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Winterizing Your Hen House

Winterizing your chicken coop.
Keeping your chickens safe, dry and warm this winter will insure you have a steady supply of fresh eggs through the cold winter months.

Install a full daylight spectrum, 6500K color temperature CFL light bulb on a timer so your chickens get a full 15 or 16 hours a day lighting from artificial and sun light will keep your hens laying well year round.

The annual cost of operating a 150-Watt Equivalent Daylight (6500K) Spiral CFL Light Bulb 6 hours a day at $0.11 a kilowatt is about $9.50 a year and you can expect you bulb to last 4 to 5 years.Your cost to light your hen house will be about 80 cents a month.

Currently at my location sunset is about 7PM. To get 15 hours of lighting I wake my chickens by setting my time to turn the lights on at 4AM an off about 8:30AM. Every month or two I will adjust the timer as needed to keep 15-16 hours a day lighting in my hen house.

Look for and repair as need rodent damage, places where rats, mice or snakes can gain entry into your hen house.

Clean windows and vent screens to allow winter sun light in and vents to allow fresh air to circulate in your hen house. Chickens will spent a great deal more time in their house during cold, wet or snowy winter weather.

Insure that you have feeders located to keep feed clean, dry and away from rodents.
Fresh water is very important to the health of your flock.
You may want or need to invest in an elect powered heater to keep your chicken watering devices ice free this winter.

Carefully inspect and repair fencing as needed. As food becomes harder to find and catch, predators like raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, stray dogs and cats will be looking to snatch a quick easy meal and your chickens will be high on their menu.

Remove old nesting materials, bedding from nest boxes. scrape sweep and remove old litter materials from hen house floor.

Put straw and old nesting materials on your garden as winter mulch on add it to your compost pile.

Wash hen house walls, floor, roost and nest boxes with a mild mixture of soap water and household bleach.
Mix bleach and soap water at a 1:5 mix rate. That being 1 part bleach to 5 parts warm soap water.
While not an exact 1:5 mix rate, to 1 cup bleach, add water to make 1 gallon of disinfectant wash water.
Keep chickens out of their house until walls, floor and nest boxes are dry.

Hint: There are a number of industrial and household disinfectants what work well. Be sure to follow ‘all’ mixing and usage instructions, warnings and caution statements. Wear eye protection and always wear rubber gloves when using any cleaning chemicals or disinfectants.

Fill nest boxes 1/4 to 1/3 full of new clean straw, grass hay or what ever is your choice of nesting material.
Spread 3 to 6 inches deep straw litter on hen house floor. This will help keep your hen house clean, dry and will also help keep your hen house a bit warmer than a house with a bare floor.

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America And Organic Labeling

Organic can mean different things to different people, so, I will use (USDA) United States Department of Agriculture’s definition for Organic farming and labeling products as Organic.

USDA said “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for foods. Understanding what “organic” really means can help shoppers make informed choices during their next visit to the supermarket or farmers’ market.

Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.

When it comes to processed, multi-ingredient foods, the USDA organic standards specify additional considerations.
Regulations prohibit organically processed foods from containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients are organic, with some minor exceptions.
For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods.

USDA labeling: “100 percent organic”

“100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc. can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”

“Organic”

“Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic.

“Made with Organic ______” can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.

Principal display panel: May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.”

Use Caution when shopping and buying organic foods at Farmers Markets. Sellers can and sometimes do sell produce as organic when in truth the produce may or may not truly be an organic product.

Exemptions & Exclusions
Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification. They must, however, comply with the organic production and handling requirements of the regulations, including recordkeeping (records must be kept for at least 3 years). The products from such noncertified operations cannot be used as organic ingredients in processed products produced by another operation; such noncertified products also are not allowed to display the USDA certified organic seal.

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First Fall day has arrived

If you don’t have a compost pile or bin now is a good time to start your composting project. It’s really worth the effort.
In return for a little time and effort you will get back a lot of compost to amend your garden soil and it will cost you next to nothing except the time you invest in putting plant litter on your compost pile.

Fall and Early Winter Projects A Town & Country Post (October 2010).

Fall is the time to can the last of your cucumber when making pickles, a time for making salsa, pasta sauces, red or green, sweet or hot relishes and fried green tomato’s.
It is time to can and freeze the last of your summer gardens goodness, before the first hard frost ends your summer garden.
Fall is the time to prune, repot as needed tender potted plants and move them indoors for the winter.

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Fall Color = Planting Time For Spring Flowering Bulbs

Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° to 50 deg F. At any rate you should plant bulbs at least six weeks before the ground freezes.

You can plant bulbs just about anywhere in your garden as long as the soil is well drained. Bulbs don’t like wet feet. So, avoid areas where water collects, such as the bottom of hills. Bulbs like sun and in many areas the spring garden can be very sunny, since the leaves on the trees are not out yet. So keep in mind when planting in the fall that you can plant in many places for spring blooms.

Till your soil deeply so it’s loose and workable. If it’s not an established garden bed, chances are the soil benefit from the addition of some organic matter such as compost or peat moss.

Loosen soil in your planting bed to a depth of at least 8 inches, deeper is better. Remove weeds, rocks or other debris. You can mix in compost, other organic matter or slow releasing fertilizer if your soil lacks nutrients.

Planting bulbs, follow the recommendation on the label for planting depth. As a general rule, plant big bulbs about 8″ deep and small bulbs about 5″ deep. Set the bulb in the hole pointy side up or the roots down. It’s easy to spot the pointy end of a tulip, it’s tougher with a crocus. If you can’t figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side, in most cases, even if you don’t get it right, the flower bulb will still find its way.

After your bulbs are planted, back fill the hole with soil, lightly compress the soil but do not pack it. Water well to stimulate root growth. There is no need to water continuously unless you live in an area with low winter precipitation.

bulb-planting-chart

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Blackberries – easy to grow in your home garden

Now is a good time to start preparing your berry patch site for early spring planting.

Blackberries are considered one of the easiest fruits to grow at home. They are a native species to the United States and grow as a small shrub or trailing vine. Berries from this plant are excellent for fresh table fruit, syrup, jams and jelly.

Site Selection for your Blackberry patch.
* Light requirements: Full Sun
* Soil: Blackberries prefer acidic to basic Ph(6.0-7.0), soil should be a well drained organic soil. They adapt to most soil types except alkaline and wet. If you have clay soil, you should amend your soil with organic matter. To increase the soil’s organic content, amend with mulch wet peat moss, well aged sawdust, straw or leaf litter.
* Blackberries are self pollinating and hardy in zones 4-9.

Blackberries tend to form thickets and are vigorously rooted. Locate the plants where you can control “volunteers.” Blackberries have long roots and can send up suckers many feet from the parent plant. Leave room to mow around the beds.

Generally speaking T-trellis Support is recommended.
t-tressis

Annual Pruning after the first year. Use hand held clippers when pruning. First year erect canes should be left unpruned. Second year canes should be pruned back to 40″-48″. Pruning encourages lateral branching and increases cane strength, so they don’t fall over in snow and wind. Pruning should be done early in the growing season to decrease wounds that cause cane blight. Lateral branches should be cut back to 12″-18″.

During the second year, remove dead, damaged, weak and rubbing canes. You should thin out healthy canes closer than 6″ apart. Any pruned or removed canes should be disposed to eliminate the spread of disease and insects.

Oklahoma Gardening Video planting blackberries.

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Planning The Garden Plan A Plan B

Plan A, October 2015, move dead garden plants to compost pile. Store away for the winter water hoses, garden tools, tomato cages etc. Put down and till in compost. Put the garden to bed for the winter.

March 2016 I went in to the garden, first time I had looked at it since September 2015. Nothing had been cleaned up or put away for winter. No compost, nothing had been tilled.

Being the take charge kind of guy I am, I went back to the house and drank coffee until May 15, changing over to ice tea. July 19 I looked at the garden again.
I wonder where I planted those 2 grape vines. I can’t see them anywhere. I guess I better find them before tackling my weed and grass patch with a riding mower… A brush hog might be a better choice.

Plan B, Located and marked the grape vines. Poor little things, they didn’t have a chance competing for sun, water and nutrients with 4 foot tall weeds and grass.

Borrowed by son-n-laws whizz bang zero turn mower. Bad idea. I took out 2 T-post 3 feet of garden fence before I began to get the hang of steering that demon possessed mower.

Grass and weeds have been mowed. Garden fence taken down and T-post removed and stored safely out of my sight.

Grape vine trellis is in place ready to be installed.

If my garden doesn’t kill me, I’ll update when the trellis is up and vines are tied.

Down the road in September I have a red delicious apple dwarf tree purchased last fall, it’s still living in a large patio pot as well as 2 golden delicious semi-dwarf and 2 colette pear, semi-dwarf trees will arrive and be planted in my former cucumber patch.
FYI these are coming from Stark Bro’s nurseries.

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Carrots – Underused and Abused

Late summer / early fall planting do well in milder climates. Carrots can be planted every 2 to 3 weeks until about 12 weeks before the date of the average first autumn frost. Where winters are mild grow carrots in autumn and winter. Carrots require from 50 to 80 days to reach maturity. Small so called baby carrots can be harvested in about 30 days.

Carrots are hardy biennials grown as annuals. Depending on variety, carrots can be tapered and cylindrical, short and fat, round, or finger sized. Some carrots grow to 10 inches long while others are much shorter. Carrots are usually orange, but colors can vary from red to yellow to purple. Shorter varieties are a good choice for heavy soil clay soils. Long types require loose, loamy soil.

Grow carrots in full sun. Carrots will grow more slowly in partial shade. Plant carrots in loose, well worked soil. Dig soil to 12 inches before planting and add aged compost to the planting beds. Remove clods, rocks, and roots from planting beds. Carrots will split, fork, and become malformed if they grow into obstructions. Carrots prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.

Carrots are a cool weather crop best grown in spring, early summer, and autumn. Sow carrots in the garden 2 to 3 weeks before the last average frost date in spring.
Succession crops can be planted every 2 to 3 weeks until about 12 weeks before the date of the average first frost in autumn. Where winters are mild grow carrots in autumn and winter. Carrots require a soil temperature of about 40°F to germinate. Germination will be slow in cold soil.

Sow carrot seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep about 1 – 1 1/2 inch apart, thin carrots to about 4 inches apart in wide beds and about 2 inches apart in rows. Space rows 12 to 24 inches apart. Wide row planting of carrots gives a good yield form a small area. In warm, dry weather sow carrot seed deeper than 1/2 inch. When all else fails read the planting instruction on your seed package.

Keep carrots evenly moist to ensure quick growth. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Reduce watering as roots approach maturity, too much moisture at the end of the growing season will cause roots to crack. Add aged compost at planting time before sowing and again as a side dressing at mid season. carrots are heavy feeders of potassium needed for good root growth.

Companion plants for carrots are chives, onions, leeks, tomatoes, peas, rosemary. Carrots and dill do not play well together.

Carrots can be left in the ground until ready to use as long as the ground does not freeze. Hint: Before your first freeze cover your carrot crop with a thick layer of straw or other light weight mulch.
Carrots will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 months. Blanched carrots will keep in the freezer for up to 6+ months.

‘Purple Haze’
Purple with orange flesh

‘Atomic Red’
Red skin with orange/red flesh.

‘Mercurio’
An orange fast-growing Nantes hybrid, ideal for very early sowings.

‘Yellowstone’
A very sweet carrot with uniform yellow roots.

‘Paris Market’
Round with great flavor (below). Very fast to mature and grows well in shallow or stony soil. But don’t let them get too big or they will split.

‘Amsterdam Forcing 2’
Orange with small cylindrical roots.

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Seedling Pots – It’s Not To Late

For most of North America it is still not to late to plant your seedling pots. This will give your vegetable plants a head start on their growing season.
No need to spend time and effort insuring your seeds are planted the correct depth and properly spaced.

cone pot Whether you are using homemade paper pots, egg cartons, paper or plastic cups or have splurged and purchased ready to use peat pots insure you fill them with a well draining starter potting mix.

Optimal seed-starter mix will allow:
Retention of Moisture
Drainage of Excess Water
Aeration
Emergence of Seedlings (upward growth) and Penetration of Roots (downward growth)
Provide nutrients
Have Beneficial Microbes

DIY Organic starter mix:
4 parts screened compost
1 part perlite (a mineral available at most garden stores)
1 part vermiculite (another mineral available at most garden stores)
2 parts coir (coconut fiber) Optionally peat moss

A different version:
3 parts peat moss
1 part vermiculite
1/2 part perlite
1/4 tsp lime for 1 gallon of peat moss

Some recommend:
6-8 Parts Pre-Soaked Organic Coir or Sphagnum Peat Moss
1 Part Perlite
1 Part Vermiculite
1 Part Vermicompost(worm based compost) or Compost

Getting started:
Seedlings require a considerable amount of light, make sure you have a sunny, south facing window. If seedlings don’t get enough light, they will be leggy and weak.

If you don’t have a sunny, south facing window, invest in grow lights and a timer . Set the timer for 15 hours a day, water regularly. If your seedlings roots dry out it will surely die.

Read the back of your seed packet to see how deep you should plant your seeds. Some of the small ones can be sprinkled right on the soil surface. Larger seeds will need to be buried. I plant two or 3 seeds per pot. If all seeds germinate, I snip all but one and let it grow. It’s helpful to make a couple divots(dimples) in each pot’s soil to accommodate the seeds. After you’ve dropped a seed in each divot, you can cover the seeds.

Moisten the newly planted seeds with a mister. To speed germination, cover the pots with plastic wrap or a plastic dome that fits over the seed starting tray. This helps keep the seeds moist before they germinate. When you see the first signs of green, remove the cover.

Water, feed, repeat as the seedlings grow, use a mister or a small watering can to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry slightly between watering. Feed the seedlings regularly with a liquid fertilizer, mixed at the recommended rate.

Seedlings need a lot of light. Rotate the pots regularly to keep plants from leaning into the light.
If you’re growing under lights, adjust them so they’re just a few inches above the tops of the seedlings. Set the lights on a timer for 15 hours a day. As the seedlings grow taller, raise the lights little by little.

Harden Off seedlings by move seedlings outdoors gradually. It’s not a good idea to move your seedlings directly from the protected environment of your home into the garden.
You’ve been coddling these seedlings for weeks, so they need a gradual transition to the great outdoors. About a week before you plan to set the seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected spot outdoors (partly shaded, out of the wind) for a few hours each day, bringing them in at night.
Gradually, over the course of a few day’s or up to 10 days, expose them to more and more sunshine and wind. A cold frame is a great place to harden off plants.

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USDA Hardness Zone 6 & 7, Up Coming Projects

Only 40 more days of Winter ‘with luck’ , Equinox (Spring) arrives on my Tiny Farm Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 11:30 PM CDT. My last average Frost date is April 10th.
As of this morning my 2 inch and 4 inch soil temperatures were 45F and 46F. That is the signal that I can soon safely start putting out Garlic and Onion sets. Start planting Lettuce, Peas, Radish, Turnips, Spinach and Beet seed can be planted.

If the air temperature gets warm enough I will venture out into the garden and finish fall clean up. I still have plant litter to burn and some materials to be put on the compost pile. Gas up the tiller and ready seed beds for planting this springs vegetable crops.

As a side note, I discovered 4 potato’s sprouting in my potato bin. My soil is not well suited for growing potato’s but I do have four 6 gallon buckets that will be recycled and used as potato growing containers this year.
I know Master Gardeners say “don’t plant sprouting supermarket potato’s.” However it’s either plant them or they will be chicken food!
Smiling, hard to find anything better than fresh new potato’s to compliment a mess of fresh picked peas or beans.

Projects that may not be on your radar.
Zone 6
* Sow seeds in starter pots for Spring planting.
* Prune fruit/nut trees, grape vines, rose bushes and berry patches to remove winter damage.
* Feed cool-season lawns.
** If you use a preeminence lawn treatment to prevent weed seed from germinating February is a good time to make that treatment. Carefully follow package instruction for proper application.
* Removing winter mulch and lightly cultivating soil.
* Sow seeds for cool weather vegetables (late February to mid-March)
* Sow frost-tolerant perennials indoors.
* Divide and replant summer and fall blooming perennials(when soil is warm enough to be easy to work).
* Plant bare root and container roses, trees and fruiting vines.

Zone 7
* Sow seeds of warm-season annuals in starter pots.
* Set out summer flowering bulbs
* Plant fall blooming bulbs
* Plant balled-and-burlapped, container, and bare root fruit trees and fruiting vines.
* Apply dormant spray to fruit trees before buds swell.
* Spray apples, peaches, and pears that have been affected with canker problems.
* Plant seedlings of cool-weather vegetables(check your soil temperature).
* Sow seeds for frost tolerant perennials.
* Sow seeds for hardy perennials.
* Plant container, balled-and-burlappedand bare-root trees, shrubs, vines and roses.
* Plant summer blooming shrubs and vines.
* Plant frost tolerant trees.
* Plant conifers and broad-leaf evergreens.

Turn the compost pile, add any soiled hay, grass, bedding and manure mulch which was removed from livestock barns, shelters, rabbit hutches and poultry coops. Don’t have a compost pile! Now is a good time to start one.

Clean and disinfect livestock barns, sheds, rabbit hutches and poultry coops. Don’t forget to disinfect water and feed containers. Clean and disinfect nest boxes add new nesting materials to nest boxes. If necessary spray inside walls, floor, ceiling, nest boxes and roost to control mites.

Repair winter damaged fences and gates. Check barns, sheds, hutches and coops for winter damage, repair as necessary.

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Poultry Flock – on your Homestead or in your Back Yard


I WANT TO GROW MORE OF MY OWN FOOD
Can anyone tell me where I can buy ‘Bacon Seed’

Hint: One(1) hen will on average lay one(1) egg every 27 hours. Two hens produce more than a dozen eggs a week. You do the math, how many hens does your family need to supply all the eggs your family actually consume.

Chicken chicks, Turkey poults, Ducklings and Goslings will soon be arriving at your local farm store. Second choice is to mail order your flock from a reliable hatchery.

There are hundreds of breeds of Chickens, Ducks, Geese and Turkeys. I will ‘Only’ discuss the breeds that I commonly raise and have had good success surviving Oklahoma’s hot dry summers and cold windy winters.

Chicks will start being available from about the third week of February.
Duck will start being available from about the first week of February.
Geese will start being available from about the last week of March.

There are a few breeds that are on the top of many growers must have list.

Chickens: White leghorns of Fog Horn Leghorn fame, are the choice of commercial egg producing farms.
white leghorn Type: White Leghorn
Egg Color: white, Egg Size: extra large, Egg Production: excellent
Meat Production: fair, Heat/cold Tolerance: Good
Disposition: poor, Weeks to Maturity: 18, Free-range: good
Will not go broody
Male Mature Weight: 6 lbs, Female Mature Weight: 4.5 lbs or less.

Rgode island Type: Rhode red, Egg Color: brown, Egg Size: extra large,
Egg Production: excellent, Heat/cold Tolerance: good
Disposition: good, Weeks to Maturity: 19, Free-range: good
Will not go broody, Bird Size: extra large
Male Mature Weight: 8.5 lbs, Female Mature Weight: 6.5 lbs or less

barred rock Type: Barred rock, Egg Color: brown, Egg Size: large
Egg Production: excellent, Meat Production: excellent
Heat/cold Tolerance: good, Disposition: good, Weeks to Maturity: 20
Free-range: good, Not very likely to go broody, Bird Size: large
Male Mature Weight: 9.5 lbs, Female Mature Weight: 7.5 lbs

Black Australorps Type: Black Australorps, Egg Color: brown, Egg Size: large
Egg Production: excellent, Meat Production: excellent
Heat/cold Tolerance: good, Disposition: good, Weeks to Maturity: 20
Free-range: excellent, Not likely to go broody, Bird Size: extra large
Male Mature Weight: 8.5 lbs, Female Mature Weight: 6.5 lbs

Buff Orpingtons Type: Buff Orpingtons Egg Color: brown, Egg Size: large
Egg Production: execellent Meat Production: excellent, Heat/cold Tolerance: good Disposition: good, Weeks to Maturity: 20, Free-range: good
Very Likely to go broody, Bird Size: extra large
Male Mature Weight: 10 lbs, Female Mature Weight: 8 lbs

Hint: Rooster(s) Are Not required for your pullets/hen to lay eggs. They are Only need if you want or need fertile eggs for hatching replacement chicks.

Ducks not anything like Daffy duck. Ducks are quite birds, can be housed with chickens.
white_pekin Type: White Pekin, excellent meat quality, Egg production excellent
Male and female are creamy white in color, yellow skinned, and very large breasted.
Male mature weight: 10 to 11 pounds, Females mature weigh: 8 to 9 pounds.
The easiest domestic ducks to pick and prepare for eating.

rouen Type: Rouen, attractive colorful ducks bear the name of the French city they originally came from.
Egg production: fair, excellent meat bird,
Male mature weight: 8 to 9 pounds, Females mature weight: 6 to 7 pounds.

Geese Geese are noisy and can become aggressive, can be housed with chickens.
toulouse_goose Type: Toulouse, Taking their name from a city in France, along with White Embdens are the most popular commercial geese sold in America.
Meat production: excellent all-dark meat, Egg production: fair
Male mature weight: 18 to 20 pounds, Female mature weight: 12 to 13 pounds.

Turkeys Are noisy birds and males (Toms) can become aggressive.
Turkeys ‘Should Not’ be housed with chickens.
white_turkey Type: White turkey, most common commercially grown turkey.
Meat production: White broad breasted turkeys are the most popular.
Egg production: poor
Easy to dress
Male mature weight: 45 pounds, Female mature weight 25 pounds.

broadbreasted_bronze_turkey Type: Broadbreasted Bronze
Meat production: excellent, Egg production: poor
Male mature weight 38 pounds, Female mature weight: 22 pounds
Stately lords of the barnyard, metallic sheen of the feathers changes from copper to bronze to burnished gold as the light moves across them. Four feet in length, six feet from wing tip to wing tip.

McMurray Hatchery link is provided as a reference source for learning about poultry breeds,. Here you will find a short description, pictures as well as other useful information on raising your birds.
$10.00 DIY Chicken Plucker
DIY Poultry Brooder

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