Thought of the day…….

I wish it would warm up just a little bit, I am fed up of wearing my winter coat outside now, we have had a couple of warm days but in general it’s still cold.

Here is a round up of some of the things I have been doing

Cut back the old foliage from the two golden hops, it twists and turns as it grows and was hard to get off the canes they were on. There is a good article on brewing your own beer using hops in one of the magazines this month, I must put it on my have a go list which seems to get longer and not much ticked off! 

Pruned the gooseberry bushes, the idea is to open out the middle so that they are easier to harvest, but either way a good thick pair of gloves is a must because the thorns are vicious. 

Gave the Japanese Honeysuckle a small trim, the berries from this plant can be eaten and they taste a bit like figs, but they are small and quite squishy when ripe so I usually leave them for the birds to enjoy

Ordered heavy duty ground cover for the hop bed, made a mistake last year of using a lightweight one then putting bark on top, the cover ripped all over the place because of the wind and the chickens and now it’s a mess! 

Ordered a new net to catch roaming chickens and clip their wings before I start planting otherwise I will be pulling my hair out. 

Finished off weeding the poly tunnel and sweeping the path

Assessing what exactly needs doing and trying to implement a plan to achieve this lol

Started weeding, and now that won’t stop until the end of the year, shall have to make a daily slot early in the morning to do this otherwise leaving it too long will result in a major job to complete. 

Round up loose chickens which I have now achieved, I built a temporary pen to house them in until the growing season is well under way, typically though, just where I wanted to put a post there was a large slab of stone I had to get the heavy duty machinery out to break it up before I could get the post in, then lo and behold the second place I needed a post was also stone, that was a hard days work. 

I spotted a sparrow hawk eating a pigeon in the duck pen, at first I thought he had got one of the ducks but luckily for me and unluckily for the pigeon it wasn’t. On the same morning a herd of about 20 fallow deer spent the morning grazing and resting in the next field, they were there for a good couple of hours, a beautiful sight to see.

The new, yet to be tested, fox proof run is finished, just in time for the delivery of hens tomorrow, I do hope they enjoy the des res with a scratching area, roosting bars, a perspex roof so they don’t get wet, I may move in there myself ;) 

We have made it to the vernal equinox, had an eclipse and seen a supermoon all on the same day last week, still not much warmer though :(  but on a brighter note there are splashes of bright yellow all around the place as the daffodils finally burst open, and the buds on the trees are emerging more and more each day, it won’t be long before England’s green and pleasant land returns.

The thought for the day occurred to me when I was asked ‘do I eat healthily’ I replied ‘yes’ but the more I gave it some thought the more I wondered, what is considered healthy? I said yes in an instant because, most of what we eat, we have grown ourselves, I also cook from scratch with ingredients I have to hand and although we do have some processed foods like biscuits or white bread on the whole we don’t eat much of it. I mulled over the question a few days later and reflected that the person questioning probably meant, do I live on salads, have no fats, eat only lean meat and fish deny myself sugar and caffeine, the answer is a categoric NO! I would still consider my diet to be healthy though, it’s not sprayed with any  pesticides, ( salad crops being the most highly sprayed crop of all)  fumigator, growth hormones or injected with antibiotic as routine, it’s a fresh as it possibly can be and cooked in conjunction with other fresh ingredients. What is a healthy diet, answers on a postcard please :) 

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Cracking weather this weekend :) 

Early Spring and the weather was an absolute treat, the farm was a hive of activity, jobs such as dragging one of the fields and the ménage ment the tractor was in operation which was great fun. My aim at this time of year is to tidy up the front of the property ready for Easter, I don’t know why but it’s a goal I set myself. Armed with a hoe, an edge cutter, wheelbarrow and shovel I started by cutting back the edges of the driveway grass to a nice straight edge, it always looks like you have achieved a lot if the edges have been done for some reason. The tiny Tete a tete daffodils are just beginning to burst open in the pots and the larger daffs will follow quickly I am sure. Everything has tiny buds that will transform within a couple of weeks and we will be sure that Spring has arrived, the birds are beginning to gather twigs for nesting and the geese are getting more aggressive so we are definitely on the way :) 

Hubby has been busy building a fox proof pen for the point of lay hens and we have found and met a new supplier for both hens and feed, the feed is a £1 a bag cheaper than we buy it now and although that does not sound like much when you think we use 3/4 bags a week the saving soon adds up.

I purposely went out to take lots of photos this morning and hopefully they will upload ok, there is not much of interest in them really but I thought it would give the reader a better idea of how things are looking at the moment.

I have been doing a bit of tidying and repairs in the garden, the fruit cage needs a little bit of fixing, in the first year we used net, which worked well, but with the ravages of the Winter winds it soon began to break down and so in the second year I fixed wire around the bottom half. This year the top half is being wired as well and I have done most of that this morning, until my hands got too cold that is, the top will just about last another year I think, at least the birds will not be able to get through the tiny holes at any rate. 

The photos are of Patch who is doing well and will be a good farm dog I think, he is already quite obedient long may it last!

The new fox proof pen that Hubby is in the middle of building

The chickens, both the totally free range ones and the free range but behind an electric fence ones

The veg garden and greenhouse in readiness

A view of the paddocks with the horses in the distance thankful for a bit of grass at this time of year

Mia, who as always is waiting for someone to throw the ball

The geese and the ducks

As you can see it’s all still a bit dreary but at least the ground has dried up quite a bit making it easier to walk about. To get the field work done at this time of year you have be aware of the state of the ground and seize the window of opportunity, too soon and it’s too wet and you make more mess, to late and because we are on clay, it quickly becomes rock hard, luckily this weekend it was just the right time to get some of it done. Some of the paddocks are still too wet, they are lower lying and hopefully we will be able to get the timing right for those over the next couple of weeks :) 

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At last I have drawn up the crop rotation plan, I keep all the previous years so that I can determine what needs to go where, I follow a three year rotation and so need to look at the two years previous in order to plan this year. It is now pinned up in the greenhouse so that everyone is knows what is to be planted and where.

We had a good bit of weather at the beginning of the month and I was able to spend a couple of days outside, first job was to tidy the greenhouse, take down all the old plastic that was lining it and sweep away the cobwebs. I had ordered a smoke bomb to kill off any insects which I thought would be quicker than scrubbing it down but the smoke bomb was a bit fat fail. I attempted to light it three times, the third time I even set a little bonfire of cardboard under it but it still fizzled out to nothing so I gave up on that entirely. I had to do a bit of mending to the greenhouse as it really is on it’s last legs but to replace it would cost a good few thousand for its size and so I will keep cobbling it together until it falls down :)

I ordered a ton bag of seed compost which has now arrived and tidied up the pots so I am ready to go when the weather turns. I did contemplate putting some early seeds in, Aubergine being one of them, but I decided to wait as it will be better for them to catch up than struggle in the colder temperatures.

I cleared the first poly tunnel of old tomato and pepper plants, all the compost has gone into a bin ready to reuse on the garden at a later date, the seed potatoes are chatting nicely in the greenhouse and I managed to weed and tidy the second poly tunnel. There is still plenty growing in there, the radishes are nice and crisp and I couldn’t resist munching on a couple while I was working. The garlic is growing well in there as are the brassicas and a few broad bean plants and some sprouts, the best haul of the day were the weeds, a whole wheelbarrow full of chick weed which I took out to the chickens who were extremely grateful having had no fresh greenery for weeks now. They devoured that in an instant, it’s funny because chickweed is now being grown commercially as a speciality dish in restaurants, lucky chickens.

The outside areas of the veg plot are not even worth looking at for the time being, the ground is still very cold and this week particularly wet, it’s best to wait until the weather improves which I am hoping along with the rest of the country will be very soon.

Hubby has started work on the new improved hen run, this one is for the point of lay that we sell to the public, the ground will be concreted and the roof will be covered, that should make for easier cleaning and also mean that we can keep them in stock all year round not just in the warmer, drier months as we have done up to now. Having said that I just phoned the supplier this morning and they have not got much left to sell, I knew my order should have gone in earlier and now I will have to search around to see if I can find another supplier to supplement what I have been able to order otherwise we will have disappointed customers.

The chickens are still laying fabulously despite the rubbish weather, the ground is sodden and it’s like trying to walk on an ice rink sometimes, especially when the ground is deep frozen but the top has thawed a little. Yesterday I went down into the mud with a THUD, full on fall from upright, I knew I was going but I couldn’t get my feet placed correctly to stop myself, at that precise moment, I did think to myself, WTF am I doing trudging around in the mud every Winter! I am hoping that was the lowest point of the Winter months and we are on the up and up, at least there was no damage done just hurt pride and I swear I heard a chicken chuckle ;)

We have a fox that is causing problems, last night while I was fast asleep I heard a noise that woke me right under our window, I got up and opened the window but couldn’t see anything. On examination of the CCTV this morning I could see, the fox turn up, me hanging out of the window for a few minutes and I could also see foxy sat just out of my view, he continued to sit there for a good ten minutes after I closed it, hedging his bets as to wether it was worth another try or not. This morning I have set both traps, I will get him before he gets my birds hopefully.

I noticed the daffodils have pushed their way through quite a bit and I can see the flowers still tightly wrapped but ready to burst when the time is right. I have also noticed that the grass is trying it’s best to poke it’s head above the mud, birds are beginning to gather up twigs ready for nesting and the ducks and geese are beginning to get twitterpatted, that’s a term from Bambi (I think) all these signs mean that Spring is just around the corner, thank goodness for that, I don’t think I can wait much longer :)

This years crop rotation plan


It may not entirely surprise you to know that we ended up with one of the puppies after all, so I will introduce you to the newest farm dog, Patch, as you can see from the photo, Mia is thrilled to bits to have someone share her bed with lol


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Hello February :)

February has finally arrived, the shortest month on the calender, but physcologically the longest month of the year! Why? because we get a glimpse of things to come when the Sun peeps through but its far too early to begin any preparations for sowing, there is always a chance that the weather will bite you on the backside if you get too keen. The Sun is shinning gloriously today as it was yesterday and you can feel Spring in the air but at the begining of the month the temperatures were low, we went down to around -9 at night here which resulted in a burst pipe in the tack room, water, water everywhere, luckily it had not been flowing for long, around ten minutes before someone noticed it.

I have ordered (and they have arrived) all my seeds ready for the moment I deem fit for planting, I have included some new (to me) items such as Samphire, Cucamelon, and Watercress, I am also contemplating Water Melon, those together with all the usual suspects will keep me busy during the early Spring. Also waiting patiently are the seed potatoes, garlic and onion sets, I did very well last year and still have onions and garlic to use up so I may end up having plenty of those to sell this coming season.

We have had some wildlife visitors, some welcome, some not so. I have been feeding the geese pellets because of the shortage of grass and the local population of pheasants have cottoned on to this, it started with five and at the last count there were sixteen. Obviously I cant afford to feed that lot so there are days when I dont feed the geese but let them out to free range the farm instead, this seems to stop the pheasants for a couple of days but they soon know when the menu is back up and running. The other visitor is the Fox, with my cctv I am able to playback and two  nights running seen the fox trying to get at the Quail, I was told last week that they had shot a couple over the back from me and for the past couple of nights there has been no sign of them so thats reassuring.

The puppies are now eight weeks and as I write this four of them have gone to thier new homes, we are just waiting for someone to look at the last one tomorrow and then they will all be gone. I have enjoyed looking after them, well mostly, last week they all had the runs and I didnt know if I was coming or going, I will miss thier cuteness but will be glad to get back to routine and so I suspect will Mia.

As for everything else, its pretty much the same as the last blog really, we are getting plenty of eggs from the hens, the ducks are being a bit lazy and I have customers waiting for duck eggs but you cant make them lay so they will just have to wait a while. Bella the kitten continues to settle in, well she is pretty much settled really, she knows the routine now and Diesel is allowing her to be in the same vicinity at last, she takes most things in her stride, nearly always hitching a lift on the back of the horse out to the paddock, I must try and get a photo of that to post for next time.

Indoors we have been busy decorating for the past few months and are very nearly at the end of that so Hubby will be back on outside duties which have suffered a bit, well you cant do everything at once can you, dont let him know I said that otherwise he will use it as an excuse to slow down!

So thats about it for this time, I will go back to planning the veg plot, think about ordering some compost, maybe even get the propagator out and get something on the go such are my itchy fingers, not too hasty though or it will backfire, sure as eggs are eggs!


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Winter Blues

Well Blue Monday came and went, to be honest I can’t see what is so depressing about it, at least we are on the right side of the year for a return of Spring :) We have plenty of signs that the circle of life is continuing, the bulbs are beginning to push their way through the frosty crust of earth, little tips of green peeping out are a good reminder that warmer days will come eventually. I have a shrub that we planted in the driveway last year, the name escapes me, but it has just started to flower, when I saw the little white blossom I literally broke out into a smile, the fragrance is strong too, which is why we decided to put it there, even if it’s not for long we should get wafts of perfume when walking by.

Today I spotted Fallow deer in the field behind us, about six of them in all, we tried to get a bit closer but their senses are sharp and we only got halfway across our paddock before their heads came up and they ran off, they will be back I am sure. We also have about five hen pheasants that have been coming for breakfast everyday in the goose paddock, they are eating the grain that the geese leave. It started off with just one and each day another would arrive and now it’s a party!

We have had a flutter of Snow, luckily it was only a layer, just enough to look pretty but not so much it causes a mess when it melts. On the morning of the snowfall it was still dark when I got up, I opened the door to look out and realised it was snowing, everything was totally still and quiet and you could nearly hear the shuffle of the snow when it hit the ground, it’s almost eerie.

I spent a morning doing a bit of baking, the result was a couple of fruit cakes, a lemon and lime drizzle cake, two bakewell puddings, a Brazil and cherry cake and a Victoria sandwhich, not a bad mornings work. My aim was to use up as much as I could from my baking cupboard, which I think I achieved. We are trying to make an effort to use up what we already have rather than buy something else, so as long as I have made cakes and puddings Hubby is not allowed to buy any when we go shopping. We are getting through some of the fruit and veg that was frozen last year, which is good because it won’t be long before we are picking again. The temptation to grab something quick off the shelf in the supermarket is great especially when you are busy and don’t have much time, but the reward of making and eating your own produce is much greater in my opinion and it tastes soo much better.

Hubby and my Stepdad have been busy concreting the feed room floor, up to that point all the feed bins were on pallets of various heights and sizes, some of the wood had broken and it was a bit of a hazard to say the least. Often the room would flood during heavy rainfall, but now we have a lovely level dry surface to walk on, a small thing but it makes all the difference to the start of the day if you can go about your business without twisting your ankle ;)

Bella, the kitten, fast becoming a small cat, has continued to settle in, and Diesel seems to be much more tolerant of her now, although he has not quite got to the stage where he will share milk with her, he does at least let her sit within a couple of feet of him and let her watch. Eventually they will become good friends and go off hunting together I am sure.

Mia’s puppies are growing super fast and all developing their own characters, they are five weeks old now and when I let them all out of the pen it’s pure carnage. They take up a fair bit of time through the day as Mia is only feeding them morning and before bed, the rest of the time, about three times a day, I let them out to eat hard feed, then there is a constant round of mopping up after them. As soon as I turn to clear up one lot another appears and they have now got to the age where, trying to grab the tissue as I clear up, is a great game. Then they need a little playtime, so they have carrots to chew on, cardboard tubes and empty plastic tubs to push around and a ball to figure out, who says you need fancy toys, after that comes the best bit, cuddle time, I am making the most of it while they are still here.

I made an attempt at looking through the seed catalogues last week, normally I am very keen to get my order in, that in turn makes me a bit too keen to get planting and inevitably the weather prevents this from happening so I end up disappointed, maybe I am learning finally not to be too hasty, or maybe I am just procrastinating, I haven’t made my mind up yet lol. Either way when I finally do get to start on the garden, I have ordered a fetching little number called a ‘facekini’ google it, that way you won’t be too afraid if you turn up a the farm and see me out in it, who knew something like that even existed, I am hoping it will mean I can spend longer outside in the sunshine, even if I frighten all the locals!

The CCTV is nearly operational, I say nearly because although I have managed to connect it all up to make sure it works, the only camera I have on is perched in the windowsill. I am still waiting for one or two things I need before locating them outside. I must say I am rather impressed with the quality of the picture both in the daytime and at night. It’s mostly for watching the wildlife around the farm, it will be interesting to see what is lurking, and if we manage to catch any two legged lurkers while we are at it then all the better :)



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Happy New Year :)

Well I haven’t blogged for ages, the new year seems a good place to start again, I will try and blog once a fortnight depending on what there is to say, once a week is too much and by the time once a month comes round I have forgotten everything ;)

We are in the depths of Winter, to be honest it has not been too bad as yet although I know there will probably be worse to come. The paddocks didn’t take long, once the rain came, to turn to mud baths, even the chicken footfall has caused a mushy field. We have reorganised the duck pen temporarily, that had turned into a slurry pit, mostly because the rain from the stable roof was flowing straight through it, Hubby has redirected the pipe to flow straight into the pond and we have penned them into drier ground for the time being. The plan is to dry it out, dig the pond out further down and hope we get the water flow right so that if it overflows it continues on down to the paddocks. Channeling water away from areas is a topic we have been discussing over the festive break, it seems we have more and more water sitting around and the plan is to channel it down to the hedge, when that will happen is anyone’s guess! Hubby had two weeks off and plenty of wood got chopped up, on frosty mornings the resting paddock was mucked ready for dragging when the ground firms up. We took down the fence in the middle of the front two paddocks so that we could move the electric fencing with more efficiency. One lot of chickens are now on fresh clean grass, the others have a bit more grass but we were unable to move the main of it off of the mud because there is nowhere else for them to go.

All the poultry are doing fairly well considering the weather, I nearly lost a goose a couple of months a go, it was very unwell but with some tlc and medication it made it through thankfully. I am still not sure how many males and females I have, I will have to wait until Spring and see how many eggs I get, if any.

I was standing looking out of the back door this morning looking at the wild birds, they seem to have faired well too, I noted that they look quite fat which will be important if we have a severe cold snap, we have a pair of partridge that have move onto the premises, I see them most days wandering around and there are a lot of pheasants nearby, they often wander in and pick up any seed that the chickens missed. We have not had any fox attacks as yet, although I did have a call from a neighbour to say that they had seen a large and healthy fox in the area so we need to be on our guard. We religiously shut our birds away at dusk and we don’t let them out until it’s light, so hopefully we won’t suffer any loses.

One of the hardest things to understand for people is the commitment when you are running a small holding, your social hours change greatly through the year, for instance during the winter, you need to be here an hour before sundown to feed the poultry, that means if you are going out you need to be back by around 3 in the afternoon, on the flip side you can go out to parties in the evening. During the summer months the day is a lot longer but the evenings are interrupted, so if you have been invited to an occasion that starts at 7, you go for a couple of hours before or after dark depending on how you feel, occasionally I have sent Hubby home to put the birds away while I stay at the party but that’s not very often. All in all I wouldn’t want it any other way, and of course when you have the parties here it’s no problem at all :)

Sadly we have lost two of the domestic animals in the last month, first Felix, the black and white cat, he got run over in the lane, by the time a passer by got him to the vets he had died. Felix was born on the farm about 10 years ago, he was almost feral when we moved in and over the last five years he had come to trust us and stay around for the occasional stroke if he was in the mood. The second was Moloko, the black and white Husky, he developed a tumour on his leg approx a year ago, they are prone to this type of illness. He was nearly 10 and by the time we noticed the tumour it had probably already got into the bone, so the options were to have the leg amputated, it may still have spread, or to leave it until the time came to have him put to sleep. We chose the latter because for an old dog, especially a running dog, to have his leg off would be traumatic, as it was he had a good year without discomfort and then it became apparent that the time had come. It was a good call and he went to sleep very peacefully.
We felt that the remaining cat, Diesel, would be lonely so in came Bella, a black kitten who has made herself totally at home and wreaks havoc outside, she is full of energy and as soon as humans appear she leaps on their shoulder and purrs very loudly, she is very active, agile and fast, we have already seen her catch a mouse and so she will be an asset, Diesel is just about tolerating her now although at first it was hate at first sight lol.
Mia has had puppies, they were born on December 14th, an hour before I was expecting the whole family over, she wasn’t due until the 17th so Sod’s law kicked in, they are now 3 weeks old and there are five little fat bundles of cuddliness :)

The new year seed catalogues have arrived, which always make me very happy, deciding on what to grow for the year is something I love doing, I try not to do it too early as it can be demoralising waiting endlessly for the weather to change and get stuck in, but this time of year is great for planning as there are plenty of ‘indoor’ days to do it. I have a Facebook contact that has a small holding in Norway and they have to be fully self sufficient, I love reading about their place and the things they do, I find it quite inspiring to read about other like minded people and their day to day happenings, it spurs me on to think of all the things I ought to be doing but haven’t quite got round to yet. I don’t have new year resolutions as such but I resolve to ‘do things’ for instance one year I decided to say yes to invitations instead of saying, I will let you know or I am not sure if i will have time, I had a very sociable year! This year I have resolved try to do things I would like to have a go at, cheese making for instance, I have been saying for the past 3 years that I will have a go, so this is the year I will get it done. Having a go at smoking is another, garlic, meat whatever I fancy, building a pizza oven is another although I am not sure where to put it that’s the dilemma with that one, and getting my food hygiene certificate so that I can sell preserves at the farm gate. These are all things I intend to do, we will see how many of them I achieve over the next year.

A New Year is full of hope and promise so I hope you achieve the things you set out to do and I promise try try and achieve mine :) Happy New Year to you all. X




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Where did I put my motivation?

Today seems like a good day to blog after being absent for a while, we have had a long and glorious Summer and so no complaints in that department, however the Winter has arrived and there seems to be no let up in the downpours and the subsequent mud!

Not much is different since the last time I posted, the veg patch has given it’s last bounty and all that is left are a few winter crops. Time to begin preparing the beds for next spring, some of them have had a heavy layer of muck added, some have had a top up of compost and some are still waiting for their tlc. We have plenty of veg and fruit in the freezer to keep us going until the fresh produce is available again and as that is always the aim we have succeeded.

The ducks are enjoying the constant wet weather, but their pen is turning into a quagmire so preparations are under way to move them temporarily and dry the run out, dig the pond a little further away from their house so that we can round them up more easily at bedtime. At the moment it is a case of sliding around in circles which is getting quite tiresome.
One of the geese went down off its legs a couple of weeks ago, we bought it in and put it on antibiotics which have done the trick and it is now back outside happily wandering with the other four.

The chickens have been moulting and so we are not getting many eggs from them, I do feel under pressure to ensure there are enough out in the shed for sale but with the best will in the world I can’t make them lay all I can do is keep looking after them and feeding them until the egg numbers go back up. During the latter end of the Summer we discovered we had a thief pinching eggs from the shed this made me both sad and angry at the same time. Sad that someone would do that and angry because they think they can get away with it, we took the eggs in for a while to hopefully discourage them and potentially catch them out and it seems to have worked fingers crossed. It is disheartening because we don’t make much money on the egg sales, if you included my time cleaning them out and the items that keep them in good condition such as wormer, grit, garlic the profit probably wouldn’t even be there to be honest. You would then ask why bother? Sometimes I ask myself that especially when people also short change you or worse put foreign coins in, but on the whole I have a terrific bunch of customers that love coming to get their fresh eggs and in the Spring and Summer it also provides a customer base for the veg so that’s why I do it.
Then this mornings news that bird flu is back in the country put everything into jeopardy again, hopefully it’s an isolated case that can be contained quickly, I have to give a thought to the duck breeder who is having to cull 6000 ducks today, it will be a devastating day for him indeed.

Christmas is approaching fast and I do hope we get some cold weather with it, last year we didn’t get the cold snaps that we need to get rid of pests and diseases that affect the veg and fruit crops, then a wet cold Spring added to the difficulties, as a gardener I am always optimistic about the next year, hopefully it will be a good one. The Winter months are usually a time for making and baking but I have not quite got into that yet, I can’t find the motivation and no idea where I put it last ;)
I have included a couple of photos that I have taken in the last few weeks, one of the sunrise which at this time of year can be very uplifting and one of All Hallow’s Eve, because it was so mild we decided to light the fire pit and sit out side for the evening something we don’t often get to do at that time of year, you have to make the most of things when you can :)



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