Saturday, January 31, 2009

Your off-grid questions answered

So, here we all cuddled up by the wood stove with our oil and Leacock lamp lit. Come sit with us a spell and lets talk! The Gentle Giant and I will answer these questions together or alone. If alone it will be HA for "Homemakerang" and GG for "Gentle Giant" J Our answers are in red.

mima said...
Hey!!! My name is Debi and I'm enjoying your blog soooooo much!I found you thru Rhonda's amazing blog! Anyway! Is it possible to live off the grid in suburbia? We can't afford solar etc...but I do try to hang my laundry and use candles and very little electricity...I'm a newbie! But I do live in CA and could probably garden year round.Could you come over for a cup of tea and go over all I could do? LOL!!! Cyber cup of tea??? Thanks and hugs!

GG: I think it is very possible you could live off-grid in suburbia. Even some subdivision's do not have city water (we lived in two where we had our own well) so you could use your own well. You could get a garden pump on top of your well connecting rods outside your home and pump your own water. You would first have to pull all the rods up from your well, then remove your submersible pump. You would put the new rods down and a few rod links down you would put in a pump leather to match the size of your well casing then install the garden pump on top. It would be better even to lower down a 2" pipe to your 4" well and then install the garden pump with the new rods and 2" pump leather. This would be essentially what we have except for the fact that we have a windmill that is all brass and is powered by wind or small gasoline engine. Our connecting rods are all 1" galvanized that are each 8'ft long. Our well is 52' deep and our pump leather is at 24' below ground. What you could run into is that a pitcher pump will lift about 16 ft. A garden pump is designed to lift about 25-30 ft. Most residential wells exceed 200'. I am obviously not a plumber but this would most likely work. You would have to prime all your casings first. I would suggest seeking someone in your area to help you as I just put this in a nutshell. Toilets flush with a bucket of water and no electricity due to gravity.

HA: If you do not have a well, your water is pushed to you form the municipality usually so you could turn off your power anyway and still flush your toilet with that bucket of water.

I think it would be very possible to live off-grid in suburbia. In one of the above homes mentioned (in the subdivision) we heated 100% with wood. I would say I do believe that the MOST efficient way to heat with wood is a FREE STANDING (not attached to your furnace as these also require electricity for the fan to the furnace to get your heat) wood stove in the home and NOT outside the home. (The wood boiler systems require electricity to pump the heat to your home). I would not use any stove that requires you to buy pellets or corn either. Wood can always be cut and wood is always free if you are willing to look or call around for it.

You could do laundry with a small engine, by hand or at the laundry mat and live off-grid.

Amy said...

Hi! I sent an email yesterday but thought others might have the same question. In a few of the posts a battery pack is mentioned to operate the CPAP machine and other small electrical items. What type of battery pack is it?
I look forward to your posts and will enjoy the book as well :) Thanks for sharing your life with us.

GG: I use a sealed lead acid battery for my sleep machine and it runs on a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter. Many CPAPS offer this feature (it is an additional cost) for camping trips or emergencies, etc. For use of the hairdryer, drills, flat irons etc. all require more wattage but not necessarily more voltage. We knew we could support these small appliances because we purposely picked out a larger inverter. The inverter is 4" wide and 12" long but packs enough power to run these small things on our farm as well as a table saw. We do not use the inverter much as now we are air drying hair, etc. We use the inverter to charge cell phones.

Gregory said...

I love your blog!! When you say that you are not duplicating your same lifestyle, other than living off grid, what else have you done to simplify your life?

HA: I have gotten rid of tons of clothes for all of us... I still need to get rid of more. This cuts down on laundry as well as clutter. For example, we have 1 good coat for each of us when we go out and then we have "barn clothes" (carhart type with bibs, gloves, etc. all the same color so they can be passed down to children and not "sexed" by the color of them. We did get pink hats for the girls though to make it more fun)

I also bought overalls for all the kids (i will get some when I am not preg) we hang them on a nail and wash once a week. We wear fresh shirts under them etc. and when we go out we never wear them. This has made life a lot easier. Kids have 1 pair barn boots, 1 pair snow boots, etc. It might sound small, but clothing for 7 people is a huge thing and getting rid of a lot of it really has helped me. I am still getting rid of stuff.

Before we moved I gave away my microwave, telephones, tvs, vcr/dvd, lamps, blender, extra curling irons and blow dryers, etc. You should have seen the pile of all these things... I wish I would have taken a photo of all of it! There is a photo is October of the children hugging the microwave I think. I was shocked they were not huggging the TV but we only got 3 channels so that probably helped. We traded our wash machine and dryer for 1 of our maytag wringer washers to a family that was leaving the Amish... How ironic is that?.

On a few occasions, we have lived without electricity for a week on certain vacations. I look back on those times as so peaceful and thought-provoking. What are you learning about yourselves?

HA: I posted in November a post about how I had to face myself spiritually. You would be shocked at how much you hear from GOD in the silence... At least I was.

GG: I am learning the importance of being home before dark (HA, but seriously)... As strange as this sounds in this short time I barely remember living with electricity. I am learning that I love living this way and it puts an entire new perspective on life. I am thinking about preparation (kerosene, gas or wood) for the next days ahead, etc. I am learning that a lot of people are interested in our life and I pray I can use this as an opportunity to witness to others about Jesus.

Many blessings to you,

Veronica said...

Hi. I'm Veronica and since I home school, I think I may have found your site through someone else who home schools. I've actually been visiting for a little while now. I'm interested in how you have located some of your appliances. I love your washer and especially your cook stove. We have quite a large wood stove,which I like quite a bit.

HA: The Amish have been wonderful in telling us where we could go to find certain things. We have posted ads in the Farm Mill up the street for us, as well as the Milk News, (Amish) and we have been so blessed to have some direction from others that have gone before us (an entire life of living off-grid)

Captain's Wife - Jennifer said...

Hi. :) Were you and the Gentle Giant ever not on the same page? I'd like to see TV leave our home as a start. I think it would have the largest immediate impact on our lives and relationships. My husband is against that. He'd do it if we had to, like if the "grid" was gone. But has little desire to make those choices.

HA: I believe we were on the same page but at first one would be off the page and the other on, then vice versa, etc. This was due to a lot of prayer at first and waiting to make sure that God was driving this 100%. We had to be careful we knew moving off-grid was God's idea rather than because of our own excitement and desire. We came to the conclusion to "do it" with God's leading and had 100% peace from that point on. I won't say it has not been challenging at times, but during all the challenges we have always had 100% peace that we did the right thing.

GG: sometimes in these situations it is easier to ask yourself why would you give up TV? Instead of why wouldn't you? If your husband asks these questions to himself, it may get him thinking... Maybe not. He will arrive at conclusions that he then owns and it would be "his idea"... I believe we were always on the same page when choosing to live off-grid.

Sarah Sanders said...

I so very much long to live the kind of life you're living right now. Maybe someday if God allows, we'll be doing what you are doing! I'm completely inspired my you.
My question is this: what kind of changes have you seen in your family dynamics since making your switch? How has it affected the relationships between your children? between you and your Gentle Giant? between you and your children?
Wishing you His greatest blessings,

HA: I was feeling the urgency for about 2 years to leave the rat race... I would not say even then our family was in the normal rat race routine most folks are. We never where a running family, kids in everything, go out each day life. BUT, I was feeling crowded in by life itself and somethings I knew were not what I wanted my family to be in etc. I felt we were also living easy Christianity. I can hear it now from some of you, "God never said it is bad to have an easy life or have nice things"... You are correct. BUT, what we personally could no longer stand complacency and living a status quo life... I am not judging others that do not choose to live off grid, but for our family this has brought us even closer.

We never were big TV people or video games, etc. We did tons as a family, but I have seen a lot of things change. A very few examples, my daughters want to be even more domestic. Right now our 15 year old sits reading a cookbook by the stove, the other daughter is writing in a journal, Ruthie is sound asleep. The GG is reading out loud to the kids A LOT, all on his own and not with my prompting :) He always loved reading to the kids but it was a few time a week of story book time. Now it is a daily routine at night and I just love that.

I will say the GG and I do not get out as much on date nights etc now it seems. But we do everything together now, he even helps with laundry and cooking as these things are all new to both of us with these new "appliances" we are learning...we talk tons.

One big family dynamic change, we go to bed VERY EARLY! One thing, we are so tired at night and the other, it gets dark pretty early :)

We have also been growing in our family dynamics spiritually as we are brought to God's word to help with all these huge changes ... He is really refining us and the fire is HOT sometimes when He does it!

The children have been forced to work more together and even the GG and I have had to include them more in tasks and this has been a learning process as well.

GG: We have always been a close family, extremely close. But since we have moved here we have become a "swarm"... With each little movement with one part of our family causes the whole family to go that way. It helps to be aware of this so that this does not become a negative thing. When you live without all the frills it seems, as we are learning still how to do this, the slightest thing can upset the direction of the "swarm". We have to be prepared for all of the normal things well ahead of time. IE, you are turning your thermostat on but today I actually went and hauled 7 cords of wood for NEXT winter. The entire family has to work in this mode as well. If there is an injury, everything stops... An injury really sets us back. Our son just had to have stitches and the swarm then went in a different direction that day, as it should, but things did not get accomplished.

Jenni said...

I just found your blog and am enjoying it very much! I am sure to be back with lots of questions for you.

I am right there with you. I want very badly to toss the t.v. and am fighting a battle royal. I wish you good luck:)


HA: MY 2 cents, just get rid of it and let the pieces fall!

Peggy said...

Hi Ang!
I am so impressed with all you and your family are doing. I can't wait for the book! My question is about your ice. How long into the summer will it last? What will you use to keep milk, etc cold when its all used up? Are your summers hot and humid? If so how will you keep the house cool when you cook? Will you have a outdoor kitchen in the summer? Sorry I have so many questions. Take care of yourself. I know its getting harder to do so much as you get closer to your delivery date. Hugs my friend

HA: The ice house should last for about 9 months, but we will see... as we are new to this. Worst case, we buy a bag of ice to get through it if we run out. We just had to try it to see how it will work. I think we will need to insulate it more... YES HOT SUMMERS AND HUMID. We will have a "summer kitchen" area in my wash house (right off the house)

Misti Aldrich said...

I guess my question would be regarding when you and your husband decided to go off-grid. I'm much more advanced in my desire, as I grew up on the "survival" mentality. My husband grew up in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, on tv and processed foods. He's come along ways and is interested in what I am, but doesn't seem to "get it" yet. Hopefully once we move to the country he will. Were your husband always on the same page? What brought you together to the "ah-ha" moment.

I've enjoyed your blogs so much and can not wait until you have a book that incorporates it all.

Warm Wishes,


HA: The economy was enough for me to say "AH HA" but we did not move here primarily to save money. I wanted to be closer as a family and was ready for a change for quite sometime. I felt we needed to do this as a family.

GG: Although we did not primarily move off-grid to save money, it has to have you thinking that last night while we slept we spent 0 cents. That is just one of the huge perks to living off-grid. Another one is you have a sense of responsibility that you have lived through anything! If the world has a black out, our day will go on just the same as yesterday but our main reason to living off grid was to lay everything down before the Lord and to be used by God. This decsion has foced us to be humble...

EmilyK21 said...

Hi - my name is Emily. I haven't introduced myself yet because you have sooo many following you I didn't want to add any extra comments for you to wade through - but i'm not a lurker! :) I found you through my sister's blog: Regan Family Farm. I really enjoy reading your blog. Its awesome! If you aren't going to cover this in your book, it would be neat sometime if you wrote one for beginners! You know, going through the basics for people who are just getting started and/or are interested in this lifestyle. Where would they even start? Thanks so much!

HA: start by trying this at home for a week or even a few days and see what you think. I will say it is harder at home though as the electricity is there and you cannot just turn off your fridge to "try living off grid" for what would you do with the food etc? Try living with oil lamps first. We did that off and on just to create more of a peaceful ambiance in our home at night... it really worked for us. Try it once, I bet your kids will love "House on the Prairie Nights" that is what we called them. Now we live it...

GG: I think you would be shocked to know that even when you turn your house utilities off 100%,YOU STILL GET a bill!!!

Kathy said...

Well, my question is how you manage without indoor plumbing. While I think I could live without electricity if I had suitable substitutes for heat, cooking, etc., I think living without indoor plumbing would be very difficult.

How do you manage to get everyone bathed in your large family? And what about hand-washing - do you have hot water available somehow?
Thanks for sharing!

HA: Water does run to the house, but it first has to be pumped by the windmill into a holding tank or directly from the windmill (as we are doing now for the tank freezes). The water is cold. We bath daily. We have a 30 gallon sterilite type tub (what you may store your Christmas tree in). We have the hot water resovoir on the stove and now we always have hot water as long as we keep the tank filled. We turn on the faucet and hot water comes right out. We put it in a bowl and bring it to the sink to wash hands, etc. Preparation is the key here. We bathe right by the woodstove with a curtain up. It is nice and warm this way as well.

connibrett said...

Hi! It's Conni from the west side of the state. I have a few questions. . .
1. How much of your own food do you grow, preserve, grind, etc.?

HA: the entire summer we eat 100% out of the garden only going to the store for staples. This is about June-October. We can and freeze so during the other months we eat about 40%. I will say now, Feb-May are the leanest months from our larder as we have eaten it down. I did not can and freeze as much as I had wanted as I had bad morning sickness during that busy time. But, we did just have our own tomatoes today, 2 large freezer bags full. Tomato soup tomorrow :). Goats milk is great as well as it keeps us out of the store but this is also a lean time for that as goats are dried up due to pregnancy.
2. Do you plan to have indoor plumbing/baths at some point? and can you have an indoor toilet 'off grid?" GG we have indoor baths and plumbing (see above) but we are going to be storing more hot water in the future. We brought our claw foot tub along with us to have a better way to bathe in the future. We store 600 gallons of fresh water in the barn (gravity fed to house) when it is not freezing out. We have a 1000 gallon auxilary tank for holding fresh water as well, but we are currently not using that. We have 2 wells here.
3. How often do you go to the 'grocery' store? HA twice a month.
4. Have you seen this way of life make a difference in your household spending or are you just spending $ on different kinds of things? HA it has made a HUGE difference in household spending. Now instead paying utility companies we buy things for the farm but we are on a tight budget currently.
I may think of more questions . . .
I agree with your 'dear Amish friend" this has been a bitter winter, if you can make it through and be pregnant, I think you have what it takes!

tiffibug said...

Hi there. I am sooooo enjoying your blog so very much. My name is Tiffani.

My question is this: How much adjusting have you had to do in order to cook on your wood stove? I learned how to cook on one as a child, but haven't used one since then.

HA woodstove cooking has not been a challenge because we have heated with wood for 8 years. I think it would have been a huge challenge if we had not previously mastered heating with wood as I remember the early challenging days of learning to heat with wood. The cookstove took a few days to get used to noteably the top of the stove is the hottest and the bottom the coolest, the opposite of how I used to cook. When cooking in my wood stove I can actually set a cake on the bottom of the oven and it does not scorch or burn. But if the cake is to high the top browns to quickly and the bottom of the cake is not finished.

Lisa said...

Hello name is Lisa and I have posted a few comments and an email over the past couple of weeks. My hd and I are enthralled but what you and your family are doing. Although I can't wait to hear the answers to all of the previous questions...I guess my biggest questions have to do with the children as I have 3 and they do love there TV and video games...I am trying to limit these to a minimum each day and wanted to know how your kids adjust.

HA without sounding harsh, remember who the mother is and who sets up the rules. Just say NO. I know when I find that my children are spending to much time with something I know is not something I find beneficial to them, I am usually part of the problem as I look forward to them having that time to be "baby sat" so that I can get something accomplished. It is a very easy trap to fall in to as a mother, speaking from experience here.

GG Children generally want to receive some sort of honor from their parents so if there was a way for them to receive that feeling that mom and dad respect them so much to limit these things, the children would do just about anything to get this reward. For example, when your husband is out for breakfast with his friends and he puts his arm around Johnny and says to his friends, "You won't belive what Johnny did this week,..." Your son would feel so honored he would want to continue doing what it took to get the honor, including limiting his tv/video time.

HA LAUNDRY IS A HUGE CHALLENGE (if you read my post about using the wringer washer) BUT IT IS GETTING easier...Another question is....I get so over loaded with do you keep up, it has to take more time and make the work so much harder...I am so impressed. What about sewing, I read the blog about using the rotary/treadle you sew and do you do it by hand or use a machine?

HA I need to get a treadle machine. I hook up a generator when I need to sew something. Since we have moved here I have not done a lot of sewing, except for mending by hand, as we have been so busy.

Renata said...

Hi Ang
I do have one question - do you think your day is busier now living off-grid or is it just a different list of jobs? I think you're doing an amazing job & love reading your blog!

HA just a different list of jobs. as I am learning these new things it seems to be getting a lot easier. I had WEEKS where I had to let things go so that I could just get food on the table, school done, baths, dishes done and feeding animals, etc.

gail said...

My question would be. What do you do after your evening meal at night when most families are sitting around the TV. Do you read, YES games YES , do hobbies BAKING, but not a lot of time for hobbies but I will say living here has been a passion of mine for years so I find it fufilling as I would a hobby.
We lived for 6 years happily without TV until we where given iTV for a computer by a well meaning relative and I am so sorry we have it. My husband just sits in front of it and I am usually in my sewing room. When we didn't have TV we spent our evenings more productively with a lot more conversation.It's addictive and I really don't like it.

Blessings Gail

Ryan said...

Hi Ang,

It is great to read what is going on. Surprised your kids don't have more to say. I do have a question... is your use of gas for the water and laundry actually raising your 'carbon footprint' over using some electricity for the same?

HA Ryan, my kids have lots to say actually but they will never be posting here on an adult blog or conversing with people in the cyber world. There are so many wierdos in cyber space that approach children and I am protecting mine. I believe I answered your carbon foot print question on your own blog: "I would be much more concernced with stray voltage that my small use of gasoline"


cathy c. said...

Hi, I found your blog via Rhonda's down--to--earth. Thank you for sharing! My question to both of you is: did you grow up in "normal" suburbia... or rural? Did you have what we would call an average upbringing? you know, tv, movies, parties etc. Did your parents live simply? Was it a choice?

HA this was a choice, we grew up in suburbia, hubby on 5 acres, I in a subdivision. yes, average upbringing but we both accepted Jesus in our hearts and had that in our upbringing. We did tv and movies but not partying. I fell in love in highschool with a friends home in the country with nature abounding and knew then I wanted to live away from it all. I should say it took 8 years to get away from neighbors etc. so this usually cannot happen overnight but "NEVER give up on your dreams or aspirations for when you do you will cease to exist..." (Thoreau said it something like this...) On the parent note, I believe we live more simply than they do. They have all the modern conveniences including but not limited too :) high-end cable, call waiting etc. But we do eat out folks!

Thanks! cathy c.

suezoos1 said...

Found you via Down to Earth. Just finished reading everything from Oct. Had to see how everything was going from Day 1..I will be checking back every day now. I so admire you and your wonderful family. I do manage to heat my house with wood and have done so for the last 25 years..nothing beats coming in from the cold and backing up (a southern tradition) to the stove to thaw out..of course here in NC we don't have your kind of cold. Blessings to you..Sue

Brenna said...

Hi! One day I googled amish/michigan and I came across your blog and I love it! I live here in GR and buy my meat & cheese from Grassfields.

My question for you is, "What has been the hardest thing to go without?"

HA I MISS MY wonderful custom built closets at my old place. I felt more organized there but I will say I am getting more organized each week.

GG I miss backing out of the heated attached garage in the morning with the push of a button. We really miss chasing the babies around and keeping their fingers out of the electrical sockets! NOT!
Thanks and stay warm! Brenna

Michelle said...

Hi! I really want to thank you for sharing your "adventure" through you blog and for opening up this Q&A. I have so many questions. So I'll limit myself to two and I'll wait for the book:) Do you use a generator or other power source for some small things like a grain mill or a mixer, or do you do this by hand? HA MOST by hand but i have hooked up to the battery for my kitchen aid mixer for big christmas baking. The other thing I wanted to know is did you buy your off grid items slowly prior to buying your home or did you jump in with both feet to your new lifestyle with nothing and just bought things as you needed them? GG There is really not that much to buy as much as there is to get rid of. We jumped in with both feet with nothing off-grid except for a few oil lamps we had previously purchased for Y2K. We moved our woodstove with us as well as bringing 11 full cords of wood I had previsouly cut and split. 10 days into living off grid we bought our Berkley water purifier. Before we moved in we bought a small gasoline engine to get the water to the house... You can see how we purchased the bigger items as we went along. The Amish left NOTHING here for us except the buildings, a small inefficient stove and the kitchen sink. Thank you so much. You are living my dream, so I'll be tuning in to see what new adventures you have. Blessings!

Cathy-Dalton-Garrett said...

My name is Cathy and I have been following your families adventure since your move to your farm. I found you through a dear friend's blog "Farmhouse Blessings". After living in Ashland Ohio for a few years, I admire the Amish and their values. We have a small farm in West Tennessee and raise our own chickens for meat and eggs and goats for milk. I was raised on farm in South Georgia and married a man from New York.. This is definitely a culture shock for him. My desire is to see our family follow in the simple ways of the Amish and keep with our faith as strong as the Amish keep with theirs. My question is a How to question. "How do you can your deer meat?" HA Buy a pressure canner. We have an ALL american pressure canner that cans 14 quarts at once. I blogged about it in Sept or Oct 2008 I think. You cannot water bath can meat. It could kill you. It was easy, if I can do it, anyone can :) We have 2 deer in my freezer but I want to can the next ones we get. Prayers to you and yours....Cathy

Sherry in MI said...

Hi Angie ~ I'm not too tech savvy, but after reading all these comments I think maybe you just need a weekly webcast (or whatever it's called) where we call in or email our questions and you answer them "live." What do you think?! HA Maybe you can research how I could do this :) I am not sure how much interest there would be. In the mean time now I know you are checking my spelling :)

lilymarlene said...

I'd love to know how you power your computer...... I read here daily (since Rhondda mentioned your blog) and always wonder this..... GG we power our computer with 5 amp hour batteries. We have alltel wireless for our internet. We have a computer business and you can buy all of these things from us :)

Amy said...

Hi! I am so thrilled to have found your blog. I found it through someone elses links, but I don't remember whose since I read so many. question is: What steps to you recommend to a family to prepare for a transition from regular on grid living to living off grid? I would love for our family to make the change someday when we finally have our farm, but would like to know what steps to take starting now to prepare.

GG: do lots of reading, the Nearings "The Good Life" but step 1 would be to really desire to live off-grid step 2 to be in unity as an entire family step 3 find a reason not to live off grid and discuss it in depth. Step 4 PRAY! that should be step 1. Step 5 live off grid one day a week first Step 6 cook like you live off grid ...

Nadine said...

Hi, I am pretty sure I introduced myself but will again. My name is Nadine and live in Alberta, Canada. I found your blog through Rhonda's.
Debi poses a great question it possible to live off grid in the city? HA SEE above please
What about water source?. my husband and I have talked about the weird idea of this last year( not weird to us)...we really don't want to live in the city and still dream of a homestead but if it is not God's will...could we not live off grid in the city?..we are not even allowed chickens..never mind drill a well... HA See above, but I would be putting my house up for sale!
How could one even venture into the possibility of doing off grid in the cities?
Wouldn't it be interesting to accomplish? Has it been done in Canada? I think it has been done in the state already?
Food for thought...
I would be up for that cup of cyber tea too Debi!!

Nadine in Canada your blog!

The Knop's said...

Hi Angie! We've been reading your blog since we bought King Phillip and have enjoyed reading about your life among the Amish. We were wondering how long the ice in your ice house will last. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. HA Hi Bonnie! We hope about 9-10 months!

Stoelly said...

HI Ang

I have enjoyed reading your blog and have recommended it to some mutual acquaintances. I have a question for the Gentle Giant ;)

Are you finding it challenging to live in the "on grid" world 40 hours a week and then return to the "off grid" lifestyle? What adjustments have you had to make?



GG I find it refreshing to come home each night. I am leverging my abilitlies in the on grid world to accomodate my goals here on our off grid farm.

HA regarding the questions about goats, they are EASY! we were green horns. Get Storey's goat guide book and start with 1 experienced milking goat. That is what we did.

Thank you for all the interest!


cityfarmer said...


Anonymous said...

i enjoyed reading the question and answer and appreciate the time you took doing so.
Your a wealth of information for those of us dreaming
for a simple life.

Farmgirl Cyn said...

I think you guys did a great job of answering the ???
Now...what's up with the cow, goats, and chickens? Haven't heard much concerning the critters of late.

Renata said...

Thanks so much for answering!! Looking forward to your book!

Ryan said...

How long did the ice in the ice house last you guys this year?

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