Update: Blackberries April 2021 Part 2

By Melinda Hatfield

They have begun to flower. I know it is a process but I do enjoy waiting for these beasties to produce. I am excited to see them come into bloom and see what kind of taste they have.

I have no idea what kind of thornless blackberries these are. They were unlabeled excess that I purchased last year in bulk. It was a decent deal for the amount that I purchased.

By Melinda Hatfield

This is the first year they have been able to properly fruit and I am excited to see the outcome. I did not trellis my blackberries. Most of them stand upright on their own other hover over the ground.

I wanted to see what they would do naturally. So far the results aren’t awful and it seems they are producing flowers with little to no maintenance.

By Melinda Hatfield

I didn’t realize how many shoots come off the floracane. Not that it matters but in the picture below you’ll see the prima canes starting at the base of the plant. Last year I clipped half back mid summer and it seemed to have caused more side shoots.

I did notice that I have less growth when I don’t cut the tips but they are better at standing upright without the additional pressure and weight of the new shoots.

By Melinda Hatfield

So I bought these black berries in bulk because they were out of growing season and they didn’t have tags. Nameless babies but I am sure they will be delicious.

Some of the bushes have white flowers and some have pink ones. I must say that this makes me curious if they taste different. All I know is that they make it fun and diverse.

By Melinda Hatfield

I cannot wait to see what our first true harvest will look like.

I hope that our blackberries spread (like people have said they will) so that I can uproot and plant more berry patches. I really enjoy blackberries as a fruit. It’s too bad they do not have the shelf life to be sold in most box stores.

By Melinda Hatfield

Above is our only thorny blackberry bush that made it. We have some white blackberries but their roots were not established enough and they were very young plants and were taken out by the winter storm.

Lesson learned. Until next time…

Plant Names and Classifications

Are you like me and didn’t know that common plant names are not the best way of identifying plants because a lot of the common names get confused or could overlap with others? I mean there are trees that are called oak trees that are not in the same group. It’s just a bunch of craziness and I just want to make it clear: up until this point I was entirely ignorant. I’m cool with it.

Now there is a science to plant classification and in that science there are two categories that we should be aware of and that is the plant taxonomy and plant systematic systems. We used to go by common names but it often became confusing  for a lot of people. Today we classify all plants based on their genetic and evolutionary characteristics, this means that the plants are grouped based on who their common ancestors are.

In horticulture they are primarily concerned with the last three levels of classification: Species, Genus and Family.

The species is the most basic level of classification and below this there can be many subspecies. These plants are usually the most closely related to one another and they can interbreed freely.

The Genus is a group of related species.

The Family is the general group of Genus who are all related by a common ancestor.

There are two important flowering plant families that my professor made sure that we covered. Frankly, I’ve already learned more than what I knew before and I am pleased, but we’re only part of the way through so I’ll continue to let you know what I know or I am learning.

First is the dicot family, which is a flowering family with two cotelydons (embrodic leaves). Just to let you know those cotelydons are inside and this is the largest of the two families. There are over 200,000 types and they are everywhere. They are roses, myrtle trees and so many more.

The second flowering family is the Monocot. They are grass like flowering plants that only have one cotelydon per seed. In agriculture the majority of biomass is created through monocots. You might find a monocot as wheat, rice, bamboo, sugar cane, forage grasses and many others. This family includes many bulb flowers like daffodils, lilies, and iris. They are not simply flowers and grasses but also tumeric, garlic, and asparagus.

Both are angiosperms and very popular. I really enjoy these classes and can’t wait to learn more. How many more things am I going to learn? Who knows but I can’t wait.

Although this information may not be useful right away I am certain being able to identify plant families will be useful in the future. These pictures are by a wonderful lady named Vivian Morris.

Plant names are identified not my their family but by the genus and species. Common names change by region and can be confusing because a rose is a rose and can be any different species of rose if you are looking for a specific type. Although common names can be misleading botanical names are not. The Botanic name is a Latin name accepted world wide.

For example: Magnolia alba or Ligustrum album.

Until next time…

Year Zero: Serious Moment

I have a five year plan. It is not a good plan and it changes from day to day but it is a plan. Right now, I have just left year zero. January 2021 is starting a new year for me.

You may ask:

What is Year Zero? Year Zero has been my year of planning. I also went around the area and looked at local nurseries. I wanted to see what everyone had to offer. It opened my eyes. I also planned to go back to college and learn about plant things.

Why is Year Zero so important? Year Zero is my planning year. We moved in October 2019 and that only started our adventure. During this year I have walked the property over five hundred times. I have learned the land-ish. There is a lot more to starting a permaculture food forest then I anticipated.

This is where I outlined my goals. I learned my property and I planted starter plants- which I will get into later. We have a lot to cover so I will continue.

Some of the trees ready for new homes

What does having a poorly planned year zero do for someone who is just starting out? This is a tough one because I had to reset my Year Zero last year. It was insanity. I killed every plant I got my hands on because I just jumped in. I thought I could just wish my garden into growth. It was poor planning and I wasted a lot of money on plants that died. So, don’t waste money use your year zero wisely. Learn to work with your property and not against it.

Year Zero is the most important year of planning and development. This is my year of research and getting to know my property. Here I started and failed then restarted after some research. Even still I am not 100% sure that everything will work out. My year one began with medicinal plants and evolved into the dreams of a food forest. Somewhere it evolved and I wanted to have real food security.

I learned a lot about the native plants that already live here and it inspired me to start a Monarch Butterfly Santuary. I started by going online and joining many types of groups. They kind of inspired me and so I continued with my year zero goals. I did way better than I anticipated.

The reason Year Zero is important is because it lays the foundation for success but remember: you can always switch it up later if your plans don’t work out. I know it sounds crazy but a lot of people (myself including) thought they could just jump in (like I did) and fail. I’ve learned it’s only a true failure if I stop trying and so I will continue.

It took me the better half of the first year to figure out I was doing things wrong and I might need to talk to experts. That’s why I enrolled in classes but I’ll share all of that information as I get it with you.

Squash flower (I think?)

Sure, I was in the best Facebook groups. Unfortunately I hadn’t been utilizing them. So I went online and I just dove into research on permaculture, companion planting, ph levels, soil samples and I was blown away by how much was out there. I will never know everything but I had started down a rabbit hole that brought me here to this blog.

Spoiler alert: my plants stopped dying. I got better at planting the more I learned and there is this feeling of happiness when you are using your own vegetables and fruits.

All throughout year zero I sat outside my plants hoping they might grow. It does not make plants grow faster.

Now I know I need a plan and in year zero it’s the perfect time to decide what you want and where you see that going in five years. Make it fun and exciting but remember: your plan must flow with the tide. So make sure you are ready for those changes and adaptations as you go. For example: I thought I could just put seeds in the dirt and it would just grow. It doesn’t work that way and now I know thanks to countless people.

Goals for my property and my life for the next five years. This is important because it gives me a general outline to work with. Remember, I am making plans but they are like the wind- every changing and straightforward.

In five years, I want to have every individual breed of plant I want on my property. Even if I do not have every part of my land covered (Which I most likely will seeing my progress already- it is a possibility). I am not talking about a neat little orchard- I want trees and shrubs. I want to be overwhelmed with sight, smell and feel like nature surrounds me.

Keep that in mind- it is the foundation for our success. My goals are not primarily food security, even though it is a reoccurring theme, but instead a food based garden of eden, a place for me to retire my body and my spirit. So, not all of my plants will be solely food based. I am going to continue on that note, but keep your goals in your mind.

Another goal I realized: I want the species here to be closer to disease resistant and ready to produce in five years. This means that in the first few years I have to plant my trees that need to be producing as well as create a water source.

In Year Zero, I am going through plant lists to find edible plants, flowering plants, herbs, and pollinators. I am collecting seeds and planting what I like to call guaranteed success plants such as blackberries. During Year Zero I did a lot of planning but then I began planting samples.

For example: I don’t know of I even like certain fruits- this is a great time to plant one or two and try them. If I don’t like them I won’t plant more of that particular tree. It’s good to know before I make a mass planting decision.

The ones that do well and we like: we plant more of them. The ones that don’t we just move on from and don’t plant more. At least we are keeping those three blueberries (if any of them survive), but I am hesitant of planting more until we know they will survive. That is one of many examples. We keep what we like but we don’t want continue any difficult plants. If something happens we want to make sure we can take care of it. (Eventually I hope it will take care of itself, in my old age I don’t want to be chasing around a 7 acre mess)

I want to cover my entire property in plants that are useful primarily with a little playroom for beautiful things. I want to retire in my own hand made forest and I want to leave it for my kids to enjoy. I cannot wait until I make my dream come true, but Year Zero opened my eyes to the many possibilities.

Frankly, Year Zero did not go as planned and there is a good chance your Year Zero will not be magnificentbut don’t give up. I killed a lot of plants that I want to blame on bizarre seeds from China that I never received. Really it all came down to poor planning.

Year one starts now in January and during that year I have a lot of things I would like to accomplish. But first let’s talk about what i have already got started:

  • 75 thornless blackberries, three different kinds.
  • 33 grape plants, twenty four muscadine, six concord, two seedless randoms from Wal-Mart, and one Spanish grape.
  • 8 apple trees, 4 persimmons, 4 pomegranates, 5 peaches, 3 plums, 4 cherries, 2 pears, 2 limes, 2 lemons, and 2 avadaco trees.
  • Planted many perennials and failed two gardens.

Year One I have new goals.

  • I would like to plant 100 additional thornless blackberry plants. This year so far we have planted 75. We know that blackberries will do great here and we want at least 200. We want to primarily plant thornless varieties which is also why we are not dying into raspberries.
  • Set up the irrigation system that will support the amount of plants that I want to bring in. We already bought two irrigation systems. One is set up for bushes and one is set up for the trees.
  • I want to plant a minimum of 25 different kinds of apple trees, but that may not be possible.
  • I want to focus on the 41 disease resistant breeds that grow in my zone. Zone 8a.
  • Focus on filling in the spaces between my trees with shrubs and berry bushes.
  • Expanding my seed collection
  • Creating a creek system that runs through our property
  • Planting as much as I can as fast as I can and keeping it all alive with magic

So, don’t give up. Year Zero seems hard on everyone. We’ve got this now onward to YEAR ONE.

A much more detailed goal list for Year One is coming but you’ll have to be patient. I am busy looking through seed catalogs while listening to permaculture information.

Project Grow Your Roots 2021: Fun and Short Additions

Contributed by L. McKnight

All the way from Oregon, Groot wants you to know he is proud of you.

Contributed by Adrienne Westbrook

This is a weeks worth of growth on a Sunflower she planted with her daughter. I love the way she made the pictures come together in this photo. I love the family bonding in Indiana. Enjoy raising those Sunflowers.

These bad boys are the state flower of Kansas. They can grow in medium light and in clay soil. I’ll keep that in mind when I am planting. Birds love Sunflower for their seeds and who can blame them really?

But the most amazing thing is the amount of uses:

  • Poultice from the flowers for burns
  • Crushed root to draw out a blister
  • Leaf tea for high fevers

Also, one last bit a little bit of folklore: some places believe that planting sunflowers can ward off malaria.

Contributed by Colleen Esc

Started from leaf cuttings these Violets have grown to be lovely. So lovely she plans on spreading the love this season. I am sure that everyone will be thrilled, I know that I would.

Many are perennial but some are annual and very few are shrubs. The viola category has around 600 species which is amazing and a little overwhelming, but the flower is edible and can be used to add color to salads. If you needed a reason to plant this beautiful flower.

There are so many absolutely amazing people out there. As the pictures flow in I just keep becoming more excited about the outcome. Keep your eyes out for more plants that people are excited about.

Beneficial Grants: Texas Monarch Butterfly Grant

I live in Texas. Howdy.

I was looking into things that could boost my permaculture food forest without costing me any money. As I was looking through the many grants. It all started with the Monarch Butterfly Grant.

This is a very small personal grant that cannot exceed past 400 per person/group. This grant can only be used to purchase plants (which is all I want- free plant money). So there are some rules to this particular grant that go further than that: they have to be native to Texas. I want Butterflies

As I wait for winter to be over I plan. My close friend LD always has a beautiful yard and I want to shine too. This has inspired me to look for money to supply my hobbies.

Challenge accepted.

I want all four hundred of those dollars so that I can expand my already amazing dream permaculture food forest. So I looked into it.

Agarita is one of the native plants. I hadn’t thought about this plant before -primarily because I was so narrow minded on the idea of a permaculture food forest- but I love that we have so many milkweed plants in my pasture because it attracts the butterflies.

That’s also how I happened upon this grant because I decided I wanted to start a butterfly garden to attract even more. The agarita has the nectar that the butterflies crave. If I have this lovely blossoming flower it will give the mom butterflies plenty of food – these plants also are great for other pollinators like bees. Keep that in mind.

It is a shrub that is pointy. I like pointy shrubs because they make good barriers to keep animals away from my property. Sold. They are an evergreen, drought tolerant and they also produce tasty berries (and makes delicious jelly). Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

These are my end game goals guys. I want to be on this list.

Flame acanthus also known as the hummingbird bush. This is absolutely beautiful and another shrub. This is considered a ‘profuse’ bloomer. It allegedly is a huge bloomer and that is exciting because it attracts not just monarch butterflies but also hummingbirds and bees. (It’s also a deer resistant and drought tolerant)

Kidneywood is so beautiful. I had no idea, they are allegedly really fragrant and attract bees and butterflies. They have many branches and they can get up to be 12 feet tall. That is amazing because it is also drought tolerant and can survive cold and heat. (Clay soil is acceptable here). I am digging it. Sounds like it will be a great place for butterflies to settle in and eat some nectar.

Cone Flower is something we already have but would love to have it planted everywhere. Who knew that it was a native Texas plant? Now I know and you do too. This is a perennial and has beneficial properties which I will probably go over at a later time. They bloom from April until September so this will give my early pollinators a snack before the rest bloom in May or June.

The application is online and the application and process seems very easy.

They say purple cone flower can be aggressive- I sure hope so. So keep that in mind.

Cenizo is just a cool name to have. If I get another pet (fingers crossed I don’t but if I do) I am going to name it Cenizo. Regardless, it is made for our zone. It flowers and can take the heat but it does need to be watered. They can get to be up to 8 feet tall. Sounds live privacy fence material to me.

Cenizo goes by another name Texas Sage. Amazingly enough I already have a couple growing. I had no idea. Also this plant does not appreciate heavy pruning- I’ll have to keep that in mind.

The fragrant or pink mimosa is another thorny shrub great for deer resistance and a nice barrier around my property (I hear it smells good too). Another early bloomer but it ends earlier too (March to July). The flowers are lovely and I would love to add them to my butterfly garden (or barrier I haven’t decided). Here is even more Information.

They will check up on us and I can’t wait. This adventure will be really exciting. I can’t wait to start.

Texas Lantana is something I already have growing and they are amazing. I kind of want more of them because they make a beautiful groundcover. All parts of this plant are poisonous and it is considered deer resistant.

Lantanas are perennial shrubs that can grow 2 to 4 foot tall. Wow, they just don’t seem to be scrubbing out for me. They’re just creeping across the ground. That is strange maybe next year they will perk up, regardless I would love to have more. One more link: Texas Lantana. Just in case you’re considering it. It is really beautiful.

Last but not least is Salvia texana and I want this one. If I got that grant I would definitely get this plant. This is a perennial herb and it grows to be up to 2 feet tall. It is drought tolerant and does well in clay or rocky soil (bonus i won’t need to modify the soil I have). Salvias are a perennial flower and have more than 75 species including autumn sage. That is something we already have in honor of my eldest child: Autumn Sage. This is a rabbit hole I’ll have to go down another time, but every new flower or sage that I have gets me more excited.

I have murdered lavender every single year I’ve tried it but look at her growing it like it’s nothing. I am so jealous of her naturally green thumb.

I will, of course, get more milkweed but that will place where where I want them primarily and have a large area in the middle of the garden. That sounds absolutely beautiful.

Can’t wait and I hope I get it, but I already have some of these plants. The milkweed does grow naturally and I want to entice Monarch butterflies. I want them to pollinate all of my fruit trees and attract all of the bees. I understand the importance of planting native plants and I can’t wait to get started.

I will share more grants as I come across more information.

Bigger pots: Morning Glories and Bachelor’s Buttons

I think I might have slaughtered more innocent plants this time. I am sad about it, but the soil was too perfect and I was crumbling in my hand.

Before in their tiny first homes

Like a hermit crab these plants cannot stay in their smaller container too long and seek a larger home. I didn’t want to advertise their dirty business so I won’t be showing you how the roots were already trying to escape out of the bottom.

New home for our morning glories

It saddens me to admit that the majority of the bachelor’s buttons did not make it into the bigger pot. I mean they did, but they did not survive. It was heart breaking but I still have two so I am not complaining. Small victories and such.

Four days later

After a few days of being in their new pots they shot right up and are happy little lambs. I must confess that I am glad I got them into larger pots and I am convinced I will have to up grade them again before long.

You can see how there is only one bachelor’s button planter now and that is because my cats worship Satan. They only look cute. They tried to take out my lemon balm clones as well. It is a sacrifice they are willing to make I suppose but they upset me quite a bit when I see the holes dug.

But this little button barely survived the new pot and seems to be doing a little bit better. Their roots were not really connected to the soil very well. Regardless, it’s a win. Not everyone lived but not everyone died either.

Plant Now: Bulbs for Spring

Year zero was not as productive as I wanted it to be and so I am actively working towards making sure that i am actively adding pollinators and fruit producing plants. One of my favorite ways to do that is with my fall flowers. They will not shoot up until next spring and will add color in front of our berry bushes between our sage and juniper bushes.

I am glad I chose this weekend to do it because the soil was much better than usually. Of course, I went out and grabbed some potting mix to help because the ground around here isn’t the best for most plants.

All of these are spring blooms. Most of the stuff I have already blooms in the late sumer or early autumn. I think having flowers around year round will be the best.

Pickwick Crocus is going to flower to for around three weeks and are said that they can do well in clay soil. They allegedly will come back year after year and the more I read the more excited I become. Pickwick Crocus has flowers that close at night or during the rain and open in the morning when the sun reaches them. A few weeks after flowering they get yellow and die. I think it’ll be worth it.

I also grabbed some Sieberi Tricolor Crocus. I am planting these with the others that I have grabbed. I will dig up other areas later and plant different flowers. Now this plant will only get better with time, each year it will come back stronger and better. She will bloom from late winter to early spring (allegedly) and beautiful flowers. I cannot wait to see what this baby will look like next year.

Scilla Luciliae is a fun flower and it looks like little stars. This one flowers in early spring and then goes into dormancy until next year. I cannot wait to see what that looks like. I think they will be a lovely addition to all of our additions this fall.

Then I just got a random crocus mix. I want it to have purples and blues in it. I figured that this will add it some whites as well. I do not know how it will all turn out in the end but I do know that I want all of the pollinators at my house. One of my favorite things is to watch the butterflies and hummingbirds come in. That was when I found out how territorial they are.

I cannot wait for Spring to arrive so that I can see these beautiful flowers. I hope that you have something you’re excited about as well. Until next time…

My pumpkins are flowering

That’s right. You heard it right. My pumpkins are beautiful and they have the most amazing flowers. Ignore how weedy my garden is.

Pumpkins have two kinds of flowers: male and female. The first flowers to show up are male flowers in order for the pollinators to be attracted.

Female flowers are easy to spot because you can see baby pumpkins at the base. I was told that I might want to cut off the earlier ones in order to let the better ones come in.

They also say that when there are three or four on a vine that we should cut away all of the ones that aren’t promising as soon as they get to be around the size of a soft ball.

Night time is when pumpkins do must of their growing so try to keep the leaves dry in order to prevent disease and mold or mildew. It’s good advise for any plant as I have recently had to learn. Thats how we got our lemon balm runners and I stopped letting my kids water the plants.

Flowering: My Silverado Sage

I have three silverado sage and one texas sage or at least that is what the tags say. I have to say that I am impressed with how well sage grows here. Maybe I should start making smudge sticks or something. It is crazy.

Don’t judge me, I am a simple sage grower. They sure do look pretty when they are flowering. I like that they don’t have to have fifty gallons of water in a week and that it grows so well in my dirty clay soil.

Soil tests are what’s up when you are buying property. Don’t ever forget to get that down. I am having to cut out too many things because my soil is so compact.

But sage grows really well and looks so pretty. I mean, these flowers are only going to look prettier with each passing day.

Now that sage in the picture above I don’t know what is weird about it because the leaves are always a little yellow. Every other one looks amazing and this one is still flowering. I am just nervous it has plant herpes or something.

Having sage makes the plant murderers like me feel better about themselves. They don’t seem to die even when you don’t always remember to water them.

Happiness is your plants not dying and showing off their beautiful flowers.

Update: Lantanas are Beginning to Flower

It turns out that out of all of the lantas we bought only three survived but they are the prettiest three lantanas. Now don’t quote me on it but I am ninety percent sure that I will be the proud plant mom of two purple lantanas and one white lantana.

They are really loving this little lump of land. The flowers are pretty and I honestly thought that they would be smaller than they are. I heard that lantana can be invasive and I sure hope so. It is just so pretty.

I really enjoy the green of the leaves and it has grown around six ot eight inches since it has been transplanted. Honestly, I am surprised that any of our lantanas survived.

You see my cats enjoy brand new fresh soil to roll around in and play on and around. They are a little crazy but we still love them.

We shall see and I will post more pictures of updates on these beautiful little transplants. Got to say each day that I see how great some of my plants are doing it makes me want to plant more.

Update So Soon: Morning Glory and Bachelor’s Buttons

I am much happier during the early growth season. Here I am planting new seeds right before it starts to get chilly. I know I will bring them in and I already have the best idea for where I want to put them, but for right now I have them outside basking in the sun.

I am just so impressed with the growth on these babies. They are absolutely popping up. The larger plants are the morning glories and they love the sun, they love the water and they enjoy the cool breeze on their hair.

The buttons seem a little insecure and they don’t seem to grow as fast but I am excited to see what they are all talking about. They are allegedly perennial in my zobe, but we shall find out. Something i have determined is that zones are Excellent indicators but do further research. Not everyone who blogs is personally killing plants and documenting it for your entertainment so that I’ll be able to look back on it when I am old and don’t remember anything.

I am enjoying these plants and i plan on bringing them inside and hanging them in my windows in order to get the most sun. I think that sitting back and watching the plants grow is the best way to spend my time. It is amazing to see how much joy watching a plant not die can give you. Regardless i hope my morning glories and bachelor’s buttons make it through the dark and cold and spooky winter inside my home with my whole family. Whose to say what is good or bad? Will my plants survive or will they be trampled, eaten, destroyed or any number of other terrible things? We shall see.

New addition: Bachelors Buttons

Bachelor’s Buttons are absolutely stunning. This is also called the corn flower but there are a few plants called that from different species. Just so you know this is just an honorable mentiom, it is not revelant to what I am trying to do here.

This plant is both an annual and a perennial. It is an annual if planted in zones 7 and below; it is a perennial if planted in zones 8 (my zone) and up. I think that means that these buttons were made to attract me some butterlies.

I planted these babies when I planted my morning glories. They are slower to sprout, and look so cute and tiny. I have to watch these suckers though because they can be wildly invasive in my zone. I sure hope so, I am not just planting them for looks.

They will get to be around two feet tall, long and steemy. They are drought tolerant and enjoy the full sun. Bachelor’s Buttons look like miniature carnations and have beautiful blooms. They are self seeders which is one of the ways that they can just take over an entire area. (My dreams are coming true, flowers everywhere and all the humminh birds I can take pictures of)

September 5

Do not eat them, if you plant them they are not for you they are for the surrounding hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. I cannot wait for mine to get large and in charge and take over my yard.

September 5

New addition: Morning Glory

Morning Glorys are more butterfly and hummingbird feeders. They are viney and have beautiful flowers that come in many different colors. Growing up to 10 feet a year morning glories make an excellent climber or thick ground cover.

Morning glories have tough shells on their seeds and usually need to be germinated before put into the planter. I germinated mine for twenty four hours and they popped up quickly. I them planted them and left them outside during the warm days.

It did not take them long to start popping up and showing off their lovely heart shaped leaves. They can be grown as a house plant in front of a full sun window and will bloom all year round this way. Otherwise Morning Glorys are annual plants that self seed and come back each year. Although I am germinating and planting them indoors for now I plan on planting them next year.

They are tough little plants that can become invasive and their seeds are poisonous to beds and children especially in large quantities. Morning glories do not like to be transplanted but I am going to try it anyway, because I think they will make a lovely addition to our butterfly garden area or maybe another area.

Morning glories need full sun. They do not like shady places and bloom better in nutrient dense, well drained soil but are also drought tolerant and can survive harsh summers.

Regardless, I am super excited about my morning glories and cannot wait until they are large and in charge.

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