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applestar
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what to do with bones?

Scrooge, tightwad, skinflint, cheapskate :wink: Call me what you will, but I DON'T like throwing away stuff in the trash. :roll:

Putting bones in compost is not recommended due to unwanted scavenger issues, especially in a suburban neighborhood. Well, WHAT -- if anything -- can you do with them? (I mean aside from tossing them in the bottom of a tree-planting hole....) Is there a simple way to process them in some way to put them back in the earth? I wont BUY bloodmeal and bonemeal anymore on principle, but I do eat meat (call me a hypocrite) and I want to make use of everything I consume where I can and NOT put them in the landfill to mummify. :?

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Well, John Jeavons says to put bones into your (hot) compost pile, but I look at that sentence of his and think, "Ya know, paleontology uses fossilized bones to learn about ancient forms of life." So those bones aren't going anywhere in a hurry.

I put a couple of "used" beef bones (raw, gnawed to a too-small size by my dogs) into my cool-to-cold compost last spring.

Although certain molds have taken up residence on those two bones, there are *no other changes* in their appearance.

Maybe in a few more millennia...

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composting bones

Warning upfront: I have NOT tried this. But if for some reason you really want to compost bones (I'm a vegetarian, so don't really have bones around the house to deal with), you could soak them in a jar of vinegar for a couple days first. The vinegar demineralizes the bone. When you take it out it will be rubbery and pliable. I imagine at that point you could compost it. 1) the acid bath would likely have rendered it less attractive to critters 2) the demineralization should make the rest of the material able to be broken down. Another option would be to run them through a grinder (chipper/shredder) first. I haven't tried this either, but that's what I do with twigs, woody plants, tomato vines and other stuff that's too tough to compost. Shred it all up and it composts readily

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[url=https://www.richsoil.com/sepp-holzer/sepp-holzer-permaculture.jsp]Sepp Holzer[/url] has a thing he does with bones ... he sorta steams them into a goo that he puts on trees. Apparently the stuff stinks and will keep all animals off of baby trees for something like ten years or more.
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I understand that you can pressure cook your large bones into a nutrient dense bone porridge for your plants that would use bone meal. I've cooked very small bones to mush in the pressure cooker, but have no experience with the large bones.

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there must be a way to make bone meal on a homescale???

Sledge Hammer + bones in pillow case + concrete = bone meal? :p I'm just guessing but it sounds like it's worth a try :D

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I would first make a nice broth by simmering the bones in water for a couple of hours with some onion, celery, herbs and spices. I have noticed that the bones are much more brittle after I've used them to make broth. All of the soft tissue will have been removed, as well.

I have not tried it myself, but I have read that you can then dry the bones in a dehydrator ... I have no idea how long, but probably a day or more ... then grind them in a blender.

Although I can see this technique working with poultry bones, I have doubts about beef and pork bones being so easily ground up. They might need to be smashed with a hammer prior to being run in the blender, and even that might not be sufficient.
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Powdered bone has been used for millenia as a phosphorus source; while all the broth recipes and boiling sound interesting; I think wildseed's idea has the merit of simplicity and directness. And leaving some chunk makes it a longer term soil amendment.

Plus you get to smash stuff with a hammer, so there's that... :twisted:


thanroses and PaulW's ideas are closer to commercial production methods and would work well too; the vinegar thing makes me nervous as phosphorus and acids sounds like a recipe for phosgene, and there goes yer fertility...

Boiling or smashing. Depending on your mood... :wink:

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applestar
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Heh. I'd nearly forgotten about this thread. The beauty of this forum is that an idea will keep simmering along while people add their own ingredients to it -- it's like Stone Soup in a good sense -- you just have to come back and sample it once in a while :wink:

I've also been doing the simmering thing AND the smashing thing with the bones. Some soup bones become so tender that they fall apart anyway. Even a couple of smashes with the back of shovel works. (I let the cats lick off every bit of soup, and any blubbery cartilage off first... :() )

:> I think HG is right. Gardeners tend to be happy people because we have so many ways to relieve stress. :lol:

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im a little short on my perma-culture but do you have friends with dogs? What would be wrong with saving them and giving to the dogs. Just curious ? Tater

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With a some serious caveats/exceptions, nothing, really. I don't have dogs, just cats. You do know that poultry bones splinter into sharp shards when cooked and can cause internal injury, and some hard cooked bone fragments can lodge and block intenstines, right? Did you watch Emergency Vets on Animal Planet when that was on? With sufficient cooking/simmering, though, most bones become very soft and probably won't cause harm.

IF the animal has been raised on raw food diet and have the digestive fauna/flora to manage it, uncooked bones are said to be highly nutritious and beneficial. From what I've read, stomach acid of pets raised on commercial pet food are weaker and could not be expected to sufficiently neutralize bits of bones that they may ingest.

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a lot of dog food contains bone meal, and will give humans digestive problems. I saw that on CSI I think. If it's true, than most dogs have enzymes galore.

Anyway, cooked or cut bones really are unsafe for dogs, I second that. I do put small or broken up bones in my bokashi bin. It's a lot like the vinegar soaking (pH in the 3 range), only with bacteria taking up residence during active fermentation. I then run them through a worm bin (yes it's safe). After that, some are still hard but some get all spongy. I am not sure why. I scatter those bones outside or bury them if I am planting.

I don't add meat, bones, or dairy once my bin is 3/4 full. That way, I am sure all of those have fermented at least a month and a half.


I was warned to be careful when using bone or blood as an herbivore repellant. skunks are carnivores. Raccoons eat everything, and bears too. I've heard of skunks digging up a garden with blood and bone. I've also heard they eat slugs though, so maybe it is worth it?
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Dogs don't actually digest bone well, either. In fact, besides the danger of perforation, bones can just sit in the stomach and cause all sorts of problems for the animal.

In the wild, dogs and wolves ... for that matter all predators ... do consume bones, but they also eat the skin and hair. The skin and hair tend to wrap around the pieces of bone, protecting the stomach and intestine as the fragments pass through.

Fecal material from wild carnivores always contains a lot of bone and hair, so much so that it can be used to determine what kind of prey the predator had eaten.
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Thanks kisal, I am now less clueless than yesterday!
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Bones -yes - maybe

Bones are full of very good things that can really enhance compost and therefore your soil. In an open compost pile - yes, they stink and attract critters. However, in an enclosed composter they will become dirt in just 3 or 4 weeks. I have a barrel composter that tumbles the contents and has an air manifold. On a good day it gets near 170 degrees . Even in the evening it can stay around 140 degrees. Some will probably call me a liar, but when you keep it moist, moving, well aerated and in a black sealed bin in the Texas sun, it gets really hot.

There is a very slight sweet (rotting) smell initially but within 48 hours the heat has denatured any tissue so the odor dissipates. I can't say for sure, but I suppose the slight smell could attract rats or mice, but they are quickly disappointed as the unit is well off the ground and sealed.

Large bones get a few wacks with a 5 lb. sledge hammer, but chicken bones or pork ribs go in whole. Three weeks later you can't find anything bigger than a pea. I think the high temps I get are helped along by Houston summer temperatures Bottom line - if you have the equipment bones are great. If you don't- not so good.
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bones

Old thread and I think I read thru it all, but didn't see burning mentioned as a way to make bone more useful. I simmer any bones for stock, then let them dry a little and run them thru the woodstove inside an old pan. The bones will burn to a white, water soluble powder which then goes in the garden rows at planting time. No smell at all. It's true some nitrogen is lost in the fire but you get to keep all the minerals.

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Pressure cooking bones

I sometimes make my own dogfood where I put a whole chicken in a pressure cooker with some veggies and cook it until the bones become soft so the dogs can eat it bones and all. I haven't tried this with beef bones but it might be worth a try!

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Re: what to do with bones?

I second the solar dehydrator method. It works well. Cooking costs too much. I do eat small bones but not big ones. A hammer mill works very well after they have been dehydrated. Then I work them into the garden soil or spread them on pasture.

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Re: what to do with bones?

I tank all kitchen scraps, including bones. They go into an intact bucket with a tight lid. Soon enough everything breaks down to, well goo.

That goo then goes to compost bin.

Critters won't eat the created tankage. Breakdown is hastened.

"Some" of last years long bones (of beef and pork) will survive composting. If they turn up to the top of wheelbarrow load at shovel-out they go back to the compost bin for extra innings.
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Re: what to do with bones?

Isn't there a reason dogs bury bones besides food preservation and hiding it? I thought it might have something to do with the soil breaking down the bones in a way that helps dogs digest the bones or eat them how it was intended. I think the Earth helps with a portion of the digestion process and probably changes the chemistry of the bone a bit. Similar to how a squirrel buries nuts and comes back for some of them and some of them grown into trees.

I live on a big farm and I kid you not they have a slop bucket. Luckily, only the resident skunk seems to feed off of it from time to time. It doesn't bother us and is friendly with the cat. It also doesn't spray us, but in the summer months, as I'm finding my way through the dark I am wary of it. It doesn't stay near the house but comes up every so often to check out the slop bucket. I know it likes to gnaw on the chicken bones.

I would be interested in knowing a way to use the bones in a garden. I am becoming more aware of how much I waste and a lot of it has to do with seeing how much garbage I make each week. I saved a couple of plastic ice cream buckets and I use them for everything when in the past I would've thrown them away. I'm amazed at their use and it's open my eyes to, how I can value my "garbage" more. I think a lot of our economical problems have to do with wasting and not prioritizing what matters. I also think it's worth it, to make the time to become more resourceful. I love to save energy, that includes my own energy. :)

I'd want the bones I use to actually be effective for fertilizing and I'd also like to find an energy efficient way to do so. So, what's the difference between a bone being dried by the Sun or some other source and a boned being broken down by the soil and what's a better way to make it bioavailable to plants? Also, how can you speed up the process without losing the integrity of the nutrients? Mostly, I don't want to put a lot of effort and I don't want the coyotes digging in the garden. ;) I do think it's an interesting thing to ponder considering, I want to raise my own cattle and chickens one day and it would be neat to learn how to recycle bones to put back into the field for grass, or how to make my own bone meal for my future dogs.

I would like to use what I can for stock first. As I use a lot of chicken stock and what I buy is so unhealthy and full of sodium, and who the hell knows where it comes from. ;) So, I don't know how that would effect the integrity of the bone. I'm sure a grass fed chicken might be different than a corn fed chicken. I guess it's the whole chemistry of, we are what we eat down to, what the garden eats.
.........

I wonder if there are plants you can grow to help break down the bones more to make rich soil? Like put the bone meal in the fall and plant something that enriches the soil and breaks down the bone meal more for a veggie garden that would be planted in Spring . I can see it now... I'm totally going to have a portion of a green house devoted to compost, and finding an easy way to make my bones bioavailable to my plants.

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Re: what to do with bones?

I think bone broth is the way to go. Especially if you have grass fed, free range, organic animals. Like the others said, they break really easily once the collagen is cooked out of them. I make bone broth out of all my kitchen scraps. I put it all in the biggest crockpot and cook it overnight on low. I strain everything the next morning and then reduce the broth by half on the highest setting. Then I either freeze it or pressure can it. It nice to have on hand, we use it quite often, and it's extremely nutrient dense...as Supah Yummeh!

The bones once dried after that process are very easy to crumble. We've never kept the bone remains, but we let the neighborhood dogs eat the veggie scraps.

Crockpot cooking is also very cost effective.

I can't imagine that putting raw bones, without the collagen cooked from it, into a cool composted would produce soft bone. I guess bugs may help break them down both in compost and in soil, along with enzymes from whatever meat or tissue is left.
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Re: what to do with bones?

I had a visiting dog. His name was duke. Duke was a great dane. Duke loved to eat kitchen scraps. Duke would eat enough kitchen scraps that I had to use a snow shovel to scoop up the barf.

My fix was ultimately to use a second smaller steel can to pre-compost kitchen scraps. They would melt down into an evil goo. I could then add that tankage to the center of a working compost.

Duke would not even look at tankage. My compost could then finish undisturbed. Lidded tankage was not odorous at a distance.

At removal from the compost bin finished compost had few identifiable bones. None of which the scavengers would pursue.

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Re: what to do with bones?

Its OK applestar, just toss them in the trash!
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Re: what to do with bones?

Cow femurs will take their own sweet time composting. Often a decade or more. "Tanking" attractive things like this kind of byproduct makes them not-tasty.

Put all in a tight steel can. Bolt on lid if needs be. Fill can with byproduct.

Add the goo that results from this anerobic tankage to the middle of a hot compost. Nothing higher in the food-chain than a soldier-fly will bother your pile.

I had a very determined great Dane beta-test this for me...
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Re: what to do with bones?

Do you add things like beneficial microbes, em-1, or even some whey to this tankage? If you can ferment fish into fish hydrolysate according to one DIY article I saw, maybe you could at least pre-ferment meat and bone in a similar manner?

Oooh but the smell..... :hehe:
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Re: what to do with bones?

I try not to buy anything on the bone. If I do, I try to get the most out of the bones and shells like saving shrimp shells and heads for stock, or bones for soup. I still throw the bones away afterwards. They take years to decompose and I am not fond of digging up bones anytime in the future.

I sometimes get meat meal (cooked and ground meat and bones) from a local supplier. It is sold as animal feed to boost the protein. I don't really like the idea of feeding meat to herbivores. When it is used in the garden it has a short shelf life because it will decompose and stink after a couple of weeks. It cannot be used on the surface because of the smell (it smells like something died), and when it is buried the mongoose will come and dig in up after a week. The mongoose will eat the meat meal but also they want the grubs that are attracted to the decomposing mass. I have to bury it deep when I use it and wait a few weeks before planting to make sure the mongoose will not come and dig up my plants.
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Re: what to do with bones?

We discard chicken bones straight away. Larger beef and pork bones go to the dog first, then either through the chipper/shredder or into the burn pile. Eventually they make their way to growing beds as top mulch or compost.
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Re:

Tater wrote:im a little short on my perma-culture but do you have friends with dogs? What would be wrong with saving them and giving to the dogs. Just curious ? Tater
i do have a dog and i am looking for a use for the bones when my dog is done with them. throwing them away just seem like a waste to me. i have some small gardens and my husband likes to grow veggies. so i looked on line and all of you guys.i think i will like this site.

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Re: what to do with bones?

My mother use to cook a ham bone in a pressure cooker pot of beans. Beans cook very fast in a pressure cooker about 2 hours instead of 8 hours but you still need to soak beans over night before cooking them the next day. After 2 hours mom would check the beans to see if they are cooked if so she removed the beans and continued to cook the bone. Another hour or so later bone was about 80% dissolved into the soup water. She strained out the bone threw it away then added, beans, onions, garlic, herbs to the soup to simmer. Bone will dissolve in a pressure cooker you can probably pour the liquid into the compose or directly into the garden.

I know someone that eats nothing but meat he buy cooked ribs at the grocery store every day after work eats all the meat then throws the bone in my back yard for the dog and cats. Dog & cats like to lick the bones but there is nothing to eat. This morning I was looking at the nightmare pile of bones in the yard I guess I will rake them up and put them in 5 gallon bucket. Bones contain calcium that is good for the garden. I know bones will burn up but I don't know how long it takes.

I have been burning dead tree limbs every day & saving the wood ash for my garden this is excellent fertilizer source of PK & Lime for my garden & excellent for tomatoes, squash, melons, peppers & BER. Tomorrow I will see how easy bones burn up.

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Re: what to do with bones?

wood ash averages 20% calcium and raises soil pH almost as much as agricultural lime does. Appropriate pH for growing most vegetables, including tomatoes and melons, is between 6 and 6.8. If your soil pH is 6.5 or greater, you should not be adding wood ash or lime to it. You can add the ash (in small quantities) to compost pile, where it gets neutralized as it is broken down.
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Re: what to do with bones?

Different crops deplete different nutrients from the soil, decaying plant matter raises the acidic levels. Lime helps to reduce the acid. Farmers harvest their crops their equipment chops the plants and returns them to the soil to decay, every few years lime needs to be replaced as it is depleted. Home gardeners have the same problem certain plants like, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, melons, deplete the soil of lime then the plants suffer from BER = blossom end rot. Some wood has more lime than others, some hard woods have up to about 30% calcium. I am burning pine tree limbs and getting about 1 pint jar full of wood ash each time. Wood ash seems to be the perfect fertilizer for tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, I sprinkle a little wood ash near the root every 2 weeks all summer. This small amount of calcium has very little effect on the whole garden.

Read this link about wood ash in the garden.

https://www.humeseeds.com/ashes.htm

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Re: what to do with bones?

Bone experiment is interesting. I picked up this pile of bones from the yard. I built a pine wood fire in the BBQ grill that burned about 2 hours until charcoal was out. After bones cooled they were easy to break in 1/2 & not very too hard to crumble into smaller pieces. After the 2nd fire most of the bones were gone the ones that are left crumble into powder fairly easy.

The pan of wood ash is where I cleaned out the BBQ grill before I started these 2 fires. This is about 3 quarts of charcoal and ash. After removing the charcoal and throwing it on the fire with the bones I have about 1 pint mason jar full of wood ash for this years tomato plants. Pine is soft wood it does not make very much ash.

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Re: what to do with bones?

RE: decaying plant matter raises the acidic levels [in soil]

That is a big over-simplification:
When organic matter first begins to decay, it releases anions and cations. Plant foliage and stems generally contain more anions, so the initial decay over the first few weeks causes a soil pH increase. This initial increase in soil pH, especially from high nitrogen plant residue, could be used to reduce H+ [acidity], aluminum or manganese toxicity in the seedling rooting zone long enough for seedling establishment (21, laboratory). Soil microbes further break down the plant material to ammonium (mineralization) which temporarily increases pH. The ammonium gets converted to nitrate (nitrification) which causes pH to instead go down. If the nitrate is lost to leaching, pH drops even more. In the very long term, microbial decomposition decreases pH. The net effect of organic matter addition on soil pH depends on the rate at which all these processes occur and what happens with the nitrogen produced (e.g., nitrate plant uptake vs. leaching loss), the quality and quantity of plant material, and initial soil pH. Soil pH will likely increase with decomposition of plants growing on basic soils, and manure derived from such plants, deep rooted plants that draw anions from deep soil layers to the soil surface, and, plant residue high in nitrogen
(e.g., from field pea; 22, 23, both Australia). Higher residue amounts increase soil pH
https://landresources.montana.edu/nm/documents/NM8.pdf a very thorough exploration of soil pH and organic matter

So it is a dynamic process that goes through a number of changes as the cycle proceeds. If you are regularly adding organic matter to your soil, then you have all of that going on at once, the initial pH increase from the beginning stage of decay of newly added stuff and the the later pH decrease from the decay of previously added stuff. So it all balances out.

Personally, I would still be careful of adding too much lime or wood ash unless your soil is at least neutral if not alkaline to start with. But you are clearly right that sprinkling a little wood ash around plant roots won't affect the pH of your garden as a whole.
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Re: what to do with bones?

My soil is slightly acidic, around 6.8. That is nearly perfect for vegetables, but at the high end of what most of them like. But I am always working to acidify more for all the things like blueberries and other shrubs that like definitely acid soil. There is nothing I would add ash/ lime to. I do put some wood ash in my compost pile.
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Re: what to do with bones?

In the Mar 8 post I made, it says be careful about adding wood ash unless soil is alkaline. Clearly my brain went off track for a minute. (It was one AM) Here is how it should read:

Personally, I would still be careful of adding too much lime or wood ash unless your soil is at least slightly acidic to start with. But you are clearly right that sprinkling a little wood ash around plant roots won't affect the pH of your garden as a whole
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Re: what to do with bones?

All bones go into my composter and then those that come out the other end go into my shredder. Equally mussel, oyster and other shellfish shells share the same fate. I find that crushed shells are good for growing Sea Kale and Oysterleaf (Mertensia maritima). Perhaps in the composter they control the pH a little too.

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Re: what to do with bones?

All my bones end up in the trash. I do soil tests every three years and my soil only needs nitrogen and it is already high in Calcium and does not need any more. I did add lime this year because my pH dropped from 6.4 to 6.0 and I did not want it to drop any lower. pH of 6.0 is considered ideal based on my soil type.
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Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:03 pm

Re: what to do with bones?

I don't know if it serves any purpose, but here's what I do with bones. we don't have a lot, I'm vegetarian. But, I cook my dog's food, which each week involves 5 pounds of chicken thighs, among other things.

During the winter, I let the bones dry, then throw them into the woodstove. I save the ashes to spread in garden in late winter. I have very acidic soil, so the ashes help a little to raise the pH. I like that I'm not wasting the calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and other minerals in the wood ashes and bones. Burned in the woodstove, most of the bones disappear, and the rest of the pieces are brittle like chalk.

The rest of the year, I bury the chicken bones in holes I dig in my garden, between rows. I bury about a foot deep. They seem to disappear fairly fast. I don't find bones when I did the following year.

These are from chicken that was cooked overnight in a slow cooker.

My garden is fenced with chain link to keep deer, raccoons, and rabbits out. I haven't had any animal dig the bones up.

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