Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Before You BUGOUT, Try a Mock Run in Your Backyard

Our Coleman 2 burner propane stove comes with
a wind shield and is very easy to light.
We are itching to go camping soon and are just waiting for a full weekend with a clear schedule.  Until then, we decided to do the next best thing...campout in the backyard. This will accomplish several things:

1- Allows us to practice our camping skills before we go
2- Learn of any mechanical problems with our gear before we go
3- See how the kids react to camping scenarios

Skill: Set up camp.

This was our first time setting up our new (used, bought off CraigsList) eight person tent.  Wifey actually made the purchase and was given a crash course on setting it up by the previous owner. I think that was nearly two years ago.  Needless to say, we got the tent up.

I'll have to double check the name brand on this tent
but it will sleep eight of us comfortably. It comes  with
two dividers as if to make three rooms in the tent.
We also noticed that there was a corner faded and torn.  Turns out that although we sat our tent inside our metal backyard shed to protect it from the elements, sunlight had been shining directly on one little corner of the tent through the shed window.  Acting as a giant heat magnifying glass, the corner of the tent is now frayed and falling apart to the touch.  Luckily, Wifey is a monster with her sewing machine and thinks she can repair the damage.

I set up the two burner Coleman stove and attached a small bottle of propane to it.  Fired right up. Got out our propane latern and fired it up as well. I was going to let one whole bottle run out to see how many hours we get from one bottle but after six hours, it was turned off by one of the kids. We have three D-cell battery powered lanterns. I do NOT recommend these.  Simply because you'll be constantly buying new batteries.  These lanterns take four D-cells each, that's 12 batteries I have to buy every time I go camping. Needless to say, I checked on Amazon for some rechargeables and put them on my Wish List.

Handy little Coleman foldout four-seater table.
Also on my Wish List is a solar powered battery pack that will supply electricity to our laptop should we decide to watch movies when we go camping.  The kids enjoyed watching videos while camping in the background thanks to our little Macbook. We can always hook up our inverter to our Suburban's battery as well. Lastly, I found a free book titled "101 Offline Activities You Can Do With Your Child."

I'm certainly short on the activities list.  I need to add some horseshoes, frisbees, etc to the mix.  There are some great deals with Walmart Promotional Coupons that can save on camping equipment.   Now if we could only practice fishing and shooting bows/guns in our backyard :-(

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deal Alert: 4000w Champion Generator $334.99 delivered @ Cabella's

Champion 3500w, 4000w peak Generator
We all know the importance of a backup generator. Here in Arizona, I'm just waiting for the next August brown-out due to the heavy load all our citizens (and illegal aliens) are going to put on the grid as soon as the ever-so-predictable heat wave hits.

I've blogged before about how I use Alert emails with deal-posting websites to notify me instantly when items on my Wish List are available.  One just popped up so I'm passing the alert on to you. Unfortunately, it isn't in my budget right now.

Cabela's Champion 3,500-Watt Generator Weekender Package $334.99 delivered. This feature-packed generator delivers 3,500 running watts and up to 4,000 peak watts. Plus, you get even more with the Weekender Package: heavy-duty wheels, a clamp-on handle kit and polyester-lined PVC storage cover. With a noise level of 68db, it’s quiet – only 8db above normal conversation. Runs 12 hours at 50% load from a 4-gallon fuel tank. Receptacles include a 30-amp, 120-volt twist-lock; one 30-amp, 120-volt RV receptacle; and a 20-amp, 120-volt. Push-to-reset circuit breakers. Single-cylinder, four-stroke, air-cooled engine with recoil start and low-oil shut-off. 1"-diameter tubular steel frame. Includes oil funnel, spark arrester and spark-plug wrench. One-year limited warranty.

Dimensions: 23-1/4"L x 17-1/2"W x 17-1/4"H.
Weight: 100 lbs.

There are plenty of excellent reviews on this generator both at the Cabela's page linked above and Amazon (who is selling this generator for $327.00 + $57.49 shipping fee).
I don't trust the Amazon description saying "generator can run lights, TV, refrigerator and sump pump all at the same time." I've read too many reviews over the past two years to believe this statement. Maybe if you're running a "dorm" fridge (mini fridge) but I doubt it.

If you're in the market for a nice, reliable backup generator (and not trying to power an entire house (dryer, full size fridge, microwave, etc) then THIS is the generator for you.
Let me know what you think.

 <== + $57.49 shipping

Local Farmers Market - Every Thursday Night

I loaded up the family and we went to the local Farmers' Market about seven miles down the road.  It is held by a local dairy farmer to both boost local involvement and add a little extra income to the farm.

One building is used for the market. The front is a small store front where you can buy all the goods made by the dairy: milk, ice cream, cheese, etc. Another room leads off this one and that is where tables are set up for vendors to sell their goods.  I saw flavored popcorn, honey, raw fruits and veggies, knifes, cupcakes, a Girl Scout Cookie booth, a vendor selling pre-orders for fresh beef and a musician playing a fiddle with his case laid on the ground open for donations.

Outside the buiding you could buy feed for the little petting zoo they had set up.  We fed sheep and goats that you would think were starving by the way they nearly climbed out of the pen to get to your hand full of oats.  A donkey ate carrot slices from our hands.  We passed on the tractor hay ride this time around although I bet it is very relaxing.  One booth was manned by a young boy, probably twelve years old, and he sold cups of milk flavored with  different powders: raspberry, grape, coconut, vanilla...about ten flavors in all.
We let our three little girls ride the horses a few yards away from the petting zoo.  The sun was setting so I couldn't really get a good picture but they sure enjoyed the rides. We ended up buying pocket knives for Wifey and I.  Handmade spaghetti-type flavored noodles from a 20-something year old young man as his mother proudly watched from the background.  Wifey bought some kind of homemade pepper bread from another vendor.  All together, we spent about $50 and had a great evening.

Oh, we also bought smore packs (marshmellow, hershey bar and two graham crackers) for $1 each and sat around a campfire cooking them. I'd say all-in-all, we had an enjoyable evening and the girls said they'd like to go back soon.  That's a good sign.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Found Apples for Five Cents per Pound!

Old juice bottles were just waiting
to be used. Some were frozen,
some consumed within hours.
Still others occupy our middle
refridgerator rack.
I have no fruit nor citrus trees in my yard. Oh, Wifey and I talk about it every year. There's a corner of our backyard that is nothing but dirt. We dream of having peach, apple, orange and apricot trees planted there for our enjoyment...someday.

But I was more than pleasantly surprised to find apples on sale at my local grocery store. They are these little bitty apples that most people probably don't buy because they'd be too much trouble to eat. I'm talking almost the size of a large egg. I questioned the produce guy about these little apples and he said he was about to throw them out!

I told him that if he'd lower the price a little I was likely to buy them all. So he marked them down to $0.05 per pound! I should mention that I have been frequenting this store for almost ten years. I have gotten to know many of the employees over the years. I wholeheartedly think we should all shop local and get to know everyone.  It makes for a much tighter community. So...I filled a shopping cart with just over 70 pounds of apples. I kid you not! All tallied, it was a mere $3.67 or so and I went racing home to break out my juicer.

I've blogged about the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead by Joe Cross and how it persuaded Wifey and me to start juicing.  We couldn't wait for a product to ship from Amazon so we raced down to Walmart and bought a Jack Lallane model for around $99. There are much better options on Amazon like:

These are all good choices. Breville is what Joe Cross used in his movie. I enlisted the help of daughter #3 (she peeled the little labels off the apples) and ended up making around 15 2-quart bottles of pure apple juice...all for $3.67.  I put several bottles in my freezers for later. I have enjoyed drinking it on a daily basis all week. I juice the entire apple, seed-stem-rind, the whole thing.  Makes for a super easy juicing experience.  Seeds and stems don't stop up my juicer. It grinds right through it all. I am pretty happy with my find and the outcome. I not only got to stock up on some great juice super cheap, but I also practiced my juicing skills.

Can you see the froth building up?
I am awaiting delivery on a
strainer from Amazon to try.
I'm still looking for a good strainer. The juice comes out of the juicer with a decent amount of froth. I bottled the juice froth-and-all for the first couple of bottles and it did not dissipate in the bottle. I began to spoon off the froth after that. Next on my prepping list is to get a good compost going and use the pulp in my composter.  I also mentioned to Wifey that the pulp would go good mixed in with her homemade bread dough. bread.  Tell me the house wouldn't smell heavenly baking THAT in the oven!

PS, here's the nylon mesh strainer that I ordered from Amazon. It should be here soon and I'll have plenty of apple juice to try it out on. I have one strainer but the mesh is so fine that it clogs up super fast and just takes too long to use efficiently. I'll try to post my results with the new strainer.

Once I get a good finished product, one that isn't all gloppy with froth and pulp chunks, I'll attempt to barter with the family two doors down. They have terrific orange fruit growing in their back yard.  It isn't oranges but I have forgotten what they are called.  We knew the prior owners and they used to give us bags of their fruit for juicing. Back then we did it by hand with one of those little juicers you squish the fruit down on a spinning masher.

These are the types of things we aim to do from now on.  Make something on our own to save money and if possible, trade with others for their goods.  Natural products, no taxes or cash transactions, and everybody wins. Does it get any better than that?

What have you made lately?

Adding To Our Preps & Sharpening Our Skills

Peas are starting to grow so I built
a little climbing object with left over pvc
pipe and chicken wire. Experimenting
to see if they do better when allowed
to climb versus sprawl.
As many of my fellow bloggers have said (for quite some time now), the shumer is heading for the fan this year and hopefully everyone is getting prepared. Being prepared can seem overwhelming when you think about all the things you might need in a time of crisis.

At the Jones Hacienda, we're taking a multi-pronged approach.  We're buying food when it's uber cheap. Growing all that we can on our own (average backyard suburban home), and making homemade food from scratch instead of buying more expensive processed versions.  We've been buying food whenever it goes on deep sales like Mac N Cheese, learning to grow our own food with a decent success rate (thanks to SeedForSecurity), making food from scratch like homemade bread (Bosch bread recipe), and shopping local Farmers Markets.

One of my favorite "deal" websites to this day is still I have a free account there and I go directly to the Alert section.  I must have over 30 alert phrases entered there.  With this website, thousands of people post when they find deals on EVERYTHING.  The website usually makes an affiliate fee when someone clicks through to buy something but that comes from the seller, not me.  Within minutes of someone posting a deal on something that I have an alert word set up on, I get instantly notified on my cell phone and email. This allows me to go check the deal out and if I like it, buy into it before it is all gone.

The beets are slowly popping up.
My first year trying them. Anyone
know if I'm supposed to thin them
out like carrots?
For example, we're stocking up on our medicine cabinet this year. I put the alert word "Melatonin" in their system. Now anytime a deal gets posted on Melatonin, I get instantly notified. I just purchased 12 bottles of Optimum Nutrition for $26 (that's 1200 tablets) and I'm set on a natural sleep aid for years. 

Our garden is coming along nicely. Each season I learn what grows well and not so well. The following season I replant the stuff that does well and try some new things. This season I planted heavy on the peas and squash. I still have one squash left from last season sitting in my dead microwave (still attached to cabinet above stove, lazy me bought a cheaper counter top microwave.) I'm holding the squash to see how long it will last. I think we picked it before Christmas?

Anyway, I digress.  My new experimental crops are beets, cauliflower and artichoke. I also replanted lettuce and cucumbers, which did well, I just didn't plant as much this time. So far, the cukes and squash haven't even busted the soil. Compare that to my peas that are five inches up the chicken wire.  I also still have three strawberries plants growing in one raised bed garden.

My pumpkin experiment from last season was a total bust. I still haven't figured out what went wrong there. Two lousy pumpkins from a flower bed in front of my house. Must be about four feet across by 25 feet long. Completely filled with crazy pumpkin vines growing every which way. But only let loose two SMALL pumpkins. Any knowledge here from you folks would be greatly appreciated. I thought FOR SURE I would be supplying the entire neighborhood with pumpkins on Halloween. I times the harvest perfectly to coincide with the holiday. Live and learn.

You can learn how to do just about anything with a
little help from Google. Note: it may not be as easy
as it looks however.
Aside from all the gardening adventures, we're still putting skills to practice. Wifey has made all sorts of cool stuff with her sewing machine. We just picked up a fourth old machine with table from a local Goodwill type place (I think it was called Savers) for $12.99...and it still works! Sure, ain't the prettiest thing but it hummed away ready to create to her hearts content. The table was still in good shape too. Maybe I'll post a pic of it this week. The dog we adopted a while back was due for a hair cut. Instead of paying the mobile groomer $75, I bought a trimmer and did it myself. Took some practice getting the angle of the trimmer to work smoothly but Kohl appears MUCH happier.  I figured, if I really want to farmstead in the future, I'll need to learn to start taking care of my own animals. So I did. Trimmed his nails too.

So we're still growing...and stocking up...and learning.  I have several goals for 2012 and hope to get them all accomplished. I posted a short list on the right side of this blog as a reminder. I bought some more preps but I'll save that for another post.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Fun and Productive Day with Dad.

As usual, I have SO much stuff to share and just not enough darn hours in the day to write it all down. I should add that to my To-Do list: Find a way to blog more frequently.  How do you guys do it? Like Patrice over at Rural-Revolution. I swear she blogs like 50 times a day. Okay, maybe not THAT much but often. And it is wonderful. I love reading so many updates throughout the day.

Anyway, I digress. What did I do today? Let's see...since it's after 1:00am now, let me turn my brain back on.

6:30am Woke up, threw on my favorite warm clothes and headed toward the local Walmart Neighborhood Marketplace.  These, for those of you that don't know, are the little brother to the giant mega store Walmarts. The Neighborhood Marketplaces are primarily groceries and usually MUCH cleaner. We've been shopping at this particular branch for almost ten years now and we've gotten to know many of the employees by name. Butch, the butcher (go figure, right?) is beginning his morning mark-down process about this time every morning. I glide in and snatch anywhere from ten to forty pounds of meat at a serious discount. Today, I scored about forty pounds of Walmart's 73/27 hamburger meat. Now, I know you farmers out there are probably cringing right now at the thought of not only eating lousy Walmart meat but eating the fattiest of the Walmart meat. All I can say is, until we get our own homestead/farm, I go for quantity.  I used to spend the extra money on the fancy schmancy 95% lean meat but at the end of the was still Walmart meat. I'm sure it was full of pesticides, puss, hoof, hormones and whatever else is thrown in there.Argh! This is depressing me! Moving on...

I originally went to the store for simple staples: milk, cheese, etc.  On occasion I get lucky and today was one of those days. Inside a freezer end cap, in the far corner of the store, was a whole freezer of clearanced out food.  Two slices of heavenly strawberry cream cheese pie for $1.25.  Large bags of chicken nuggets (don't get me started on the meat issue!) for $2.  Hormel sausage links for $1 and the list goes on and on.  I filled up my shopping cart like the angry golden horde was heading down the isle straight at my freezer. I don't know why. There wasn't many people in the store. I guess buying groceries at half off (and more) just really gets me excited. I rounded off the cart with apples on sale. $0.25 per pound! I gasped and quickly snatched up several bags. Once home I juiced $1 worth of apples and it filled a 2Qt jug . Oh, I was racing to the bedroom to show Wifey!  Cheap and delicious!

8:30 I'm mashing up the hamburger I just purchased from Butch and mixing in my Nesco beef jerky seasoning. I made three pounds and was ready to start shoving it into my Nesco beef jerky gun when it happened. A crucial piece of the gun was gone. Searched every stinking cabinet, behind freezers, gone! Now what? Wifey told me we had no icing bag squirty things. That was my first solution (watching too much Cake Boss lately, I guess.).  Not one to be stopped when I want something done, I emptied a stiff baggie of edemame beans. Wifey cut a corner off and I shoved the meat into the bag. She began squeezing the meat out into tube strips and we were off to the races! Until the bag popped anyway. We went through three baggies before I finally started rolling this stuff between my hands like a kid making "snakes" out of play dough.

9:00 Went out and checked on the garden. I had used my left over pvc pipe from last years keep-the-birds-outta-the-corn netting creation and built an arch over the peas.  Then I used some twisty ties (cause I've begun keeping every stupid little thing I get my hands on) to hold in place some chicken wire which I stretched from one end to the other. This made a sort of trellis for the peas to climb up.  I read that was a good thing for peas. Didn't look so hot but I made do with what supplies I had. Squash still haven't even sprouted. I think I messed something up with those? Last season they overtook one whole corner of the yard. The beets are growing nicely, as are the cauliflower and artichoke, oh and lettuce. Cukes are a no show so far. Strawberries are barely hanging in there.

9:15 I go through both freezers to organize. My grocery run had resulted in the need to re-organize. I didn't realize how much food we still had from the last few runs. Both freezers are now completely packed. Time to start cooking in the fire pit out back. Ribs, steaks, hamburger and chicken among others. As a new tactic, as I cleaned out and reorganized my freezers, I wrote down meal ideas.  The kids are always saying "There's nothing to e-he-he-he-heat!" That's my attempt at sounding out the way the whine when they complain that there's nothing to eat. Turns out, after my little experiment, there are exactly 13 dinner meals, 12 lunch meals and almost as many breakfast combinations. I think I'll write down all the meals on strips of paper and put them in a hat.  When they ask "What's for dinner?", I'll have them draw it out of the hat.  I don't know about your house , but around here seems like no three kids can agree on the same meal. I'm hoping that drawing out of a hat makes it appear like a random choice and we won't hear "she always gets what SHE wants!" Ugh, girls.

10:30 Wifey and I start dropping hints that if everyone was to get ALL their chores done and rooms cleaned, we MIGHT be able to go out and have some FUN today... Well, guess what? They did! I was shocked.  I had to give the usual reminders. You know, help keep their little teenage brains focused. Slowly but surely, it all got done.  So at noon we...

12:00 Headed to the local Swap Meet.  This place is a local phenomenon.  You see, here in Arizona, our winter population explodes with winter visitors, aka snowbirds, you hairs.  And without fail, about three miles from my house, every single weekend during the winter, we have a ginormous traffic jam of Wisconsin license plates converging from every direction, jockying to get into the Swap Meet parking lot. So today, I took my 14, 12, 11 and 5 year old daughters to check it out. It's like a giant garage sale under a circus tent. There must have been 100+ booths rented at this thing to folks selling just about everything. The girls had a great time and spent about $10 each on earrings, rings, necklaces and one Beanie Baby rainbow bear. They thanked me numerous times and exclaimed what a great time they had. I kept reminding them that this is an example of what we can do when they don't spend the ENTIRE day dragging out their chores.

2:00 We headed to a local K-Mart and picked up a bunk bed. We have a four bedroom house and six daughters. Do the math. We have to put two girls per room and the time has come to finalize that idea.  We still have the two and four year old in our bedroom and it's, um, well...time for a change. So tomorrow, I'll be putting together our third bunk bed and re-arranging some rooms. I shutter at the thought of Wifey and I having our bedroom all to ourselves. I remember those days...kinda.  It was a while ago.

I spent the rest of the day hanging with the fam. This is what I've been waiting for. The years of working double overtime to pay off bills. Now, I can finally just stay home and relax. Well, figuratively speaking.  While relaxing, I:

  • helped daughter #1 prepare for her talk tomorrow in church. Her topic is Faith and Repentance. I actually learned quite a bit just by helping her. For starters, I was spelling repentence all wrong.  I kept looking up scriptures for anything related to "repentence" and my searches kept coming up empty. I was like, what? Is this stupid program trying to tell me that nobody repented? Ever? That's when I realized I misspelled repentAnce. LOL.
  • helped daughter #2 outline the second portion of her science project. She chose the project where you drop different colors of food coloring onto the plate of milk. Then add a few drops of Dawn liquid detergent soap and watch the colors all spread out and swirl around. Yup, now dad gets to learn about surface tension. Remember, we're relaxing.
  • daughter #3 chimed in about how her grades are suffering in math and she'd like to start going to tutoring after school. You mean, you don't want me to help you figure out why your ipsilateral quadrilateral parallelogram isn't coming up with the proper angles? Gosh, well...okay. Go see a tutor then...I guess :-)
  • daughter #4 is completely amusing herself.  She claims she sat on a barking spider...
  • daughter #5 has a fever hovering around 105 and we're about to give her pediatric tylenol to start helping her body bring the heat down a bit. She finished her amoxicillin a few days ago so it is apparently viral. I try to let the fevers run their course but get uncomfortable when these little angels hit 105-106. I've called my ER doc buddy and he keeps reading me a medical book that says there have been no documented cases linking brain damage to high fever. Regardless, she gets tylenol.
  • daughter #6 is happy as a clam watching Dora the Explorer with mom in the bedroom.
When it was all said and done, I did run to the hospital for a quick "call back" around midnight. I went in to do a quick bladder ultrasound on an elderly man having difficulty urinating. My test was inconclusive as he couldn't pee after my initial scan. I can't measure how much he's voiding if he...can't void. Easy money for me though. Back home an hour later. Whole house is dark. Two kids passed out on the couch. Two babies sleeping in my coveted spot in my bed with mom. Two kids actually sleep in...wait for it...their beds! GASP!

Now it's almost 3am and church service is at 9am. Not too bad. Of course, it's my turn to come in early and set up chairs. So I have an 8:15am arrival time. But it's all good.  In retrospect, I don't think this day could have gone much better. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Liebster Attempt & Malware Notice

Started on giving out the Liebster awards and ran into THIS on my way to HogLogFrog:

(clicking on the image should make it larger for you to read)

I'm using Google Chrome this morning only because that is the browser my girls left open from last night's marathon music video watching.  I'm sure it's a bug of some type and not really NewLifeOnaHomestead pushing malware.  I'll investigate it more after I run the girls to school.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another Fellow Blogger Gone

Went to check out and the blog is gone. Anyone know why? I'm getting concerned that fellow bloggers that don't agree with current administrations are disappearing. Or did they go join John Galt?

Anyone know? That was Matt's site, right?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Well, that didn't take long...

I found out today that I am out of the running for the Colorado job that I just blogged about.  I thought for sure that my phone interview had gone well and my feelings were verified when I received word that I had graduated to an on-site interview.

Then I received an email from my headhunter (job finder person)  saying that he was equally surprised to find out I had been taken out of the running for the job.  He was notified by the hospital administration that they narrowed the pool of possible candidates down to two people...and I was not one of them.

I replied to him stating this just reinforced one of my cardinal rules: don't get too worked up over something until you know it is 100% fact. I hope to teach this to my daughters as well, seeing how often they get worked up over little things.  The headhunter was equally disappointed as he states he had invested many hours into brokering the deal as well.

I dropped a quick note to my interviewer and thanked her for the opportunity. Choosing a career may not be easy, but thanking your interviewer is and it is ALWAYS a good post-interview idea.   She replied asking if she could keep my information in case one of the two finalist didn't work out.  After granting approval, I simply asked what skillset the finalists had that I did not, in order to increase my marketability.  I figured she'd say I didn't have enough management experience or something along those lines...which would have been acceptible.  But guess what she told me? 

The reason I was bumped from the running was because my headhunter asked for too much money! He requested a salary for me so high that I have no chance at all now.  Hmm. Well, on the bright side, I know it wasn't a lack of skill on my behalf and she still wanted to retain my information for future consideration.  I have to admit, I did breathe a small sigh of relief.  It is stressful when you are contemplating uprooting your whole family and moving to a community where you know absolutely nobody. New school, new church, new neighborhood, etc.

So, I'm back to focusing on my garden, family, self sufficiency, et cetera et certera.  We'll see what the next opportunity has in store for us when it comes around.


Quick shout out to DrMomi! Thanks for joining my madness ;-)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Coming to a Small Town Near You...ME!

Quick post. Lots on my mind but too much work to do to sit still long enough to post it all.  Just a quick note to say I've been invited to an interview for a job in Colorado.  It's in the Southeastern corner and a good 13 hour drive from my home here near Phoenix.

But if you've been reading my blog, you might remember that I've pondered moving to a small town where my family can raise animals and enjoy the environment of a small town atmosphere.  Well, it may be happening.  I had a phone interview a week ago and made it through to the final cut.

I'll be heading to Colorado at the end of this month for a face-to-face interview.  The person I interviewed with sounded terrifically warm and friendly.  The town has a population of just over 7,000.  If all the criteria are met: pay increase, upward movement on the hospital career ladder, tuition reimbursement, etc...the Orange Jeep Dad family could be packing up and heading for Smalltown, USA.

I will post more as soon as I can.  All our prepping and self sufficiency skill practice could be finally getting put to use soon that we know!