Exciting Birds and Beasts

Whee! Yesterday was so much fun for me, as it tends to be when I go to a state park in any state. As we do every year we visit this area, Lee and I made a pilgrimage to Huntington Beach State Park, which is just a beautiful place full of nature, in addition to being a beach where zillions of people go. Last year we looked at the house where the Huntingtons lived, which was weird, to say the least, but this year, I just wanted to look at some birds. So I did.

Birds at lunch

We lucked out, because since it was a Sunday, the place was getting crowded by the time we arrived. But, in we got, and we were pleased to see only fellow bird nerds at the nature center boardwalk. I really enjoy learning more about birds and the marsh from people who know more than me, so I was in heaven. In fact, I learned a lot from a couple of little kids and their grandparents. It must be such a joy to have grandchildren to teach about things you care about.

Reflections.

There were birds a-plenty on the boardwalk , mostly dunlins and sanderlings, but I was happy to get to watch a beautiful plover in breeding plumage and the big thrill, a clapper rail. It’s a fairly large brown bird, but since they are shy, they are often hard to find. This one was preening, so we got to watch that really well.

There was also a very pretty snowy egret, who was later joined by a buddy. I love all their fancy feathers this time of year. There were lots of great egrets (bigger white birds), too. The best in the heron family, though, was a tricolored heron that I got to be the first to spot. It was gorgeous, with shiny feathers, red eyes, and a bright blue bill. We got to watch it for a long time, and the dude with the immense camera lens must have gotten some great photos.

Birds weren’t the only attractions, though. In addition to listening to the fun sounds of popping shrimp, we got to watch hundreds of fiddler crabs busy at work in the mud, and we were enthralled watching the oysters spitting. Some of them can really spit (sorry, no photos). It’s how they breathe, so when they are exposed, the water turns into a fountain. I also so lots of pretty fish and a blue crab doing its crab work. There is SO much life in a marsh!

In the wildlife center, we watched birds at the feeder for a while, then I enjoyed seeing what they had in some aquariums with native life in them. Watching the ray swimming around was mesmerizing.

After we left there, we headed over to my favorite nature walk along the marsh. I was happy to see that the area is recovering nicely from a fire a couple of years ago. I can tell woodpeckers are loving all the dead trees. You can hear them everywhere. As usual, I took lots of pictures, many of which I shared on Facebook, but here are some highlights. We were charmed by the signs some group had hung on some of the trees. Every sign had an uplifting, positive message that added to the pleasure of walking among all the huge trees and listening to the variety of birds.

I was pretty thrilled to see many painted buntings on this trip, but the best sight was in one eastern red cedar tree on this walk, where there were so many songbirds it felt like you were in an aviary. There were multiple painted bunting pairs, a cardinal family, a blue jay, tufted titmice, and a tiny, tiny bird that I think was a vireo. I had to take a picture of the tree and thank it.

After getting some pictures at the Octopus Tree (one that fell in a storm but didn’t die), we moved on to the next exciting portion of my day.

I knew I couldn’t leave without walking across the dam the road into the park is on, checking out that boardwalk, and seeing what was there. On the little boardwalk, I turned to take a photo of some “old man moss” and scared the heck out of a large white-tailed deer doe. I was happy to see something other than a bird! As I looked out across the water, I saw multiple alligators, and I soon learned why there are so many.

Another Diversion into Memories

As I walked down the dam, on the side that’s a lake, I saw a familiar sight, mullet jumping out of the water and making a big splash. It brought back memories for me. One was when my brother and I were pretty young and took the bus from Ft. Lauderdale to Gainesville to visit our grandmother. We ended up on the local bus that stopped over and over. We befriended an older black woman, who told us all about where we were. When we got to Lake Okeechobee she told us to look out the window, NOW. There, in the light of the setting sun, were dozens and dozens of mullet flying into the air and splashing down, creating diamonds of water droplets. I’ve never forgotten this sight.

A mullet

When we lived in Plantation (1972-1980 or so), there was a Corps of Engineers canal behind us (C-10). These were the canals they used to drain the Everglades so crappy suburbs could be built where the alligators once roamed. Well, alligators still roamed there, but the best part for my family was sitting on an old footlocker we’d found and labeled “Davy Jones’s Locker” and watching the mullet as the breached in the late afternoon. Dad said they did that to kill parasites by exposing them to the sun. All I know is they sure were pretty. I’m glad I have some good memories of that place!

Back to the Present

Anyway, I enjoyed watching the fish jump and move around right under the surface of the water. I was watching a particularly rollicking roil of fishie exuberance when I realized I was not the only audience member. Someone was trolling for lunch.

Fish in the front, gator in the back

I continued to watch the alligator as I defended my spot on the observation deck from a couple of barn swallows who were busy building a nest next to where I was standing. That reminded me of hanging out on the patio at home!

Coming in with nesting material

As I prepared to leave, I heard a noise where the fish were and picked up my binoculars. What a sight I saw! The alligator had found something to nosh on and was chomping away. I’d never seen a gator eat a meal before, despite living in Gator Country much of my life (really wish you could hear my mom’s gator call). There was lots of stuff sticking out of its mouth, and I could not tell if it had caught a blue crab or a mullet that had been surrounded by reeds (a recent storm had really filled the water with reeds).

ON patrol

All that gator action made up for the fact that there weren’t all that many interesting birds out, since I was there around mid-day. I enjoyed the ones I did see, then graciously allowed poor Lee to go back to the condo, since he was distressingly hangry. Here are a few more bird and people and landscape pix!

We had a surprisingly good meal at the Mexican restaurant next to the condo building. The food was very fresh and different from Tex Mex. The salsa was obviously fresh, but not quite what we were used to. However, when I declared it to be gazpacho, I loved it.

We just chilled in the room the rest of the evening, so I made great knitting progress and caught up with HGTV.

Lee is driving home today, so that’s it for me traveling anywhere, unless I take an Uber to the nice shopping center one evening or a guest magically appears (it HAS happened before). I have plenty of work to do, have the beach and hot tubs and pools at my disposal, and there is always someone friendly downstairs. I’m good. I do miss my friends, family, and animals, though.

Destination Accomplished

Yay. We made it to the condominium in Myrtle Beach. We are way up high in a small unit. If we have guests we will get another room. We will see if anyone comes. This weekend it’s just me and Lee.

Today’s drive wasn’t too fancy. But I did get to see Charleston, SC for the first time. Somehow I’d always missed going there when I had a chance.

I do want to come back and actually stay there. It’s beautiful.

Big trees

All my photos of plants from today came from the ditch at the South Carolina welcome center. There were some good ones, but mostly rushes and water plants.

Just before we got to Myrtle Beach, we stopped in Georgetown, our favorite nearby town. We got some ice cream and saw a gator and it’s turtle friends.

Finally we’re at the Ocean Enclave, in our room in the sky. I was happy to see my favorite bartender is still here! We all got caught up. She did teach kindergarten this year and has survived. Good for her.

Lights and sea.

I’ll be more chatty tomorrow. Things are happening back home! Right now I just want to snooze. Not feeling too good, but I like where I am. It’s actually quiet.

I can see for miles.

Patience Pays Off, with Help

Today Apache and I had our first lesson in a while, since Tarrin is recovering from some surgery that will improve her quality of life, if she survives her convalescent period. That’s hard for an active person! I just brought Apache, since Drew is doing well.

Fine. We will just bond.

This was one educational lesson! Tarrin did great scooting around on a 4-wheeler and Apache did amazing for the first half of the lesson. He jumped the right way at least twice. We were proud of him! This is going to build good muscles! He and I both did well doing some circle things that we can easily practice at home. I’m getting more balanced, and that feels great.

Hey, Dusty, did you get enough food? No, Apache, we’re not special.

However, as soon as he got tired, Apache started to act up. We got some great practice with not putting up with that…stuff. I’m improving. We practiced me getting off, having him run in circles on the ground, then me getting back on. That way he doesn’t get to think he can get me off him so easily.

We get special food. Ha ha.

It was much better than last time, and I was more assertive. Plus, once he calmed down he went right up to the trailer, ate one treat, walked around, went back, and got another treat three times! No drama! And like Tarrin said, I had to do it myself, because she couldn’t jump on Apache and discipline him. Go team.

I love you all, silly animals.

I’m getting the hang of it, slowly but surely, and Apache is really getting to be more of a partner. We’re enjoying each other and not just thinking any time we get together is only for work.

Not sure I love YOU, yet another water snake.

Back on the upswing, at least horse-wise.

Reptile Season

I’ve mentioned the snake that was in the henhouse last week and the snapping turtle that visited. The reptiles and their ilk have not stopped coming, though.

This morning my son was mowing the back yard when I went out to feed the horses. He said to go get my camera, because he’d just seen a different kind of snake.

A different kind of snake

He was right. That wasn’t another rat snake, it was a thick ole water snake. Like everything else, it seemed to be moving from one body of water to another.

The bad thing was that it went over to the swimming pool equipment, where there is already a garden hose that looks just like a water snake. Now we are very careful over there.

I’m not a snake

Only an hour or later I went to put something in the tack room and spotted a movement that looked familiar. Nope, not a snapping turtle, but one of the native cooters. It didn’t stick its head out enough to ID it, and it’s shell was covered in algae. A fine little specimen.

The algae is a good disguise

These guys are breeding right now. I know for sure, because my friend Jeremy, who does all his ranching at night, saw one laying eggs and burying them last night! I’ve never seen that, since I do NOT ride a tractor at night.

I’d like to be going now.

We are still getting rat snake visitors, too. There was one in the henhouse last evening, another full-grown one, who had already gotten an egg. I got the other ones out, and just left the snake, since I was on my way to a Master Naturalist party for our graduating class. I did post it on Facebook.

Apparently my photo startled the aforementioned Jeremy when he saw it. Then only a little while later, he nearly stumbled across one doing his yard work! It looked exactly the same, which gave him another start! Like me, he’s a snake fan, but they still can startle you! I love having interesting friends who share stories.

Speaking of startling, the colors in this selfie startled me! It even made my hair look good.

By the way, I had a blast at the party last night, which was held in one of Milam County’s numerous Mexican restaurants. This was in Rockdale. The folks I sat with were so much fun and told great stories about the area and it’s history. I’m sure everyone noticed how much we were laughing.

Of course, we talked about reptiles, too. I heard that last year, Gene Rek, the guy who sells us our chickens, had over twenty rat snakes in his turkey pens. Yow. That’s more reptile visitors than even I would want.

My friends Gene and Carolyn goofing off.

We all realized it had been a long time since we’d had the chance to just relax over a meal and get to know interesting people better. It felt good to laugh and share.

Unexpected Snappy Visitor and Others

I always look forward to the snapping turtle mating season, when they wander around looking for friends or places to lay eggs or something. This morning I had my camera out in case the cat showed up. A movement caught my eye, and at first I thought it was an armadillo. But nope, it was this traveler.

Howdy! Do you like my outfit?

We see these often, as readers are aware, but this was a good chance to get nice pictures, since I’d caused my buddy to stop ambling.

I’m ready to leave.

I’d wanted a good rear view of a common snapping turtle, so this gave me a great opportunity. Thanks for holding still, pal.

Bye bye buddy

We have other visitors. I did finally get a blurry picture of the cat who’s hanging around here.

Yep. It’s a cat and one of the endless vehicles the cattle tenants drove up and down by the cabin yesterday.

Barn swallows are the loudest visitors. We love them and their nests on our patios anyway. They do eat bugs!

And here’s a couple I found while looking for new flowers.

Flower scarab beetles

More later. I have a bunch of horse pictures.

Go Outside, They Said. So I Did.

Out here in my field
         I fight for what's real
                  I put my back into my livin'
I don't need to fight
       To prove I'm right
                 I don't need to be forgiven...
...Suna's Wasteland

I’m still dealing with some anxiety, so when my noon meeting ended, I went out and just stood by the entry into the property. Ostensibly, I was waiting for the letter carrier, but they drove past the other way and never actually delivered anything. That was fine.

My field

It certainly wasn’t a quiet time out in my field. The incessant “peep peep PEEP” call alerted me to the arrival of the dickcissels for the summer. Those little birds are so extra cheerful that it’s almost painful. The background was punctuated by the sounds of red-winged blackbirds, scissor-tail flycatchers and one male cardinal.

Only bird that sat still.

I heard a sound behind me. Hey, look at that! It was Mrs Hummingbird dropping by to say hi. Honest, that’s what it felt like. Thanks, little buddy.

Hi!

I leaned on the fence and just breathed, like you’re supposed to when you have the stress going on. That’s when I said to myself, “Damn, it smells good here!” I looked down and figured out what was going on. The native grapes are in bloom. I believe I was today years old when I realized the mustang grape flowers were incredibly fragrant. It looks like we will get a lot of them this year, in addition to dewberries, if only it will rain just a bit.

Well, droplets of water did fall from the sky briefly, but I wouldn’t say it rained. Nonetheless, it took the horses from quietly grazing in the scenic field to racing to shelter, as if they were going to get inundated. They did not. But it was fun to watch. I also enjoyed watching Apache being friends with Mabel, which was sweet. She is doing SO much better with some magnesium supplements in her.

It never did rain, so I sort of plopped myself into a relatively insect-free part of the only field that hasn’t been mowed to a nub and enjoyed the variety of flowers and grasses I saw.

Plop

Once again, there are new bloomers coming up, including some big ones and some tiny ones. I just love the variety. Being among all this diversity brings me so much peace and joy. I am so lucky to have all these plants and animals nearby.

Speaking of animals, first, the chickens are happy as heck, because they can now go back out and roam, thanks to a screen door being added to the garage. They express their thanks by taking care of any horse poop they run into and eating all the June bugs Lee fishes out of the pool. They are hardly eating their chicken food now! And they are just so happy to be able to get all fluffy and take dust baths, which is a chicken’s favorite activity after chasing bugs.

New Resident

I don’t know if I’m happy or sad to report this, but apparently we have a new ranch resident. It’s a large, fluffy, apricot-colored cat. It was first spotted Saturday morning when Sara and I were leaving for Sandhaven. It’s still here, and was in the middle of the chicken pen this morning. Luckily, we have no missing poultry. I shall be more diligent about shutting the door to the henhouse from now on.

It looks like this. Obviously, this is not the cat, as it is indoors. If you are in Calgary, you can adopt it.

I guess it’s okay for the cat to hang around, since we have a lot of things for it to eat around the barn area. Barn cats are good. Now that the dogs are reliably fenced in, cats seem to be able to hang out here. I am unable to tell if it’s male or female, and I haven’t even gotten close enough to see if it has an ear notch that would indicate it’s been spayed or neutered. I’ll work on that, of course.

I’m not expecting to last here long. If it is here after a week, I’ll bestow a name.

Hope all is well in your world. It’s not bad here; I have no clue what’s up with the chest pains.

Easter Walk

Much nature has been seen today, which makes for a perfect celebration of rebirth. Kathleen took me out to the woods and pasture to see some trapdoor spider nests (which I didn’t get a picture of). Penney joined us, and she had a lot of fun.

I’m exploring.

We found some really fun things, including lots of rocks. This one looked like a skull to us.

We love our rocks.

There were tiny mushrooms, dead crawfish (thanks to the crop duster), three types of sedge, a beautiful snakeskin in the tree that no longer is covered with grapevines, milkweed, water butter cups, wild garlic, and so many evening primroses.

The best sighting of the day came from my friend in Milano, Tarrin. Look at all these icky tent caterpillars! Wow!

Ready to make a tent, I guess?

I have a lot of horse stuff, which I’ll share later. Now I’ll enjoy my family.

When a House Comes Down the Road: The Pool House Saga

Where to start on this tale? It’s a log one. Once upon a time, during the Pandemic Years, there was a house down the road from us. Suddenly, the house up and moved one lot down. It’s like I blinked and the house was moved. That seemed weird, but people do weird things. Over a period of months, the house got all fixed up and looked very cute.

Then, one day, where the house used to stand, there appeared a different house, one of those pre-built ones that aren’t a mobile home, but are more like a large portable building. It was pretty cute, too. A lady who raises dogs lived in the renovated old house, we found out.

Cute little house just sitting there.

We noticed that no one was living in the new house, and instead folks were living in a nice RV on the property, along with a ridiculously cute pony. At the same time, our family had been talking for a while about having a pool house on the other side of the pool, where Kathleen and her spouse could stay when they are in town, and otherwise where people can change and dry off from the pool. The talk had died off as other stuff happened in the past few months.

The cute pony did not come with the house. The lady with the dogs got it.

But, the nephew didn’t give up. He talked to the owners and found out that they’d decided they didn’t want to turn the building into a house after all. We looked at it and realized this little building is the exact right size for a pool house. It’s not big enough for full-time life, but perfect for occasional use. Talks ensued. And ensued. At one point, we gave up when the company that owned the loan didn’t want to take our money. But, yay, Lee and the nephew were patient and the move was scheduled!

Removing the supporting cement blocks

We were happy to find out they could move the building today. That required a lot of fast work, including cutting down part of our gate to make the gate at the entrance to our ranch, since we needed a 2-foot opening. It’s a good thing we know someone with a welding machine that happens to be on our property.

The pieces of wood are where the entry keypad and edge of the gate used to be. They will go back. You can see that they DID roll over it.

The other concern we had for moving the house was weather. Rain kept threatening, so we just hoped it would hold off long enough to get the house in, but then show up and rain like crazy (we need it).

Moving the house onto the trailer

Luckily, today was just cloudy. We got the call that the house movers were here, and of course your intrepid blogger grabbed her phone to record it all. Let me tell you, it was truly interesting. They have some amazing high-tech equipment that makes picking up a building and moving it a real breeze. Of course, we had our helping team there and were all prepared to do some of the work. I’m so proud of all the lifting of rocks they did (not my son’s favorite task).

Watch the little machine guide the house onto the trailer.

They had a little vehicle that was remote controlled. It could push the big house like it was just a sack of groceries. To get it off its foundation, it pushed the house straight onto a really fancy trailer that also can go up and down and even sideways, as I found out later. The house was on the trailer in no time!

It took it about 15 minutes to get down the road to our house. I enjoyed taking pictures of it as it came, plus I got some wildflower photos while I waited. Yes, people think I am a strange plant lady, but it’s okay. I had fun. And it was cool to see a house going down our road.

The scariest part of the whole trip was making the turn into our driveway. It’s a good thing that boards were put over the places where the gate had been cut off, because wheels went right over it. And at one point, everything was tilting. The trailer fixed it! It was really cool to watch.

The guys had taken down part of the fence, but there was no way the truck would make it in. No problem. The little machine pushed the house onto some wheels, and off it went.

Lowering the house off the trailer.

The guy controlling it was so good. He got the building exactly where we’d put the cones to mark the front boundaries. Wow. Suddenly, there it was!

Once it was in place, everyone got to work setting blocks down for it to sit on. The house movers had a set of lasers to help level the house, so it is accurate and straight.

We still have to put a few more supports in, but by gosh, there’s a pool house out there now! Of course, the dogs had to inspect it. They liked the free couch that came with the house the best, I think.

The general idea of a floor plan for the inside is set. Now the team will have to get onto making it usable. The plan is to make it quite rustic, like a guest cabin. We will paint it to match our house and garage, and plan to use some of the leftover stone from the exterior of our main house as accents. It will all look pretty darned coordinated.

Moment of nature. Oak blossoms.

Obviously, this will all take a while, but first the tack room needed to get taken care of. Today the ceiling got finished and the team made the larger loft smaller, so it will be more useful for what we need. All the insulation is out, so it’s looking more like a real tack room. I’m so pleased. I’m not sure when they plan to do electricity or anything, but it’s insulated and sound!

While all this excitement was going on the horses and chickens wanted attention. Drew informed me he really didn’t want any more horsey Pepto-Bismol, and since he seems fine now, I’ve decided to stop forcing it on him. He is still getting three soupy meals a day and the rest of his medicines, however.

I do not want your pink disgusting stuff. I’m outa here. Notice Drew looks sort of orange. He has been rolling in sand.

And the chickens let me know quite loudly that something was amiss in the hen house. I went over to see, and yep, it was yet another rat snake trying to take advantage of the free food. Sigh. They are such good snakes when they are eating mice and rats. But, this one had to go.

MMM, eggs. If only I knew to flee after I eat eggs.

What a day, right? And I managed to write some scintillating content on project schedule baselines in between exciting moments. I’m all tired again, that’s for sure, even after a relaxing evening last night with friends and family. It’s so nice to see both the pool and the hot tub in use and the grill fired up. Living one day at a time is working out so far.

So, who thought we’d be driving a house into our back yard today? Not me, as recently as last week.

It’s Not Sunday, It’s Sunaday

Have you ever wondered what Suna would do with a day entirely to herself with no one else’s agenda (other than a deadline)? Truthfully, neither did Suna.

Samhain greetings, by the way.

But, today was indeed Sunaday, and I got to do whatever the heck I wanted to, all day long. I did have a newsletter to make, so I did it MY way, and gave myself little incentives like if I worked for an hour I could knit four rows, go for a walk, or have a mini Hershey’s bar (you know, in case anyone knocked on the door looking for candy, which did NOT happen in this building full of old people).

I looked at nature, duh.

Other than that, quirkiness ruled. I did many things I can’t do at home, like set food on the coffee table with NO consequences, burn a smelly candle all day long, sit around in bed watching CBS This Morning (what a comforting show), and watch things on the computer (gasp, not eating up all Lee’s bandwidth!).

Right outside the resort.

One thing that I did that wasn’t atypical was watch football all day. But, I did do other things, so there was no lolling on the couch without being productive. I still can’t manage that.

Tree hugging another tree.

The highlight of the day was going around the neighborhood. It wasn’t too cold yet, so I got to look at all the trees and listen to all the fun birds around here. The most fun birds, for sure, were the magpies, who were very vocal and active. They and the crows seem to be the biggest birds here.

My other favorite site was perhaps the cutest squirrel I ever saw. It was an Abert’s squirrel. They are small and have fun tassels on their ears. Of course, I did not see any moose or other large animals, since I was in a neighborhood of condos and resorts.

You could hear it chewing

Still, there were a lot of remnants of flowers and beautiful evergreens to enjoy. It smells quite nice here up in the sky.

In other news, I got a few photos of the pool, and I was surprised to find out that the little tiles they put on the steps glow in the dark! I guess we hadn’t gone outside after dark since they put them in.

That will look cool under water.

According to Lee, there is still a lot of tile work to go, since we chose that difficult but visually stunning Versailles pattern. Good for us.

Tomorrow starts my week of 6 am meetings. I have a great attitude and am sure I’ll do fine. Today put me in a great mood. A Sunaday is a good day, whatever day of the week it is.

Talk about Comfortable

Today, Trixie was supposed to come and look at Apache’s feet, but Drew stole the show. I had gotten both of the horses, in preparation for her arrival, and Apache was quietly waiting for us in his pen. As we walked up, we couldn’t see Drew. Where was he?

having his spa day

Yep, he’d decided to just take a nice nap on the warm sand. That’s a sign that a horse is comfortable with the people he’s around. The best part is that he didn’t jump to his feet when we approached, like most horses would. As prey animals, they are always alert.

Zzzz

The fisr thing Trixie did was check out the big paint’s head, because it seemed sore. Drew got up and watched that intently, standing close so I could rub him. Trixie remarked that Drew really seems to be a people horse.

Apache’s feet are looking great, by the way, and he’s looking more and more normal. He even shrunk a horseshoe size. As he was being a model farrier client, I realize that I had lost Drew.

It’s more cozy over here.

He shifted again and really fell asleep, with fluttering eyelids, and deep, deep breathing. That was one comfortable animal.

I feel safe here. It’s where my food lives.

We could not stop laughing as he kept snoozing away even when Apache was finished and left. His little lips were quivering like he was having a nice dream. Damn, it was cute.

Melts our hearts.

Once we finally got him up, he got some spa treatment, as Trixie massaged his gums like she had done for Apache. We think he liked it.

It tickled!

He then let his front hooves get trimmed, but still was no good on the back, so Trixie is gonna come tomorrow and work on his issues again. He still walks a little. Funny, and we want him all ready and happy for training.

I guess I’m in love with both these equine wonders. My heart swells with love when I see how much progress we are making together.

Chickens and Snakes

I heard a loud noise last night from the chicken coop, and this morning I discovered something had gone after Babette. Her head is a mess, but she seems okay. In case Bruce did it, I separated her from the others, except Star, who is still setting on her eggs.

Good news

But it is not all bad! Blanca, the True Blue hen, finally started laying yesterday! What beautiful eggs she lays. Sky blue! Now we’re just waiting on Betty the Easter Egger to give us some green eggs, and Billie Idyl.

When I was out fetching the horses, I spotted this snakeskin, most likely a rat snake. It has these cool ribbon-like segments, I guess from its belly. I’m glad Trixie liked it as much as I did.

Well, this was fun. My new laptop is also a giant tablet. I typed this from my chair, with the computer flat. I am fancy now.

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