Mischief Makers: Tumbling Tower

Nim and Lil returned from the North Pole to find Glitter fast asleep under the tree with cookie crumbs stuck to her fur.

“Maybe this is for the best,” said Lil.

“Yes,” agreed Nim. She needs a nice long rest after last night.”


“I still can’t believe she made such a mess,” said Lil shaking her head.

“So…,” began Nim. “What do you want to do?”

Both elves were happily anticipating putting one of their many projects in action. So far, the season had been chaotic and all they’d been doing was cleaning up other people’s messes and running interference between Glitter, Barrel and Santa.

“Dye the milk green?” asks Lil.

“Nah, we did that last year,” said Nim. “We could hang streamers all over?”

“That’s too close to toilet papering the Christmas tree,” said Lil. “We promised Santa we wouldn’t do that again.”

“Oh yeah,” said Nim as he absently played with Legos.

“Hey!” said Lil. “Let’s build a big tower out of Legos and fill it with candy!”

Nim smiled and flew to the Lego table, pulling out armfuls of blocks to build their tower. Lil zoomed to the kitchen to search for candy.


Lil was just pouring a bag of red and green M&Ms into the tower when Glitter woke up. She stretched and brayed.

“Hello Glitter!” said Nim. “Did you have a good nap?”

Glitter nodded sleepily.

“What are you doing?” she asked with a yawn.

“We built a tower of Legos and filled it to the top with M&Ms,” said Lil.

“Oh no!” said Nim pulling scraps of paper out of his pocket. “We forgot to hide the jokes!”

The two elves zipped off to hide Christmas jokes around the house.

As they were hiding the last joke, they heard Glitter singing.

Deck the floor with lots of candy
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Make a mess that’s fine and dandy
Fa la la la la, la la la la
M&Ms will roll and scatter
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Making noise that sounds like chatter
Fa la la la la, la la la la

At the end of her tune, Nim and Lil heard the sound of hundreds of M&Ms scattering across the floor.

“Oh no!” Lil cried.

Both elves raced to the scene of the crime to find Glitter quietly munching on M&Ms as if she hadn’t just destroyed all their hard work.


“Glitter, what did you do!?” Nim said.

Suddenly, all of the lights in the house came on. Nim and Lil quickly hid as the family came bounding down the stairs.

Glitter stood in the middle of the mess.

“At least we won’t get the blame,” said Lil.

“Yep, She’s been caught…red-hoofeded,” Nim snorted.


Mischief Makers: Cookie Cutter Clutter

Lil and Nim sat and watched Glitter with worried expressions.

She had been acting strangely since they’d returned and told her that Barrel was going to go through a few puppy classes to “polish him up a bit” before he could return to the team.


She’d taken the news rather well. She didn’t gloat or prance or say “I told you so”, she simply nodded once and wandered off toward the kitchen.  

She’d yet to say one word to them.

“Maybe she’s mad at us,” said Nim.

“Maybe,” said Lil. “But she’d normally just tell us.”

“Let’s try to snap her out of it,” said Nim.

“How?” asked Lil.

“Like this,” said Nim with a wink.


Nim threw all of the cookie cutters in the house on the floor, but Glitter just blinked slowly and stared at the mess.



“Wow,” said Nim. “I was so sure that would work. She hates messes.”

“What is she doing now?” whispered Lil.

They watched, wide-eyed as Glitter dove through the sea of cookie cutters singing a new version of Jingle Bells off-key.

Jingle bells, cookie smells, sprinkles on the floor
Oh what fun it is to bake on a crisp and snowy day, hey!
Jingle bells, cracked egg shells, icing out the door,
Oh what fun it is to bake on a crisp and snowy day, hey!

“Um, Glitter?” Lil said loudly.

Glitter stopped singing and glanced at Nim and Lil.

“What are you doing?” asked Nim.

“You said we were going to make cookies tonight,” she said as if it were perfectly normal to roll around in Christmas cookie cutters in preparation for baking sugar cookies.

She waved a hoof toward the counter and Nim and Lil saw the mountain of sprinkles. She had built a Christmas tree out of red, green and white sprinkle containers.


“It’s so beautiful Glitter!” said Lil.

“Well done!” said Nim.

But Glitter had already returned to her swim and was now humming her own, revised version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a gleeful and high-pitched voice.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen
But do you recall…the most famous reindeer of all?
Glitter the sparkly reindeer
Had a pretty heart of gold
And if you ever saw it
It’s quite a beauty to behold
All of the other reindeer
Ran around her happily
Glitter the sparkly reindeer
The smartest doe in history!

“Maybe she just needs a good, organized and mischief-less night,” said Lil, her concern growing.

“Alright,” Nim said. “I guess we can try extra hard to keep the kitchen clean while we make the cookies.”

“And we don’t really need to get too carried away with the icing and sprinkles this year,” said Lil.




Nim and Lil whirled around to see sprinkles, flour and sugar had joined the cookie cutters on the floor. Glitter was in the middle of it all making reindeer angels and laughing.


“I think she snapped,” said Lil.

“Barrel must have gone a step too far,” said Nim.

Lil could only nod.


Mischief Makers: In the Dog House

“I sure wish one of us could stay here,” said Lil as she nervously looked at the small jail cell holding Barrel.

“You know the rules, Lil,” said Nim. “We both have to deliver the Behavior Report each night. Besides, he’s in a cage…what can he do?

Lil made sure the cage door was secure while Nim talked to Glitter.

“I promise we’ll be right back,” said Nim.

“I don’t know why I can’t come with you,” said Glitter nervously eyeing Barrel. “I should be the one to report on the terrible behavior of that–that dog.”

“We need you to stay and start stringing the lights around the tree,” said Lil quickly.

Glitter did not know it, but Lil and Nim had decided not to tell Santa about the little kerfuffle of the night before.

They knew it would reflect poorly on them to have had such a terrible start to the season. Not to mention, it would put their Top Shelf Elf trophy at risk. 

“Don’t you think there are enough lights?” asked Glitter, desperately searching for a reason she could tag along.

Nim and Lil looked at the tree. Each branch dripped with colored, blinking and flashing lights. 

“No, we definitely need to put more lights on the tree,” said Nim.  

“Don’t worry Glitter,” said Lil. “Barrel can’t get out of that cage.”

“And,” added Nim. “Even if he does, he’s learned his lesson this time.”

Glitter shuddered. Lil gave Nim a dirty look.

Why did you have to say that?!” she whispered.

What?” Nim whispered back.

“Oh just g-go you two,” said Glitter bravely. “ I-I’m sure it will be fine.”

Nim and Lil flew to the window and with one backward glance, soared toward the North Pole.

Just an hour later, the two elves zipped back through the window.

“See,” said Nim. “Nothing happened while we were gone.”

“Whew,” said Lil. “Just look at all these lights! Glitter sure did a—-“.

“Jingle Bells!” yelped Nim. “What is going on!?”

A mass of blinking white lights rolled around the living room in a tangle with Barrel at the center.

“How in the North Pole did Barrel get out of his cage?” Lil asked.

Nim looked at the shoebox that served as Barrel’s temporary prison. The makeshift door was wide open. It looked as though someone opened it.

A soft “honk” came from the fireplace. Both elves turned to Glitter.

“I-It was the boys,” she said barely above a whisper. “They woke up. W-wanted to play. Unlocked the c-cage.”

Nim and Lil shook their heads. There was no choice left to them.

“We have to take him in, don’t we?” asked Lil.

“I’m afraid so,” said Nim.

Each elf took a leg and they hoisted Barrel up to the window sill.

“Glitter, can you finish up here? Pick up the lights and finish decorating?” asked Lil.

“Yes, we may not have enough time to help when we get back,” said Nim.

“Where are you taking him?” Glitter asked as she cautiously stepped out from behind the painting.

“To Santa,” said Nim sadly.

“He needs more training,” said Lil.

By the time Nim and Lil got back, Glitter was fast asleep, curled up next to the painting.

“I guess we’ll have to use our emergency activity pack tonight,” said Lil as she watched the sun start to rise.

Nim reached into his pocket and pulled two brand new Christmas activity books out and set them on the fireplace where the boys would easily see them.

“Ok,” said Nim. “Now lets find a good hiding spot.”

“What about Glitter?” asked Lil nodding her head at the sleeping reindeer.

“Let her sleep,” said Nim. “She needs it.”

“Do you think she’ll be recovered by tonight?” asked Lil with a slight frown.

“Oh yes,” said Nim. “I’m sure she’ll be much better now that Barrel is gone.”

Glitter snorted and softly honked her sleep.

Mischief Makers: All Tied Up

Before Nim and Lil headed to the North Pole to give Santa the Behavior Report, they’d left Glitter and Barrel in a clean, orderly and well-decorated living room.

“You two can start bringing the pillows out for the pillow fort we are making,” Nim had told the two animals. “We’ll be back soon.”

Then, they flew to the North Pole to file the first Behavior Report of the season.

Never would they EVER have imagined a small dog and reindeer could create the chaos they came back to early that morning.

“Oh Barrel!” cried Lil as she hovered above a sea of wrapping paper and ribbon.

“Well this certainly tops the mess Barrel made last night,” said Nim, barely holding back a chuckle.

The tiny dog just wagged his tail and cocked his head from side to side.

The elves heard and muffled honking sound coming from the tree.

“Yikes!” said Nim as he slowly flew toward the Christmas tree.

Somehow, Barrel had managed to wrap Glitter in red and green ribbon and hang her upside down in the Christmas tree. She looked like a crazed reindeer ornament.


“Easy there girl,” Nim said in calming tones as he slowly approached a very angry Glitter.

Glitter’s eyes were rolling. Nim was almost afraid to untie her.

“It’s ok Glitter,” Nim murmured removing the tinsel muzzle. “We’re here now. We’ll—“.

“Barrel, you’ve been very bad!” said Lil with her hands on her hips.

At the sound of Barrel’s name, Glitter completely lost it.


Lil jumped and spun around with her arms up, ready to fight who or whatever was making such a horrible sound.


“GLITTER! CALM DOWN!” Nim shouted with his hands over his ears.


“She sounds like an angry goose! Make it stop Nim!” Lil cried.

“I’m trying! She won’t stop moving her head!”

Glitter, angry and shaken, had gone berserk. Her eyes rolled and her head thrashed back and forth. With a sudden burst of strength, she broke through the ribbon and tinsel holding her to the tree and charged straight for Barrel.

“STOP HER LIL!” Nim shouted as he dove for the reindeer’s antlers.

Lil quickly rolled into a ball and bowled into Glitter’s legs, tripping her. Elf and reindeer landed in a big tangled heap of legs and antlers.

“Nim! I can’t hold her much longer!”

With a twirl and a leap, Nim joined the heap and they both struggled to calm and subdue the angry reindeer while Barrel ran around them yipping and yapping.



“I’ve got her, you grab Barrel,” said Nim, struggling to soothe the ruffled reindeer.

Lil turned, hands on hips to glare at Barrel.

“Bad dog! How could you make such a mess and treat poor Glitter so terribly?”

Barrel hung his head. Lil would have believed he was sorry for his behavior, but his tail still wagged back and forth excitedly.

“There’s nothing for it Barrel,” Lil said. “We’ll have to lock you up.”

At this, Barrel’s tail stopped wagging and he looked at Lil with sad, tearful eyes.

Lil built a makeshift dog kennel out of a shoebox while Nim found some eggnog for Glitter to drink.

She was calmer, but still shaking and mumbling “Chapter 2, section 1.5, no messes” over and over again.


After Barrel was secured and Glitter calmed, Nim and Lil started on the pillow fort. It was getting early and they had to work quickly to be done before the boys woke up.

“I don’t know what we are going to do about Barrel,” said Lil.

“What do you mean? He can’t do any harm when he’s in puppy jail,” Nim said.

“Somehow, I don’t think that is going to last long…” Lil said before flying to the tree to wait for the boys.


Mischief Makers: A Messy Surprise

Through the dark winter sky, somewhere south of the North Pole, two elves and a reindeer flew fast past the twinkling stars. One zippy elf suddenly zoomed ahead, diving toward a small house in the country.

Nim, a happy, energetic Mischief Maker, landed on a window sill and hopped from foot to foot, waiting for his partner, Lil.

“It’s about time,” Nim said once Lil finally landed on the window sill with a green balloon and a ‘We’re Back’ sign.

“You flew ahead too fast Nim,” huffed Lil. “Glitter fell behind and I had to wait for her to catch up.”

Lil had barely finished her sentence when Glitter barreled into the rose bushes below the window.

“Oomph! Ouch!”

Glitter slowly stood up and began picking thorns from her reins.

“Are you ok?” asked Nim, trying to hide a smile.

“It’s a good thing those bushes were there to break your fall,” said Lil, holding back a chuckle.

“It’s just too bad they were rose bushes,” Glitter grumbled. “With thorns.”

Nim and Lil shook with laughter as Glitter continued to primly pluck at the thorns on her fur collar.


“Oh Glitter,” giggled Lil. “I hope this isn’t a sign of how the rest of the season will go for you.”

“Me too,” said Nim. “It took you 8 months to recover from last year’s…erm…initiation.”

Glitter sniffed and pranced, ignoring the chuckles coming from the two elves. 

“Ok,” said Nim, bouncing up and down. “Let’s get started!”

The three friends flew through the window and landed softly on the kitchen table. 

“Oh my,” said Lil with wide eyes.

“Oh dear,” said Glitter with a shocked voice.

“What in the world happened here?!” exclaimed Nim.


The entire front room and kitchen looked as if it had been ransacked by a giant.

Toys and stuffed animals were everywhere. Christmas ornaments were strewn all over the floor. The tree was on its side. And in the middle of it all a St. Bernard, no bigger than a mouse, slept peacefully in a big pile of tinsel.

“Barrel!” Nim and Lil cried in unison.   

“Well I guess this explains why we haven’t had any Behavior Reports lately,” said Nim.

The sweet looking dog stretched, yawned and blinked at the trio. Then, when the sleep cleared from his eyes, he ran over and tackled Nim to the ground.


“Ok, ok!” shouted Nim as Barrel licked his face. “I’m happy to see you too.”

Lil smiled when Barrel rubbed on her leg, but quickly frowned as she looked at the mess again.


“Did you do this Barrel?” she asked sternly.

Barrel hung his head in answer.

“Yikes,” said Nim trying–and failing to hold in a laugh.

Glitter, the tidiest of all four friends, stood in mute shock.

This would not do at all. Glitter was determined to follow The Book this year, and on page 32, Chapter 2 in section 1.5 it clearly stated that messes of this size were strictly prohibited. What would Santa say?

Nim and Lil knew that look.

“Now Glitter,” said Lil in a reassuring tone. “I’m sure that once we scold him, Barrel will never, never, EVER make a mess like this again. Right Barrel?”

But Barrel was too busy running circles around the fallen tree to answer.  

“Well…it won’t happen again now that we are here,” said Nim smiling fondly at Barrel.

“Yes,” said Lil as she patted Glitter on the back. “You’ll be here to keep an eye on him.”

“Well,” said Glitter taking a big, calming breath and shaking her reins. “We’d better get started cleaning up.”

“We don’t have much time until they get up,” said Nim turning to Lil.

Lil shook her head and set the ‘We’re Back!’ note, balloons and hot cocoa on the table for the boys to find first thing in the morning.


“This is no way to start,” mumbled Glitter from the living room. “Breaking rules, making messes. No way at all.”

Nim and Lil smiled with a little mischief sparkling in their eyes and headed over to help clean up the mess.


Mischief Makers: Prologue

Twas the Night Before Mischief….

November 30, Santa’s Workshop, North Pole

The Mischief Makers, an elite team of Santa’s elves, have a very special job. Each elf lucky enough to make the team is assigned one child to watch and entertain for the Christmas Season.

Starting on December 1, every Mischief Maker does their very best to give their children a magical Christmas full of fun and surprise.

The current team of Mischief Makers were gathered outside Santa’s Workshop drinking hot chocolate from candy cane straws and waiting for Santa to give his start of the season pep talk.

“Mischief Makers,” boomed Santa. “I know you’ve been preparing all year for the Season and are eager to get started.”

All of the elves nodded excitedly and cheered in agreement. 

“But remember,” Santa said. “although your main job is to make sure your charges enjoy the season, you are also tasked with reporting any especially good—or bad—behavior to me each night.”

A loud cheer filled the North Pole and elves somersaulted and cartwheeled through the snow.

“Ho, ho, ho,” chuckled Santa. “That’s the spirit! Off you go now to make your final preparations…and good luck this year!”

As the elves zoomed off to say goodbye to friends and wish each other luck, Santa motioned for three figures to stay behind.

“Nim, Lil and Glitter,” he said. “Please come to my office.”

Nim and Lil, two energetic elves, stood in front of The Big Guy’s desk trembling with excitement. Next to them, Glitter the Reindeer stood tall with a determined look in her eye.

“Well team, are you ready for another season?” asked Santa.

“Yes sir!” said Nim with a hop.

“Absolutely!” said Lil as she spun in the air.

Glitter clicked her heels, nodded sharply and gave an awkward salute with her front hoof.

“Nim and Lil,” said Santa. “You won the Top Shelf Elf trophy last year for your work on assignment, but it was a close call with some of the tricks you pulled.”

Nim and Lil bowed their heads and shuffled their feet.

“We promise to do better this year, Santa,” said Lil looking up at him with twinkling eyes.

“And don’t worry, I promise we won’t spill sprinkles all over the kitchen floor again,” said Nim.

Glitter hmphed.

“Or cover the house with wrapping paper and ribbon,” said Lil.

Glitter sniffed.

“Or toilet paper the Christmas tree,” added Nim.

Glitter snorted.


“Alright, alright,” chuckled Santa. “Just try to keep that sort of mischief to a minimum this year.”

Glitter, ever the prim and proper reindeer, snorted…again.

Nim and Lil smiled and patted Glitter affectionately. She had been a new addition to the team the previous year and she was still not quite sure how to handle the two ornery elves.  

“Off you go then team,” shooed Santa. “Get a good night’s rest, you’ve got a big season ahead of you.”

Nim, Lil and Glitter left Santa’s office in high spirits. They were ready to get started.

“Oh I’m not going to be able to sleep a wink!” said Lil.

“Me neither!” said Nim.

“Hey,” said Lil. “I have an idea. Why don’t we just zip down and have a peek at the boys?”

The boys, Joe and Jake, were Nim and Lil’s assigned children. They were young, fun and full of energy. Nim and Lil had to work hard to provide something new for them to do, see or discover each night.

“Yeah!” said Nim. “I bet they are decorating the tree tonight!”

“What do you say Glitter?” asked Lil turning to the reindeer.

“No,” Glitter said puffing out her chest.

“No?” said Nim.

“Why not?” asked Lil.

Glitter huffed.

“In Chapter 1, Section 3 of The Book it clearly states that ‘No elf shall make contact with or seek out their charges until 12AM on the official start of the Season. All violators will be fined 25 candy canes and 10 gumdrops.’”

Nim tried hard not to laugh.

“Poor Glitter,” said Lil. “We must be such a trial to you.”

Nim giggled.

“Oh well,” said Lil. “We’ll just have to wait until midnight to make the journey.”

“I sure hope the boys have been good this year,” said Nim.

“Oh Barrel will let us know. He’s been there since Christmas after all,” said Lil.

Barrel was a small, mouse-sized St. Bernard that the elves had left at the end of the Season to keep the boys out of trouble.

“It is odd that we haven’t heard from him though,” said Nim suddenly frowning.

Lil nodded in agreement with a frown of her own.

“We’re being silly,” laughed Nim with a shake of his head. “I’m sure all is well and Barrel has just been busy playing with the boys.”

“I’m sure you are right, Nim,” said Lil, her smile not quite meeting her eyes.

Nim and Lil linked arms and flew off to say goodbye to the other Mischief Makers.

Glitter stayed behind, a blanket of dread settling over her.

“I’m not so sure about that,” she said with a shiver.

Science Find on the Homestead

The boys and I went out today to harvest some Jerusalem artichokes. Most growers will tell you to harvest them after the first frost as they will be sweeter, but we decided to experiment with the harvest time (aka we forgot until now).


Luckily, it was pretty easy to dig in the dirt. There hasn’t really been a truly hard frost yet, which is crazy since it will be December in just a few days.


We stopped digging after a bowlful and were headed back inside when Joe found it: a praying mantis egg sac.


We have 8 on our rose bushes, but no one wants to try and get one to observe because of all the thorns. So finding one on the Jerusalem artichokes was a really big deal.

As we were gathering our tools up to put away, I found another, smaller egg sac and snapped that twig off too. We went inside and Joe got out his butterfly house to put them in while we researched how to care for them all winter…they don’t hatch until May-ish.


Although there were multiple and varying opinions and methods on the best way to care for and hatch the eggs, we went with the easiest: in a jar, in the butterfly house, outside.

We have them on the back porch so we can peek at them whenever we think of it. They are no more at risk to the weather than they would be had we left them where they were and we wanted to keep to the most natural environment we could and still be able to observe them.




As I look out over the homestead now, I see brown and crunchy grass and trees. It is truly amazing what a difference the seasons make and the beauty to find in each one.

a pinch of homestead

I walk around
I wander over pastures
I see the world
So beautiful and bright

I see my boys
I hear their joy and laughter
I want it all
To stay like this always

The wind blows soft
It flutters through the grass
This land I love
This life I live

The sun shines bright
My world is bathed in gold
I stand enthralled
I kneel in awe

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Beefing Up Security (Part 2)

In researching how to construct, or reconstruct, a safer coop for our next flock of birds, I discovered that we were (perhaps) not as good to our birds as I thought.

We fulfilled and provided almost all of their basic needs.

They had fresh air, clean water, a dust bathing area, lots of fresh grass and insects to forage and enough space. But they didn’t really have a place to flee from predators…or (apparently) much protection against them.

Their coop and run were completely enclosed, but that just meant that if something got in (ie a fox or an opossum), there was no escape for the chickens.

They would have been way to frantic, not to mention way too clueless, to escape the way the predator gained entry.

So where were they to go?

While pondering these concerns and researching what other chicken keepers have done, The Grow Network, a blog where I’ve been a guest contributor, published an article that addresses most, if not ALL of our concerns.

Raising Chickens: Coop Considerations

One of the top concerns we have is (for obvious reasons) protecting our flock from predators.

There are many things the article mentioned the things we are already doing.

The coop is enclosed and raised off the ground and the run and ramp are completely covered with chicken wire.

But, there are also a few things we could be doing to better.

Chicken wire, while fine for keeping the chickens contained, would not protect against a determined dog, fox or raccoon.

Apparently, raccoons as well as small dogs and weasels, could easily tear through the wire.

Using wire mesh or hardware cloth instead of or in addition to chicken wire may be an affordable option.

Another suggestion was to bury wire around the run.

This is not an option for us. We want to have the freedom to move the chickens around the property to help us weed, fertilize and prep for planting.

But, if we cover our chicken wire with the mesh, and also cover the bottom of the run, we would still be able to move the coop around and the chickens would still be able to peck and forage.

This added protection would further deter predators by making it that much more difficult to breach the coop.

We could also cover the ramp with the mesh, which is one of the most vulnerable spots in our set-up.

The use of electric fencing, motion-sensing lights, or even a well-trained livestock guardian dog (LGD) is also an option.

We already use a solar motion detecting light that seems to be doing a pretty good job…at least at night.

While I’m not sure we are ready to get another dog yet, installing an electric fence around the coop and run is one of the precautions we have been considering to beef up security.

Electric fencing sounds so scary, especially to an amateur homesteader and chicken lady with two little boys running around touching everything they see like crazed monkeys.

But…with the proper precautions and training of said crazed monkeys, it would be another layer of protection for the hens.

A simple measure we can take will be to lock the hens in at night. While there are daytime predators like hawks and the occasional confused fox, locking the hens in at night will put the odds in our favor.

We should have been doing this all along. It wouldn’t have stopped the daytime fox from getting the big flock, but it may have protected our last three girls…something I will always wonder about.

Beefing up the coop
Security our main goal
Protecting our hens

Ping-Pong Eggs

I guess we will not have to worry about tricking our hens into laying this winter. Oh how I will miss them!

a pinch of homestead

The eggs had dwindled down
To maybe four a day
We checked boxes with a frown
No hiding our dismay

All hens seemed hale and healthy
All feathers bright and red
Our cats are not that stealthy
Besides, they are well fed


Was the problem frost and cold?
Was that what made them stop?
Was their laying put on hold?
If so, their heads would drop


A tiny little laugh came out
While looking in the coop
There they were, without a doubt
A cozy little group


The ping-pong balls will be the scam
Our plan should do the deed
Call it a trick, a ruse, a sham
But will it work? Indeed.


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