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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Today’s picture comes from my friend Bruce who saw a horse in a field across a canal.  We will get closer to it tomorrow.

kelpies

We had another near freezing but sunny day today and it was most frustrating.  I have hardly done any cycling this month, what with bad weather and a long and irritating cold so I have been hoping to put a mile or two in before December comes.

Thus I spent a lot of today anxiously looking at the thermometer and frozen puddles in the drive, hoping that the thermometer would rise and the puddles melt.

Neither happened and the thermometer stayed stuck at 4°C and the puddle stayed frozen.  I am very aware of being a great deal more fragile than I was ten years ago when 4° would have been an invitation to go out for a pedal and a gentle fall wouldn’t have been too serious.  I have fallen off more than once in ice and snow but time passes and joints and bones are not what they were so I have become risk averse.  99% of a trip might be ice free but that 1%, a shady corner on a damp stretch under the trees, might be just enough to spoil things.

So I had coffee with Sandy, looked at a bird or two…

greenfinch

A greenfinch enjoying the sun

robin

And a robin feeling the cold in the shade

…and then went for a short walk before lunch to give things a chance to warm up.

Pool Corner was very peaceful…

Pool corner

…but the larches on the bank behind it are almost at their very last gasp.

Pool corner

In the absence of leaves, I looked at branches….

bare tree

…and walked up the track onto the lower slopes of Warbla from where I could see a few views for a small amount of climbing.

monument from Warbla

Meikleholm Hill

Castle Hill

Where the sun hadn’t reached, the frost remained and reminded me of why I wasn’t out on my bike.

frozen leaf

If I had a serious mountain bike, winter riding would be more possible but I don’t have one and skinny tyres make ice a threat.

After lunch, I looked hopefully at the thermometer again and then went for another short walk in a rather grumpy state of mind.

The blue flash of a kingfisher, a very rare sighting for me, as I went along the banks of the Esk cheered me up and after crossing the Langholm Bridge, now back to complete calm after the recent rains…

Langholm Bridge

….I walked along the Kilngreen beside the Ewes Water….

Kilngreen

…and communed with the ducks.

mallards

Mr Grumpy saw me and decamped to the opposite bank of the river.

heron

I too crossed the river.  The low sun shining through the moss on a wall caught my eye…

moss

…and I caught the eye of a sheep.

sheep

I was on the same bank as Mr Grumpy now.  He looked ready to flit back to the other side at a moment’s notice so I left him alone and walked on….

heron

…under the trees and into the sun.

tree in low sun

I passed the castle ruins…

Langholm Castle

…and found myself in the shadow of our hills as I walked up the river Esk to the Jubilee Bridge so that the only sunlight was now in the branches of the trees above my head.

sunny branches

The temperature was already dropping when I got home but where the sun had struck the soil in our garden, it had made it soft enough for Mrs Tootlepedal to plant a few more tulips and I spiked some of the middle lawn.

As the light faded, Eric, a fellow member of the Langholm choir tenor section, turned up and we had a useful practice together.  Christmas concerts are looming up and all the practice that we can get in is useful.

The day rather fizzled out after that and in spite of the two walks and the singing practice, I was left with the strong feeling that it had been wasted.  As the next two days are forecast to be sunny but even colder, I fear that any dream of cycling miles in November will have to be abandoned.

There is always the gym…..aaaargh!.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, caught at a busy moment on the feeder.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my flute pupil Luke’s mother, Sharon.  She drives up past the Gates of Eden to work and stopped to take this fine picture early this morning.

snowy scene from Sharon

I had hoped to see a little snow myself today as we had driven through some on our way home last night but we got up too late and any snow that there might have been had vanished from the hills around the town.

My cold has pretty well disappeared at last but I am not back at full perk yet so I was happy to use the excuse of freezing temperatures to lounge around in the morning, taking the occasional look out of the kitchen window.

A greenfinch looked disgusted to find that it was sunflower hearts yet again in the feeder menu…

Warbla view

…while chaffinches arrived to sample the seeds without complaining.

chaffinch

This one is about to receive a buffet from a much smaller but very determined siskin.

chaffinch and siskin

Towards lunchtime, the sun came out and lit up a robin in the plum tree.

robin

It also made it easy for the sparrowhawk to see the birds on the feeder and so we got a visit from this one.  To save the squeamish from awkwardness, I have photoshopped its prey out.  Lovers of nature red in tooth and claw can see the full picture at the end of the post.

sparrowhawk

After lunch, I weighed up the delights of a cycle ride at 4°C in a chilly wind as against a walk up a hill with a chance of seeing some snow in the distance and decided to go for the walk up Warbla.

Sadly, there was not a flake of snow to be seen on any of our hills, near or far but I enjoyed the walk anyway.

There were small trees with threatening clouds behind them….

Warbla tree

…and bigger trees with not such threatening clouds….

Warbla tree

…and little trees with berries….

Warbla tree

…and bigger trees with views.

Warbla tree

It was a good day for views and  thanks to being a bit short of puff, I stopped to look at quite a few of them on my way up.  (You can see me in the bottom right of the shot.)

Warbla view

I met no one on my way up the hill but the feeling of being a lonely explorer battling against the elements was slightly diminished by finding a car parked beside the mast at the top of the hill.

P1050585

Still, the need for access for maintenance to the equipment does keep the track up the hill in good condition so I didn’t mind too much.

And the views from the top on a fine day always make the walk worthwhile.  A reader recently stressed the importance of trying to have interesting skies in landscape pictures and I think that today, I was provided with plenty of good skyscapes.

Warbla view

A little alternation of cloud and sunshine can produce very pleasing effects.

Warbla view

I came back down the rather muddy track and turned off to walk down this delightful short cropped grassy path to join the Wauchope road at the Auld Stane Brig.

Warbla view

The larches at Pool Corner are coming to the end of their run after putting on a very good show again this year.

larches

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden, planting out tulips beside the middle lawn.  This meant displacing some other bulbs which I found a home for near the back fence.  It was rather chilly and the ground was soggy so I may not have made the best job of planting them.  It is a pity that most gardening seems to require bending over and thus suits people like Mrs Tootlepedal with low centres of gravity more than it does me.

The evenings are really drawing in now, with less than a month to go to the winter equinox, so it was a great treat to receive a visit from our older son Tony and his partner Marianne who had come down to help Mrs Tootlepedal and me to celebrate our birthdays.

The pleasure in their company was enhanced by a couple of delicious duck dishes from Marks and Spencers ready meals department which they had brought with them.  These went into the oven with some potatoes from our  garden and we had an excellent meal of roast duck and roast potatoes.  As this was followed by ice cream and peach slices, I take leave to doubt that any millionaire or potentate dined better than us tonight.

After our meal, we sat down to watch an excellent film on DVD which our daughter Annie had given to Mrs Tootlepedal so the day ended well on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

My portrait skills are poor but I am trying to improve so I took this picture of Marianne, Mrs Tootlepedal and Tony.

Marianne, Mrs Tootlepedal and Tony.

I can see that getting three noses equally spaced, on the same line and all at the same angle will require some person management skills.  I will try again.

Warning: Squeamish readers should look away now.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch….

chaffinch

…and a non flying bird is the unfortunate goldfinch that the sparrowhawk snared with its talons this morning.

sparrowhawk with prey

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who was up in London to watch tennis at the O2 Arena. During a break in play, she ventured across the river on the Emirates cable car.

emirates air line

We could hear the rain pounding down overnight so it was no surprise to wake up to a dull and soggy day.  The heavy rain had eased off but there was a lot of drizzle in the morning.

This didn’t bother me too much as I was sat in the Welcome to Langholm office for two hours not welcoming any visitors at all.  This let me get completely caught up on my entries to the Archive Group’s  newspaper database so I regarded it as time well spent (though a visitor or two to welcome would have been welcome).

There was not much fun to be had in gardening or peering at bird feeders in the gloom so after lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I braved a little light drizzle and went out on an expedition round Gaskell’s Walk.

I drew her attention to some exciting lichen just after we set out…

lichen

…but she was more interested in watching the overnight rain pouring over the caul at Pool Corner.

Pool corner

It must have rained a great deal last night.

I looked at larch trees which are gradually losing their needles but still offering a treat to the passer by.

larches at pool cornerlarches at pool corner

In a satisfactory way, they lose their needles from the bottom up and this seems to make them last longer as a visual delight than if they lost them from the top.

We are never short of moss round here.

moss on hedge and wall

The walk was a bit muddy underfoot when we got to the track but this was not a surprise when we saw how much water was coming down the Becks Burn to join the Wauchope.

Becks Burn

There is a little stream, usually no more than a trickle which runs under a bridge near the end of the track.

Gaskell's Bridge

It is very narrow above the bridge but has a deep and wide gully on the other side as it plunges down a steep bank.  Today we could see how it can have enough water on a wet day to carve such a deep trench.

It wasn’t a day for views at all…

Castle Hill in cloud

…but as it was about ten degrees warmer than yesterday, it wasn’t a bad day for a walk in November.

As we got near home, I saw some Hart’s Tongue fern looking very happy on a wall…

hart's tongue fern

…and a substantial outbreak of lichen on a tree stump which was striking enough to get Mrs Tootlepedal interested.

lichen

I took a picture from the Park Bridge to show the contrast between today and yesterday.

Yesterday was like this:

Wauchope in frost

And today was like this:

P1050521

No one can accuse our weather of being boring.

It was too dark to look at birds when I got home so I went inside to pick some pictures to show at our Camera Club meeting later in the evening but Mrs Tootlepedal braved the drizzle and got some useful gardening done.

It has either been frosty or soggy since she got back from the south so the refurbished tiller is still in its box.

My flute pupil Luke came and gave more evidence of practice so we managed to play through a tricky Quantz movement with only one or two hiccups.  Next week I am sure that we will roll through it triumphantly.

In the evening, I went to our camera club meeting and there was a good turnout of members and once again we got an excellent selection of photographs from the members.  There was much to enjoy in looking at the shots and a lot to learn from the subjects and the techniques used.

In the end, a potentially very gloomy and dull day turned out to have been both useful and enjoyable and I can’t ask for more than that.

On a side note, our friend Mike Tinker turned up for a cup of tea in the afternoon and he was happily much recovered from a serious cold which has laid him low for several days.   Although he is still far from skipping and dancing, it was good to see him out and about at least.

I did manage one suitably gloomy flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Mike Griffiths’ visit to Stratford-upon-Avon.  This is Cox’s Yard, once a timber merchant’s place of business and now a high class eatery.

Cox's Yard

We had plenty of sunshine here today but it had to struggle against the chill and on the whole, the chill won.

frosty lawn

It was sub zero C when we got up and it never got above 3 degrees all day.  Still, it made for pretty patterns in the garden.

frosty leaves

And as a bonus, it wasn’t icy underfoot so after Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off to sing with the church choir and I had made a pasta sauce for the slow cooker, I went for a short walk.

There are still remnants of my cough lurking about to discomfort me just when I think that all is clear so my walk was short and easy.

It was just above freezing when I set out but only just…

boiler venting

…but where the sun had had an opportunity, it had melted the frost away.

Wauchope in frost

A beech tree at the entrance to the park still provides a bit of colour on a sunny morning…

P1050485

…but in the woods along the river bank, things are bleaker….

P1050489

….and the ice persisted.

P1050488

As soon as I could, I came out from under the trees and enjoyed the sunshine.

Stubholm stable

There is something irresistible about an ad hoc collection of sheds like this.

My walk was very short and I was soon back down among the ice crystals on the park wall.

park wall ice

I was even more impressed by the top of a fence post in the road just outside our house.

fence post ice

As we were going to Carlisle in the afternoon, I took our car out from the very cold and shady spot where it lives in our drive and parked it in a pool of sunshine on the road outside our gate.

It needed a chance to defrost a bit.

wing mirror

This was the wing mirror.

Once the car was parked, I had a moment to watch the birds.

The plum tree made a good vantage point for a goldfinch to check out the seed scene.

goldfinch in plum tree

Down below, birds were both coming and going….

busy feeder

…and going and coming.

busy feeder

I liked this picture which shows that landing on the perches is not quite as straightforward as the birds make it look.

chaffinches landing

And of course it is easy to miss your footing when greenfinches start shouting just as you are landing.

greenfinch shouting

There were more peaceful moments.

robin

dunnock

After lunch, we had to go into the choir a bit early as a journalist from the local Carlisle newspaper was writing a story about the choir’s fifth birthday and I had been asked to chat to him as a long serving member who had joined with no singing experience.

As they are hoping to recruit more men to sing with the choir, I hope that the remarks that I and another of the tenors made will be reported in a way that encourages others to come along and try.

The journalist stayed for the first half of the practice and was quite impressed so we await his article with interest.

Once again, we were worked very hard by our conductor but with the Christmas concert looming, quite a lot of homework is on the cards.

The slow cooked pasta sauce, basically mince and veg, went very well with some tagliatelle for our tea and as Mrs Tootlepedal made semolina pudding to follow it up, we were well insulated from any evening chill.

The weather is due to warm up for the next few days but it is going to bring wind and rain so we may soon be looking back on our frosty mornings with nostalgia.

If the prose in today’s post seems a little distrait, blame it on Mrs Tootlepedal.  She kindly cut my hair today so I am feeling a little light headed.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch trying to avoid the paparazzi.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another visit to Irene’s sunny garden in South Africa.  Since they have been suffering from a drought, the colour is very commendable.

south african garden

There was no sign of frost here this morning and there was a little sunshine to warm things up so I decided to ignore the ongoing coughing and try out a short cycle ride.  It took me quite a lot of time to make up my mind to give it a go but I finally got on the road and clocked up a sensibly brief and gentle ten miles, turning when I got to the bottom slopes of Callister.

Callister in November

While the ride didn’t do me any good, it didn’t seem to do me much harm so I may try again if the weather stays kind.  It was good to be back on the bike and to find that I remembered how to pedal after two weeks of walking.

I had to fill up the sunflower seed feeder when I got home as it had been well used.

chaffinch and goldfinch

Additional visitors not welcome.

Luckily Mrs Tootlepedal had a visitor before lunch so after my ride, I had a good excuse to retire to my bed and have a snooze for half an hour or so..

After lunch, in a rare outbreak of usefulness, I helped Mrs Tootlepedal plant tulips as she has a lot to put in.  I managed to sink fifteen red ones into this bed….

tulip bed

…and now I will have to wait several months to see if I put them in the right way up.

I found two survivors when I looked around.

clematis and marigold

How the middle calendula survived when its two friends collapsed is a mystery.

More specialised skills in the gardening department were required than I could offer so while Mrs Tootlepedal toiled away, I went off for a walk.

I started along the river where the usual suspects posed for pictures….

gull and ducks

There was a hint of Noah’s Ark about the ducks, I thought.

…and then I followed the main road out of town and took the Newcastleton road up the hill.

There were neat hedges to admire…

Newcastleton road

…abundant lichen on the stone walls….

Newcastleton road lichen

…amusing fence posts….

Newcastleton road fencepost

…and fine views up the Ewes valley to enjoy.Newcastleton road view up Ewes

When I got to the quarry, I turned on to the lower slopes of Whita and walked along to Whita Well.

Here there were rather monochrome trees silhouetted against the weak sun….

Whita trees

..although the sky was still quite blue if you looked in the right direction.

Monument

Added colour was provided by gorse flowers.  Gorse is an indiscriminate flowerer and all seasons seem to suit it.

gorse

I ended my walk by coming down the Kirk Wynd and looking over the Town Hall to Warbla in the background.

View over the town

As you can see, it was only just past three o’clock by this time but already the day was growing darker and Mrs Tootlepedal came in from the garden when I got home.

During the  morning and early afternoon, I spent a moment here and there staring out of the kitchen window.  My new mixed seed feeder is doing no business but the suet balls are proving attractive…

dunnock and blue tit

…so I have taken the seeds down and hung the fat balls up instead.  I will have to put some more out at low level for the dunnocks because they won’t fly up to the feeder.

I have got some pink pellets out too and they are proving quite popular.  A starling was tempted down from  its high wire for a visit today.

starling

I am particularly pleased to see regular visits from several blue tits as numbers were reported to be in a bad state after a couple of poor springs so it is a treat to see them looking well.

blue tit

The sunflower seeds are the main draw though and we had good numbers of chaffinches, goldfinches and greenfinches again today.

Sometimes the greenfinches dominated the feeder….

greenfinches

…and got quite ratty if anyone else pushed in.

greenfinch and goldfinch

Sometimes things were quieter….

chaffinches

…and, as usual, I was always looking for a flying bird picture opportunity.  Such was the traffic today that on many occasions I didn’t know where to look….

flying birds

…and missed them all.

It was easier to spot a static blackbird, one of many still in and around the garden.

blackbird

I wondered if this one had been a lawyer in a previous life.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to see the local dramatic society’s annual play in the Buccleuch Centre while I stayed at home to nurse my cough and make a dozen bread rolls.

I did find one chaffinch who kept out of the general hurly-burly for long enough to be the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary, who popped over to Paris for some culture.  She bravely used that external escalator.

The excalators snaking up outside the Pompidou building

It was frosty again when we got up and I recorded the fact with the aid of a spirea.

frozen spirea

frozen spirea

My recovery from the cold has been delayed again and so I took advantage of a cancellation at the Health Centre to get a check on my chest from a doctor this morning.  It’s just a cold and will go away in its own sweet time.  He didn’t have much of a view about when and suggested sticking my head over a bowl of boiling water three times a day for a week.  I think he said ‘over’ and not ‘in’.

I was wasting another day of very light winds but as the temperature never got much above 5°C, I wasn’t as distraught about this as I might have been on a warmer day.

I looked out of the window as the morning went on.

I couldn’t see much because flying chaffinches kept getting in the way.

flying chaffinches

There were other birds about….some cute…

robin

…some stern…

blackbird

…and some that I may have seen at Gretna yesterday evening.

starlings

After a nourishing lunch of sombre looking but quite tasty soup, I went for a short walk just to stretch the legs.  When it is not windy, even 5°C seems pleasantly warm for a walk if you are properly dressed.

I walked through the park to the Stubholm and then followed track through the Kernigal wood and down to Skipperscleuch and came back along the river.

There was lichen and fungus to be seen as I went along.

fungus

And I liked the way that two leaves had become imprinted on a rock much in the way that we used to press leaves when we were in the infant school.

lichen and leaves

Although I was among trees for a lot of the walk, there were occasional views.

mist in the hills

Hillside

And even a little late autumn colour.

late autumn colour

Most of the colour from my walk was in the form of larches, which looked golden to my eye from a distance….

larches

…but not quite as pretty to my camera’s sensor.

The actual needles were mostly brownish yellow but still surprisingly green in places.

P1050101

There were plenty of bare trees to enjoy.

bare tree

And when I got down to Skippers Bridge, I went down to the waterside and took the obligatory shot.  For some reason Roy Orbison came to mind.

skippers bridge

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepdal had been very busy doing another section of her path and clearing the nasturtiums from around the front door,

nasturtiums

It was sad to see them go as they had done very well in resisting the early frosts but the last one had been too much for them.

I lent a hand on some more tidying up.

There are still a few survivors about.

sweet rocket and clematis in november

It was too cold and gloomy to linger in the garden for long so we came in for a cup of tea and a slice or two of a Selkirk bannock.  In this we had a lot in common with Queen Victoria who is said to have been very partial to a slice or two of a Selkirk bannock with her afternoon cup of tea.

In the evening, I went off to do some more croaking with Langholm Sings, our local choir.  There were only two tenors there tonight and so we enjoyed a very quiet and peaceful evening and were modestly pleased with our efforts.

In spite of all the flying chaffinches, the flying bird of the day is a blue tit.  It not the best picture but it makes a change.

flying blue tit

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo, my Manitoba correspondent, and indicates that perhaps I should stop complaining about the weather here.

manitoba snow

In fact, we had a pretty good day here today with lots of sunshine in the morning and early afternoon.  This left me frustrated again by not being able to cycle on such an eminently suitable day for cycling.  Everyone I meet seems to have the cold too so there really is a lot of it going about.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a whole day embroidery workshop so I was left on my own to go to the Producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre.  To my great joy, a cheese seller has appeared so I was able to add cheese to my purchases of honey, fish, beef and venison.

I had a cup of coffee with Mike Tinker while I was there and he too is finding it hard to throw off a cold so we indulged in a little mutual sympathy.

I got home and downloaded the shopping and seeing that the forecast was for clouds later, I went out for a walk while the going was good.

I keep hoping that a bit of fresh air will blow the cold away but really, I just like taking a bit of exercise on a good day.

I walked along the river and Kilngreen without seeing anything to detain me and when I had crossed the Sawmill Brig, I headed up the hill past the estate offices.  There is a wall beside the road  that almost always has peltigera lichen and there was some there today.

peltigera lichen

Once I got out of the wood, the pattern of sunshine and shadow on a beech hedge made me look twice.

beech hedge

The hedge is completely smooth in spite of appearances.

I followed the track along above the rugby ground and dodged the soggiest bits while enjoying the strong contrast of light and shade.

Pathhead track

It has gates too.

Pathhead track

What I didn’t expect to come across on a sunny and dry day was this.

Rainbow on Pathhead track

It shows just how much moisture there is in the air when you can get half a rainbow without any rain.

Although I miss the autumn colour, I enjoyed the bare trees that I passed on my way.

trees on Pathhead track

There are still needles on the larch trees among the spruces.

Larch and spruces

This track took me about a mile and a half north of the town and when I got to the end of it, I turned back down to the main road, crossed the High Mill Brig…..

High Mill Brig

…and further downstream, I passed the more utilitarian modern bridge to the rugby pitch and caravan site.

Rugby Club Bridge

When I got back to the Sawmill Brig, I made my route into a figure of eight and crossed the bridge again and took the new path across the Castleholm to the Jubilee Bridge.

I looked up as I went.

Noble Fir and fern

Cones and a fern

And across.

ivy

Ivy

And down.

wild flowers on the scholars field

Three wild flowers round the Scholars’ Field.

I got home in time to have a look for garden survivors….

garden flowers november

…and have an excellent pie which I had obtained at the Producers’ Market for my lunch and then I found myself at a bit of a loose end.

I put the camera up and stared out of the kitchen window.

The sun came and went which didn’t help my camera settings but there were plenty of birds about today.

chaffinchpigeonchaffinch and greenfinchrobin

I had bought some mixed seeds as a change from endless sunflower hearts and put them out in a second feeder but there was no demand for them at all until quite late on when a single coal tit arrived and sampled the quality.

coal tit on seed feeder

We will have to wait to see if it tells its friends about this new opportunity or keeps it to itself.

We were threatened with rain showers in the afternoon but when none came. I went out and sieved a little compost and cleared up a pile of nettles on the drying green, the result of some recent garden tidying by Attila the Gardener.

As I was going out in the evening, I went back in and looked at the photographs that I had taken so far and by the time that I had finished doing that, Mrs Tootlepedal was back from a hard day’s embroidering.

We had a cup of tea and watched some rain.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to be a front of house manager at the Buccleuch Centre and I followed on to be a customer.  She went home when the show started but I stayed to enjoy an excellent concert by Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Wood.  Because we watched a recording of Strictly Come Dancing when I got home, it is too late to put a commentary on the concert here if I am to post before midnight so all I will say is that the programme was varied and enjoyed by a good audience.

The flying bird of the day is two chaffinches.

chaffinches flying

 

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