Rural Life in the UP of Michigan Some stories about life on 160 rural acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

September 29, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:26 pm

It was a beautiful fall day, complete with a nice rain in the afternoon that lasted about an hour. I got my day started with that feeling in my gut that I have way too much to do, and couldn’t figure out what the next thing was. There was a piece I heard on the radio the other day about a researcher that had volunteers manage a made-up financial picture over the course of several months. They had 4 loans of various amounts and interest rates. Most of those participating opted to pay the smaller loans with the lowest interest rate first, because they felt they had too many individual loans to deal with. Even though they would have saved money if they’d have paid off the larger one first with the higher interest rate, they opted for simplicity by paying off the small one first. I understood how they felt.

Like so many projects, once you get started, it isn’t so bad. I’m trying to check things off my list for the upcoming hike to the canyon, and one thing I needed to do was get breakfast ready. Alice and I have been making some good granola for most of our married life. We don’t make it too much anymore, but I always do use it for backpacking if I can. It tastes good, and is rich in sugar, oil, nuts, and oats. First comes the dry ingredients. I take a gallon glass jar and fill it about half full with rolled oats, and then add whatever we have in the way of sunflower seeds and various nuts. Then I warm up 1 1/2 cups each of honey and oil, mix well, and start the baking process.

granola.jpgThe oven is set to about 300 degrees, and the two glass baking dishes with about half the mixture in each go into the oven. The alarm is set for 20 minutes. Then every 20 minutes I take the pans out of the oven one at a time and mix the granola with a spatula. This goes on until I take it out and it is starting to get brown on top. Then I set the timer for 10 minutes, then 5, then 4. I keep stirring, each time I take the pans out and swap them from top to bottom shelf. When the granola is uniformly brown throughout, it is done. I then scrape it out of the pans and onto some wax paper on the kitchen counter where it dries and cools. Once cool I break it up and pour it into gallon glass jars, from where it disappears over the course of a few days or weeks. This stuff is really good.

I also made a batch of backpacker spaghetti today. This recipe has lots of beans, veggies, whole wheat and other hearty stuff in it. Once done I placed it in the dehydrator where it has been for about 5 hours. Hopefully in another hour I’ll be able to bag it and store it away in the freezer. This will be two supper meals for each of us. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to make the chili and get it dehydrated too. I also put up two batches of cornbread for those suppers when we will need an extra kick. I’ve found the first night I’m usually not too hungry, but towards the end I’d eat my shoe leather if I didn’t need the shoes.

Tomorrow I head for Marquette early. I have a full day training session at NMU that is called Wilderness EMS. I’m not sure what it will entail, but I’m sure I’ll learn a lot as I always do. I’m required to do a certain amount of coursework over the course of 2 years so I can keep my first responder certification valid. This particular series of courses will be held over the next 4 days at NMU, and I figured I could devote one day to it.

Franco and I had several nice walks today in the lovely fall weather. The one after supper was begun in the bright sunshine, so I didn’t bother putting on my headlamp. Well, I learned I’d better start putting it on every night from now on after supper. The days are really getting shorter quickly.

September 27, 2010

Storm Door

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:23 pm

olddoor.jpgToday was a culmination of sorts. The storm door into the mud room of the “Green Room” of our house has been a ragged mess for years and years. As I look back on it, the problem has probably been that we almost never go into the house from that door, and probably let the snow pile up on it, thereby allowing moisture to creep into the bottom of the door and swelling the bottom part of the core. I has looked ugly for years.

Early this summer, I stopped by 41 Lumber, where I originally bought the door, and told them I’d like to buy a replacement. I got some information on how to contact the warranty department. It involved calling a toll free number and entering some information at the prompts. I was doing fine until they asked for the serial number of the door. The places they told me to look on the door were wrong, and when the time was up for my answer to be given, I had not located the number. The call ended, but I had given them my contact information, and expected a call from them requesting the missing piece of data, which I was prepared to give them. Weeks went by and they never called back.

I did a search online, and found a web page for Larson Doors that essentially asked for the same information as the phone thing did, so I entered it all again, this time complete and correctly. Again I waited for weeks. Again, no response. I went back to 41 Lumber and asked my buddy Joe what he thought I should do next. Joe said he was surprised; that several customers have dealt with the Larson warranty department with good results. Joe gave me the name of the Larson rep. I called him and of course got voice mail. “Here we go again,” my cynical self said. I was surprised with he called me back the next day. It did not happen over night, but I would say that after 3 calls, I got a letter from him in the mail that had a form to fill out. So this makes 3 different types of communication media. Among other things, this form wanted the receipt from my original purchase (probably 15 years ago… I couldn’t find it) and several pictures of the door showing the damage and other door parts. I took the pictures with my digital camera, and took it to the kiosk at Walmart to make prints. Unfortunately, I punched the button for 5x7s instead of the smaller cheaper pictures. Also unfortunately, I chose the cheaper method of printing, which involved coming back the next day. Those pictures cost me over $7!

Anyway, I assembled everything required that I could get my hands on, and mailed it off. I waited again. Lo and behold, about 3 weeks lager I got a letter saying my request for a warranty replacement door had been approved. All I had to do was dial a toll free number (uh-oh) and give them my credit card number for the $50 shipping charges, and my replacement door would be on its way to me in 4-6 weeks. Progress.

The door did arrive FedEx, along with another big package; both waiting on the porch when I got home from a project. I assumed the other package would be parts or something. Well, the other package was some bird cages for a guy I didn’t know that lives on US41 near the Arnheim Rd. I looked him up in the phone book and called him. I told him I had a package that had been delivered here by mistake, and would he like me to call FedEx, or would he like to drive over and pick it up. He drove over Saturday morning, and we had a very nice chat. The cages were for some canaries he raises.

Now that I had my replacement door, I opened the door-sized box and got everything spread out in my workshop. It turns out they don’t give you a complete door. You are responsible for removing the windows, screen, and window casing, plus the door knob and the bottom expander. Then all that stuff has to be transferred to the replacement door, and it needs to be hung. Having a degree in technical communications, I cherish good instructions, and hate bad instructions. Larson did not pass the test. All sorts of unintelligible and unexplained jargon met me at almost every paragraph. For example, they said if I had a retractable screen, I should skip to part 2. What is a retractable screen? Why did I give you the serial number for the door if you have no idea what kind of screen I have? I read through the instructions the best I could, and then put them away and just did my best.

stuckscrew.jpgI stripped the head on the first screw I tried to remove. It was in the “bad” section of the door where water had saturated the core and rusted the screw into the wood. I knew the old door was a throwaway anyway, so I got my heavy wood chisel and hammer out, and removed the wood from around this screw. It still resisted but with some encouraging words and two vice grips, I got it out. newdoor.jpgThe rest came out easily. Then both the old and new door went into the shop and I deliberately moved parts from one to the other. It would have been easy to install the door handle on the wrong side if I had been slightly careless, so I tried my best. It went ok.

It was a bit of a challenge getting it hung so it opened and closed properly (whenever you use a door that opens and closes properly, there is a carpenter behind that project that knows what they are doing.) When Alice got home from work today, I had a much nicer door to show her.

docksit.jpgTo celebrate we walked out to the back pond and sat on the dock as is our habit. If I had anything like the Photoshop skills necessary to enhance this picture, I probably would have done so, but I do promise that this is a real picture of the calm waters of the pond reflecting the perfect fall colors during the magic hour of September 27, 2010. We’ve said it before and we said it again tonight… we are really lucky to live where we do.

September 25, 2010

Fall Colors

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:27 pm

sawing.jpgMy poor old sawmill has been neglected this summer. I cut a lot of spruce this spring from the trees that succumed to the bark beetle infestation, and then put the thing away for other projects. When I tried to use it this week to get some cedar cut for the Estivant Pines project, it started but the head wouldn’t go up or down. I worked on it over the course of several days until I tried something that worked. Once I got it going, I spent part of 3 days getting this pile of lumber made. I still have some to go. When I have all the lumber I plan to use for the three boardwalk projects in the pines, I’ll have sawed about 1,000 board feet.

wendy.jpgYesterday was my long anticipated meeting with Wendy Brawler, founder and director of the GreenMap ( I was lucky enough to be invited to a small gathering of students, faculty, and community members that met with Wendy and had a far ranging discussion about all things sustainable. Sitting across the table from her, I was reminded of some advice I gave Steve when he want away to college: “Spend as much time as you can with exceptional people.” Wendy surely fit the bill. I thought about things in new and different ways thanks to the energy she sparked around the room.

tour.jpgFollowing the round-table discussion, we assembled outside and departed for a field trip to the Estivant Pines. The organizer of Wendy’s visit to Finlanda, Rick Loduha, wanted her to see the pines, and wanted his students to see the site for one of their sustainable design projects: a possible “caretaker’s cabin” for the pines. We hiked around potential sites for the cabin, and then back to the pines for a short orientation talk. Some of us had to head back to Hancock, while some stayed and continued hiking the pines. I was one of those that departed early. Unfortunately for me, a headache had been brewing all day, and really started to take hold when I got back. I stopped and picked up a few things and then headed home to a dose of Maxalt, a bath, and a restful evening. By this morning, I was back to normal.

solar.jpgMy first project today was completion of the dismanteling of the solar collector for this year. I had drained it a few days ago. I still had to remove the connecting pipes and cover the exposed unions with plastic to keep the critters out. It was warm enough to do this job without shoes!

chimney.jpgThen it was up the ladders and onto the roofs to clean our 4 chimneys. The 3 on the house I clean from roof ladders. The garage chimney is cleaned by parking the dozer next to the building, setting the ladder in the bucket, and raising the bucket up to the roofline. Then I extend the ladder so I can reach the chimney. All the paraphernalia I was standing on is on the other side of the building, so it looks like I just got dropped by helicopter on the peak of the roof.

ponds.jpgThe view from the roofs is always spectacular. I took several pictures but this was my favorite. Our back pond isn’t really visible from the house until I get up on the roof, so I get a kick out of the different perspective I get whenever I get up on top. fairy.jpgI was also struck by how much more obvious the mushroom “fairy circles are from up on the roof.

After the chimney work was finished, I tackled the engines project. Along with the Scout and dozer I bought last summer, I got a bunch of parts, including the Scout 800 I sold the other day, and a couple of 8 cylinder Scout II engines. The engines were sitting outside and obviously deteriorating. I chained the first one up to the dozer and lifted it up. I then removed the transfer case from the end of the transmission, and set it aside in case I need one someday. Then I drained the fluids from the engine and drove it over to the pickup and set it in the bed. I did the same thing to the other engine. Monday morning when I drive in for my weekly errands, I plan to stop at one of the junkyards and see what I can get for them. I’ll be glad to have them off the property. After my purchase last summer, the field was starting to look pretty junk-yardy itself.

September 22, 2010

The Tipi Comes Down (Again)

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:41 pm

tipi1.jpgOur tipi was erected once again this year at our neighbor’s home to allow a place for a visitor to stay. This man is very allergic to cats and thought it would be neat to sleep in a real tipi during his 1 week stay there. Today’s weather conditions were warm, sunny, and calm winds, so Franco and I walked up there mid-afternoon and began the deconstruction project. Some of the work had already been done when we got there, notably the interior fly had been taken down and folded up. Notice also the smoke flaps are closed. Their guest decided not to light a fire while he was there, so the flaps were closed to keep the rain and wind out.

tipi2.jpgInside the tipi before we started to take it apart, Bob, Franco, and I enjoyed this wonderful space for a few more minutes. Franco’s idea of enjoying the space involved coercing Bob to throw his stick for him.

tipi3.jpgUsing a two step kitchen ladder, I unpegged all the button holes on the cover. Next I pulled out the numerous wooden stakes around the perimeter of the cover.

tipi4.jpgOnce that was completed, the cover was flapping in the breeze while still securely tied near the top of the lifting pole. I gathered the cover in my arms about chest height, and wrapped a bungee cord (of course it was an authentic native american bungee cord) around it so it wouldn’t fall off the lifting pole as I lowered the whole thing to the ground. The cover was then untied from the lifting pole, spread out on the grass, and folded up. All that now remained was to remove the poles in the reverse order they were installed, and lay them carefully on the ground.

tipi5.jpgIn this picture, several of the poles were removed. Once all but the three original tripod poles were put away, I lowered the tripod, untied the knot, and we were essentially done. I was struck once again at the brilliance of this design. It makes a roomy snug shelter, and one that can be erected and struck without too much trouble.

Today I also spent some time on the sawmill making lumber for the Estivant Pines project, and various other household chores. It was good to be outside and enjoy the Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes moving to and fro while having their important discussions.

September 21, 2010

Celestial Mechanics

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:32 pm

On my backpack walk after supper, Franco and I noticed something odd as we climbed the hill. As is our habit, we began the hike by walking to the west. We noticed the neighbor’s fire number sign glowing as though it were on fire. There was no sun visible in the sky, although we were close to sunset. I got to thinking as I climbed the hill that the date was in fact 9/21/10, or the autumnal equinox. As that fact was sinking in, we crested the hill and could see the rest of the road about 1/2 mile distant which was framed by trees on both sides. As we walked, the sun broke through some clouds, and plunged out of sight exactly in the middle of the tree framed road. What a great demonstration of the equinox!

scout.jpgEarlier in the day, I was working on the sawmill making lumber for the upcoming Estivant Pines’ project when my friend Jason drove up in his Scout 80. This is the vehicle he wanted my Scout for for parts. I halted my work on the sawmill and worked with him to get the Scout roadworthy. He added brake fluid and got at least one of the brakes sort of working. We made sure the steering was ok and he backed his Scout up and we hooked things up. He only lives about 2 miles away, and we took it very easy. It worked like a charm. Now the Scout 800 has a home where it will get used, instead of being an eyesore in my field. Win win.

color.jpgAfter Alice got home we walked out to the back pond and had a nice sit on the dock. I took this picture to show the beautiful fall colors just starting to peek out, and putting a reflective light show on the surface of the pond. Franco contributed by bringing his stick to be thrown across the water to the trail beyond. He is a beautiful creature when he is running full bore for his stick. He’s developing a habit of dropping his stick in the water rather than bringing it to me to throw for him. In the past I’ve gotten out of my chair and gotten the stick and thrown it. It seemed to me tonight that he figured that was the best way to get his stick thrown. Maybe I was a bit cranky, but I just sat in my chair and let him get his own darn stick. He eventually dove in and retrieved it. Good dog.

September 20, 2010

Big Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:02 pm

It seems like life is all about making small steps toward a goal. There are days and days of these small steps, where lots of decisions are made, each of which you hope moves you down a path in the right direction. If you insist on regular results with such a philosophy, you’re almost sure to be disappointed, and shoot for immediate gratification instead of slow steady progress.

First of all, today was a day I didn’t have to get ready and head north for another rehearsal/performance of the play. I’m delighted I did it again this year, but it does knock the pudding out of you after several weeks of it.

Next, I finally hauled our broken TV to the transfer station. I had taken it 150 miles each way to Escanaba to get it repaired, and yet it stayed broken. It has been such a reliable set that I hated to think of just junking it, but this morning I hauled in the cart, lifted it down from its perch, and wrestled it onto the back of the truck. After I paid the disposal fee, I backed it into the bay where the trash goes, and the guy there told me to just tip it off the truck onto the concrete floor. “It don’t matter if it breaks,” he said. I couldn’t make myself do it. I lowered it from the truck and kissed the ground with it, and got nary a scratch on it. It was a good TV over the years and I felt bad about mistreating it. Silly. Now there is a pretty big hole in our livingroom.

This afternoon I got a phone call from a fellow that works with me on the fire department. He wondered if I was home so he could look at the 1965 Scout 800 I had advertised for sale in the UP.NET classifieds. I said sure, and he came over. He wanted it for parts, and after about a half hour of poking around he said he’d take it. He wrote me a check and I gave him the title. In the next couple of days he’ll be back and we’ll tow it to his place. It will be nice to get that machine out of the yard.

Finally, on our walk back from our afternoon dock sit, a pickup truck stopped and the passenger rolled down his window. He started talking to me as though I knew him, but it took me a while to recognize him. He was a fellow I had gotten called to as a first responder. He was pretty seriously ill when I got there (I was the first one there) and we did our best to get him stabilized and onto the ambulance. I had gotten word that he did make it, but had no idea he was back home. He said some very nice things to me, including that he thought I had “saved his life.” I was one of many people that contributed time and effort to get him into the hands of the people that really work the magic, but I have to admit I felt pretty good about what I did that day. So often you get the patients on the ambulance and that is the last you hear of them. In this case a healthy man greeted me with warmth and gratitude.

I’d say it was a pretty big day!

September 16, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 3:24 pm

Both gardens now have their planting of annual rye, and the outside garden is showing the tiny green shoots that give me so much satisfaction. The greenhouse garden was planted somewhat later, so no growth is evident yet. I usually get germination in less time in the greenhouse because the soil tends to be warmer inside. We’ve had nice rain for the past couple of days. The stubborn creeks have still not awakened, so I assume the thirsty ground is soaking up all the moisture. The Canada Geese are congregating and moving in large groups, and I saw a group of about 10 Sandhill Cranes flying over this morning. Our hummingbirds seem to have vacated in the past few days. The feeder is just sitting there swaying in the wind with no takers. This is a good time of the year as they all are, but I’m missing my summer friends already.

Yesterday afternoon I buttoned things up here and was on my way about 4:30 pm for the theater. Alice and I planned to meet at Peterson’s Fish Market for supper again, with the default time being 5:15. I was in Houghton at 5:14, so knew I would be a bit late, but ran into some traffic backups such that I didn’t get there until after 5:30. This is unheard of in the Copper Country! I assumed there was some sort of obstruction that caused the backup, but I saw nothing as I rolled through. Alice was at Peterson’s when I got there, but she had gotten stuck in the same snarl, so had just gotten there herself. It was raining and the tarp tent we ate under was not completely water tight. It was a bit cold out too. We had the whole place to ourselves, though, and it was one of the nicest dinners I can remember in a long time. When we finished, she went south toward home, and I went north toward the Calumet Theater.

I was unhappy with the modification I had made to the ladder for the “20 mattresses” set piece, so had bought some sturdier steel hardware and blacksmithed it into the proper shape at home. I installed it when I got there as the chorus warmed up all around me. This was another of those golden moments. Everyone seemed pretty happy and the music was just wonderful in my ears. Once installed, I hooked up the ladder, and it seemed to work great. Then I climbed up to my perch in the flyloft, and the brushup rehearsal started.

erin.jpgThe show ran along just fine, and we took a short intermission at the usual spot in the show. We wanted it short because we all wanted to get home as soon as we could. I bumped into Erin downstairs, and asked her if she was serious about wanting a tour of the flyloft. She said sure, so I climbed the ladder first, and then told her to come on up. The sounds were of normal climbing about halfway up the ladder, until I heard a small voice saying, “I forgot that I’m afraid of heights.” Erin being Erin persevered, though, and made it up to the loft, where I got her picture. There were encouraging sounds from the cast and crew on stage below, because it has proven to be a rare individual that has the nerve to climb up there. We only had time for a quick tour because she was needed on stage for the beginning of the second act. So that is one more destination Erin can check off her list.

I spent some time today working on my sawmill. It started fine the other day, but the head wouldn’t move up or down. Progress has been negative… now it doesn’t even start. I keep plugging away as I get different ideas. Hopefully an inspiration will occur, because I really need to get some lumber sawed while the weather stays nice.

September 13, 2010

All Day Session

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 8:45 pm

Today I attended another first responder session. This was given by the same folks that did the mock disaster triage drill for us yesterday. It was very good again. I’d say it was geared more for nurses and paramedics than first responders, but I always get a lot out of them, even if most of it is over my head. It went until about 3:00. The session before lunch, and the two after lunch were done by some pretty fast talking physicians. I do have to admit that since I’ve been doing this, I am picking up some of the jargon and can at least follow what they are saying, rather than being totally lost through the whole thing.

After I got home I took Franco for a short walk and did some inside chores, then worked on supper with Alice. Franco and I did a backpack hike after supper, and were lucky enough to run into Ray Krumm 3/4 of the way through it. So we were able to walk together for a while. It was nice to talk with Ray again. We don’t see nearly enough of each other anymore, and I miss it. It is fun to try and spot the tipi when we are walking on the road by Dohrenwend’s. It is mostly hidden by the barn, but you can see it if you look carefully. It is a lovely piece of architecture!

September 12, 2010

Holy Wah!

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 9:34 pm

It has been a busy week. I try to write every day or two, but it has been a bit longer since I have had enough time to even sit let alone write. A lot of things have conspired to come together at the same time, but I’m managing to get through them.

sara.jpgFirst is the play. We had rehearsals all last week and opened Friday night. We had a great audience Friday, and a comparatively dead one Saturday night. We know we have a good show because of the Friday night response, and we also know that some audiences just lack the pep that others do. Since I have the best view of Sara Perfetti tossing around in her bed of 20 mattresses, Alice asked me for a picture. I found it pretty hard to find a suitable vantage point because of all the lights, drops, teasers, etc, so this was the best I could do.

pines.jpgSaturday, we were asked to lead a tour at the Estivant Pines. This was a Michigan Nature Association bus group that came up from downstate. Since Alice and I are stewards of the Estivant Pines sanctuary, they asked us to give a short talk and be available for the hike and questions. The weather was rainy, but the group had a lot of spunk. We were able to take them on our new reroute of the Cathedral Loop. Everyone seemed to have a good time. In this picture I am giving them an orientation talk after hiking a short way into the sanctuary.

alice.jpgBy the end of the hike, we were both pretty wet. All the participants were wet too. Amazingly, the huge bus that brought them drove all the way back to the Pines on the Burma Road! I’ve seen big vehicles back there, but that one took the cake. The driver seemed to know what he was doing, because he backed into the parking lot and turned around. Luckily, he didn’t meet anyone on the road, or they would have had to back up.

Sunday morning early I headed up to Houghton for a EMS session on triage. I had had one class on triage before, so understood the concepts. This time the guys assembled about 50 young people to act as victims of a plane crash. They were all painted with blood and makeup to make them look bruised. Each victim had a card that told their age, vital statistics, and symptoms like flail chest, tender abdomen, etc. Our job was to move from patient to patient and in 30 seconds of less, determine their status on the triage hierarchy. That goes from Green for injured but ambulatory, to Black for dead or dying. Once they are categorized, we move them to the various color coded areas where they receive first aid, and are prioritized for transport. It was realistic enough that I had a pretty hard time when “my” patient was passed over for immediate transport to the hospital because she probably wasn’t going to make it.

After I got home I had a quick sandwich and a nap, then headed up to Dohrenwend’s to help set up the tipi for another guest that is coming in tomorrow. This fellow is from Germany, and is allergic to the cats Dohrenwends keep in their home, so will be sleeping outside. When he learned they had a tipi, he asked if he could stay out there, and we said sure. Setup went a little better this time because we could remember what we had learned from the experience of setting it up earlier this summer. We did, however, have to contend with some pretty serious wind, which caused us some extra difficulties.

Tomorrow I have the second part of the EMS seminar these guys are putting on. Tuesday morning I have a dentist appointment, and Tuesday evening a FOLK meeting. Wednesday is our brushup rehearsal, and the performances start on Thursday. We go through Saturday night, after which we will strike the set and be done for another season.

Holy Wah!

September 8, 2010

At the Show

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin0 @ 10:54 pm

flyloft.jpgThe play I’m helping with seems to be shaping up. As usual I’m busy running the flyloft during critical parts of the show such that I really don’t have a good feel for what is happening. That is ok, I guess. I can ask others to fill me in. I am getting some time to think about things during the long drive back and forth, so I’m hatching all sorts of virtual schemes. Mostly they evaporate by the time I get to where I’m going, but it is fun to play around inside my mind.

view.jpgOne problem I’ve been noticing from my perch in the flyloft is the ladder for the stack of 20 mattresses the princess uses it a bit tippy. During my truck ride, thought of a way I might be able to make it more secure with some hooks and lag bolts. If I have time tomorrow, I’ll stop at the hardware and get the parts I need to give it a try. The first picture shows the work area I have at my disposal in the flyloft. The second picture shows the view of the stage I have from my perch. I’m about 30′ above the stage. Climbing up there and looking over the edge is not for those with trouble with heights. Fortunately I have never had a fear of heights.

Wish us a “break a leg” for the show opening on Friday night.

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