Up With the Chickens

Raising children and chickens on a little buffalo farm

New Blog…

Hi Friends!  I’m excited to announce that my good friend Jill and I have started a new blog called Charming Farming.  Our purpose is to promote a community of women who are engaged in agriculture.  It doesn’t matter if you farm for a living or if you just have a little garden patch or a few backyard chickens.  We want to exchange stories, ideas, photos and questions.  So please join us, and invite your charming and farming friends to join us too.

For now, I will reblog Charming Farming posts here, but in time, I will shift everything over to Charming Farming See you there!

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7 QUICK TAKES…

It has been a while since I’ve done one of these 7 QUICK TAKES, but today is a snow day, so I’m taking advantage of the extra time…

1.  SNOW DAY!!! 

One of the great things about living in Arkansas is the way we handle (or don’t handle) snow.  Here in Northern Arkansas, we get just enough snow that everyone owns a sled and a decent pair of snow (or farm) boots.  But we don’t get enough snow to be really equipped for it.  In other words, at the first sign of a flake, we all rush to the grocery store to stock up on batteries, bottled water, and junk food.  And when it hits, whether its 1/2 an inch or a foot, school is closed, businesses shut down, church services are cancelled, and we all get an unplanned staycation.  When the snow started Wednesday during school, chaos ensued.  Parents showed up at the school in droves to extract their children lest they be stranded.  Those children (and teenagers) who remained could not be restrained from jumping up to look out the window every 30 seconds to check accumulation amounts.  The excitement was electric.  In the end, school was dismissed at 12:45, the roads remained clear, and we received little to no accumulation.  However, by the next morning it had sleeted just enough to give us the rest of the week off!  Here’s the way things look at our place…

2.  BABY BUNNIES DUE ON SUNDAY!

We are expecting a litter of rabbits on Sunday.  This is particularly exciting because this doe, Penelope,  is a first-time mother, and this will be our first litter of Flemish Giants.  We are also a little nervous because this is our first time to breed a doe that has never kindled (had babies) before.  I’ve heard horror stories of first-time rabbit mothers eating their babies. What a ghastly surprise that would be down at the barn.

3. TURNS OUT, I HAVE A (DEEPLY) HIDDEN TALENT.

Okay, not really.  For my mother’s birthday this year, I bought us a class at a place called Painting with a Twist.  We attended a Paint Your Pet workshop.  I sent them photos of our dogs, and when we arrived, they had sketched each of them onto a canvas for us to paint.  It was a lot harder than I thought, and the instruction was minimal, but it was incredibly fun.  However, in retrospect, as much as I love our French Bulldog, Lily, I wish I had painted my rooster or a buffalo.  How cool would that have been!  Still, for someone who can’t even draw a straight line, I was pretty proud of my finished product.

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4.  I’M REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY TIRED OF THE PARANORMAL TEEN ROMANCE GENRE.

I write for another blog called What Kids Are Reading that reviews popular YA books.  This blog is not about what we wish kids were reading.  Otherwise, I would be reviewing Anne of Green Gables and Oliver Twist. As a 9th grade English teacher, I wanted to at least be able to enter into a conversation with my students about their books choices.  But recently when I tried to read Beautiful Creature.  I just couldn’t do it.  Why isn’t the cool new teen genre Historical Fiction?

5.  MY LENTEN READING HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUS BLESSING.

I am reading Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Father Michael Gaitley, and I cannot recommend it enough.  Fr. Gaitlely combines the Divine Mercy with Ignatian spirituality and the teachings of Saint. Therese of Lisieux.  The result is life altering.  (If these Quick Takes were in order of importance this would be #1.)

6.  I’M STILL TRYING TO PERFECT MY CHOCOLATE, PEANUT BUTTER QUINOA BARS

Maybe it’s time I accept the fact that I can’t combine all new healthy food obsessions with chocolate.  I have spent untold hours concocting coconut oil chocolate smoothies, coconut oil chocolate bars, coconut oil chocolate ice-cream topping… you get the idea.  Truth is, most of these experiments have been delicious.  Quinoa is proving to be much more difficult to disguise with chocolate.

7.  I’VE STARTED A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR MY CONFIRMATION CLASS...

And for the rest of the youth in our parish.  I’m hoping this will be a good way to enhance our religious education program.  My goal is to post prayers, Catholic trivia and teachings, reminders, and links.  I would appreciate any suggestions – especially good websites and blogs for Catholic teens.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.  God Bless!

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Farm Blessing…

Buffalo Morning

We haven’t gotten much snow in the Southern Ozarks this winter.  In fact, the dusting we got this morning has been about it.  But that was just enough for me to snap this photo.  By noon all the snow was gone, so I am happy I got the shot.

I’ve been feeling especially grateful for all the blessings of farm life lately.   It has put me in mind of the following prayer…

Bless, O Lord, Almighty God,

this farm.

May health and purity,

goodness and meekness 

and every virtue reign here.

May all those who dwell here

be filled with faithfulness to Thy law

and with thanksgiving to God,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

May this blessing remain on this farm 

and all who dwell here.

Through Christ our Lord.

 

Linke to:  Prairie Homestead Barn Hop

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Now This is Cool…

For months now I’ve been trying to convince Hal we need some fainting goats. I think they are a hoot.  He, on the other hand, does not think hilarity is a good reason to invest in livestock.  And he has a point.  After all, I’m not even sure we could show these at the county fair – I’m fairly certain judges deduct points if your animal pitches over during the judging.

Oh well.  It doesn’t matter because I now have a different criteria for choosing livestock.  I have discovered the American Livestock Breeding Conservancy,  and I am fascinated.  This is a nonprofit group that is dedicated to, “ensuring the future of agriculture through genetic conservation and promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.”  In other words, the ALBC encourages farmers to raise animals that are at risk of extinction.  Their efforts help to ensure not only America’s agricultural heritage, but also genetic diversity in livestock and poultry.

It’s a noble cause and you can read more about it on their website.  The animals they feature are some of the most beautiful and interesting (and just plain cute) livestock I’ve ever seen.

There’s the adorable Poitou Ass

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The comical Dutch Belted cow  

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The gorgeous Hackney

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and the aptly named Large Black pig

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Honestly, I could spend hours on their website just browsing and reading about the dozens of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, rabbits, and poultry they promote.  I haven’t joined yet because technically we are not breeders of rare livestock.  Bison have long since been removed from the endangered list.  But we have chosen our next rabbit breed…

The beautiful Silver Fox

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Isn’t he stunning. This is a gentle, larger breed known for the unusual the silvering it its fur.  We hope to have a trio (two does and a buck by spring).  We will be raising them to show and sell, and as usual, I’ll post pictures.  Wish us luck!

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7 Quick Takes Friday…

This is my first 7 Quick Takes Friday post, so I hope I’m doing it right.  The way I understand it is that all that Catholic bloggers of all stripes can link up to share posts each Friday at Conversion Diary.  Anyway, I’ve already discovered several terrific blogs by Catholics since I’ve been perusing around over there.  Some blogs are very Catholic – apologetics, homeschooling, theology.  Others are cooking, parenting, photography blogs. And to my happy surprise, I even found a couple of homesteading blogs.  Well, without further ado, here are my 7 Quick Takes.

1. Four down. Two (hopefully) spared

Just when I thought we were out of the woods, Hal got sick.  I think he must have picked it up at work since it had been a week since any of the kids had it.  Still I’m doing everything I can to Avoid the dreaded tummy bug.

2.  School starts Monday.  

Ugh!  I love teaching one semester courses.  It is fun to get a fresh start mid-year, and I get to know more kids that way.  But after two weeks off, much of that time spent tending to sick children, I am not feeling the first-day-of-school enthusiasm I need to greet my new students on Monday.   I think I’ll go to my Pinterest board for teaching ideas and see if I can get inspired.  I think I remember pinning some fun ice-breaker games.

3.  It will be time to start breeding our rabbits again soon…

but ummmmm we gave away our buck.  In retrospect that was a bad idea, but we were coming off our big Reserve Grand Champion win at the fair high, and we felt like we needed a buck more worthy of our prize winning does. Now we can’t find another breeding age Flemish Giant buck, and  I’m worried our does are going to be old maids.

4. I’m switching to red wine.

I don’t sleep well after drinking white wine.  I don’t know why. I’m hoping red will be better.

5.  I guess I’ll start a diet Monday.  

I wonder if the eight hour diet is a good one.

6.  We butchered a buffalo last week…

When I say “we” I mean Hal, my dad, and the boys.  We’ve always had our buffalo professionally processed, but due to new regulations we aren’t able to get a USDA inspection sticker unless the label contains specific nutritional information about bison meat.  The slaughter house we use won’t do that, so we are out of the buffalo meat business – at least for now.  But butchering our own was a great experience for the boys. Between the deer they’ve killed this season and this, they are really learning what it takes (for the people and the animal) to put food on the table.  It’s a great lesson.

7. I am planning my Miss American Party

Stay tuned for a future post, but the basic premise is that each woman represents a state. Everyone dresses in a state costume, hat, or other getup and brings a food or drink to represent her state.  There’s more including cash prizes and money raised for charity, but I will post more about it when I have pictures!

So, that’s it.  My first 7 Quick Takes Friday post.  That was fun!  Now I’m off to check out more new blogs.

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Avoiding the Dreaded Tummy Bug

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As I write this, three of my four children are recovering from the stomach virus. I have a phobia of to stomach virus.  Well, not really a phobia.  A phobia,by definition, is an irrational fear.  My fear is completely rational and grounded in experience – gruesome, horrific experience.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that for years my family had a tradition of ringing in the New Year with a tummy bug.  In 2005, I realized how entire families used to die during influenza outbreaks. Daddy out of town, four small children with the stomach virus, and a mommy too sick to tend to them.  Poor Hal returned from his hunting trip to a ghastly homecoming.

So, you see why I avoiding the stomach bug is of utmost importance to me.  Here are some of my strategies:

1.  Coconut Oil 

If you read by previous post I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, you know I’m a huge fan of coconut oil for all kinds of things.  In times like these, I’m particularly interested in it’s anti-viral properties.  I try to add at least a tbs of coconut oil to my smoothie or oatmeal each day, but these days, I’m sure not to miss a “dose” and I’m adding extra to my diet when I can.

2.  Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mother)

For some people, this cure might be worse than the disease, but not for me.  I’d drink nearly anything to avoid the stomach virus – including drinking apple cider vinegar.

3. Grape Juice

Drinking apple cider vinegar became easier when I realized I could mix it with grape juice and get double the bug preventing benefits.

4. Obsessive Compulsive Cleaning and Hand Washing.  

In a previous post I shared with you my desire to follow ten baby steps to natural living, but when it come to the tummy bug, I would carpet bomb my house with Lysol and Clorox if I could.  And I wash my hands constantly.  I keep sanitizing wipes in every room and use them after I’ve touched anything my children have touched.  I should probably be more concerned about alcohol poisoning than the stomach virus.

5. Withholding Affection

Okay, not really.  And this is my Achille’s heal.  I’ll be honest.  When my kids get the tummy bug, a part of me does want to avoid them.  But then they look up at me with those pale faces and pitiful eyes, and I just have to hold them and kiss them – but only on the very tippy top of the head.

So that’s it.  My big strategy.  I can tell you it has worked in the past.  The last few times the bug hit my family I was spared.  Will I be this time?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy some yummy coconut oil, delicious grape juice and a super clean house.

 

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Why We Raise Rabbits

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In some ways I am not the ideal person to guest blog for Jill. After all, Jill is a full-fledged, seasoned farmer. I, on the other hand, am really just starting out. Sure I grew up on a farm (a buffalo farm), but I never took a real interest in farming, even after my husband took over the operation, until the youngest of our four children started school. A couple of years ago I decided that it was time I embrace life on the farm. Much to my husband’s surprise I asked for chickens for Mother’s Day. From there, my love for farming has grown.

Shortly after we got the chickens, a customer of my husband’s hardware store, offered him three rabbits. Eager to expand my livestock collection, I readily agreed. It has been a great decision, and we’ve learned a lot. Here are some reasons I’m glad we are raising rabbits.

1. Rabbits do not require a trailer. One reason I wanted to get into farming was to have an activity to enjoy with The Littles (this is what we call our two youngest). They had both shown an interest in the farm, but buffalo are not like cattle. They can be aggressive and difficult to deal with. We needed a smaller starter animal. Rabbits seemed like a good choice. But I don’t even like to parallel park. No way was I hauling a trailer full of sheep, horses, or goats. We can easily fit six or seven rabbit cages in the back of my Suburban if we are taking them to a sale or show.

2. Rabbits are cute. As excited as The Littles were to get rabbits, they aren’t always excited about feeding them. Being able to play the adorable card helps. “Poor Little Blossom. Wouldn’t you hate for her to be hungry.” It’s hard to argue with this face.

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3. Rabbits are easy to manage. Aside from being easy to haul, rabbits are easy to handle in general. This is important for a beginning farmer and her Littles. Worst-case scenario someone gets a scratch or bite, but on one is going to get kicked in the head or trampled. Larger animals might be in our future. In fact in recent months, I’ve begun helping my husband more with the buffalo. But for now, I prefer The Littles and I get our farming feet wet with small, easily managed livestock.

4. Rabbits are the fastest producing food source. Or so I hear. We have not actually eaten our own rabbits yet. I thought we could. In fact, when the offer of rabbits first came up, I thought having rabbits would be a handy way to enjoy some hasenpfeffer. However, within five minutes the Littles had named, claimed, and cuddled my future feasts. And it’s just really hard to eat a Mr. Fluffington. For now we are content just to breed and show our rabbits. When we do decide to start eating them, we will have to name them things like Stewie. For those who do want a readily available food source, rabbits breed quickly and grow to eating size in a relatively short period of time. They are also easy and free to slaughter. (It costs a fortune to have a buffalo slaughtered.) For those preparing for a “worst case scenario” that might include a life without electricity, rabbits are a one -meal slaughter (requiring no refrigeration). And yet it is easy to maintain a large enough herd to keep a family in meat year round.

5. Rabbits are the pet you can eat. Okay, that is not exactly the slogan we want on our letterhead, but it is the truth. The Littles love to have baby bunnies around. They are ridiculously cute. However, since we aren’t eating them, we can’t just keep them. Fortunately, in a farming community like ours, it is easy to find homes for baby rabbits. Most people want them for pets or to show, but a few people are looking for a food supply. We successfully market to both, and The Littles get a little spending money from their rabbit sales – another incentive to keep the bunnies fed and happy.

For families raising a variety of larger, meatier, more valuable livestock, cute little bunnies might seem frivolous. But for people new to farming or for families with small children, rabbits might be just the ticket. And if you decide raising rabbits isn’t for you, there’s always hasenpfeffer.

This post was to appear as a guest blog for The Prairie Homestead , but technical difficulties have prevented that from happening – so far.

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THE FIRST ANNUAL MOTHER DAUGHTER HOLIDAY PINTEREST WEEKEND

I am so not crafty.  I lack the necessary attention to detail to be precise.  And I can’t cut in a straight line. But I crack myself up. I’m constantly pinning adorable crafts, homemade gift ideas, and DIY projects. As if…

Well, you know what. As if I’m actually crafty, I set aside a whole weekend with my girls to take on some of the projects I’ve pinned. I bought all the supplies in advance because one of the rules of  the MOTHER DAUGHTER HOLIDAY PINTEREST WEEKEND is that we stay in our pajamas all weekend. Cat was thrilled with the idea, and MM was willing to tolerate it. Here’s what we did:

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Aren’t these adorable! And they were sooooo easy. And inexpensive. We got the idea from a clever gal, Sabby in Suburbia

Young House Love gave us this clever idea.  Actually, this project was mostly Chet’s.  Yes, it was a risk letting him use the hot glue gun, but these turned out great, and he was really proud of himself.

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These are the sweetest.  In my house we try to keep the spirit of Advent.  Yet, everyone (except me) wants to put up the tree before December 20th.  These are a good way to compromise.  The kids and I made NAMES OF JESUS ornaments and will add one to the tree everyday during Advent.

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Thank you, Roaring Momma

Also, we made these beauties!  This was MM’s favorite project.  I’ve seen the idea on a variety of websites.  And there are different methods for doing this.  We just took plain glass balls, popped off the top, squeezed in some acrylic paint, and then shook vigorously.  I think we might have skipped a step or maybe just used too much paint,  because the paint didn’t dry.  Every time someone drops one of these – paint every where.  I guess we should have used the plastic balls, but oh well.

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This next thing is all us.

-We cut pictures from old calendars and Christmas cards and burned the edges.  This is not necessary, but we like the way it looks.

-Next, we covered a small canvas with either scrapbook paper or gold spray paint.

-We glued on the picture.

-Finally we slathered the whole thing with Modge Podge.

-We just hot glued some ribbon to the back of the canvas for easy hanging.  And voila…

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We also did a cork board for Cat’s room using the same method and super cute scrapbook paper (no burning).

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We didn’t come near finishing everything I want us to make, but this is a start. As I type , I’m making this body wash from Katie Gibson.  I can’t wait to try it!

No, I’m not naturally crafty, but the holidays and time with my girls always inspire the Martha Stewart in me.  She hides most of the time, but this year, I think she showed up in full force.  Who knows, maybe she’ll stick around even after the holiday this year.

 

 

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Move Over Elf on the Shelf. The Wise Men are in the House.

This article has been reblogged at my new blog, Charming Farming.  Scroll down to read the whole thing…

We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf, but I’ve read about them on the Internet, and I think I get the idea. Sometime in the weeks before Christmas, this little guy makes an appearance. His job is to keep an eye on the kiddos for Santa – to see who’s being naughty and who’s being nice. But at night, when everyone is sound asleep, the elf goes around causing mischief. The next morning delighted tots wake up and find Santa’s helper has been very busy. I’ve seen pictures of shelf elves drinking syrup from a straw, wallowing in a bag of powdered sugar, and playing Candy Land with Woody and Buzz. I’ve read blogs where parents offer elaborate suggestions for elf antics. One even suggested having the family’s elf sneak around at night swapping the clothes in all the closets. I can assure you, any elf of mine who tried that would himself relocated to the bottom of the Goodwill pile.

But as I’ve said, we don’t have an elf. Oh we love Santa. We write him letters, leave out cookies and milk, and even track his Christmas Eve journey on the NORAD website. At least we used to. This will be the first year that none of the kids even pretend to still believe. Ouch!

Anyway, it’s not that I’m anti-elf, but we do try to keep the spirit of advent during the weeks leading up to Christmas. It might come as a surprise to some people, but mad rushes to the mall, festive parties, and feisty trouble-making elves are not traditionally the way Christians have prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Traditionally Advent has been a time of prayerful reflection as the Church prepares to meet her Lord, not only as a baby in a manger, but also as King of kings at the end of time.

That’s not to say our family doesn’t have fun Advent traditions. We just try to keep the focus on Christ. So instead of a scampish elf roaming about in search of trouble, we have wise kings roaming about in search of Baby Jesus. And instead of Mommy and Daddy having all the fun, everyone gets a wiseman to move/hide. Admittedly, the Magi aren’t as zany as the elves, but they can still turn up is some odd places. And anyone who comes across a wiseman is expected to say quick prayer, then set him back on his journey.

No, you won’t find these guys getting into the Christmas cookies, but they do wind up in some odd places.

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I wonder if he’s looking for a gift of spices.

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Maybe this is how he got so wise – reading.

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I see animals, but I don’t think this is the manger.”

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Just hanging with the guys.

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Here Here for Beer Bread!

 

So, The Boy, our oldest son, Jack, will be leaving for college in approximately a year and a half.  I’m starting to panic.  Don’t get me wrong.  I want him to go.  I remember the words my mother said to me as my high school graduation was approaching, “I’m so sad you are leaving.  But I’d be sadder if you were staying.”  It was time.  She knew it.  And I knew it.  I feel the same way about The Boy.  I will miss him everyday, but I want him to go on and experience new things.  And of course I want him to move toward an independent, happy life.

Still, I find myself feeling a little desperate as the time grows shorter and shorter.  Have I taught enough lessons?  Have I said enough prayers?  Have I cooked enough meals to make him mildly homesick when he’s at college?  Just the other day, I assured him that I would visit him at school and bring some home-cooked meals.  His reply?  “I don’t get that many home-cooked meals now.”  WHAT? IS HE JOKING?  IS THIS SOME SORT OF TEEN REBELLION DESIGNED TO PUT DISTANCE BETWEEN US?  IS HE TRYING TO KILL ME?  I can assure you.  I cook – well and often.

The thing is we live in the South.  Here people associate home cookin’ with fried chicken, fried fish, fried okra, fried pies, fried potatoes…you get the idea. I do occasionally make a mean biscuits and gravy, another southern staple.  But I don’t do fried.  I love fried food, I just don’t tend to fix it – my mother was the same way.   Anyway, after The Boy’s cutting remark, I have turned up the heat, literally in my kitchen.  I’m still not frying much, but I am making a whole slew of other homemade goodies, cookies, pies, brownies.   Last week I made a pot of potato soup and a pot of chicken noodle soup.  And what goes better with homemade soup than homemade bread?  Luckily I remembered my Daddy’s recipe for beer bread.

I don’t know if this is one of those recipes that everyone knows, but it should be. It’s such a quick and easy way to have homemade bread any night of the week. It isn’t ideal for sandwiches, but it’s perfect as a side or with a bowl of soup!  And it only has three ingredients!

3 cups of all purpose flour

3 table spoons of sugar

1 beer (12 oz.)

Mix four and sugar together. Slowly mix in the beer.  Let stand for about ten minutes.  Bake a 350 for 50-60 minutes.  When you take it out of the oven you can run an stick of butter over the top for added yumminess.

I certainly hope The Boy sees the errors of his ways.  I do cook.  Homemade bread proves it.  And so will the extra pounds we will all gain in order for me to make my point!

 

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