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Gardening question

Post in 'The Green Room' started by timfromohio, Oct 26, 2009.

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  1. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I've got really bad soil, mostly sand with not much organic matter. For starters I did 2 - 5' x 25' plots with a walking aisle between them using the "double dug" method and bio-intensive plantings. Each spring I add about 1-2" of good compost on top, lightly raked but not incorporated into the soil. No tilling at all. Never walk on the garden soil itself, use a board to stand on if I have to stand on the garden, so as not to compact the soil. But with 5' width, can reach in pretty well from each side. No fertiliers, herbicides, etc. Bio-intensive reduces weeding to about zero. Amazingly productive. A 5' x 5' patch of carrots (just scattered the seeds and no thinning) produced 15 lbs. And with the loose soil, they pulled right out. Also got radishes, lettuce, green beans (7 lbs. into the freezer plus what we ate), broccoli, 22 winter squash harvested, and cucumbers. Each year I rotate my crops into different areas of the 2 patches.

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  2. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    That is exactly what we do. They are 15 of them 4' wide ranging 80 - 100 ft long with 9 inches or so of wood mulch in between for people and equipment travel.

    The irrigation system is fed by garden hose, split by valves and then distributed by soaker hoses down each row. It gets laid out in the spring and rolled up before the fall cleanup.
  3. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    SolarandWood - that is a sweet setup - I remember the pics you posted - very nice looking. Do you have a well? Irrigation is a problem for us as we're on a well and it's quite distance from a spigot at the house to the new garden area. The raised beds are served by two 75 gallon rain barrels, although you'd be surprised how fast you can go through 150 gallons of water. I'm considering either (1) more rain barrels or (2) driving a shallow well in the back of the property for the new garden area - hopefully this area will be expanded in the future. While I'll always maintain a certain amount of space for my kids to play, we still have so much yard in grass it's ridiculous - I want to till it up, graze sheep on it, something other than lawn ...
  4. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    We are on a municipal water line that I think ends around the corner at the fire house. Our family's camp is fed by a spring and I am no longer surprised by how quickly you can go through water.

    I was out at my friends farm this past weekend. He had a tank there that was probably 10x10x3 that he said wasn't that expensive. Not sure how much roof you have to collect with, but gravity seems to be the cheapest way to collect and move water. Pretty reliable as well.
  5. d.n.f.

    d.n.f. New Member

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    I made raised beds out of cinder blocks and used the lasagna technique with only one dump truck of soil. It is a large raised bed. Leaves, grass cuttings, tree farm dumpings, and tons and tons of non-waxed cardboard. It is looking pretty good (did in the spring) and will be ready by next spring. As soon as I finish the deer fence.......
  6. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    The deer fence is key. We tried the live and let live thing the first year. Just had well fed deer and more little ones the next. As much as we didn't want a fence, there was no use fighting it.
  7. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    I'd recommend a multitude of tactics be used together to combat fattening the local wildlife off your garden. I currently have 5 foot high chain link fence with bushes planted in front of it around one raised bed garden area. While deer can easily jump 5 feet (I've seen them jump 7 or 8 and it looked easy), I think they are hesitant to jump if they can't see where they are landing. The thick bushes obstruct a clear view of just where they'd be landing and I've never had a deer in that garden area. I did have small rabbits squeeze under the gate and one just about squeeze through the chain link fence itself. Beefing up the bottom of the gate solved the rabbit problems and I've had no trouble with any unwanted wildlife in that area.

    Around the new garden area I put up 6 foot t-posts, so they are sticking out of the ground 5 feet. I have 3 foot, supposedly "rabbit proof", fencing around the entire area (which also houses my berry patch - two rows of blueberries, 1 row each of blackberries and red raspberries) and a single electric line at the top. This kept out the deer for awhile. They then started sticking their heads through the space between the top of the 3' wire mesh fencing and the electric line which is at the 5' level. They pruned all the of the blueberry bushes that they could reach using this technique. They then became more brazen and started jumping the fence. I actually saw a doe out there one day and sprinted out with a handful of gravel to pitch at her. She ran and actually dove BETWEEN the 2' opening created by the top of the wire mesh fence and the single electric line with complete outstretched legs so that her hooves touched neither fence. While a rather cool move, still very irritating. So, I'm stringing another electric line at the 4' level and looking into some way to add height to the posts without having to buy all new posts so that I can string some fish line around the 6' or 7' level. To this I plan on attaching pieces of tin foil, old CD's, anything that will move in the breeze and hopefully deter them from approaching the fence. Concurrently, I'm looking into purchasing a crossbow. Bow season is long up here in Ohio and you are allowed to hunt on your own property with relatively little hassal. While my wife is not a big fan of venison, I work with a number of guys that are fans and would appreciate the meat. Also considering a pellet gun or something non-lethal to pop them with in the hopes that they might get into their minds that my backyard is simply a bad place and chose not to venture there. I've encouraged my dog to chase them, but he's way too lazy and knows he has no chance of catching them so doesn't really put out any effort in that department. Plus, during rutting season he might wind up getting chased and injured.

    We've also been innundated with skunks which I detest. I shoot them on sight. They are incredibly destructive. Same with rabbits.
  8. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Now were talkin, lock and load. How'd we get there from Ruth Stout? Anyway, I found that 8 ft t posts, with 7' polypro mesh and 4 ft wire fencing around the bottom seems to do the trick 3 years running knock on something. I see them out there. First they get their nose in the mesh, back up, try to go under and get the wire in their nose, check the rest of the fence line, then wander off. A few chipmunks have their way with it but most of them even give up.

    The really nice thing about the t posts is you can quickly pop one side of the fence out to do the spring prep/fall cleanup with the tractor.
  9. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    This thread must somehow come full circle to sipping beer while stove-watching ...
  10. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Didn't have a fire last night, but did have a beer while sitting in an Adirondack chair in the middle of the garden enjoying the view of the sunset and the seasoning heap.
  11. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Sounds very nice. We didn't have a fire either, but I did enjoy a fine pale ale as it was taco night. Must have a nice beer on taco night!
  12. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Any good suggestions for growing advice / how to sites... I've been doing gardens now for 2-3 years with very mixed results... The soil I was on had a lot of clay, gravel, and sand, plus the usual New England crop of rocks, and more than a few tree roots. It isn't great for sunlight (to many trees, plus roots), but all of it does get full sun for at least part of the day...

    No deer in the yard that I know of, and haven't ever seen sign of them, although we have seen them within a few blocks of the house. However we definitely have skunks, possums, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits by visual siting...

    This year I decided to pretty much give up on the existing soil, even after tilling in a lot of compost and manure, plus wood ashes, it still seemed like pretty lousy crop soil. We had a porch that got "avalanched" off the side of the house, and I dismantled it and used the decking boards to make raised beds on top of the old garden. Ended up with about 150' worth of 3' wide bed, broken up into rows about 2' apart. The beds were filled with a layer of chopped leaves / unfinished compost from the pile I started last fall, topped with a layer of finished compost that I got from a friend.

    Surrounded it with a fence of 4' high wire mesh on T-poles, with about 1' flat along the ground sticking out, with lots of rocks on it, and 3' up the poles. It seems to have stopped the worst of the critters - my basil dissappeared, and something did in the lettuce and kept the brocoli trimmed back for much of the season, but I didn't see any other signs of critter munching, and it may have been the bugs that got the stuff...

    The GF and I are low-carbers, so we tend to avoid most root vegetables, and corn, but we both like peppers, I'm fond of hots, and she likes bells. This year I planted 15 varieties of peppers, one flat of each, zuchini, summer squash, and a middle eastern zuchinni variant called "cousa magda" I also did a flat of onion starters, some herbs, and some lettuce...

    I created a trellis system for the peppers that I copied from a friend that is noted for his tomatoes - I put in vertical pipes about 10' apart and 4-5' high along each row. Across their tops, I ran 3/4" thin wall electric conduit, holding it in place with a wrap of stiff wire into the top of each pipe, and splicing the pieces together with 1' lengths of 1/2" conduit. I tied a wire along the pipes about 4" up, and ran a string (used the free load tieing twine from Home Despot and Sloews) between the wire and the pipe at each plant. As the plants grew, I wrapped the twine around the main stems to support them, and tied the heavier branches to the stems with recycled "lettuce velcro".

    The herbs mostly did pretty well except that the basil dissappeared completely.

    The lettuce did fair, we got a few salads worth, and then it sort of got buried by the cousa-magda squash. However it never developed "heads" as such, and I don't think I got as much as I would have gotten if I'd spent as much in the grocery store produce dept. (This sums up most of the veggies actually...)

    The Cousa Magdas did fair, especially considering that I didn't have any planting suggestions for them, and put them in at "summer squash" spacing, I should have done them w/ zuchini spacing. I also got a few summer squash. I didn't get ANY zuchinnis. All three of the squash varieties had loads of blossoms, but it seemed like very few turned into fruits.

    I planted the peppers alternating hot and sweet varieties, figuring that would help me tell them apart, which it would have, if all of them grew out well. Instead, I found that all the hots except the Habaneros did good to excellent, especially the Super Chillies and the Kung Pao's... I probably have at least 2-3 grocery bags full of assorted hots.

    The sweets did poor to fair at best - I did get a good harvest off the Cubanelles, and a fair number of Italias, but the rest were on the order of 1-2 peppers per variety, if that... Chopping and freezing them I ended up with about 1quart of peppers, and probably got about the same amount that I had used as they came in.

    Some of the plants didn't grow all that well, but most took off after a slow start, and ended up close to or over the top of the trellis top pipe. Once again, I had lots of flowers, but not anywhere near as many peppers...

    The onions looked like most all of them grew out, but the ones I've pulled out were not much bigger than my thumb - these were supposed to be yellow onions that should have been about 3-4" diameter...

    I'm underwhelmed by these results to say the least... I probably could have gotten as much produce at the local supermarket for the money I spent on just the plants, let alone the other stuff, and the time and work I put in... Any good sites on suggestions to find out what I'm not doing right that is making some stuff grow and other stuff not???

    I'm not fanatically organic, but I have been trying to minimize the amount of artificial stuff that I use on the garden. I do put most of my wood ashes on the soil or the compost pile, otherwise the only chemicals I've been using has been slug killer - I had tremendous numbers of slugs this season, and it was frustrating cause every time I put out the slug stuff it would rain...

    Gooserider
  13. Bobbin

    Bobbin Minister of Fire

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    Dedicated raised bed gardeners here. The vegetable garden is all raised beds (rough cut 2x12" hemlock, binned on the inside to deter decay), 4'w x 8'l and the ground soil was double dug 12-14" deep, so the beds are actually about 24" deep. We compost all vegetable matter and other garden debris. We've been at this for close to 20 yrs. now and I can attest to the results.

    Trellising things like cucumbers or squashes at the north end of the beds allows good sunshine and keeps them contained. We have expanded the garden area this year. We've been MOFGA members for many, many moons now. (Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener Assoc.). They are a terrific organization and are a wealth of information.

    I have friends who swear by the "lasagne method" of reclaiming areas for planting though I've never tried it. I think I may give it a whirl along the pond as a way to choke out some out of control vegetation, build the soil, and prepare it for an ornamental planting.
  14. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    I think especially on these sites that didn't have soil to begin with, compost is everything. We doubled the size of the garden this year and the new terrace that got preferential treatment did noticeably better. I have the clay broken up down to where the glacial till is like concrete. I can actually feel the sub soiler pick up the 3 pt arms while it rides on top of it. That is between 9 and 12 inches down which is more than twice we had when we started 4 years ago. As the depth and organic material grows, we get better drainage and results.

    Do the tomatoes not go more than 5' high or is that just a manageable harvesting height? What does he do for plant spacing?
  15. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Gooserider - were you looking for websites on gardening? If so, check out www.homesteadingtoday.com - excellent forum with a great gardening section. I also like the following blogs on gardening and small-scale sustainability:

    http://onestraw.wordpress.com/

    http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/

    Do you start your stuff from seed or purchase plants? We start everything from seed and are strictly organic. The primary fertilizer we use is fish emulsion based.

    First off, don't get discouraged. This past year was the first year that I successfully grew peppers from seed at our current homestead. Previous couple of years they were leggy and pooped-out after a few weeks in the ground. My advice in peppers if you're growing them from seed. Start them early and use a heating mat for germination. This really helped us. Don't set them out too early and when you do consider row tunnels to help keep them warm, especially where you are. Here in NEOhio we are zone 5b - I'm assuming you are probably the same. Lettuce - start early in the season. Will bolt easily once the warmth of summer comes, You can get two crops if you want - Spring and Fall. This coming year, I plan on tyring to continue growing through the summer but will use an angled trellice to shade it - hoping I can get cukes to grow up the angled trellice and shade the lettuce. Also, look for heat tolerant varieties. What variety were you growing? My experience is that most leaf lettuces are not too picky with soil conditions.

    As for places to get seed, I like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange. Check them out and in the very least send off for a catalogue to go through in the winter while sitting by the stove.

    In general, I think success hinges on soil fertility and condition. If it's fertile and drains well, the plants will do well. This may take a few years to do, but the effort will be worth it. Admittedly it's hard to be patient - I'm not patient which is why I started this thread searching for ways to accelerate the process of improving the soil in our expanded garden area.
  16. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    For composting a big garden, the biggest accelerator for us was buying a dump trailer and a silage fork. Unless you are moving that kind of quantity, I don't know how you would ever compost more than a small garden unless you have a lot of time to devote to it.
  17. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    One thing I learned when gardening is that many people
    spent their time doing other things while waiting for my veggies to come in.
    I once told my doctor I was growing lazier as I grew older
    and he responded that we get more efficient.
    I now just keep a couple containers going and enjoy the fruits
    of my neighbors labor with no guilt.
    Do a good job. ;-P
  18. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Kenny, do you rent out the 80 acres?
  19. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    You had to ask.
    Beginning next year I believe I will be renting it all out.
    If I may be so bold as to think I can offer some advice;
    Do what you want to do today.
    Tomorrow may never come.
    I just learned that I lost a very young friend
    last night in a car crash.
    More importantly, over time, your chances of
    unexpected problems increase tremendously.
    I was pretty leery about taking out a 30 year
    mortgage at 35 but I figured I'd never be able to
    retire anyways so I was looking forward to working the farm
    till my time came.
    Who knew that at 50 my body would start making my decisions for me.
    I fight tooth and nail to keep going but it's sliding away.
    We may (probably should) sell the land to pay off the mortgage
    but I can't make that desicison just yet.
    Life IS short.
    A buddy told me the other day that he likes to spend his money
    on what he wants, otherwise, he has to spend it on things he needs. :lol:
  20. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    I'm not fanatically organic, but I have been trying to minimize the amount of artificial stuff that I use on the garden. I do put most of my wood ashes on the soil or the compost pile, otherwise the only chemicals I've been using has been slug killer - I had tremendous numbers of slugs this season, and it was frustrating cause every time I put out the slug stuff it would rain...

    Gooserider[/quote]
    Gooserider you're heading in the right direction. Farming, like burning wood has a learning curve and like here on the forum you learn something new every day. This was a bad year because of the rains which spread disease and slugs everywhere. NY state was hit even harder than us. My peppers and tomatoes did poorly, green squash, peas, beans, spinach, swiss chard did great. Raised beds are the key for me. Suggestions; go easy on the wood ash, test your soil before using and the a little goes a long way. If you add it to compost and then to your garden you could end up with way to much. Keep it separate. Critters love lettuce so cover the bed with narrow opening wire fencing attached to bendable plastic pipe. Cheap and reusable. Don't bother starting from seed in the house at first, just by a six pack and plant early then replant from seed directly in the beds. Plant spinach, swiss chard and peas as soon as you can. Have the bed all set to go. Buy dwarf peas, get some 4ft. wire or netting and they will climb easily. For slugs, small plastic containers buried at soil level and fill with cheap beer works great. Also old boards laid on the paths between beds will attract slugs at night to be squished in the morning. For onions go to your farmers market right now and buy a 25lb bag along with winter keeping potatoes and enjoy. Scallions and chives are easy to grow and come back yearly. The life of a farmer,as we know, is a challenge.

    Be safe.
    Ed
  21. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Kenny - my condolences on the loss of your friend.
  22. Bobbin

    Bobbin Minister of Fire

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    Yes, Kenny, my condolences, too. I just lost a very dear fried to suicide and it really has me thinking about what it all means in the big picture. Like today, for instance. Not much of great importance happenin' at work, it's beautiful outdoors and the dog and I are going to do some perennial gardening clean up while we dose up on vitamin D.

    You are right about doing what you want to do now; this thing we call life is no dress rehearsal.
  23. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Sorry for your loss Kenny and thanks as always for sharing your advice.
  24. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    Hi Gooserider, you may want to get a soil test for nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. You can by an inexpensive kit, or pay $3-$5 for your local extension office to do one for you. The deficiency of one major nutrient could lead to really poor yields. Just a thought.
  25. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Feels kind of wierd to be getting back to gardening after Kenny's posts, but... At any rate condolences.

    To take stuff in order...

    Solar & Wood -
    I think you are right, I know my friend certainly has results to show for it - he's been growing tomatoes for years in a lot of the same ground, and expanded the plot by several rows, built up with a foot or two of compost... The existing garden got about 4" of added compost - When he planted he put row covers over several of the existing area rows, but not over the new ones - but the newer rows WAY outperformed the older rows over the course of the season - bigger, bushier plants, and many more tomatoes.

    My friend has taller pipes - he has gotten his from salvage and accumulation over several generations, his are about 7-8' long, and ends up with about 6' sticking out of the ground. I was purchasing, and I found the best deal was the 10' long pipes sold as top rails for chain link fence, cutting them in half on an angle gave me about 5' lengths, which ended up sticking out of the ground about 4' after I drove them in far enough not to wobble...

    When the tomatoes get to the tops of his pipes he breaks off the leader, both for harvesting convenience and because it encourages the plants to put their energy into making 'maters instead of more plant... His spacing is about 30" or so between plants, it works out that he gets three plants between each pair of pipes that are spaced 10' apart. I believe he does 5' between rows.

    Tim
    First off, thanks for the links, I will be checking them out shortly...
    I've been purchasing plants, the last few years almost all have come from "Griggs" a local farmer / nursery that has been growing stuff in town for at least a couple generations. I don't really have a good place to do seed starting, and the times I've tried it hasn't worked very well... I haven't been using any fertilizer beyond the compost and wood ash. I have been doing slug control using some stuff called "Escargo" from Gardens Alive, but not all that much. Towards mid season I did get kind of desperate and hit the garden with some Sevin spray as well, but that was considerably before doing any harvesting.

    [/quote]First off, don’t get discouraged. This past year was the first year that I successfully grew peppers from seed at our current homestead. Previous couple of years they were leggy and pooped-out after a few weeks in the ground. My advice in peppers if you’re growing them from seed. Start them early and use a heating mat for germination. This really helped us. Don’t set them out too early and when you do consider row tunnels to help keep them warm, especially where you are. Here in NEOhio we are zone 5b - I’m assuming you are probably the same. Lettuce - start early in the season. Will bolt easily once the warmth of summer comes, You can get two crops if you want - Spring and Fall. This coming year, I plan on tyring to continue growing through the summer but will use an angled trellice to shade it - hoping I can get cukes to grow up the angled trellice and shade the lettuce. Also, look for heat tolerant varieties. What variety were you growing? My experience is that most leaf lettuces are not too picky with soil conditions. [/quote]

    We are about 20 miles south of the MA / NH border, which is the line between two zones, 4 & 5 if I recall correctly. I have been trying to get the plants in the ground as soon as I think we are past the last frost - which is also about as early as Griggs has them for sale - my theory has been that given our relatively short growing season, the earlier I get them in the ground, the more time they have to grow... I haven't been doing row covers so far, but I've been thinking about it. I was growing a bunch of different lettuce varieties, I remember Romaine, Iceberg, Boston, Red Leaf, I think Michigan, one or two others that I forget offhand. Haven't tried cukes, neither the GF nor I are all that fond of them.

    [/quote]As for places to get seed, I like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange. Check them out and in the very least send off for a catalogue to go through in the winter while sitting by the stove.[/quote]
    Will have to look at them, although I'm not sure about doing seeds from scratch as I mentioned... The other thing that makes me less into seeds is that I seem to grow a small number of a lot of different varieties - most seed stuff I've seen seems to be targeted more towards growing a lot of one variety - and I hate the thought of wasting the seeds that I didn't plant...
    [/quote]In general, I think success hinges on soil fertility and condition. If it’s fertile and drains well, the plants will do well. This may take a few years to do, but the effort will be worth it. Admittedly it’s hard to be patient - I’m not patient which is why I started this thread searching for ways to accelerate the process of improving the soil in our expanded garden area.[/quote]

    This is getting long, so will continue in the next. I am also enclosing a few pix from when I was getting stuff started this spring...

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