June 2020

Dubious salad harvesters…

The first of the first comes ripe in June and oh how we feast. Or rather, oh how the kids feast. If anything actually makes it inside, it’s a summer miracle. Here’s what the girls ate straight from the garden in June:

  • Snap peas!!! Ya’ll, I am on fire with this garden. I mean, on water? To be clear, fire is not ideal for a garden. I’ve been babying our pea pods for months–covering them from frost, weeding, watering, warding off pests (primarily my children), and finally, harvesting. And one day, I will eat one. That day did not come in June. Littlewoods designated herself the snap pea harvest helper, which entailed her following me along the row with a bucket while I picked peas and dropped them in. She then ate EVERY SINGLE ONE. If there’s such a thing as a two-year-old snap pea overdose, we will be the ones to find out.
  • Radishes: more interest in harvesting than eating

    Radishes!!! I want to be excited about these but, turns out, no one in the family likes how they taste so I’ve been hate eating them like the nasty little faux apples they are.

  • Salad greens!!! I’m able to wrestle an adequate number of leaves away from the kids to make dinner salads every night. I’m not sure what we’re going to do in the winter–no store bought greens could ever taste so fresh!!! My mixed greens, lettuce, and arugula are growing beautifully and we feast on them nightly. My spinach, on the other hand, not so much. Not sure if it doesn’t like the soil? Or the sun? Or me?
  • Herbs!!! The basil, sage and dill are filling in nicely.

Welcome to my series documenting life on our 66-acre Vermont homestead, which we moved to in May 2016 from urban Cambridge, MA. 

Wondering about the financial aspects of rural life? Check out: City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown as well as my monthly expense reports.

Contemplating going rural? Here ya go: Want To Move To The Country? 15 Things To Consider.

A Wedding Anniversary

Our 12th wedding anniversary happened in June and in light of Pandemic, my initial reaction was bummed. We were supposed to be on a getaway while my in-laws watched our kids. But we weren’t so I spent part of the day indulging in decadent self-pity. I take pride in our anniversary because it’s something we’ve accomplished. Unlike my birthday where IT’S MY MOM who should be celebrated (something driven home to me during hard labor with my children).

Mr. FW and the fire pit he built

Our anniversary, on the other hand, is our thing–we did it, we created this life, and we’ve stuck together. So I was less than enthused when I realized our anniversary day involved church via Zoom, a community meeting via Zoom, clearing a trail in the woods (thankfully not via Zoom), folding laundry, and garden bed weeding.

But as I wrapped Littlewoods in my bathrobe, rocking her for our morning wake-up ritual–while Mr. FW made breakfast and Kidwoods vaulted from the trampoline–I realized this was our best anniversary yet. Not in terms of activities, but in terms of life lived. Twelve years ago, if you’d asked me to make a list of things I hoped my husband and I would accomplish, this anniversary included them all.

I am bad at enjoying the present moment. I am REAL BAD at perspective. I forget that this, RIGHT HERE, is everything I want. This husband, these children, this land, this fire pit–these are what I want. And I’m married to a person who, when I say, “I’d love to have a fire pit this summer,” responds by going into the woods and digging out enormous stones to heft into our yard in order to build me a fire pit.

More About the Above-Pictured Firepit

The above is a real flame. I repeat: not a fake flame. This is what happens when you light a fire pit with a flame weeder in order to roast marshmallows. You then wait 20 minutes for the flame to subside so that you can actually, you know, roast your marshmallows. One of the many reasons I love my husband: his many and varied ways of (safely) starting fires. No Glamour Sheds were harmed in the creation or endurance of this flame.

I’m pretty sure our kids will remember the pandemic as the summer they got to roast marshmallows and hot dogs in the yard every week. And also as the time when they got Power Wheels

Who Wore It Best?

For the first time EVER, I was the one to plant the majority of our garden. I was the one to dig holes and straighten plant roots and sweep soil around burgeoning tendrils of vegetable life.

Mrs. FW sporting overalls, hat, and white UPF shirt

That’s where I was for much of June: planting, pruning, weeding, and harvesting. But the real reason for all this time in the garden was to bring you a homestead edition of “Who Wore It Best: Mrs. Frugalwoods or Mr. Frugalwoods?” See photos above and at right. Vote in comments.

June might seem late to plant a garden, but that would only be if you do not live in Vermont. To be honest, we Vermonters should keep our plants indoors year-round, ideally under electric blankets.

Now, let’s spend a few moments reflecting on my haute farm fashion as I imagine you’re desperately googling to see how you too might find shapeless overalls (BUT THE POCKETS, LADIES), an on-trend hat (NOTE THE NECK FLAP) and the stunning UPF shirt. Not to mention: dirt under your nails is the Vermont manicure. Don’t go to a social function without it.

Where to get Mrs. FW’s farm fresh look: the overalls (yes, we both have the men’s version), the shirt, (yep, we both have the men’s), and the hat–actually, the hat is so old I have no idea where it’s from (affiliate links).

In The Garden With the Toddler Ennui: by Kidwoods, age 4 and Littlewoods, age 2

Kidwoods in the garden

Yes, I planted this lettuce after pestering mama for 35 minutes until she relented and let me nestle nascent plants into the earth and smash dirt around their roots. Also, yes, I knocked over an entire flat of basil plant starts because I hula-hooped through the garden. Many will die. I was given a lunch, yes, but the [homemade, organic, whole wheat] bread was “not long enough,” so I threw it in the grass and my little sister ate it.

I, the little sister, know that I was given busy work over here in unplanted earth. I was not entrusted with a plant–not even a token plant–and am WELL aware you directed me to dig in the one fallow spot in this raised bed. In defiance, I will now water your radish plants with my tea kettle. Where this tea kettle water came from, you will have to wonder. I will not follow your instructions to “water other plants too please,” I intend to drown this ONE plant.

We are the Toddler Ennui and we hate your plan for the day. We will not give you the satisfaction of a smile or recognition. You are dust to us, much like the earth beneath these plants. We revile your rules, your mandates to “stop touching the strawberry plants” and also, could you please make us a snack and cuddle both of us at once while we twirl your hair and stroke your ears?

A Summer Craft-type Thing By Mrs. FW

I will have you know that not only did I plant the garden, I am also doing a craft-type thing this year. I am drying flowers. This complicated process involves me picking flowers, then hanging them upside down on a clothesline in the basement and waiting for them to dry out. This is the craftiest thing I’ve done in ten years.

My peonies! Plus a lone lupin

The peonies seem prime candidates for drying. Or the “pee-on-me’s” as Kidwoods straight-facedly calls them. As we round out month four of isolation, I’m glad it’s summer. And I don’t even like summer. I live in Vermont for a reason. Snow is preferable to bugs that bite people. Wearing a coat is better than sweating the moment you step outside. Warm brownies by the woodstove on a frigid winter’s eve are better than, well, anything else. But this year? I put out a welcome banner for summer.

The kids have gone feral in the yard, plucking snap peas and strawberries from the garden, running through hose water, stomping on plants (and each other) as the sun beats down, washing it all clean. I’m ready for fall (yes, I know the first day of summer was like a minute ago), but I’m also grateful for the loudness of summer–the heat, the peonies, the vegetables–and the fact that if we turn on the AC window unit in our bedroom, I can still use the electric blanket for a few minutes every night.

Wood Harvesting Begins

In Vermont, it’s either winter or it’s time to prepare for winter. Our non-winter days are brief so Mr. Frugalwoods started felling, skidding, bucking, splitting, and stacking firewood (to burn in our woodstove to heat our house) and sugar wood for our maple syrup operation (operation is too strong a word–hobby perhaps?)

Woods Mama = Slowing the Eft Down

The traumatized Red Eft Newt in question

I spent 20 minutes with the girls observing this Red Eft Eastern Newt (which I’m sure was terrified by the encounter and for that, I apologize). To sit in the sun with my girls discussing this creature–and the slug Littlewoods brought over to serve as the Eft’s friend–was a moment of zen. There is always more to do: to plant, to cook, to clean, to write, and it is HARD for me to let it go and pet a newt. But for my kids, it’s not hard at all. It’s the most natural thing they can imagine. So there we sat, a newt, a slug, two children, and thunder rolling in the distance, a promise of aid for our garden.

There’s a lot I think I do wrong as a parent. There’s a lot I question and worry about. Pretty much the only time I’m 100% confident in my parenting is when we’re in the woods. My kids become independent and resilient in the woods and all I have to do is follow along and make sure no one eats a poisonous plant or grabs a venomous snake. I wish I always had the patience I have in the woods. I wish I always stood back and listened as much as I do in the woods. I need the lowered standards and quiet trust of woods mama to be my all-the-time approach. Because it’s not. Out of the woods I’m an impatient perfectionist. So this summer, I’m trying to bring woods mama inside.

Solar Check

Solar on the homestead

After moving here, we had solar panels mounted on our barn roof. My full write-up on the panels is here and I include a solar update in this series. This is the only way for me to remember that: a) I have solar; b) you all would like to be updated on it.

In June, we generated 770 kWh, which is decent. For context, in January 2020 our panels generated 120 kWh and in July 2019 we raked in 907 kWh.

Since our electric company offers net metering, we’re able to bank our summer and fall sunshine for use in the winter, which keeps our electric bill low year-round, even when the sun isn’t shining. This has been your solar production update. You’re welcome.

Want More Fotos?!

While I only document homestead life once a month here on the blog, I post photos to Instagram (almost every day!) and updates to Facebook with much greater regularity.

Join me there if you want more of our frugal woods. Some folks have asked about this and yes, I do try to post a picture to Instagram every day and–unlike with many other things in my life–I have a pretty good track record.

How was June for you?

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  1. We are also experiencing radish abundance this year. You might not be in the mood to turn on your oven, but radishes are nice roasted- more mellow. We also put them in a shredded carrot salad dish with some other veg that is basically a slaw. I “let” the radishes bolt this year, hoping to collect seeds to plant. i know there’s a radish variety where the seed pods are intended to eat- “rat-tail”, maybe? Might be something for you to try next year, to see if anyone likes the pods better.

    1. I don’t think it’s unusual for kids not to like radishes. But I myself discovered the milder French breakfast radish and plant them. A benefit is that the French are said to enjoy them on buttered French bread (what vegetable wouldn’t taste good like that).

      1. I was coming to the comment section to recommend radishes on buttered toast because it is a glorious thing.

      2. I was coming over to say this very thing. I love French Breakfast radishes and was sad to see the last of them this year.

    2. In the meantime, the leaves are edible (if not incredible ha) – I would usually cook rather than eat raw, much as with other root vegetable tops (beetroot, carrots, turnips etc)

    3. YESSSSS. Radishes roasted with olive oil and salt taste like they’ve been injected with BUTTER. Seriously. One of my cats is prone to raiding them while cooling. Something chemical happens to them, chemically MAGICAL.

  2. I’m north of the border and our spinach never does well in the spring but you can plant it again for a fall crop which is much more successful.

    1. Good to know, thank you! I’ve actually pulled it all out and planted another row of mixed greens in its place. I’ll try a row in the fall, thanks for the tip!

  3. I am a dedicated thrift store shopper for all of our family’s clothing needs (and everything else we can find.) However, in my experience, you get what you pay for when it comes to overalls. I wear my daily in all but the warmest weather (we are in the mountains of NC) so they get a lot of use/abuse. I gave the Dickies ones two tries and then upped my game to the Carhart brand at about twice the price. No comparison! They are reinforced at the knees, the cuffs, pretty much everywhere plus have more pockets than the Dickies. I have yet to wear a hole in them anywhere (and it’s been a year) whereas, I would have worn holes in the Dickies ones by now. Just passing that experience along in case you find yours getting worn out. Of course, worn out clothes is a great opportunity to do some creative mending which I like to do, too.
    I also very much appreciate your Woods Mam vs. Indoor Perfectionist Mama dilemma. I have always been a woodswoman but was impatient with myself. My children cured me of all that. I am grateful that I am a Woods Mama for them but also that I can extend that peace and in-the-moment appreciation to myself, as well. Children are the best at reminding us to be good “noticers” – a real word in our family. Noticing things is a skill and one we adults get pushed away from in our other responsibilities and from living too much in our heads. I think this is one of your best bits of writing and that’s saying something! Enjoy your summer!

    1. I really enjoyed this story about your gardening adventures with the kids Mrs Frugalwoods and hearing about the zen moment…..slowing it down to observe the Red Eft Newt and consciously bringing Mamawoods/Woods Mama indoors.

      I love this comment from Dawn about “noticers”….so true, my 3 kids bring me back to centre….especially when we are outdoors…..looking at insects and flowers and nature……….it’s the way it should be.

  4. I love reading your updates, this literally made me laugh out loud! We live in south Alabama and have a three y/o girl so your toddler ennui was one of the best interpretations of doing anything with young kids! I’ll be reading up on the solar panels and catching up on the blogs I’ve missed. We’re looking at building a house and homesteading, gardening is something I’m looking forward to, We have a great climate for gardening. If you have any tips or resources for your best tools, seeds, and garden planning I’d appreciate it! Thanks!

  5. Happy anniversary!! 12 years is no small accomplishment, when one considers all that so often gets crammed into that first decade-and-a-bit… an area in which you two have outdone yourselves.

    However. I do get feeling bummed at the ”same old, same old” atmosphere of this particular one. Strongly suggest figuring out somewhere you want to go NEXT year and take an extra night (or two, depending on practicality and childcare) and have a mini-moon, which by then you will richly deserve.

  6. We don’t really like radishes around here either but we like to quick pickle them and put them on tacos and things like that. They’re really good that way. Maybe give it a try!

    1. I have to agree on the pickled radishes. We do a quick refrigerated pickle with simple vinegar/salt/sugar/chili and they come out soooo spicy and delicious (though it smells like farts when you open the jar). I feel like this is right up your alley with the kimchi chardashian.

  7. For wintertime, check out the book ‘Four Season Harvest’ by Eliot Coleman — he’s in coastal Maine and shares the techniques he uses to keep harvesting all winter long.

  8. Just here to comment on the radishes. They are such a lovely garden addition, especially for kiddos to harvest on their own. We also don’t like them raw (except shredded, in tacos or something) but LOVE them roasted. Depending on size, you split them in half or quarter them, toss them in a little olive oil, s&p and roast at 400 until a fork pierces into them. I recommend doing a lot at a time and/or timing it so you’re putting them in the oven with more items (because they shrink to nothing and who wants to run an oven during the summer only to result in a few shriveled radishes). But seriously, delicious. They get super sweet and our toddler pops them like candy. Hi from Vermont!

    1. Seconding the roasted radishes. I roast mine in butter with some flaky sea salt and they are delicious that way.

  9. We joined a CSA this year, and went from no one liking radishes to three people liking radishes! We first tried them quartered and roasted, and they weren’t bad. Then I just thinly sliced them on a mandolin and pickled them— using a refrigerator dill pickle brine that claims to be a claussen copycat and tastes nothing like claussen. But that’s how you find it on Google 🙂 Pickled thinly sliced radishes are really good! And turns out, the baby and the seven year old love them. They ate a whole jar in a day. Plain. I like them as well, but preferably on sandwiches or burgers or with eggs. If you have more radishes and haven’t tried pickling them yet, I highly recommend it! It makes them much milder, and after a few days they and the brine turn uniformly pink which may offer extra appeal to small girls.

    1. That book has THE BEST illustrations! I remember my mom reading it to me when I was little and I didn’t want her to turn the page because I was still studying every little detail….

    1. I was about to suggest exactly this. Use really good butter (since my butter is unsalted I am generous when I salt the radish).

  10. Several years ago I had quite the salad greens garden growing in my windowless basement during the winter. Turns out cheap garage shop lights will work just fine to grow lettuce and spinach, just keep the lights right above the leaves without it touching them. It was awesome to be able to walk downstairs in the dead of winter and pick a fresh salad whenever I wanted. The basement temps stayed around 55 degrees, cause I live in the frigid snowbelt, but if I remember correctly I didn’t do anything to raise the temp of the basement and the plants still grew, and grew well. Mostly picked “baby” greens and then let the plants regrow.

    Just an idea to keep in mind if you are missing those fresh greens in January! 😉

    1. This is good to know! I’m in CO on the Front Range, so it gets cold one day w/2 feet of snow, then 50 and sunny the next. 😀 This basement greens trick will be an experiment for me this winter. Exciting! 🙂

  11. If you saute radishes they loose that bitter taste that some people hate. They all a wonderful crunch to rice and veggies or throw in with a stir fry.

  12. I love your posts. They are filled with honesty and joy and purpose. I so look forward to reading them, and once I do the tone is set for my entire day! Thank you for your contribution to my sanity during these difficult times!

  13. Highly recommend roasting radishes with butter, if you haven’t tried it yet! It really mellows out the flavor. I also second the suggestion to pickle them – I love them that way!

  14. Hi there..coat the radishes with olive oil, salt & pepper and roast them in the oven til they look done. They are sweet, nutty, and delicious!

  15. Have you tried pickling radishes? It is very quick & easy to do. (I am not a fan of radishes either, but my husband loves them.)

  16. Ha ha, faux little apples…radishes have never been my favorite either, but I do like them slivered (very, very) thinly on my potato salad. I went on a mission to El Salvador, and they actually used to serve me radishes all the time, with a little lemon juice or other kind of simple dressing. I kept hoping that I would grow accustomed to the taste, but I never quite did!

    Question: What are some things you’ve tried to keep away garden pests? Squash bugs, mini grasshoppers or crickets (not sure which), and some other unknown insect have been having a field day with our zucchini, beans, herbs, and cabbages.

  17. A tip if your radishes are too sharp in flavour: Cut them in quarters and fry them for a minute in oil or butter. They’ll completely change by this, the flavour goes soft but they’re still crunchy.

  18. I don’t like radishes either, but I’ve discovered that sauteeing them in a little butter with salt & pepper transforms them! Big congratulations on your anniversary!

  19. I’m commenting to second the above recommendation for radishes. I’m not a huge fan of them raw, but cooked they’re great. A nice substitute for potatoes in soups, or roasted as a side dish. They mellow out quite nicely and then you can manage eating them in larger quantities. That being said, I’m still the only person in my family who will eat them so I only harvested half of the radishes I planted. The plants have gotten tall and flowered. My husband asked if they were weeds.

  20. Not being a radish fan family, we have discovered that radishes cooked with balsamic vinegar, vegetable stock and a bit of sugar makes a lovely vegetable side dish. Both it and radish greens freeze well. The braised radishes and radish greens can be added to soup giving it a peppery taste that really adds to the flavour.

  21. What a wonderful update. Your life sounds idyllic, though I’m sure we are only getting a snapshot.

    I am always so jealous of your solar updates. I wish we could bank for the winter. We get monthly net metering, though a certain group of legislators is trying to end the ability for companies to even offer that- that solar can only be real time, and cannot even be net metered over the course of a day (so we can’t even bank for ‘night’) essentially rendering solar useless to homeowners.

    1. Also envious of those solar updates – annual net metering is amazing and unheard of in WI! We have solar panels and cannot bank what we produce at all. Our rural electric co-op only lets us use the solar we produce real-time. Very much a bummer, as we try to run laundry and the dishwasher on only sunny days when we’d rather be outdoors doing anything else but attempting to utilize our garnered energy!

  22. Sounds like you guys managed to have a fun little Staycation for your anniversary!

    We just spent a week staycationing around our region of VA, too! Still had plenty of fun, even if it wasn’t a foreign country filled with novel exploration. At least it wasn’t filled with novel coronavirus! 🙂

    Nice to see the Solar production staying high. We’ll see if you beat out last July which was a pretty big number!

  23. I’m so curious to know where you are going with the dried flowers. I’m not a crafty person at all and have utmost admiration for those who successfully create with flowers! Good luck!

    1. The plan is to stick them in vases, which I predict will be the easiest thing to do with them 🙂

  24. I am clearly late to the party (judging by previous comments), but radishes can be cooked down (either shredded like hashbrowns or cut like roast baby potatoes) and used like potatoes in cooking. People who eat low-carb diets use them to replace/add bulk. Or, you know, don’t grow them next year 😉 Thanks for the update!

  25. If you hate radishes raw, I would highly highly highly highly recommend fermenting them. They taste SO different – the fermenting process takes out that firey pepper that makes you want to spit it out as far as it will go. Essentially you stick them in a canning jar with brine water and make sure they are submerged. (Assuming it’s similar to homemade kraut. But Google does it better than I do, so Google it).

  26. In for the radish love -I don’t care for them raw either but cooking them makes all difference in the world, they become a completely different and delicious food. And pickled. And even shredded – still raw, but great in salads and tacos.

  27. Was going to say that you wore it best (you look very stylish in your farmer’s outfit) but since Mr Woods built you a firepit based on an offhand comment, he is both a winner and a keeper! How blessed you are 🙂

  28. I agree with roasting the radishes. I put them into my roasted root vegetables potatoes, and other root vegetables go well with them. Just cut in half and toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and roast as usual. the radishes sweeten up in the cooking.

  29. +1 on quick pickling the radishes… also, try them dipped/smeared with the best butter you can get plus some sea salt – delish!

    Since the growing season is so short, why don’t you try different sprouts grown on the grow tower in the kitchen during the off months, before you do all the starts?

  30. Radishes do have a bite. I dice them up like carrots or onions, then put them in a salad. You don’t taste the bite, but they add color and a nice crunch to the salad.

  31. If you have to ask yourself if you are a good Mom, you are! Hearing a lot about roasted radishes, sounds really good. Did not plant any this year, as we don’t eat them but a few in a salad.

  32. I’m not one to eat radishes either, but my husband pickled a few and now I eat them like candy.

  33. What a fabulous post! As a fellow vegetable gardener, I salute your hard work and your efforts to include the girls in the process growing and enjoying their own food. This may be a weird question, but have you had many problems with ticks considering you live on a rural property and spend a lot of time outdoors as a family? I live just north of Vermont and they seem to be getting worse every year. I’m starting to get paranoid checking myself and the dogs every day.

    1. I do a very thorough tick check on the kids (and myself!) every single night, with no exception. Even on days when we’re not outside much, I still check because ticks can get in the house (gross, I know). Thankfully, I rarely find one, but I think it’s important to do the check every night.

  34. I slice radishes and use as a vehicle for cheese and hummus (sometimes together, sometimes separate). Seems I need to try pickling too!
    We really enjoy sliced radish topped with creamy havarti and sprinkled with fresh dill.

  35. My two-year-old son has eaten nearly all of our tomatoes straight from the garden the moment they turn even the slightest tinge yellow (having been advised “do not eat the green tomatoes”). We too have experienced a glut of radishes. I enjoy them in the German? I think? style. Spread a slice of rye or pumpernickel with cream cheese and top with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkle of salt. Serve along a soft-boiled egg for breakfast! The chard we’ve been harvesting, I’ve resigned to dousing in huge amounts of butter and garlic salt to render it edible.

  36. Radishes! Game changer was reading you simply soak them for 10mins in cold salted water and it takes away all the bitterness! You can then do whatever you want with them.

  37. I love your honesty- raising small children is exactly this! I am an impatient perfectionist too. I am trying to slow down and notice things with the kids too. I suddenly see how small they are and then this of course makes me feel more guilty. I would love to not feel guilty! However, it probably serves to keep me in check. Gratefulness is so important-thank you for this reminder. I am impressed with your gardening! Love, B

  38. I have nothing new to add to the radish conversation except that you guys are making me so very very sad that our radish crop is long gone, as I now have even more ideas of how to serve them.

  39. My vote is for you!! I grew radishes as well and “hate eating” them is the perfect word for it because they are GROSS!! Lesson learned.

  40. Happy, glorious anniversary! What a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing this. I too love the Woods Mama insight.

  41. Happy anniversary! You both wear the hell out of those overalls, so it’s impossible to choose who wore it best. I love the “too-long” bread —my 3 year old is constantly telling me she doesn’t like things because they’re “too medium”.

  42. I have garden jealousy. We have a herb garden in full swing and a variety of peppers and tomatoes. Would love to expand someday.

  43. 🙂 Try to pickle your radishes (thinly slice, pour on boiled apple vinegar)
    Or they can be halved roasted in a pan and eaten with cooked lentils.
    We eat a lot of radishes and radish greens raw our household in summer saladads (cucumber, radish, spring onions either with sour cream+yogurt or with lemon juice and perhaps oil, salt, pepper to taste, including or excluding green parts, adding or not adding lettuce).

  44. I’m right there with you, Woods Mama. Just tonight I wondered why I couldn’t muster the patience I had with my daughter on our forest walk this morning in any other setting today. There is something magical about the woods!

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