What is happening here? The advent of the new normal.
What is happening here? The advent of the new normal.

What is happening here? The advent of the new normal.

I’m already a social distancer, so this isn’t a stretch.

We homeschool and I already work from home and the farm quite a bit, so social distancing isn’t too far of a stretch for us. We live half a mile off the road and there’s only one other house on the same square mile section, so it’s not difficult for us to isolate ourselves.

Despite the normalcy of this week, I can’t shake a feeling that the world is just somehow different. There’s a feeling of uncertainty that I don’t want my children to feel. So as they gallop around the yard on stick horses like always, I watch with feelings directed inward so they don’t know I am worried about the world.

Last preparations

Monday, March 16th. A lot of my friends around the country have already been distancing, entering their third or fourth days of isolation. I had put it out on my social media that we needed to be doing it now and not waiting, and we stayed home all weekend, but I needed to make one last trip into town to my studio before I could spend the next two weeks at home with the girls.

At the studio, we gathered up my jewelry-making supplies, sheets of leather and the new vinyl cutter that I haven’t yet mastered so that I could work myself into oblivion if I choose.

We gathered Creek’s Nature Anatomy book and her science and history cards from last year so that she has plenty of stuff to read and review. We made sure to get her Memory Master flip book, as she is aspiring to earn a new bicycle when she achieves Memory Master status in our homeschool community at the end of the year, which is approaching rapidly.

We gathered up all of the little containers that I collect up year-round so that we can propagate succulents. We sell the you-know-what out of those in the end of April/beginning of May for Mother’s Day gifts, and we are behind on gettting the plants going this year, so we gather up little glass bottles to root cuttings in water before we plant them in little enamel coffee cups to grow on up for sale. We gathered the succulents we have been overwintering and loaded them up so we can use them to take cuttings.

I drug my little trailer into town today with the intention of hauling home another load of plaster from the upstairs apartment. So upstairs I went. I started by removing the trim and baseboards from the front walls, door and windows, and found another time capsule item…one of the trim pieces from the front window in the main room had information about either the carpenter or the person who crafted the trim.

“Gerry Geiste–Washington Mo.”

I started scraping down the plaster. The wall in the main room was that really hard, embedded-between-the-lath plaster, and was a lot of work to chip off the wall. When the main room got so dusty I was having a hard time seeing, I stepped into the side (bunk) room and started on it. The bunk room was smooth sailing as far as knocking plaster off the wall goes. I knocked it down until it was foggy in there too, and decided to call it quits, let the dust settle; I thought I would just come back later in the week of an evening without the girls and scoop it all up and load it. I already had enough stuff packed downstairs to bring home that it would fill most of the trailer floor anyway.

We fed the cats enough to last a few days, loaded the trailer, and headed home.

We got home right after Casey did, and he helped us unload and unhook the trailer so we could make one last run before our self-imposed lockdown: we needed to go to our cousin’s house and take some measurements to fill a custom order for them. I just delivered them a monster of a buffet on Friday; they love it and want floating shelves on the opposite wall to match.

Eight-foot-long buffet for my cousin Brandi and her husband Roger.
Next, floating shelves and kitchen table.

We need to go measure the wall, have a look at where the studs are at, and develop a game plan for making it all happen. While we are at it, God bless em, they want us to make them a new kitchen table as well, and we sat around their dining room table while it poured outside and we fleshed out a sketch with size and color specs. I can’t tell you how much of a blessing this order is; we were supposed to set up at one of our big spring shows, 2 Friends & Junk-Joplin, this week, but it has been postponed, for how long we don’t yet know, so having several jobs to work on during this isolation period is a huge relief. This is our last visit with friends/family for the foreseeable future, and on the drive home, I wonder if we will even be allowed to deliver these products when they are finished, and how long until we are able to travel around again without concern for our health.

Social media postings reflect that a lot of people are still going out and eating in large groups togeher at restaurants, and bars are gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow. I also feel an underlying attitude of flippancy toward those of us who are proponents of social distancing, like this is unnecessary, we are overreacting, and the media is just blowing the whole thing out of proportion. They are practically making fun of others for taking it seriously. I think the attitude is that “Well, they’re saying that young people don’t get it, so I’m in the clear.” In the coming days, reports will be delivered that the virus is mutating and that young adults and even small children are now getting sick.

Our local Walmart is practically empty. We are hearing that people driving down from Kansas City, almost two hours north of us, are keeping the store depleted. We are fortunate to have a really nice small-town grocery, Muncy’s, in a neighboring town about 20 miles away, and Casey was able to get everything on our list there last week.

A Wild-school kinda day

Tuesday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a chilly morning, I discover when I let the dogs outside first thing. I drink my first cup of coffee as I wake the girls, then get them dressed in layers and insulated Carhartt bibs before I make a second cup of joe and head outside. They head off to catch the horse, Rusty, and I head for the junk shed, where I have aspirations of making tiny elephants from old window locks and other rusty detritus, and soon get sidetracked by the mess in there, remnants of whirlwind work shifts lying to the sides of the path, rusty metal bits littering the metal cutting bench, ‘new’ junk I’ve brought in and not sorted and filed away crowding open spaces.

It’s beginning to warm up, so I shove that to the side and head for the back yard. I need to start cleaning up last year’s expired annuals and inspect the jungle for “new babies,” perennials that have perpetuated themselves in stray places in the large border. I don’t want to mulch over them, and if they’re too out of place, I’ll have to transplant them to a better location.

Before I can even get into that, I’m distracted by the, well, trash, that is, well, everywhere. We had a small kiddie pool, and after a couple years of use, it became brittle, and a good fall storm picked it up months ago and dashed it against the swingset, breaking it into about a hundred small, hot pink pieces. Disjointed mermaids and seahorses litter the yard on their hot pink rafts.

I holler at Creek to release the horse and go get the little wagon, and when she returns with it, I set about instructing her on picking up trash and sticks and whatnot about the yard, which involves me actually telling her every piece to pick up as I rake the oak tree galls out of the yard to save the mower blades and the house windows, lest I have to go back later with the wagon myself and do it again. Cale stops acting like a wild mustang for a few minutes here and there to assist.

While we’re cleaning, I notice a few choice wild greens in different locations about the yard, and after we get the bulk of the cleanup done, I send Creek inside to get our foraging materials.

Field garlic and violets. The garlic can be strong, but is really good chopped fine and sprinkled over a main dish. The violet leaves lend a lemony zing to a salad.

We have two favorite books on natural medicine and wild foraging, which we carry with us when we go to the woods or out on our nature walks or gator trips. Backyard Medicine {affiliate link} is a book on native plants and how to use them for food and medicine, and it happens to be over $5 off right now. I love the historical references in this book on plant usage (it has entries for each plant in alphabetical order), and it has excellent recipes for using and preserving the harvest for food and medicinal purposes. Our copy is well worn; we refer to it quite regularly. Midwest Foraging {affiliate link] is the other, which also happens to be on sale right now, for over $7 off. It is a more straightforward approach: the front of the book is divided into the four seasons and the plants you can forage in each season, and the rear of the book has an individual listing for each plant. Unlike Backyard Medicine, every plant listed in this book is native to our area.

If you’re interested in harvesting edibles and simple medicinal plants right in your own yard, these books will set you on the path to self-sufficiency. I’m not saying you have to want to live off the grid, but a salad made from greens you harvested with your kids in your back yard is right tasty, and it’s pretty empowering to know which plant’s leaves to grab and mash up to slap on a wasp sting to calm the cries of an injured little!

Creek also LOVES learning this information. She’s all about learning the plant names and their uses. It doesn’t SEEM like she’s learning either. I am always looking for this kind of thing: subjects she loves to learn without seeming like we are schooling.

I knew the salad green basics: dandelion, chickweed, henbit and plantain combine to make a flavorful salad mix. But we learned something new from Midwest Foraging today: wild violet leaves will lend a lemony flavor to the mix. If there’s anything we have in abundance in our jungle, it’s violets. They grow EVERYWHERE back there. I have given up the prospect of mulching them out and opened my arms to them as a ground cover. Like the henbit and chickweed, the violets are greened up and loaded with tender new leaves right now. I can’t wait for them to bloom; the flowers (a violet color, of course) are good for brightening up a salad, decorating cakes and cookies and you can even ‘candy’ them.

I’ve long ago let the violets take over mulch duty in my shade bed. As they grow, this entire area is a green carpet that doesn’t allow weeds to break through the canopy.

We checked the entries in both books on wild garlic, or field garlic, and learned how to differentiate it from wild onion. We harvested one wild garlic bulb that had a big fat stem stretching toward the sky. It was growing out in the yard, so it would be mowed off soon anyway. We also clipped the tops from a small but thick patch, to cut up into little pieces to add an oniony-garlic flavor to our salad.

I chopped the fat stem up and saved it for a batch of chowder I was planning on starting. The smaller bunch of stems, I chopped up and put in a small jar in the fridge to use as needed.

On our trip around the yard in search of large dandelions from which to harvest leaves (don’t worry, my bee-loving friends; we didn’t uproot any, we just took enough leaves to increase our salad harves but left enough to perform photosynthesis so the bees would have flowers), we stumbled onto a volunteer mustard green plant, a volunteer from last year’s crop. Upon closer inspection, we found we had a patch of half a dozen or more small plants, and we weeded around them and built a small rock fortress to save them from being mowed off or stepped on.

A tiny mustard green seedling, apart from the main group that we found. I marked it with a large piece of sandstone to protect it from trampling.

Greens procured, the girls were tiring of learning new things and cleaning, so we finished the cleanup effort quickly and retired to the house for some lunch: bologna sandwiches and wild salads. I talked the girls into trying Miracle Whip and mustard on their sandwiches, hoping they would like it and abandon their love for Ranch on EVERYTHING. I rinsed the greens and used scissors to cut them up into salad bowls. Creek is a die-hard Ranch fan, so I hooked her up, and at her request, dashed a bit of salt and pepper on top. I’m in love with Skinny Girl Balsamic Vinaigrette, which was a delightful pairing with the wild greens. I topped my bologna sandwich with greens as well, and it was delish.

After lunch, it was getting on toward 2 pm, so I settled them down with their Kindles and got started on dinner. I had a plan to doctor up a packet of potato soup mix that I had bought from a school fundraiser. I successfully turned a 4-cup mix into a huge cast iron dutch oven full of corn-potato chowder before turning it down to simmer, gathering the girls up with a movie and heading over to the wood shop, where I had work waiting for me.

Rada Cutlery potato soup pack. I already added corn and field garlic; it is simmering for the time being, before I add 5 potatoes that I’ve already diced and boiled.

While they watched The Greatest Showman, I sketched plans for birdhouses and finished a bunch of little contraptions that keep your sewing machine foot pedal from sliding under your sewing table, then I took a couple pics and drafted a social media post advertising their function, how they can change your life, their dimensions and the price ($15 shipped!). Then it was time to gather the girls back up and head back to the house, as I still wanted to bake some cornbread while the chowder heated back up.

Just a rough sketch with measurements so I can cut tin for the rooflines.

The time change is allowing evening time to slip away from us; every night, it seems like we just got in the house but it’s already 9:30. We usher the girls off to bed and settle in ourselves and it’s done past 11:00.

The tone on social media seem to be shifting away from the sarcastic pessimism and conspiracy theories that have been flooding it in past days, and the attitude is supportive of fellow man. My friend in Italy has been warning us here in the US about the seriousness of the situation, and without her input, I’m not sure we would be taking things as serious as we have thus far. She posts about her nearly month-long isolation, today sharing a screenshot of her and five friends holding “virtual happy hour,” via facetime or skype on their phones, all toasting with wine glasses. I think this is a great idea and wish I had some wine.

Just another distancing day

Wednesday, March 18. Day 3 of social distancing. It rained a bunch more last night. It has been raining off an on again for the last several days. The farmers got a few days of sunshine recently and they were all running fertilizer like crazy, then it started in raining again and hasn’t let up for more than 36 hours at a time since. The sun has hardly shone either. I wake the girls around 8:30 and we snuggle for awhile and watch cartoons. I get dressed, make coffee, and examine my seed trays and cuttings in the garden window. If they don’t get some sunshine and warmth soon, they’ll just turn into a mold farm. I bring the small heater in from the garage, point it toward the window and turn it on. I also turn on the flourescent light over the sink. I give instructions for Creek to make eggy cheese for breakfast before she starts on her school work before heading out to the junk shed.

My garden window. I’ve outgrown it, and am planning on having the large greenhouse up and operational by September. For now, I’ve found creative ways to stack trays up in there.

How do you feel about giving a 9-year-old this kind of responsibility? I think that because I do, Creek has managment skills that are admirable and necessary for a family that involves their kids in the family biz. I won’t lie. Sometimes, she shirks tasks like changing the laundry and gathering the dishes, and for that she gets to do pushups, which she hates. I don’t rely on her every day to help get her little sister around, but a couple times a week helps them learn to work together, helps Creek learn how to get her sister to cooperate (so so important), and helps me because sometimes being a homeschooling mama business owner is so so hard and having a little help is so so awesome. Having the regular chores to do also helps her to appreciate when she gets an allowance to spend.

I walk out to the junk shed to see where I’m going to start on my reorganization, with intentions of hunting for legs and ears for these little elephants I’m working on assembling. I end up starting out doing some tidying up, freeing up space to move about in there a little easier.

Disjointed elephants will be a small herd soon.

Gah, it’s a trip being a creative. How do I make SUCH a mess??? I work to make a huge dent in the mess, moving things from the walkway to empty voids in the periphery, then while I’m rifling through new junk that hasn’t been sorted out and filed away, half-heartedly looking for elephant parts, I decide to give a go at doing a quick video, a junk shed tour. I’ve been tossing the idea around for a few weeks, but just haven’t bit the bullet and tried it out. Making room to walk around in the junk shed was the first step, so since I just did that, I figure why not.

The idea is to just explore one little part of the junk shed in a 3-4 minute video, and show y’all the various junky parts and pieces that I keep in a semi-organized state while throwing out ideas of what I might ultimately do with it: a junk shed mini-tour. After some input from a colleague, I settled on Junk Shed Shorts as a name for this playlist on my youtube channel. I plan on doing at least one a week. The shorts won’t actually be limited to THE junk shed, since I have salvaged materials stored in several different buildings, but I fugure it’s fair to call it that bc hey, it’s all junk, and it’s all in sheds, right?

Posing with “cat whiskers” in my first episode of Junk Shed Shorts.

Video finished and in the process of uploading to my phone, I go back inside to see how the girls are progressing: they are done eating, the dishes are squared away, Creek has done her memory work and is trying to talk Cale into getting dressed, but Cale is refusing to put on clothes, so I intercede and move the process along, getting her dressed and being sure Creek is adequately clothed. It’s really nice and warm outside despite a lingering, heavy misty precipitation in the air, so I have decided they need to get outside and play. We can barely see the treeline in the distance. I send them off to check on the horse and play on the swingset, which we have rigged up with old saddles instead of swings, where they like to play wagon train, trail ride, and rodeo for hours on end.

I head back to the junk shed and set about cutting parts and welding little elephants together. I have about an hour before I have to break away and get cleaned up before my weekly video conference with my business mentor. I end up getting all the parts cut and I get one elephant welded together. It’s super CUTE! It needs to be painted flat black, because honestly, with all the different colors of metal in different stages of rust, it looks pretty homely, and I’m betting a coat of flat black will totally change the look.

Mom fell in love with the first elephant. She decided she want her to be pink, so we are experimenting. She is painting a crackle glaze on her now, and we are going to try spray painting pink over that to see if the crackle works on spray paint.

I head into the house and get my shower in before making a quick lunch. I get the girls fed and set about running them a deep bath to play in while I’m on my business call. I tell my mentor I’m tossing around the idea of starting a podcast with some of the ideas that I’m getting from my audience, but am in turmoil because I feel like I’m just starting to gain momentum on my youtube channel, which was my main goal when I started this particular business training. I am derailed from podcasting at the time being, which is fine. I’ve freed up enough time as a result of this training to be able to address issues with my business that I’ve shoved aside for quite some time, so taking on something new is not really in the cards for me right now. We discuss the name for my new youtube playlist and I ask for help from one of the other people on the call with launching a Kit of the Month product, which I have no idea how to get going. I love these weekly calls with this group and will miss them when the time comes for the training to end.

After my conference call, I gather everyone up and we head to the wood shop. I need to keep working on preparing my salvaged materials for Kansas City. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to go up there, but I want to be ready, and I need to bundle white fence pickets and large wood trim with shrink wrap and price it all before the time comes to load it up and haul it to my new digs in the West Bottoms. I haven’t announced yet that I’ll have a space up there, because first I didn’t want to overshadow my Joplin show, but now that has been postponed, and the announcement would be overshadowed by coronavirus. So here’s the scoop, delivered in a totally un-glorious manner.

Our first trip to check out the West Bottoms, back on March 6-7, was successful.
We found two spaces we really like.

The attitude on social today is even more serious. I don’t see any rude (in my opinion) posts about how others are silly for social distancing. There are futher reports of people hoarding all the food and supplies they can get, and there are reports of people who are sharing what little they were able to obtain. There is the stain, and then there is the stained glass.

Spring is finally here

Thursday, March 19. As I type, I look out at the oak tree outside my window, and it has bright yellow buds all over! The weather has been warm and humid, and the wind is picking up steadily. It rained at least 2 more inches last night, and I can see the high water 3/4 of a mile away in the pasture. Casey had texted me this morning after he left; he said he barely made it out the driveway, the water was so high.

Casey works at Redneck Blinds in Lamar. Redneck Blinds are the Cadillac of hunting blinds, offering superior comfort out in the woods. Casey works in the warehouse, for which I am thankful, as he could still be over in production with a lot more employees. They put the warehouse on lockdown on Tuesday, which put me at ease a bit. It means people can’t drive right up to pick up their product anymore. Truck drivers aren’t even allowed inside to use the bathrooms. They are still busy as ever: he said he loaded seven semis yesterday.

The sun acts like she really wants to come out, but the clouds quickly squelch her. While my kettle heats, I turn the flourescent on my plants and switch the little heater on for awhile. The rain starts up again, tapping on the roof of my garden window. As I grind my beans and prepare my morning supplements, I wonder if the sun is EVER going to come back to us.

I need to go over to the wood shop today. I have a project in progress for my mom: a new TV stand made from rough pine beams. The parts are all cut and she edited/approved the design last night; I just need to assemble it and give it a good sanding. She is supposed to pop in the studio and grab me the stain she wants for it this afternoon before she comes home.

Mom is the Deputy Assessor for Barton County. She still has to go to work, but the courthouse is on lockdown. 15 people work on the first floor and less than 10 upstairs in the courts. People can call in and pay their tax bills by phone or pay online, but no one is allowed inside except county employees.

She concerns me most, as she is immune compromised. She has a history of asthma, and she has been in remission from breast cancer for 6 years but still feels the fatigue associated with radiation treatment. She has been fighting some respiratory crud for over a month and was diagnosed last week with upper respiratory and sinus infections.

The TV stand is going to be beautiful. I’d do just about anything to make the woman happy, and it pleases me to be making something just for her.

I have to be back home by 2:00, as a lady is driving over from near Pittsburg to look at our pool robot and hopefully purchase it. I have had it listed for a couple months on facebook marketplace, and the cash would be especially handy right now, as we need to pay a couple of bills, and without this week’s show, every cent of income is a blessing.

I sell the robot for $300. That’ll pay my city electric, the county water, and buy some groceries. Casey and I need to go to Lockwood; his dad has two loads of wood for us to pick up and bring back, and Muncy’s is our go-to for groceries right now.

After the robot people leave, I have the girls come inside and tidy up the living room. Our homeschool community met today on Marco Polo for Week 21 lessons, and we haven’t watched it yet, so with a clean room, we settle down for snacks and school. This week’s science experiment involves building a catapult, and we have a bag of supplies to build it that was dropped off this morning by a member of our community, but we decide to build the catapult with Dad here.

After we run through school, the girls and I smudge the house with sage and Palo Santo wood. We have our reasons, sage being very cleansing and Palo Santo is said to ward off sickness. We adore the smell of both too.

We head back to the wood shop. Mom is going to join us after she gets off work. I am thrilled, as this is the first time she has felt up to doing anything extra in nearly two weeks, or so it seems. She helps Cale and I apply the Golden Oak stain to her TV stand, which she loves by the way. Casey helps me move it off the table to dry until tomorrow, and we all experiment with building birdhouses and faux finishing mini elephants.

It lifts my spirits to spend a couple hours with Mom. We all talk about news coming from our friends. One is an Apache pilot, and he has warned his family today by phone to not travel to Springfield, as new cases are cropping up there quickly (news reports say only 60 tests were performed in all of MO today, so I feel like we have NO idea how magnified the virus already is in our state). We discuss the possibility of having our travel limited. I wonder if I should get to KC with a load of stuff next Wednesday if at all possible, as we speculate that our travel capability will be shut down by the end of next week. I can do my work up there without being around a lot of people, very few in fact, so the trick will be in getting up there and back without stopping for a bathroom break. I would love to have my booth set up so that when this is all over with, it’s ready to accept shoppers. However, I am not sure it’s worth the risk.

Our landlords that we rent pasture from are here from Maryland. They were going to stay here for a week, then tour the American southwest, visiting several national parks along the way before swinging back through here for a stay before returning to Maryland. They have already canceled all their arrangements for the southwest trip, and with all the rain, it’s impossible to do very much work on the farm, so they are talking about their plan of action if travel gets limited: pack sandwiches and fruit and just drive. They usually make the drive in two days, stopping for a stay at a hotel along the way, but in this situation, they just want to make bathroom stops and haul rear to the east coast.

Creek goes home with Mom to help her clean out her current TV stand so we can deliver the new one tomorrow. The old one is full of candles, old coloring books, and other clutter, and I instruct Creek to be helpful and to not get sucked into the television.

At home, Casey preps dinner (super simple scalloped potatoes with smoked sausage) and we talk about tomorrow’s plan. I hand him the robot cash so he can take care of the bills in town and we decide to go to Lockwood tomorrow evening after he gets off work. I haven’t been away from the house since Monday, so we discuss whether it would be best to just send Mom with him since she has been getting out to the courthouse every day, but this worries me as she is immune compromised, and he assures me it’ll be fine if I go. We just need to keep our distance from others and wipe down the cart.

I haven’t gotten into the jewelry supplies that I brought home from the store yet, so I dig in and begin setting out projects that can be worked on here at the house. I am the type of creative who loves having a dozen different projects going at once; I don’t get any downtime or boredom that way. My projects are usually in different stages of “done,” meaning one just had glue and clamps applied, one just got a fresh layer of patina paint, one I’m kinda stuck on and am awaiting fresh inspiration, one is finished and hanging on the jewelry mannequin awaiting a photo sesh, and another is on a jewelry tray, waiting for me to finish finding all the parts and pieces I need in order to start assembly.

This is JUST the jewelry. Every one of my work areas looks like this. The junk shed has elephant parts on the counter, with a Singer sewing machine emblem lying there that I’m going to make into a sign that hangs on the wall. The parts for it are cut, like the elephants, and I need to weld it together before I get the plasma cutter back to it and do the finish cutting; then, it’ll be ready to give a coat of flat black paint. To the far side of the bench, there are old plumbing faucets that I want to make into cute decor for outside. They need the right size pipe located to make stems for them, then I can cut the pipe to length and weld the stems on. They also need some slick rod cut down to build “feet” for them for stability so that when they are stuck in the ground, you can hang a bucket from them (like they are waiting for you to turn on the tap) and plant some posies in there, without the whole thing toppling over.

The wood shop is bench parts awaiting tops (I use scrap from the large furniture to build these, so as I get the scrap, I cut the parts), birdhouse wood, metal pieces I have cut to make pretty entrances for the birdhouses, perches, metal sheets for roofs, scrap wood that has been sanded down to make little signs (I like making little ‘shelf-sitters’), and notebooks that I sketch my designs into for further reference, because if I don’t get it out on paper, it gets shuffled to the back of my brain and is usually unrecoverable when needed.

I bring my dinner plate to the jewelry table and fish for beads for a particular project between bites. After dinner, I’m tired, so I retire to read to Cale and get her to sleep. We read Room on the Broom almost every night, and she has it memorized. I read a few words and pause, and she fills in the blanks. I have it pretty much committed to memory by now at this point, but I like to point at the words as I read. She gets snippy if I don’t point at the words. She eventually wallows herself to sleep and Casey carries her off to bed. I end up getting the best night’s sleep I have had in a couple of weeks.

Bumps in the night

Friday, March20. I wake in the exact position I fell asleep. Thank the Lord. The last couple weeks have been basically sleepless. I have slept, but it is poor quality and I wake up sore and tired. Lots of coffee has been consumed.

We have had really strange bumps in the night, with Casey and I springing from bed to see what is outside, but there is never anything there.

This has gone on for nearly two weeks now. We can’t catch anything on our game cameras either. Yesterday, the girls and I burned sage while invoking a prayer. We opened doors and windows, poked the smoking sage bundle into every last corner of the house, and invited any and all negative energy to leave us. Casey thinks I am so weird. But ever since the first time I burnt sage to cleanse our house, I felt a huge difference. And this time has not failed me either, so far, as I feel refreshed this morning. We will see if we hear anything in the coming nights.

It happens anytime between 2:30-6:30 am. The sound is never the same. It started out on a windy, stormy night as an intermittent tapping on the side of the house that lasted a couple of minutes. 3 nights later, it was the same tapping: intermittent, but it sounded like a different object was used. The next time, a few nights later, I was ready. It was the intermittent tapping, sounding like a tree limb. I put on a headlamp, tossed on my coat, jerked on my boots, and went outside with Nev. I saw glowing eyes off by the pond dam, like a small animal, but nothing was out behind the house. No footprints. We put up game cams that day. The sound happened again the next night, and Casey and I both went outside. Nothing was there. The game cam pics show that the clothespins on the clothesline moved, but nothing was in the pics.

The first pics of any “action”…the clothespins on the line moved between 9:50 pm and 5:40am. It looks like someone is there with a flashlight. The camera does not flash.

The next time, a couple nights later, I was lying in bed awake at 3:30 am. Cale had not been sleeping well that night, and she had RAN in and piled in bed with us about an hour earlier. She was asleep between us, but had been kicking the wadding out of me, so I was awake when it came: a staccato burst of 5 quick raps on the outside of our bedroom wall. That’s all there was. I woke Casey, and we both headed outside. Again, nothing was there. We were back inside, lying in bed talking about it, when Cale woke up and told us that “the lightning knocked on my bedroom wall; that’s why I came to sleep in here.” It had not stormed that night. I checked the cam the next morning, and sure enough, the camera was tripped, one pic had been taken, and the wall out there was lit up like someone had been out there with a flashlight. That night, I had to sleep with the girls. The cat was out of the bag. Cale had told Creek about it and they were afraid to sleep in their room. I had locked the house up, as at this point, I was pretty freaked out. All that happened that night was a crappy night’s sleep; nothing else. Three of us in a twin bed was not good for momma.

This was when Cale piled into bed with us, about 45 minutes before the fast hard rap on our wall. Again, our cam doesn’t flash when it takes a pic.

Wednesday night, nothing happened, but when Casey was up and “doing his bathroom routine,” at about 5:50 am, I woke to what sounded like Casey rapping on the side of the woodstove pipe, which he does to knock creosote out of it when it gets plugged. I called out his name, but he didn’t answer, and then I heard his footsteps. So he wasn’t outside. I heard him open the sliding door. He went around the house and the wood stove with a spotlight and there was nothing there. He made sure everything was locked up before he left for work. I brought the girls to my bed and they went back to sleep. Casey texted me and said he barely made it out the driveway. It had been storming for hours, and the flooding was awful. WHY would someone want to brave inches of pouring rain to torment us? The cam in the front yard had been tripped at 4:58 am, but once again, nothing was in the frame but the side of the house.

This one also looks like a flashlight of some sort is being used. It’s an hour before the noise starts and Casey goes outside to investigate.

The possibilities were not endless as to what it could be. There’s no way a human would be traipsing half a mile from the road in pouring rain just to knock on our house at night. There were no animal pics on our cams. As a matter of fact, the pics were entirely empty! So I used an entire bundle of sage and a prayer, repeated over and over and over. I gave each girl a little bit of burning sage, and they repeated the prayer with me. We did the upstairs, the basement, and all around the outside, paying particular attention to the windows and doors. After we were done, I had to sit down for a few minutes. I felt depleted.

You can see the flooding down in the pasture from the front door. If someone is coming up here during this awful weather just to mess with us in the middle of the night, then they are seriously committed but deranged.

I began using sage in our house about a year ago, when I realized that I (and Casey and the girls) would suddenly be overwhelmed by negative feelings; it felt like those feelings just sucked joy away and had the capability to cast a pall of ill feeling over our house for hours at a time. The girls both didn’t sleep well, and Cale was all the time up crying between the hours of 2:30 and 4:30 am. Since I started smudging with sage regularly, these problems have eased. We burn Palo Santo wood when sickness is going around, and sometimes just because we love the smell.

I burnt an entire bundle of sage yesterday and got what feels like the best sleep of my life last night. Time will tell how well it worked, but I’ll probably wait a few days and do it again.

Mom plays hookey

Today, Mom took the day off work, so we are going to work on projects together. I need to finish welding up the elephants so we can paint them, and we talked about building birdhouses. Sometimes we don’t follow our plans though, so we’ll see where the day leads us.

Mom and Creek left Cale and I to our own devices for most of the morning. After they came up, we got busy, but like I said, not as busy as we had planned.

We pulled the meat off a whole chicken and put the bones in a stock pot on low heat. While Mom pulled chicken and got the pot going, I did the dishes and cleaned the sink. We discussed our neighbors, who are feeling like they are running out of fresh things to do. Amie lives with her two daughters. The oldest has twin boys, 2 years old, so I gather up a couple farm-themed floor puzzles for them to do with the boys, and I add 4 other puzzles that we did last year to the bag. I offer up our second Lego table, but they’re set on Legos. I add to the bag a couple sets of wood pieces for making mini flower presses, thinking that if they so desire, this could be a fun motive for going out traipsing around the yard, looking for tiny spring flowers to press out.

Mom needed to go get her spare sewing machine from my aunt’s house, and there’s a couple things she forgot to bring up from her house, so she took the bag of puzzles to deliver to Amie’s while she was on her errands.

While Mom was gone, I made healthy cookies, which I love because they are yummy and inexpensive to make. My homeschoolin’ mama friend Ashley shared this recipe with me, and I have used it so much in the last few months, I have it memorized.

Healthy homeschool cookies

  • 2.5 C Oats
  • 1/4 C Sugar (can be coconut sugar)
  • 1/4 C Flour (can be non-wheat)
  • 1/3 C Semi-sweet Choc chips
  • 1/4 C dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 t Baking powder
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 C Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 C Milk (can be non-dairy)
  • 1 t vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, then mix the wet ingredients in another before combining the two. Use the 1/4 cup measure to scoop the batter out onto a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Flatten out a liitle bit, bake at 350 for about 10 mins, then cool on a rack.

Mom and Creek tackled the girls’ closet, going through all the clothes and sacking up all the stuff Creek has outgrown. By the time they were done with that, the girls were both grouchy, so we made them get bibbed up and go outside for awhile. The sun is finally out this afternoon, but it’s chilly outside.

I worked in the junk shed for awhile on making saw handles into owls, but got discouraged when the first one didn’t look just so. I know it will be fine and someone will buy it, but I tend to drop back and punt when this happens…it’s my way of waiting for a better solution for assembly to come to mind. I used half of a door hinge on the backside, which I attached to the saw handle with a screw. That broke the handle, which I don’t like the look of. I’ll need to drill a pilot hole for the screw if this is to be my permanent solution for assembling them. I used two large gears from the guts of a wall clock as the main part of the eyes, and I attached clear glass knobs to the front by running nails through the holes and welding them to the hinge on the backside. I then welded the whole works to a hunk of scrap metal as a base. It worked, but like I said, it needs some refinement.

The second owl, I used a smaller handle. I found a set of thread dye that will make nifty eyes, but they are a little small. I found a handful of interesting washers to make the eyes bigger, AND they’re rubber with a metal center, which means I can weld the dye to the center and then simply glue the rubber part to the handle. The eyes aren’t glued onto him yet, so he’s just leaned back against my onion basket for the pic.

No picking on my welding. I don’t claim to be a pro, but I can make some rusty stuff stick together without falling apart!

We are waiting on Casey to get home so we can go to Lockwood, and I’ve just come inside with the owls to show Mom and the girls my newest thing. We are talking about this that and the other, and I tell Mom I want to make the northwest corner of the living room into more of a homeschool-friendly area. I want cubbies up the wall for school materials and their books and their toys. I want to get rid of the small book case too. We just need more space for these things. I discuss what I want to build for the corner: a corner shelf with two sets of cubbies; one for each wall. The cubbies need to be 12″x12″ each. So each set will be 3’x6′, and will have 18 cubbyholes.

I have also decided I want to get rid of my recliner. Mom got it for me when I was pregnant with Creek. We have two matching reclining chairs in our living room, so this one is a third wheel that takes up the entire corner of the room where I want to have the cubbies and little school table. I go to take photos of it to post for sale, and Mom says to hang on, whips out her phone and calls my dad.

Trial by fire

I’ll start this little story by saying that my dad is a man set in his routine. Replacing his recliner and replacing his remote are equally akin to an apocalyptic event for him. That being said, his recliner is in deplorable shape. It’s only the second recliner I have ever known him to own in my 40 years, and in order to get him to abandon the last one, which was in similar condition, Mom lit it on fire with an Aim-a-Flame right there in the living room of their house. No kidding. I was there. The new microfiber recliner, which they got for a song at an auction, sat in the middle of their living room for nigh on a year before she got fed up and threatened to burn him out in order to trade up.

So, today, she gets on the phone and explains to Dad that I want to get rid of my recliner, tells him it’s exactly like hers (she got them on sale for buying two), and asks if he wants to replace his recliner. He declines, and she hangs up, rolling her eyes. His chair really is in bad shape, and I am as disppointed as she is. The springs are shot, and he fills the void with towels so that it will sit comfortably. Although it has been about 12 years since he gave up the farming operation to me, it is still stained from years of coming into the house from the field, filthy, and going straight to his chair without a shower. Less than 5 minutes later, he calls back and says he’ll take it. We practically high-five after she hangs up. I’m actually shocked. “I figured you’d have to set it on fire to get him out of it.” She rolls her eyes again and we hop to, setting about moving the recliner out to the porch.

Casey and I deliver the chair before we go to get groceries. On the way over, he relates to me that he brought home a sackful of free hamburger today, which got handed out when they met up to tell the employees that Redneck is shut down until April 20. He said he got a less-than-stellar response from the owner when he jokingly called it the “Redneck severance package.” I speculate that it may be because they can’t get parts like window glass from China, but he says it’s actually because their dealers are all shut down, and they can’t ship the blinds to where they need to send them. The good news is that he doesn’t have to wait a week to file for unemployment; he can file right away.

Other good news is that he will be able to help me deliver product to the West Bottoms next week, as long as our travel is not restricted at that time. I talked with both of my landlords up there today, and I’m slated to haul a load up on Wednesday.

More about the West Bottoms…my salvaged materials will be at Martin’s Memories on the 4th floor. There’s a huge service elevator, so that’s why I’m cool with being up so high, plus the rent is the cheapest in the building; the higher you go, the cheaper the square footage. When we looked at the space, that floor looked like a ‘sale floor,’ with a lot of product up there red-tagged, which isn’t a big deal…I can Make the Fourth Floor Great Again! The true appeal of the 4th floor for me lies in the classroom and cafe that are slated to be complete and open by the May First Friday weekend. I see us using that classroom to hold workshops, and I want my booth space and my work area to be right there on that floor. I am permitted to actually hang out and work on product right there in my booth space, which I am totally pumped about. I’m told that my best sales will happen while I am present, so I’ve opened up my schedule to be there at least one weekend a month.

My finished art and jewelry, and likely my “finished” furniture pieces, will be at Upholstered Elegance, which is just half a block from Martin’s. Upholstered Elegance is on the 2nd floor of the building. There’s not an elevator in this building, which isn’t a big deal, but it’s why I chose to have certain products in there. I don’t want to be hauling sections of barn wall up those stairs, but I can come up with some lighter weight displays to hang windows and signs and other cool stuff.

Both spaces are SO AWESOME! I can’t wait to get all set up so that when this virus leaves us and people are able to shop, I’m all ready to do business.

We arrive at Lockwood and I drop Casey off at his parents’ place. He is to bring “The Hybrid” home. It has a load of wood on the flatbed, and there’s also a pickup bed trailer loaded with wood that he is to hook onto and bring home as well. The Hybrid is a really old truck that my father-in-law, CW, built from several other really old trucks. He did a great job, and it drives like a dream. CW normally burns wood for heat, but he had knee surgery recently, which has limited his movements, and so he has shut down the wood stove and reverted to using the electric water heater to heat the water under the floor in the house. He told us to come get the wood, which is great, as we are running low on wood and it’s so dang wet, Casey can’t get to where he needs to in order to split wood. This whole winter, he has only been able to split and haul in his Toyota; any other truck we own would sink on him.

I leave him to check tires and hook onto the trailer and head for Muncy’s, the grocery store. My longtime friend Tessa is loading groceries in the back of a pickup with her boy Ike when I pull in. We greet each other, I take her shopping cart, we say our I love yous and roll on. Inside, in the first aisle I am on, the produce aisle, there are two couples standing there visiting. I linger over the apples, oranges, cauliflower and cukes, waiting for them to disperse, and it becomes obvious that they don’t care about social distancing so I must hold my breath and roll on by.

The aisles aren’t real big, so everything seems close. I find myself holding my breath for a few seconds after I meet and pass someone. A family with 3 kids is shopping, and the kids look like they’re afraid to even be on an aisle with someone else; I give them plenty of room and a smile as I let them pass. I check things off my list as I go. I should say listS. I’m shopping for my dad as well. I have my written list in my little carpenter’s notebook, which I cross items off with my pencil, and I have my dad’s list in my phone. I have copied it from a text message from Mom and pasted it into my Notes app so that I can delete each item from the list as I load it into the cart.

I’m unfamiliar with this store, so I have to ask for help a couple times to get all of my stuff. Casey has been the one to come over here and shop for our groceries until today. No sausage links for Dad. No flour, yeast or baking hen for me. I check out, putting my items in one cart and Dad’s in another so I can easily keep them separate. As I roll outside, I’m pushing one and pulling the other behind me. I load my sacks into the way back of the Denali (we took Mom’s rig because it has more room than my truck) and then load Dad’s into the back seat. After I deliver the carts back to the store, I pull my OnGuard Sanitizing Mist out of my pocket and spray my hands down, pocket the mist and rub my hands all over with the stuff.

I go to our house first, where I leave all the groceries in the car and take a shower immediately, piling my clothes tightly by the washing machine. After I get dressed and unpack the groceries, I return Mom’s car, deliver Dad his groceries (he won’t let me help him unpack them), and round up the girls to go back home. I finish putting away the groceries at the house just as Casey pulls in with the firewood.

Tomorrow, Casey and I start on a big custom project: the office area in the Whittles’ new home. I’m looking forward to it for three reasons: the income, which it’s looking like we are very blessed to receive; the challenge of the job, which is building something new from salvaged materials in an absolutely new house, from a plan that I sketched on paper myself; and, the entry into our portfolio of custom consultations. I am blessed to be able to use my creativity for my job, and I love that my clients love the ideas that I come up with.

Staying busy; close calls

Saturday, March 21. We got another blessed night of uninterrupted sleep. We slept late, as we didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight.

I got my coffee going, and began picking the bones from the chicken stock, still warm on the stove. I prepared a huge pot of chicken noodle soup from a recipe in my new cookbook from Jill Winger at The Prairie Homestead. I got it over a month ago and have been loving it. Follow the affiliate link to get it 52% off right now! It’s a heck of a deal on a GORGEOUS book with lots of great homestyle cooking: less than $17 for a great big hardback cookbook.

Both of the girls were hacking like they had dry allergies, so i made them each drink a cup of hot Immune Boosting tea with a couple drops of OnGuard and a spoonful of honey. I kept going back to them and making them pick up the mugs and drink. Whatever was going on, I wanted to kill any bacteria, if there was any, and soothe the tissue so they wouldn’t cough more and irritate their throats.

After I finished getting the soup going, I began gathering tools and supplies to go to the Whittle’s house to start on the custom consult project that we’ve been prepping for. I hooked up the trailer and got the cordless impact, tape measure and a power station. Casey helped me load the table saw and chop saw and a few other tools, and we went to the wood shop to get the wood that we had already planed for the desktop, as well as the wood for building the cabinets under the desk, and a few more tools like the sander, the Kreg jig, screws, and the air nailer.

When we pull in at the Whittles’, they are unpacking a stock trailer load of their personal items that they’ve just procured from their storage unit. Casey and I decided to unload our materials and tools and leave them to do their work for the rest of the day. We have plenty to do at home, and I need to do some more planning before we start, as I have finally gotten the track for the cabinet doors, and there are specs that I need to follow according to the enclosed instructions before we can really get rolling.

First thing when we get back, we pull up to the wood shop and load Mom’s new TV stand, and deliver it to her. I help her unhook the TV and dish receiver, Casey and I move the old cabinet out to the trailer, and carry the new one in before I help Mom clean and reset the TV and receiver. We load up the old TV cabinet and the shelf that was next to it, along with Dad’s old recliner, which has been sitting in the front yard since yesterday evening. First thing when we get home, we push the recliner into the hole so it can be burnt.

Casey needs to unload the hybrid and the pickup bed trailer of wood, and he needs to feed hay sometime. On the way to the jobsite earlier, we had talked about dry-lotting the cattle for a couple weeks, so that needs to be done as well. I could do a million things: price things for KC, make product for KC, gather more junk to price and take to KC, work in the garden, work on further cleaning the garage in the conversion to woodshop…I choose garage.

I can hear chunks of wood thumping the wall of the wood shed over the sound of the big speaker playing Lucero on Pandora as I move the dogs’ kennels to a different place in the garage, sweep the floor, and start going through all the stuff that we have sort of bundled around on top of the big work table in the middle of the room. I start moving things outside: the unfinished Westlake rocker, sans springs, becomes the anchor for the pile of things I want to take to KC; my dad’s old bow and arrows go in the girls’ pink wagon, the repository for the dumpster; the electric impact and other tools go into a crate to be taken out to the farm shop. Rather than make a pile for the junk shed, I make multiple trips out there with items and prepare them for use by either cutting on them with the plasma cutter or filing them in the appropriate bin. If I don’t do this with the junk shed stuff now, I’ll end up with a crate full of stuff that just gets shoved in there to be rifled through later. I’d rather have it all put away now.

My friend T has had the long counter in the back of the garage ‘spoken for’ for a year or so. I also have 3 bags of clothes that Creek has outgrown that I’d love to send along to her daughter, who is just a bit younger than Creek. I call T. She’s at an auction at Circle E, about 30 miles from here. She has a trailer on behind, and says she’ll stop by on her way home.

My cousin Shawn brought me a copper brand that needed some welding last week. He calls today to tell me he found a copper handle for it, and offers to bring it out. I tell him to swing by; he needs to look at some chuck wagon tongues that I have in stock anyway. The last time he was here, it was dark outside and he couldn’t really get a good look at them. He has a friend who needs a replacement tongue for his wagon. They are cocineros; they set up their chuck wagons at local events and prepare food the old-fashioned way: outside, over an open fire.

While Shawn is here, my friend Sarah sends me a message about chickens. We had been brokering a deal back when Casey and I were in Kansas City a couple weeks ago, where I had second dibs on some heritage meat layers. I didn’t hear from her after that, so I figured that the first person in line had decided to take all of the birds. No big deal. Turns out they are still up for grabs, and I tell her I want 6 of them, but it may be a couple days before I can pick them up, as I spent the last of the cash we had on groceries yesterday and I’ll have to get more first. She says that’s fine, she needs to catch them first, so there’s time. Shawn ends up buying the wagon tongues, for about the same amount I need to buy chickens. How’s that for luck?

As Shawn is leaving with the wagon tongues, T pulls up. I ask if they aren’t worried about the coronavirus, and they kind of shrug and say “Not really.” While keeping our distance from each other, we muscle the heavy counter onto the trailer and I loan her a ratchet strap to secure it for the trip home. She takes the clothes and we say “I love you” without hugs, which is tough for me as T is one of my favorite people in the world.

Casey goes back to unloading wood, and I get back to cleaning the garage. All the stuff that was in the cabinet that T took needs a home, so I get to work sorting through the gallon cans of paint and stain. One is dried up, so I set it aside to go to the dumpster. Three of the buckets are old tile mastic and grout, which I silently vow to never use in this house again; therefore, they should go to the dump as well. The buckets of paint that are good, I file away in the overhead cabinet, except for one, which I think will work for painting the TV stand and cabinet that we removed from Mom’s house. I want to paint them a lighter color and use them in our booth in KC. If they sell, they sell. If not, they’ll work great for displaying product.

Casey finishes unloading wood, and as I’m cleaning the loose paper and dirt out of a cool old steamer trunk that I want to pack stuff in for KC, he comes in and changes into his mud boots to go feed hay. I drag the trunk outside, then sort through a few more things before deciding that I’d better do something with all the stuff that’s outside, as it may rain AGAIN tonight. I haul the trash stuff to the dumpster, take the crate of tools to the farm shop, and load all of the KC stuff into the trailer.

I go inside, perch on Mom’s TV cabinet next to the speaker, crack a beer and open up facebook. Jennifer Allwood reports that Kansas City is now “stay at home for 30 days” and asks her followers to report what’s going on in their area. Women from all over the US deliver the circumstances in their location: some are on “lockdown,” some are “shelter in place,” some report that their neighbors are still partying hard with gatherings of over 30 people. I’m betting that I don’t get to go to Kansas City next week.

I call Mom. She has had the girls all day, and they have been cleaning up the garden, spreading fertilizer, cleaning out flower beds and the like, while experimenting with a new recipe and waiting on bread dough to rise. The rolls are about to go into the oven. We discuss a plan: we need to make another grocery list in case we have to re-up for a period of lockdown. We decide that Casey and I will bring the chicken noodle soup over there for dinner after he gets in from feeding hay, and we can discuss it further over dinner.

I report the news to Casey after he gets back, while we are taking jeans off the clothesline. It’ll be fine. We have plenty to do, orders to fill, and he’s found a cash job picking up tornado debris to fill open time gaps until he can go back to work at Redneck. We’ll get by until we can get our stuff up there.

On the way to the farm, we talk about returning his dad’s truck and trailer, picking up the hens, and doing a grocery run, all in one trip. We also agree that we shouldn’t have any more visitors, period. We can live without the income. While I’m glad we were able to get rid of the cabinet and the clothes (and I hate that my friend will probably read this), I was pretty freaked out that they had gone to that auction today; I saw pictures of the crowd that a friend had posted on facebook, and there were over a hundred people there NOT practicing social distancing. It felt a little like playing Russian roulette, and we don’t need that.

Dinner was absolutely the best I’ve had in awhile. The soup was hearty and delicious. The rolls were amazing too. Mom fixed a little cheese board too, and everything went together wonderfully. She brought me a sweet glass of wine too. We talk about groceries, and we also discuss bringing the cats home from the studio. They must be missing us, and if we bring them home, we won’t have to be going into town to check on them.

After dinner, Dad asked me if we had caught our night knocker. I told him I had burnt a bundle of sage and prayed over the entire house and hadn’t had any trouble the last two nights, adding that I have had the best sleep I’ve had in a couple weeks. He asked what sage is good for, to which I replied that it’s cleansing and gets rid of negative energy. His eyebrows raised so high they almost broke, and he nodded. I told him it’s ok if he thinks I’m crazy; I couldn’t care less, as long as I get some good sleep and no one is lurking outside my house.

The girls wanted to stay the night. I said they could only stay if they promised to let Mimi sleep by herself. We moved the girls’ old loft bed over there a few weeks ago, and Mom and Creek set it up recently, but Creek still wanted to sleep with Mom Thursday night, citing that she had dreams about falling off a cliff while sleeping up there. I told her she needs to oil up before bed and she wouldn’t be having crazy dreams. I emphasized that Mimi would be calling me if they didn’t want to sleep in the loft bed and I would come get them. Both girls promised to sleep in the loft bed and let Mimi sleep alone. So we left them there and ran away as fast as we could.

After the busy day and after that dinner, I just wanted to go lay in bed with some good TV. On the way home, Casey and I talk game plan for in the morning: go to the studio, unload all of the stuff that I put in the trailer today, gather up the few things I have listed that I have wanted to have at home, and catch the felines and bring them home with us.

Today was a record day for deaths in Italy, with nearly 800 lost there. Today ALONE. We are still seeing conflicting reports. And reports that are just insane. This is not going to get as bad as they say it is. This is going to be catastrophic. This is a ploy to get the population under control and bankrupt an entire class of our population. This is a ruse to place the elite under arrest and put our president in a position of power akin to that of a modern messiah. Our president is an utter failure. Our president is so awesome. The healthiest thing, in my opinion, is to not look at social media, stay at home, and don’t take any visitors. Keep my little family and my parents safe.

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