53- Meet Hunter, Noxious Weed Warrior

This week on Eco Lawn Science, Ete chats with Hunter Dalsing, a licensed technician who spends his days battling Noxious Weeds. Hunter explains what it’s like to be out there fighting these invasive weeds on a daily basis. He describes the weeds he’s seeing most often, gives some advice on some best practices for getting rid of them, and makes recommendations on what homeowners can do to help eradicate them. Also, find out which weeds are Hunter’s favorite (hint: it’s the most wearable weed–see picture), and which ones drive him crazy. It’s a great conversation about Noxious Weeds with a guy who knows them well on this episode of Eco Lawn Science.

Russian Knapweed
Viper’s Blugloss

Weirdo Wearing Phragmites

Transcript:

Ete 

Hey, hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. And today, I got a special guest with me. I don’t do a ton of interviews here on the show. So kind of a fun treat for you guys. And yeah, let’s just have fun with it. So I was talking with Cecil who does all of our editing and writes all our descriptions. She’s my sister, and we were talking about some ideas for some new content for some new shows. And she suggested, hey, let’s bring in some of the team that we work with, the guys and girls that are out there doing stuff and let’s interview them. Let’s let’s talk a little bit about what they’re seeing. And I don’t know, it’s just some random things. And so that’s what we’re gonna do today. So we’re gonna have some fun. So today with me is Hunter Dalsing. Hello, did I say your right, your last name right?

Hunter 

Yeah, you said it exactly right.

Ete 

Okay, I don’t think I’ve actually ever said it out loud. So I want to make sure it right.

Hunter 

No, you’re good.

Ete 

So Hunter is here with me and we were actually just up in Park City in the Preserve area. And we’re looking at noxious weeds. We’ve got a couple big bids coming up that we’re working on. We’re trying to build a new formula for this, noxious weeds. Our problem here in Utah, we’ve, I’ve talked about in the show a bunch. There’s 25 plus of them. And these weeds you can get cited for if you have them on your lot, an infestation. The government can actually come in and, you know, they’ll force you to spray them. You don’t, if you don’t take care of it, they’ll put a lien on your house. And it’s real serious. And that sounds crazy. But I’ve learned over the years of why. These things are so invasive, they take over, they ruin our trails. There’s a war on these weeds. So anyway, hundred hours is up there looking at some new new HOAs they’re building around Park City. They want some bids, and we’re trying to wrap our heads around. So I want to ask Hunter a little bit about, he’s out there every day. So he is he’s a trained and licensed applicator and he specializes in noxious weeds.

Hunter 

Yep, that’s exactly what I do actually.

Ete 

Yeah. So he’s So he does these every day.  Yeah.  Do you? Uh, do you see noxious weeds when you close your eyes and go to sleep?

Hunter 

Sometimes I dream about them. Sometimes they come up and haunt me in the middle of the night.

Ete 

So those are nightmares.

Yeah, yeah.

Ete 

Okay, not sure. Yeah. That’s a true thing. I know. I do too. I’ll I’ll see these. It’s crazy. Can you drive? Can you spot them when you’re driving by like fields and stuff?

Hunter 

Yeah. So most of the time when I’m driving down the canyon, I’ll see him all the time. You know, you can picture, when you, after you’ve done it for a little while, you know, you can see them from a couple yards away, even if you’re driving. But I’m sure you have the same similar experience.

Ete 

It’s like a curse and a blessing. It’s a blessing because you get good at what you’re doing and identifying, but it’s a curse because you can’t like, sometimes I can’t relax. I’ll go for hiking like Oh, man, look at the… You know?

Hunter 

Yeah, exactly. It ruins it for you a little bit.

Ete 

Yeah. So anyway, so let’s talk a little bit about noxious weeds. So we are…Let’s see, by the time this episode comes out, we’re mid August here. It’s been a hot year. It’s been a dry year. And we just came from some sites. What are some of the weeds that you’re seeing right now in August? And what are some of the problems that you’re seeing out there on the job?

Hunter 

So right now we’re seeing a lot of, we’re seeing a lot of weeds. Most of the, most of the weeds are nearing the end of their lifecycle right now. There are a lot of them that are already to seed. They’ve already flowered. So they’re seeding. They’re dropping their seeds. Some of them are starting to turn, you know, a brownish color. Some of them turn black, as we’ve seen. The, the dyer’s woad is already black, it’s normally a beautiful yellow.

Ete 

Yeah, yes. Yes. That yellow everybody freaks out about.

Hunter 

Yep. So yeah, the dyer’s woad now is black.

Ete 

Okay. So are you not worried about it, then when you see it?

Hunter 

Well, at this point, when we’re spraying it’s, there’s not much you can do for it when you’re spraying.

Ete 

Because it’s already seeded.

Hunter 

Yeah. We’d have to look, we’d have to look more for a mechanical removal on those ones.

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

So you know, that’d be, that’d be either cutting them down

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

and bagging them. Or somehow figuring out a way to get the seeds out of there. Whether that be you know, taking the tops off, you know. Dyer’s woad, you can kind of grab it and slide the, slide the seeds off and bag them, which which works well.

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

But at this point, unless you’ve got some kind of pre emergent, you’re kind of too late in the game.

Ete 

Yeah, you’ve missed the window.

Hunter 

Exactly.

Ete 

Okay, so, so you’re seeing those kind of already doing their thing and blackening out?

Hunter 

 Yeah.  And you’re not worried about those. The mature ones anyway.  Exactly.

Ete 

What else you seeing out there?

Hunter 

You know, we we still are seeing, you know, some small ones. We’re seeing, of course, the Canada thistle. They’ll keep growing, you know, probably the next month or so. A lot of them are still little, you can get them and you know, those are actually really susceptible to spraying at this time.

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

So I’ve seen a lot of those. We’re seeing a lot of musk and scotch thistle.

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

Those ones are really noticable because they’re tall. They’re, you know, some of them can get up to, you know, 10 feet tall. So you can see them driving by on the road. You can see him all over the place and people are really noticing them right now.

Ete 

So on the thistle, what stages are you seeing them in? Because you said some are 10 feet tall? Are you seeing them on that stage? Or is it vary or what do you

Hunter 

Yeah, so most of what I’ve seen is the scotch and the musk thistles, which are the little bit taller ones. Those ones are ready to, you know those ones are dropping their seeds right now.

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

Some of the smaller ones, like I said, the Canada thistle they’re, they’re not quite there yet. Some of them are. Like if they started, you know, growing at the beginning of the year, they’re dropping their seeds. But um, yeah, that’s what I’m seeing.

Ete 

Okay, cool. And, same thing there if it’s already 10 feet tall plant, 10 foot tall plant, of the scotch or the musk thistle, you kind of missed your window for spraying?

Hunter 

Yeah, you kind of, on spraying you kind of missed your window. Right now you, you’d probably be looking at more of a mechanical removal.

Ete 

And getting those heads out of there.

Hunter 

Getting the heads out of there. And a lot of people actually, they don’t like seeing the big dead plants in their yard. So a lot of people like to cut them down, too or figure out some way to mulch them, just to get them out of there.

Ete 

Okay, cool. All right. So you’ve seen some thistles? What, what else? You seeing anything else that they are looking for?

Hunter 

Yeah, there’s actually, right now is a really good time to look for the knapweed. Because the knapweed, it’s you know, it’s, it’s tall and it’s blossoming right now. So it’s got those, you know, those little tiny purple flowers on them. And you know, knapweed’s one of those weeds that you look at it when it’s a rosette and it looks really generic. It’s really hard to identify.

Ete 

Yeah.

Hunter 

But now that it’s, you know, a little bit taller, and you can see it well, it’s a good time to get it.

Ete 

Okay, cool. So knapweed. I don’t know if I’ve talked about that one on the show yet. So let’s add a, let’s put a picture or some type of link down below to help anyone who’s worried about identifying knapweed. Now, with knapweed there are different types of knapweed. There’s like a Russian knapweed, a spotted, but I think they all have, they all do have a lot of similarities in the head

Hunter 

Yeah

Ete 

and the veins and things like that.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

But like you said, you gotta get them now. Like some of them are starting to pop. But I think you’re right. It is hard to identify when they’re young.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

It looks like a native plant. Like it’s actually kind of cool looking.

Hunter 

Yeah, it is. It really is.

Ete 

Okay, so knapweed. What else? Anything else?

Hunter 

Um.

Ete 

We saw one today that I’ve never talked about on the show.

Hunter 

Oh, the bugloss.

Ete 

The bugloss. Tell, tell us a little bit about that.

Hunter 

So a bugloss, the bugloss is a little bit, it’s a little bit different weed. It’s kind of got these purple and blue flowers. We’ll definitely get a picture up for them.

Ete 

Yeah, we’ll do that.

Hunter 

The most common one we have here in you know, in our little section of the woods, is called a viper’s bugloss. And the telltale sign of that one is the, uh. On the stem, it’s got these, it’s got these little prickly things. And it’s got these deep, dark black spots on it. So that’s kind of, that’s kind of like the distinct giveaway on what it is. That’s how you can tell, yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Ete 

And today, we actually found one, because I’m actually not as familiar with it because like I said, Hunter’s out there all the time doing it. And we found one in the same family. It was a common instead of a viper buggoss. So you can have different, you can be in the same family, the same weed, but have different variations.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

So make sure you, make sure you’re looking for that. This one it looked like the heads were very similar to what you’re describing, the viper. But this one was more like bushy, like, it looks like, I honestly, you would think it was a nice, local native flower.

Hunter 

Yeah, you’d think so. It kind of looks like the rest of them. So yeah, sometimes it’s a little tricky to figure those ones out. But…

Ete 

Cool. Okay, cool. So there’s some new ones. So some knapweed, some bugloss. Do you have a, what’s your most hated weed? Is there one that you just like you show up to a job site and you’re like, ah, man, I hate this stuff.

Hunter 

Yeah. So I’ve got I’ve got two of them and they’re for the, they’re for the similar reason.

Ete 

Okay, which ones?

Hunter 

The two most ones I hate to see are the dyer’s woad,

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

and the Dalmatian toadflax.

Ete 

Which, we’re seeing some of that out right now.

Hunter 

We’re definitely seeing…

Ete 

We saw some this morning.

Hunter 

We’re definitely seeing a lot of it and it’s, it’s flowering right now.

Ete 

What do you hate about them?

Hunter 

So the big issue that we have with them is they have this waxy coating on them. It’s really, really waxy. So whenever you try and spray them, whenever you’re trying to you know, get rid of them, it just slips off. It doesn’t it doesn’t soak in very well. So you know, there’s there’s some things you can do for this. You can do either, you know, a surfactant or something, some kind of sticker to make it, you know, stick on to that wax. You know, the big issue is, you know, you spray them and it all runs down and you don’t want, you don’t want too much excess going into the soil.

Ete 

Absolutely.

Hunter 

So you know, that’s something you got to be conscious about.

Ete 

So with, with like a Dalmatian toadflax or or even dyer’s woad, is it more inconsistent? Like so, let’s say you show up to a one acre parcel that hasn’t been developed. And it’s, let’s say it’s a thistle, like a scotch thistle. And you’re like, you walk out, you take care of it, and you leave feeling good. Like, I know I got these.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

With the toadflax or with these waxy coatings, dyer’s woad, do you always have that feeling or do you walk away sometimes going I think, I hope but some. Is it a little less, is it a little less consistent?

Hunter 

Yeah, I think you described that well. So a lot of times you’re like, you know, is it gonna rain a little bit? is all all my work can be washed away? Whereas, you know, as you said in the thistles, you spray the thistles and you’re ,you’re pretty confident they’re gonna die.

Ete 

Gotcha.

Hunter 

So yeah, those are just kind of inconsistent weeds with the, you know, you always wonder how well it’s gonna work.

Ete 

Hunter does a lot of commercial, a lot of HOA work, but also a lot of like individual residence homes. And they may have, you know, a house with some nice lawn but then maybe an acre pasture or something where these plants will grow. Do you run into issues with the homeowners at all as you’re out during the season?

Hunter 

Yeah, so sometimes it’s just, you know, just a little bit of lack of information. A little bit of know how. A lot of what I, a lot of what I see, what I run into is, one, they’re, they’re not sure what a noxious weed is. They kind of see this ugly looking plant and they say, oh, that’s a noxious weed.

Ete 

Gotcha.

Hunter 

When it’s really not, it’s just, you know, some kind of native plant living there. So sometimes that just kind of takes some explaining. Sometimes they, they insist on spraying it.

Ete 

Yeah.

Hunter 

It’s kind of a, you know, you know, every, every situation is a little bit different. Another one is where to look for these weeds. So a lot of, a lot of this is, you know, they want you to walk through these huge native areas that have never been touched, never, never been worked on. And they think oh, there’s definitely noxious weeds in there because it’s a foresty area.

Ete 

Yeah, yeah.

Hunter 

So you end up you end up walking through this, you know, huge foresty area, and there’s not a single weed in there. So a lot of these weeds, a lot of these weeds really gain on dirt being moved around.

Ete 

Yeah, disturbing.

Hunter 

Disturbing, yeah, disturbing.

Ete 

Building, roads, all that?

Hunter 

Exactly. Wherever those, you know, I’m in a tractor driven or wherever someone’s brought a car in. Wherever that earth can be picked up, that’s where you’re gonna, you know, not always, but

Ete 

That’s where they’re gonna be.

Hunter 

That’s where you’re gonna find a lot of them.

Ete 

What’s something useful to a homeowner who might be listening? And either not sure if they have noxious weeds and maybe they know they have on what’s this piece of advice you would give them?

Hunter 

Okay. If I had to give one piece of advice to the you know, any homeowner, I’d say, just research it a little bit.

Okay.

Hunter 

Just kind of look up, you know, different, different areas have different, different weeds. I’d say just do a little bit of research yourself. Just kind of look at what plants are coming in. And maybe if there’s, you know, if there’s a local, if there’s a local expert or local, local company, maybe ask them what kind of weeds do we have in this area? Or what kind of things are you guys taking care of in these areas? Most of them will be more than happy to, you know, give some, give some friendly advice, but you know, you can always just go online. Most counties, most states have, have lists of what weeds that are considered noxious in that area. So, you know, just kind of look it up, kind of check out your your area and see if you have any of those.

Ete 

Awesome. And I love that. I think that’s a great point. Because identification, IDing something is, it has to be the first step in any type of control plan. And I do actually teach that because so often I see people grabbing a product that just doesn’t need to go down and spraying something that doesn’t need to be sprayed. It’s easy to look at this plant and think, oh, it’s noxious, spray it, and then come to find out it wasn’t and it actually was doing good things for your soil.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

So I love that. Yeah, I agree. I think I, think identifying it first, making sure you have it, you know. I don’t think you need to just call up a company and say, hey, come take care of my lot. You know, not even knowing you have noxious weeds. Yeah, because a.) it could be waste of money for you, and b.) they may put product on something that doesn’t need to be done. So

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

Identify it. And then I think also I want to add a tip is making sure the company that you’re are working with or looking to hire, make sure they understand the weeds, make sure they can identify them.

Hunter 

Exactly.

Ete 

There was a job in a neighborhood about three years ago, and they hired, they got a bunch of kids, they got them licensed, and they walked these roadsides, I won’t say which neighborhood, and they put like two or three guys side by side, 15 feet out. And they just sprayed everything. And I remember, it was actually devastating. They killed some incredible native plants. They were killing trees. And it’s like, guys, if you knew what your weeds were, you would have not caused all these issues.

Hunter 

And that actually, you know, that causes a larger issue because a lot of those plants that are there, they’re native plants, they’re supposed to be there.

Ete 

Sure.

Hunter 

So when you kill off everything that actually, you know, that ,that’s just like the open soil that invites other plants to come in.

Ete 

To come in because there’s nothing there.

Hunter 

Yeah. Most of the time the most aggressive weeds are those noxious weeds. They’ll come in the fastest, they’ll start sprouting up. You know, I remember this other one. We’re working on a property. It was a property manager talking to us, and the previous property manager they fired him because they said he wasn’t doing a good job.

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

And then he had all these beautiful wild flowers all around the house.

Ete 

Oh, nice.

Hunter 

And he just said, this looks too wild just go ahead and kill everything.

Ete 

What? Why?

Hunter 

He was just insistent on it being a little bit cleaner, not knowing that you know those were all, those were all good native, native plants.

Ete 

Yeah, with benefits.

Hunter 

Well yeah.

Ete 

To the soil and the environment because some of these colorful wildflowers are pollinators.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

So yeah, come on guys. Learn your stuff. Know, know what you’re dealing with.

Hunter 

Exactly.

Ete 

If you have noxious weeds, like like Hunter said, Google it or call a local company and then make sure they do before you get involved in have hold treatment program set up.

Hunter 

Yeah. Exactly.

Ete 

Now let me ask you this. How often–because I know this is kind of a back and forth debate–how many treatments a year does a property need, let’s say here in Park City for noxious weed, or is it just, what are some of the factors in building a good program? That, that works and doesn’t include a lot of runoff and pollution?

Hunter 

Yeah. So it’s kind of, it kind of depends on what weeds are there. And kind of how, I want to say how mature they are, but how how dense it is.

Ete 

Okay, sure.

Hunter 

So some, some properties, you know, you go to, you want to spray it, and then you want to get back there so you can, you know, if there’s, if there was any that you that might have been missed, or some of them that didn’t quite get, you know, enough product on them, that you can quickly take care of those. Sometimes we’ve done, we’ve done four treatments, you know, over the season, which is a few months. Sometimes you know, properties take a little bit more than that, if it’s, you know, a really wet area, or if it’s a plant that’s grown, you know, a plant that’s grown a little bit quicker than the rest. Those might need some, you know, some more, some more frequent treatments, maybe more visits.

Ete 

Would you say, is it more important to worry about a number of treatments? Or is it more important, like a timing thing? Like, I know, some people might get like in lawn care, everybody wants six treatments.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

You know, and sometimes I’m like, guys, I would be more focused on your own lawn, the nutrients it needs than the set treatments.

Hunter 

Yeah. So that’s actually brings up a great point. If you do it earlier in the season, then you’re not going to have you know, these huge 10 foot,

Ete 

Right.

Hunter 

10 foot beasts that you need to take care–

Ete 

Right. You get them when they’re young.

Hunter 

If you can get them, you know, early in the season, and where it’s only going to use a little bit of product, that’s a lot, you know, that’s a lot safer. And that’s a lot better method of taking care of them.

Ete 

Sure.

Hunter 

So I think you could actually even cut down on your visits, if you were able to get those early on.

Ete 

Gotcha. So earlier, maybe a little closer together. I mean, timing’s got to be a huge factor in what you’re doing because–well, this year, you know, we did a big project and…Tell a little bit about the the dyer’s woad and the thistle, how the timing worked in favor on a little bit, and we didn’t ,and we lost on the other.

Hunter 

Yeah, yeah. So the project we were working on, you know, just this large open area. We got there, you know, they they got there once the don’ts of the dyer’s woad started popping up, when people started seeing them. And then you know, we go out we spray them, but then we were a little bit late on on getting there for the thistle.

Ete 

Gotcha.

Hunter 

It was good for the dyer’s world. But, you know, the spacing was a little bit off.

Ete 

Yeah.

Hunter 

I think it was, I think it was spaced out maybe maybe six or eight weeks. If we would have came back just a little bit sooner, maybe even two weeks after we sprayed the first time, we would have been able to pick up on a lot of that thistle and it wouldn’t have been able to mature as much.

Ete 

Absolutely. And I agree, I think, I think sometimes people get just stuck on this number of treatments but really they got a look at the timing with noxious weeds.

Hunter 

Yeah, exactly.

Ete 

So how long have you been doing this?

Hunter 

I think I’m on my my fourth year doing this.

Ete 

Fourth year? What are some of the the good and the bad? Tell us just briefly a little bit of the ups and the downs of doing noxious weed treatments.

Hunter 

After you’ve, you know, put in the time to take care of these areas, after you’ve gotten rid of them. It’s really satisfying to go to a different, you know, to go to this lot that you’ve been treating for a little while and see that the work you put in, you know, you get this beautiful field.

Ete 

Yeah.

Hunter 

You’ve got this beautiful area, without any noxious weeds in it.

Ete 

Yeah.

Hunter 

Some of the hardest parts of the, you know, the most frustrating parts is, you know, sometimes you get some clients that are like, you know, maybe I only want maybe one treatment or two treatments a year. So you know, you get there. It’s a disaster. You spray the best you can. And then just, you just know next time you’re going to come it’s not going to be soon enough. And so you get there and it’s just a disaster every time. Sometimes it’s just a little frustrating with it.

Ete 

Yeah, and I think you’re right. I think ultimately, where I’m kind of learning is I really, you really got to be on some type of a program and a good program, not just four visits because it’s four visits because the company’s making money, but visits that are timed out, weed cycle specific, great timing and just catch them like you’re saying, Catch them, catch them when they’re young.

Hunter 

A lot of people, you know, like, oh, yeah, you need treatments every two weeks.

Ete 

Yeah, yeah.

Hunter 

They’re looking, you know, they can make money. But, you know, it’s sometimes if you put in those two little treatments, you can really space out the rest of them. Right.

Ete 

And you can save money in the big picture.

Hunter 

Yeah, exactly.

Ete 

And I think I kind of, where we’re getting to is we just we need to find people, we well, we don’t need to, we have them. We like to work with people who just, we build trust.

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

They trust that we’re not going to take advantage of them. And if we could get it done quickly and get them and adjust the bill, we will, but also, they trust us with the flexibility to be able to call the shots. So if a year like this year, things come early, we just need that flexibility to go out when we have to go out.

Hunter 

Exactly.

Ete 

Instead of being stuck in a box. Awesome. All right, man, ast question. Do you have a favorite noxious weed? You told us the ones you don’t like, the flax, the woad. Is there one that you like?

Hunter 

Let me think.

Ete 

Could be the way it looks or just, I don’t know. Maybe you just, maybe you show up to a job. Oh, there it is. I love that one.

Hunter 

So my, my favorite noxious weed. I’ve never been asked this one.  I’m gonna have to do the, the phragmites because we were able to make, this was, this was something we did we you know. We were we were mechanically removing a couple of these.

Ete 

Yeah, there might not be an answer, so Yeah.

Hunter 

And we actually, you know, brought them back and we made a little skirt out of them.

Ete 

They did.

Hunter 

And we’re definitely gonna see if we can get that picture posted on the below.

Ete 

Okay, Cecil, put that picture below. They did. They made a, we’ll call it a Polynesian, how about a ritual outfit. Anyway, they made a skirt for me and I put it on to celebrate my Polynesian heritage

Hunter 

Yeah.

Ete 

out of noxious weeds.

Hunter 

At that moment I knew that those phragmites had to be my favorite. Just watching you, watching you put that skirt on.

Ete 

Yeah, so let’s put a picture in. We got to. On that, we are, we were in a debate. So let me ask if you figured it out because we have been strugg–I have been struggling to figure out how to pronounce it. We we’ve been working and we know how to take care of these weeds. We call them phragmites. We call them phragmites. Phragmites. [with different pronounciations]. Are you, did you get it?

Hunter 

Well, when, here’s the thing. If you read it, if you read it, how it’s spelled, it says phragmites.

Ete 

Okay.

Hunter 

We plugged it into, we plugged it into Google and clicked read. If said phragmites. And I’ve heard it, I’ve heard it pronounced from a few experts calling it phragmites.

Ete 

Yeah.

Hunter 

So think that’s what we’re gonna go with.

Ete 

Okay. So we’ve been we know how to take care of it. We’re great with the plant, but we just don’t know how to say it.

Hunter 

Exactly.

Ete 

It’s not a common household word. So don’t hold us accountable if we, if we teach you the wrong way to say it. So anyway, cool. Well, thanks to my guest Hunter for coming and taking some time out. I hope this was helpful. We’re going to try to put some links below to some pictures and especially the one with, with the skirt, me in the skirt.

Hunter 

Definitely get that one.

Ete 

Yeah, and cool. Hopefully you guys learned something. Hunter, thanks for helping me out.  It’s been a pleasure.  Awesome. Thank you guys for tuning in. And we will see you on the next episode of Eco Lawn Science. Have a good one.

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