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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2018 Garden Update

November 2, 2018

Garden asleep under the snow

The snow is on the ground this morning. Not our first snow fall, but I think this one might be here to stay. The garden has been worked up and is ready for a winter’s sleep. I am sad to see the end of the garden season but excited to be able to see how far the fruits of the season will last into the winter.

The garden this year got of to a later start than usual, due to both weather and a vacation. However, it was a pretty good summer with lots of sunshine and warm weather. Having the ability to pump up nice warm nutrient rich water from the lake helped to make up for a lack of rain.

New for 2018:

  • This was our first year on the garden expansion plot. In general, the new plot produced well, except for the cucumbers. The tomatoes seemed to love the sheltered nestled between the greenhouse, raspberries and trees. I think this space will be great for a rotation of heat loving plants. The soil quality was decent this year but should be much better next year. The space was heavily mulched this year and the mulch tilled into the soil this fall. I expect the added organic matter to improve the soil structure.
  • Greenhouse in the new expanded garden area

    Our greenhouse was built late this spring, with plants going directly into the ground in the greenhouse in early June. We planted tomatoes – plum, slicing and cherry, peppers -both hot and sweet, eggplant, sweet potato, watermelon, cantaloupe and basil. I love the greenhouse space and most everything did really well in the space. The eggplant harvest was disappointing. I had 3 plants and only 1 produced, providing us with 3 eggplants. The tomatoes loves the space, but the harvest from inside the greenhouse was not much better or earlier than the harvest from those planted outside. It might due to the great location for the outside tomatoes this year. The peppers and basil really loved the greenhouse (also did very well in the hothouse). I think next year we will plant more peppers in the greenhouse and less tomatoes.

  • Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

    We tried sweet potatoes for the first time this year. There is still no commercially available sweet potato variety suitable for Manitoba weather. However, I thought growing them in the greenhouse might be viable. I started slips from organic sweet potatoes purchased at the grocery store. They grew well in raised crates we made in the greenhouse, with the foliage trailing up trellises on the north wall. We were quite excited to harvest them and discover if our experiment succeeded or not. I must say I was disappointed in the harvest. I planted 6 slips from 3 sweet potatoes and harvested 2 gallons of skinny potatoes. Our biggest mistake I think was to wait too long to harvest. At the end of September, before we headed to BC, the plants were still growing nicely

    Sweet Potato Harvest

    in the greenhouse. Instead of harvesting them then, we decided to wait until we returned, thinking the soil temperatures should stay warm enough. However, when we harvested the potatoes they had soft spots which I think is due to colder temperatures than they like. One week after the harvest, I decided to use them up but the entire batch turned black when cooked and I threw them out. I will try again next year with a few changes – plant more slips and harvest earlier.

 

 

  • I tucked one watermelon and one cantaloupe

    8 inch Watermelon

    plant into the corners of the greenhouse, hoping they would vine around the bottom of the tomatoes and peppers. They grew pretty well and we harvested 2 nice sized watermelon and 1 exceptionally tasty cantaloupe.

 

 

 

 

  • One last lettuce harvest in November

    We also tried growing a fall crop of greens in the greenhouse in October. I planted spinach, tat soi, and arugula in tubs and got 2 cuttings of them. Although it is now November and we have had plenty of snow, frost and cold this fall, my last feed of greens is still growing in the greenhouse and will be harvested any day now. I will try for an early green harvest next spring.

 

 

 

 

  • Garlic Harvest

    2018 was also my premiere garlic year. I planted garlic last fall (cloves, garlic bulbs and garlic seeds) and had a great harvest of 65 large heads of garlic.  This fall we planted the garlic for next summer – cloves, bulbs and seeds again. I moved the location and am hoping for another good harvest.

 

 

  • I tried growing dry beans as well this

    Chickpeas

    year – black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas. I planted them amongst the corn. Since beans are nitrogen fixing and corn is a heavy nitrogen user, I figured they might compliment each other. It worked pretty well, although the beans seemed a bit shaded by the corn. I was quite surprised that the black beans did not produce black colored beans. I am pretty sure the seeds I planted were black. The kidney beans look like kidney beans. I was surprised to find that the chickpeas grow in tiny pods with one seed in each pod. I pulled all the bean pods off in late September and they have been drying in the shop. This winter I will shell them all and cook them up. Not sure the chickpeas will be any good as they appear small and dark colored.

  • Popping Corn

    As a lark, I purchased some popping corn seeds. The plants did not grow well and I only managed to save 3 small cobs that looked like the seed might be mature enough. I am drying these now, but it does not look promising. Not sure if it was the location planted or if our summer is not long enough

 

 

 

  • I have always grown loads of calendula in my garden. Its a self seeded flower with bright yellow

    Calendula petals

    and orange blossoms that grows easily and prolifically and totally fills my garden with gorgeous color. This year, I decided to harvest the blossoms and make calendula lotion. The petals pull off easily and I dried a couple large batches. I batch of dried blossoms (about 2 cups dried) I used to make a calendula lotion. (Covered the dried blossoms with melted coconut oil and let sit in a warm location for 1 week. Drain off the blossoms and mix the infused oil with a mixture of cocoa butter, shea butter and olive oil.) The second batch of dried blossoms I am storing to make a second batch of calendula lotion later in the winter.

 

  • Grapes

    Fruit harvest. Our 3 year old grape vines produced really well this year – about 14 gallons of fruit. We ate a lot and made grape juice with the rest, canning 16 quarts of juice. The apples produced their first big harvest. We ate some and made apple sauce and apple cider vinegar with the rest. The saskatoon bushes started to produce this year and we got a bit off them. But the harvest of wild saskatoon was exceptional this year. We ate tons of it fresh during the season and froze the rest for winter enjoyment. I planted one lone scraggly gogi bush this spring. It didn’t look like much but boy did that plant produce. It had a constant supply of ripening gogis from the end of July to the end of September. We ate some fresh and I dried the rest for the winter. It wasn’t a big harvest but an impressive one for the first year. I tied up the plant this year as it is pretty floppy, but next spring I plan to make it a proper trellis to grow on. Once again the raspberries and sea buckthorn were prolific.

  • Pumpkin and Squash harvest

    I planted baking pumpkins this year. I used my last squash from 2017 in July of this year, so decided to plant less squash (butternut, hubbard and summer sunshine). The harvest was good and once again my sunroom has a pile of squash and pumpkins for winter use. I am looking forward to trying all sorts of pumpkin recipes including pumpkin chia pudding, pumpkin pie and perfecting a whole food plant based pumpkin cinnamon roll.

  • Tried growing leeks this year. As leek stems should be covered to keep them nice and white, I reused the almond milk containers the tomato transplants were in. I cut off the bottoms of the cartons and placed the tube around each leek transplant. Then I mulched the containers with about 6 inches of sawdust. The leeks, started from transplants, grew really well. As a bonus, the sawdust kept the weeds out.

Preserving:

  • Potatoes, carrots and beets

    Root Cellar:

    • Carrots –  Last year’s experiment of storing them covered in saw dust in the root cellar was a complete success so was repeated this year. We have about 30 gallons stored.
    • Beets – We have 10 gallons stored in the root cellar for winter, also packed in saw dust. I
    • Potatoes – The harvest was not as good as last year but with 20 gallons in the root cellar I think we will have enough.
  • Freezer: We added a new freezer last fall so this is our first year with the extra freezer capacity.
    • Snap peas –  for stir fries
    • Green Beans
    • Greens –  kale, chard, tat soi and spinach
    • Corn
    • leeks – sliced, blanched and ready for use in soups and stews
    • peppers – diced and frozen for stir fries
    • Raspberry Puree – seeds removed as it takes up less room this way. Used to flavor kombucha
    • Chokecherry puree – a wild berry also used to flavor kombucha
    • Sea Buckthorn – used in green smoothies for a great antioxidant punch
    • Saskatoon berries
    • Cranberry – wild highbush variety used to make juice to flavor kombucha
  • Dried:
    • Greens – chard, kale, spinach, beet greens, nettle – whatever we couldn’t eat during the season was dried and then powdered for use in green smoothies. This is my second year making my own green powder.
    • Zucchini – I had 5 zucchini plants, both golden and green, that produced prolifically, as zucchini is want to do. I picked the small ones every couple days and what we didn’t eat fresh, I cut into penny slices and dehydrated. I did a test run using the dried zucchini in a stir fry and it worked great. They hydrated up without getting mushy.
    • Apple slices – these are great for snacks or to grind into a powder to make apple sugar
    • Tomato- dried tomato slices to use as sun dried tomatoes
    • Crushed jalapeño peppers
    • Red pepper powder
    • Tomato powder – I canned several quarts of tomato puree and dried the pumice left after putting the cooked tomatoes through the mill. It powdered up into a flavorful powder.
    • Herbs – oregano, basil, thyme, sage, lemon balm, lemon grass (grown in a pot in the greenhouse), chives, parsley, cilantro, dill, stevia, coriander, tarragon, peppermint
    • Kale chips
  • Canned goods

    Canned:

    • Tomatoes – diced and puree
    • Salsa
    • Dill pickles
    • Beet pickles
    • Grape juice
    • Cranberry Juice – from wild high bush cranberry
    • Apple Sauce
    • Borsch – beets, carrots and onions in tomato to be in used as a base for borsch
    • Dandelion honey – with inspiration from Lucas, we made a delicious vegan honey

Thanks to the help of our workaways for this year, Lucas, Sandra, Maxime, Emilie, Vanessa and Heather, we were able to not only grow more, but also eat or preserve pretty much everything we grew in the garden or could pick wild. I am excited to see how far into the winter the produce will carry us. Our goal is to become more  self sustaining every year.

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2018 Workaway – Heather

September 22 to October 19, 2018

We had our last Workaway of the year come to housesit for us while we visited the kids/grandkids in British Columbia. Heather is a delightful young lady from the UK. She comes from Nottingham, home of Robin Hood (or more precisely, Derbyshire – but we Canadians pronounce this badly so Nottingham it is).

We spent a week with Heather showing her the ropes of off grid living. We showed her how to clear the solar panels from snow and use the generator, just in case. Who would have thought that she would need to do both in October!!! There was some snow before we left, but she had plenty more while we were gone. Early October turned out to be snowy, damp and cold.  She had plenty of opportunities to climb the scaffolding to clear the panels. Lucky for us she was a hearty soul and enjoyed the slower cold weather pace. She had previous experience working a wood stove so she managed to stay warm and toasty.

Heather enjoying our first snow

Before leaving, we introduced her to our small community by helping out at a perogy making fundraiser. She charmed the locals with her friendly manner and turned out to be an expert perogy maker.

Making the potato balls

Pinching perogies – her first one was perfect!

Part of housesitting at the Ponderosa is cooking for yourself. My pantries, fridge and freezers and full of great vegan staples, but there is not much around for convenience food. Liking to cook is essential, and Heather, a fellow vegan, enjoyed perusing my cookbook collection and trying out new recipes. She even made her own bread and vegan cheese. Making stuff from scratch is my passion and I was so happy to have someone else who shared that passion. And when we returned from holiday, she had  fresh apple muffins, a delicious curry and fresh bread for us. How sweet is that!!!

Delicious homemade bread

Her prime task was to keep Hanna and Sox happy, a job she managed with flying colors. Hanna loved her and was soon spending her nights happily curled up in her bed. She got plenty of walks and stick throwing in as well.

Hanna and her best friend Heather

She took full advantage of the freakishly early snow and made a SnowKen and Snow Darlene.  (Take a good look at the picture below. SnowDarlene is wearing my wooden shoes from Holland, wearing a pot on her head, is stirring a bowl full of goodies and has a jar of my English Baked Beans as well. SnowKen is playing Heather’s ukulele and carrying a hatchet. She captured us perfectly!)

SnowKen and SnowDarlene

Yes, Heather plays the ukulele and Ken was very impressed with her vocal talent as well. He was in heaven with someone to jam with in the evenings. My favorite was Jason Mraz’s song I’m Yours.

Ken and Heather Singsong

When we returned from out trip to BC, it was glorious to find a clean house (she was previously a professional house cleaner), and a happy dog and cat. The day after we returned I managed to dislocate my shoulder and was ever so happy to have her pitch in and help Ken harvest our sweet potatoes from the green house and plant the tulips and garlic.

Sweet Potato Harvest

Getting her Garlic Growers Certificate

Heather’s previous work experiences included 2 years working at Disney World Florida, and I was pretty worried that our home in the woods may be too much for her. Its a long way from Disney to  the Ponderosa. However, she seemed to thrive in this tranquil location.

We are delighted to have had Heather stay at our home for 4 weeks. Besides being a talented songstress and musician, she is sharp, witty and bright and has a deep compassion for every creature living on our planet. I enjoyed cooking together and our environmental and ‘vegan’ talks. Ken enjoyed your willingness to play Scrabble and sing all evening with him. We wish you well in the rest of your Canadian adventures. Come back to the Ponderosa to visit us.

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2018 Visit to BC

September 29 to October 15, 2018

Astrid, Nora and Jacob

We are home from another great trip to BC to visit the kids and grandkids. The weather can be iffy this time of year and when we left, we had snow and cold in Manitoba. It continued snowy and cold while we were away, but we managed to get through the Rockies before the snow hit there. And the weather on the other side, in British Columbia, was grand.

We had a visit on the way to BC with my sister Sheila; our New Zealand friend Stevie and cousins Adrian, Pam and Alexa.

We spent the first week in Kamloops with Kelsey, Matt, Jacob and Nora.

Wow, Nora is 1 years old already. What a sweetheart, and tough as nails. She has to be with big brother Jacob around.

Little Miss Nora

And Jacob is getting big and strong. He was eager to show off his superpowers.

Wow, look at Spiderman’s muscles!

Lately, Jacob is into hiking and Baba and Gigi were very happy to get out and enjoy the nice fall weather with the kids.

Gigi, Kelsey, Jacob and Nora on a hike

Gigi and Jacob

For Thanksgiving weekend, Christopher, Emily and Astrid joined us in Kamloops. We celebrated Jacob’s 3rd birthday one week early so that Astrid could be part of it.

Jacob is 3!

The grandkids are growing up so fast. Jacob is now 3, Astrid is 2 and Nora is 1. Interesting ages as they are beginning to interact with each other. They had a blast playing in the leaves, racing with the baby walkers, jumping on the couch cushions and learning to share.

 

Astrid and Jacob Racing Walkers

After Thanksgiving we followed Christopher, Emily and Astrid back to Vancouver for a few days visit.

Porter Family

Astrid stayed home from daycare so that Baba and Gigi could spend some time with her. One day we visited Science World. Its just a short walk from their apartment so we were able to visit in the morning, go home for lunch and a nap, and return for the afternoon. We spent all morning in the toddler room, and the afternoon visiting other exhibits.

Cleaning up at Science World

The second day, Astrid helped Gigi put up shelves for kitchen staples and we spent the afternoon at the playground.

Astrid helps Gigi put up shelves – “Ta Da”

We returned to Kamloops for a few more days, celebrating Kelsey’s birthday as well Jacob’s actual birthday with a trip to Paul Lake and a weiner roast.

Weiner Roast at Paul Lake Campground

As a birthday present to Kelsey and Matt, who both have their birthday’s in October, Gigi and Jacob put up a cedar ceiling in the bathroom.

Gigi’s helper Jacob hands over the nails.

We also took a drive to the Shuswap to view the salmon run at Adams River. This was the dominant year in their four year cycle. It was amazing to see but also sad how much our salmon stocks have depleted. I can only imagine what the run would have been like a couple hundred years ago. They estimate of the 4000 eggs layed by the female salmon, only 2 survive to return to spawn. Considering the female has a male partner to fertilize the eggs, that’s just break even, two for two.

Along with witnessing the awesomeness of the salmon run, we got to enjoy the raw natural beauty of the Tsútswecw Provincial Park.

Baba and Nora

Aubut family at Adams River

We took Hwy 5 through Jasper and Edmonton on the way back. Loved that drive. Nice scenery without the hair-raising mountain cliffs. Just outside the town of Jasper, we stopped to watch 6 elk grazing on the roadside. As a bonus, we got to stop in Edmonton and visit with my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Mike and a stop in Saskatoon for a visit with my brother Glenn.

 

 

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Workaway 2018 – Vanessa

September 1 to 23, 2018

Vanessa and her bear friends. Wishing Well, Clear Lake

 

We just finished another fabulous Workaway experience. For three weeks we hosted a delightful young lady, and fellow vegan from Germany, Vanessa. She helped me get the garden off, helped Ken to split wood and we had a blast cooking together.

Making grape juice

In three weeks, we managed to pack in a lot of cooking, a lot of fun and a lot of work, too. Our grapes were very productive this year. We picked off around 40 litres of grapes and what we didn’t eat, Vanessa made into juice and canned for the winter. And even though she was not a fan of ‘spicy’, she learned to make and can salsa as well.

The Perogy Queen rocking the perogy making headgear.

She learned a bit about our Ukrainian culture. She helped out at the town perogie bee and learned to make borsch as well. She was a pro at making perogies and we even made 10 dozen vegan perogies at home.

Threshing Exhibition

 

 

 

 

 

She learned about farming and got to witness how crops were harvested over 50 years ago at the Strathclair Old Iron Club threshing demonstration.

We enjoyed a hike at Riding Mountain National Park and introduced her to the mandatory Canadian experience – a hot dog roast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was very interested in the Canadian wildlife. We managed to see buffalo, deer, beavers and a fox. She really, really wanted to see a bear, but we had no luck.

 

 

 

German Seed Bread

What I enjoyed the most, was making bread with her. She really missed her good German bread. Canadian bread is too sweet and too soft. Over her three week stay we tried to perfect a great German Seed Bread, with some success. We made bread 6 times. Although most of our tries did not result in the best bread, every single loaf was absolutely delicious, and we ate every morsel. Loaf number 3 was our best.

Loaves number 1, 2 and 3

Vanessa has headed further east to continue her exploration of Canada. I will miss our discussions, her helping hand and her willingness to try anything. Amazing that in three short weeks she became like a daughter to me.

 

 

 

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Family Time – August 2018

August 13, 2018

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

My house is eerily quiet right now. For the last two weeks its been packed to the rafters with family. Our kids, Kerry, Christopher and Kelsey were here with their families. We had a fabulous time with them and, although I am enjoying the quiet, I miss them all.

Christopher and Astrid canoeing

Emily and Astrid

Christopher, Emily and Astrid were first to arrive on July 31. Astrid just turned 2. They stayed until August 11.

 

 

 

 

Kelsey, Jacob and Nora

Kelsey, Jacob and Nora arrived August 1. Unfortunately, Matt was unable to get holidays so was not able to join them. But ever so thankful Kelsey was able to brave the plane trip with two small children in tow. Jacob is almost 3 and Nora is 10 months. They stayed until August 12. For the first week, Nora stayed within sight of Momma, but she slowly got more comfortable with the rest of us. And if she did start to fuss, you could almost always calm her down by singing The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round. Baba got really good at that song.

 

Katie, Kerry, Megan and Tyler playing bocce ball

Kerry, Megan, Katie and Tyler arrived on August 2. Katie is 10 and Tyler is 9. Both were super great with the small ones but unfortunately were only able to stay a few days, and they left August 6.

 

 

 

 

double potties in the shop

Both Jacob and Astrid where in potty training so the Ponderosa was strictly ‘pants optional’, in case you are wondering why pants are missing in so many photos. There were plenty of hits as well as misses, but overall they did very well.

 

 

Astrid and Jacob having a serious discussion in the tent.

Over the two weeks we packed in a lot of excitement. They all enjoyed the great outdoors at the Ponderosa as well as all the little nooks and crannies in the house. Christopher and Emily set up the tent and slept one night in it with Astrid. For the next few days it served as an additional play area for Jacob and Astrid.

Weiner roast

 

 

 

 

 

Playroom fun

 

We converted the storage room off one of the dormers into a playroom. Along one wall, Ken installed shelves with chalk board doors. For now, while the kids are young, the shelves serve as a tunnel with a slide at one end. Later, we will remove the slide and just use them for toy storage. The other walls are lined with a huge assortment of hats and dress up clothes.

Playroom hat collection

Auntie Sophie’s hat collection from around the world is being put to good use. The playroom was a hit and kept them amused for long stretches.

Auntie Kelsey enjoys getting Astrid to play dress up

 

 

 

 

 

Tea Time for Astrid and Jacob

 

 

 

Tyler’s block tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course the kids all loved driving the tractor with Gigi, as well as wagon rides. They urged Uncle Christopher to give them faster and faster rides, until the wagon tipped.

 

 

 

 

Nora enjoying the water

 

We enjoyed a day at the beach, but unfortunately I got injured while trying out a stand up paddle board. I spent much of their visit hobbling around but thankfully it is healing well.

Tyler on Stand Up Paddleboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Injured Baba

 

 

 

 

 

Perogie makers

Everyone pitched in to make holopsti and perogies for a delicious Ukrainian meal.

Astrid rolling dough for perogies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher and Astrid picking raspberries

And they all helped out with the chores, doing dishes, cleaning house, picking vegetables, making meals and watering the garden. This was greatly appreciated, especially since I was hobbling around most of the time. Meals were very simple. They ate an unbelievable amount of peanut butter and hummus.

Jacob hauling tree branches

 

 

 

 

Emily watering the garden

 

 

 

 

Ken built a kids helper stand for the kitchen so they could help cook and do dishes. it worked out pretty good and I am sure we will make use of it for a few more years.

Emily, Astrid (on kids helper stand) and Baba doing dishes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacob and Astrid making a Gigi sandwich

Gigi’s (Ken’s) highlights from the visit were the tractor rides and having the grandkids all pile on him for some wrestling.

 

 

 

Baba’s storytime with Astrid

Baba (me) on the other hand, enjoyed the quieter moments, reading stories and just watching the kids interact with each other.

 

 

Bath time

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacob and Nora going for a walk

As a bonus, my brother Glenn and his wife Pat, and my sister Sheryl and her family were also out near the end of the kids’ visit.

Family at the farm

The next generation. My Mom’s Great Grandchildren – Penny, Astrid, Jacob and Nora

Can’t wait to see everyone again. Thanks for the great visit!

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