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Five Essential Fall Lawn Care Tasks You Must Complete Every Year

Essential Fall Lawn Care Tips

In order to maintain a healthy lawn, there’s a few essential fall lawn care tasks that every homeowner should complete.  Complete these tasks, and you’ll be rewarded with a lush, beautiful lawn in the spring.  Neglect them, and next spring you might be wondering why your lawn looks so sickly compared to your neighbors.

Get rid of dead leaves

Dead leaves on the ground block sunlight from reaching your grass and trap moisture next to the ground.  The longer the leaves are on the ground, the more moisture they’ll trap, as morning dew and rain turn the carpet of leaves into an impenetrable mess.

Don’t wait until all the leaves have fallen from the trees to get rid of them.  You should try to clean up all the leaves in your yard at least once every 1-2 weeks during the fall.

If raking leaves isn’t your thing, then use a lawn mower with a collection bag or vacuum system, like the Hi-Vac series available from Snapper at Ida Supply.

Essential Fall Lawn Care TasksKeep Mowing Your Grass

Speaking of lawn mowers, another key to a healthy lawn is keeping your grass cut to the correct height, which is 2½- to 3-inches.  If you let it get too long, it will start to mat and become susceptible to fungi.  If it’s too short, the roots won’t grow deep enough, which will hinder the ability of the grass to survive the cold dryness of winter.

Grass continues to grow in the fall until the first hard frost, so as much as you might like to put away the mower for the year, you’ll need to keep cutting until at least that point.  After the grass has stopped growing, you may still want to use your mower to break up leaves that continue to fall and cover the grass.

Aerate and fertilize the soil

Fall is a good time to aerate your lawn so that oxygen, water, and fertilizer can reach the roots of your grass.  For best results, you should use a plug aeration tool that removes tines of soil that are 2 — 3 inches deep and 0.5 — 0.75 inches in diameter, and about 2 — 3 inches apart.  This is better than a spike aerator, which simply punches holes in the soil but doesn’t remove any tines.  These tools can actually compact the ground in the areas around the holes.

If you don’t have an aeration tool like the Yard Boss from STIHL, you can rent one from Ida Supply for a day for an affordable price.

Once the soil has been aerated, spread dry lawn fertilizer evenly over your entire yard.  Use a walk-behind drop-spreader for best results.

Keep watering the lawn

Some homeowners neglect to water their lawn once the summer heat starts to go away.  This is a mistake.  If mother nature isn’t providing enough moisture in the form of rain, your lawn still needs to be watered in the fall.  Use a rain gauge to make sure your lawn is getting at least an inch of water a week, and if it isn’t, use sprinklers to make up the difference.

Spread seed and fill in bald spots

Last but not least, you should do some overseeding in the fall and fill in any bald spots on your lawn with a lawn repair mixture (sold at most garden stores or home centers).  Fall is a good time for overseeding since the ground is still warm, but there is more moisture available than in the heat of summer.  Make sure to overseed early enough in the season to give the seeds time to germinate and get well-established before it gets too cold.

By following all of these tips, you’ll ensure that come spring your lawn will be the envy of the neighborhood.  Be sure to stop by Ida Supply to pick up any equipment you need to help you with any of the above tasks.

Mid-season Maintenance Tips for Your STIHL Power Equipment

It’s the middle of summer, which probably means that you’re getting regular use out of your STIHL power equipment.  That also means that it’s a bad time for your equipment to stop working properly.

By following the mid-season maintenance tips below, you can make it much more likely that your equipment will continue functioning smoothly until it’s time to put it away for the winter.

How to wind a trimmer head

One common mid-season maintenance task is replacing the line on your grass or brush trimmer.  The video below walks you through the process step-by-step.

For other trimmer-related maintenance issues, check out this list of STIHL trimmer FAQs that cover everything from starting issues to adjusting the carburetor.

Properly maintaining your chainsaw

When it comes to maintaining your STIHL chainsaw, there’s a whole host of things to discuss, from sharpening the chain to proper operating procedures.  That’s why STIHL has prepared an extensive video that covers all of those topics and more.  Play the video below to learn everything there is to know about your chainsaw.

Make sure you’re using the right kind of fuel

One way to keep your equipment running smoothly, of course, is to use properly mixed fuel.  You can mix your own fuel, but if you don’t know what you’re doing you could end up with the wrong fuel-oil ratio.  We recommend buying pre-mixed fuel, which is available from Ida Supply.

Don’t forget to protect yourself

It won’t do you much good to have perfectly functioning equipment if the equipment operator—i.e., you—is down for the count due to an injury.  Be sure to wear proper protective clothing at all times when using outdoor power equipment of any kind.  Ida Supply carries all types of protective clothing, including STIHL brand protective gear like that listed here.

While the above tips will help you with routine maintenance of your equipment, if it starts malfunctioning we highly recommend bringing it in for service.  More often than not, people tend to do more harm than good when attempting to repair their own equipment.  Just give us a call today and we’ll get your repairs scheduled promptly so you can get back to work.

Where do STIHL products get built?

Have you ever wondered where some of the lawn equipment you purchase at Ida Supply gets manufactured?  In the case of STIHL products, you might guess that they are made in Germany, since STIHL is a German company.  If so, in most cases you’d be wrong.  Most STIHL equipment sold in Canada is actually manufactured at a plant in Virginia Beach, VA in the United States.

The plant originally opened in 1974, at which time it employed 50 people and manufactured one model of chain saw.

Today, over 270 products are assembled there, and many of the individual parts that go into the products are also manufactured at the plant.  In addition to exporting to Canada, STIHL equipment assembled in the USA is exported to over 90 other countries around the world.

Watch the video below to take a virtual tour of the STIHL plant in Virginia Beach:

 

Four Benefits of Lithium-Ion Electric Lawn Mowers

lithium ion lawn mower

Consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to outdoor power equipment, and these days it doesn’t just come down to choices between different manufacturers.  In many cases, you also have the choice between buying gas-powered equipment or battery-powered equipment.  With the recent introduction of lithium-ion electric lawn mowers like the STIHL RMA-370, many people are asking which option is better–gas or electric?

As is so often the case in life, the answer is “it depends”.  However, for smaller yards there are definitely some advantages to lithium-ion lawn mowers.  Here are four reasons to consider making your next lawn mower an electric mower:

You don’t have to buy gas

Most lawn mowers use a 2-stroke engine, which requires a special blend of fuel and oil to run.  It’s a little bit more expensive than regular auto gas, and over the course of a typical mowing season you can spend a decent amount of money on gas for your lawn mower.  Electric mowers, on the other hand, can be charged with a very small amount of electricity.  In fact, about $5 worth of electricity will charge the typical electric mower for an entire year.

Electric mowers are better for the environment

Running a gas-powered mower on a hot summer afternoon is very bad for the environment.  In fact, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, one gas lawn mower operated for an hour produces as much air pollution as 11 new cars being driven for the same amount of time.  This doesn’t even take into account the environmental impact of spilled gas and oil.  Lithium-ion mowers, of course, have no emissions and there is no spilled oil to worry about either.

Electric mowers are lighter

The STIHL RMA-370 only weights 28.4 lbs, whereas the typical gas-powered push lawn mower of comparable size would weigh closer to 80 lbs.  Even if the gas mower in question is self-propelled, it is still going to be harder to maneuver and transport than a lithium-ion powered lawn mower.

Electric mowers are easier to maintain

While electric lawn mowers are not maintenance-free (the blades still need to be sharpened periodically, for example), there are certain things that you don’t need to worry about doing.  For example, you don’t need to change the fuel filter, spark plugs, or oil on an electric lawn mower.

Given that electric lawn mowers are not any more expensive than gas-powered lawn mowers, for most homeowners with a typical size lawn, a lithium-ion electric lawn mower is a good investment.  Stop by Ida Supply to see the two STIHL lithium-ion mowers, the RMA 370 and the RMA 410-C.

 

Woman Gets Hair Caught in Grass Trimmer–Don’t Try This at Home

hair caught in trimmer

The old hair caught in the trimmer trick…..the names and faces of those involved have not been revealed to protect their embarrassment.  Consider this a cautionary tale about the importance of safety when using outdoor power equipment, including the wearing of proper eye and hearing protection, proper clothing, and yes…proper hair restraints.  Luckily the only damage done as a result of this incident was the loss of a few strands of hair, but it could have been a lot worse.

A few years back, on one of those lazy summer Saturday afternoons, I walked into the shop to find Chuck, our service tech, with a very perplexed look on his face.  As I got closer I could see there was a woman with a grass trimmer being held on her shoulder by another fellow who turned out to be her husband and Chuck gingerly fiddling with the inside of the trimmer.

I thought to myself, “What’s up here?” A closer look revealed a large clump of the woman’s hair caught in the clutch of the trimmer. My second thought was why they came to us to with this. Turns out the woman was trimming her lawn when she stumbled and stepped into a low depression causing her to lift the trimmer running at her hip into her waist length hair. Her hair had managed to drop through the 3/16th inch slots on top of the clutch housing, getting caught up in the turning clutch hub and sucking her hair up until the engine stalled.  She didn’t want to cut her hair to free herself and came in to see if we could unravel it. By the time I arrived Chuck had taken the top cover off and had been working unsuccessfully to remove the hair. After a few more minutes of having no joy on unraveling any more hair we, along with the husband, talked her into letting us cut her free.

Chuck reassembled the trimmer, ran it, and we waved them goodbye with no charge for the hour of free entertainment they had provided. Just another day in the trenches.

The moral of the story is…don’t get your hair caught in your grass trimmer.

Comparing the STIHL MS 880 to the Model KS 43

STIHL Model KS 43 Saw

The STIHL company has been the leading manufacture of chain saws for well over a half-century, and during that time a lot has changed in the outdoor power equipment industry.  In order to demonstrate how dramatic those changes are as well as highlight the fact that STIHL has been there since the very beginning, we thought it would be interesting to compare one of the earliest models of chain saws manufactured by STIHL, the model KS 43, to their current most powerful professional saw, the MS 880.

The STIHL model KS 43 Chain Saw

In 1926, a young German mechanical engineer by the name of Andreas Stihl founded a company for the purpose of manufacturing a powered saw that could improve the efficiency of woodworkers (Stihl had previously worked producing parts for steam boilers and washing machines).  The first saw he designed was actually an electric saw, but that was quickly followed by the world’s first gas-powered chain saw in 1929.  Less than 15 years later, the STIHL company released the model KS 43 chain saw, which would be on the market for nearly three decades (it was discontinued in 1971).

First introduced at the height of World War II, the KS 43 became the standard saw of the German Army Engineer Corps, and was the first saw to use die cast magnesium housings for the air STIHL Model KS 43 Sawblower, carburetor, and fuel tank (which greatly reduced the weight of the saw).  Unlike modern chain saws, it required two people to operate.

Here’s the technical specifications of the KS 43 chain saw:

  • Engine Displacement: 247 ccm (15.07 cu. in.)
  • Cylinders: 1
  • Cylinder bore: 68 mm (2.67 in.)
  • Piston Stroke: 68 mm (2.67 in.)
  • Cylinder type: Aluminum with chrome plated bore
  • Intake method: Piston ported
  • Advertised hp: 8.5
  • Weight: 37.5 kg (82.5 lbs)
  • Chain brake: None
  • Clutch: Centrifugal
  • Shortest guide bar supplied: 60cm (24 in.)
  • Longest guide bar supplied: 250cm (100 in.)

The STIHL model 880 Chain Saw

STIHL MS 880 SawThe STIHL MS 880 Magnum chain saw is currently the most powerful professional saw available from the company.  It features a IntelliCarb™ compensating carburetor, a decompression valve for unforced starting, a heavy-duty, easy-to-maintain air filter and a side-access chain tensioner.

Here’s the relevant technical stats for the MS 880:

  • Displacement (cc): 121.6
  • Power output (kW/bhp): 6.4/8.7
  • Weight (kg/lbs): 9.8/21.6
  • Shortest guide bar: 20 in.
  • Longest guide bar: 60 in.

As you can see, a lot has changed in 70 years!  It’s hard to imagine anyone buying a two-person, 80-lb. chain saw today, but that was considered state-of-the-art in the 1940s.  So, next time you pick up a STIHL saw, appreciated all of the innovation, design, and thought that has gone into producing the best saws in the industry since the very beginning.

Why 2-stroke Engines Require Special Fuel

Aspen Fuel

Aspen FuelIn order to get the best performance from your outdoor power equipment, it’s important that you use the right kind of fuel.  Many people are unaware that most small, gas-powered engines (such as those used to power lawn mowers, chain saws, trimmers, and snow blowers) can’t run on regular automotive gasoline.  Instead, they run on a mix of fuel and oil, which can either be mixed by the operator or purchased pre-mixed (such as the Aspen-brand fuel sold at Ida Supply).

No, this is not a big conspiracy on the part of the equipment dealers and manufacturers to make you buy special fuel.  There is a valid reason why 2-stroke engines require special fuel, and in today’s post we’ll explain exactly why that is.

2-Stroke vs 4-Stroke Engines

In order to understand why some engines require special fuel, first you need to understand the difference between a 2-stroke and a 4-stroke engine.  When speaking about engines, the term “stroke” refers to the motion of a piston moving inside a cylinder.  Each time a piston moves either up or down equals one stroke.  The up-and-down motion of the piston spins a crankshaft, which is what causes the various parts of your machine to move  in the way that they’re supposed to (for example, the blade on a lawn mower).

In a 4-stroke engine, strokes are as follows:

  • Intake: The piston moves down as fuel and air are allowed into the cylinder.
  • Compression: The piston moves up to compress the mixture of fuel and air.
  • Power: A spark from a spark plug ignites the mixture of fuel and air, and the expanding gas from the controlled explosion forces the piston down.
  • Exhaust: The piston moves back up as an exhaust valve opens in the cylinder, forcing out the gas.

On the other hand, a 2-stroke engine combines these four steps into two cycles of the piston.  When the fuel-air mixture is ignited, the piston moves down and exposes an exhaust port, which allows the gas to escape.  At the same time, the piston exposes an intake port that allows air and fuel to mix and enter the cylinder.  As the piston moves back up, it compresses the fuel-air mixture in preparation for the next power stroke.  The video below has a very good demonstration of the differences between a 2-stroke and 4-stroke engine.

Why special fuel?

While 4-stroke engines can run on gasoline, 2-stroke engines need a mixture of gasoline and oil.  This is because the fuel in a 2-stroke engine also lubricates the engine, whereas in a 4-stroke engine the fuel provides the power and oil provides the lubrication.  Since a 2-stroke engine uses exhaust ports on the side of the cylinder, if oil was used as lubrication between the piston and cylinder, some of it would leak into the exhaust ports and clog them.

Because the fuel in a 2-stroke engine is also used for lubrication, if you use regular gasoline instead of gasoline mixed with oil, it will cause the engine to seize up.  This will cause a complete failure of the engine with possible severe damage, including holes in the cylinder wall and broken crankshafts.  In short, nothing you want to mess around with.

So, the moral of the story is don’t use gasoline in your 2-cycle engines!  To be on the safe side, your best bet is to purchase pre-mixed Aspen fuel specifically designed for 2-cycle engines.  However, if you do want to mix your own fuel, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.  This will keep your equipment running smoothly and prevent one of the most common causes of engine damage in 2-cycle engines.

 

Lawn Mower Delivers 26 Years of Quality Service

lawn mower

When you take good care of your equipment, there’s no telling how long it could last.  In the case of one Ida Supply customer, a lawn mower purchased over two decades ago is still serving him well.

lawn mower

lawn mowerEvery year, the mower has been cleaned and the oil has been changed.

Only premium gas has been used in the mower.

The air filter has been changed on a regular basis, and the blade has been kept sharp.

In the twenty-six years that the mower has been used, it has only required one major servicing, which was done at Ida Supply two years ago.

How long has YOUR equipment lasted?  Send us a message and tell us how long you’ve been using equipment purchased at Ida Supply!

STIHL 090 Chainsaw Helps Ministry of Environment Teach Ice Fishing Techniques

STIHL 090 Chainsaw

We love hearing stories from our customers about how tools and equipment they purchased at Ida Supply help them do their jobs better and make a difference in the world. The story below was submitted by Marge Sidney from the Ministry of Environment, who has been using a STIHL saw purchased at Ida Supply for over 30 years.

My name is Marge Sidney and I work for the Ministry of Environment (MoE) in Kamloops. In 1981 the Fisheries instructor from the Fish, Wildlife & Recreation Program (FWR) at BCIT contacted our office and asked if he could bring his 2nd Year class to an interior lake in March 1982 so that MoE staff could teach the students how to set gill nets under the ice to catch fish. From this simple beginning a long term relationship has been developed and March of 2016 marked at least the 31st time that I have been involved.

I was a grad of the FWR program at BCIT in 1976 and firmly believe in its value so the fit was natural. What started as a simple field trip back in the 1980’s has developed into a very comprehensive winter limnology study (the scientific study of bodies of freshwater, such as lakes and ponds, with reference to their biological, chemical, physical, geological and other attributes) in the 2000’s. Over the years I have taken the class to many lakes in the Southern Interior during the first week of March.

You might ask what this has to do with Ida Supply Ltd. in Kamloops. In the early to mid 1980’s our Fisheries section needed a good, reliable chainsaw to cut holes in the ice of various lakes in our region during the winter to perform work under the ice. We went to Ida Supply Ltd. and told staff there what we needed to do and how thick the ice could potentially be. The saw recommended was a Stihl 090 gear drive with a 30” bar so we purchased one. During the 1980’s it was used quite extensively during the winter for internal Fisheries work as well as BCIT field trips, and only rarely did it cut down a tree during the summer.

Since 1990 the saw has only been used for the BCIT field trips as it is much easier to perform our work on lakes during open water. The winter field trip has continued with BCIT as an early March date fits well into the FWR curriculum and it is much easier to teach 25 students when they can walk out on the ice and gather around than it is to put students in a multitude of boats.

The purpose of the BCIT Winter Limnology Field Trip in recent years has been to:

  1. Learn something about the ecology of small lakes in the winter in the southern interior of BC.
  2. Learn about limnology equipment and techniques.
  3. Learn how to work as small teams, integrating with a larger team, in order to get a complicated project done in a short time period.
  4. Collect samples, analyze and tabulate the data.
  5. Learn how to write up the data into a technical report in a short time period.
  6. Learn how to work under winter conditions in BC.

The Stihl 090 chainsaw is the starting point of all of my work out on a lake with the class. Once we have determined the depth of water we are standing over with an ice auger and depth measuring device I teach the students the proper way to cut a hole in the ice with the saw. First I put on safety gear and tell the students that they don’t need to put chain oil or any other lubricant in the oil reservoir as the water will lubricate the bar and chain plus we don’t want to pollute the water. Also, I tell them that to the best of my knowledge the chain (original chain) hasn’t been sharpened since the 1980’s as it doesn’t get dull cutting ice!

I start the saw flat on the ice, let it idle a bit to warm up and then stand the saw on the bar tip to let it cut vertically to the water. Once the bar has hit the water below the ice I let the saw do the work by digging the dogs into the ice and rocking it back and forth. Stand back as there is always a rooster tail of water coming off the chain! I slant the saw inward to the hole so the ice chunk will come out and make sure to stand outside of the ice chunk you are cutting, not the inside. Finally I finish the cuts vertically so that the ice chunk will be loose. A pair of ice tongs, many ice bars and many students makes short work of getting the ice chunk(s) out of the hole.

STIHL 090 ChainsawLessons learned over the years with this saw include; before shutting the saw off I always walk a distance away from the group and rev the saw up to clear any water then it is shut off and place up off the ice. There have been times during below 0 C weather with this class that the saw has frozen up and been difficult to start – very aggravating! This saw is over 30 years old and, now only using it on ice, it looks and runs like brand new.

From this initial hole I teach the students how to operate a jigger board under the ice. The sole purpose of this slotted plank with moveable steel and wooden pieces is to hug the underneath side of the ice and creep away from you by pulling, in a long pulling/rocking motion, on a thin rope attached. Once the jigger board is approximately 90 m from the first hole it is located to the best of our ability by pulling, with small quick motions, on the rope to activate a knocker (steel on steel to make a noise) at the back of the board. Knowing the length of the board, the appropriate distance is paced off and the chainsaw is used to cut another hole in the ice ahead of the board.

If sawdust is noticed on the ice, stop immediately as the board is being cut so move further away. A long rectangular hole is cut (perpendicular to the board) and this one big ice chunk is cut into smaller pieces to allow for easy removal. The reason for the long rectangular hole is that sound doesn’t travel straight up through ice and snow and this maximizes our chance of capturing the board. Someone at the first hole then uses the long pulling/rocking motion with the rope and the board comes into view in our second hole. It is snagged and brought up out of the hole. With this job complete there is now a rope under the ice between the 2 holes. With this rope under the ice, a gill net can be tied to one end of the rope at one hole and pulled through to the second hole.

We traditionally do 2 gillnet sets so now that I have demonstrated the use of the saw and the jigger board to the class it is their turn to use the equipment. Being female and using this huge saw that weighs approx. 35 lbs, impresses the students so lately it’s been the female students that volunteer to try. I am right there with them for safety reasons and also coaching them to let the saw do the work and not hurt their back. The students catch on very quickly and some of the smaller gals are very impressed that they can use such a large saw. Many photos are taken for bragging rights. Using the jigger board again, sending it out the approx. 90 m, the students try to locate the sound and then another student will volunteer to use the saw and cut the hole. Once the jigger board is out of the hole the second gill net is deployed and both sets are left in overnight.

The next morning the ice in the chain sawed holes is carefully chipped to reveal open water and the gill nets are pulled, being careful to attach a rope to one end of the net so after the net has been pulled out there is once again a rope under the ice between the 2 holes. The fish caught are examined, tabulated and carefully packed away on ice in coolers. The students now get to have hands-on use with other type of limnology equipment. The rope under the ice is used to do a horizontal plankton net tow (very fine mesh net) between the 2 holes to see what invertebrates (fish food) are living in the water column. The samples are collected, preserved and packed away. The holes are also used to deploy the plankton net vertically from bottom to top of the water column and the same process with the samples is repeated. A Ponar dredge, which is a device that is dropped from ice surface to the bottom substrate of the lake, is triggered and collects a sample of substrate. This substrate is sieved and the organisms that are living in this surface substrate at the bottom of the lake are collected, preserved and packed away. The Plankton net and the Ponar dredge are used in all 4 holes. All samples collected are taken back to BCIT for analysis.

The final task out on the lake is to locate the deepest part of the lake using a bathymetric map (contour map similar to a topographic map but the reverse showing the contours of the bottom). Once that site is located another student uses the chainsaw to cut a hole large enough to use a water quality meter to do a profile of the lake. Measurements are taken every metre from top to bottom on parameters such as water temp, dissolved oxygen, Specific conductance, pH and turbidity, and the values are recorded. This data is then used to determine where water samples should be taken. The students are then shown how to use a Kemner bottle (a tube shaped device with a removable cap on either end), lower it into the water at a specific depth and then trigger the caps to close and capture water at a specific depth. Water samples are collected and sent away to a lab at the Coast for various parameters to be analyzed.

Ice FIshingDuring spare moments the students are taught about the various biological and chemical processes that take place in our small interior lakes. All data and samples that are collected during this field trip are taken back to BCIT for analysis and then the class writes a technical report on all of the findings and sends it to me to add to our knowledge on that particular lake.

The 090 Stihl chainsaw is an integral piece of equipment for this BCIT winter Limnology field trip. It has been dependable over the 30+ years it has been in use and has enough power to easily cut through 60 cms of ice in some of our higher elevation lakes in the Southern Interior.

I have been dealing with Ida Supply Ltd. in Kamloops since the early 1980’s, mostly in regards to this chainsaw. For 99% of the year this saw lives in the MoE’s heated warehouse, with the gas drained, in a large wooden box that we built for it a long time ago. At the end of February, as this saw only gets used the first week of March, I take it to Chuck at Ida Supply Ltd. for a quick go over, as I am not a small motor mechanic. I need this saw to start right away and perform well when I am with the class as everything we do out on the lake depends on it. Chuck always greets me with a huge smile as I know that he likes seeing this saw. Apparently the Stihl 090 gear drive isn’t made anymore and word gets round that it is in the shop. I enjoy going to Ida Supply. Chuck always makes me feel welcome as the conversation is easy as we talk about our personal lives, what is going on in the Ministry or the latest car restoration project going on in the shop – he has been there as long as I can remember. The service is great as the saw has been dependable for the 30+ years that I have been using it (except for times in the early days when winters were much colder and the saw froze up as I didn’t know any better)!

Thank you to Ida Supply Ltd. in Kamloops, BC and Happy 40th Anniversary!

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