You may or may not be aware, but we have a business that has made us quite busy on the farm front. I will be moving a lot of this content to that site and do much of my writing on the new site. Please take a look at naughtygoatsoaps.com!

 

Last year I wrote the following post on nettles and nettle pesto.  As the season is once again upon us, I figured that I would repost the same post. Tonight we had some lovely nettle pesto that we foraged only a short time before making it.

I kept the liquid form the blanching process. This will be strained for nettle tea (to help with allergens) or some will be saved for a vegetable rennet. I could also color wool (green) with the liquid.  There are so many wonderful things about nettles! Please read on. :)

Tall nettles cover up, as they have done
These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough
Long worn out, and the roller made of stone:
Only the elm butt tops the nettle now.
This corner of the farmyard I like most
As well as any bloom upon a flower
I like the dust on the nettles, never lost
Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.

– Poem by Edward Thomas. 1878 – 191

Young nettles

 

I love spring. I love that the young “weeds” of spring are some of the healthiest for us. The nettle and dandelion, the bane of many a garden, have wonderful properties for us and can supply many minerals in early spring when little else is growing. Nettles are high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, trace minerals, Chlorophyll, and B vitamins.

There are numerous medicinal uses for nettles, including use during childbirth and heavy menses.  It is renowned because of its astringent, expectorant, tonic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic properties and is often used as a remedy for arthritis, and renal issues. It is also good for diabetics, as it reduces blood sugar. Stinging nettles can react with medications, so be certain to talk to a health care provider when using nettles.

Nettles have been used to make cloth, paper, fishing nets, sails, tablecloths, ropes and textiles since the Neolithic times. They were woven for the cloth of  uniforms for German World War I soldiers.

When harvesting nettles, it is best to wear leather gloves, a long sleeved shirt, and use a pair of scissors or knife. These are called stinging nettles for a reason!

The nettles leaves should be placed in warmwater in a sink and allowed to soak for 10 minutes. This washing process will remove some of the sting.   It is the stinging silica hairs that inject you with formic acid and cause the sting. Blanching will fix it.

Nettles in the sink

Gloves or kitchen tools are recommended for removing them from the sink. Transfer to a pot and simmer in hot water for 10 minutes. This will remove the remainder of the sting.

Pot o' nettles

Nettles can be dried for future use in tea. They can also be used green as a tea or cooked and put into soup, quiche, pesto, or other foods as a spinach replacer.

Nettle Pesto Pasta

Nettle pesto

After blanching, nettles were placed in a food processor with oil, garlic, salt,pepper, oregano, and pine nuts (for a more local recipe, we would use sunflower seeds). These are blended until the desire consistency. It is easier to add a little more oil if necessary. Start with small amounts of oil and add to your desired consistency.

Top over your favorite pasta. We used quinoa pasta here and we topped with a little local feta cheese.

 

 

quinoacakes

We try to eat seasonally, this means that when early spring brings nettles and dandelions, we choose to incorporate them into our meals. When the midsummer months introduces zucchini  we are adding zucchini to many of our meals. We have found that quinoa cakes are a great vehicle for many of the abundance of vegetables that are available throughout the year. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use what vegetables you have on hand. And, if you want, you can even add crumbled bacon! This recipe is adapted from Super Natural Every Day.

1 1/2 cups raw quinoa
2 1/4 cups broth or water
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (or leeks)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups chopped greens (kale, spinach,swiss chard, nettle, dandelion greens, etc.)
splash of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/3 cup coarsely chopped vegetables of choice (finely chopped carrots or sun dried tomato are good)
1/3 cup chopped parsley (optional)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoon olive oil for frying, add a bit more as necessary

Place dry quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cool water for a few minutes. Rinsing removes quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which can make it taste bitter or soapy.

In a medium saucepan place rinsed quinoa, broth or water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Cover, decrease the heat, and simmer for about 25 t0 30 minutes, until the quinoa is tender.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and set aside. In a medium sauté man, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes.

(Various vegetables may be added at this time – from chopped asparagus spears or whole peas, to shredded carrots or zucchini  Your imagination is the only limitation.)

Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add greens and toss until just slightly wilted, about 1 minutes.  Remove from heat and add a splash of vinegar.  Place in a large bowl with prepared quinoa.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Add cheese, vegetables, parsley, break crumbs, salt, and pepper.  Add beaten eggs and stir until all of the quinoa mixture is moistened.  Add water to thoroughly moisten mixture.  Quinoa should be slightly wet so it doesn’t dry out during cooking.

Scoop out mixture by the 2 tablespoonful and form into a patty.  Create as many patties as you’d like.

In a large skillet over medium low heat, heat olive oil.  If you pan is large enough, add four to six patties to the hot pan.

Cook on each side until beautifully browned, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side.  Low heat helps the quinoa cakes cook slowly. Brown on each side then remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve warm .

 

 

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We go through a lot of bread at our house. Many years ago I decided to go on a quest for the perfect 100% sandwich bread. We store our own wheat berries, thus I thought that knowing how to feed us from stored wheat and from wheat that we could grow was imperative to our quest for a simpler life. I did not want to be reliant on a system that may or may not provide me with white flour. Learning to grow wheat, thresh wheat, and store wheat berries was a part of this process. However, if you don’t know how to bake with it, then growing it may not be the best idea. Thus, the experimentation began. Over the period of many many years (10-15) I finally developed what my family considers to be the perfect sandwich bread. Even Farmer Chris (who did not like whole wheat before we met) loves this bread.

 A few weeks ago on facebook I posted pictures of my lovely, fresh from the oven, sandwich bread. There were a number of questions about how to make this bread — especially since it is 100% whole wheat. So, I decided to share it here.

 

100% whole wheat Sandwich Bread

Serves 1
Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Milk
Meal type Bread
this 100% whole wheat bread is light and airy, perfect for a sandwich bread.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (I use freshly ground hard white winter wheat)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Yeast
  • 1 cup Warm Milk
  • 1/4 cup Honey/Maple Syrup/Molasses (honey, maple syrup, and molasses will each create a different color and taste. My family prefers honey, but all are good options. Try to purchase local ingredients if possible.)
  • 1/4 cup Oil (I use a local sunflower oil, but the choice is up to you.)
  • 1/4 cup Water

Note

The chosen sweetener may change the color of your bread. Honey will be a lighter color, while molasses while create a darker loaf.

Powdered milk can be used in replacement of the milk. Simply use the same amount of water as you would have for milk, and add 1/4 cup of powdered milk. The dairy is what helps create a soft loaf of sandwich bread.

Directions

Step 1
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the honey, oil and milk. Stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl, adding more water as necessary.
Step 2
Knead for 6-8 minutes until smooth and supple. Small amounts of additional flour or water may be added as necessary.
Step 3
Lightly grease a bowl and allow the dough to sit for 1-2 hours.
When it has risen to double size, punch down the dough and knead for 3-4 minutes.
Step 4
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Transfer onto a lightly oiled work surface and shape into an 8” log
Place log into a greased loaf pan
Step 5
Spray top of logs and cover lightly with wrap
Allow read to rise 1 to 2 hours, or until the center has crowned about 1 inch above the rim of the pan.
Step 6
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Bake the bread for 20-30 minutes (should sound hollow when tapped on top) in a 350 degree oven
Cool in pan for about 10 minutes
Remove from pans and allow to cool on a rack

 

Homemade Brown Sugar

I looked outside and saw a that the snow had already started. We were expecting a huge winter storm to bring over a foot of snow. It didn’t phase me, but I wanted to make some treats for homebound children. Unfortunately, my 14 year old is a horrible baker, and I was a pastry chef. I decided to use this as a teaching moment. This was the day to teach her how to make cookies. I dug out a cookbook of my own recipes and chose a favorite. The daughter went into the pantry to find the necessary ingredients and found everything — except for brown sugar. 

“Can we go to the store and get some?” She asked. She was desperate to learn to bake. Among her friends she had a reputation for being a horrible baker. To her, this was among the greatest travesties in her young life.

I glanced through the window and saw that the storm was finally strengthening. I didn’t want to drive the 30 minutes into town just for brown sugar, and I knew we had everything else for the storm. I decided, instead, to use this as another teaching moment. Not only would she be making cookies and using our own homemade vanilla extract, but she would also be making our brown sugar.

I explained to her the process of making brown sugar, and gave her some instructions, and stood next to her. The process was quite simple, and within moments, we had our own homemade brown sugar.

 

Brown Sugar

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Note

Add more molasses to crate dark brown sugar and less molasses to create light brown sugar.

Directions

Step 1
measure 1 cup of white sugar into a bowl
Step 2
20130304_121308
add 1 Tablespoon of Molasses to the sugar
Step 3
whisk in a mixer until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes)
 

enoughplates

 

 

I grew up in a household where there was always enough. There were enough dishes to feed my entire cross country team. There were enough dishes for every type of party imaginable. There were always enough. There were always more than enough. My mother always wanted to have enough of everything. As a child who grew up extremely impoverished, she always worried about having enough for her family, and she often over compensated by choosing to have too much. I try to do the opposite in my own household, but it not always easy to face the demons of your own childhood.

We have too much stuff. It is amazing, but as I look around my house, I realize how much stuff we have. It is doubly amazing, that when I moved into this house, I had little more than the clothes on my back. A few garage sale finds, gifts, and craigslist ads later, we have enough. More than enough. We started to look around us and realized how much we had, and then suddenly realized where we could pare down and what we could do to simplify. The stuff. The stuff had to go. The first step was the easiest, and the thing that may be our impetus for change; we got rid of most of our dishes.

What? dishes? Yes, dishes. You see, although we have a rather large family of 7 (6 at home), we don’t need a serving set to feed 12 or more. Multiple dishes simply means more cleaning of dishes, as it is so much easier to fetch a new dish rather than wash the one you have.  We don’t have dinner parties often, and if we did, we would request that our guest bring their own dishes. When we attended Quaker meetings, the members would often bring their own dishes and silverware from their own home. This meant that there were fewer items that the host would have to provide, less waste in the form of plastic or paper plates. All in all, it was a beautiful system. It also meant fewer dishes that we had to be concerned about and care for on a daily basis.

Farmer Chris came home one day with a photo of dishes from a store. Each dish was similar in style, but differing in color. That was it. That was the solution we were looking for. Do we really need a matching set? No! Who eats on our dishes? Us. Do we really care if others think that we are odd in the way that we color coordinate our dishes? No. Each child chose their own set of 1 plate, 1 spoon, and 1 mug. That’s it. Each child chose a color (or pattern) and this is their own set. If they chose to not help clean from dinner, we know whose dishes were left out. We know who may be eating where they should not be eating. Colored dishes. It’s a solution.

We packed up what we decided to no longer use (and put a few aside to store for moments of necessity) and put it aside for our next trip to town. Donation time. And now is the time to choose the next item to tackle and to decide what is enough.

 

 

In one split second, my life changed for ever. My memories of the event are less vivid than before, and many of the early memories are now lost in the clouded corners of my mind. A year ago, on Superbowl Sunday, the turn of a corner on a rural highway turned my life upside down. I was the passenger on that fateful Sunday afternoon — an afternoon that will be with me for the rest of my life. We were travelling to get some food and the car swerved, flew over an embankment, flipped tail over hood, and then rolled down a hillside until it rested on it’s roof. I was stuck hanging upside down, and the driver was thrown from the car. We both survived the accident, but not without lasting marks.

The lasting marks of this accident are not seen by the public. I have no stitches, no pins, no limp, but what I do have is darker and more insidious, simply because we can’t see it’s mark. The brain was left with injuries that take a long time to heal, and may never be the same. The person that I was is no longer here, and that person may change again and again.

Immediately following the accident, for many months, I struggled with basic functions. I struggled to speak and formulate sentences, words would be lost in the ether of my mind — just behind the clouds in a place where I could see pieces of the word, I knew what I wanted to say, but it was just out of my reach. I couldn’t grasp the word and bring it to my mouth. I could not translate my thoughts in to verbal communication. Many months of speech therapy helped with that issue. It does return from time to time, and I will struggle to seek the word, or have words come out unordered, and make sentences that are not recognizable as sentences. At times there is miscommunication simply because I cannot formulate my ideas or words and due to this am misunderstood.

I struggled with other basic functions and was not trusted in the kitchen, as I would forget how to make things, not use a pot or pan, use a plate instead of a bowl, and not realize that one needs to add water to make coffee. I attempted to burn things in a burn barrel and burned the yard instead; I didn’t know how to stop a fire when it started. Although I can do most functions alone now, at times, I do get stuck and cannot understand how to move forward. I have been in the middle of knitting and suddenly not remember how to knit. I have learned to put things down and walk away. My brain needs to rest.  Early on, I would struggle with every step. I often felt that I was walking sideways, as if I was walking on a moving ship, however, it was not the room that was leaning — it was me. Much physical therapy, occupational therapy, and determination helped overcome some of those issues.

The continuing issues surround my memory and my communication. I frequently misunderstand things, because my brain does not process as it did. I don’t understand many jokes, sarcasm, and innuendos, as my brain either takes everything literally, or pushes the words aside and ignores them. I can get into a lengthy conversation and not recall talking to you, or not recall what we spoke about. I can have an argument with my spouse and 15 minutes into it, not know what we were arguing about, and 30 minutes later, not realize that an argument occurred at all. It can be terribly frustrating for everyone involved. I struggle with social situations, as I cannot follow the conversations, and can become easily overwhelmed. We have learned to determine if I am having a good brain day or a bad brain day. We still can’t count on me for important things, as I do forget so many things. Lists are my friends, but they aren’t always the end all, be all, of the to-dos.

Although, this year has been an incredible struggle, it has has also been a gift. I have had to slow down, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I had to find a new path for my life, as I was unable to do what I previously was doing. I had to learn to appreciate every new day — the gift that came with the sunrise, the feel of dirt underneath my toes, the taste of a tomato. I had to slow down and appreciate the cup of coffee that I had struggled to brew. I had to appreciate the patience of those surrounding me when they struggle to help me grow and heal. I have had to learn to appreciate the patience that Chris has to have to deal with me. Chris, who never left my side from that frightening phone call until now. Chris, who has been the rock and foundation as I have struggled with the loss of my old self and the growth of a new person. I am eternally grateful. We don’t know how long this struggle will continue, but we will continue to face it and take steps forward every day.

Read about the accident here: http://seekingsimplicity.org/?p=1073

 

20130126_145349

The other day was farmer Chris’ birthday. As such, I decided to make a cake filled with all of the favorite goodies. This came down to making a cake containing chocolate, coffee, and bacon. All three are delicious, and together could be brilliant. So, I sat down with a notebook and ideas and came up with this: A Chocolate Bacon Coffee Cake.

These ingredients are very important in our family: bacon is a favorite food and is the one food that turned me from a vegetarian to an omnivore. If we have doubts of what is needed in a dish, we add bacon. It is as simple in that. No ideas for dinner? It becomes Bacon and  xyz. This is only one of the numerous reasons that we raise our own hogs.

Coffee is our morning wake-up ritual. Coffee is on the stove as soon as the fire is made. We drink it and discuss the morning chores. We talk about news and farm plans over a cup of coffee.

Chocolate is … well, it is chocolate. Our evening often consists of one little piece of chocolate as we settle down after evening chores. Wine and chocolate — oh so good. Of course, if I was going to be 100% local, 100% of the time, I’d have to cut out coffee and chocolate. Well, these are the two items that I can’t see cutting out until it is simply no longer feasible to purchase it.

There is one slight change I would make for this cake. I initially made it with a coffee buttercream (which was amazing), but we both agreed that a delicious chocolate ganache would give it more of a punch and complement the bacon saltiness even more.

 

Ingredients
Cake
AP flour 2 cups
Sugar 1 ¾ cup
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder ¾ cup
Baking Soda 2 tsp
Salt ¼ tsp
Coffee (room temperature) 1 cup
Buttermilk ¾ cup
bacon grease (liquid form, warm but not too hot) ¾ cup
Eggs 3 large
Chocolate Ganache
Bittersweet Chocolate 18 oz
Heavy Cream 2 ¼ cup
Espresso Powder 2 Tablespoon
Bacon As much as desired

 

Instructions for the cake:

  1. Position racks in top and bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F.
  2. Coat two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds; spray rounds.
  3. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl;
  4. whisk to blend and form well in center.
  5. Whisk 1 cup coffee, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in medium bowl to blend. Be certain to add your oil slowly, and at the end. Hot oil (or hot coffee) could scramble your eggs. And we don’t want scrambled eggs in our cake.
  6. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients; whisk just to blend.
  7. Divide cake batter between prepared pans (about 3 cups each).
  8. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. (If cakes form domes, place kitchen towel atop hot cakes, then press gently with palm of hand to level.)
  9. Cool completely in pans on cooling racks.
  10. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover cakes in pans and let stand at room temperature.

 

For chocolate ganache topping: 

  1. Place chopped chocolate in medium bowl.
  2. Bring cream and espresso powder just to boil in heavy medium saucepan.
  3. Pour over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until ganache is melted and smooth.
  4. Transfer 1 1/4 cups ganache to small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ganache is thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  5. Let remaining ganache stand at room temperature to cool until barely lukewarm.

 

Assembly

  1. Place rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Carefully run knife around pan edges to release cakes.
  2. Invert 1 cake layer onto cardboard round or bottom of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Peel off parchment paper. Place cake layer on round on prepared rack.
  3. Spoon dollops of chilled ganache over cake layer, then spread evenly add pieces of bacon to the top of the frosted cake layer
  4. Invert second cake layer onto another cardboard round or tart pan bottom. Peel off parchment paper. Carefully slide cake off round and onto frosted cake layer on rack.
  5. Pour half of barely lukewarm ganache over cake, spreading over sides to cover.
  6. Freeze until ganache sets, about 30 minutes.
  7. Pour remaining ganache over cake, allowing to drip down sides and spreading over sides if needed for even coverage and to smooth edges.
  8. Place desired bacon pieces onto the top of the cake
  9. Freeze to set ganache, about 30 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours before continuing.

Note: Ganache will appear dark brown, much unlike the pictures on this page.

Eat and enjoy!!

 20130126_144915

 

butternutSquash
I am a seasonal eater. I have not always been this way. At one time, I would go to the grocery store and purchase 1500 mile strawberries in January to eat with a meal. It all changed when I woke to the distance my food travelled to find it’s way to my doorstep as well as becoming aware that if I was going to provide for myself, I needed to learn to eat what I could grow. A lot of people who step into the world of preparedness, start by stocking their pantries with purchases of freeze dried foods that can sit on the shelf for years. It can be a good step into food security, however, not only is it expensive, it is also not sustainable. One day, many years ago, as I was looking at my nicely stocked pantry and was calculating the months and years of supply that I had available, I had an “aha” moment. Yes, it took a well stocked pantry to awaken me.  I looked at the cans and jars of food and realized that eventually, it would all run out. Eventually, all of the food would be consumed and I would have to restock it. It dawned on me that once that food was gone, there was a potential that I would not be able to get more — if it was too expensive, if a business went out of business, or if everything collapsed. It was that moment that I realized that everything needed to change. I needed to change, to learn, and to learn to grow.

When we rely on the outside world to provide for us, we are dependent upon part of the system. We depend upon the system to grow and create our foods. We rely on on the businesses that bring the food to us and prepare it for us. We are part of the problem that feeds the big businesses that poison our land, water, and air.

When I realized my place in this big system, I stopped and sat down. I looked at my climate and determined my growing season. I started to shop from local farmers. I changed how I ate. Now I would no longer eat fresh strawberries in January, but instead could devour them in June and preserve them for the colder winter months. I learned to eat celariac and parsnips in the winter. I learned to live upon what I grew and what was seasonal available instead of what was grown for me from thousands of miles away.

We are now in the depths of January, and as the winter cold seeps into the house, we are fed from foods from our well stocked storage: soups  from root vegetables, winter squashes, and beans, homemade breads. All the foods that we have put up to sustain us until spring provides the first glimpses of green in the form of edible weeds.

I will be provided recipes for winter / food storage meals during this cold season. Please stay tuned!

 

 

The other night at dinner our 6 year old son started talking about how he wanted a homemade home. He desired a home that was entirely homemade — from electricity and wires to pots and pans to lighting and bedding. Within the conversation we discussed various aspects of developing that type of lifestyle; how would one get the fiber to weave into cloth, how would one create glass or make cast iron pots and pans. What would be entailed in making candles and wicks. This thought may seem absurd to some, but it was this thought process that brought me down this road to self-sufficiency.

Seven years ago, before this child was born, I discovered a path that would give new direction to my life. The path started with a question regarding life without cheap oil. In the end, I began to examine every aspect of my own life and what a life without oil would entail. A life without oil would be more than simply less gasoline to drive from place to place, but it would also mean less transportation for foods and goods, less manufacturing, fewer items that could be created (oil is a product in the creation, transport, or manufacturing of most of the items that we use on a daily basis). Without cheap oil, we would not have much of what we see around us.

When a  jar of tomato sauce is picked up at the local market, cheap energy (often in the form of oil) is used in most aspects of that item; the farm that it is grown on uses oil in the planting of the seeds. Petroleum is often a base for  the fertilizers that are spread onto the ground, oil is used in the picking and transportation of the tomatoes to a plant where oil or coal is used to process that tomato into a sauce. It is then packaged and shipped to a warehouse and eventually makes its way to a store where we might purchase it. When I realized the steps involved in almost every item that is created for our consumption, I realized that I wanted to learn how to counter that, either by doing without, or by learning how to create what I needed. If we look at that simple jar of tomato sauce, we realize that we need to learn how to make the sauce, we need to understand how to preserve the sauce by canning it. We also need to understand the steps preceding the creation of the sauce — the growing of the tomatoes, including the weeding, caring for the soil, watering, and planting the seed. And if we are adventurous, we can learn how to save the seeds so that we can continue to grow the tomatoes without worry about transportation or rising costs.

Taking a jar of home grown and homemade tomato sauce off of our own shelves gives a sense of satisfaction and security. We realize that we can grow, create, and we can feed ourselves. It gives us the realization of the work that goes into every step, but we also see that the future is something we can hold and touch with a jar of food. The tomato sauce may be just one aspect of creating a homemade life, but it is a first step toward this satisfaction and the steps toward living more simply , sustainably, and self-sufficiently. We don’t have to stop with the tomato — we can grow many of our own foods. We can learn to change the forms of our foods by turning milk into yogurt or cheese. We can learn to create our own items for use or wear. We can learn to do without. We can learn to be less dependent upon the system of consumption.

 
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