Posts Tagged ‘family life’

In which I struggle to regain my gardening spark

We have decided not to enter our garden in the local open garden this year. The decision has left me a little short for inspiration in the garden, especially with a lot of digging due to be done. Mr Gorgeous came to the rescue yesterday and dug two beds for me, so I have finally planted some winter crops.

I have however been busy dealing with the harvest, and for those who are interested in what happens to it all, I’m blogging at Donnaisplayinghouse where this month I’m going to have a red hot go at not buying any food for all of May. This is the second time I’ve done this challenge, and it’s been a great way to get towards the bottom of the cupboard, fridge and freezer, and to really be frugal with my resources.

I have been most encouraged though by a visit from Linda from Chloe’s Garden who popped in for a look at the garden, and within a week managed to solve my two biggest garden searches. I have been looking for a small capsicum to stuff like they do at the supermarket, and have been growing different varieties for a couple of years in the hope of finding the perfect one. Well, thanks to Linda, I now have seeds! Also, I’ve been wanting to grow tree onions, and again thanks to Linda I have a supply to get me started. What a treasure she is!

Thanks (and congratulations on the new bub) to Lizzie from the Garden share collective for hosting this blog share, and getting me off my backside and into the garden so I wouldn’t be completely ashamed of myself.

What I’m picking
Tomatoes, still, but the quality and quantity are both way down. I got enough for two meals with yesterday, but only a handful were nice enough to eat raw. I oven roasted the rest, half for tea, half for the freezer.

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Pumpkins, all at once.

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Capsicums and chillis. These have been very late bloomers and I hope I get a few more to turn red before the cold weather really hits.

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The last of the apples and pears. The pears will mostly be cooked, as the kids don’t especially like this variety raw in their lunch boxes.

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Beets. Now cooked and ready to bottle, as that’s Mr Gorgeous’s favourite.

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What I’m planting
Lots of brassicas, greens like mizuna and lettuce and chicory and Pak Choy, onions, late beets, garlic, hopefully soon some peas and broad beans.

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What I need to do
Get enthused.
Dig.
Plant.
Compost.
Just do it.

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In which I harvest like a crazy woman

March has been a big month for harvesting in the garden. My kitchen bench seems to be permanently covered in produce which needs to be dealt with urgently. Some days it seems to take all day! Cucumbers have been compulsory at every meal, and lots is being put aside for leaner days.

Other than a hand of bananas for some lovely guests, we didn’t buy any fruit or vegetables in March. We have eaten watermelon, rockmelon, apples and pears – two kinds of each. There are also grapefruit on the tree, but they will wait until the apples are all done. On occasion, the kids still look blankly into the crisper of the fridge and have to be told that the apples are still on the trees; such is the power of habit. I try to get them to bring in an armful when they go down to get one.

For this month’s blog, I thought I’d do a tour of the vegetable beds, and look at what I’m harvesting, what I’m planting, and what I need to do. It is quite long, sorry, as I have a lot of beds. At least looking at them all doesn’t take as long as weeding them! The first bed pictured here has some blueberries and artichoke at the back, and has had potatoes and zucchini this year. I took a before photo…

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Then went through and harvested the zucchinis and potatoes and took an after photo. I’ll plant some peas in here I think, because the soil looks a bit tired, and I think it could do with some extra nitrogen.

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Here’s the harvest. The potatoes, mostly kippflers, and some desiree came to the level top of my basket, and the zucchini, including the one that got away are on the top. We had a great meal of the potatoes last night. We picked up a BBQ with a lid for $40 at a garage sale, so I wrapped the spuds in alfoil with butter, chilli and rosemary, and roasted them in the BBQ. Very nice indeed.

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The next bed along has had beans, eggplant and capsicums and chillies. The eggplant is nearly all done, the capsicums are still going strong – just hitting their straps really, but the beans have all died really suddenly. The leaves went yellow and mottled, and they just stopped producing. I found quite a few juvenile vegetable bugs on the beans, but I suspect that wasn’t the whole story. Anyway, I grabbed what I could and pulled them all out. I think that I’ve neglected the soil a bit this year, and that could be the cause of my issues. I’m predicting a big manure week.
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Still, the view as the Aunty Collector and I worked, and the lovely weather this weekend made for a pleasant afternoon. When we had finished our work, the Aunty Collector grabbed the stakes and corn stalks, and had a great time making a tepee of sorts, and then trying to keep the dog out of it.(Unsuccessfully)

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The strawberry patch is a weedy disaster. I left the netting on too long so instead of grabbing a weed or two, or throwing on some mulch as I went past, things just grew like topsy under the netting. It’s a mess of runners, weeds, and I don’t know what else. Last year, I pulled everything up at the start of winter and just replaced the strawberry plants, and I got kilos of strawberries, so I think I’ll do the same again this year. Only with more mulch. And with remembering to take the netting off. And with more vigilance.

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This next bed is mostly clover since I pulled the onions and leeks. There are a few eggplants at the back, but although they have flowers, I may have put them in too late to get fruit. We’ll see.
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The corn and beans at the back are all done. Same bean problem here too. The silverbeet in the middle is THRIVING, and the beets are coming on well.
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Photo Credit: The Aunty Collector

The next three beds are where the rockmelons were. For the first time this year I’ve separated them from the pumpkins, and they’ve produced fruit. I can’t believe it took six years of swamped melons and no fruit to come up with that brainwave! There are still beans (fairly healthy) and cucumbers producing here.
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The asparagus is growing large and will be feeding the roots. I’ll need to get some manure here too.
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I planted some painted mountain corn. The ears are so beautiful. I’m drying it to see if I can make popcorn, but I have to admit I don’t know what I’m doing, and early experiments are NOT promising. Still, it’s giving me a great deal of pleasure as it graces the kitchen bench.
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Lastly the tomatoes and pumpkins are providing lots of colour and lots of meals. I’m roasting and freezing the tomatoes in Chinese food containers for winter meals. Between that, the lamb and the grated zucchini, the freezer is groaning. The purple ties you see here are an old pair of thermals!

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This poor tomato must have missed out on water. What a sorry specimen

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PLANTING
When my mum was here last year, she sorted my seeds so I could see what I should be (could get away with…) buying. Last week I finished the sort, and labelled the bags, and the resulting tidiness makes me happy.

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I’ve planted brassicas, leafy greens some late beets, and some onions. They’re happily residing in the little greenhouse.
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Thanks to Lizzie from the Garden Share Collective for hosting the garden blog share. If you’ve enjoyed reading about this, you’ll probably enjoy the other gardens there too. There are lots of ideas and lots of great gardens.

The Garden Share Collective

 

In which the show comes to town!

Every year on the first Saturday in March, our local town has a show. One of the men in charge in the exhibition hall goes to our church, and one year when he was visiting us, he showed me how to pick rhubarb and prepare it for the show. Thus began my association with the show, which now sees me acting as a steward, as well as showing vegetables and cooking.
It’s one of those daggy things to do that make the show a really fun outing. Because I’m a steward, I get there really early, so my entries look very lonely for a while. Soon however the shelves fill up. From that point on though, I don’t know what’s happening with my entries, because my area of responsibility is the art section.

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At the end of the day, once all the artwork is judged and displayed, I get to rush back and see how my babies have done. This year, despite terrible weather, and me being away, the babies did very well, thank you. My highlights were my zucchinis and pink cordial which both won best in section, something I’ve never managed even once until this year. Also bringing home the bacon were beans, pumpkin (already in today’s soup for lunch) beans, tomatoes, strawberry chilli sauce, watermelon, tomatillos and cucumbers, (although the cucumbers managed to come second in a class where they were the only entry, so don’t be too effusive in your congratulations!)
So, in my acceptance speech, I’d like to thank Mr Gorgeous for his tireless watering efforts in 40 degree heat while I was away.

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Now, to what’s going on in my garden at the moment. Thanks to Lizzie at the Garden Share Collective for keeping me regularly blogging.

The Garden Share Collective

There are beans everywhere. Despite losing all their flowers in the hot weather, the plants have lived on, and are now blooming and producing lots of beans.

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The tomatoes are very late this year. I’m only just starting to get good crops now

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I’ve separated my melons from my pumpkins, thanks to some extra room this year, and finally I’m getting melons. This watermelon (sugar baby, I believe) plant died suddenly, so I’ve been bringing the melons in to eat. They were underripe, but still delicious and refreshing.

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I haven’t planted anything this month. This will almost certainly leave me with a gap in my produce, but I’ll try and plant a few brassica seeds this week, and some tomatoes and carrots. If it’s not too late, I’d like to put a few more beets in. I get a monthly email from gardenate which tells me what I can plant, although I’m never sure whether I’m temperate or cool climate here.

As soon as we get some rain, I need to start some weeding, especially of paspalum and of the strawberry patch. Also, there’s an orange winged bug I need to research to see whether it’s friend or foe.

Just as soon as I finish basking in glory…..

In which I garden long distance

Well, this will be a funny old post. I’m writing this from the top room at my mum and dad’s house in Perth. I’m here, thousands of kilometres from my home for my grandmother’s funeral tomorrow, and so I’ll be posting without the usual stream of consciousness flow of photos.
First I’d like to do a shout out about my grandma, who was a gardener. Some of my early memories are of happy childhood days spent in her backyard, eating cape gooseberries, pulling apart an old TV in the back shed, cooking jam tarts, sorting the button tin, and answering the dreaded question, “Have you opened your bowels today?” at least once a day, more often if we dared answer in the negative! No wonder we spent so much time eating the cape gooseberries.
Although she had Alzheimer’s disease of late, and was no longer the cryptic crossword loving quick wit that I grew up with, that lady had been replaced with another lovely gentle lady whom we also loved. So thanks, grandma for the legacy you’ve left our family.

And now on to what’s happening in my garden. You can read what other gardeners are up to in February here at Strayed from the table.

HARVEST
Being February I have mountains of zucchini. I’m making family favourites like zucchini quiche, creating new recipes, and grating and freezing the rest, which is lots. I’ve harvested all the kohlrabi, swedes and parsnips, which I’ve cubed, blanched and frozen for soups.
We’re eating beans, kale, and lots of herbs too. The herbs have taken off, and I’m pruning them back to keep them in check.
We’ve had quite a bit of hot weather here. The veggies don’t seem to have minded, but many of my flowers have been cooked to a crisp. At least the Jacaranda seems happy.

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We’re getting some autumn raspberries too. I think we’d be getting lots more if we watered them more, but we’re a bit stingy on the water, giving everything only enough to keep it alive. The plums are in full fruit. We’re eating Satsumas this week, with juice dripping down our chins.
The strawberries are still fruiting, but have slowed down a lot since they started putting out runners. I never know whether removing the runners will help them to keep fruiting or not. Does anyone know?

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PLANTING
I had a flurry of planting before I flew out to Perth. I put in seedlings of lettuce, eggplant (too late, perhaps) basil, and lots of flowers which will hopefully bloom in time for an upcoming party. I also planted three rows of beet seeds with the Aunty Collector. Mr Gorgeous loves beetroot so I hope to be able to present him with lots.

TO DO
Keep everything alive. Mr Gorgeous is doing a great job of watering in my absence. It was 41 degrees yesterday, so it will be quite a job, especially with new seedlings. He is even texting through updates on the watering!
While I’m in Perth, I’ve got two permaculture and self sufficiency books that I’d like to read.
Also, I’d like to tidy my mum’s veggie patch up, as her back is giving her grief, and it’s getting away. Mum’s a great gardener, even coaxing vegetables out of the coastal sand they have here. The veggie patch isn’t big, but it’s productive. I’ll try and post before and after shots.

In which November has rushed by

December already?
What happened? All month I’ve been taking photos of interesting things in the garden,ready to blog, and life has taken over. It’s been a month full of happenings for the children, with our boarder “daughter” moving out, our eldest finishing school, with the associated exams and end of school functions, and our son getting ready for an overseas exchange.
The gardening has been done in very small bursts in between all this. Firstly, I’ve harvested all the broad beans. I’ve been harvesting for over a month taking some here and there as we’ve wanted them, but now I needed the space for summer vegetables, so they all came out at once. (6.5kg of pods to be exact). They were very lush, and produced really well.

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Of course I have had the help of Mollie the Collie, who has had the decency to leave the beans alone. She loves most other vegetables though, happily sticking her nose into the basket to pinch peas, asparagus and strawberries if I let her.
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Some of the beans have been pilfered by birds. I’m always impressed with the way they cut straight to the chase, taking only the sweet beans, and leaving the pod. (not impressed enough to let them get away with it if I spot them though)
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The family all like broad beans, but I suspect they’re not their favourite, as all the ways they like them best have the beans well disguised with garlic, soy or other flavours. I still grow heaps of them though because they add nitrogen to the soil. I took a photo of the roots to show the white beads of nitrogen. I scrape most of these off back into the soil before I compost the rest.
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The long awaited berry harvest has begun. First the strawberries, then red currants, and now the raspberries are fruiting. The raspberries in particular need picking every 48 hours, and freezing on trays before putting them in zip lock bags. My stash last the whole year of raspberry cordial, jam and desserts.
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I thought I’d include a pic of one day’s harvest to show what’s coming in at the moment. Picking is most of what I’m doing in the garden at the moment, and our evening meals are structured around what I’m getting. A recent cold snap has helped with using up the root vegetables, but I think that next weekend I’ll do a big pick and freeze of Swedes, Kohlrabi and parsnips.
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Even the flowers are in full bloom (just a month too late for open garden) We received this lovely vase from visitors a few years ago, and it’s perfect for this time of year.
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There’s a lot that’s ready. The onions, root crops and peas are all giving us food at the moment.
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The potatoes are completely taking over this bed, but they’re flowering, so it won’t be long now til I can start burrowing.

With the netting over the raspberries, we’re now getting good crops.
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The netting on the strawberries is about 10 times what we need, but the netting that was the right size got completely mauled by the dog when a bird got stuck in it. This, although completely over the top, is doing the job nicely.
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They cherries are so close! We tried a couple today that had turned pink and fallen off, but they were still a couple of days away.
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So, finally, the to do list. Still on the list sadly is sit and enjoy the garden, which I haven’t had time to do. Not on the list, thankfully, is mow the grass in the picture above, as that got done today. (thank you Mr Gorgeous)

I still have a few last seedlings to put in, and I need to reseed some more beans which I think probably rotted in a fortnight of rain after I planted them. I want to learn how to prune the lemon tree hard, as it’s become too rangy.

I also need to work out how to keep swede do that I can use it later, so that’s a research job for me.

Also, try new egg recipes. We’re up to three dozen in the cupboard, and nobody’s let the chickens know we have enough. We have three sheep to pick up from the butchers this week, so I think lamb chops will also be on the menu.

Perhaps also, I want to blog once during December, just to show I can do it without a deadline looming.

Thanks to Lizzie from the Garden Share Collective for getting me going to share now. You can have a look at other gardens here:

In which I recover from Open Garden and start a new adventure

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who planned, weeded, pruned, tidied, fed us, sat on the front desk, took photos, labelled trees, and generally helped out with open garden, and all of you who came, and were gentle with us! We’ve had the most enormous weekend, and it makes me realise how much we need our friends.

I was wondering how I would keep the impetus going after the open garden (and to tell you the truth, the nana nap has featured big in my week!), but now I’ve got just the thing. I’ve been asked to be part of the Garden Share Collective. Yay. That should keep me going at both the garden and the computer. More about that later in this post.

The Garden Share Collective

So first of all, here are (quite a) few pics of the garden on open garden day, when most of the garden was looking its best.

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The “kids’ table’ set up by Master 10 (the aunty collector) and the flowers garden

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The newly weeded raspberry bushes, thanks to Master 15 (the hungry one)

IMGP3542Mr Gorgeous has done the most wonderful job making companion planting beds under the fruit trees. We used the leftover bricks from the front of the house. The chickens, however, think they’re the most perfect dust baths, so we’re yet to have that argument, which will involve large quantities of chicken wire until the plants are established, I suspect.

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Many of these seedlings probably should have been in the ground for open garden, but I was too frantic getting ready in so many areas of the garden that I didn’t have the brain space free to decide what should go where. So there they sat on Open Garden Day, but they were a good starter for conversation right where they were.

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The babies!

I made a display table for the day with some of the food I’d preserved during the year, and lots of cordial (raspberry, lemon and lime/ginger), which we shared with our visitors.

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Now that Open Garden is over, I have a booking with these chairs. One of the lovely things about the Open Garden was chilling with visitors looking at what’s good about the garden. When I work in the garden I tend to see only the jobs, but having new eyes in the garden made me appreciate again what I have.

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I made some posters for the day: one of the history of the garden, and another of our year.

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Now, to a mystery. I had a lovely conversation about tomato seedlings with someone on the day (A wonderful lady, I do remember that much) and then this lovely gift arrived during the week. I have a tomato seedling here to return the favour, but I can’t for the life of me remember who I was talking to. Some of the day is a bit of a blur! So if this is you, contact me, and I’d love to share my seedlings with you.

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So, onto what’s happening now. The Garden share Collective (you can click on the picture at the top of the blog to go there) is a bunch of people growing food, who share what they’re planting, harvesting, and what they’ll do next, in order to encourage one another. Here’s what I’m up to.

PLANTING

As well as putting in the other seedlings in regular beds, I’ve been making a pumpkin patch. The netting is necessary as the chickens free range in this part of the garden. I have hammered thin bamboo posts into the ground, and joined them with poly pipe. I’ve then stretched a piece of old netting over the top, and then sewing up all the holes. The bottom edge is fully pegged down with some homemade pegs, thanks to some fencing wire and the next door neighbour’s generosity with his cutters. I’ll peg down the top (front of photo) once the plants are in.

It’s also time to get in my beans and corn in, and to plant some more greens like mizuna and lettuce so they’ll be ready when this current lot finishes. I have been planting beans to dry the past few years, and I’ll do that again this year if I have the space. I have 2 big new veggie beds – surely I’ll have space.

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HARVESTING

The day after Open Garden, I went around and picked lots of the stuff that I’d left there for people to look at, and the result was a big stir fry, a garden salad and 2 lovely bunches of flowers. The strawberries have just started to ripen, and need better netting soon. I’m also picking a bunch or two of asparagus every second day, and the peas and broad beans continue.

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TO DO
Nearly everything needs netting. Urgent are the strawberries, cherries, apricots and blackberries which also need weeding. ( A shame really, my arms have only just recovered from weeding the raspberries.)
Also, and very importantly, I plan to sit in the garden and enjoy it.

In which we are now counting down days, not weeks

It’s getting so close. I really hope you all like my garden.  There are only 17 days until we open!

The peas have been cropping hugely, but these guys are all but finished. The shelling peas have just started, and I have two more rows of peas after those that are still coming on.

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The  broad beans are in flower, and should start giving us beans in the next few weeks. There are even some little baby beans at the bottom. I’ve heard that broad beans will crop at the same time no matter when you plant them, so I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has them in, and what they’re up to. (Sorry about this photo – it’s too rainy to go out and take another!)20131006-205706.jpg
The brassicas are all but finished, and I’m starting to tidy up the bed for some of my tomatoes. This garden bed has my cheap and cheerful fence which keeps the dog out, but does make dumping barrow loads of mulch tricky, as there’s no gate.

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 Mr Gorgeous has been quite proprietorial about his new garden bed, and has rigged up a quick version of the string fence which has been really effective in changing the dog’s habits. She can still get through the fence if she chooses, but she no longer goes flogging through at breakneck speed.
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This is not what I imagined my front yard would look like with just over two weeks to go. We’re getting a new driveway, and I hope we can get it cleaned up in time! I’ve made lots of “mind your step” sign as a plan B, but I actually think we’ll be ready.20131008-104426.jpg
Finally, a quick pic of my lemon verbena which grows higher than my head each year. I prune it hard every winter, and then spend a month worrying that this time I’ve really killed it, but once again it’s on the way back, and I’ll be drinking lemon tea again in no time.
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