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Breathing life back into largish pond gone stagnant

 
Posts: 225
Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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Hi everyone,

We bought our property a year ago, and our ponds have been basically untouched in this time, probably longer. Plant life and algae is starting to blossom all around the edges. I'm not sure if it is related, but this year we have plague like levels of mosquitoes and marsh flies. For example, if I stand next to the pond for a few seconds there will be anywhere from 10 marsh flies and 10 mosquitoes simultaneously biting in. No exageration - it is awful and a real damper on our summer - we literally can't be outside without wearing winter gear in the full sun. This can't be a normal or balanced eco system. So I need your help !

The main pond is I estimate about 900,000 litres (30m x 18m x 1m)

We want to breath new life into this pond, perhaps lower our footprint by growing our own fish as well.

An air pump seems the best option to create some circulation in the water and get oxygen levels up. But what pump size (litres/gallons per hour etc) should we be looking at? Should we get one massive pump for the whole pond, or get several smaller ones? Is Solar (say 1 panel around 100watts) a good option to power a pump for a pond this size or is this not even in the same league? Are these 1 panel solar setups more for small koi backyard ponds?

I haven't seen many, if any fish in the pond, but there are many frogs and toads.

Any advice would be really appreciated

Rob
 
Rob Irish
Posts: 225
Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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Just to clarify, we do have many tiny fish, they look like minnows, and as I was doing some weeding around the edges I did come across a mussel. Which I was happy about - it was delicious. Would love to know how to go about encouraging more of them.
 
Posts: 171
Location: Deutschland (germany)
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Hi Rob,

well I was canoeing in finnland a few years back and remember the same problems you describe with a lot of biting insects there. So I assume, yes thats probably natural for a bigger pond in your region also. I don't really have experience with this, but I assume there are some fish predating on the insect larvae. If there are more insects than you like, perhaps you have to shift the balance between insects and fish towards the fish. Airation might be one way, feeding another. But be careful, that you don't exceed your ponds ability to cope with the additional fishpoo you will generate this way.

But probably best would be, to determine the actual kind of biting insects posing the problem. Do some research, for their specific predators and if possible, optimize the predators habitat.

keep us posted
Ludger
 
gardener
Posts: 893
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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what makes you think the oxygen levels are low? Unless the whole surface is coated with algae I would imagine that the pond can balance itself.

As for mosquitos, I second adding more fish to eat the larvae.
 
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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My first thought is "dragonflies". They eat a *lot* of flying insects which they hunt on the wing. My research tells me they like aquatic vegetation with stems coming out of the water; and since I added a few water chestnuts in buckets I've seen immature ones in my garden for the first time. Maybe get some cattails growing in your pond for them?
 
Rob Irish
Posts: 225
Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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Ludger, thanks for that advice. I stood by the pond and caught about 100 marsh flies today and fed them to the fish. Hopefully they acquire a taste for them

Cris, I'm really just assuming about the oxygen levels. I guess more important is the lack of movement in the water. Lack of movement means the little fish have less to eat right? At least they go crazy when I go in the pond and stir up some of the sludge. The sludge also is a sign of low oxygen in the water isn't it? anaerobic bacterias? I'm no pond expert but marsh flies and mosquitoes to me are a sign of stagnation. Oxygen rich environments are usually where there is more activity and movement - so its just an assumption there is low amounts of oxygen.

Dan, I didn't know that about dragonflies. There are a few there by the pond, and we have a few cattails starting to grow around the edges. Hopefully they flourish!
 
Ludger Merkens
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Hi Rob,

the presence of dragonflies can help you to determine the water quality of your pond. Some dragonflies need very good water, whilest many others can live in lower quality water also. So try to identify them and look up their demands. Btw. all states of dragonflies will feed on insects and their larvae, even the dragonflies larvae are already formidable hunters. You might become friends with them...

 
pollinator
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Any pump that you put in will help some. Any oxygen that you add will cut back on the anaerobes. Any minnows that you add will consume lots more mosquito larvae.

What does it smell like? If there are areas with fetid, sulfurous smells, those are the areas that could do with more aeration. Rather than one pump, that will provide lots of oxygen in one place (and when it goes out, deprive that area of the oxygen it became accustomed to), many small pumps widely spaced will bring up the overall oxygen balance in the water. Maybe you can find one of these solar powered pumps. I'm sure you're not far from some dealer in Chinese imports.

The frogs and toads are a good sign that the pond is generally healthy. They are the first things to go when there is pesticide/herbicide/fungicide contamination.
 
Cris Bessette
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Regarding pond oxygen levels, this seems to be a very informative article:

http://warnell.forestry.uga.edu/service/library/index.php3?docID=183&docHistory[]=1

 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Cris Bessette wrote:Regarding pond oxygen levels, this seems to be a very informative article:

http://warnell.forestry.uga.edu/service/library/index.php3?docID=183&docHistory[]=1



A nice resource, Cris, but I would skip the part on chemical treatments. With my chemistry background, I understand the urge to reach for a reagent on the shelf that will cure all of one's problems, but it must be stifled. If you do get the urge to throw chemicals in the water, go blow some bubbles in the water, watch them aerate and stir up the water, and maybe the urge will pass.
 
Ludger Merkens
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Indeed an interesting article...

a quote from the last page:

Usually oxygen depletion
in a sportfishing pond is the result of overstocking, over-
feeding, over-fertilization, chemical treatment of aquatic
weeds or pollution from barns and feedlots. These man-
agement problems coupled with hot summer weather,
summer storms, cloudy weather or strong winds can
cause oxygen depletion. In the long run, it is probably
more economical for the sportfishing pond owner to cor-
rect the management problem rather than compensate
for the problem with supplemental aeration.



sound almost like permaculture to me.
 
Rob Irish
Posts: 225
Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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John, there is some smell in the sludge in the bottom, and around the edges of the pond. Its not overly strong.

Do larger fish help with circulation of water in ponds that assist smaller fish? I think all the larger fish have been fished out, or died off.

I will see if I can track down some solar air pumps to put on the bottom. I would love a waterfall, but I think in terms of how much circulation you get from an air pump compared to a water pump the air pump should be more effective. Is that true?

Ludger, that is great to hear about dragonflies. I do like them. I will see if I can work out what type it is.

Regarding chemicals to improve ponds, I've come across a few pond treatment services even putting in blue dyes into the ponds to allow less sunlight and photosynthesis and create more beauty. I'm guessing that isn't permaculture, but some of them do look like crystal clear blue lagoons.
 
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Only 1m deep sounds like an odd design for natural fish habitat. I would think sunlight penetration to the bottom would be too much, unless it was designed for chemical treatments or high circulation.
Can you measure depth in the middle? This might be critical to the success, failure or future plans. Perhaps it's well suited for koi and turtles, here we like trout!
I have a pond a little bigger than yours but it's almost 5m deep. I think this is where a lot of info you'll find suggests large air stones with many tiny bubbles to bring some of that deeper, low oxygen water to the surface and circulate it. For you, it may be better to go with water pump to increase circulation since you don't have deep, "dead" water problem.

At 1m and less, in my pond, there is lots of vegetation growth and algea. Any deeper and I think it just can't grow.
 
Serge Leblanc
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Also, it may just be that time of year for theses bugs in your area. They may almost be gone in a week or two without doing anything.
Don't use the colored water die.
 
pollinator
Posts: 685
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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In much of the U.S., well at least here in the middle part, we often erect what we call "Martin Houses" near ponds to attract the colony birds we call purple martins (progne subis). Not only are they beautiful and extremely acrobatic and fun to watch, they eat mosquitoes like crazy. I'm not sure what a northern European variety might be, but I'm sure there is an equivalent. This would be your other predation strategy for those larvae that did make it to hatching. This member of the swallow family is quite popular. Here is a website with info on attracting and managing them. Good luck with the pond. http://www.purplemartin.org/main/mgt.html

 
Rob Irish
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Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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Serge, I think I may have underestimated the size. There is a shallow end and deep end, split with an island in the middle. I haven't measured the deepest part yet, but the shallow end goes to about 1.3m. I will try and get out and measure the deepest parts tomorrow if it is possible. Previous owners were intending on farming Trout here - perhaps you can help me understand something. The pond is connected to a stream via underground pipe about 1 foot diameter. As a trout farmer, is there a reason for this?

Dan, we've got a few swallows here this year. Different to purple martins... much smaller. Before we moved in, it looks like the seller thought the swallow nests in the barn were unappealing and smashed them all down. Looks like there were about 5 nests in there. This time last year there were literally no birds. Will any swallow do the job of eating up mosquitoes? Will see what we can learn about encouraging them here.
 
Serge Leblanc
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Ah, now that sounds better! The stream could provide all the circulation you need. Is it flowing now?
Does the pond overflow back into the stream?
You should post some pictures.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Rob Irish wrote:

Do larger fish help with circulation of water in ponds that assist smaller fish? I think all the larger fish have been fished out, or died off.



Fish aren't designed to move water, they are streamlined to move in it. Now if you had muskrats and turtles and beavers and otters splashing about, that would circulate the water.



Regarding chemicals to improve ponds, I've come across a few pond treatment services even putting in blue dyes into the ponds to allow less sunlight and photosynthesis and create more beauty. I'm guessing that isn't permaculture, but some of them do look like crystal clear blue lagoons.



Crystal clear blue water is what you see where a water environment can't support life -- like a chlorinated swimming pool. Sparkling clear water may be nice in a drinking glass, but if you want a living environment, let it get a little dirty (but not so dirty that it starts to smell fetid).

I put a 5 gallon bucket on the back deck to catch the roof runoff from the last storm. During the storm, some tree frogs decided it would be a good place to mate. Now, thanks to the f*@(!^g frogs, I have a bucket full of tadpoles. Now the water is beginning to turn green -- algae. But that's still OK, tadpoles need algae to chow down on. I'm not going to let it get too green, or too stagnant, I want the tadpoles to turn into more frogs to keep the insects down. I may aerate it from time to time, and once the tadpoles get to be a good size, I'll dump them into one of the water features I have in the garden.

The only difference between your pond and my bucket is a matter of size. Observe what's going on with it, aerate it if it looks (or smells) like it needs it, and life should start flourishing.
 
Rob Irish
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Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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I will post some pictures today.

It is a really slow running stream most of the time Serge. Very shallow, about 3m or 10f wide. The stream divides the property between ours and the next, so I'm not sure of legalities concerning putting a ram pump or something like this perhaps to cycle fresh water into the pond. Yes, when the pond overflows it returns to the stream.

A beaver or family of beavers lives in there. Trees around the edge of the pond are often chopped down and left angled into the water. That is good to know they help with circulation! Most people try to kill them here in Estonia as pests, but as far as I'm concerned they have made my job easier collecting wood they have finished with for the fire. Great analogy with the frogs in the bucket.
 
Rob Irish
Posts: 225
Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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Please forgive me for taking so long to upload these.

We noticed after just swimming in the pond that it all felt much better there even just after 1 day. Since writing last, we made a thing to go in the water at least once a day to splash around. After just 2 weeks of this the slimy stuff on the bottom seemed to half. Maybe it just got pushed somewhere else.
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pollinator
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Have you thought of planting lillys ?
Help with oxygenation plus Biodiversity and they look good too.

David
 
Posts: 395
Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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or getting some inexpensive solar powered waterfall pumps that float on the pond? if splashing around is helping it seems like some of those could help too.
 
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Nice pond you have there! Wish we had one closer to our cottage in the east of Finland. How long have you lived in Estonia? FWIW, many (read: non urban, which is most) places in Finland/Estonia/Sweden are swarming with mosquitos for a large part of the year. Along with all of the advice here to increase predation, also try taking a look around where water might accumulate even in very small quantities. Coming from Florida, I know that even something like 1cm deep water in a tiny little container can be enough to breed mosquitos. If there are any old buildings on your property, double check the gutters to make sure nothing is accumulated in there too.

Its usually not until around July that the mosquito population becomes bearable most places I've been in Finland. Lots of small quantities of standing water all around in the forests and on the rocks make for perfect mosquito breeding grounds. There is even a joke T-shirt some folks wear with stylized cartoon mosquitos wearing aviator goggles and text "Finnish Air Force."

Good luck with your endeavor to have a more livable property!
 
Rob Irish
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Hey Joshua, good to hear from you.

I've been in Estonia now since mid 2012, so coming up on my second year this part of the world. From what I now of Florida it sounds like we've both come from warm parts of the world to ice lands How long have you been there?

I do understand this part of the world does have a lot of marsh areas and bogs, and naturally therefor a lot of mosquitoes, but the best theory I have so far as to the crazy amount of mosquitoes is the way the people up here are mass mono culturing the forests. There is a lot of forest land here, but for example it only has a few species of trees dominating. In Estonia, they will clear hectares and hectares, then fill it with spruce rows. Because it grows in nice straight lines upwards making future culling easier. So although Estonia is seen as a very natural place, with lots of government protected forest, it is not really wild 'forest' with a complete balanced bio diversity.

It is the whole micro / macro connection. As above so below or something like this. Besides Sepp Holzer I haven't heard much about forestry people thinking much about the effects of mono culturing trees, but I'm quite sure it is parasitical of humans to do this and therefor nature responds with a parasitical environment. If we weren't attached to living here, I think nature would push us all away so that it could restore its balance. Even our goats try to run away from them to escape.

The forest that surrounds our property I would say was massively harvested about 25 years ago. During the winter, about 1km away they culled a section of a few hectares. That 'forest' turned from a place with top soil and a gradually building spruce needle ground bed into a place full of puddles and swamps created by heavy tractors and trucks to get out all the logs. Natures backlash perhaps? The older the forest is, it appears to me, the less stagnant puddles it has. It seems to me, based on what our own property looks like, that it takes more than 20 years for a forest to even begin to balance out from this damage of one major cull. Parts of our forest that were left alone when it was culled so long ago clearly have less mosquitoes.

Anyways, I am about 90% sure that all of this is next to pointless, running around trying to make a few ponds here and there less habitable when the government can just make multiple hectare sized mosquito infestation grounds to make a few dollars in cheap firewood. Perhaps if more Estonians shifted to rocket mass heaters, reducing firewood consumption by 90% it would help reduce the amount of forest cut for it. There should be regulations around doing this kind of forestry so close to houses. On our backdoor we have thousands of hectares of forest where there are no houses - why are they cutting down forest right on our doorstep? Where is the discussion or community involvement to talk about the effects of anything. Just be quiet, pay tax and we'll give you what we decide is right.

Well, we'll keep trying to make improvements in the meantime




 
Joshua Finch
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Rob,

Funny- I moved to Finland in June 2012. Where in Estonia are you? We can almost see Tallinn from the roof garden in Helsinki.

I think your observations are spot on about the forest management here. Even in Finland where they are claimed to have some of the best procedures in the world, it's monocrop (but there is a bilberry/lingonberry understory!). They typically only clear a "patch" of the forest at a time (ours are almost all privately owned, not sure about Estonia), but its clear cut city when they do. And then the slash is piled up somewhere and left to do, well, nothing. I've seen piles of slash and even smaller piles of timber sitting around for years (been visiting since 2008 ). We share a lot in common with you all.

Your idea that the mosquitos are a way of nature telling us to "buzz off" so she can repair herself is intriguing. It could very well be. Because it surely isn't anywhere near enjoyable when the mosquitos are so numerous. It has me wondering what are they doing most of the time when there are hardly any humans or other animals around (I guess eating nectar from the lovely wildflowers).

Also about the older forests: right behind our apartment complex is a nature reserve with an adjacent recreational forest (walking/skiing paths, bodyweight exercise place). Both places have been logged in the past, but are now being allowed to proceed without any major intervention. They have dug some drainage ditches that turn into streams (one of which is year round, the others are a little less strong) and there aren't too many puddles. And there aren't so many mosquitos.

I agree with you that the forestry situation needs to be changed. Everything including, as you mention, the community involvement. Because many of the forests here are privately owned (but subject to very strict laws), one day you can visit the cottage and a forest that has been there for decades has been harvested. There goes the neighborhood! And then nothing is planted in return. At least sow some darned ground cover seeds into the clear cut for crying out loud! Its so painful to see these places just sit there and become bone dry. Except, of course, for the ruts turned mosquito resort.

If you have a link to photos/stories about your place I'd love to see it. Y'all are blessed with a slightly longer and warmer growing season than we are, but we share so much in common.

PS- how is your Eesti language coming?

 
Rob Irish
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Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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Quite the coincidence there Joshua, moving here at the same time! We arrived at the end of June. I'm very happy here, I don't think anywhere in the world is perfect and i think compared to a lot of places the standards here are quite high when it comes to preserving the nature, but there is a really long way to go. I think I've found this perfect place of being happily disgruntled

I really love the foraging culture that still exists in this region. Are you doing much in finland? All this recent storms and rain seems to have created the perfect fungi conditions.

We are in the South West of Estonia in Pärnumaa. Why did you decide to come to Finland? Did a special lady steal your heart or do you have roots there?

It does surprise me that a government or private can just go ahead and rip out a forest near where people live and then leave tree stumps. I don't see how that is a democratic or considerate or even civilised, but it is totally the norm. This is what I hope to however achieve by moving to a remote place like this and getting back to community. I think it is out here in unknown forest like places where things will start to turn around again. It is just straight up backwards that a forest manager sits in a cubicle 100km's away and makes decisions about a forest it really has no investment in. I think this applies to most of government as well, and most centralised systems where remote people are making decisions for our local environments when they won't be the ones who experience the consequences of what the decide. I mean essentially we are paying a tax to get a service we don't want and not by choice.

Truth is, minu eesti kelt sucks. Ma proovin aga ta on vaga raske In other words - I try but I suck - its very difficult!! I hear that finnish is very similar to estonian with some minor differences. Do you speak it?

I've been thinking of starting a blog to start sharing some of the things we've been up to here renovating this old house and the lifestyle here. Its one of those things I've been putting off. Do you have something like this?
 
Joshua Finch
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Rob, (sorry to thread jack, we could move this to purple moosages)

Your sentiments are eerily similar to mine. As you say, no place is perfect. But one thing I really like about Finland is that I don't need to be thinking about big picture stuff all the time: things generally work well here and there is strong support for many of the issues that were considered fringe back in the States. You don't always have to be on the front lines.

I've been trying to do some foraging, but the rain is ridiculous. I've found some good patches of wild plums (very tasty plums at that), but even though they are on steep slopes, they are bursting from too much water. I've also found an abandoned farmstead within 800m that has 20 mature apple trees. I have to contact the neighboring town to see about whether I can go there and start to make something of it (the soil is excellent for a garden). Mushroom wise, I came upon my first tiny patch of chanterelles two days ago in the forest behind our apartment. I have to keep poking around to see if I can find more since the area is well trafficked. Most of the bilberries were gone before my wife and I had the chance to go picking. At our summer cottage on the Russian border we even have some chanterelles growing by the earth cellar (go grab a beer and dinner, nice!).

I don't do nearly enough foraging though

Puhun vähän suomi, mutta se on tosi vaikea! (I speak a little Finnish, but it is very difficult!) I was in a language course for 20hrs/week for an entire year (with more homework hours) so my Finnish went from essentially nothing to understanding a lot of daily conversation. No mean feat for a language that is ranked as the hardest to learn for native English speakers after Chinese/Korean/Japanese by the US State Department.

The two languages are very similar, although just like within Finnish if you change one letter you totally change everything (like from help to shoot and meet to kill), I've heard that the words can be exactly the same in Finnish and Estonian but mean completely different things. Nice, that LOL.

If you can find the time for it, a "blog" would be cool to see. I'd love to see what is like to be full time in the countryside. If our plans work out, in a few years we'll be out of the immediate Helsinki area on a little bit of land. You can see some of what I've been up to (in Finland) on this link.

By the way, where did you move from?
 
Rob Irish
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Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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You are a bit more studious than me Joshua When I arrived I enrolled at the university's intensive estonian language class and did one semester also with similar hours. I didn't complete the year due to complexity and trouble I was having with it. It sounds like your experience with finnish is very similar to mine. I've had a lot of bizarre looks from the locals from saying the wrong thing. Like äitah and aitah - one means thanks, one means help! lol. They sound to me the same.. I just have to remember if I hear somebody yelling out in the forest thanks! then they probably aren't thanking anyone.

I come from Australia, specifically I was living on the Gold Coast before leaving, anyways where I come from we speak with emotion, with sometimes long drawn out words and a lot of body language. Comparatively to estonian, they couldn't be more different languages. Estonians talking still sounds to me like spitfire machine guns without emotion, almost like if robots were to pick a language to run with it would be this one. It has very rigid rules which make sense when I really think about it compared to english... words are 99% of the time spelled how the sound. I just can't get the hang of these rolling R's though.. its killing me.

Great pictures on your blog there. Looks like you found a family of Ganoderma Lucidum with your dog? If it is - what a find!

But sure, perhaps we should continue talks about this sort of thing in another channel as it might be distracting to the pond talk in these parts.




 
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