Monthly Archives: August 2013

Coop Du Jour 3.0

Chicken Garden and Coop from Farmhouse38The very fate of my marriage rests on the functionality of our newly made-over coop.  The Texan has really put his foot down; this is the last time we are re-doing the darned thing.  The. Last. Time.

Roger that.

The original coop design was….okay.  It just wasn’t great (even after we gave it several cute cosmetic overhauls).

The Original Chicken Coop from Farmhouse38

The made-over original coop.

It really was more of a run than it was a coop, and a rather useless run, at that.  Inside, there was a tiny curtain-enclosed roost box that also doubled as a nesting box.  It was always a mess, and also, I fear, not really protective enough in the winter.  In fact, last winter, we actually moved the coop and temporarily enclosed the whole thing with insulation and tarps to keep everyone warm and dry, which worked great, but gave the yard a rather shanty-like vibe.  Which made me nuts.

The Old, Worthless Coop from Farmhouse38

It still makes me twitchy to look at. Make it go away!!!

We finally decided that tweaking it one more time was just adding insult to injury.  With a year and a half of chicken-keeping under our belts, we went back to the proverbial drawing board.  I knew we could do better.

Additionally, my once gorgeous ‘secret garden’ that originally looked like this:

The Old Secret Garden at Farmhouse38

Was now looking more like this:

Do Not Repin this Awful Image from Farmhouse38

The junk scattered in the background is definitely because of the chickens. Definitely.

So, I knew that it was time to make this garden a ‘chicken garden’.  Which meant planting only chicken-friendly and chicken-proof plants.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The driving force behind the design of the new henhouse was insulation, insulation, insulation.  And a legit peaked, shingled roof (as opposed to the old slanted corrugated plastic one) so that this adorable weathervane had somewhere to sit.

New Chicken Coop from Farmhouse38

This sucker is sturdy: studded walls, filled with insulation sandwiched between an interior and exterior layer of plywood.  The entire coop and run sits on a bed of cement pavers.

This summer, with temperatures hovering up over 100 degrees, the inside of the henhouse stays pretty darned nice.  Fingers crossed, the same will hold true this winter.

I wanted every single element of the coop interior to be removable so that I could easily clean things–because cleaning was a real bear in the last set-up.  The roost bar, shelves, perch, and nesting boxes all come out easily.  Additionally, the shelves, nesting boxes, and floors are all lined with sections of vinyl flooring and oil cloth so that they slip easily out for quick cleaning.

New Coop from Farmhouse38

Gertie’s telling me about the egg she just laid (lefthand nesting box), while broody Clementine grumbles at both of us from the righthand nesting box.

I must sing the praises of this set-up.  With the shelf under the roost bar to catch all their nighttime droppings, this house stays SO CLEAN.  I simply take out the removable oil-cloth lining and hose it off every morning.

Interior of New Chicken Coop from Farmhouse38

A shelf holds important supplies up out of chicken-reach, and hooks allow for bundles of fresh herbs to be hung (which ward off pests and deodorize the joint naturally). This is a good shot of the oil-cloth lined ceiling. A note about oil-cloth–it gives off a lot of fumes when it is new; I cut these pieces and aired them out outside for several weeks before installing in the coop.

The Abominable Brood-Monster of Farmhouse38

The Abominable Brood-Monster….oh, broody girl, you really must get out and do something with your life!  Obviously, the new coop suits her just fine.

Chicken Run with Living Roof from Farmhouse38

The new run has a living roof and a offers a little bit of shady outdoor space for them during the rare times when they must be locked up.

Green Roofed Chicken Run from Farmhouse38

The roof is built on a gentle slant, and consists of a ‘planter box’ frame built of sealed 1×8’s, with corrugated plastic roofing (salvaged from the roof of the old run) as the bottom of the box. Moisture and weed barrier layers affixed to the inside of the ‘box’ assure that the soil will stay put, and that any water will funnel off the end of the roof and not into the run.

Green Roofed Chicken Run at Farmhouse38

Living Roofed Chicken Run from Farmhouse38

I absolutely heart the green roof.

Coop Weathervane from Farmhouse38

Some might say I did this remodel just for this adorable weathervane.

The New Coop at Farmhouse38

The door’s vents are covered in hardware cloth for safety, and cut into star shapes for cuteness.  Certainly gives it a little bit of an outhouse-y vibe, but I think that’s hilarious, personally.  The little lantern has a timer-operated candle that comes on every night at dusk.

The New Coop at Farmhouse38

Millie has a knack for perfectly-timed photo-bombs.

Armoire Garden Storage Closet from Farmhouse38

To the right of the hen outhouse is an armoire that I rescued from the curb and fitted with doors. This serves us well as a chicken supply cabinet.

Rusty Star Washer Stepping Stones at Farmhouse38

Some rusty star washers serve as stepping stones to the supply cabinet.

The chicken garden surrounding the coop has been a bit of give and take.  It is a finely-tuned balance; equal parts protective plants and shrubs, pest-deterring herbs and flowers, edibles for the chickens, and a few little bits of annual color (which are hard to have because the chickens usually qualify these as ‘edibles for the chickens’).

Scrap Wood Garden Pathway from Farmhouse38

The annual-lined pathway leading to the chicken garden is ‘paved’ with bits and pieces of wood salvaged from the old coop and our recently renovated old deck. Had to put all that scrap wood to good use somehow!

Scrapwood Garden Pathway from Farmhouse38

The bits of wood are adhered down with concrete and then backfilled with soil (as my intention is to try to grow some sort of creeping green, like thyme between them). Most of the wood bits are painted and sealed, but I did leave many completely naked so that they would weather. Obviously, if you want this sort of thing to last as long as possible, you need to seal every surface.  I regret nothing!!!!

Garden Gate Door from Farmhouse38

The entrance to the chicken garden is still this lovely old door (which was the original front door to the house), though I have gone and painted it a chippy green. I’ve had it pointed out that the sign phrase, which I intended to mean something like ‘Little Chicken Garden’, really doesn’t hold up in French.  It should probably read ‘Potager des Poulets’, as the term ‘de poulet’ refers to chicken as an ingredient–as in chicken soup, chicken sandwich, or chicken McNuggets.  I was going to change it, but upon reflection, I kind of found it funny to leave it this way…anyway, you can see a tutorial on how to make the sign, improper French or not, here.

The Frog Fountain at Farmhouse38

Just inside the gate is the frog fountain which is pretty much my favorite thing ever. It adds a fantastic amount of lovely water background music. I’ve obsessed over having this fountain since the first time I saw it in the Ballard Designs catalog.

Chicken on a Mission at Farmhouse38

This photo cracks me up. Eloise is on a mission. Around the backside of that fountain is a little protective, shady area where I actually have an automatic waterer set up for the girls. This is where she is headed. So far, the girls have wanted NOTHING to do with swapping spit with that frog.

The Chicken Garden at Farmhouse38

The main chicken garden is full of rose bushes, which offer great predator-protection and shade. A couple of wine barrels overflow with mints and basils and bright annuals.  I have also planted a small swatch of lawn for the girls to snack on.

I make a point to plant lavender, rosemary, mint, and basil wherever I can possibly find room for them in this garden.  The chickens are not interested in eating any of these plants, so they remain lovely, and they really help to deodorize the area and ward off flies and other creepy-crawlies.  Basil, especially, seems to send the flies packing.

The Chicken Garden at Farmhouse38

The Chicken Garden at Farmhouse38

The girls wonder why I have a random yellow chair in their garden. Sometimes I wonder this, too.  It’s there because I like it and it offers a fabulous place to sit for a spell and get your ankles pecked.

The Chicken Dirt Bath at Farmhouse38

At the far end of the garden is a designated dirt bathing spot (even though they have about twenty other self-designated spots throughout the property).

Chicken Garden Bench at Farmhouse38

A bench (and a mirror!) under a vine-covered arch offers yet another tranquil spot to sit and be pecked at.

Zinnias in a Rustic Caddy at Farmhouse38

This is a cute, colorful little moment I set up for the photo shoot….I give it a day.

Chicken Busywork in the Farmhouse38 Chicken Garden

Chicken busywork.

Despite this lovely little chicken-oriented garden, I still let my girls free range in the rest of our small yard for the majority of the time.  I like to allow them a ‘soft-supervised’ free range, which is where I am home and keeping a fairly close eye on them, but not stalking them throughout the yard.  When I have to leave for short periods (ie, running errands or something of the sort) I lock them in the chicken garden, which keeps them contained and fairly reliably safe from aerial predators.  There are times when we leave and know we won’t be coming back until after chicken-curfew, and these are the moments when they must be on lockdown in the coop and run.  It all seems to be working pretty well for us, so (knock on wood), I don’t see a Coop 4.0 happening anytime in the near future.

Do you hear that??  Somewhere a displaced Texan is sighing in sweet, sweet relief.

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

So, remember the time, back a long, long while ago, before the chickens took over the yard and I had my sweet little secret garden?  Yeah, me neither.  But this sign hung over the entrance:

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

Rough translation: Little Garden of Weeds.

Yeah, well….now the chickens have laid claim to my pretty little garden….and….it isn’t so pretty anymore.  But, I digress.

A new sign is in order!

I decided to go ahead and use the same pre-made little slab of wood (purchased in the wood craft department of Michaels), and just knocked down the lettering and finish on it with a power sander.  You know, rough it up a bit.

Now–time for the sign-painting magic.  As I’ve demonstrated before, all you need for this transfer method is some sort of basic computer design program, a regular old printer, and a china marker.

Design up your lettering and print it out–depending on the layout, I print it out in sections, or one word at a time.  This one was printed in sections:

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

I spliced this into three parts, but as it turned out, I only needed the two end print-outs.

Cut your words out and and make sure they fit properly on your ‘canvas’:

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

Fits like un gant.

Now, flip your print-outs over and color the backside of the letters liberally with your china marker:

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

Scribble like you mean it.

Now, replace your print-outs properly onto your sign, and tape them down in one or two spots just to keep them in place.  Use a pencil to trace your letters.

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

Clearly, I can’t seem to keep it within the lines.

Now remove your print-outs, and you should have yourself a nice little transfer!

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

Oh, yesssss.  C’est si bon.

Now, carefully paint (or frankly, paint-pen) your letters in:

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

For this sign, I started with dark brown for the letters….

Next, I stained the exposed wood with a weathered grey stain, and at this point, I decided I hated the dark brown letters and went and painted over them in white.  It’s what I do.  Then I did a faint white-washing over the top of the entire sign.

Yet Another Sign-Painting Tutorial from Farmhouse38

All nice and finished, hung on the garden door/gate.  I originally thought that this phrase roughly translated to ‘Little Chicken Garden’ (a ‘potager’ being a little garden off of a main garden, usually of the kitchen variety).  I was wrong.  It should probably read ‘Potager des Poulets’.  It was pointed out to me that the term ‘de poulet’ is more of a reference to chicken as an ingredient in a recipe, not an actual, living chicken.  Gah!  Woops.  But I think I’m going to leave it because I kind of think it’s a funny mistake.

Why the French?  Je ne sais pas.  I’m just kinda fancy like that (despite the fact that I have gone and bastardized this beautiful language almost beyond recognition.  **Sigh**).

DIY Farmhouse Table

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38Well, the decorating of the new deck is going a lot slower than the actual building of the deck, that is for sure.  I’ve not gotten to do much out there yet, but I figured I’d better go ahead and share the ‘how-to’ for our farmhouse table.  You guys asked, I deliver…..I give you: THE PLANS!

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

It was my pleasure to share and best of luck to you.




Just kidding.  Let’s see if I can translate….not everyone reads Texan fluently.  But a word of warning anyway: I’m not sure our ‘building methods’ are going to make sense to anyone other than us.  Game on.

To make this exact table (10 feet long, by 45 inches wide, by 30 inches tall), you will need:

— (6) 10 ft long 2 x 8’s (we used douglas fir, straight off the shelf)

— (4) 28-1/2″ long 4 x 4’s (table legs)

— (2) 111-1/2″ long 2 x 4’s, (table side pieces)

— (2) 36-1/4″ long 2 x 4’s, (table end pieces)

— (2) 38-1/4″ long 2 x 4’s, (table cross braces)

— (4) 12″ long 2 x 4’s, (table corner braces)

— (12) 6″ heavy-duty hex-head wood screws (we used these)

— (24) metal brackets (we used these)

— (96) 1-1/4″ wood screws

— (16) 3″ self-tapping, self-countersinking wood screws (we used these)

— probably about a quart of white or off-white paint (we used Behr Swiss Coffee, semi-gloss, but actually flat would be better)

— about a quart of some sort of dark-toned wood stain (we used Minwax ‘Espresso’)

— stainable wood filler (we used the Minwax variety that comes in the squeezy tube)

Tools required:

— power drill

— impact driver (but if you don’t have one, a power drill will suffice, if you pre-drill some of your screw holes)

— small power sander (though handheld sandpaper would work, too, you’re just going to sweat more.  Suck it up.)

— some sort of a miter saw to cut your wood

— paint brush

— stain brush or sponge, plus rags to wipe down the stain

Allrighty, then.

Start by cutting all your wood to size.  I then like to go hit the cut edges with a sander because I hate splinter fringe.  Also, I always tend to prefer painting/staining/finishing things like this before we assemble.  You don’t have to do it this way, you can save it till the end, but sometimes it allows you to better seal everything, and I kind of dig that.

So to achieve this finish, I put a sloppy layer of white paint on everything and let it dry.  I then gave it a good sanding with the power sander to remove the edges, give the paint some ‘tooth’, and give the whole thing an overall worn look (incidentally, this look could be replicated by using matte white paint, and painting it on sparingly so that raw wood is showing through in a lot of places).  Then I took my dark stain and applied and ragged it down over the whole thing, paint and all. Et voilà!  Weathered, farmhouse-y finish.  I should note that I was lazy and did not paint or stain any surfaces that wouldn’t be showing (ie, the underside of the table top, etc.).  If you really want this table to last as long as possible, you should seal allllllll the surfaces.  This is one of those do as I say, not as I do moments.  Let’s roll with it.

When all is dry, it’s time to assemble.  You’re gonna put together the table top first, upside down. Finding a flat work surface for this is pretty important (and easier said than done at our wonky house). Lay out your two 111-1/2″ 2 x 4’s, your four 36-1/4″ 2 x 4’s, and your table legs, which are the four 28-1/2″ 4 x 4’s.  All the 2 x 4’s need to rest on their narrow edge, not their fat edge (despite what it may or may not look like in this sketch).

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

Here is a drawing that may or may not help you. This is an upside-down table frame….not a dead insect.

When you’ve laid it all out, measure everything one more time….just to be sure.  It can’t hurt.

We started with one leg and one of the long sides of the table frame.  Attach the first side to the leg with a 6″ heavy duty hex-head screw using the impact driver (or pre-drill and use a power drill). Center the long frame piece in the middle of the leg since the leg is 4″ wide and the frame is only 2″ wide.  Next attach the short side of the frame to the same leg, in the same manner, only you want to stagger the two screws so they don’t hit each other.

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

This pic was taken obviously after things were assembled and put right-side up, but hopefully it gives you the idea.

Now, you’ve got one corner assembled.  Do that three more times.  I’ll wait here.

With the table frame still upside down, place your two 38-1/4″ 2 x 4’s as cross beams (they should roughly split the span of the table into thirds), screwing through the table edge with two 3″ self-countersinking screws into each end of each cross beam. This will leave screw indentations on the visible edge of the table that you will have to fill and touch-up afterwards if you are picky about stuff like that.  I’m picky about stuff like that.  And yet, I leave the underside of the table unfinished.  I digress.

Now flip the table frame upright.  You’ve got to put corner braces in each of the corners now; you’ll use your four 12″ 2 x 4’s for these.  But first, you want to cut the ends of the 12″ 2 x 4’s at a 45 degree angle with your miter saw so that they fit nicely into the corner–see unhelpful sketch below:

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

A message from my husband.

You’ll screw through the table frame and into the ends of the cross braces with your 3″ counter-sinking screws, two in each end.  Again, this will leave holes in the table frame that will need some attention later.  Now you want to send one of those big 6″ hex-head heavy duty screws through the center of the cross brace and into the table leg–just tight enough that it’s snug, not so tight that it cracks the cross brace.  That would be bad. Don’t do that.

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

Ignore the two metal brackets, those come later.

Now, finally, we are ready to place the table top.  Take your six boards and place them as you want them across the frame.  I didn’t want this too perfect, so I allowed them to be a smidge uneven on the ends, and while we aimed for about a 1/8″ gap between the boards (so that water will drain off), we didn’t obsessively stick to this.  Just more or less is close enough.  Now that the boards are placed, climb under the table and attach your metal brackets with your 1-1/4″ screws all along the frame of the table (don’t attach them to the underside of the table top just yet).  You basically want one bracket for each tabletop board, at each end and along each cross beam of the table. (So each table top board will have 4 brackets holding it on).

Oy, these doodles:

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

The red dots are L brackets, shockingly enough.  This amounts to 6 brackets along each end of the table, and six brackets along each cross beam, for a total of 24.

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

A nice shot of the table undercarriage. Naked! Eeek! Okay, I’m over it now.

Once you’ve attached the brackets to the frame all around, you need to have your sidekick (in this case, me) press down on the table top as you screw each bracket to the underside of each table top board. BTW, I chose to attach the table top in this manner because I didn’t want screw heads or countersink holes showing across the top of the table.  If those don’t bother you, then skip the brackets and screw straight through the table top boards into the frame (using maybe, say a 3″ countersinking screw).  This is definitely easier than using the brackets, and if you are pretty good at patching and touching up (which this weathered finish is very forgiving for), you’ll never know the difference.

To patch any visible screw holes, I just filled with the Minwax wood-filler (wiping the excess away with my finger), let it dry, and then hit it lightly with a sander.  I then dabbed on some white paint, and when that was dry, a bit of stain, wipe it down—done and done.

So if any of these shenanigans made sense to you, you probably have a new table about now!  Cheers to that!  And to everyone else….I’m sorry for the incoherent babbling.

Here’s some photos:

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

Awwww yeeeeaaaah.

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

A nice shot of the ‘weathered wood’ white paint + dark stain effect.

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

This really has nothing to do with the table, but I love my new party lights.  Thought I’d share.

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

Still nothing to do with the table other than they light it up quite effectively at night. Pretties.

DIY Farmhouse Table from Farmhouse38

…..and putting the farm in farmhouse table….Gertie makes her typical cameo.

An Updated Fairy Garden

The Fairy Garden at Farmhouse38
Yep.  Even the fairy garden’s getting a makeover.

For anyone who has followed along for awhile, you might know that the center point of our yard and gardens is a big ol’ grapefruit tree that I’ve bedazzled with chandelier crystals and mason jar candleholders.

The Old Grapefruit Tree of Farmhouse38

She’s a pretty old girl.

Quite some time ago, I ran with a whim and added a fun, little vignette to the base of the tree.  I do love some quirk in the garden:

The Fairy Garden of Farmhouse38

No. I am not too old for this.

I always thought this was pretty cute.  But, to be perfectly honest, while I appreciate those brightly-colored ceramic mushrooms they were a bit….how do I put this?  Obvious.  They just really stood out.  I don’t know why, but it kind of bugged me.  When you looked out into the yard at that gorgeous tree, your eye immediately went to those little pops of red and orange at the base.

The Fairy Garden at Farmhouse38

They are cute. Can’t deny it.

So after far too much deliberation, I decided to paint them a satin cream color; cutting down on both the color and the gloss.

The Fairy Garden at Farmhouse38

Painted like this, they are very similar to some of the real mushrooms that push up in these parts.

The pathway is still more or less the same.  It is made from pieces of Home Depot off-the-shelf ’tile’ sheets which are composed of little limestone pebbles adhered to plastic tile netting.  Cut into several bits and pinned by landscape staples into a meandering shape, they look pretty good as a little cobblestone path.  The problem?  Boy do those pieces fly like missiles when the chickens get to chicken-scratching.  Staples be darned.  I needed to make the thing a little more poultry-proof.  So for this reincarnation, I actually cut a pathway shape from 1/4″ plywood and then used dirt-colored grout to adhere the pebble tile sheets to the wood.  This created a very heavy single unit that the birds can’t do a darned thing to other than take a leisurely stroll along.

The Fairy Garden at Farmhouse38

While I wanted the mushrooms to be less conspicuous, I wanted the door to stand out a little more.  The original color of the thing was so weirdly close to the color of the tree bark that it practically disappeared into it.  Besides….I just love me a chippy turquoise door.  So using acrylic craft paint, I gave it a fresh coat, then distressed it with sandpaper.

The Fairy Garden at Farmhouse38

Chippy turquoise is, indeed, my favorite color.

The ferns have really filled in, and I love the way they create natural, pretty arches over the pathway:

The Fairy Garden at Farmhouse38

I’m also quite happy with the way everything kind of disappears into the grapefruit tree garden….

The Fairy Garden at Farmhouse38

Much less obvious.

I kind of wanted the vignette to be hidden in the fern forest under the tree.  I want people to stumble upon it, not see it from across the yard.  I think my little refresh achieves this quite nicely.

Cheers to never growing up! 🙂

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

What to do with all those gorgeous tomatoes that the garden is happily churning out?  Well, put them in your face, somehow.

Heirloom Tomatoes from Farmhouse38I love me a good tomato pie or tart, and I found this gorgeous recipe over at for an Herbed Tomato Tart.  I tweaked it a bit to work with what I had, but still, you get the picture.


— Approx. 3 mediumish heirloom tomatoes

— 1/4 teaspoon salt

— 1) (17.3 oz) package of frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

— 8 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese

— 4 oz of crumbled feta cheese

— 1 garlic clove, finely minced

— 1/4 cup finely chopped assorted herbs (I used sage, rosemary, and basil all straight outs the garden)

— 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

— sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Finely slice the tomatoes and lay them out in a single layer on paper towels, sprinkle with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and let sit for a half hour or so to wick away the excess moisture.

Place one of your thawed pastry sheets (two come in the box) on an un-greased baking sheet.  From the remaining sheet, cut four 1-inch wide strips, and use these to build a frame around the edges of the first pastry sheet (refer to photo below).

Bake for around 14 minutes, or until the pastry starts to turn a golden brown.

Once it’s done, remove from the oven and sprinkle on your mozzarella and feta cheeses.  Sprinkle the minced garlic over this.  Blot the tops of the tomatoes with a paper towel, and then lay them out across the cheese in more or less a single layer.  Top this with your chopped herbs, and then drizzle your olive oil over it all.

Pop it back in the oven for another 14-15 minutes or until cheese is fully melted.  If you like a little extra salt in your craw, sprinkle some flaky sea salt over the top and serve immediately (though, I gotta say, it tastes pretty darned good cold, too).

Here’s a photo bomb of the process for ya:

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

Sliced garden tomatoes drying like champions.  Thats a Tasmanian Yellow Blush, a Cherokee Purple, and a Bread and Salt for any of my fellow tomato freaks out there.

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

Fresh basil, rosemary, and sage straight from the garden.

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

Puff pastry dough frame going into the oven.

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

All assembled for the final countdown.

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

Fresh out of the oven and gorgeous. This sucker smells divine, too.

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

Come on. So pretty!

Heirloom Tomato Tart from Farmhouse38

It’s just….good.

Holla, tomatoes!

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