Friday, September 29, 2017

under the blackwood tree

There I was for weeks counting down the days until the school holidays arrived. Imagining slow mornings when our body clocks woke us rather than our alarms, when we ate when we were hungry and all pitched in to clean up afterwards, and when we hung out together in the days on the farm getting things done and at nights playing games or watching movies. It would be the perfect mix of restful and productive. Everyone would get what they needed.

This morning, on the very first day of the holidays, I woke up to the sound of Bren on the chainsaw getting an early start and the girls only looking up from the film they were watching to ask about food, their own arrangements, or about the weather.

And all of a sudden the bubble of my idyllic holiday popped and it hit me that for the next two weeks I wouldn't be able to just grab some secateurs and gloves and go down to the plum orchard to finish the job I started yesterday, I wouldn't be able to grab a snack on the run, and there wouldn't be a time when someone wasn't talking to me or asking me to do something.

As I sat at the kitchen trying to drink my coffee I decided it was probably easiest to give in to them and give up my personal expectations of work for the day. I listened to a discussion of someone's camping arrangements, someone's birthday party plans, and to someone else's cough. I answered questions about boots, bus timetables and movies. And in my mind I saw all the spring planting and pruning and weeding that I needed to do over the next two weeks as a butterfly, slowly fluttering its wings and heading for the skies.

While the school holidays would be a lovely rest from all the driving, the homework, the exhaustion and the alarms, it looked like it was going to be rather unproductive on the farm front.

But just as I was contemplating the new plan and trying to come to terms with putting my own needs on hold, my farmer boy came in and reframed the whole scene. The girls would come down to the plum orchard and spend the morning helping us pull blackberry out of the rows, and in return we could look after them this afternoon.

It took me a few minutes to get rid of my earlier disappointment and fall in love with the new plan but when I did, I saw that it was golden.

With the smallest suggestion everyone got dressed in farm clothes, grabbed their gloves and secateurs and headed down the hill. We mowed, we raked, we yanked all those prickly blackberry vines out of the rows of plum trees and currant bushes and then we fed them to the fire.

After a few hours the girls took themselves off to find the swing Bren had made and hung for them when they were little under an enormous Blackwood tree. When they discovered that since their last visit a couple of years ago it had grown a thick thorny jungle, they started cutting a path in. Vine by vine they cut and then carried to a pile outside the tree. Vine by vine their path lengthened. Until they reached their dad-made swing.

After we had finished what we were doing we helped with their path for a while. It was gorgeous working for them and listening to them reminisce about playing under there when they were tiny and make plans for lots of swings under there in the future. I still can't decide if I should take the brush cutter to the blackberry jungle and clean it all up for them, or if the path between the prickles makes it a bit more fun and magical.

I am feeling a bit more optimistic about these holidays now too. With four extra hands (two are away camping), we should be able to get things done a bit quicker than usual and have extra time for their plans. I like it.

I hope you're finding some sort of balance in your world too.

Are you good at remembering what you need when life gets a bit crazy?
And how do you manage to fit school holidays into your routine??

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Lots of love,

Kate xx

Friday, September 22, 2017

a story of socks, spring and other sunshiny things

Hello honey bunches!

It's so lovely having you here again this week. Sunlight is streaming in through the (smudgy) windows, I can hear farmer Bren on the walk behind tractor spading into the green manure in the garden and I have that excited spring feeling in my tummy that anything is possible, probable even.

Having said that, I'm going to attempt to squeeze this in to a tiny little time slot today as I have meringues to bake for a family lunch tomorrow, I have washing to hang OUTSIDE on the line, I have pasta bake to cook for my big girls coming home from camp tonight, I have Miss Pepper's end of term school concert to attend and if there's any time left over after all of that then I'd love to spend it pulling winter vegetables out of the garden to make more room for spring flowers.

So let's do a bit of a 10 things about now blog.

Let's go!

The colour-work socks I just had to knit as a personal challenge and because I am slightly obsessed with colour-work knitting and am slowly working towards some bigger pieces.

After I cast these socks off my farmer boy promptly nailed them to the lounge room wall. True story! For me the beauty of knitting socks is that they are so utilitarian. They can be beautiful and creative but their main purpose is to be worn. But he thinks they are works of art and should be exhibited for all to see. Bless him.

The Ravelry details are here.

Is about how panicked I get at this stage in spring every single year. The sun comes out, I plant 1,000's of seeds in the greenhouse, I fill every empty garden bed I can find and then I freak out that I've run out of space and what will happen to all the rest of my plant babies? Where will they go? How will they grow?

So I'm slowly pulling the rows of over-wintered carrots, beets, spring onions, garlic and kale out of the garden and preserving them, so we can prepare the space for replanting.

Over the past two weeks and going ahead into the future, our builder friend Jobbo is spending three days a week working with farmer/builder Bren renovating our house. So far we've put some gorgeous shelves in the kitchen, replaced our ugly mantelpiece with a beautiful slab of wood, pulled the car-port down, rendered half the front of our house and pulled out all the bushes that were growing along it. We have big plans to extend the green-house, build a new space for our cars, include a wood-shed and then get going on my studio. Oh what fun! I'll get some photos and show you soon.

I'm reading my sister Abby's review copy of Peter Carey's new book A Long Way From Home.

I almost always finish the books I start. But generally I feel that you know if you should continue by page 60. I'm on page 56 of this book and am still undecided. I'm not all that interested in cars and the characters don't grab me yet, but I know there's some sort of race around Australia coming up and I do love that the bit I've read so far is set in Bacchus Marsh which is right up the road from us and feels local. One character even caught the train to Ballarat via Ballan, which is our train line, and hung out at Craig's hotel where my friend works, I do love that.

I think I'll give it a bit more of a chance.

We're watching episodes of UnREAL. I've never watched even one episode of The Bachelor, but I must say I am tempted now.

My elbows are sore and I don't know why. It could be from gym, it could be from gardening, it could be something that happens to me every year at this time because I vaguely remember it from last year, I don't know. I do know that I'm determined to not push too hard so that hopefully it'll disappear quickly and not linger.

My latest favourite thing to eat is scrambled eggs with spring garlic and spring onion, spinach, kale, parsley and herbs, delicious!

A few days ago I woke up filled with a sense of well being. I searched my life for the cause of this wonderful feeling. Was is the weather? Did I have something exciting going on? Eventually I realised that it was because all my girls were tucked up in their beds, in their rooms, in our house. So often these days they're out with friends or at school things, and it just felt warm and wonderful to have them here safe with me.

Another night I woke up and thought about the fact that all of our girls sleep through the night now and it would take something pretty big for one of them to wake us up. We're fully and completely in another stage of parenting now, wow. It's only a shame that after all those years of wishing they'd sleep through the night, when they finally do - I don't.

I've recently discovered and listened to a couple of episodes of Wardrobe Crisis the podcast and I really like it. Clare Press the presenter covers issues on her podcast like slow fashion, mending, responsible buying, waste, and they're just the episodes I've looked at or listened to so far. Living in a house where conscious, sustainable shopping and dressing is such an issue, I'm loving what this podcast is teaching me and how it is making me feel like we're on the right track.

We walked through the apple orchards this morning and I'm thrilled to report that things are looking good. The bees are flying, the trees look strong and healthy, some of the varieties are even at green tip and one had started blossoming! We're crossing our fingers tight and sending a little prayer up to Mother Nature for a still, sunshine filled October, so the blossom can come out, the bees can fly and pollinate and the fruit can set. That would make this farmer very happy indeed.

And that's me.

How about you?
Do you have somewhere to rush off to soon, or can you stay where you are for a while?
Do you finish every book you start?
Do you mend your clothes when they wear out?
Do you have something fun planned for the weekend?
I hope so.

Lots a love,


Friday, September 15, 2017

forest dancing

Hello honey bunches,

How are you feeling? How's your week been?

It's so gorgeous to have you here. I'm imagining you sitting in a comfy chair with your shoes kicked off. I'm imagining you've made yourself a hot drink and grabbed your lap top and have claimed these next few minutes for yourself. It's quiet, you're warm enough, nobody needs anything from you, there's nothing to do, you're here with me.

I've been sitting here scrolling back and forth through these photos wondering what I'm going to write about today. I feel good. I feel like my week's flowed from one thing to the next and I've kept up with it.   No major breakthroughs, and no major breakdowns (on my part anyway).

Maybe I should take you through the highlights...

I had my car serviced in Ballarat, we took the girls to Melbourne to buy overalls for Jazzy, we watched and fell in love with Given the movie, I drove the girls to school a bunch of times, I baked bread twice, and I went to gym three times.

I almost finished and have LOVED reading a book called Lab Girl: A story of Trees, Science and Love, I was emailed by lots of businesses wanting me to create content for them for free, I collected kindling from the forest, split lots of wood and kept the home fires burning and I started knitting another Guernsey Wrap for my Mum.

I planted peas, lettuces and leeks in the green house and broad beans and onions in the garden, I watched Bren and Jobbo build the most beautiful open shelves for the kitchen wall and I started to fill them up with jars and plates and bunches of flowers and I spent the most magical time in the top orchard picking daffodils with Miss Pepper.

I comforted all three of my girls who were upset at different times. I also woke them up in the morning, cooked them food, listened to them, laughed with them and kissed their sweet cheeks as they went to bed at night. I tried my hardest not to let the incessant rain bother me too much, I froze my toes off and I listened to and loved the Reply All podcast - The Case of the Phantom Caller.

I had an accidental coffee with my Mum, we had a pizza dinner reunion of the cast of Pepper's play and we remembered that this time last year we were flooded in and so even though it feels wet, it can't be that wet.

I watched the garden finally start to show some growth again, I saw so many joeys in kangaroo pouches and I felt optimistic in my heart for this growing season. I lay awake a lot in the night, I listened carefully to the sounds of the night, I tried again to meditate and I hoped that none of my girls inherit the bad sleeping gene.

We waved Miss Jazzy off on a five day hike, we waved Miss Indi off on an overnight trip to Melbourne and we picked Miss Pepper up from school a bit early because she had a tummy ache.

I counted five days for Pepper and nine days for the big girls until the end of third term, I dreamt of a break in the routine and of all the extra things we'll be able to fit into our days. I found chewing gum all through a load of washing, I hid in my bedroom in a grump and I felt grateful when Bren and Indi helped me scrape it all off.

I voted YES for marriage equality, I bought the sweetest Love is Love pins from My Bearded Pigeon, and I wished for a world where everyone feels equal to be who they want to be, love who they want to love and marry the person they love. It's that simple.

How about you? What have you been up to?
Have you listened to any good podcasts?
Have you had any great ideas?
Have you needed to hide in your bedroom in a grump?
Or dance to loud music in the street?

And with that I bid you farewell so I can go and look after my sick baby girl on the couch.
I hope your weekend is wonderful.

Love Kate


Friday, September 8, 2017

when instagram disabled my account

Last Saturday morning I was lying in bed, loving the fact that I didn't have to be anywhere anytime soon, sipping my coffee and reading the last couple of pages of my book. If I listened carefully I could hear the sounds of the girls slowly waking up, Bren and a friend using power tools in the shed and the birds calling to each other through the forest. I was warm and content in my little bubble as I reached for my phone to have a look at what the rest of the world was up to.

I started with the comments that had come through in response to my blog posted the day before. Thoughts on sock knitting, bowl carving, dealing with difficult shop keepers... I love the way your comments keep the conversation going. Like my blog is not a static piece of writing but an ongoing collaboration, a conversation.

And then I read a few asking me about my Instagram account. Where was it? Had I decided to have a break from social media? Had I deleted it?

Of course I clicked over straight away sure that my photos would be right where I had left them the day before when I'd posted a picture of a little tea party we'd shared in Bren's shed amongst the wood shavings and tools.

But, instead of finding my photo stream or my profile, there was a log-in page asking for my details. Ahhhh that's easy enough, I thought to myself while filling in my user name and email address, I've been logged out, easily fixed. But instead of resuming normal activity, a little square came up advising me that 'Your account has been disabled for violating our terms. Learn how you may be able to restore your account.' Then a blue Learn More box underneath which I clicked on quickly. The next page it took me to asked me all sorts of questions about what sort of account mine was, where I was posting from and my personal details.

I think at this stage I was still thinking that I had been logged out accidentally and that once I'd filled in my details I'd have my account back in no time. Obviously I couldn't have violated any of their terms or conditions so nothing bad could happen, could it?

Initially I was texted a six-number code and asked to use it to verify my account, but I couldn't find anywhere I could enter it.

Then I received an email asking me to confirm that I am the owner of my account by taking a photo of myself holding a hand written sign that includes my full name, user name and a code supplied in the email. The photo had to be well lit, include both my hands holding the sign and my whole face. Unless I fulfilled their requirements they would not be able to help me.

Although by this stage I was starting to realise that my account wasn't just going to reappear, I didn't trust the 'Hi, Thanks for contacting us. Before we can help we need you to...' email either. It felt like some sort of scam.

Maybe I'd been hacked!

I fully remember the first time I ever heard about Instagram. It was 2011 and we were about a week away from heading off on our caravan adventure, having coffee with my sister Emily in Fitzroy. She, who had originally introduced me to the period tracker app that changed my life, showed me through an app that allowed you to put filters and frames on the photos you took on your phone. She said it was possible to then go on and share your edited photos with the world, but she chose not to. Before this we'd played with the Hipstermatic app that made our photos look old school, but Instagram felt a bit more user friendly and natural.

I also remember the first time I shared an Instagram photo for the world to see and I promptly tweeted that I hadn't realised that Instagram was actually a social media, complete with comments and likes and follows.

And there began the slippery slope:Travel around Australia in a vintage caravan, take pictures, geotag the pictures, explain in the caption what we were doing, post, follow friends and family back home as they caught on, look at their pictures, like their pictures. Repeat. And it was simple and a bit messy back then. We used lots of filters, posted everything unselfconsciously and often, popped our photos in frames and liked everything we saw.

When we got home and I wrote a book about our travels I used Instagram to publicise it, I started seeing our farm differently as I posted it in squares and people liked them. And then one day I posted a picture of a cute, yellow vintage caravan I saw and got a notification that it had hit the popular page. I still have no idea how that happened or what it meant, but it sent a truckload of followers my way and that felt good.

In 2014 I got an email telling me that I was one of Instagram's suggested users which again sent 1,000's of new followers my way. But as I clicked on many of their profiles and saw that they were sexy models wanting followers, scary guys posing with weapons or cash, and buy-lots-of-follower accounts, I started blocking them and feeling icky about my life being so public and accessible.

On July 6th 2015, Instagram published a short story about us on their blog called 'Growing food with love and integrity'. That felt very exciting and brought with it a lot of interest from all over the world, including a follow and a post from Jamie Oliver!! (I still get a kick when he likes my photos and watches my stories.)

Instagram sent me Christmas presents for a few years in a row and last September we attended a party they threw with a table laden with food that looked like a garden, boxes of fancy doughnuts, stickers, badges, speeches and a photo booth.

Basically, apart from a couple of spikes, my Instagram life has been pretty low key and full to the brim with photos of farming, knitting, mothering, travelling and other family adventures, sometimes slightly filtered, often rambly-captioned, occasionally hash-tagged, mostly taken on my phone, never sponsored, never stolen, and never sexy.

And although over the years I have questioned the algorithms, the designerness, the use of proper cameras, the fact that people have several accounts, the dodgy ways people go about accumulating followers, and the fact that it feels much less friendly and much more businessy than it used to, I feel like I have stuck to what works for me and been true to that.

Which brings us back to last Saturday and all the awful thoughts that were starting to run through my mind. Had my account been hacked? Had someone reported me? Would I ever get it back? Could someone else use my profile? Did I have all the photos saved? How would I let people know? How would I ever find some of the profiles again? Was this the end of @foxslane?

Eventually Bren came in, I filled him in and he started googling. There were stories about some celebrities being hacked but nothing yet about the little people.

I posted to twitter, I took the photo with the information Instagram had asked for and sent it to them, I posted on Facebook and then I waited.

I felt like I'd been punched in the guts but I didn't cry or make a fuss. In fact I think I was quite calm. When the girls came in and we told them they weren't all that empathetic which annoyed me, considering how hysterical they have been known to be when they close all the tabs on their computers by accident or think they might have deleted an essay. But they eventually came around.

Later that Saturday afternoon reports started dribbling in that other people had lost their accounts too, including this blog post, and that this was quite a wide spread thing. Somehow, once I was aware that it wasn't only me, I felt more secure in my faith that order would eventually be restored and that I'd get my account back in due course. It might have been naive faith but it helped me move on and enjoy the rest of the weekend in any case. Including a switched off, unphotographed fathers' day which I can't help but think might have been farmer Bren's best present of all.

On the three days that I was locked out I noticed that I posted to and read Twitter for the first time in years, I posted thoughts, videos and photos to Facebook that weren't related to my blog and I enjoyed the interaction, I left my phone in the charger for long stretches of time, I checked every few hours to see if my account was back, I worried about how I would ever contact some of the people I chat to in instagram daily but have no other way of finding, when people wrote to tell me they missed my feed, checked to see if it was back, or had written to Instagram about me it meant the world to me. People wrote me the kindest messages. I was in the dark but I didn't feel like I had been forgotten.

I seriously wanted to be the type of person who didn't care so much about being locked out of an app. My life is dirt under my finger nails, knitting cabled beanies, cooking food my kids won't eat and cutting myself a crooked fringe, I live in the real world. But I did care. I do care.

I thought a lot about how much power we give over to our personal lives in social media. How we can spend years building up these beautiful profiles and relationships only to have them deleted with no warning or reason. How much care we put into our photos and responses only to have the apps dictate algorithms that feel random and sometimes cruel. And how much I take for granted that what is there will always be there.

More than once over those three days I wanted to refer to a photo to remind me of the date or of how something looked, only to remember that I couldn't access the information. I have the photos saved in my library, but I need to find a way to back up the captions and comments and to be able to contact some people who I feel like I know so much about but don't even know how to contact in real life.

On Saturday Miss Jazzy informed me that she was upset that I'd had my account disabled because it meant she'd lost a follower!!

On Sunday I posted to Facebook -
things i didn't get 2 post on instagram this weekend - sock knitting, wooden bowl carving, bundt cake baking, daffodil picking, organic farming - pretty controversial, no wonder instagram blocked me
On Monday I heard that people were slowly getting their accounts back and so I had confidence that it was only a matter of time until I had mine. On Monday it also snowed which was a bit mean considering I couldn't post videos and photos of the beauty. And seriously, if it snows and you don't post it on social media - did it even snow?

And then on Tuesday morning it was there! Everything exactly as I'd left it. Phew.

I had an email from Instagram informing me that it was back and 'we apologise for any inconvenience caused' but no reason for the inconvenience.

And aside from lots of lovely comments on my photos, that's about it. I'm happy to be back but I'm slightly more wary too.

So there you have it. That's my locked out of Insta story. If you're reading this because it's happened to you and you've found me through googling it, I hope it brings you some comfort - you are not alone.

So how about you?
Are you a social media addict?
Do you feel like you control your social media or does it control you?
Have you had a scary app moment?
Is all your online stuff backed up?
Do you ever wonder about all that data out there and what happens if it all disappears?

Have fun out there!

Love Kate


Friday, September 1, 2017

10 spring things

Hello honey bunches,

How're things looking from where you're sitting?

It's early Friday afternoon here. Bren has taken Miss Pepper to the orthodontist in Ballarat, the big girls are at school, the cat is asleep on a cushion next to me, the dog is by the front door, and I'm sitting up against the heating panel in the lounge room with my computer on my lap.

It's been a funny old week where we each took turns having an awful, sneezy head cold, but at the end of it everyone is feeling better and brighter than at the start. And that's got to be a good thing, right?

And of course it's the first day of September which means we've left winter behind (officially) and are bursting into spring. Hooray for that!!

So in order to commemorate one of my favourite days of the year, I thought I'd do a 10 things about right now blog.

Here goes;

Last week I got the most wonderful comment on my blog's Facebook page;
Shemmariah Beth - You know I was just wondering why I love these Friday arvo reads SO much, and I think it's because in a world full of blogs telling me what to eat, what to do and 12 steps to be what I need to be, this lovely little blog 'just is'. It's just about life, just as it is. And that is Bloomin' refreshing. Thank you Kate 😘

The second I read it I copied it and sent it out to everyone in my family to read. It meant the world to me. That is EXACTLY what I want my blog to be. I get so annoyed when social media tells me how to behave; how to raise my children, live a more meaningful life, style my home, set my priorities... I don't like the way everyone's an expert these days complete with hashtags and like Shemmariah said - 12 steps you must follow in order to get there. It makes me incredibly happy to think that I don't come across like that and I am so grateful that I am being seen and read the way I hoped I would.

Thanks again Shemmariah xx

When the sun came out yesterday I took full advantage and snapped some pics of the socks I cast off a few weeks ago. Shame my model wasn't feeling well, but you know, sometimes we just have to get rugged up and head outside in the name of our mother's art. I didn't keep her long though don't worry.

The Revelry details for the socks above are here.

I've been spending a bit of time in Bren's tiny workshop watching as he carves spoons and bowls in preparation for a local craft market that will hopefully be starting soon. Each piece of the tree holds its own story and it's such a privilege to watch him learn how to transform the wood while being true to its shape. I talk often about working with nature rather than against her on our farm and the way Bren is doing exactly that with his knives and pole lathe is humbling and so very beautiful I think.

Number four thing about right now also comes from a blog comment. Jane, author of one of my favourite blogs The Shady Baker, recommended a podcast episode of The Food Podcast called Wooden Spoons, the back story. I listened, I loved, thanks Jane.

It really is a lovely podcast filled with interesting stories on the topic, great music, and is bound to have you smiling, perhaps wincing in pain and definitely reminiscing about your own wooden spoon memories and thoughts.

I look forward to listening back through some of Lindsay's older stuff.

Since casting off all the socks I've been knitting lately I've been knitting beanies from the most beautiful hand-spun yarn. I just love how close to the source it feels, how it is so thick and then so fine and how greasy my hands feel after a session knitting with it. I must get some sheep and learn how to spin, I simply must.

Two days ago while waiting anxiously for a phone call full of news, I cleaned the cobwebs off the roof of our lounge room and kitchen. Partly because it was a job that had needed doing for ages, partly because it was starting to look like we live in a haunted house and partly because apparently I clean when I'm anxious. The reason really doesn't matter though because my house looks so much brighter now, I cannot stop looking up and smiling, and cleaning above my head is so much easier since I've been going to gym. Maybe it's a cliche but my house could certainly do with a full spring clean and hopefully this'll spur me on to bigger and better and more.

When you haven't made your beanie wearer a beanie for a very long time and then you do, the amount of gratitude they show you is immense.

Signs of spring: last night it was still light outside at 6.15, there are bunches of daffodils on the kitchen table and on the coffee table, Miss Pepper is planning her tenth (!!!!) birthday party, the proteas are about to flower, the daphne bush and almond tree are blossoming, the bees are flying, I wore a tee-shirt while weeding and forking a garden bed yesterday, I feel like life is full of possibilities.

A couple of days ago a shop keeper was quite abrupt and dismissive of me and it made me feel awful. Especially since I've been a loyal customer of this shop for quite some time. Once I got home I told my farmer boy the story and of my plan to write her a message letting her know how she'd upset me.

He gently talked me out of it, reminding me that that is her story and not to make it mine. Of that old chestnut - Be Kind - Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. She could be struggling with something herself.

He was right of course, although it did take me some time to shake off that ugly feeling.

I'm reading my sister Abby's review copy of The Red Haired Woman. It is a dense and slow story set in Istanbul of fathers and sons, a well digger and his apprentice, living with the past and uncovering its meaning.

Although it is only the beginning of the book, it's full of descriptions of digging a well by hand, and that's reminded me of the journey we've taken on our farm to find and access water underground. We started by borrowing a bore from the property next door, then we had an old water diviner walk our property complete with a metal wand that he held out in front of him to feel for ground water. Following his instruction we dug a 40 meter bore that we soon discovered wasn't deep enough. And finally we had a drilling company dig another bore, 100 meters down in the ground in a few hours. Definitely not nearly as romantic as a man with a pick axe down a hole sending up bucketloads of dirt, but much safer thank goodness.

Which brings me to now. The heating panel behind me has gone cold so I'll need to go and split some more wood for the fire, the washing machine is beeping at me to hurry up and hang out the laundry and it's time to start thinking about dinner.

Wishing you the most wonderful new season wherever you are, whatever you're expecting. May it bring  all that you need and all that you desire.

Do you prefer autumn/fall or spring?
Do you prefer apples or oranges?
Are you an anxious cleaner? Or does the amount of cleaning needed make you anxious?
Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend?

I hope the sun shines warmth on your face whatever you're up to.

Happy days.

Big love,



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