Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hop Rigging for Ham Chowder

Last week the Beer Club, as Brandon calls our team of brewers, made a new trellis system for the hops to climb on.  We didn't go into this project with a design in mind, but instead wondered around in the back yard until we were inspired by some long wood pieces that Jamie and I recently dug out of a trash pile on the creek bank.  Last year the hops climbed ropes that were tied to the pergola above our back deck.  They obviously wanted to climb higher last year, which was their first year, so I knew we had to give them more space this year.   

It was quickly assembled, with little consideration for aesthetics, safety, stability, symmetry, or levelness.  We didn't even use a measuring tape, and I couldn't find a saw.  We also didn't spend any money, so this was my favorite kind of project!  Of course, folks are willing to put something goofy looking on someone else's house, so no one got persnickety if I didn't.  Besides, it was cold, rainy, and we had crock pot ham chowder ready to eat.  I wouldn't finish the corn bread until the hop trellis was finished just to make sure we had the incentive to finish the project.  I'm not above holding us hostage through our stomachs. 

Ever had ham chowder?  Me neither, but I've never had so much cooked ham in my freezer from an over large Easter ham before.   Sometimes my crock pot creations are great, and sometimes we just power through them, but ham chowder was really very good.  Jamie predicted it would be good since clam chowder was good and it has clams in it.  Good point. 

This is a cro-magnon trellis technique being demonstrated by Jamie in the the photo above as he uses his teeth to tie knots.  I'm pretty sure he was afraid to let go with both hands while he was on our rickety old ladder, even with Joe holding the ladder up.  If you can see Joe's hooded face and hand sticking up near the ladder, remember that he is  standing on the deck, which is why he can reach the top of the ladder.  I mean, he is freakishly exceptionally tall, but not that tall! 

I scrounged around until we could patch up enough rope and twine pieces to run the rope from a stake in the ground, over the wood pole, and then back down to the ground to be staked at about four feet away from the beginning of the rope. We made four of these systems so that each plant has two ropes to climb. In the photo above you can see the four poles sticking up like spears or harpoons from the wisteria that grows on the pergola.  The ropes are dangling straight down in the photo, but when I staked them down it makes them attach to the ground at nearly a forty-five degree angle, so the ropes are even longer than the height of the tip of the pole.  This way we can walk under them and the hops should be up and leaning out over our heads.  A beer canopy! 

It didn't take much training to get the hops to take to the ropes.  I think they like it!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Chick Photo Shoot and Food Menu

Did I take my baby chicks out into the cool morning air so I could pose them with flowers?  Yes I did, and yes I realize that I'm becoming a total chicken dweeb.   But aren't they adorable?  They look adorable in their card board box too, but outside the sunlight really brings out the cuteness factor.  The chick in the photo above is the one I call Beardy; she's the biggest of the four and the bossiest.    She likes to step into the food bowl, scratch violently with her feet, step backwards out of the bowl and then take a bite.  Then she does the step forward, scratch and kick, step backward, then bite dance over, and over again.  It's ridiculous and makes a mess, but she loves it.  Notice that she already has wings, after just one week. 

This is Curly, who no longer has bad hair days.  He is the runt who came out of the shell nearly two days after Beardy.  Notice that he does not have wings yet.  He's still a fluffy fluff ball. 

When I first brought the chicks home from the office incubator, I didn't have any chick food so I put some oatmeal and some Heritage O's cereal (fancy Cherie O's) in the food processor and ground them into small bits and fed them to the chicks.  The Heritage O's are made of oats, wheat, spelt, barley, quinoa, and millet flours with some cane juice.  They taste okay, but they are so hard and crunchy I feel like I could break a tooth, so we still have a big bag of them.  The chicks like it just fine.  Joe was concerned that they weren't getting enough protein, so I started feeding them cut up bits of boiled eggs, which they love and which I have in abundance from Helen and Mrs. Hall.  Now I also give them vegetable and fruit pulp from my juicer.  I had intentions of buying some chick food from Tractor Supply as soon as I had a chance, but I've decided to keep feeding them the oat meal, cereal, egg, and veg pulp menu because this diet doesn't make their box stink.  Every other time I have had baby chicks in the house I had to change the bedding nearly every day to keep them from smelling.  Now I realize that chick poo doesn't stink, it's packaged chick food poo that stinks.  So these chicks are extra cute since they don't live in a smelly box. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Grass Juice

Drinking a shot of wheat grass juice was sort of like taking a shot of tequila for the first time - I just tried to shoot it quickly and then I really understand the concept of a chaser.  Blah!  The difference being that instead of getting drunk I got a shudder and a weird taste in the back of my mouth that lasted throughout the day.  It's a complicated flavor.  At first it tasted sweet and lemony, then really green, followed by a unique aftertaste as I exhaled that is probably one of those flavors that I could learn to like, but this first time I didn't consider it to be good.  I thought it was some potent tasting stuff, and I enjoy parsley juice, which I'm pretty sure would curl the toes of the uninitiated vegetable juice drinker. 

I've been curious about wheat grass for a long time.  Many times I've stopped to consider it as it sits next to the bananas at the co-op and wonder who buys grass for $3.75.  Well, now I know it's wierdy juice people, like me!  I thought it was expensive, since the bunch only yields an ounce, and that's after you let it grow for a while.  But, considering bar prices are at least $3.75 for a shot of booze, and my wheat grass should grow back for another shot, it may be a bargain.  If I can stomach it.  I googled the health benefits of wheat grass juice and the claims of the good it can do are amazing, almost over the top.  It's supposed to have so many vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, etc. that the inter-webbers talk about it like it's a miracle food.  There are even recommendations to soak your skin in the juice for wounds and athletes feet.  It's said that it can remove heavy metals from your blood, prevent cancer, Alzheimer's, bad breath, high blood pressure, and you name it, wheat grass is good for it.  So, yeah, I'll try it. 

I cut the grass with scissors into a bowl of water to wash it before I put it in the juicer.  While I was swishing it around I was reminded of the swimming pool after the grass is freshly mowed.  What if, from now on, skimming grass out of the pool makes me thirsty for chlorophyll? 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Curly's Bad Hair Day

Good news about the chick that struggled for over twenty four hours to get out of his shell.  He's alive!  His first day was a bad hair day, for sure, but he is strong, active, and seems to have all the right parts in all the right places. 

After letting him try to get out on his own for an entire day, and restraining myself from assisting, I was disappointed to come back to the office the next day to see that he was still in the shell.  He did have one foot out, which was progress, but the membrane of the egg surrounding the crack in the egg was dried up, brown, and stuck to his feathers.  I think this was sort of gluing him in the shell.  I took the photo above after I peeled off the dried membrane and set him back down.  Being handled freaked him out enough that he made some powerful kicks.  Out he popped! 

He was so gross!  His wispy feathers were glued to his body, which really emphasized the round shape of his abdomen.  Ew.  In the photo above he had just rolled out of the shell and was catching his breath before he stood up and began to stumble around in the incubator.  If you look close you can see the the cord attaching his belly to the membrane of the egg.  So cool. 

I named him Curly, after a friend who developed a special bond with the hatching egg, and who bravely picked him up out of the incubator, despite his bad hair and despite not knowing how to grasp a wobbly chick.  Poor Curly, after all his brave struggles he even got to have an adventure on the way home from the office too. He was quite upset to be in a lonely cardboard box without his accustomed 97 degree heat, so I stuck him inside my jacket while I was driving. He was getting settled in and tickling my tummy when he slipped from my jacked to the floor and rolled under the seat. Fishing for chickens under my seat while driving is more dangerous than texting, so I had to leave him there until I could pull over for gas. When I finally found him, and put him back in his box where he couldn't kill us both, he was quite excited and demonstrating that he has great lungs.

Just in case you were wondering, as someone else was, yes, chickens do have lungs.  I've seen them when poking around inside a chicken during butchering, so the confidence in my answer was based on some first hand experience.  Actually, chicken lungs look very similar to a cats lungs, which  I have seen several times in anatomy classes.  In class we stuck straws in the cats lungs and blew in them to watch them inflate, but for some reason  I haven't tried that with a chicken yet.  A chicken does have lungs, but a chicken's respiration is different from a mammal, like us.  Birds have one-way air flow, meaning they can get fresh air with oxygen from inhalation and exhalation, unlike us, who only get fresh air on the intake and then expel old air.  A birds lungs are connected to air sacks that allow this one-way system to function, and to really get a grasp of how this works you have to stare at some diagrams, but the advantage is obvious to an animal that has to do prolonged exercise like flying.  Maybe I could jog if I had bird lungs. 

Anyway, we made it home and Curly quickly settled in with his sisters and his hair is looking much better today.  Not good yet, but better.   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chicks! Good Ones.

Monday morning text conversation with an early to arrive work friend:

Friend:  You have 2 chicken s
Me: Horray!
Friend: They are hunchbacks
Me: Crap!
Friend: R they supposed to have 3 legs?
Me: Kill them 4 me?
Friend: Oh no Dr Frankenstein that is on you

The due date for the chicks was Monday, and two of them arrived right on schedule.  I arrived at the office to find two perfect chicks that have normal backs and the normal amount of legs ending in straight sturdy toes, thanyouverymuch.  This is the biggest problem with trying hatch chickens in my office - everyone knows when I fail, which opens me to teasing!  Don't they know know that is is no laughing matter?  We're talking life and death, man!  The other  problem is that office productivity drops significantly while groups of us stare into the incubator willing them to hatch.  I also took one of the cute fluff balls on an office tour, just so everyone could see that I can create life that has normal toes.  One person looked up from her monitor at the sound of the peeping chick and said "Oh! What is it?"  Some people need to get out more.  

Two chicks from six eggs isn't great, but it's one hundred percent better than my last hatch which resulted in only one chick, with some...issues...poor Ducky.  But these little guys have nice straight toes, and are very curious and much more energetic than Ducky was during her first day.  And they have each other, so they should be less traumatized when they meet other chickens.

Then, this morning I recieve this text from a different early to work friend: U got 2 more chicks...

I was expecting to find two more fluff balls when I arrived at work (and yes, I am always the last to arrive at the office).  But, I found only one fluffy chick and one egg with an emerging chick.  The hatching chick spent the entire day trying to come out of the shell and I spent the entire day trying to decide if it is okay to help it.  See what I mean about office productivity?  After consulting the inter-web, I finally decided to wait and see if it can get out on its own.  I'll find out tomorrow I guess.

The chicks are so much fun to watch.  I'm embarrassed to say how much time I spent staring down into their box.  The biggest chick, with a light colored beard, who I've been calling Beardy, wants to eat the eyes of the other chick.  It stares at the other's eyes and then pecks and grabs eyelid which makes the victum squeal.  Beardy also likes to peck at the other chick's toes.  He is less interested in food and more interested in eating his brooder mates. 

When the chicks are stumbling around in their box and they walk into what must be the perfect temperature, under the light, their eyes close and it's like they slowly melt into little egg shaped chick puddles on the floor.  Something like a heat induced sleep trance.  Then their heads hit the ground and they pop back up to explore some more.  It's amazing that animals that are less than twenty four hours old can learn so much.  Of course, I'm learning too.  This morning I thought one of them had some poo stuck in it feathers around the it's nether regions.  Despite loud protests from the chick, I tried to pull it off only to realize it was the dried up end of the ambilical cord.  Oops!  Chicken belly buttons are still suprizing. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Neighbor's Dozen

Whew!  What a great work weekend at the farm house.  Some good friends joined us for a day, and with their building and design experience, and their general can do attitude, progress was made in lifting and propping portion of the sagging floor.  The long gap in the floor, where Brandon has his hand in the picture above, is the location of wall between the dining room and the living room.  I wanted to take out part of this wall and change the floor plan of the house, but Brandon was hesitant to remove the wall since it is a main support wall, with the exterior wall of the second floor directly above it.  Well, once he removed the paneling and the plaster we realized that all the studs were eaten by termites long ago, and there was no wall support in this area anyway.  Thank you termites! 

The termites didn't stop at the wall though, they also ate some of the supporting floor boards, which is why the floors tilted toward that wall.  It was a pretty serious slope too.  When trying to use the shop vacuum in that area the vacuum kept rolling into the hole in the floor.  The guys had to remove more layers of flooring that have been added over the years, including sheets of pressed board with a zillion nails, then pull up some of the wood floor strips.  Then they used a jack to raise each floor joist and level out the soil underneath enough to place concrete pavers.  It was a messy job done on knees and stomachs, but the floor is so much better!  Speaking as someone who didn't do any of the hard work (hey, someone has to grill the burgers!), I think it was worth every effort. 

We also explored the chimney and the hearth for the first time.  It took a little brute force, but we managed to get the grate off and see that there isn't much room in the hearth, which seems to have been plugged with cement sometime in the past.  It does, however, have a hole in the chimney that would allow a wood stove to be used if it were sitting in front of the mantel.  It's all very exciting. 

Once again, while Brandon was tearing down repairing the house, I spent some lovely time outside planting things.  I planted three apple trees, three pear trees, a muscadine grape, four small red crepe myrtle shrubs, and a sugar maple.  There were some doubts expressed about the necessity of this expenditure by Brandon, the chairmen of our finances, but I think it's important to get the fruit in the ground since it takes so many years to get results.  It's an investment in our future jam supply, which was my winning argument.  Besides, all his talk about the cost of dry wall and rolls of insulation that we need was boring.  Fruit trees are much more fun.

While I was planting the fruit trees along the back edge of the property, our nearest neighbor made a visit to his barn, which I could see.  We waved and then introduced our selves and had a friendly chat.  He helped me understand the property boundaries, and also offered the use of his bush hog, and said that he had a machine that has a bucket that he could use to lift the trash that is piled up in several locations on his property and ours.  We worked out a deal that if he could help me lift the trash he could use our dumpster to get rid of his trash piles.  He has all the equipment I've been needing; I think we are going to be best friends!  Then, when I thought things couldn't get any better he asked me if I would like some eggs from his chickens.  Yes!  I got to meet his flock of fancy polish chickens, that have crazy poofs of feathers on their heads, and he put eleven little white eggs, straight from the nest box, in a bread bag for me.  I took them back to the house to show Brandon and he said eleven must be a neighbor's dozen. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I can't help it, I have to share these pictures.  These kittens are just too cute to contain! 

The little mostly black faced kitten in the front of the box has a super cute little snub nosed face.  He doesn't get handled as much by the kids because he blends in with the furry box lining. 

The momma cat is so patient, not just with the kittens but with little kids, and big kids like me, who want to hold them.  She allows it, and when you are finished you can just hand the kitten to her and she will carry it back to the box.  Actually, sometimes she decides you are finished before you do and just comes to get the kitten.  Mothers know best, right?

The two black and white kittens are preferred by my nieces and they seem to be the most friendly and curious.  Personally, I like the calico kitten, even though I have a calico cat with a terrible personality.  I must like terrible cats.  We have a saying at our house about Attila, my 14 year old calico.  It usually goes like this: 

"Who knocked this over?  Attila! Aah!  She's THE WORST!"
or, "Stop nagging me for food, Attila!  Jeez, she's the worst!"
or "Let me sit down, Attila, stop growling at me.  I live here too.  Don't you swipe at me!  You are the worst!"
or " Eeww, gross, Attila drooled all over me, blech, she's the worst"
or "Is this cat hair in the clean laundry basket?  Attila!  She. Is. The. Worst."
or, from past visitors "Man, that cat is fat.  You can see her skin through her hair she's so fat, and why is she staring at me and growling?"  our answer "Just don't make eye contact, or touch her.  She's the worst". 

The picture above is Attila when she was younger.  I've been asked, why do you keep at cat like that? Well, it just proves that love is blind. She might be the worst, but she has big personality, and when she's not trying to eat me, she loves me right back. Unfortunately, her love comes with lots of drool. Yeah, she's the worst.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ducky and Greenhouse Update

Remember the little ugly duckling chicken that I hatched in the incubator, back at the beginning of February?  Well, she's practically a full grown chicken!  She will always be Ducky, but I don't think she's ugly any more.  She has some crooked toes, and hasn't learned to roost, or be part of the flock.  I don't think spending her early days alone was good for her confidence, because she seems content to cower in the coop all day and won't come out to play unless you go in to get her.  She also has problems getting back in the coop if you take her out.  But, she does have a unique way of getting mom's attention when she realizes it's getting dark and she's not where she should be - she jumps up and flaps on the living room window!  I think it gave mom quite a scare to have something attack the window right at dusk, but she obediently went out and picked Ducky up and placed her in the coop.  Maybe Ducky isn't as chicken brained as she seems. 

And remember all those paper flower pot cups we made?  Well, we finally got them filled with organic soil, which meets Joe's requirements for his future all organic garden, and they are planted with seeds.  Just for Joe's garden, we planted tomatoes, peppers, basil, squash, zucchini, and a few onions.  Probably 75 plants, or more.  We also started some tomato and pepper seeds for Joe's dad, who has been gardening for ages, but isn't organic.  It will interesting to compare the results of Joe's organic garden and his dad's non-organic garden, since they will be on the same farm.  I'm not sure it will be a fair test though, considering the value of experience, which Joe's dad already has.  Not that I don't have full confidence in you, Joe.  Good luck with your first garden (he's gonna need it!). 

So, the greenhouse is packed tight.  I managed to get everything in, but the top shelf collapsed once while I was loading it.  I hate to criticize the greenhouse since it was a gift to me from Santa Claus, and Santa worked so hard to assemble it in secret, and then assembled it again after it was blown apart by a storm, but this greenhouse isn't made very well.  I'm sure it was expensive, but it is hard to open and close the door, it is very difficult to reach the plants on the side where the door doesn't open, it doesn't have enough shelves and they are very hard to adjust the height, and it just seems flimsy.  I hope it doesn't implode before we get our plants ready to go in the ground. 

The plants aren't as picky as me, and seem to like the greenhouse just fine. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today's Harvest

Yesterdays harvest, actually.  Fresh eggs and fresh asparagus.  Brace yourself for too many photos of plants!  I couldn't help it.  The garden is ramping up and I just couldn't stop taking photos of everything that is happening.  Maybe I'm impressed by incremental progress because I'm still a new gardener, or maybe I will be this excited every spring for years to come.  I can only hope so. 

This is what happens to the asparagus when you skip a day of harvest - too tall!  These giants, coming up in their protective chicken wire and tomato cage armour, shot above the perfect height while I was out of town overnight.  It's still delicious, but more of the bottom part of the stem gets tough and goes to the compost and chicken buffet.   I would prefer to cut the stem while it's short and tender and let the plant put that energy into making another stalk.   

My asparagus bed is at least six years old now.  Some years I plant lettuce or spinach in the bed with it.  A few years ago I transplanted some extra strawberry plants in the bed, but I can't say they ever get much fruit.  And yes, that yellow flower is a dandelion weed.  I'm not a very tidy gardener.  Garden, I'm sorry. 

Can you see the juice oozing out of the cut stems in the photo above?  We had rain, lots of rain, for an entire day before I cut these stalks and they were dripping with asparagus flavored juice.  I know it's asparagus flavored, because I tasted it.  But don't worry, I don't usually lick the asparagus before it's served!

This isn't Double D Farms celery, but three days worth of asparagus from my garden.  Not a bad haul from my little backyard plot.  I'm tempted to plant hundreds of plants some day and get bushels of it every spring. 

Eggs and asparagus for dinner?  Yes, please!  You can't get any more fresh than eating food that has never been refrigerated.  It tastes better to me.  I think it tastes better because the food is fresh, for sure, but also because I savor every bite of food that is precious to me because I made it.  Why food that was purchased with money I made doesn't have the same precious value to me, I can't say, but it doesn't.  It's also weird for me to think that I'm eating the soil, rainwater, and sunlight from my back yard.  I'm actually eating my yard.  Well, and some chicken food from Tractor Supply and whatever other food scraps the chickens eat from the compost.  I guess the asparagus is eating what ever I put the compost, which means I'm eating it too.  Which means I'm eating my compost too.  Aha! I think I just had a circle of life moment!  That happens sometimes.  Sorry. 

Speaking of compost, in this photo you can see Helen scratching around looking for tasty bits in the compost on the left, behind the garlic bed.  I believe my compost is citrus flavored these days, since I've been juicing so many oranges and grapefruits and the peels are slow to break down.  I had to raise the chicken wire armour on the garlic since it's growing so fast the leaves were being pressed into the wire.  The box in the back has a few peas coming up in the back right corner.  I'm pretty sure the whole box had peas planted in it, but Helen and Mrs. Hall broke through the wire and ate them.  Bad chickens! 

The hops, which just a few days ago where barely peaking their heads above the leaf mulch, are bursting out of, and around, their wire cage protectors like octopus tentacles reaching for the sky.  It's a bit frightening how fast they are growing.  I hope I don't regret planting them near the deck.  I need to quickly get some ropes hung for them to climb on.  It makes me thirsty for beer just looking at them. 

Seedlings in the greenhouse!  The squash are like little tanks, pushing up soil as they burst out and unfurl their leaves.  It seems like just yesterday when they were nothing but seeds... sniff... before long they will be all grown up and making little seeds of their own.. boo hoo.  I can't wait to eat their babies. 

There are also daffodils, tulips, and grape hyacinths blooming in the yard.  It's so nice to have some color!

The pear trees are almost finished blooming.  I have two, and they are still small, but I got many pounds of pears last year so I have high hopes of getting more this year too.  I've been reading about pruning, which I've never been very good at, so these little pear trees have been my first victims. 

The dogwoods are blooming, not just in my yard but everywhere.  I can see them sprinkled in the forests when I'm driving.  I transplanted a couple of dogwood saplings from a friends house years ago, and my little trees didn't survive the transplant shock very well.  They aren't any bigger than they were when I transplanted them, but at least they have some blooms this year. 

The red bud trees in the background is giving a beautiful show this spring.  I pulled this trees off a highway rock cut where I was working when it was only about 18 inches tall.  Now look at it, so big it's starting to shade the garden and needs to be cut back.  The spindly looking things in front of the red bud are my blackberries.  They have little baby leaves springing out of the stems.  It won't be long until they are an impenetrable mass of tangled vines and leaves, but right now they look tame and friendly. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mushrooms in Logs

These spotty looking logs are part of our new mushroom growing adventure.  A few weeks ago mom and I order some shitake plugs and some spores of red cap mushrooms.  This inspired a friend to order some shitake, lions mane, and hen of the woods plugs, and team up with us for a day of mushroom planting.  I've never cooked with shitake mushrooms, but I think I have had them at restaurants and seen them at the grocery.  Whew - expensive!  I've never even seen red cap, lions mane, or hen of the woods for sale.  My mushroom hunting friend has shown me pictures of them, and may have pointed them out to me when we were hiking, but I've never eaten any.  I love mushrooms though, so I'm sure they will be delicious if we manage to harvest some. 

"Everybody, point at the tree!"  At least Jamie tried to humor me.  Our first step was to find some suitable trees to cut up into logs.  I love a project that starts with a family hike in the woods.  I hate to cut a live tree though, but it had to be done, so we looked for trees that were mushroom friendly, which meant they were the recommended species and size, that were growing so close to other trees that they didn't have enough room to get bigger.  This way we could do a little forest management as we harvested by thinning the crowded trees.  We ended up cutting down two small white oaks and a small maple tree, and cutting the trunks into thirty-six inch sections.   The hardest part of this project was hauling the log sections out of the woods and to our work station.  Next time I might not be so concerned with forest management and may just cut down the trees closest to the front yard! 

You can see the mushroom inoculated plugs in the bag in the picture above.  The plugs are short pieces of dowels with grooves in them and white stuff in the groves.  The white stuff is the mushroom that will spread throughout the logs and eventually send up the edible mushroom caps.  Drilling the holes wasn't a quick task, and I almost got a blister - from a power tool!  Pathetic, I know. 

Fortunately for tired adult log haulers and drillers, the kids loved to pound the plugs into the holes drilled in the logs.  It's amazing how fast they learned to move their fingers out of the mallets way.  Don't worry, there were no tears, at least not from the kids. 

The last step was to paint the inserted plugs with some melted cheese wax that we melted in an old crock pot.  The red color of the wax gives the logs a weird measly look, but it did a good job sealing the plugs and made it easy for me to see if I (or my assistant) got a little sloppy and didn't get a good coating. 

The red cap mushrooms were planted in wood mulch on the asparagus bed.  The idea is to mulch the asparagus and grow edible mushrooms in the mulch, so you get more food in the same amount of space.  The mushrooms are also supposed to help vegetables grow better, by breaking down the organic material in the mulch.  As more wood mulch is added to the bed, the mushrooms will spread to it and keep coming back year after year.  I think it's a great idea, and I hope it works. 

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