Keeping up with the Joneses

Save Money on Gardening – Even at the Last Minute

Patience grows the garlic.

Patience grows the garlic.

Sometimes patience pays, well, maybe it’s actually procrastination.
Call it what you will, there are cases where putting off ordering your seeds, plants, and other gardening supplies can actually save you money.

Some examples:

Johnny’s Select Seeds is currently offering a free shipping discount. Ours came as a post card in the mail yesterday, but if you didn’t receive one, follow this link.

Likewise Burpee’s is offering free shipping, or you can go to their site and get $10 off a $40 purchase. You probably can’t get both though.

Stark Bros. is offering select trees on sale in celebration of Arbor Month. You can find that info here.

This is another one we received by email. If you are concerned about signing up for these and getting too much spam, just set up a separate account for these things.
That’s what we did and it works really well.

So check with your favorite providers of gardening supplies, especially as it gets closer to planting time, and see what bargains you can pick up.

Keep in mind that there are very often end-of-the-season sales as well. You may not find that one specific veggie seed you wanted, but that’s the chance you take.

Also take note that some companies offer discounts and specials all year. The Seeds of the Month Club, one of our favs, is a good way to save all year on seeds plus they often run contests; and Annie Haven at Moo Poo Tea always has free shipping and many times throughout the year offers a free bag with purchase.

Note: None of the suppliers mentioned here compensated us in any way for mentioning and linking their sites. We just want to share the savings with you.

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Categories: saving money & time

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5 Reasons to Be Cruel to Your Veggies

The expression ‘Kill them with kindness’ isn’t meant to be taken literally, but when it comes to your veggie plants, it just may be.

Sometimes it is better to do what may seem harmful, for the sake of the plant.

Here’s what and why:

One less strawberry bud here.

One less strawberry bud here.

1. Pinch off their faces.

Before you transplant edibles such as strawberries, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, it is better for the plant to pinch off any buds that already exist.

Hard to make yourself do? I hear ya.

It is worth it though because it helps the plants put their energy into establishing better root systems that will in the long run provide you with a healthier and more productive plant.

Similar but a little different is the technique of pinching back plants like basil. By removing the top budding leaves, it encourages the plant to produce more branches and a fuller, bushier plant grows. It also helps hold off bolting, giving you a fresh supply over a longer period.

This technique is much easier on you emotionally. ;-)

2. Drown them.

Over-watering plants really is killing them with kindness, and possibly has caused more plant fatalities than any other habit.
So why do we say ‘drown them’?

Because it is better for a plant to give them less frequent, but more intense, waterings. Not all plants of course, there are some like wasabi that like to be kept moist all the time.

But for most veggies it is better to let them get a wee bit dry than for them to have moisture all the time.

Give them a good soaking.
If they are in containers, give them another good soaking.
Then walk away, leave them alone, until they need you.

Long awaited for parsnips fresh pulled in April.

Long awaited for parsnips fresh pulled in April.

3. Freeze their butts off.

Some plants not only prefer the colder weather, they require it. If peas aren’t planted early enough, as soon as the ground thaws and can be worked, they will not have enough time to produce a good crop. Other crops don’t like the heat as well, greens in particular.

Letting some of your veggies, like parsnips, get hit with a little frost actually is said to improve their flavor.

Whether that is the case with over-wintering parsnips or not I can not prove, but I do know that pulling them out of the garden when nothing else is producing in early spring, is priceless.

4. Decide who lives and who dies.

Thinning plants stinks, but you are sacrificing one seedling to save another. If the plants don’t have enough room to grow, or are fighting over the same nutrients, they will both suffer.

Making seed tapes or buying them is one easy option. This is especially helpful for tiny seeds like carrots.

5. Pack ‘em in.

Just the opposite, if you look into square foot gardening or intensive gardening, you will find that you can plant seeds or transplants closer than is usually recommended.

With both these methods it is important to be sure the plants have sufficient nutrients and room to grow, but they will allow you to get more veggies in a smaller space.

Raising veggies sometimes requires you to make tough decisions, but we bet you’re ready for the challenge.

Categories: common misconceptions, gardening, techniques

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Curry – You Can Grow That!

Getting ready.

Getting ready.

It was about 3 years ago that I brought home a curry plant from the local nursery.
My husband giggled “You can’t grow curry.” he said, “Curry is a combination of herbs and spices.”

Of course it turned out he was right; after all, food is his field. Apparently what I had purchased was a delightfully smelling ornamental plant. Drat.

But telling me “You can’t” do anything only makes it a challenge, and I finally figured out that you really can grow curry.
Well, close enough.

It started out with me trying to grow as many of our own herbs and flavorings as possible.
Some, like mints, are simple. Others, like garlic, take a little more work. Still others, like ginger, take more know-how and time.

As the seasons came and went, there was less and less from the store on our herb shelves and more from the garden.

Still that curry thing bothered me.
Until recently that is, when I actually read the list of ingredients from the back of the bottle, given in order of amount:

Coriander- A No brainer. How often do gardeners complain their cilantro has bolted? Yep, those little seeds are coriander. We got this one!

Turmeric- Okay, it is getting a little harder. Turmeric is a root that takes almost as long to grow as ginger, specifically about 8 months. It is a perennial in zones 9-11, but like ginger it can be grown indoors in colder zones like we have. You can sometimes find it fresh at Asian or India food supply stores and in some markets. I couldn’t find it locally, but was able to order some from Amazon.com. The price wasn’t too bad, and you can replant some of what you harvest so it is a one time purchase.

Mustard- It doesn’t say on the bottle of store bought curry, but most often it is the mustard seed that is used as a spice. All we need to do is let it bolt and harvest the seed. Now we’re talking!!

Cumin- This relative of parsley is a new herb for our garden this year. It is often confused with the biennial caraway, but cumin is actually an annual plant. It can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, so here it will be going in the ground this weekend. What you harvest are also the seed heads. We will be posting more on all of these as the season progresses, hopefully with lots of pictures!

Fenugreek- Another new one for us. This should be a fun season! Also easy to grow, prep your seeds first by soaking (we recommend Moo Poo Tea, link above right) or scarify. Soaking is much easier. Fenugreek will be great because both the leaves and seeds are edible.

Paprika- Another easy one. Paprika is simply a dried and powdered pepper from the group Capsicum annuum. These can range from sweet to rather hot. I’ll let him decide which ones he want to use, as we are growing quite a variety of peppers this year.

Cayenne- This seemed a little redundant to me, but I guess they are looking for a cayenne specifically. Yeah, we have that covered as well.

Cardamon- This very expensive herb actually can be grown at home. I have read that you can plant the brown type found in the grocery store, but I don’t know if that is true. Instead I found seeds online; after all, I’ve gone this far I can almost taste victory! It looks like another plant that may need some special attention, but that’s okay by me.

Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cloves- What? No! All 3 of these, the least of the ingredients, are derived from trees; and ones that I highly doubt grow in our area. When I looked up a substitute for nutmeg, it said cinnamon. When I did a search on a substitute for cinnamon, I found cloves.
It began to look like I really couldn’t grow curry after all.

Until my husband read this post on varieties of basil.
“There’s a Cinnamon Basil?” he asked. “You should grow that!”

“Why would you want cinnamon basil? I responded, “That sounds like an odd combination to me.”

“No, they are great together. When I use curry powder, I always add some basil. I love the way they taste together.”

So there you have it my friends, never say “You can’t grow that” to a gardener.
Unless, of course, you want them to prove you wrong.

We will post updates on the plants throughout the season. When we make the curry powder, we will add that recipe to our recently revived foodie blog page here.
Of course, we will also add some recipes that feature curry.
We’re betting this will taste much better than the store bought stuff.

you can grow that

is a collaborative effort on the part of a number of gardeners around the world. Each month they write a post specifically to help and encourage everyone to grow something. Find more posts by clicking on the logo above.

Categories: herbs, preparedness, saving money & time, you can grow that

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1 Really Good Reason to Grow Food This Year

Being prepared.

Being prepared.

If you have been reading here a while, and certainly if you have been growing an edible garden for a few years, you know there are numerous good reasons for people to grow their own food:

1. It tastes better. All of it. Every last veggie tastes better than store bought.

2. You save money. Okay, maybe not at first, but in the long run. Not to mention less Doctor bills, because-

3. It is healthier for you. Fresh produce is higher in nutrients than even organic produce that is older.

4. You are less dependent on others for your food.

5. It is great exercise both physically and mentally.

6. Economic uncertainty.

Now you might be thinking, ‘But GJ, you said ONE reason!’

Of course you are right, and here it is:

California.

Unless you are totally self-sufficient, you are buying something that was grown in California. Maybe it’s nuts, or produce, or an ingredient in something else; but the truth is the vast majority of the food we eat in the US is associated with California farms.

And they are having a horrible year. The extreme drought continues, and here in the northeast we are already seeing the effects.
The price of almonds has skyrocketed, for example; and that is just the beginning.

It gets worse. Even if the drought suddenly lifted, much of this season’s crops are already affected. Not just this season’s either; because so many items end up as ingredients, the prices of other food items will continue to go up even if the drought subsides.

Think about it.
What would you do if suddenly the cost of food tripled?
What if some items you normally enjoy were no longer available?

Now we’re not trying to predict what will happen nor frighten anyone.
For the cost of a few packets of seeds and either some containers or a little part of your yard, you could begin to lay the groundwork, so to speak, for a more secure future food-wise.

Isn’t that one reason alone way more than enough?

Categories: gardening, saving money & time, special posts

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Don’t Put All Your Bees in One Flower Basket

Guest Post by George Brooks Jr.

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed

Contrary to popular hype, we need to broaden our view of pollinators. We are putting almost all our efforts into the Imported European Honeybee demise and not enough emphasis on our native bees. There are upwards of 100 native species of bees. Anyone who has ever been on my Micro Farm comments on how many bees I have, and I do not have any hives.

There is much talk about all the things that are killing bees and how we need to eliminate them. Can’t remember seeing much on how most people in our suburbs are helping to cause the decline of pollinators as much or more than any other factor (my opinion). We have conditioned ourselves to expect our yards to look like a manicured Golf Course. Unfortunately this landscape isn’t capable of supporting much of any life form, it is sterile. Millions upon millions of acres have been turned into these neatly manicured dead zones. The loss of rural areas around population centers has helped accelerate this transition to a monoculture that doesn’t support plant diversity needed to support a healthy pollinator population.

It also causes the decline of many other life forms like birds etc. Our land is full of life, birds, snakes and thousands of pollinators including honeybees. This is with an orchard and large garden on the property. I’m about 75% organic and increasing their use whenever I can. I still use some non organic pesticides and fungicides following Integrated Pest Management & Disease Risk Management practices. These practices help me maintain a healthy environment for life.

But without wild spots in your yard there would be no place for life to exist. If everyone set aside at least one small back corner of their property and let it grow native plants, it would make a difference. I wish everyone could see how alive our land is, there is always something in bloom to support life. Think about it.

Also, will banning the most toxic pesticide group help honeybees? Probably. An even bigger issue is the lack of information and knowledge of the average person. The truth is most anything will kill a bee, synthetic, organic or otherwise can be toxic. The real problem is people do not read the labels other than how much to use. Most every product that is toxic to bees has specific instructions on how to use the product without harming them. Will it prevent all issues? Maybe not but far better than what we are doing now. Education is paramount.

For many years we have practiced the following to promote beneficial wildlife & insects. This is done by providing areas that have a combination of cultivated and native plants. Traditional sterile landscaping provides a monoculture that insect pests thrive in because of the lack of food and cover for wildlife and beneficial insect populations. This creates a higher need for chemical controls.

The practice of Wild Spots is now being promoted on garden shows and in horticulture literature. You can learn more about this practice by doing a web search on “Insectary Gardening for beneficial insects”.

Black Eyed Susan

Black Eyed Susan

A few examples of Insectary gardening on our property:

1. Hay Rake Wild Spot:
A combination of cultivated and wild plants.
Cultivated Bi-color Black Eyed Susan’s, Butterfly Weed, Milkweed, Multi Head Black Eyed Susan, Morning Glory, Arrowhead Aster, Porcelain Berry Vine. All promote pollinators and predatory insects like wasps. The Berry Vine also provides migrating birds with one of the last fruits of the season.

2. Garden Hillside Wild Spot
Primarily Jewelweed and Multi-Flora Rose, which provides a nesting area for Catbirds. This also makes a great feeding area for House Wrens, Hummingbirds and beneficial insects including pollinators.

Spearmint

Spearmint

3. Well & Sickle Bar Mower Wild Spot
Primarily Spearmint and Goldenrod. Spearmint is by far the most popular plant for nectar and pollen eating beneficial insects.

Throughout the property we promote Arrowhead Aster, the last major supply of pollen and nectar at the end of the growing season for pollinators and beneficial insects.

Reprinted with permission from:
George Brooks Jr.
Green Hollow Orchard a Micro-Farm in North Tewksbury, MA USA.
All photos also by George Brooks Jr.

Categories: gardening, techniques

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Sundays in the Garden – with SaveTheWorld Jones

Saving the world one step at a time.

Saving the world one step at a time.

Many of you have heard us mention our youngest daughter, but we never explained why we chose her nickname.

When she was little, she used to pretend our backyard was a continent filled with many countries. When disputes would break out between them, she would negotiate peace. Of course each country had its own language which she made up, and it helped that she could speak them all.

As she grew she always took the best road. She found out which companies had good trade practices, and would purchase from them and not from others. She would buy from the shoe company that gave another pair to the needy. She even planted a garden for the sole purpose of giving the food away.

Flash forward to her freshman year in college, when she is invited to present her work on Conflict Resolution Between Countries at a conference, rubbing elbows with people who at the very least are in a master’s program, many of whom have their doctorate. And it goes on from there.

I could sit here and brag about her GPA, or how many languages she speaks and how many majors she has, but I won’t.

Instead I would like to show you something she sent to family and friends as her birthday approaches:

“For those of you who would have bought me a drink on my 21st, I would *really* appreciate, in lieu of alcohol, a donation to help send young girls in India to get an education.

The Child Brides: Send Them to School instead

Thank you!”

Her concern for these young girls far outweighs any thought for herself. It truly is just that simple.

And that my friends, is how she got her name.

Categories: gardening people, places & things, sundays in the garden

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5 Wonderful Grains for Your Home Garden

Did you ever stop to wonder just how self-sufficient your garden could make you? Sure you can grow great veggies, even a good protein source through dry beans.

But what about grains?

you can grow that

Although technically these are not all grains, we are listing them because they are used that way:

1. Corn

Most often thought of as a vegetable, corn is actually a grain. You can grow field or dry corn the same as you would sweet, but allow it to dry thoroughly on the cob before harvesting the kernels to grind.

Be sure to take preventative measures if you are also growing sweet corn nearby, as their pollen is carried on the wind and there can be cross pollination.
This summer we will be showing you ways to help prevent this; but for the meantime, keep them as far apart as possible preferably with a structure between them.

One of the best varieties for making your own corn meal, according to Baker Creek seed catalog, is Cherokee White Eagle. Just be sure to choose a variety that is meant to use for this purpose, they are less sugary and will dry more easily.

Grind, store and use the way you would store bought cornmeal.

2. Quinoa

Technically a vegetable, quinoa is a relative of spinach that is fast gaining popularity in restaurants as well as home kitchens. Part of the reason, other than the delightful taste, is that quinoa carries a protein not normally found in a vegetable. Especially for vegetarians, this is a wonderful thing.

What you harvest here are the seeds as well, dry, store and use like you would rice. You can also grind the seeds to use like flour.

3. Flax

Often grown for its use as a fiber, the seeds of flax are actually wonderfully nutritious. They are a good source of omega-3′s and high in fiber. The milled seeds can be added to many baked goods.
We are so excited to try our hand at growing flax this year.

4. Amaranth

Often listed under herbs, and even considered sometimes as a flower, Amaranth is a beautiful tall edible whose flower seeds can be used as a grain.
In some varieties you can also eat the leaves as a vegetable, bonus! The most common variety grown for the edible seeds is Love Lies Bleeding.

5. Millet

One definition of grains is that they are grasses that produce small edible seeds. Millet fits this description well. Its seeds can be ground for flours or gruel, but it is often also used as bird seed.

We are going to try one of the most common varieties used in the US, a Proso type; specifically Proso White.

Again, we will have more specifics on this as we actually grow and harvest it.

decorative or edible corn

Dry or Field Corn

Generally speaking these crops grow quite tall, and the harvest you get for the space may not compare to vegetables you plant instead.
But if you have the room and want to be more independent, consider trying a grain crop.

We will let you know how we fare, what was worth it and maybe what was not over the course of the next year.

Hopefully it will all be rave reviews; but the idea of not being dependent on a store for our grains is already a win in our books!

You Can Grow It! is a monthly collaboration by gardeners around the world to promote the wonderful aspects of gardening.
For more posts, please click on the logo above.

Categories: How to Store, other, preparedness

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Sundays in the Garden – with Shawn Whitiak

corkit by bestacork

Shawn isn’t finished with college quite yet, but already he owns his own garden products business and has invented something we thought many of you might find interesting.

Along with his business partner Michelle Mendez, Shawn designed a way to make planters from cork. These lightweight pots are better than plastic because they allow air to get to the soil, and better than traditional clay since cork has natural antibacterial properties.

A local news station featured them, take a look at the video here on Besta Cork.
You can see just how the pots are made by hand, it is really neat.

The planters are also good for the cork trees, as removing their bark is akin to shearing sheep.

If you are looking for a unique gift, Corkit pots can also be purchased with a Sprout pencil. Plant the eraser end, and it degrades releasing seeds. How fun is that!

Note: No compensation was received for writing this post, we just thought we would share something pretty cool.

Categories: gardening people, places & things, sundays in the garden

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7 Ways to Grow Love in Your Garden

Gardening is an act of love.

Sure, you get fresh air, exercise, and food; but most gardeners grow plants because they love to.

So here’s a Happy Valentine’s Day to all you gardeners, and a few examples of growing we would love to share:

Love these beans.

Love these beans.

1. Black Valentine Bean
This is one of our personal favorite bush beans to grow. As you can see from our notations on the packet, this bean can either be harvested as a green bean, or allowed to mature on the plant and dry. The seeds that you get as a dry bean are a beautiful purplish black and are wonderful tasting. Although we grow a variety of dry beans, we plant more of these than any other.

Colorful love.

Colorful love.

2. Love In A Mist
What a beautiful name for a gorgeous flower. And free seeds? Yep, you have got to love that! According to the packet description, this plant dates back to 1570′s English gardens, and has “wispy, feathery foliage surrounding the blooms”. Although we primarily plant edibles, we also grow some flowers to attract bees. These look to be a good choice for this year’s garden.

A mix of love.

A mix of love.

3. Love Lies Bleeding
Not the most romantic name, but the red variety of amaranth grows vibrant seed pods that are an outstanding, and edible, addition to the garden. We grew these for years before we were taking pictures of the garden, and unfortunately before we knew they were edible. More to come on growing amaranth this summer.

Tall and tasty love.

Tall and tasty love.

4. Lovage
Okay, we admit this one is pushing it a bit, but what isn’t to love about a perennial herb that grows 3 feet wide by 6 feet high and can be used in place of celery? We have yet to grow this but have tasted it, and the resemblance in flavor to celery was enough to convince us; another gorgeous edible for your garden.

A sweet honeymoon.

A sweet honeymoon.

5. Honeymoon Melon
The picture above is of the accidental experiment; but the real Honeymoon Melon is a yellow skinned green fleshed delight. It is also an earlier maturing variety of honeydew, so you get to enjoy that sweetness sooner.

There are two additional ways you can grow love in your garden:

Mom loved blue.

Mom loved blue.

6. Grow a Remembrance Plant:
This is the Sea Holly that was planted after my mom passed away last spring. In spite of the weather and only being a young plant, it bloomed the following fall, and after two frosts no less. It will always be a reminder of her, in the place we love to be.

Ready for little hands.

Ready for little hands.

7. Spread the Love
The garden really is a good example of the circle of life. Plants sprout, they grow and reproduce; some die and some continue to return for many years.
Sharing the knowledge and the love of gardening is a wonderful way to keep that information alive through the generations.
Pass it on, whether it is your neighbor, your kids or grandkids, or a school or church garden.

The love of gardening really is the best thing you grow.

Categories: special posts

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10 Perennial Vegetables for Your Garden

rhubarb in early spring

Here comes the rhubarb.

Although many herbs and fruits will bear for many years, most gardeners grow vegetables as annuals. There are some exceptions that can, depending on your climate of course, be harvested for years to come.

Perennials are different than self-seeding annuals, but for the topic at hand we are grouping them together.

Here in Zone 5/6 we can count on:
1. Lovage is technically considered an herb, but we list it here because it is used as a vegetable. The leaves particularly and the stems as well can be used in place of celery. Be sure you have enough room before you plant it, as lovage can easily grow 3 ft. wide and over 6 ft. tall.

2. Good King Henry is a new plant for our garden this year. It is reputed to taste much like asparagus, but with a longer harvest period. Eat the leaves raw or steamed. Give it a space of its own, as it will reseed with abandon.

3. Horseradish can easily be grown from a root purchased at your local market. It can be quite invasive, so we recommend planting it in a pot that sits on top of a rock slate, as the tiny roots will do their best to get out. Be forewarned, fresh horseradish packs an amazing punch.

4. Jerusalem Artichokes aka Sunchokes are as delightful to see grow as they are to eat. A relative of sunflowers, their blooms are similar but smaller. Even better, they smell like chocolate. Harvest the roots after the flowers fall over. Enjoy like a water chestnut or as a potato substitute.

sunchoke aka Jerusalem artichoke

Mmm… smells like chocolate.

5. Radicchio aka Italian Dandelion is a relative of what many consider to be an invasive weed. “You’re planting what?” was my husband Mandolin Jones’ reaction when I mentioned ‘dandelion’ but he was okay with ‘radicchio’. According to Art, the master gardener from Baker Creek, we should get 2 years of harvest here in Zone 5/6. So we intend to replant again in year two and see what happens. Some perennials last longer than others.

6. Rhubarb is one of the first veggies to pop through the soil in spring. It will last basically forever, as long as it is cared for. When you see it is looking overcrowded, dig some of the roots up and share. We found out the hard way that the best thing to do with dug roots is to pot them up for a year before transplanting. Live, garden, and learn.

7. Asparagus is probably the best known perennial vegetable. Harvest lightly after the first year, a little more the second, then have at it afterwards. We have heard of asparagus beds still thriving after 20 years.

8. Walking Onions aka Perennial Onions have a few other common names as well. They reproduce themselves by ‘walking’, that is, bending a stem over and dropping little bulbules or topsets on the soil. Use like scallions.

9. New Zealand Spinach is not actually a spinach, but a wonderful self reseeding substitute. Be sure to plant it in a relatively weed free area and let it have fun.

10. Garlic is one plant we never thought of as a perennial. A coworker discovered this by accident, after neglecting her garden one year. Her garlic also produced little topsets and replanted itself. It has been 3 years now and she continues to get garlic without ever planting more. Not just greens, but normal sized cloves. You know we will be trying this!

walking onion sets

Walking onion preparing to replant itself.

NOTE: Before planting any perennials, be sure they will grow in your area and not be invasive.
Specific growing information on many of these edibles can be found on the list to the right.

Categories: gardening, perennials

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2014 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

As gardeners, we love to share, so just let us know what your intentions are and we can work together. Please feel free to link any post you see. They say they call that Link Love.

How sweet.

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