJ, Ann Esselstyn, Jane Esselstyn, Rip Esselstyn, Juleanna Hever, Jessica Porter
  • Elite Athletes – Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete), Robert Cheeke, Giacomo Marchese
  • Animal rights experts – James Aspey, Dr. Jonathon Balcombe

20190306_T Colin Mary Cambell

This was a celebrity lineup for me, and they were very approachable. We even had the very great pleasure of having dinner one evening with Dr. T Colin Campbell and his wife Mary. We got to chat with Kim and Nelson Campbell (PlantPure Nation and Healing America pioneers), Dr. Will Tuttle (author of The World Peace Diet),  Dr. Jonathan Balcombe (a Canadian ethologist and author of What a Fish Knows) and Dr. Michael Klapper.

20190308_Will Tuttle Darlene

Dr. Will Tuttle

 

With this amazing lineup of speakers, I was busy from morning to night. My days started at 7 am with yoga or meditation, and ended after 10 after the last keynote speaker and a quick stop to the pool deck to sample the vegan snacks at the evening dance party (vegan ice cream, pizza, Notcho Nocheez and sushi -amazing).

We also got to see the new documentary Eating You Alive and meet one of the couples featured in the movie.

THE FOOD

20190305_Buffet signWe have done many holidays, all inclusive resorts and cruises before. While we always find enough to eat, it is sometimes a pain constantly inquiring on what you can or cannot eat. Since going veg at 21, this is my very first holiday where food was not an issue. Vegan sit down breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as a vegan buffet for breakfast and lunch. The food was healthy and tasty, for the most part. There were oil free options as well. The meals were prepared with very little salt, so at first I found the food a bit bland. I decided to resist the salt shaker, and over the course of the cruise my taste buds adjusted. One of our table mates introduced us to a product called Benson’s Table Tasty, an amazing salt substitute. (So far I have not found a Canadian source but I am looking) For those interested, there was also vegan processed foods -cheese, Beyond Meat burgers and tacos, and vegan pizza available. And I do confess I did stray from my no oil diet a few times and enjoy some of these.

PORTS OF CALL

20190307_Cartegena parrot up close

We set sail from Miami, Florida. The ship had 3 full days at sea, which were days jam packed with speakers for me. We ended up taking our lunches on the pool deck just to get some sun. While in port, there were no speakers scheduled, and we got off the ship to explore and enjoy some relaxing time at the pool.

20190307_Cartegena Sloth

Wild sloth in tree in a park in the center of Cartegena

  • Ocho Rios, Jamaica
  • Oranjestad, Aruba
  • Cartagena, Columbia
  • Colon, Panama
  • Costa Maya, Mexico
  • Cozumel, Mexico

20190307_Cartegena Tucin

20190312_swag

Instead of chocolates on our pillows at night, we found a variety of vegan swag – magazines, cookbooks, sea salt, lotion, etc.

All in all a very good holiday, and highly recommended if you are looking for a cruise. Though I have to admit I had a few guilt pangs as a cruise is not the most environmentally friendly holiday option. And since I went just for the speakers, it would not have mattered if the holiday had been Chicago in January or sunny Aruba. I was content to be “back at school”, filling my notebook with notes and enjoying the company of like minded people.

20190306_Aruba Health Sign 2

20190227_Darlene Phyllis Harry

with cousins Phyllis and Harry

As a reward for sitting in the car for so long, we got to pick up firebricks for our Kitchen Queen Woodstove in Knoxville, Tennessee (saving shipping fees); enjoy a day long visit with cousins Phyllis and Harry in lovely St. Pete Beach, Florida.

20190227_Ken Wayne Duet

We also spent 3 days in Fort Myers with friend Wayne. Ken had a good fix of karaoke.

20190315_K and D with Mickey Mouse

 

20190315_Darlene with GoofyBefore heading home we stopped to say hi to Mickey Mouse and Goofy at Epcot (thanks to our workaway friend Heather) and visit Elvis’s Graceland in Memphis. We were able to find some great vegan food at Disney – Overnight oats and a hot veggie wrap for breakfast; and a veggie korma for dinner. Graceland was a whole nother ball game. In the diner they did offer a Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich; however it comes grilled in bacon grease. Yeach!

20190317_Elvis Poster

 

We also utilized Vegvisits, an Airbnb for vegans. Although there were no accomodations that fit our schedule, we did find a lovely fellow vegan in Miami who allowed us to park our car at her place, as the dock parking was full (and reviews for private lots around the dock we sketchy). She drove us to and from the dock and even made us the most amazing lunch when we returned. We also drove through a raging blizzard and glare ice roads in Iowa, and got a four hour detour around the Smokey Mountains due to landslides. But that’s all part of the adventure. 

 

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2018 Year in Review

Another year gone, in a blink of the eye. How fast time goes by. It was another busy year for the Porters.

Ken Darlene Sox and Hanna July 2018

Last year I reported that, five years after ground breaking, the house was essentially finished. So we spent 2018 sitting on the front porch enjoying the view. Ha Ha, that’s a good one. While we did spend a bit more time enjoying the view, we did get a whole lot of work done as well. It’s been especially wonderful not to be living in a construction zone, no more sawdust or tools in the house. And it’s been nice to get Ken going on some of my ‘Honey-Do’ list projects.

Kayaking on the lake. Photo by Maxime

One of Ken’s projects was an entertainment unit for the TV room upstairs. We were using an old bedroom dresser, but he built a fantastic one using leftovers from the other construction projects. It looks great and adds more storage (you never can have enough storage, lol).

 

July 23, 2018 view of lake side landscaping

We also worked on outdoor landscaping. We finished the terraced bed and paths on the lake side, which will be planted with strawberries and herbs in the spring. We cleaned up the bed in the middle of the driveway turnaround and we finally leveled the huge pile of top soil from the house excavation, which will be made into another flower/shrub bed in the spring.

Green house and expanded garden area

The garden expansion was completed in 2017, so 2018 was the first year with the larger garden. Part of the new garden area is taken up by a 12’ by 16’ foot greenhouse Ken built this spring. The greenhouse and expanded garden area will enable us to extend the growing season and grow more, moving us closer to self-sufficiency.

 

 

Canned goods

We harvested, ate or preserved almost everything the garden produced this year filling our larder with lots of fresh, frozen, dried and canned goods. Now that all the hard work is done, we get to enjoy using that produce all winter – frozen raspberries, saskatoon and sea buckthorn berries, canned grape and cranberry juice, dried apples and gogi berries. Frozen string beans, corn, snap peas, red peppers and leeks; dried zucchini slices (excellent in stir fries!), herbs and greens (for smoothies). Canned tomatoes, salsa and pickles. And I still have my own onions, garlic, winter squash, pumpkin, carrots, beets and potatoes.

Shelling Beans

We experimented with a few new items this year, with mixed success – dry beans, popping corn and sweet potatoes. The popping corn and lentils will not be repeated next year. Did you know that each little lentil grows in its own pod!!! Until we figure out an easy way to shell, we will not be growing our own lentils. We will; however, grow more dry beans and chickpeas and give growing sweet potato in the greenhouse another go.

Dutch Kiss

We did some traveling this year as well. In January, I spent three weeks in BC visiting the kids and grandkids. In February, Ken was off to Mexico for two weeks in the sun. In May, both of us enjoyed a K.Porter Travel group excursion to Amsterdam and England.

Matt, Nora, Kelsey and Jacob Oct 2018 

 

In October, we travelled to BC to spend Thanksgiving in Kamloops at Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora’s house. Christopher, Emily and Astrid travelled down as well, so it was a fun time with three toddlers.

Astrid, Emily and Christopher October 2018

The big pile of leaves in the front yard made the best playground. We also celebrated Jacob’s third birthday while Astrid was there. Then we travelled to Vancouver to spend a few days at Astrid’s place.

 

 

 

 

The Grandkids – Katie, Nora, Jacob, Astrid, Tyler

The kids all visited us at the Ponderosa this year, as well, in August. Everyone, except Matt who could not get holidays, was out. This big ol’ house sure came in handy with everyone visiting; our three kids – Kerry, Christopher and Kelsey; two of the

Katie, Tyler, Astrid and Jacob driving Gigi’s tractor

spouses – Emily and Megan; all five grandchildren – Katie (10), Tyler(9), Jacob (3), Astrid (2) and Nora (1); and two of Kelsey’s school friends – Miranda and Jen. It was a lot of fun and I hope we get to repeat it again next year.

Lucas planting tomatoes

We had a few more Workawayers (travelers that work for room and board) at our place this year. Lucas, from Belgium, was with us for seven weeks this spring to house/dog/cat sit while we went to Amsterdam and England. He stayed after we got home to help put up the greenhouse and plant the garden.

 

 

Maxime (with Sox), Sandra and Emilie

Sandra, Maxime and Emilie from France were with us for the month of July and helped out with the garden and landscaping.

 

 

 

Vanessa making German Seed Bread

Vanessa ,from Germany, was here for three weeks in September and helped with the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather and her ukelele

And Heather, from the UK was here in October to housesit and take care of Hanna and Sox while we went to BC.

We enjoyed our time with these stellar young folk, who we like to think of as our rental kids. I love the exchange of ideas, and I hope they learned as much from us as we learned from them. They certainly inspired me to work towards living the vegan philosophy more fully.

Best news for Ken was that he got back into playing slo-pitch this year with a team out of Brandon. He played a few tournaments with them and looks forward to playing more next year. Both of us took up Pickleball this year as well. It’s a great sport. We really enjoyed the camaraderie and exercise.

Dr. Esseltyn at VegFest

I am still hosting plant-based cooking classes in Winnipeg, so if you are looking for some good plant-based recipes, check out Ponderosacooks.wordpress.com. To keep up with what’s happening in the plant-based revolution, I attended several on-line forums, a talk in Winnipeg by Dr. Michael Greger, and volunteered at Winnipeg VegFest where I got to meet Dr. Caldwell Esseltyn and his wife Ann.

Along with others in my meditation group, I volunteered at Siloam Mission and made two of the biggest pots of Red Lentil Carrot and Coconut Soup you ever saw – enough for 600 people. As well, I stay busy volunteering at the town perogie bees and working with the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Museum.

Booksey

The latest news at the Ponderosa is that we have a new boarder for the winter. My sister Sheryl’s kitten Booksey is staying with us. Hanna is now six and Sox is five, so it’s been a while since we had a youngster around and we are having fun watching his antics. All three animals are getting along nicely.

 

 

As you can see, life on the Ponderosa is never dull. We enjoy our twice daily walks through the bush with Hanna (and sometimes Sox as well); growing, harvesting and preserving our own food; cooking delicious vegan meals; building things, spending time with the kids and grandkids; and, helping others out. Life is good and we are grateful.

The moon and Mars over the Ponderosa – July 2018. Photo by Maxime

From our house to yours, we wish you Happy Holidays and all the very best to you and your family in 2019.

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A New Boarder – Booksey

December 15, 2018

We have a new boarder staying with us for the winter – my sister Sheryl’s kitten, Booksey. Life got a lot more interesting since he arrived. Hanna is now six and Sox is five, so its been a while since we had an energetic young one around.

Booksey was named by Sheryl’s granddaughter Penny as that is how she used to say Spookey when she was little (she’s big now – she’s 5!). And its a fitting name, as Booksey is jet black with white markings. He (we are pretty sure he is a male) is a friendly little thing.

 

 

Now that Hanna and Sox have adjusted to him, he enjoys tormenting them and they enjoy wrestling with him. Both of them are quite gentle with him.

 

 

 

 

Hanna even allows him to eat her food, which is really unusual as she is very protective of her food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entertainment Unit

November 5, 2018

One more project ticked off the list – an entertainment unit for the media room.

The media room is a loft room upstairs. It was our bonus room. Our original plan did not have a room above the sunroom, but the structural engineer we worked with suggested we add it. And we are so glad we did. We spend a lot of time in this room during the winter months as heat rises, making it a warm and cozy place. It also has nice light from the south facing windows and a view of the lake through the west windows. Its big enough for a crowd to hang out in for a sing song or for several mats for a yoga session. And now a super nice entertainment unit with plenty of storage space.

Ken made the unit with leftover supplies from building the house – the carcasses are made from maple plywood leftover from the livingroom cabinets, the shelves are made with leftover MDF from various projects,  the cabinet doors are made from hardwood flooring leftovers from the upstairs floors, and he finished the tops of the main section and the side cabinets with arborite leftover from the kitchen countertops. And we found the cute little door pulls at a second hand building material store.

Phase 1 – base and main section

Phase 2 – side cabinets

Phase 3 – Ta Da! All finished

 

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