Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Almost Arbor

Fact 1: I want an arbor.
Fact 2: I do not have the space or money for an arbor.
Fact 3: I do not care. I want an arbor.


Here's what I want:


Here's what I have. 

I'm not sure if pig-headed determination is a good thing or not, but I have it by the truckload. I've wanted to add an arbor to the garden for years but could never figure out how to install one that would fit into the tight space around my fence gates.

Problem 1: The arbor would butt-up against my neighbor's property and potentially cause problems.
Problem 2: It needed to be tall enough that we could walk underneath without smacking our head.
Problem 3: It needed to be super cheap.

I had almost resigned myself to the reality that an arbor just wasn't a possibility but couldn't keep myself from  brainstorming ways to make it happen.

Brainstorm 1: I just need a tall structure that I can squeeze up against my fence.
Brainstorm 2: It can be unconventional since once it's covered in vines no one will know what it looks like.
Brainstorm 3: I need a way to connect the pieces together.



My first thought was to use rebar since I had seen several articles describing how easy it is to construct rebar arbors. But the more I researched this, the more problematic it became.

Problem 1: Rebar rusts in about a nanosecond and I find tetanus inconvenient.
Problem 2: It comes in 20 ft long rigid poles that I can't transport home in my medium sized car without causing several traffic accidents. Accidents are bad. Avoiding them is good.
Problem 3: I don't like rebar.

In search of a solution, I headed to our local Lowe's and started asking questions. The wonderful thing about having almost no product knowledge of how to use 99% of what they sell means that it was easy to envision everything they sell being used creatively. I found long, semi-rigid threaded poles in the electrical section and a smart salesman to help me. When I left I had four 20 ft long, slightly bendy poles, couplers, and some kind of  V shaped joint to help hold everything together. I was happier than a kid with a cupcake. Here's how I put it all together.


I bought these. 
You need two of the V shaped things (inside corner pull elbow) and four couplers.


Buy four long threaded rods. 
They are slightly bendy allowing you to stuff them into your car without killing people.
 Screw the couplers onto one end. Leave the other end bare.


Stick the elbow piece onto the coupler and screw it tight.


Insert the other rod/coupler combo into the other side of the elbow joint.


Pound a hole in the ground with a metal stake or anything else long and pointy. 
Take the stake out and stick in the threaded rods. 
Repeat with the other rods and you're almost done.


I used heavy gauge wire and wire snips
 I bought at the craft store to lash the pieces together.


Look at that amazing knot! Woo-hoo!
 Navies across the globe are jealous of my mad knot making skills!
I lashed the two rods together to keep them from wobbling.


I also lashed them to the wire inside my fence for greater stability.


Pathetic but effective


Suburban gothic: the newest trend


The skinny threaded rods work great at making sure I keep the arbor on my property.


My new $25 arbor!

I'm going to cover my arbor with cypress vine and purple pole beans this summer. The threaded rods give the vines a textured surface to grab onto to, making it easier for them to cover the structure. Because these are annuals, I can just take them down in the fall and troubleshoot the arbor, if needed.


Cypress vine


Purple pole beans

84 comments:

  1. Tammy, you're great combination of creative, fearless and artistic, with a touch of Rube Goldberg thrown in. I know because I inherited the same quality (the Goldberg one) from my father.

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  2. Thanks, Lee! I'm honored to have your have high opinion. :o) My seedlings are doing well. They got a bit funky on me for a while, but I figured out the dilemma and they are happy campers. Yay!

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    1. Glad to hear those seedlings have shaped up, Tammy. I look forward to inspiration I'l get when I see pictures of your crops. Cheers!

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  3. Pure determination! That is awesome.

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    1. Pure determination sounds so much nicer than "to stubborn to quit". :o)

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  4. Hi there!! I absolutely LOVED this post. I was smiling and laughing the whole way through. Especially the "Don't Give Up" picture.....wonderful! You did an awesome job...it's so creative. The Cypress vine and beans will look great on it. A few years ago we bought one of those white hard plastic arbors from Home Depot. I put a climbing rose on it and now the arbor has completely broken at the bottom and sides. The rose and a couple stakes are holding it up. It's going to be a big problem replacing it because I will need to cut down the rose which is doing great! I will never buy a plastic arbor again. Something I've seen over and over in magazines is people using a cattle panel as an arbor. It's made of heavy galvanized wire so it won't rust and it bends. I'm going to use this the next time I need an arbor. It won't EVER break!

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    1. I had to Google 'cattle panel' before I could respond. :o) They do look cool! Good luck with your broken arbor. What a pain in the butt! I wish I had a custom made wrought iron arbor but would need a winning lottery ticket to go with it, unfortunately.

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  5. You go gardener! Congratulations on the fruit of your tenacity! Like Christy said, cattle panel is also pretty wonderful and not so expensive stuff to try.

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    1. Thanks! I don't have the space for a cattle panel but I love how indestructible they appear.

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  6. Wow, no wonder I love you Tammy. Our minds are always coming up with fantastic ideas that solve problems. Some call me Mrs.McGuyver.
    An arbor you now have. Be careful with that cypress vine, it can be quite invasive. I had to pull mine out eventually.
    This afternoon I concocted in my mind how to build a trap that will take care of my bat problem...wish me luck. My mind is never truly at rest....smile.

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    1. We are two peas in a pod, Virginia! I'm hoping the cypress vine won't be invasive here because of our cold winters. What bat problem are you having? Bats here are in serious decline because of a fungal disease. :(

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  7. I am literally crying right now...I am not a sap...I have just always wanted an arbor too and the fact that you figured out how to do this makes me sing!!!!!! This is rockstar awesome!!!!! Bravo to you on not giving up and sharing this with all of us!!! You made my day...especially after I found out that the tree I want for the front is over 300 dollars which is way to high. But I can do 25!!!

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    1. Woo-hoo!! I am so glad I could be helpful! $300+ for a tree? Ouch! It must have been big and beautiful. Make up for it by making an arbor! Oh yeah! Happy dance! :o)

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  8. I love it—both your creative problem solving, and your entertaining post about it!

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  9. Lovely! Suburban gothic!! I bet it will catch on :-)
    I follow your projects with great enthusiasm, I love doing things like that myself. I have just put up a 2.5 x 1.3 m shelf in my garden, against all odds wind proof even against London winds, using mainly cable ties, they are great stuff! Looking forward to seeing your arbour with the plants growing on them!

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    1. Zip ties are my backup if the wire doesn't work. Your shelf sounds awesome! :o) I love figuring out a way to accomplish something that seems impossible. I can hardly wait to see it covered with vines. Hello, summer!

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  10. Well done! Can't wait to see it in its vine-covered glory this summer!

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  11. I enjoyed the story. It's.....ok.

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  12. That is awesome and looks great. Love the Suburban gothic look too. It will look fantastic with the vines climbing on it.

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    1. Thanks! I think so, too. Once the vines start growing, you won't even be able to see the metal. They'll just look like they're levitating. :o)

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  13. Wow, you are handy! I just hire the fishman to make arbors for me. He used copper piping and hardware. Can't wait to see your arbor filled with the plants! (Oh, and I also use zip ties in strategic spots with the Hyacinth Bean vine and the Wisteria.)

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    1. I like the mechanics of creating something new or engineering a solution to a problem. Plus, I really like taking unconventional parts and creating something unique out of them. It's exciting to me. :o)

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  14. Well done! You are my hero! We do have an arbor, but spent more than we could afford to buy it at a local garden center. Thing is, now I want more arbors! My spouse is prejudiced against cheap DIY arbors (why we bought our current one at the garden center), but maybe I can convince her now. And maybe you should think about a second arbor, too, because don't you need something to grow morning glories on?

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    1. Thanks so much! I wish I could have found a metalsmith to custom design and craft a wrought iron arbor for me but that would have been ultra expensive. Plus, it's really satisfying to make something myself. It's funky but I think it's going to be successful. But you are seriously tempting me with visions of morning glories, especially since I have another gate and it's looking kind of naked... :o)

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  15. Wow, I'm dithering over plunking some simple stones in the grass, and then I come over here and read about this major creative mechanical masterpiece. You go! A very inspired way to solve your problem and I can't wait to see it covered in vinery.

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    1. Thanks! Your compliment means a lot! :o) I'm excited to see it in action.

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  16. Sometimes I think we are living parallel lives ... I've been coveting arbors for the last ten years; asking my husband to build me one, looking for the perfect one ... yada yada yada. Finally about a week and a half ago my friend and I were at the nursery looking for plants and instead I came home with an arbor. I know the joy you feel is what I'm getting at because I can guess just how badly you wanted one. I'm so happy that you found a solution. It's going to look awesome covered in those vines. Yay for you!

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  17. I really wanted one! I've spent a lot of time on Google looking for the skinniest one I could find just to end up not finding anything. Every time I saw a picture of a gorgeous vine or rose covered arbor, I just wanted one more. It was like having a piece of sand in my shoe. The more I tried to ignore it, the more it irritated me. What are you planting on yours?

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    1. A climbing rose was planted last spring to motivate me to finally make a decision. The rose is beautiful this year although still small and I can just imagine how it will look next year as it cascades over the arbor. I'm so excited about it. Until the rose can fill in, I'll put hyacinth bean vine to cover it for this season.

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  18. Hooray! I say there is always a solution. I look forward to seeing your new arbor covered with vines!

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    1. I have the same attitude: there has to be a solution! Think, think, think... :o)

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  19. Congrats on the new arbor, Tammy! We have the same aim, but I don't have any arbor - yet! Happy Easter, Tammy!

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    1. Yet! That's the key word. :o) I'll probably see pictures of an arbor in your garden, too. Have a great week, Satu.

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  20. Wow, Tammy! You didn't give up and are so creative that have new arbor!
    You could plant Parthenocissus inserta near it and have nice leaves and small berries or some clematis with bright flowers.
    Congrats!

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    1. Thanks! I may replace the annual vines with a perennial this fall and will keep that in mind. I like the idea of a vine with berries. :o)

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  21. This just shows what a determined gardener can accomplish when they want something bad enough. Can't wait to see it all grown up this summer.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  22. You know what they say about the mother of invention! I have seen purple pole beans and am thinking that I might like to try them. Here we use hog wire panels as support for beans, peas, and our berry trellis. It comes in panels, six ft long. You can find it at Home Depot. Thought, I am not sure just how much they are. You can also buy a light weight gage in rolls. I am glad to hear that the bulb company I chose has healthy stock. Finally, I did not realize that you teach. What do you teach? Grading? I have plenty to do this week end too. Happy Easter

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    1. I teach 6th grade science. :o) I've never gown purple pole beans but just love the idea of a purple vegetable. :o) Plus, they sound intriguing. Hog panels sound like cattle panels. I will have to keep those in mind for future projects. Happy Easter to you, too.

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  23. Your a lady with a great vision! I can't wait to see your lovely vines take off and up your Arbor! Good Job!

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    1. I'm envisioning replacing my big box of nothing with colorful vines! Maybe it will even inspire the other people in my apathetic neighborhood to do something similar. :o)

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  24. I can't take credit for this idea, but I'm gonna share it. My master-gardener pal in Williamsburg built her arbor on the cheap, too--with copper plumbing pipe! You can go back to the Dee-pot or Lowes and buy lengths of the stuff for cheapies, plus the little fixtures to attach pieces together. I'm gonna see if I can get her to send me a picture and a little instruction on How She Did It. AND being copper, it's even purty when not overgrown!

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    1. I've seen copper tubing arbors but thought you needed to be able to weld to put them together. I'd probably just set myself on fire in the process. I'm hoping what mine lacks in aesthetics it will make up for in function. :o) I'd love to see the pix!

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  25. Awesome job, Tammy! I can't wait to see the pictures with the vines on it! I grow the Cypress Vine every year, it's not invasive in our zone and the hummingbirds LOVE it. They produce a ton of seeds at the end of the season for you to collect and plant more for next year.

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    1. Ok, let's trade - you get my arbor and I take your pergola. ;o) How do you start your cypress vine? Do you just direct seed it or start it inside? I picked up my seeds at a seed swap and have never grown it before.

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    2. HA HA! The patio/pergola still isn't done...dang weather! I grow it on my deck in a container where a have one of those corner pergola thingys. I would start it indoors around now and plant it around Mother's Day or Memorial Day. I tried direct seeding it outdoors last year, but the season was over before it was at full peak. I usually plant about 5 in the container and periodically train it to go where I want it to. I'll do it again this year, I'm also going to try hyacinth bean and corkscrew vine, which are new to me.

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  26. Necessity is the mother of invention, and having an arbour is a necessity (and it's on my bucket list too)... great use of imagination, determination, and faith! Cheers~

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    1. Thanks! I like the part about faith. I'm a confident optimist. I'm always convinced everything will work out just fine. I think every garden should have an arbor. :o)

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  27. I'm in awe of your ability to imagine new purposes for electrical materials. It makes me think that maybe I should take a tour through my husband's workshop...Your arbor looks great and I'm sure it'll be spectacular when your vines get going.

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    1. Thanks! My husband asked me if I had raided a construction site. I bet that workshop is packed with stuff that could be handy in a garden. :o)

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  28. What a great, creative, inexpensive solution. I love it. I've got to complete my half-built arbors this spring. Or rather my handyman husband is going to complete them after I design them.

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    1. Thanks! My husband isn't very handy so my choices were go without, buy an arbor that wouldn't fit, or just do it myself. I had fun putting this together. I spend way more time at Lowe's than my husband does. :o)

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  29. Love it! Women are ingenious, frugal creators (most of the time because we HAVE to be!) I can hardly wait to see your Arbor of Determination covered in victorious red flowers :)

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    1. The Arbor of Determination - I like it! And you're right about those flowers: they will feel victorious when they bloom. :o)

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  30. How clever! Good for you ;-) I hope you get much joy out of having things grow on your arbor. How exciting!! (So awesome that you figured out a way to solve your problem of no arbor and still manage to not spend a huge amount of money)

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    1. Thanks! Having solved the problem on the cheap makes me like the arbor even more. While it's not much to look at now, it will be awesome this summer. :o)

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  31. I think the cypress vine is going to look very pretty there. You did a good job!

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    1. Thanks! I've never grown cypress vine before so it's exciting to try something new. :o)

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  32. I know how you felt. I think every garden should have an arbor, and it took me years to figure out where to put one in my garden. How smart of you to make your own! And I love that you went to the store, and looked at everything with a creative eye, instead of how things were "supposed" to be used. You are so right that the vines will cover it up - and it's going to look FABULOUS! Wahoo! Great job!

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    1. Thanks! I had actually convinced myself - for about a minute - last year that I didn't need an arbor. But this has nothing to do with need and everything to do with want. :o)

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  33. I have the cheapest of arbors that is in the process of falling to pieces, but oh, so beautiful with cross vine growing on one side and Carolina jessamine on the other - all intertwined across the top. It is a sight to behold. They are fast growing and look good all year round.

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    1. Sounds beautiful! I have jessamine growing in my garden, too, although it was just planted last year so it's still tiny. I just started my cypress vine seeds today and hope they sprout. I picked them up at a seed swap and have never grown them before.

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    1. Thanks! :o) An arbor would be amazing at the gate to your fabulous garden. I can just see it... :o)

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  35. Your imagination is inspiring Tammy! Love the idea of starting with annuals so you can tweak as needed.

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    1. Thanks! Before I plant the beans and cypress vine, I'm planting sweet peas along the arbor. They only grow here in the spring. Our summer heat just fries them. I winter sowed the sweet peas and they've started to sprout. Yay!

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  36. An arbor for $25? Super! I like the way you didn't let any problems stand in your way of your creation. Won't it be nice covered with cypress vine and purple pole beans!

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    1. Thanks! It's a bit lacking in aesthetics so I went for function instead. :o)

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  37. You go gardener!!! I wish I could sit longer and reread this again..wonderful job.

    Happy Easter.

    Jen of the sore back.

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  38. What an ingenious arbor...can't wait to see it all in bloom!

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    1. 'Ingenious'! I like that! Thanks! I'm pretty excited to start using it. I'm hoping my wintersown sweet peas will soon be big enough to start growing on it. Once they're fried and done for the season, which happens quickly thanks to our heat/humidity, the beans and cypress vine will be planted there.

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  39. I like the way you think, not letting a small problem like a neighbour and possible legal problems putting you off making your arbour. Love the solution you came up with, cant wait to see it with something growing over it :)
    Well done you.

    Linda

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    1. Thanks! Legal problems? No pworries. I like keeping the cops busy. ;o)

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  40. Wow, that is an impressive arbor! I wish I was as good at it as you are. I also have no room for an arbor, but managed to have three anyway :).

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    1. I love your rose covered arbors! I may end up putting a rose on these in the future. So many options!

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  41. Looks good! I haven't trawled through the massive amount of comments here to see if I'm repeating something already said, so if I have, sorry - Have you seen any pictures of James Alexander-Sinclair's garden? - He has a long section of trellis made of steel scaffolding, simply because it's longer lasting than wood - Have a look at http://www.blackpitts.co.uk/

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    1. I went to his site and he's amazing!! I love his design and unpretentious website. I agree with you that metal is a much better choice than wood since it doesn't rot.

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  42. Hi Tammy, that's so creative, I hope the arbour really works and looks beautiful when covered. The only thing I would ask is how flexible the piping is to moving back and forth over the gate if you decide to to put something substantial like honeysuckle or a climbing rose on it and the wind gets up? Hopefully it'll be fine and look great!

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  43. Love love love your ingenuity! Cannot wait to see this summer's results...

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  44. Tammy you are ever resourceful. Look forward to seeing your arbor covered with some great plants.

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