Monday, February 24, 2020

Decluttering again ~ my column from Sunday

A few years ago, I read a book on decluttering. Jilda and I spent weeks going through our home. With each item, we made a conscious decision on whether the piece was important and added value to our lives. The answer to that question meant the item would stay, go to the thrift store or the dump. The house felt larger when we finished, but now it seems small again.

One thing that many of us baby boomers struggle with is holding on to things "in case we need them someday." Usually, someday never comes, and we're stuck with closets, storerooms, and sheds that are hazardous to enter. Who needs mini storage when you have a barn?

Jilda and I are decluttering again, but we've expanded the effort to include the old house. I mentioned last month that we were beginning to get rid of all the junk in there, but the project was taking forever.

After a month’s work and several trips to the dump, I could hardly see that we'd made a dent. I decided to kick that project into overdrive.

I called Farley Recycling and placed my name on the waiting list to get a dumpster. We’re not talking
about one of those wimp dumpsters that restaurants use but a REAL dumpster.

My phone rang last week, and the woman said my name had come up on the list. I gave her directions to our house, and about an hour later, a truck showed up with an orange beast. It holds 30 cubic yards of junk. I could put Rhode Island in that dumpster.

Then I called a neighbor that does day-labor work. He came yesterday to help me clean out the rest of the junk in the old house and the barn.

When he rolled the wheelbarrow into the dumpster with the first load, he asked, "Are you going to throw away those old headers?" I told him they were going to be recycled. He asked if he could have them. I told him, of course.

By the time we finished, he also had an old chair, an old fence charger, bedsprings, and an apartment refrigerator his truck. These were things that we were tossing.

The old saying, "One man's junk is another man's treasure," came to mind.

When my helper and I had finished, I leaned on the trailer and sipped water. He tapped a cigarette from a pack in his pocket and smoked while he secured all his "treasure" on the bed of his truck. It felt good to finally see progress on something that Jilda and I've wanted to do for a long time.

Soon, I'll be able to store all my beekeeping tools and organize the spare hive components in the recovered space. I will also use one room to process honey. We will call it the Honey House. 

There will also be enough room for a writing space, an art space for Jilda, and an exercise room to use in bad weather.

It occurred to me as I walked back to the house for supper that getting rid of clutter opens up life for a lot of opportunities.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Beautiful place

It's been overcast today. The temps reached for 60 degrees but didn't quite make it. The wind out of the northwest made long sleeves feel good.

I tried to take pictures, but everything looked flat in the gray light.

I looked through old pictures tonight trying to find one for this post. I came across this one that I took somewhere near Carmel, California in the summer of 2005. We took our niece Samantha with us. She'd never flown before.

It was a remarkable few days. I'm happy that Jilda and I got to share them with Samantha and she had the opportunity to see a truly beautiful place.


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Shadows

We sometimes cast shadows.
Without realizing it, 
We pass between light
And the path we follow.
Life happens somewhere in between.


Friday, February 21, 2020

Ice Cream Cones

There are few troubles in life 
That cannot be sorted out
 With an ice cream cone. 

You can feel the weight of the world 
On your shoulders 
And see no way out.

But an ice cream cone can change perspectives
The inner child can see long-forgotten possibilities
The path becomes clearer with ice cream running down your chin.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

An old cold rainy day

Mother Nature can be cruel. A few weeks ago it was almost warm enough to swim. Then the rains set in. The river has been up and down.

Today, rain fell in sheets. Normally, that's not that big of a deal, but today it was also cold. I'm surprised that we didn't see snow flurries.

While my friends up north would probably giggle, at me whining about a temp of 42 degrees, it felt a lot colder with the blowing rain.

This evening, we cranked up the fireplace while we ate dinner. The warmth felt good on a level that's hard to describe.

I'm looking forward to sunny skies this weekend.




Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Million years ago

I shot this picture of Jilda a million years ago. It was not long after we married. We lived in a single-wide trailer without air conditioning. It didn't have much insulation either, which meant that winter winds blew in through our living room around the windows.

Both of us worked. She worked at a dress shop, and I worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper. I'm sure that we probably qualified for food stamps, but it never occurred to us to check in to it. The poverty, we thought, was for those who were less fortunate.

We scrimped and saved. She's always been a great cook. A bag of butterbeans, a pone of cornbread, and some chicken or fish would feed us for days.

Things went south on my 25th birthday. I was fired. For the next year, I pumped gas for my cousin and drew unemployment. 

A gentleman that visited us often in the newspaper office worked for the phone company. He visited me at the gas station and asked if I would be interested in a job. I almost hugged his neck. 

On January 3, 1977, I started a new job with MaBell. It wasn't always easy, but the job made it possible to build the home in which we now live. The company also paid for my bachelor's and master's degrees.

I know I've written about bits and pieces of this story before. But tonight, as I was looking for a picture to post, I came across the one below, and it triggered the thoughts for this post.

Happy Wednesday.





Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Something good for supper

It's rained today. At times it was so hard that I had to slow to a crawl to be safe.  One of my appointments was with a man who will be 93 next Tuesday. He was a veteran.

When I walked into his home, I could smell fresh coffee brewing. His wife met us at the door and took me to the living room where her husband sat in a recliner. He doesn't hear well, so he didn't hear me approach. He was watching the birds feed on his back deck. He was smiling.

After introducing myself, I sat down to talk for a while. He was pleasant. When I asked him questions, it seemed to take him a moment to flip through the pages of his memory before he answered.

On his walls were pictures of his medals and the ship he was on during WWII. When I asked him about his service, he remembered bits and pieces.

Life has been good to him, he says. He lived through the Great Depression, but his mama and grandmama both had milk cows, chickens, and big gardens. Unlike so many, he had food to eat most of the time.

When I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. It's a question I always ask those I interview. He got a big smile on his face. He said I want to eat something good for supper.




.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Rainy days and Mondays ~ my column from Sunday

Driving to an errand yesterday, I heard the lilting voice of Karen Carpenter singing Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down. I loved the song when it first came out and still love it because it hits close to the mark. Did I mention that yesterday was Monday, and it was raining?
The poor folks in Australia have raging wildfires due to the lack of rain, and with us living through a drought a few years ago, I swore that I would never wish away the rain. And I never have, but rainy days often make me feel a bit melancholy.
It started during the summers when I was growing up in Sloss Hollow. A rainy day back then was a wasted day. I remember sitting on the arm of a chair in the living room with my head leaning against the wall, watching raindrops zag their way down the window pane. Time seemed to move in slow motion.
I remember thinking that I would have to spend the day inside instead of roaming the fields, fishing Horse Creek, or swimming in the strip pit at Powell Hollow. The only time during the summer I spent inside was when I was eating or sleeping. I was no fan of roofs and walls.
Yesterday when I got home, the dogs were ricocheting off the walls. Jilda met me at the door saying WE HAVE TO GO WALK THESE DOGS. 
I sat down on my bedroom bench to put on my socks, and the new pup Kodak ran in, grabbed a sock off my foot, and ran out the doggie door. I’m guessing he thought that would speed me up. It didn’t.
Reaching into the sock drawer, I pulled out another pair. I’d just slipped on my shoes when the sock thief came back in to see why I hadn’t followed him. The sock was soaked.
When we started walking, rain dripped off the hood of my raincoat and onto my forehead. Down toward the barn, we noticed a new pond in the lower section of our field. An instant later, Kodak was in the middle of it. He was having a large time. Apparently, the rain didn’t have the same effect on him that it has on me. I haven’t looked, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he has webbed feet.
As we walked, I realized that it wasn’t just a rainy Monday that had me down. It had only been a week since we buried our collie Caillou. But as I watched our new dog Kodak having the time of his life playing in the puddle, I had to smile as an understanding came over me.
Life is interesting. I think the Good Lord knows how much we love our critters, and also knew that Caillou would not be with us that much longer. I feel like that’s why Kodak showed up when he did. But the new pup has big paws to fill.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Catch up

The sun played hide and seek for most of the day. It was out in the morning when we walked but then decided to take a nap around lunchtime.

I had a ton of chores that I've been shuffling for weeks, so today was the day. The roof over the chicken pen had developed some leaks. When it rained hard, the hens got a shower while they sat on their nests to lay eggs. 

There were a number of other small projects that nagged at me each day that I managed to do. It felt good.

Jilda and I met a friend for coffee at Books a Million this afternoon. She worked at the rehab center where Jilda works but left for another job several months ago. We sipped java, talked books, and caught up.

On the way home, the sun came back out and the blue sky behind a crop of white clouds was remarkable. 

By the time we got close to home, the sun has sunk below the horizon and the sky looked like a Renoir.

A car behind me was following closely and there wasn't a place where I could safely pull over and shoot some pictures so I took a mental photo and drove on.

Tonight, as I looked for artwork for tonight's post, I came across this photograph I took a few years ago. It will have to do.




Saturday, February 15, 2020

School's out

You're probably tired of bee-talk. We finished up today just after lunch. I was exhausted. It's a two-hour drive each morning and evening plus about eight hours of instruction.

It will take a few days to digest, and assimilate all that I learned. I almost filled up a notebook with drawings, notes, thoughts, and ideas.

At the end of the sessions, I learned that I'd intuitively done many things right. I also learned that I'd done some goofy stuff. All of the master beekeepers who were delivering the classes "fessed up" about their mistakes. It made me feel better.

I'm glad it's over. I've bought new books and ordered some online to build on what I've learned. Many in the group of people in the class were people half my age. There were a few of us that got a late start, but everyone was excited about bees and what we can do to help them survive.

I'm encouraged.

We celebrated tonight with steaks. Our friend Fred joined us to dine. It was a delightful way to end the day.

Happy Saturday/Sunday.


Our apiary picture from last summer. Soon it will begin to grow. 


Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

Tonight when I sat down to write, I knew I didn't have a picture. I've been to bee school all day. After taking a quiz on hive components and tools, it was past 4 p.m. I didn't want to be late for Valentine's dinner.

The sessions are almost two hours south of here, and I didn't have time to dally. Jilda was preparing baked salmon, brown rice, and asparagus. It was incredible.

After dinner, I headed into the office to write in my blog. That's when the "no picture" thang became an issue.

I opened Google Photos and typed Valentine's Day. The picture below was the first one to appear.

Jilda painted this card for me over 20 years ago. I still have it framed on my desk, but the years faded it to a whisper of a photo.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to scan it back when it was freshly watercolored.

It made me smile.

I hope Valentine's Day has been good for you.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bee school

I started down the training path to becoming a master beekeeper today. My ears and eyes were hurting by the third module. There were six, and this was day one of three.

If I can pass the test on Saturday, I will be an apprentice beekeeper. I had no idea how little I knew.

Today we looked at the hive as a society, hive inspections, parts of a hive, and the anatomy of bees. It's fascinating, excruciating, and so forth.

At the end of day three, we take a test. I'm not sure if my brain has enough free space to hold what I need to maintain. 

I could probably toss some of the old sports statistics, and maybe some of the Gilligan's Island trivia. I don't use that much anymore.

At any rate, they are throwing more at me than professors did while doing graduate work in college. But as I sit here in contemplation, I think what I'm learning here now is more important than most of the things I learned in college.









Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Time on the road

I drive a lot. I think it was passed through DNA from my dad to me. When thoughts jumble up in my brain, and the path forward is not clear, I get in my truck and drive.

I don't have to have a goal or destination. I just need time on the road. Somehow the drone of tires on asphalt and the wind rumbling through a rolled-down window clear channels in my mind. Sticking my arm out the window and hand surfing the air rushing by the window is therapeutic. I think people could save thousands of dollars they pay for counseling if they just drove.

Several years ago, after I'd been retired for some time, and I was struggling – not financially, but I felt as if I were losing my sense of purpose. My self-worth was at stake.

It was serendipity that my friend Dan who owned some newspapers, asked if I'd like to do some part-time work for him. That resonated.

He gave me a freelance assignment to interview one of the wealthiest people in Alabama. The gentleman lived near the southeast edge of Alabama.

That day driving for hours through the backroads of Alabama was transformative. I saw things in a new way. The interview was delightful.

During the drive home, I stopped by the road to stretch my legs. The moss hanging from the trees, and the light reflecting on the metal roof of this house built during the Great Depression did a mental reset on my malaise.

I was grateful for that day and my time on the road.



Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Onward

I've been cleaning out the junk in the old house and barn for over a month now. Several trips to the dump later, and I can hardly see that I've made a dent. I made a management decision to go to plan B.

Calling the local recycle place, I put my name on the waiting list to get a dumpster. I'm not talking about one of those wimp dumpsters that restaurants use, but a REAL dumpster.

My phone rang today and the woman said my name had come up on the list. I gave her directions and about an hour later, a truck showed up with an orange beast. It holds 30 cubic yards of junk. I could put Rhode Island in that dumpster.

I then got on the phone for a neighbor that does day labor work. He's coming next week to help me clean out the rest of the junk in the old house and the barn.

Soon, I'll be able to process my honey in the old house as well as store all my beekeeping tools and spare parts. There will also be enough room for a writing space, an art space, and an exercise room to use in bad weather.

It's too late to back out now, I had to knock off a liquor store to rent the dumpster. Onward and upward.

They don't make locks like they used to.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Missing Caillou ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I woke up in the night to the sound of thunder. Instinctively, I pulled my hand from beneath the covers and reached down to pet Caillou.
Then I remembered he wasn’t there. Storms will no longer terrify his gentle soul. He died on Monday.
He chose us over 10 years ago. Early one morning, he was standing outside our great-room window peering in as we sipped our coffee.
Both Jilda and I walked out and sat on the front steps to pet him up. He was the most beautiful collie I’d ever seen. He had a collar but no tag.
It took some time, but we found his owner. She sent her brother to come and fetch the collie. Later that day, he was back.
We sent word that the collie was back at our house playing with our dogs. He was there a few days before they picked him up again.
The next day, I heard a pitiful sound from the backyard. Stepping outside, I looked around and couldn’t see anything, but then I heard the moan again. 
I walked in the direction of the sound, and near the edge of the yard, the collie was hanging on the back fence. He’d tried to jump into the yard, but his back paw poked through one of the chain links, and he was hanging there. 
Most of his body was inside the fence, but the chain links were holding his paw like a vice. I bolted to where he was trapped and held him up enough to take the pressure off his leg. He was too heavy to hold and remove his paw, so I yelled to Jilda for help. Together we dislodged his paw, and he hobbled into the shade to rest. 
Later, when the neighbor came back to fetch the dog, the collie tried to bite him. He’d made his choice. They never came back for him.
We named him Caillou (Cow Loo) after our great-nephew Jordan’s favorite cartoon character.
Caillou was an instant hit with the kids. Every time we had a family gathering, he was in the middle of them. He was a master ball handler that took kickball and soccer to a different level. He would grab the ball and play keep-away from the kids. He was in doggie heaven.
He also liked to herd kids. If a toddler wandered toward the edge of the yard, Caillou would use his size to nudge the child back with the others.
During the three years Jilda took infusion treatments for her immune system, she spent days on the couch. It wasn’t hard to find Caillou during those times, because he was there by her side.
In the last several months, we noticed that something about him was changing. He couldn’t walk but one lap when we walked each day, and he spent more and more time on his bed in front of the box fan.
Then this past weekend, he crawled under the laundry room and would not come out. He stopped eating and drinking. When I took him to the vet Monday, he was passing blood. Tests showed that his organs were shutting down. 
We made the decision to put him down rather than subject him to torturous treatment that would only prolong his suffering.
I leaned against the car as I waited for them to bring his body out. The sky was cloudless. A gentle wind rattled the American flag on the pole in the parking lot. Maybe a stronger man would not have cried, but as I helped load Caillou into the car, I wept.
I dug his grave in the backyard near where we buried Ol’ Buddy, Black, and Charlie. 
We will miss our friend.


Sunday, February 09, 2020

Best Seller - Not

I released my book Life Happens in February of 2009. I toyed with social media as a means of marketing. I sold a few books, but I had a large time playing with images of famous people plugging my book.

I'm not sure why it wasn't a best seller.
























Saturday, February 08, 2020

Celestial evening

We'd planned to attend our great-nephew Jordan's swim meet today. We drove into Birmingham, but by the time we got there, the parking lot was blocked. There were no vacant spaces. 

We later learned that there were several events scheduled today. There must have been close to 10,000 cars. People love watching their kids, swim and run.

Tonight, was the snow moon. It's named after the snow on the ground. We didn't have any snow. In fact, it was warm enough today that the bees were out in force. February is the month when bees run out of food. It's a little different here because the weather stays moderate, but in colder climates, they starve unless the beekeepers feed them.

Even though it's mild, I still feed them. I will stop when things begin blooming. 

My phone chirped a while ago telling me that the International Space Station was about to fly overhead.

I stepped out on the deck and while I waited for the ISS, I admired the moon. I tried several times to get a good picture, but my tripod was at work and without it, photographing it is hard. All the pics I took were blurry.

I shot a picture of the moon just over a year ago and I had the tripod. I'm using that picture here.




Friday, February 07, 2020

Smidge of snow

We had an errand south of Birmingham this morning and as we were getting ready, I let the dogs out front to chase the squirrels off the bird feeders. It's a game they play.

As we were about to head out, I opened the door to get the dogs back inside. Just then a young deer stepped to the edge of the woods. BAM! Like a shot, both Hook and Kodak were on the job.

The problem is, it took a good 20 minutes to round them up.

Jilda called to tell the person we were meeting that we'd be a little late. I walked down to the edge of the yard and called to Kodak. Either he didn't hear or was having too much fun with the chase.

As I stood there, my breath was like I was making clouds. It was about 34 degrees. I snapped an "art picture" of the daffodils to kill a little time waiting on the dogs.

A few minutes later they came thundering back up from the hollow by the house. They were so happy they could be of assistance by keeping those pesky deer out of the yard.

Once in Birmingham, little flecks of snow fell on the windshield.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Marked Safe

The storms came in shifts last night. It was nasty before we went to bed, but sometime just after midnight, I heard thunder in the distance. Soon, it was stomping all around us and lightning was like a strobe light at an 80s disco. The rain droned so hard on the roof that it sounded like applause in an amphitheater.

We expected our weather alert to scream at any time for us to head to our safe place but it never did. We dodged a bullet.

This morning when I looked out the back door I saw there was a pond in the field behind the house. I feared the chickens would need a life raft.

Today, I had an appointment to interview an older gentleman that restores Farmall tractors. I spent a delightful hour talking about his passion for antique tractors.

On the way home, I drove by the Forks to see how high the river had risen. It was up.  This historic marker is at the edge of the parking lot. The water won't crest until this weekend.

But for now, I'm marking us safe from the storm.


Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Blueberries

I've been in a bit of a funk today. I wrote for most of the morning, before running some errands with Jilda.

On the way home, we stopped at her sister's house. Her yard is remarkable. Her cherry trees are blooming along with a carpet of daffodils. When I stepped over to her cherry tree, the blossoms were covered with bees. Nell doesn't have hives of her own, but I'd be willing to bet some of her neighbors do.

She grows blueberries too and her bushes are a different variety than ours. I dug up some shoots while they talked.

This summer I would like to double the number of blueberry bushes in our field. We eat them fresh and the ones we can't eat and don't share with friends and family, we put in the freezer.

Throughout the year, we have smoothies that are loaded with all the major food groups. The frozen blueberries always give the shakes a little boost.

Ours are beginning to bloom. I have my fingers crossed that we don't have frigid weather that bites the tender blossoms. Time will tell.

Tonight, the southeast is under Mother Nature's siege. We have our eyes to the sky.








Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Caillou

I've been down today. Yesterday was a hard one. Our dog Caillou became ill. The vet suspects a stroke or possibly cancer. We made the decision to put him down rather than subject him to torturous treatment that would only prolong his suffering.

It was too close to the bone to write about last night. Tomorrow I will write my column for Sunday's paper. It will be about Caillou and what he's meant to us the past ten years.

RIP Caillou.


Monday, February 03, 2020

Sawmills ~ my column from Sunday

The first time I remember visiting a sawmill was when I was 11 years old. My mom had told my dad that if he ever wanted eggs for breakfast, we would have to clean out the chicken pen. Apparently, she wasn’t fond of wading through the stinky stuff. That Saturday morning, my dad looked at me and said, "Let’s go to the sawmill."

I thought we would take the '57 Buick Roadmaster, but he stepped into the backyard where he kept the ancient Chevy truck parked. It hadn’t been cranked in months, but Dad had strung an extension cord out the kitchen window and hooked it to a battery charger that he kept in the old truck.

The engine groaned and whirled a few times before springing to life. We left the engine idling while we fetched two shovels from the shed and tossed them into the rusty bed of the truck.

We took the backroads since the truck hadn’t had a tag on it since Eisenhower was in the White House.

Somewhere down close to the Flat Creek Community, we pulled into a sawmill owned by a friend of my dad’s. The owner wasn’t there, but Dad pulled a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer from behind the seat and left it near the makeshift office. Payments for goods and services were a little different back then.

Looking around, I was amazed. There were chains, gears, belts, and a saw that was as big as a rear tire on a tractor. Also, there was a mountain of sawdust.

Dad backed the idling Chevy up close to the edge of the sawdust, and we started shoveling. In less than an hour, the bed of the truck was so full that it couldn’t hold another shovel-full of sawdust.

He rolled a Prince Albert cigarette and leaned against the tailgate to rest a moment. I took the opportunity to go sawdust diving. It should be an Olympic sport.

By the time we headed back toward Sloss Hollow, I had sawdust in my pockets, my hair, in my underwear and “other” places.

You may wonder what started me down this sawmill path, so here’s the deal.

One of the first things I’ve learned as a beekeeper is that beehives are expensive. I’ve bought several locally and a few online. It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to understand that if I wanted to expand my apiary, I’d need to learn how to build some of the parts myself.

My bee-buddy Ricky Grace told me about Rustic Lodge Sawmill in Cullman. He said that If I bought the wood, he would show me how to build the beehives. “Nuff said.”

After lunch today, I headed out to the sawmill. It didn’t take long to see that this sawmill wasn’t like the ones of my youth. The equipment was more sophisticated, but the sounds and smells were the same. The biggest difference was there was no mountain of sawdust. I’m guessing that the new equipment has a way to capture the sawdust and haul it away from the yard.

It only took a few minutes to load my lumber and head back to Empire. I checked on the drive home to see if I had any sawdust in my pocket. I didn’t.

Tomorrow, I’ll learn to take sawmill lumber and build things that will house bees and help save the planet.

This is a picture of dad and me. I wish I had one of us with the old truck.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Happy Groundhog Day

The frost this morning looked like a thin silver blanket on the fields behind the house. As the coffee perked, I stepped onto the back deck to get a better view.

The nip in the air made me glad I'd put on sweatpants and a warm shirt. The view off the deck before sunrise looked like a Monet painting.

Once inside, we sipped coffee and did morning stuff. I spent time flipping through seed catalogs looking for wildflower seeds that thrive here. With a pencil in hand this morning, I drew out sketches of wildflower plots. 

We plan to plant several. Some in the shade, some in the sun, and others that bloom until frost.  This time of year there is a lot of anticipation.

Tonight, Jilda and I did what we try to do every February 2nd. We watched the movie Groundhog day.

I've talked to people that hate the movie, but for me, it's about transformation. Bill Murry's character goes from a total buttwipe to a kind loving person. Or that's what it see.

I hope you all have had a happy Groundhog Day.



Saturday, February 01, 2020

The Beach at sunset

Jilda and I planned to attend a beekeeping conference today south of Birmingham. The conference features gurus from around the county who come and talk about the various aspects of caring for honeybees.

As it turns out, Jilda didn't feel comfortable leaving Taz here so soon after her surgery. I was going to stay home as well, but she insisted.

Some of the lectures were still above my head. I have so much to learn. But one that was worth the price of admission was one on how to create a bee meadow.

Jilda and I have a few acres that are perfect for planting a bee meadow. Today, I learned how to get started. We have the tools, the resources, and today I learned which flowers to plant for our area and which ones to avoid. It was an incredible class.

Since I didn't have an opportunity to shoot a picture today, I found one from six years ago. We were at the beach at sunset.

There are few places better than the beach at sunset.


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