How to Prepare Your Soil in the Fall


Learn how to prepare your soil in the fall for planting in spring and give yourself a leg up on next year's growing season! #fallgarden #fallgardening #healthysoilThe number one secret to success for any home gardener lies in having good soil. No, scratch that… It lies in BUILDING good soil. Because even if you start out with the best soil on Earth, if you continue to grow in the same soil season after season without amending it or adding in any nutrients, eventually it will become not-so-good soil, and you’ll get not-so-good production out of your garden.

Plants are just like us: they need good nutrition to survive and thrive. The only difference is that we take in nutrients through our mouths, while they get their nutrition through their roots, by taking up nutrients from the soil. In turn, they grow bigger and produce more, and contain more nutrients for us to consume with our mouths when we harvest our crops!

Then we add our leftover, nutrient-rich veggie scraps to our compost or feed them to our chickens (who turn them into manure) and eventually it all makes its way back to our garden beds to help a new round of crops grow and thrive.

It’s kinda the circle of life, and it all begins and ends with healthy soil.

Needless to say, putting in a little time and effort building up your soil definitely pays off in the long run. So before you finish with your garden for the winter, take a little time this fall to enrich and improve your soil and you’ll undoubtedly thank yourself next spring and summer.

 

Related: 10 Fall Gardening Tips For A Productive Garden Next Year

 

There are a few things you can and should do in the fall to ensure rich, fertile soil come spring. While you can technically do some of these things before planting in the spring or at other times of year, the best time to focus on improving soil is in the fall so that any amendments that you add have ample time to break down over the winter and ensure your soil is ready for planting come spring.

 

How to prepare (and improve) your garden soil in the fall

Once you’ve tidied your garden, weeded it one last time and pulled out any summer annuals, there are a couple more things you’ll want to do to make sure your soil is ready to produce another abundant harvest next season.

 

Add organic matter

The first is to add organic matter. This could be in the form of compost, manure, mulch or a cover crop, all of which I’ll go into in more detail below.

Adding organic matter is important because this is how you add nutrients back into your soil.

Organic matter is the foundation of healthy soil, and is basically what makes the difference between soil and dirt. Soil is alive and full of organic matter. Soil grows healthy, productive crops. Dirt is dead, and won’t grow much of anything at all.

 

Cover your soil

The second is to cover your soil, which can either be done with mulch or by planting a cover crop.

Covering your soil (and not leaving it exposed) helps to protect the soil from weed seeds that might otherwise fall on bare soil and germinate in your garden. It also helps keep the soil structure intact and prevents erosion of nutrients, and prevents the soil from compacting too much over the winter months.

 

Other ways to amend your soil in the fall

These first two steps are pretty much non-negotiable if you’re serious about gardening and building healthy soil, however it must be said that there is one more thing you might want to consider doing to improve your soil in the fall, and that’s to actually test your soil PH and test for any specific deficiencies, and then add amendments to help balance the PH or to help with those deficiencies.

So, for example, if your soil is high in most nutrients but low in nitrogen, you could add amendments like blood meal or chicken manure. Likewise, if your soil is too alkaline you could add elemental sulfur to lower the PH and make it more acidic. Or if it’s too acidic you can add lime (as in limestone) to raise the PH and make it more alkaline.

Honestly though, that’s getting a bit more technical than I want to get here, and unless you suspect you have a specific deficiency, adding organic matter and covering your soil with a natural cover is really all you need to do to ensure your soil is ready for planting come spring.

Alright, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to prepare your soil in the fall…

 

4 ways to improve your soil in the fall

 

1. Add compost

Whether you have a compost pile of your own or you purchase organic compost from your garden centre or from a nearby farm or supplier, adding compost to your garden beds in the fall is one of the easiest and most popular ways to add organic matter and nutrients to your soil.

You can use your own compost, which ideally should be a mixture of about 25 to 30 parts carbon (dead, brown material) to one part nitrogen (fresh, green material). But don’t worry too much about knowing the exact ratio. As long as your compost resembles dark, fluffy soil (and not stinky, sludgy slime), well then your ratios are probably pretty bang on and you can go ahead and add that homemade black gold to your garden beds:)

Otherwise, you can choose from various types of compost (ie. mushroom compost, fish compost etc.) and purchase bags from your local garden centre.

Add a thick layer of compost (2-3 inches, ideally) right on top of your soil. You don’t need to till it or even turn it in. As you water and/or the rains come over the winter, the nutrients in the compost will get watered into the soil and will replenish it for planting next spring.

 

2. Add manure

You can also add manure instead of compost in the fall if you choose. Honestly, aged manure (aka. “composted” or “rotted” manure) is just another type of compost anyway, so you can add one or the other, or even blend a mixture of the two. All of it will add nutrients to your soil.

Chicken manure, cow manure and horse manure are the best options (although horse manure is cautioned against because it can contain hay seeds that can sprout and grow like weeds in your garden).

If you’re adding aged manure, go ahead and add a thick layer (2-3 inches, preferably) just like you would with the compost. No tilling or turning required.

If adding fresh manure, it needs a period of about 120 days to sit and decompose before it’s safe to harvest from. For one, fresh manure is high in nitrogen, which makes it very hot. This can prevent seeds from germinating or burn seedlings or the roots of plants, so it needs to break down over a period of time before you can even plant in it.

The other reason is that fresh manure contains bacteria and pathogens that could contaminate crops and make the food you’re growing unsafe to eat if harvested while the manure is still fresh.

The general rule is to let it age and decompose for at least 120 days before harvesting from it. (This is another reason why fall is the best time to add these amendments, as you typically won’t be planting again until spring.)

When adding fresh manure, it’s best to mix it with a bit of aged compost or work it into the soil to help it decompose faster, and so that you’re not adding such a high concentration of nitrogen to your soil all at once.

 

3. Add mulch

Adding organic mulch is another good way to add organic material to your soil AND cover it at the same time.

We usually apply a thick layer of compost and then cover that with a layer of mulch in the fall. We usually opt for bark mulch (we use an “SPF” mixture of spruce, pine and fir). The mulch helps to protect the soil from weed seeds and pests and keeps soil from eroding over the winter. Plus it breaks down over time and adds more organic matter to your soil.

Mulching also helps to insulate your soil, which helps keep overwintering crops like garlic warm. I always add an extra thick layer of aged compost or manure on top of the soil after I’ve planted my garlic and then I cover with a thick mulch. It grows beautifully every year!

Other choices for mulching include straw, grass trimmings, chopped up leaves, seaweed and even shredded newspaper.

Add about 2 to 3 inches of mulch on top of your soil or on top of a top dressing of compost, if adding both compost and mulch.

 

4. Plant a Cover Crop

Another option is to add a “living mulch,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: mulch that’s alive (aka. a cover crop).

Planting a cover crop in the fall is another option for covering your soil and adding organic matter at the same time. Like mulch, a cover crop will help cover and protect your soil, and can be turned in in the spring to add organic matter before planting.

The added benefit to growing a cover crop is that the roots will help to break up compacted soil and keep it intact at the same time, and certain cover crops (like those in the legume family) will actually help to fix nutrients like nitrogen in the soil.

If planting a cover crop, you’ll want to plant your seeds at least 4 to 6 weeks before your first frost, to ensure it’s warm enough for germination and initial growth. You’ll also want to make sure to turn your cover crop into the soil in the early spring, before it goes to seed.

Some of the cover crops you may want to consider include:

  • Fall Rye
  • Clover
  • Hairy Vetch
  • Alfalfa
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat

Different cover crops are good for different things, so do some research before you decide which one to plant. We planted fall rye this year because it’s supposed to be the best cover crop for clay soils (which is what we have). But your soil or garden might benefit more from another type of cover crop.

Check out this article by True Leaf Market (affiliate link) to learn more about the different types of cover crops and find out which one is best for you and your garden.

To check out True Leaf Market’s full range of cover crop seeds, click here.

 

Other things you should do in the fall to prepare your garden for winter

There are a number of other things you should do to your garden in the fall to put it to bed in the winter and prepare it for planting next spring. You can get my step-by-step Fall Gardening Checklist from the Gardening section of my Free Resource Library for a comprehensive list of actions to take now to ensure a productive growing season next year!

 

Want more modern homesteading??

Ready to go deeper down the path to a more sustainable, self-sufficient life?

Subscribe for FREE to Modern Homesteading Magazine and get monthly issues delivered straight to your inbox! (You’ll get the latest issue delivered as soon as you confirm your subscription!)

—> Click here to learn more or subscribe now for free!

 

Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness:)

 

 

 

 


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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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Never before have we had access to so much information at our fingertips. Whether you have a question you need answered, are looking for a tutorial to walk you through a specific task or are searching for a recipe to help you figure out what to make for dinner, all you have to do is Google it.⁣

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When I graduated from university with a degree in journalism many years ago, I remember thinking that while I knew how to write, edit, interview, shoot, and handle just about every part of creating a publication from the editorial standpoint, I really had no clue how to actually get published, let alone how the printing process works.

Over the years I’ve followed my passion for writing, editing and creating content, figuring much of it out on my own. From creating my blog to “self-publishing” my own digital/print magazine for the last 4 years, I’ve taught myself most of the practical skills necessary for turning an idea into a publication and getting said publication in the hands and in front of the eyes of many hundreds of readers.

But now that I’ve joined forces with the team at @homesteadlivingmagazine and @freeportpress, we’re all able to level up and reach many THOUSANDS of print and digital readers together.

People are HUNGRY for tried and tested advice on homesteading and self-reliant living. There’s a huge movement happening right now as more people wake up to all of the corruption in the world and realize that many of the systems we have come to depend on are fragile and on the brink of collapse. People are ready to take matters into their own hands by growing their own food, preparing their own meals, becoming producers instead of merely consumers and taking control of their health, freedom, security and lives.

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Getting to meet and brainstorm with some of the team in person and tour the printing facilities over the last few days has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, not just for me, but for everyone who considers themselves part of the modern homesteading movement. We are growing faster than I could have ever imagined. We’re creating a system outside of the system! We’re charging full steam ahead and we invite you to climb aboard and join us for the ride:)

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27 5

It’s been a minute since I popped into IG to say hi. (Hi! 👋) But before I share what’s been going on behind the scenes, I thought it would be a good time to (re)introduce myself, because I’ve never actually done that before!

My name’s Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader living in the beautiful Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. I live with my family (human, furry and feathered) on 1/4 acre property where we grow and preserve hundreds of pounds of our own food every year, and strive to live a more self-reliant lifestyle in all that we do.

I grew up in Vancouver and had pretty much zero experience homesteading before my husband, Ryan and I decided we wanted to escape the rat race, become less dependent on the modern industrial food system (and all modern industrialized systems), and dove head first into this lifestyle around a decade ago.

We packed up and moved to Vancouver Island where we live now, started our first garden, and the rest is pretty much history.

(Well, actually that’s not true… There have been A LOT of ups and downs, successes and failures, wins and losses, struggles, challenges and pivotal moments along the way, but those are stories for another day).

Over the past few years, our decision to follow a less conventional path that aims to break free (at least in some part) from “the system” has been affirmed over and over again. We all know for a fact now that our food system, healthcare system, financial system, transportation system and so much more are all really just a house of cards built on shaky ground. We’ve been lucky so far, but sooner or later it’s all liable to collapse.

But preparedness and security isn’t the only thing that drives us… The peace of mind I get knowing that everything we grow is 100% organic, and that the ingredients in our food, medicine, personal and household products are safe and natural is worth more than anything I could buy at the grocery store.

(I’m not perfect though. Not by a long shot. I still rely on the grocery store, on modern medicine, and on many modern conveniences to get by, but I balance it as much as I can:)

(Continued in comments…)
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I’m all about practical gifts; Gifts that will truly make life easier and contribute to my and my family’s wellbeing. And our family includes our animals!

One of the ways we make sure our chickens are taken care of is by letting them free range during the day, but making sure they’re locked up and safe from predators at night. But who wants to be up at the crack of dawn to open the coop, or wake up to a bloodbath because you forgot to close the coop the night before?

(The answer is obviously no one… No one wants that).

Automating our homesteading tasks as much as possible allows us to worry about other things and saves us a ton of time. Plus, it makes sure that things get taken care of, whether we remember or not.

Using an automatic chicken door has been a GAME CHANGER for us. It’s one of those lesser known homestead tools that can make all the difference, and I’m always recommending one to anyone who keeps chickens!

This chicken door from @chickcozy_ is so easy to install and use too, and right now you can get one for a steal during their Black Friday sale!

Save over $40 off an automatic chicken door, plus use my coupon code for an ADDITIONAL DISCOUNT!

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Comment “Chicken” below for more info and to get my exclusive coupon code! 🐓

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Yes, you read that right…

Modern Homesteading Magazine is coming to an end.

This decision has not come easily, but there’s a season for everything, and more and more I’m feeling called to transition out of this season and into the next in both life and business.

And so this final farewell issue is bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s the first ever annual issue, with 100 pages packed with brand new content that celebrates the best of the past 32 issues!

And it’s the first issue I’ve ever offered in PRINT!

But on the other hand, it marks the end of an era, and of this publication that I’ve absolutely had the pleasure of creating and sharing with you.

If you’re a digital subscriber, you will not be charged a renewal fee going forward, and will continue to have access to the digital library until your subscription runs out. As part of your subscription, you’re able to download and/or print each issue of you like, so that you never lose access to the hundreds of articles and vast amount of information in each issue.

Rather than subscribing, you can now purchase an all-access pass for a one-time fee of just $20, which gives you access to our entire digital library of issues.

Plus, for a limited time, when you purchase an all-access pass you’ll also get a gift certificate for a second all-access pass to gift to someone else.

I’m also still taking preorders for the print version of this special edition issue, but only for a few more weeks!

When you preorder the print issue, you’ll also get a digital copy of the special edition issue (this issue only), and will receive a print copy in the mail later this year (hopefully by Christmas so long as there are no shipping delays!)

Click the link in my profile or visit modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to check out the latest issue, purchase an all-access pass to the digital library and/or preorder the print issue today!

Thanks to everyone who has read the magazine over the past 4 years. I’m humbled and grateful for your support, and can’t wait to share whatever comes next:)

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It’s easy to romanticize homesteading, but the truth is that those homegrown vegetables, those freshly laid eggs, that loaf of bread rising on the counter, and that pantry full of home-canned food takes time, effort and dedication. It doesn’t “just happen” overnight!

But if you work on learning one new skill at a time and gain confidence in it before moving onto the next, one day you’ll be looking back and marvelling at how far you’ve come.

That’s where I’m at now. Life today looks a lot different than it did 10 years ago, when our homesteading and self-reliance journey was just beginning.

Back then we still lived in our city condo and were just beginning to dabble in all of this stuff. But my husband Ryan and I felt a sense urgency to start pursuing a more self-reliant lifestyle, and we committed to taking small steps, one day at a time to make that vision a reality.

Over the years we’ve continued to put one foot in front of the other, adding new skills and tackling new projects along the way that have helped us get to where we are today.

While there’s always more we want to learn and do, as I look around me right now, I’m so grateful that we took those first steps, especially considering what’s happened in the world over the past few years!

If you’re also feeling the urgency to take the first (or next) steps toward a more self-reliant life, this is your final reminder that today is the last day to join The Society of Self-Reliance and start levelling up your homesteading and self-sufficiency skills so that you’ve got what it takes to:

• Grow your own groceries
• Stock your pantry
• Create a natural home
• Get prepared
• Learn other important life skills like time management for homesteaders, goal setting and how to become your own handyman

And more!

If you’ve been feeling called to level up your self-reliance skills (because let’s be honest, we’re in for a wild ride these next few years with everything going on in the world), now is the time to heed that call.

Link in profile to enroll before midnight tonight, or go to thehouseandhomestead.com/society

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There are so many reasons to grow your own food at home:

💰 Saves you money at the grocery store
🍴 Healthier than conventionally grown food
🔑 increases your overall food security
🫙 Gives you an abundance to preserve and share

But perhaps the number one reason is because it just tastes better!

Not only does food taste better when it’s freshly picked or allowed to ripen on the vine, there’s something about putting in the work to grow something from a tiny seed and then getting to see it on your dinner plate that just makes it so much more satisfying than anything you’ll ever buy from the store.

Plus, having to wait all year for fresh tomatoes or strawberries or zucchinis to be in season makes that short period when they’re available just that much more exciting!

With the world spinning out of control and food prices continuing to rise, it’s no wonder more people are taking an interest in learning to grow their own food at home. But that also means changing our relationship with food and learning to appreciate the work that goes into producing it and the natural seasonality of organically grown fruits and vegetables.

(It also means learning to preserve it so you can make the most of it and enjoy homegrown food all year long).

In my online membership program, The Society of Self-Reliance, you’ll learn how to grow your own food, from seed to harvest, as well as how to preserve it so you can enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor all year long!

You’ll also learn how to grow and craft your own herbal medicine, detox your home, become your own handyman, and so much more (because self-reliance is about more than just the food that we eat… But that’s a pretty good place to start!)

The doors to the Society are now open for a limited time only. Click the link in my profile or go to thehouseandhomestead.com/society to learn more.

#foodsecurity #homegrownfood #homesteading #selfreliance #selfsufficiency #homegrownfoodjusttastesbetter
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If you’ve been watching events unfold over the past few years and you’re feeling called to start “cutting ties” with the system and begin reclaiming your independence, The Society of Self-Reliance was made for you!

When I first launched this online membership program last year, my goal was to create a one-stop resource where members could go to learn and practice every aspect of self-reliance, as well as a space to connect with other like-minded people pursuing the same goal. And that’s exactly what you’ll get when you join!

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn inside the Society:

🌱 Food Security and Self-Sufficiency: Learn the art of growing and preserving your own food, ensuring you and your loved ones have access to nutritious meals year-round.

🌿 Natural Living and Herbal Medicine Mastery: Discover the secrets to creating a low-tox home and and to growing, making and using herbal remedies to support your family’s health, naturally.

🔨 Essential Life Skills: Learn essential life skills like time management, effective goal setting and practical DIY skills to become more self-sufficient.

As a member, you’ll enjoy:

📚 Monthly Video Lessons: Gain access to our ever-growing library of video lessons, with fresh content added each month.

📞 Live Group Coaching Calls: Participate in our monthly live group coaching calls, where we deep dive into a different self-reliance topic every month, and do live demonstrations and Q&A’s.

🏡 Private Community: Join our private community forum where you can ask questions, share your progress, and connect with like-minded individuals.

I only open the doors to The Society once or twice each year, but right now, for one week only, you can become a member for just $20/month (or $200/year).

In today’s world, self-reliance is no longer a luxury, a “cute hobby,” it’s a necessity. Join us inside The Society of Self-Reliance and empower yourself with the skills you need to thrive in the new world!

Link in profile or visit thehouseandhomestead.com/society to learn more.

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Got out for an early morning harvest today. Been up since 3am, contemplating life, the future and the past, the order of things…

There is a rumbling right now, not just in North America, but around the world. Many of us can feel it, and know we are on the precipice of something big.

I’d been hearing about this new song that’s become an overnight viral sensation, written by an (until now) unknown singer named Oliver Anthony. His new song Rich Men North of Richmond has had 14 million views on YouTube in the past week alone, so I decided to check it out.

I also saw a clip of him playing a Farmers Market last week, and anything that has to do with Farmers Markets always has my attention;)

I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve already cried listening to that song. If you’ve heard it already, you probably know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend giving it a listen. All I can say is it’s been a while since a song resonated so deeply with me, and in this strange new world, I know I’m not the only one.

One of the lines in Anthony’s song is “Livin’ in the new world, with an old soul,” and that’s something I think so many of us in the homesteading community can relate to.

Trying to cling to better days; To a simpler time; To the old ways, all while doing our best to get by in the new world.

The world has changed drastically in the last few years especially, and it’s set to change in immense ways over the next few years. Today I’m feeling thankful for people like @oliver_anthony_music_ who give a voice to what so many are feeling right now.

Know that if you’re feeling it too, you’re far from alone. And while the future may feel uncertain and even a little scary, remember that if we stand united, we the people are a force to be reckoned with.

(Continued in comments…)
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Another garlic harvest in the books!

Garlic is easily one of my favourite crops to grow. It’s pretty much a “set if and forget it” crop. We plant in the fall and leave it to overwinter, fertilize a couple times in the spring, start watering only once the ground starts to dry out, and then harvest in the summer. We can even plant a fall succession crop after our garlic if we want so it really makes great use of garden space all year round.

Over the years we’ve managed to become completely self-sufficient with garlic. We now grow enough to eat all year (and then some!), plus we save our own seed garlic and usually have extra to sell or give away. And around here fresh, organic garlic ain’t cheap, so it’s a good cash crop for anyone who’s serious about selling it.

It took me a few years to really get the hang of garlic, but it’s one crop I’m now very confident with (knock on wood, because it’s always when we make statements like this that next year’s crop fails! Lol.)

A while back I compiled a comprehensive guide to growing, harvesting and using garlic both as an edible and medicinal crop. This is usually only available as part of a paid bundle (or in the fall 2022 issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine if you’re a subscriber;), but for a limited time I’m offering it for free, no strings attached!

Plus you’ll also get access to my step-by-step video lesson on planting garlic so you can set yourself up for success with your garlic crop this year.

Comment “Garlic” below or head to thehouseandhomestead.com/garlic-guide to get your free copy!
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#garlic #garlicharvest #homesteading #selfsufficient #selfsufficiency #selfsufficientliving #selfreliance #homegrown #groworganic #growfoodnotlawns #gardenersofinstagram #homesteadersofinstagram
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Going through photos and videos from our trip to the @modernhomesteadingconference and the vast majority are of our daughter having the time of her life!

Even if I personally got nothing else out of this gathering (which I most certainly did), watching her discover her own love of this lifestyle outside of what we do at home made my heart grow three sizes!

Homesteading is about so much more than homegrown food and self-reliance. It’s about passing on invaluable skills and an understanding of and respect for our connection to the land that provides for us to the next generation.

Being around so many other kids and families who are also pursuing a homesteading lifestyle helped show our little one that this is a movement that is so much bigger and greater than what our own family does on our little plot of land. This is a lifestyle worth pursuing, with a community unlike any other.

Glad to be back home and more excited than ever to involve my kids in everything we’re doing. But also, I think I speak for my whole family when I say we can’t wait to go back someday!
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If you’re simply looking for ways to save a little extra cash this summer and live well for less, here are 12 tried and tested frugal living tips for summer that you can use to save money this season without sacrificing a thing.
Head over using the link in my bio!
https://thehouseandhomestead.com/12-frugal-living-tips-summer/
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#houseandhomestead
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