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Shepley First School

Garden Diary 2014-15

Mr Palfrey and the Y4 Gardeners and Eco Warriors.

26. 06. 15

Weeding, watering, and transplanting seedlings from trays in the Eco shelter to the raised beds. Also tidying up. A team of keen children working on this, and managed to transplant into the vacant raised beds beetroots, leeks, courgettes, carrots, and more radishes. All raised beds and tubs weeded and watered, plus ground allotments similarly. Also watered willow tunnel, the 3 living fruit trees of the 4,(one still suspect), and the 5 thorn less fruit bushes.


Brought in, and planted, with the Eco-Council children, a willow tunnel, on a pegged out weed-suppressing mat. 85 of the 97 stems were planted, the remaining 12 are in the large ‘Eco’ water tank till next week. Hope the vandals don’t get to work on it, it still needs double planting and tying. Rainy conditions to plant willow in are ideal. The two shed water butts are now full and working well to harvest rainwater just where we want it. Broad beans flowering nicely. Children also planted 4 native rowan trees along the second half of the allotment fence outside, de-turfing and de-stoning much of the length. I brought in a heavy mallet to knock in the 4 fruit tree stakes further. Tried the scratch test on them, and haven’t given up on any of them being dead yet, as this torrential rain we’ve been having is just what their roots need; there is some sign of green on all of them. They may just be slow and late coming into leaf.


Took groups of children plus staff to the Chesterfield Bumble Bee Pollination conference in Hillside’s minibuses.


Eco-Council unloaded 4 tree stakes from the car from Hillside, and proceeded to plant the remaining two fruit trees in the ‘avenue’. Watered in well. Suspect some have died. Time will tell. Some children finished planting the strawberry plants from last week under the currant bushes, then started weeding a raised bed to plant the 3 types of onions.

The Woodland Trust native hedge plants are growing well.
Lowered the position of the top new shed water butt as it wasn’t filling correctly. Checked the peas planted in the EYFS playground raised bed, which are coming through fine, but seem ‘leafless ’, as if something is eating them (slugs?). Repotted the bay tree as its terracotta pot was cracked. Tidied up the green polytunnel poles. Weeded the raised beds. Weeded the 5 fruit bushes inside the allotment fence. Top-dressed the 6 sacks of potatoes, as the haulms were getting frost-bitten.


Took out the onions that had arrived. Checked and watered plants in the Eco greenhouse and raised beds. Unpacked with the Eco-Committee the 4 fruit trees and strawberry plants and gave the children a choice as to which to help plant, which produced a nice 50:50 split. Two large holes were dug for the first two fruit trees at either end of the new ‘avenue’, the other two were heeled into the large ground bed and watered ready for next week. Garlic and peas in the allotment beds were watered by the children, as were the native hedge, which has come into leaf, and the 5 berry bush fruit, similarly. Tidied away.


Decided we must plant some more peas, as we have so many free packs, so the Eco-Council dug and planted 5 more trenches in the main allotment, marked and watered in. Also watered the peas planted previously in the EYFA playground raised bed. It’s still a bit early for main planting of most other crops, due to frost and Easter holiday.

The children dug over, loosened, de-stoned and final-weeded the main allotment, which is now ‘in good heart’,
(and still yielding plenty of rogue potatoes from last year, much to their delight - and taken to kitchens). We also weeded some raised beds, watered the 6 potato sacks, checked and watered the plants/herbs in the Eco-lean to, and observed the die-back of the recently-sprayed raised bed gravel path docks, etc.

Isla’s bin labels are in place and look good, with only a few waste items placed in the wrong bin. Checked and
watered the chilli seeds on the classroom window ledge – these seedlings are now beginning to germinate, but I will take them home over Easter.


Checked use of the new green bin – good to see only fruit inside – Isla to print off and laminate sign labels for both these bins.
Checked plants in the Eco greenhouse – watered some which were dry.
Removed the two trays of chitting potatoes out of the Eco, and showed/explained to the children how they grow and are planted. Took them up to the shed area and in
pairs, they half-filled a potato bag each, then planted their given potato variety (Rocket or Casablanca), then topped up the compost level, labelled and watered the sack.
Some children then went back to class, but 5 opted to stay for more, so we attempted to build and secure the polytunnel frame, and stretch the plastic tarpaulin over it.
By this time, the wind had picked up, and, with only 4 pegs and guy ropes supplied, we pinned the base of the sheeting down with flat rocks.
Then I liaised with Val and Trish, but, as I went to leave, I thought I would just check the tunnel was still securely in place, only to find it gone, wrapped around fruit trees
on the other side of the henny! So gathered the sheeting up and stored temporarily in the shed.


The Eco-Council planted 3 lavender plants in tubs to the borders, as they were constantly being blown over by the wind. They also did some weeding of borders and composted the weeds. Then they collected and filled the 7 watering cans which were strewn about, and stored them inside the ground veg. garden fence. They helped me measure the shed with a view to completing the guttering (only done on one side) and fitting water butts to downpipes. Four children then opted to go back in, whilst four others opted to stay out for more. Two boys raked and weeded a raised bed and planted radish seeds in drills, whilst two girls planted 3 types of tender seeds in pots: cucumber, chilli and sweet peppers, watered them, and brought them into their warm classroom on a sunny window ledge above a radiator to germinate. Isla to write, and position, proper labels (provided) to the pots. 


Took the Eco-Council out and went round inspecting how far the fat/seed bird feeders were being used. Many were being actively pecked at, and later in the morning many ground feeding blackbirds were seen jumping up to take a single peck, repeatedly. 

We then took a wheel barrow and sacks to top up the compost level in the EYFS playground, which had settled to around half full. Also topped up the half barrel tub in EYFS playground. Some children were feeling cold so I said they could go back in, but Isla and Oscar volunteered to do more outdoor jobs, so we took the 5 recently-delivered fruit bushes and dug holes around the inside of the
ground bed fence (which luckily was a strip of narrow unfrozen turf in an otherwise bone-hard field) and planted them, which they enjoyed, with photos taken afterwards. Took delivery of ordered seeds for planting later in the Spring.


Conducted a full litter bin survey with the Eco-Council throughout the school, inside and out, needed for the Green Flag Environmental Review document, and drew conclusions (Isla and Oscar to follow up at different later stages in the day, and report back next week).

(We noticed we have a superb wall cement shade fern habitat ‘collection’ – at least 5 species – which would make a great teaching point.)

Y4 gardening group took out the bird fat feeders and hung on tree branches round the henny field, then planted 9 supplementary native hedge tree plants round the ground bed fence, to complete the ‘Woodland Trust’ trees double row.
Refilled the 7 watering cans (again) from the butt. Tidied half of the shed sufficient to provide a ‘welly collection rack’ in size order. We potted-up cuttings from damaged blackcurrant bush stems and a windblown branch torn off the bay tree. We then pruned the fuscia bush which was growing over the path behind the Eco, and made cuttings from some of the cut tips. Put all cuttings in the Eco lean-to greenhouse. Liaised with Val and Trish re the new Eco Code, veg. orders, plus Green Flag actions and
plus the Woodland Project.


Re-inserted some windblown raised bed pea sticks. Checked and watered herbs in the Eco lean to. Re-filled 7 watering cans which I had left full besides the water butt (intruders must have been in).


The Eco-Council gathered and inserted some pea sticks in the raised beds. Then ran some of the overflowing water butt contents into 7 watering cans, ready for a dry spell. Then we went into the Eco to warm up by classifying seeds for next spring by month of planting. The first group of Y4 gardeners pruned 4 buddleia bushes and used the branches as pea and bean sticks for raised bed seedlings already growing. The next group harvested the fattest of the spring onions, thinning the bed crop, weeding, washing them and taking them to the kitchens.

Daffodil shoots are showing in the woods! - As the children today observed, that means that spring is coming round the corner!


Very cold and frosty morning. Too frozen to dig.  After discussing options with the teachers, took the Eco-Council for a nature walk round the grounds, and ended up doing a group litter pick. Came in early. Isla to make the final amendments to the new draft school Eco-Code. The only sensible option for the groups to follow, who I took together, was a run-around game. Played ’hunter-elephant-mouse’, an active chasing version of rock-paper-scissors.


The first group of Y4 gardeners finished planting the garlic corms in the smaller ground bed, and started digging the turf away from the fence ready for hedge planting. The second group finished this work and did the planting.


Moved the greenhouse base from where it was angled at a dangerous position on the currant beds, to where I think it should be, down on the grass away from intensely used areas. The water butt is now full again, and working well on its proper base. We could do with another one on the shed, which is already guttered on one side, and just needs a downpipe, which would provide a source next to the raised beds. Checked and watered the herbs in the Eco shelter. Took the Eco-Council down to the Eco, where we finished and edited the new Eco-Code, and left the master with some of them to type up the first draft. Weeded the raised beds. Got the first group of Y4 to rake over, weed and stone the larger ground bed. Then we sowed it with winter rye green manure. The second group of Y4 did the same for thesmaller ground plot, then planted garlic and elephant garlic. Two boys dug up Victorian clay pipe stems. Left early in lieu of Friday’s visit.


Took Eco-Council children to Eco with large paper and felt pens, to work in pairs on developing a school Eco-Code, one of the Green Flag requirements. They enjoyed this, and we have some drafts to develop further. Did some weeding of raised beds, checked herbs in Eco-greenhouse, and decided to fit the 4 connectable base parts to the Eco water butt, for better support. Drained existing water to watering cans or ran off, removed bricks from inside, (now unnecessary), and replaced base (an inverted pot) with the correctly designed parts. Very heavy rain then made a gardening session impracticable, so came inside, liaised with Val, and worked on the staffroom computer, transferring 3 key Eco-School Green Flag document templates (Action Plan, Green Procurement Policy and Environmental Review (adult version)) from the Tidy Britain site to a new folder in Staffshare called ‘Eco Schools Green Flag’. Began working to populate the templates with personalised Shepley First information in draft form. Further information will need to be transposed from the Arthur Halliwell bid document to relevant sections in the Review doc.

Will continue to work on the documents as and when, over the winter and spring. Will try to involve the Eco-Council in this work when suitable, but some of it is just slogging through the 9 topics making a strong case, as Val knows with Arthur Halliwell Award. We may also need occasional assemblies to publicise their work directions. We may also need to put a Green Flag progress paragraph in the school newsletter to parents and community, which provides further evidence of wider consultation. This could include advertising for an interested parent, grandparent or governor to join the Eco-Council.


Weeded, harvested and raked more raised beds ready for autumn planting of winter veg., composting all pulled-up plants.
Took 2 trays of veg. to the kitchens, including sweet corn, and some large carrots.
Continuing with the next group, the children planted all the recently-ordered set of winter veg., so now all the raised beds (except 2, which still have beetroot and spring onions in part) are clean and re-planted with: broccoli, lettuce, spring onions, cauliflower, cabbage, peas and broad beans, all winter-hardy, plus two raised beds planted with green manure Phacelia, a pretty purple-flowering plant, for digging in in the spring.
All beds were watered in.
Re-arranged sacks of compost in the shed, and tidied litter, etc.


Brought in a more substantial tree stake and tie from Hillside, plus a heavy mallet, and re-staked the apple tree that was badly leaning over in the currant garden after being broken from its original stake. The Eco-Council children helped me tie it up to the new stake.
The Eco-Council then harvested 5 small yellow pumpkins from the raised bed and, following a knife safety talk, hollowed them out, designed and carved face holes
working in pairs, producing pumpkin lanterns, ready for penlight candles. Some wanted to do more weeding and potato hunting in the ground beds when finished, to warm up.
Went inside at break to liaise with Yangtze class over Yangtze programmes and resources, and talked with an interested male staff member in the staff room about the Connecting Classrooms scheme.
Then took a group outside to carve 4 more pumpkin lanterns, though as it was raining, we did this in the Eco.
9 pumpkin lanterns assembled on the shelf in the hall for display and photo recording as Green Flag evidence.


Prepared prioritised order form for garden recommendations prior to this morning. Repaired some gale damage from Monday morning: restored and secured water
butt, righted various pot plants, stakes, etc. Eco-Council checked and watered herb collection in the Eco side greenhouse, then weeded the smaller ground bed.
First gardening group continued this weeding, and started enlarging the smaller bed towards the fence to use more of this sunny section. Came in at break for meeting with Val to co-ordinate Green Flag documentation and British Council Connecting Classrooms country selection and staff briefing documents. Second group compiled a list of the herb collection, smelling each one as they went and learning the names, before presenting the list to the kitchens with some ripe plums from a tree and a few potatoes and black French beans.


Weeded and removed two clumps of nettle seedlings from the currant beds at the bottom of the stairs before they get established. Children weeded the main ground bed, and in the process uncovered two more trays of overlooked potatoes. This was the main work of the morning, for both the Eco-Committee (freed at last from the Env. Pupil Survey, now finished) and both sets of Class 5 children. Some more weeding and watering of the raised beds was also done.
Have weeded around the beautiful wild borage plants that have grown up in and between the raised beds, which the bees also love. Have been thinking of a suitable place to transplant these to, and the children love to hear about this edible plant, with its cucumber-flavoured leaves, and edible ‘star flower’ blue flowers used by chefs on desserts.

17.09 14

Brought in an ex-LA resource pack on Ancient Egypt for Nile class teacher.
Continued weeding the raised beds, including removing stinging nettles and thistles.
Took Eco-Councillors to the Eco to finish off the Eco-Schools ‘Pupil Environment Review’, which we did. Now ready to present summary results to a staff meeting, assembly or just Val/Trish whenever convenient, but there are curriculum implications from the results.
Y5 pupil groups transplanted the herb collection seedlings to bigger pots and watered in. More raised bed weeding, then harvesting of raised bed beetroot and
carrots, plus field bed crops of French beans and potatoes, all taken to school kitchens by the children. Children watered raised beds.


Brought in a wide range of herbs that had been grown from seed and tended daily over the summer holiday in Hillside greenhouse. These need regular watering, and will need potting up into larger individual pots, something children could do, before establishing a permanent herb garden location (though some are only tender annuals, such as basil). These were all left in front of the shed. Checked all areas, and began weeding raised beds of obvious easy-pull weeds such as fat hen, groundsel, that were threatening to drop seed. Some children helped while we waited for the rest of the Eco-Warriors. Watered dry raised beds. Continued completing the Eco-Schools ‘Pupil Self-Review’ questionnaires in the Eco with children’s opinions (one more week needed to complete). Went to Yangtze class to give agreed presentation on the River Yangtze for Sarah’s class. Had a quick break coffee in staff room and liaised with other staff about grounds, curriculum, etc. Finished presentation after break. With (very keen) questions at the end, this took till 11.40.

There are all sorts of things we could do this year, besides a lot of weeding and harvesting which needs doing at the moment. It is the time of year in the garden to study catalogues and think what we want for next year, if funding allows. I am thinking I might plant a willow tunnel from free cuttings from Hillside. We need also to dig over all beds as they are cleared of crops, then I suggest mulching with compost, and planting with ordered 'green manure', a particular rye crop for over-wintering, which we tried at Hillside last winter with amazing results. You just dig it in in spring. Then I think I need a whole morning to look at setting up the greenhouse somewhere. We could also purchase some sort of polytunnel, with a view to planting vines, figs, citrus, olives, and other Mediterranean plants. The vines at Netherton this afternoon were dripping with sweet bunches of grapes after just their second summer, up to the roof in such heat. Then, as Val says, we need some 'potting' bench type area to work at waist height. Then, we should look to order some autumn planting shallots, onions, garlic, etc. from a seed catalogue. Maybe we need a meeting to discuss your priorities on all this.

See you next week.


Brought in saw and loppers and removed overhanging branches of alder trees casting shade over the furthest raised beds. Brought in and repotted bay tree purchased from B&Q. Brought in and stored in shed a weedkiller sprayer for treating docks in gravel in between raised beds. Bought a set of ‘Herb garden’ seeds, to raise over the summer in the Hillside greenhouse, where they will be checked and watered in a holiday rota ready for September. Watered needy plants and weeded veg. First group of children moved tomato pots from morning shade next to nursery to inside the fenced allotment, where they will get full sun. Then we learnt about the plum trees, and how they were grafted onto rootstock, but which was growing back with suckers of the wild plant, which needed removing. Children helped to identify suckers on two plums, and helped to cut them out with loppers. Then they harvested more radishes and weeded raised beds as they went. Went in with children for Arthur Halliwell Award assembly. Second group harvested more radishes, weeded more raised beds, learning weed names and habits and how to recognise carrot seedlings. Sowed more beetroot in raised bed and watered in. Planted some squash seeds in pots and watered in. Met children for Eco-Council and went to Eco to get chairs to sit outside to continue completing the Eco-Schools Pupil Environment Review. Gave out last two badges for children not here last time.


(First week of 3 hours from 8.30 a.m.) Checked all beds and areas, watered needy dry plants in this dry spell, pruned some untidy overhanging branches, and prepared for first group. Children weeded raised beds and allotment plot, and watered more beds, and harvested further crops of radishes from field bed and raised beds. Spent some time teaching weed and veg. seed identification as we worked. Second group continued this work. Placed veg. and class laminated sheets labels into appropriate beds. Finished for 11.0 a.m. to spend last half hour meeting and talking with the new Eco-Warriors about their forthcoming role.


Well done on winning the Arthur Halliwell Award! That's a great achievement and award, in what might be the last year. I'd like to read the bid some time. I've told 2 of Arthur's family that you've won it, and that I am helping you, after setting the thing up originally.

Anyway, today:

Checked things after my absence, watered a few dry trays, weeded, then got children to harvest radishes in field bed. Dug over, then replanted with purple French beans and watered in. Planted lavender plant in border, and scattered poppy seeds in disturbed soil. Second group weeded and raked some raised beds, then planted carrots seed ‘tapes’ and watered in.

Josh was an absolutely superb gardener, and deserves some house points or something! Lots of others worked well too. Lovely children. The water butt near the Eco has come off its pot, and really needs setting up again to give us a water source down there. Is there a spare plastic storage box that we could use, upended, instead of that pot, which seems a bit rickety?

Next jobs to do in the Shepley First garden

  • Finish weeding the raised beds (some couch grass remains).
  • Then top-dress each raised bed with a mulch layer, hoed in, of the new peat-free compost, from sacks in the shed.
  • Harvest the purple sprouting broccoli one last time and take to kitchens (children know how to do this now) then dig up/pull up the broccoli plants and compost (taking care that there are some deep-rooted thistle plants under the biggest broccoli, which also need weeding out).
  • Water all Eco trays of veg. regularly, until planted up elsewhere.
  • Trays of peas, spring onions, spinach (in the side cloche), and lettuce all need pricking out individually and planting into the raised beds.
  • Go into the wildlife area near the cloche, where I have started to break down some dead cherry tree stems, for using as pea sticks, pushed into the outdoor beds (waist high or lower is sufficient height).
  • Prick out the tomato plants individually from Eco trays and pots into larger compost-filled pots, and place in a sunny position, i.e. alongside the Eco terrace or behind the Eco glass front, but they need watering very regularly.
  • Other seeds can now be planted, which say ‘May planting’ or later. I’m not sure we planted all the April planting ones either, so a check can be done on the seed packets in the tray in the left far corner of the Eco. By all means, use the liberated seed trays to plant more seeds which say March planting as there are many left. The cloche is now largely vacated, but I’m finding that, while it is a good protection from frost in spring, it’s too shady on that side to give lots of sun to seedlings, which is why I’ve moved most round to the other sides.
  • The potato bed can be raked up with soil over the potato haulms, if you have time – not essential, but be careful not to stand on radishes and peas planted in between rows.


Brought in from Hillside Primary, at no cost, 10 varied currant bush cuttings, and the first group of children weeded, dug over, and planted the first 4 in the ‘waste corner’ below the steps, then the second group did the same to the opposite corner bed by the water tank and apple tree. Plants were watered in. A strawberry plant was put in the first bed too, to start ground cover from runners as weed suppressors. I also watered the beans in the field bed, and the carrot seeds in the raised beds.


Checked and watered, repositioned seed trays in cloche and Eco. Checked outdoor ground beds. Started to break down some dead cherry tree stems in the wildlife area for pea sticks. Spent all the rest of the time weeding digging and clearing the raised beds, and composting the weeds – almost finished. No children – SATs week. Liaised with Val about my forthcoming absence.


Checked and watered dry seedling trays in the Eco-cloche. Removed lid from tomato seedlings in Eco. Began to weed raised beds, clearing 1½, and harvesting remaining beetroot for kitchens. Weeded rudrils from raised bed area about to seed, e.g. dandelions. First group of children helped to transplant peas, radishes and remaining potatoes into ground bed. Second group continued this work. Built up a stone pile for wildlife, tipped in the wildlife border area, from the stones picked from the bed. 


Brought in chitted potatoes from Potato Council and planted in potato bed. Checked and watered dry seed trays in Eco-cloche, noting which ones needed to be transplanted most urgently. First group of children harvested purple sprouting broccoli, probably for the last time, then began planting out radishes into new veg. bed. Second group finished the radish planting, and planted out some peas. This has now already filled the veg. bed.


We got all the rest of the potatoes in, which has filled the (first) bed, except for the Potato Marketing Board's box that you gave me. This should have been opened and the potatoes inside put out to 'chit'. Small sacks are provided for their planting but there was no time left, so I've brought them home to chit over Easter. Will bring back and plant next time. I'm afraid they, like the other potatoes you had, have grown long tendrils of shoots searching for the light.


Checked all seed trays in Eco and Eco-cloche, watering those that needed it. With the new ground bed dug and rotivated, we were ready to plant the well-chitted potatoes. One group of Y4 before break, the other after break, planting more than half the potatoes, the remainder to be put in next week. This included safety talks about tools use, explanation about how to plant eyes uppermost, spacing, etc., and showing the children theirs (and others’) planted seeds, now in various stages of germination.

We'll have to leave the broccoli 'second harvest' till next week, which is fine, as it'll give the new purple side shoots another week to grow bigger. We'll be in a position to completely clear and weed the raised beds then in the early summer term for planting. At Hillside, each class chooses a vegetable, and has that veg. in their bed, i.e. all of it, as opposed to little bits of various things. I'm not sure if you have any preferences as to which system, though colourful pictorial labels can be put on the side of the beds with the vegetable photo with just one or two types. I'll leave you to think about this. You've got all Easter hols for this!  
Also, as I said, the potatoes are filling the new bed, so we'll need another one, for other outdoor veg., but no rush till early summer term, maybe where Trish thought, perhaps slightly smaller, and more elongated in shape. The children agreed with me that they've got enough grass to play on, and you can't eat grass.


Checked and watered seed trays. Prepared seed packets and equipment for another group of children to plant veg. Tidied up compost heaps. Picked litter and blown pots, etc. from winter gales. Weeded some raised bed annuals. Took out new cloches from shed and tidied rubbish to make space. Planted more veg. seeds with children.


Checked eco-cloche for seed trays, which needed watering. Looked round site with Val, to confirm the best site for the dug veg. bed, which was then marked out. Took a group of children to plant 2 more veg. trays of seeds, watered and put in cloche. Got the children to harvest the purple sprouting broccoli from the raised beds, and they took 2 trugs full to the school kitchens. Did some weeding of noxious weeds in the raised beds (tap-rooted docks, thistle, etc.) and bittercress from the lawn margins, before it seeds. Placed 2 seed trays of tomatoes in an electrically-heated propagator found in the shed. Unsure if it still works or not. Left it plugged in in the eco – maybe needs checking.


Enjoyed starting this morning - especially when the drizzle stopped and the warm sun came out in the second hour which made the birds sing - very pleasant.
Invoice entry for today reads:

Shown keys, then took 8 Y5 children and carried all seed packets and potato bags from the shed to the Eco-room, where we sorted the seed packets to see what was there, veg., legumes, herbs, flowers, then again into planting months, to see what needs to go in first. Also opened the potatoes, explained about ‘chitting’, how and why it works, then the children arranged the potatoes in trays around the edge of the room to air and ‘chit ‘ further before planting, in land to be identified. Second hour: weeded raised beds, sorted out waterlogged or dry pots with compost in, from side of shed and in the Eco-cloche, then planted tomato seeds, plus some basil and coriander, which can be planted indoors in any month. This will get the tomato plants going, probably too many, but some could be sold at an Easter Fair or some such. Pruned buddleias from shrub beds, had a look round, and started to rationalise a few things.


Checked ‘greenhouse’ on side of 'eco' for seeds planted before half term. Watered trays. Looked round grounds for an open soil site for veg. planting, particularly the abundant potatoes we set to ‘chit’ around the eco room. Couldn’t find a bed, so asked, and the HT came out with me to find a suitable plot. Worked with a group of children to plant a wide range of 'plant in March' seeds, mainly veg., in seed trays, labelled and watered and placed in eco greenhouse. 

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