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No-Fail Seed Germination

By now most gardeners are starting their seeds. Spring Fever is causing us to twitch and ache with the need to feel the dirt on our hands. If you are a believer of “the signs” (meaning starting seeds on the stage of the moon) please wait another week to start your seeds. This will give you plenty of time to click the link and order seeds from Botanical Interests.

If you are new to the blog, or uncertain of how to start seeds, visit my previous blog post here to learn how to convert cartons and containers into mini-greenhouses.

Experienced gardeners know that peppers are one of the most difficult seeds to germinate which is why I share today’s images.

As you can tell by the images, I too have a problem with germination (not). For it appears that every seed I planted germinated and then invited a friend over to germinate as well. Look at those pepper seedlings !!!!20150313_082028 20150313_082052

In fact, each morning when I check on my pepper seedlings it appears that another sprouted during the night. The yellow seedlings in the image greeted me this morning. They are yellow because they have just emerged and haven’t yet been fed by the sun. Sprouting these in a recycled cookie container allows me to close the lid each night. Condensation collects on the leaves and waters the plant without fear of rotting.

Now I do not profess to be a gardening expert, but I would strongly suggest you start seeds using the method incorporated in the link above, and I would highly recommend Botanical Interest seeds for no-fail sprouting.

Soon it will be time to plant these little darlings. My next problem is finding the space for all of these lovelies. Until then #thinkSpring and happy growing.

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Amazon readers: Please remember that I receive no compensation from used books purchased on Amazon. Please follow the links highlighted and underlined on this page to order, or contact a local Bookseller for copies.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Seed Sewing Success

A quick follow-up about the seeds I started on 2/21/2015. As always I enjoyed tremendous success with my Botanical Interests Seeds.

If you are just joining me. follow this link to read my seed-starting tips, and how to convert items we discard into mini-greenhouses.

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Check out the seed clinging to the tender leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aerial view

 

 

I hope you will give my suggestions a try. I enjoy a high germination rate due in part to these techniques and ordering awesome seeds.

Now it is time to begin the process called “hardening off,” which means I will place the seedlings outdoors on a sunny day when there is some wind. They will NOT go in direct sunlight as that will burn the tender leaves, but slowly work their way into the sun. This process strengthens the seedlings and prepares them for the growing season.

If you haven’t visited the Botanical Interests website, or ordered a catalog, please do so today.

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Amazon readers: Please remember that I receive no compensation from used books purchased on Amazon. Please follow the links highlighted and underlined on this page to order, or contact a local Bookseller for copies.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

 

Seed Giveaway Reality

During the months of January and February, while snow and ice blanketed many gardens, spring fever crept into my bones. I approached Botanical Interests and asked them to donate seeds which I would in turn (at my expense) mail as part of a Free Seed Giveaway.

I did this for three reasons:

I believe in Botanical Interests, their mission, their product, their family business, and supporting fine folk.

I wanted to share free seeds with you, my readers, hoping to drive away a bit of the wintertime blues.

I also wanted to share my passion about growing food, while partnering the giveaway with telling people about my latest release: Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. 

Each Friday, I drew a name and contacted the winner. The giveaway came with one catch: that the winner post a picture, or send me an email with a photo so Botanical Interests knows that I am, in fact, giving the seeds away and not hoarding them up in my own house like a mother hen with a clutch of eggs.

This is the second year I’ve given away seeds, so I wasn’t exactly naive when I began the seed giveaway which requires a tremendous investment of time.

In writing blog posts.

In taking, then editing, uploading, inserting photos.

Then sending all of this to social media, twitter, etc.

Or perhaps I was, naive.

As expected, many people commented. They wanted the seeds. I was so happy. I know how I feel when catalogs come in the mail, and then later seeds. My heart leaps! This year I decided to shake up the contest. Some days the giveaway was via Facebook only. Other days, a random name was drawn from those who commented on this blog. While the giveaway was originally slated for Friday, I began awarding more seeds as clouds dipped and the weather turned even gloomier.

We were all depressed with the weather.

The Seed Giveaway became a twice, sometimes thrice, weekly event. All with the same condition . . . that the winner post an image of the seeds, or at minimum acknowledge their winnings by email. (which the blog instructed, and I reminded them to do with a note inserted into the envelope prior to mailing). All winners were contacted via email so they had my email and I had theirs. . . meaning they could communicate with me.

By now you know where I am going. One person. Yes, one person posted a photo of their winning. Another person sent a thank you.

The rest: crickets. Even the school that begged for seeds because they wanted to start a community garden. Nothing.

Two winners actually sent me a LIST of what they wanted to receive. And while I did my best to accommodate their request, neither had the courtesy to send a thank you.

I actually took the time to email them confirming that they did in fact receive their winnings and reminded them to email me images.

Nothing.

An it isn’t because those particular winners weren’t savvy. If you’re posting pics to Facebook, you can email one, or post one to my page.

I hope they sent Botanical Interests a thank you but I sincerely doubt it. So let me say this in all sincerity. Shame. Shame on you. You received ten to fifteen dollars worth of product and didn’t have the common decency to acknowledge the gift!

What is wrong with people?

I would like to understand why someone’s day is so full, so busy, that they can’t say Thank You. Remember now, these are the same people who have plenty of time to leave a comment, yet they are too busy to post a picture. This is what I need to know, moving forward before I determine whether to offer free seeds again next year (which would be my third year of giving away seeds).

Was it too much to ask that winners actually acknowledge their winnings? Personally, I don’t think so. Because here is the reality of giveaways. If the winner does not acknowledge receipt, if the winner doesn’t say thank you, then the contests will disappear faster than a spring snow. Companies will not continue to give away items without results. Companies partner with bloggers like me to benefit everyone. You. Me. Them. We all win, unless you refuse to acknowledge your winnings; and when that happens, we all loose.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here. Amazon readers: Please remember that I receive no compensation from used books purchased on Amazon. Please follow the links highlighted and underlined on this page to order, or contact a local Bookseller for copies.

 
 

Seed-starting Success #SeedSaturday

Gardeners can’t wait any longer. Though the ground be covered with snow and ice, we know these days will soon be gone. It is time to start seeds indoors. Hence the hash tag #SeedSaturday.

Peppers particularly.

Peppers take longer to germinate, and have a longer time from plant to harvest. For that reason we should start them now. Today I share a quick post about what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to seed starting.

What doesn’t work:

Starting seeds in egg shells

Start seeds in egg cartons

Why? Seeds contain most everything they need to germinate. For that reason they will germinate in egg shells, egg cartons, even a plastic bag. However, the seedlings will not survive in a shallow-rooted environment. So step away from Pinterest unless you can plant seedlings days after they sprout (which most of us can not).

Containers that work:20150221_121333
Milk Jugs
Tupperware containers
Plastic bottles
Bakery Department containers

Why? Plastic containers serve as mini-greenhouses for seeds. The environment is warm and cozy. Start saving things you would normally toss in the recycling bin.

The Dirt: I do not purchase “name-brand” dirt infused with fertilizer. Instead, I use topsoil.

Why? I have a terrible habit of over watering. Potting soil compacts when wet and becomes a perfect environment for mold. If you know you won’t over water, use potting soil. But, topsoil works for me, and is far cheaper.

Another tip: 

Heat the dirt. Yes, my friends. I place a bowl of dirt into the microwave for approximately two minutes (or until it is warm to the touch). Doing so gives your greenhouse the added boost of pre-heating, kills most diseases and even some weed seeds. Warming the dirt also shaves a day off the germination process because the dirt doesn’t take a day to warm to room temperature.

abpostIf you use water bottles, or milk jugs, do not cut the top off. Instead, open a door. This allows you to tape the door shut, cap a lid on the top and keep the seeds nice and toasty.

Seed-Soaking: 

I prefer to soak all of my seeds for at least a few minutes prior to planting. This gives the seeds an instant drink, and I also believe it helps in germination.

As you can see I add approximately two inches of dirt in each container.

Then I water the dirt.

Before adding seeds.

Why? Because if I plant the seeds, then add the dirt and water the force and weight of the water scatters the seeds. Moistening the dirt first keeps seeds in place.

Seeds scattered in pre-moistened topsoil

Seeds scattered in pre-moistened topsoil

Finally, don’t forget to label the containers. We all want to think that we will remember the contents of our containers. However, once seedlings emerge I have forgotten.

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Don’t forget the labels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you will give my suggestions a try. I enjoy a high germination rate due in part to these techniques and ordering awesome seeds. If you haven’t visited the Botanical Interest website, or ordered a catalog please do so today.

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Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 
 

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It’s about Community

Regular readers of my blog, and books, know that despite living near a giant, mega, monster metropolis I am passionate about sustaining a small-town feel; which is why I agreed to an event held at Cheeses & Mary on Valentine’s Day. Nothing says love like a meet and greet with your neighbor.

Cheeses & Mary is situated on a sweet spot where Milton meets Crabapple, Crabapple joins Roswell, and where history runs deep. This area wasn’t always 3-side brick homes and mega-retail. This particular patch of Georgia clay was once farmed, sharecropped, cotton picked, and cultivated into a vibrant community. Back then folk lived just fine and dandy without retail, but without community they starved.

The event began, as one might expect, with loads of luscious nibbles. Mary recreated “Escape Pods” using the recipe found on page 97 of my book, Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches.

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Escape Pods

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Luscious nibbles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary solicited donations from fellow small business, Vino 100, who provided the wine. Then we waited.

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Libations via Vino100

 

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Melissa, Hello Lovely owner; Wayne; Mary, owner of Cheeses & Mary

Event planning is risky, but then again so is owning a small business. Cheeses & Mary is partnered with another local business, Hello Lovely. They share the same retail space. On Valentine’s Day, guests opened the door and felt like they were walking into their own surprise party. A couple of times we actually said, “Surprise! We’ve been waiting for you.”

That doesn’t happen in Big-box Corporate America.

Hello Lovely is, in a word, lovely. I can’t exactly describe this store without overusing the word “lovely.” So I think the best way to describe the store is to say that when you leave, you feel beautiful. Comparatively, entering Cheeses & Mary is like stepping into the home of your best friend. Mary is the Queen of Cheese. Local cheese, jams, and butter so delicious it will “make you want to smack your grandma” (Farmer Billy’s words).

I don’t exactly feel loved or lovely when I leave Kroger, but I digress.

 

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Also attending the gathering, Abbe Laboda who worked the room snapping the beautiful images I’m sharing here. Abbe Laboda and her husband Steve of Capstone Building Group serve as cornerstones for a community that has become very transient due to corporations relocating employees. Steve builds exquisite homes, and Abbe is the type of gal who runs to the grocery store for a gallon milk and ends up baking a meal for a sick member of the community.Being around this woman makes my heart leap with joy. Truly. God smiled when he put us together. My papaw had a label for folk like her: “Good people.”

These days, not many people have earned that title.

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Darling Kendall. I want to put her in my pocket and take her with me to every event!

Perhaps the biggest surprise was when Kendall and her mom popped in. Miss Kendall played a crucial role in my book launch. I needed a volunteer to tweet, snap pictures, and post real-time Facebook posts. Kendall jumped in and invested about 6 hours on a day hot enough to make Lucifer sweat. And you know what, Miss Kendall didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat.

Nope. She just wanted to help. Who does that? Kendall, that’s who. Kendall and people who understand why community matters.

Sometimes I reflect on that day and tears prick my eyes. Every time I looked up Kendall was snapping a photo. I am in her debt for many, many years to come.

As the day progressed visitors dropped by including Wayne Boston, whose finger is on the pulse of small businesses in the area. As I introduced him to owners Mary and Melissa, Billy Albertson entered. If you’re new to my blog, Billy is the subject of my latest book, Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, (traditionally published and available everywhere including Indie Bookstores). This was our reason for gathering, a celebration of heritage food, and hard-working folk.

“You know these are my old stomping grounds.” Billy said to the guests while gesturing with his hands. “Right up the road was Crabapple College.”

I was pleased that Billy’s daughter, Janet, had the opportunity to witness the love heaped upon her Daddy. For years she and her sister had said, “I wish someone would write a book about Daddy.”

They had no idea that I would end up writing two !

Wayne was listening to Billy speak about education. “Yeah, I grew up with reading, writing, and writh-ma-tick, but when I got up here they called it math! Oh, I had a dickens of a time with math.”

Wayne chuckled as others eased over to listen. Billy and Wayne continued speaking, when I overheard someone say, “No way!” Then another said, “Wow.”

Wayne Boston, who had dropped in on Valentine’s Day to support his community, met Janet Albertson, who chauffeured her Daddy to join us for a little nibble of cheese. Guess what? Wayne and Janet worked together many years ago! After Janet graduated from UGA she secured a job at The Southern Company. She worked there for ten years, married, and relocated. The event at Cheeses & Mary reconnected them.

This happens all the time, which is why I encourage folk to reach out and touch the hand of their neighbors. You are connected. Somehow, you are. We aren’t separated by six degrees. Abbe tells me that in Milton, folk are separated by three degrees, but when I attend these events the separation feels more like one.

We are a circle. Connected. Bound together. This is why we must support each other. We must build each other up.cheeses2

Facebook friend, Diane also dropped in. I adore meeting Facebook friends in person and Diane is a darling. She’s one of those folk who drop things off at Billy’s whenever he needs something. She gives out of the kindness of her heart. She gets it . . . that community matters. So does Debbie, a member our our just-formed Milton Writers Critique Group who also popped in for support.

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“You really are wearing two pair,” Mary said.

Mary approached Billy, who commented that it was “so cold outside I’ve got on two layers of over-hauls.”

“Would you like a glass of wine?” She asked.

“You know, I think I just might,”he answered.

Janet and I looked at each other. Janet said, “oh, no, he’s hitting the bottle!”

Laughter. Lots of laughter. This is what you miss when you can’t make it to one of my events. You miss stories. Hugs. Laughter. Love. But those who couldn’t make it were supporting me in other ways. My phone chimed, and wouldn’t you know, several folk with schedule conflicts had ordered copies of my book through my website.

Billy leaned in close to Mary and whispered, “You know I make a bit of wine myself.” As Mary poured he continued, “Yeah, the doctor told me that a bit of wine every now and again would do me good.”

I’m sure the fine folk at Vino 100 agree.

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Community. Cheese. Happy Cow in the background. #bestdayever

A little bit of food and fellowship does the body good too my friends. In a blink the event was over. Time for one last pose, one final squeeze, one last moment to love each other and remember that we were made to connect to others.

Amazon readers: Please remember that I receive no compensation from used books purchased on Amazon. Please follow the links highlighted and underlined on this page to order, or contact a local Bookseller for copies.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

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One Daughter’s Devotion

One Daughter’s Devotion

It takes a right smart bit of wood to keep Farmer Billy warm all winter long. I noticed that Billy’s supply had dipped dangerously low, and with another cold front coming I worried he might run out. Since I’ve been banned from the fireplace after a dreadful critter incident, I have plenty of wood at my house, which was why I loaded my truck and headed to Hardscrabble Road.

Pulling into the drive I noticed a man walking across the driveway. There is always someone there but this time I thought, that looks like Kelle’s dad.

Low and behold it was.

I adore her dad. He reminds me of my own: weathered skin, calloused hands, blue collar, and the ability to fix anything. I see goodness in him. Something I can’t really explain, but there’s something about him that makes me wanna squeeze him.

So I did.

When he wrapped his arms around me, Poppa Jones couldn’t have known how badly I needed a hug, or that I had spent the previous day weeping, my heart breaking with grief that was so heavy I could barely breathe. It was the three month anniversary of Mom’s death. One minute you’re working, the next you’re wailing and wondering what in the world is the matter . . . then you look at the calendar and you know.

Those who have experienced loss understand.

Those who haven’t, will. One day you will.

This is why hugs are important, why people matter. Everyone. Every. Single. One of us is going through something. More hugs my friends. More hugs.

But I digress, back to Billy’s.

Billy wrapped his hands around a wheelbarrow just as another visitor pulled in. She approached and said, “I asked the lady on Facebook if I could stop by and she said yes.”

Peeking around Billy, I said, “Here I am. Welcome.”

More hugs.

More smiles and love to bind my heart.

The lady (I’ll call her Daughter) guided her mother behind the house and to the gate that keeps the goats where they belong. Her mother has dementia, she explained.

I nodded. While I didn’t understand the journey she was on, the transition from Daughter to caregiver is difficult.

Billy nodded too. He understands more about “that awful sickness” than most.

Visitors are common at Billy’s. Kids. Grandkids. Scout Troops. Preschoolers, even infants visit Billy’s place, but I have never witnessed an outing like this.

The rooster, Johnny Cash, stood on tiptoes and crowed loud. He annoyed me. He isn’t usually vocal but baby making season is just around the corner and he’s got to show the girls who is boss. I grabbed a bucket and pinched mustard green tops so that our guests could feed the chickens and goats.

“Mom and I have an outing every Wednesday,” Daughter said while placing her hand inside the bucket and retrieving a clump of greens. “Here Momma, want to feed the chickens?”

A nod.

A smile.

You had to be there. I promise, at that moment the sun literally shone brighter. I stepped back and watched. The love between them pricked my fragile heart. Both smiled, eyes sparkling. I even took a picture for them. I’m big on pictures. When it is all said and done, a photograph can be your most prized possession. Your memory may fail, but the image remains. Remember that when someone wants to take your picture.

There was something in the beauty of a Mother’s wrinkled delicate hand reaching for her daughter that I cannot forget. When Mother reached for Daughter, I fought tears, willed them to return deep into the well from which they began.

I can’t recall a single time when my own mother reached for me. Not as a child, teenager, or an adult. Surely she held my hand, perhaps to walk me safely across the street. My mother battled cancer for over a decade and even though she may have been so brave that she didn’t need a hand to hold, I did.

When I replay the image of these two hands, of the tender caresses, the light touch on a mother’s shoulder, a caress on her back, I pray that God will please – when the sorrow of this world has passed- please, let my mother reach for me the way I witnessed today.

Standing in the goat pasture, with Johnny Cash crowing beside me, I wanted that kind of mother, one of gentle caresses and bright shiny smiles. I also want to be the mother who reaches for her daughter, always reaches, never stops.

I needed that kind of mother, have craved that kind of mother my entire life.

That is the mother I mourn when I grieve.

“This is a lot better than our trips to TJ Maxx isn’t it Mom?” Daughter said.

“Mmm. Yes.”

Placing another bucket of greens between them I said, “I think you should do this every Wednesday for as long as you want.”

More smiles.

Even a nod.

Wouldn’t weekly trips to Billy’s be lovely? That is the magic one finds at Farmer Billy’s place, where you enter as a stranger and leave as family. This, my friends, is why I encourage you to reach out to your own Billy Albertson. They are everywhere. My purpose was to deliver firewood so that Billy would be warm during the cold snap. Instead, it was I who received the comfort.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in A Glimpse into My Life, Wrinkles and all

 

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Now Digging . . . Daffodils You Want In Your Garden

Every fifteen years or so one must thin her children.

Separate the clique.

Offer pieces of her garden to you, the readers.

I am digging jonquils (yellow bells, daffodils) whatever you call them. Clumps of 10 bulbs are available for $10.00 plus $4.00 shipping.

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I am digging triple daffodils (in my family for 3 generations, extremely rare) Clumps of 10 bulbs $ 12.00 plus $ 4.00 shipping

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And yellow iris. $ 9.00 per bulb, plus $ 4.00 shipping.

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To order: leave a comment or email me   reneawrites  @    gmail. com

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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