Halfmoon's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Nov 23, 2016 5:37 pm

McTrex,

Comments like this keep me going. No point in telling a story that no one wants to hear. :( Thank you!

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cmonkey
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by cmonkey » Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:27 pm

You'd be surprised who's reading in silent delight. ;)

That was a really run down house! We looked at a couple of houses that were pretty close to that quality but not that bad. After doing all this work on my house, I'm thankful I bought what I did. :)

It would be neat to see more photos.

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C40
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by C40 » Wed Nov 23, 2016 8:58 pm

oh man, the hot butt bathtub had me cracking up.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:18 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

Farm animals. I blame Mother Earth News for this, along with about a zillion books DH had compiled on the joys of homesteading. I already mentioned that he had calves and dogs when we met, but together we were downright dangerous. Within a year or so, we’d added chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits, bees and a milk goat. I really couldn’t tell you what we were thinking.

The calves were steers, bought from a local dairy farm (the farm offloads the useless males for cheap ;)) and ferried home in the back of DH’s compact car. They were Holsteins, a breed that Wikipedia says typically weigh 680-770 kg at maturity. Too bad we didn’t have Wikipedia at the time, because trying to manage a creature that carries more than ten times your own weight can be challenging. They were pretty well-behaved, though – unlike the Black Angus cow we bought later. That one tried to escape at every opportunity, running far and wide to neighboring properties and generally wreaking havoc. One time DH caught her on a neighbor’s farm, and she dragged him through a barbed wire fence at the end of a rope. He came home with his face horrifically bloody and had to leave for work after quickly washing the worst of it off. I have no idea what customers at the restaurant thought, but the tips were good that night. :D

The chickens were inevitable. You go to the feed store in the spring, and they have stock tanks (just like our bathtub!) filled with fluffy little chicks. Visions of free eggs dance in your head; you imagine how great it will be to have lovely birds running around eating all the bugs and providing you with free meat when the time is right; the chicks mill about looking so adorable…we resisted. Briefly. Then we ordered Araucana chicks from a catalog, and they arrived in the mail with one free grab-bag “exotic” rooster. More about Mr. Freakin’ Exotic Rooster later.

Most people who indulge the baby chick fantasy have electricity to keep a brooder warm for the first set of motherless chicks. Without grid power, we had to bring the chicks into the house and keep them in front of the wood stove. Fluffy little pooping birds in your house are adorable for maybe one day, until the smell really sinks in (maybe this is true of children also? :lol:). We built a spacious chicken palace and moved them into it as soon as possible, but that wasn’t for a few very long weeks.

We wanted our chickens to be free-range, at least during the day, which is one reason we chose Araucanas. They were described as tough, self-reliant, Survivalist chickens and great mothers (tip: great mother translates as “Hides eggs under bushes.”). Also: blue and green eggs! The shell, that is.

And thus began a war with wildlife. Hawks, weasels, coyotes, bobcats, bears and raccoons all turned up for the buffet we had so considerately laid out. We yelled at, chased, shot at, cursed at and generally said bad things about all of the creatures that were just doing their natural thing. It was truly a losing battle unless we wanted to keep the chickens imprisoned 24/7. The dogs were 100% useless in this battle, which is just wrong. What are we feeding you for?? You’re supposed to police the homestead!

Ah, but while it lasted: the eggs. The EGGS. I had never been a great fan of eggs, but these had firm, bright orange yolks bursting with flavor. It’s hard to describe the difference from sad, pale, flat old store eggs. I couldn’t get enough of them and probably ate an average of 4 per day (no discernable negative effects). Killing and plucking the chickens for meat was another matter entirely, and I won’t miss that. After some years, we finally gave up on chickens.

Before we give up on the chickens, though: a word about Mr. Freakin’ Exotic Rooster. He was like the guy in a bar who goes up to every female and makes some lewd proposition, then just moves on when he gets smacked. This bird, graced with iridescent black feathers and impressive comb, never stopped harassing the hens until we finally gave him to our neighbors. They were thrilled to have him just for decorative value, but Mr. F-E-R missed the disdainful hens. He kept coming back, we kept returning him. When we found him jumping our hens for about the tenth time, we realized the futility of the exercise, chopped his head off and hung him in the pantry. Our neighbors asked if we’d seen him, and I said no -- and then invited them over for chicken dinner. The power of a guilty conscience. I’m not making this up.

To be continued.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:28 pm

cmonkey wrote: That was a really run down house! We looked at a couple of houses that were pretty close to that quality but not that bad. After doing all this work on my house, I'm thankful I bought what I did. :)

It would be neat to see more photos.
@cmonkey, I'll try to find more photos. I know I said this already, but I want to say it again: your journal was the true inspiration for me to remember and tell this story, and also to remember the things that brought me joy (if we get chickens again, it will therefore be All Your Fault).

The house was ridiculous; it's a given that we should have burned it down. All I can say in defense is that the well and septic were grandfathered in. Now everyone around us is required to drill wells with endless problems because local geology dictates that the water supply runs across a shallow rock plate.
C40 wrote:oh man, the hot butt bathtub had me cracking up.
Yeah...it still makes me smile. We sat on pieces of wood, but it just kept getting hotter. :oops:

EMJ
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by EMJ » Thu Nov 24, 2016 2:45 am

You should have tried cast iron! ;)
Image

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bryan
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by bryan » Thu Nov 24, 2016 6:08 am

halfmoon wrote:chopped his head off and hung him in the pantry. Our neighbors asked if we’d seen him, and I said no -- and then invited them over for chicken dinner. The power of a guilty conscience. I’m not making this up.
Just hilarious.

Enjoying your story so far :)

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by EMJ » Thu Nov 24, 2016 6:36 am

Great journal!
trying to manage a creature that carries more than ten times your own weight can be challenging.
This violates our #1 animal rule: never keep an animal with bigger shits than your own! Thus dog, sheep, chickens and ducks but no cow or horse.

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cmonkey
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by cmonkey » Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:56 pm

halfmoon wrote:He kept coming back, we kept returning him. When we found him jumping our hens for about the tenth time, we realized the futility of the exercise, chopped his head off and hung him in the pantry. Our neighbors asked if we’d seen him, and I said no -- and then invited them over for chicken dinner. The power of a guilty conscience. I’m not making this up.
LOL! This is great!

I can attest to the perils of roosters. We had 5 when we got our little batch and now we are down to one. He is actually a great bird though! He will mate, but not excessively and he keeps a watch over the hens even though they are 100% covered by fencing.

The fear of hawks getting one has prevented us from letting them out. We have an 8 foot deer fence around our whole property so ground critters are not a problem. It's from the air!


If you get chickens again, you could just get 2-3. That's what we are planning. The trouble is that you can only order 15 or more through the exotic online stores, which is what we want. :?

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Thu Nov 24, 2016 7:20 pm

We can relate to a lot of this. Very similar lifestyle in podunk eastern Oregon. But we love it.

We used to battle the numerous wild critters over our free range chickens, until we got "Goose goose". He's a big gray goose that my wife raised from a gosling with the chickens. He thinks he is a chicken. He has all but completely stopped our attrition from the coyotes, foxes, red tail hawks, great horned owls, raccoons, skunks, and bad mannered visiting dogs!

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Nov 24, 2016 7:22 pm

EMJ wrote:
trying to manage a creature that carries more than ten times your own weight can be challenging.
This violates our #1 animal rule: never keep an animal with bigger shits than your own! Thus dog, sheep, chickens and ducks but no cow or horse.
Good policy EMJ, though I would in retrospect consider velocity as well as mass. The most annoying poop producers we had were geese...but more about that later.

Love the cast iron tub pic. Unfortunately, I don't have long hair to strategically arrange, so there will be no tub photos.
bryan wrote:
Just hilarious.


Enjoying your story so far :)
Thank you, bryan. Did I mention that comments are like crack to me? :D
cmonkey wrote:
The fear of hawks getting one has prevented us from letting them out. We have an 8 foot deer fence around our whole property so ground critters are not a problem. It's from the air!

If you get chickens again, you could just get 2-3. That's what we are planning. The trouble is that you can only order 15 or more through the exotic online stores, which is what we want. :?
The 8-foot deer fence sounds great, although we admittedly like all the wildlife. We saw a female cougar stroll through here last fall wearing a radio collar, and I wonder if 8 feet would be enough to discourage her. We also have a nesting pair of barred owls, so it's death from above for sure. We've talked about keeping chickens in our greenhouse in winter and our orchard/garden area in summer. We would need to put some kind of netting across the top of the orchard. It sounds like a lot of trouble, though just a few birds as you suggest might be more manageable.

Have you considered offering to share a chicken shipment with neighbors? It's never a bad thing to spread the chicken gospel a bit. That way, there's more for you to plunder in the zombie apocalypse. :mrgreen:

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Nov 24, 2016 7:32 pm

Farm_or wrote: We used to battle the numerous wild critters over our free range chickens, until we got "Goose goose". He's a big gray goose that my wife raised from a gosling with the chickens. He thinks he is a chicken. He has all but completely stopped our attrition from the coyotes, foxes, red tail hawks, great horned owls, raccoons, skunks, and bad mannered visiting dogs!
What a great idea to raise a gosling with the chickens. Our geese never consorted with the chickens at all, and it never occurred to me to try this.

You do know, though, that "Goose goose" will need years of therapy from the rejection he's undoubtedly suffered when trying to court hens. :cry: I know this because we acquired a peacock that wandered in through the woods one day. We tried to find where he belonged to no avail. He spent a tragic amount of energy spreading his lovely feathers and doing exotic dances for the hens -- who pointedly ignored him. I think he would have died from a broken heart (or some other body part) if a coyote hadn't gotten him first.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Fri Nov 25, 2016 9:26 pm

That is so funny about the peacock.

We've had Goose goose for almost four years now. He always seems to pal up with a dominant rooster. Or could it be that a big gander is the ultimate wing man and then you become the dominant rooster? Either way, he's outlived three or four rooster pals.

He's made romantic gestures to a particular plastic bucket, the hens don't fancy him. I've seen his attention captured when wild geese fly overhead, but he can't seem to understand their strange language. Maybe it's the Canadian accent?

Thats probably too much about our fowl. I'm looking forward to your next chapter...

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 10:07 am

Farm_or wrote: He's made romantic gestures to a particular plastic bucket, the hens don't fancy him. I've seen his attention captured when wild geese fly overhead, but he can't seem to understand their strange language. Maybe it's the Canadian accent?
This made me laugh immoderately. :lol:

I looked through your posts to see if you talked about your homestead lifestyle, but I can't find any stories (I'm admittedly challenged at navigating this site). I'd love to hear something about the way you live. Eastern Oregon is beautiful.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Sat Nov 26, 2016 10:19 am

A fine journal. Having been the teenager dragged out to the cabin with no running water or power, I second your thoughts that this is a trip best appreciated by adults only. High school has enough challenges without being the only kid without power, water, and a 3 hour bus commute.

Please let me solve your sticky kitchen problem, though. Right now, craigslist should be full of used turkey fryers. All the sugar water combinations your DH enjoys, can be done outside. The more extreme homebrewers I know, convert sheds. Pour a slab with a floor drain, tile with cheap craigslist tile, go crazy with it. And then clean with a hose when done mess making.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 11:17 am

Riggerjack wrote:High school has enough challenges without being the only kid without power, water, and a 3 hour bus commute
Yes! I see in retrospect that DH and I were oblivious and selfish. DS once told his dad: "This is your dream, not mine." Very true.
Riggerjack wrote:Right now, craigslist should be full of used turkey fryers.
:lol: Probably, but will they be coated with fire extinguisher chemicals?

Actually, the separate, hoseable workspace is a great idea. You seem like a supremely practical person. I used to tell DH (after living with the mess of dogs, wood fires and outdoor work gear) that my ideal house would be built of concrete, with slightly sloping floors and a center drain in each room. For some reason, he wasn't excited by the concept.
Last edited by halfmoon on Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:01 pm

And tiled, with weatherstripped doors, with a hot water faucet. No sweeping, no mopping, just hosing. At some point, I'm sure everyone has this thought, but I built it, in my bathroom and utility room. It hasn't been particularly useful, but it still inspires me to smile.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:03 pm

Now you've got me eyeing our master bath...

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:53 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

The continuing livestock saga… (This is the last of it, I promise.)

Geese seemed like such a great idea. They would guard the homestead, we had a pond just begging for stately waterfowl, and we figured they would eat the rampant grass and maybe a slug or two. That was the plan.

The geese did eat grass; I’ll give them that. However, grass to them was like prune juice to us. They were the most prolific manure producers we’ve ever seen, and they didn’t spread it around daintily like deer or rabbits. They had one particular spot they like to hang out, sleep and poop; it was pretty much the goose clubhouse. Unfortunately, the goose clubhouse was also our driveway and the formerly picturesque grassy area between house and pond.

(Why do all of my animal stories seem to end up with poop descriptions? I repeat: is this what it’s like to have children?)

Not only did the geese mess up our yard, but they had the ingratitude to taste bad on top of it. We’d always heard that goose meat was delicious, but these birds tasted like fishy algae. Horrible. We had to soak the meat in salt water and vinegar to render it edible, and then DH would make a sauce reminiscent of sauerbraten.

Once again we resorted to palming our livestock off on the same poor neighbors, who had a small pond. The geese seemed to prefer our larger pond, though. We’d have a day or so of splendid solitude, and then we’d hear a chorus of honking (We’re baaack!) followed by a big splash as they landed in perfect formation and surveyed their domain. (Look! The clubhouse needs another layer of fertilizer!)

Next, we bought a young pregnant goat named Cindy. The idea was that she’d have the baby, nurse it, and then provide us with milk. We didn’t drink milk or have a refrigerator, but whatever. Cindy taught us a valuable lesson: goats are herd animals, and they hate being alone. She would climb/jump/break out of every enclosure, come down into our front yard and eat the roses, and then look for company. We should have gotten another goat, but we figured that her baby would cure the loneliness problem.

***Alert: the next part is sad and gruesome. Proceed at your own risk.

Cindy gave birth to her baby sometime during the night while we were at work. By the time we got home in the morning, the kid was dead (probably stillborn) and she’d eaten most of it. We were horrified, but the woman who had sold her to us said when we called in distress that this isn’t unusual for a first-time mother. (Thanks for the heads up, by the way.)

We proceeded with the milking plan, but getting home at 7 a.m. after a long night of work and needing to milk a recalcitrant goat wasn’t fun for any of the participants. We milked her again at 7 p.m. before leaving for work. Good times. We finally asked ourselves why we were doing this and sold her back to the original owner.

A few words about rabbits, and then I’ll quit with the livestock mishap stories. Rabbits have two irreconcilable qualities: they taste delicious, and they’re adorable. Oh – and they scream horribly when you pick them up in preparation for their completely humane death. Literally scream.

Rabbits pretty much broke the back of our homestead livestock fantasy.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by ffj » Sun Nov 27, 2016 9:14 am

Haha, your stories remind me of the time I was tasked with catching a goose once. Being young and dumb, I looked forward to the job until I actually tried to pick it up. Between digging at me with its feet, flapping my face with its wings(it hurts), and biting me with its beak(hurts worse), I finally caught the damn thing and put it in a cage. Its owners were also tired of the monster poop everywhere, and feathers, and the noise. That was the first and last time I ever messed with a goose. :D

Also, there's a reason the words fowl and foul are so similar. Our local park has a bunch of ducks on the pond located there and these things are nasty, but everybody seems to love feeding them. Watch where you step, haha.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:43 am

ffj wrote:Between digging at me with its feet, flapping my face with its wings(it hurts), and biting me with its beak(hurts worse), I finally caught the damn thing and put it in a cage.
Geese can be ferocious, and I truly can't remember how we got them into cages and transported them to our neighbors' pond. I think I've blocked out the memory.

I've read that Canadian geese can inflict injury with their wings, but I once watched a raccoon cleverly get around that obstacle. The raccoon hid under a dock and reached out as the goose floated close, grabbed it by the neck and pulled it under the dock. The goose couldn't use its wings in the confined space, and the raccoon neatly killed it.

Since we didn't have a dock, we just shot a goose when we wanted to eat one. :twisted:

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by G_Dog » Mon Nov 28, 2016 2:59 pm

My Grandfather had a Labrador trained as a gundog that had a thing for catching geese. The only problem being the dog wouldn't let go of the very much alive, yet playing dead goose until you took it from the dog, at which point the goose would jump into life...

Absolutely loving your livestock sagas!

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:47 pm

Geese. Damn, but I just hate em.

Goats climb, and eat everything including barbed wire.

Rabbits scream, and dig, and are nearly impossible to keep out of the gardens.

Chickens are just mean.

These stories bring back all those back to the land horrors of childhood. Clearly, you and my mom were reading the same Mother Earth News.

Please continue. My wife was raised in renton, and has livestock fantasies for our retirement home. I need to gather real world experiences, with hopes of dissuading her. Failing that, I will just resort to being a shotgun farmer. Never saw livestock that couldn't be improved by judicious application of a shotgun.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Mon Nov 28, 2016 6:01 pm

G_Dog wrote:My Grandfather had a Labrador trained as a gundog that had a thing for catching geese. The only problem being the dog wouldn't let go of the very much alive, yet playing dead goose until you took it from the dog, at which point the goose would jump into life...

Absolutely loving your livestock sagas!
Thank you, G_Dog! Now that you've encouraged me, I'll share one of my husband's gun dog stories (actually told by his nephew). DH took his nephew duck hunting, accompanied by DH's Weimaraner. Nephew shot a duck over the lake, and it fell into the water. After waiting a minute, nephew asked "Isn't the dog going to retrieve it?" DH replied, "Of course not. She has short hair. That water's too cold for her." Nephew had to wade in and retrieve the duck himself. He said he was throwing rotting ducks out left and right before he found the freshly shot one. :lol:

Riggerjack: DH and I were laughing so hard at your entire post. I'm sure that we have some old issues of Mother Earth News your wife can borrow...

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Nov 29, 2016 12:15 am

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

Alternative energy ventures:

As mentioned before, we started this escapade with kerosene lamps and an auxiliary deep-cycle battery charging system in our car. We obviously needed a serious battery bank if we wanted to store enough power for daily life.

We somehow found out that the phone company (called GTE back in the day) conducted periodic auctions of surplus equipment. This equipment included huge deep-cycle battery banks used by the phone utility to back up their systems in case of a power outage, and they were sold only in large lots. The batteries were maintained and charged regularly, but they might never be used based on circumstances.

This was a silent bid auction, and we got a great battery bank for peanuts. The next step was finding a way to charge the batteries. We had a pond with a spillway, and DH was convinced that this could produce power. The obstacle was low overhead (maybe 9 feet), which would have trouble charging the battery bank at its minimum of 12 volts. DH designed an overshot water wheel with an inset groove housing a belt that transferred to incrementally smaller wheels to step up the voltage. At the end was a DC motor that charged the batteries. The motor's load also slowed the water wheel to keep it from spinning out of control.

Pretty horrible scans of old low-resolution film photos below. Note the geese marking their territory in the second frame. :x

Image

Image

Image

While the concept was brilliant, the execution was challenging. The system did charge our batteries, but the outer belt broke on a regular basis in freezing temperatures and released the wheel from the motor's limiting load. We would arrive home exhausted from a night of work to find the wheel spinning recklessly (THUMP, THUMP, THUMP) and water splashing out the sides. So much for going directly to bed. We would wade under the spillway, frigid cascade over our heads, and repair the belt…again and again. And again.

After a couple of winters, we began looking for another answer.

Edit: The electric pole in the background of the last photo isn't actually sporting any wires. DH hauled it out of the swamp with his tractor and planted it as a symbolic finger to the power company that had refused to reconnect the old lines. Funny man.

Next: solar

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