Monday, 26 December 2011

A Piece of History

Its been forever since I have written a post here. This last year has been a challenge and a half. The short version is that I have to leave this marina and have nowhere else to put the house. I have spent the last nine months looking for a new berth. I called every marina in BC. I went up and down the river knocking on strangers doors asking if I could tie up on their property. Things were looking very bleak indeed. Every time someone would say something like "what about Mission", or "what about Pitt River", I would cringe inside. I knew I needed to find a place, but in my heart, I wanted the perfect place, not just any place, and not somewhere that was so far from my job.

Back in April, I got a job in historic Steveston. Its a beautiful little village right on the ocean. They have done a lot to preserve the fishing and cannery history that made up this town and I loved it there so much, I found myself not wanting to go home when I was finished work. One day, I went for a walk in the park and found a slough called Scotch Pond. It was a tongue of water dredged out at the back of the park and had a nice dock with fishing boats tied up to it. A large building on stilts stood at the back. There was a perfect sized space beside it, that would comfortably hold my house. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had found the place I wanted to live. Now how to make that happen?


One afternoon, I was talking to the baker that has the shop beside my clinic. He said he had been thinking about my dilemma and that I should contact a man named Harold Steves and ask him to help me. Harold's family was the founding family of Steveston and he has been a city councillor since the 1970's with an interest in saving farmland and all things historic relating to the maritime history surrounding Steveston. I had known that my house was in actuality an old net shed but never thought of using that fact to help me.

I spent days corresponding with the archives in Delta trying to track down the history of my building. I went out and spent an afternoon pouring over old documents and photos in the hope of unearthing some clues. I was able to trace it back to the 1920's when it was owned by a Japanese family named Tamaki. At that time it was on stilts in Delta across from the west end of Annicis Island. It was one of thousands of net sheds that lined the river at that time. Little did I know, but I had the last one left!

I sent Harold an impassioned plea, explaining my situation and describing the net shed. He was very excited to hear about the shed as there are none left like mine and it would indeed be an important part of a heritage display. It has taken some months but Harold was finally able to convince some of the city officials to come down and check out my place. They were pleasantly surprised at the good shape of the shed and seemed impressed with the renos that I had accomplished so far. They agreed it would be a shame to lose the building and to give them a few days to think about the best situation for everyone.

On the 19th of December a motion was passed at city council to try and find a spot for my home, Scotch Pond being the first choice. The proposal is to have my home tied up at the dock with an authentic, refinished japanese fishing boat tied up at the shed door. It would be used to show the usual set up of the fisherman from those times. Typically they would have stored their nets in one end of the building and had a few rooms up front to live in when not at sea.

One of my clients is Japanese and her Father was a fisherman in Steveston. She has her father-in-laws original bench that he used to sit at when repairing his nets. She has offered it to me to use as a display. The idea is to open one of the sling bay doors and close off a section of the house with a display of hanging nets and the work bench for people to see from the trail in the park. There will be a plaque and everything to describe what people are looking at. I will stay living in the house as a caretaker/security presence at the pond. In exchange I will leave the house to the city to continue to be used as a museum when I no longer have any use for it.

I am ecstatic! I couldn't imagine a better scenario for this place. I love history and antiques. I love Steveston. I wanted to use my home somehow as a showpiece for sustainable housing, recycling Reno's, living life as a settler and now it looks like I will accomplish all of that! The last hurdle is the fisherman's collective that holds the lease at Scotch Pond. If they agree to allow the shed in there, then it's a go. If you could say a prayer for me to allow that to happen, I would be forever grateful. I can't wait to move!

I know I haven't posted any pics of the place recently but even though my future was uncertain I have been moving forward with the reno's. The bathroom is seventy-five percent finished, and the sliding door has been installed into the massage room. A whole bunch of light fixtures have been installed and a lot of the wiring has been sorted out in general. I have been living with no power or water for three months so haven't been able to enjoy any of it but am hoping that all changes soon. Once I get settled and can finish things up, I will be posting lots of pics. I promise it is going to look awesome!

In the meantime here is a link to a beautiful photo essay of Steveston, I can't wait to see my place in one of these pictures.

This is the google view of Scotch Pond. I want to be in that big space beside the building at the back. Note the big park beside it, lots of fresh air to be had there :),-123.196177&spn=0.00521,0.013733&t=h&z=16&vpsrc=6

I found this  interesting information about Scotch Pond on the City of Richmond website:

Scotch Pond

General Information
Type of Resource: Landscape
Common Name (if different than official name):
Address: Garry Point Park
Neighbourhood (Planning Area Name): Steveston
Construction Date: Scott-Cdn Cannery 1899; Scotch Pond c.early 1950's
Current Owner: Municipal Government
Designated: Yes

Statement of Significance
Description of Site: Scotch Pond consists of a pond, originally a slough, dredged in the early 1950s and connected by a channel to the Strait of Georgia. Along with the pond are the remains of wooden boardwalk pilings which run directly along the south edge of the pond and were constructed in 1899 as part of the Scottish Canadian Cannery operation. The Pond is located on Garry Point Park in the tidal flats of Sturgeon Bank, on a line that is a western extension of Chatham Street.

Statement of Values: Scotch Pond’s heritage values include its historical associations, first with the use of the original slough at Garry Point as the location of a year round Musqueam Indian settlement until the late 1890’s, with the Scottish Canadian Cannery built by Malcolm and Windsor in 1899, with the Atagi Boatworks located at the head of the slough and operated until Japanese internment during World War II, and finally with the dredging operation undertaken in the 1950’s by the Canadian Fishing Company. Scotch Pond has value as an early and rare example of an industrial development and small community built away from the shoreline within an area of tidal flats, constructed entirely on wooden pilings, its only connection to the land a narrow wooden boardwalk.

Character Defining Elements: Key elements that define the heritage character of the site include: · The wooden pilings along the south edge of the pond which are the remains of the original connecting boardwalk from the Scottish Canadian Cannery to Steveston · The Scotch Pond as it exists today, including a small rectangular wooden building and wooden boat docks, which are used by the fishing industry through the Scotch Pond Heritage Co-operative · The natural landscape of the Sturgeon Banks tidal flats as a context for this heritage feature
History: The land in the vicinity of Scotch Pond has a long and interesting history. Garry Point was the location of a year round Musqueam Indian settlement, which increased in population during the eulachon and sturgeon migrations, the salmon season and berry gathering seasons. At the head of the slough, now Scotch Pond, the Musqueam maintained a burial ground. The Musqueam occupied this village until the late 1890’s . The Scottish-Canadian Cannery was built by Malcolm and Windsor in 1899, and was acquired by United Canneries of BC in that same year. As the Scottish-Canadian Salmon Packing Company it first operated in 1901, packing 48,433 cases of salmon. In 1915, a Mr. Graham purchased a half interest in the company and leased the lot, which he tried to sell in 1919 and again in 1923. The land was finally leased to the Canadian Fishing Company in 1925 who used the facility as a fishing station. The cannery was located on a slough in the tidal flats off Garry Point. The complex consisted of the cannery and associated outbuildings, decking and net racks, workers’ housing, and a boardwalk that commenced on the dyke at the west end of Chatham Street. All of the structures were built on pilings. The slough itself was known as a ‘pond’ because it provided safe wet moorage for fishing boats associated with the cannery. Historical photographs of the area at high tide make the cannery look as though it is floating at sea, attached to land by a thin boardwalk. The Atagi Boatworks was located at the head of the slough. Beginning operation in 1905, it was acquired by Mike David Boatworks in the 1940’s following internment of the Atagi family, then by a Mr. Takugaki, around 1949. The remains of the boatworks were removed from the site sometime in the mid-1970’s. The Canadian Fishing Company dredged the slough in the early 1950’s to provide additional safe wet moorage and net mending and storage space, mainly for gillnetters. Local fishermen co-operated to create one of the longest continuous net floats on the coast, with associated net sheds and wharf. Scotch Pond was also used as a swimming hole. Scotch Pond was purchased by the City of Richmond in 1989. A group of fishermen formed the ‘Scotch Pond Heritage Co-operative’ and now operate and manage a net float, net racks and net storage facility.
Architectural Significance
Architectural Style:

Building Type:

Name of Architect or Builder:

Design Features:

Construction Method:

Landscape Significance
Landscape Element: Scotch Pond, tidal flats, surrounding landscape

Design Style:

Designer / Creator:

Design Attributes: Historical photographs show the evolution of the landscape in the area of Scotch Pond as it has been shaped to serve the needs of the fishing and canning industries. The boardwalk to the Scottish Canadian Cannery was constructed across the tidal flats off the west side of Lulu Island along the approximate line of a slough channel. The cannery itself was constructed on an angle to take advantage of another slough channel which provided river access and moorage for fishing boats. When Scotch Pond was created, it followed these original natural and built patterns, using the original Scottish Canadian ‘pond’ as access into the larger, dredged ‘Scotch Pond’. Today these features are evidence of the interaction of people with the land for a purpose, and visually represent two layers: the subtle layer of the original pilings of the boardwalk, and the subsequent construction and use of Scotch Pond.

Construction Method: The boardwalk was constructed of wooden piles. The pond was created by dredging operations.

Alterations: Except for the boardwalk remnants, the Scottish Canadian Cannery has disappeared. The boardwalk pilings have been almost completely demolished, and exist merely as clues in the landscape. Scotch Pond as constructed in the 1950’s is still an important part of the landscape today, but the original slough that was the ‘pond’ for the cannery is no longer visible.

Original Location: Yes

Condition: The pilings and boardwalk remnants are in poor condition compared to the original. They are not obvious, yet when noticed they still manage to convey a sense of what existed there in the past.

Lost: No

Evaluated By: Denise Cook, BLA, PBD (Public History)

Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Documentation: Documents Bauer, Joe. ‘Scotch Pond’ in Steveston Historical Guide, 1992. Bob Ransford, Heritage Advisory Commission. ‘Scottish Canadian Cannery Boardwalk Remnants and Pilings’, heritage information form, 1998. Bodnar, Diana. Report on Garry Point, Richmond, Department of the Provincial Secretary, Government of British Columbia, 1975. Location #6159, Richmond Archives. Clayton, Marilyn. Personal communication. Haig-Brown, Alan. ‘Scotch Pond Then and Now’, in The West Coast Fisherman, vol. 4, No. 1, July 1989, p.45. Ham, Leonard. Archaeological Heritage Resource Overview of Richmond, 1987. Heritage Advisory Commission sous-fonds, 1-3-13, Richmond Archives. Ralston, Keith H. BC Salmon Canneries, Provincial Archives, 1965, UBC Special Collections. Richmond Museum. “Garry Point Park Historical Walking Tour”, nd. Scotch Pond: A Proposal. Scotch Pond Steering Committee, 1900-1991. Stacey, Duncan. Steveston’s Cannery Channel: A Social History of the Fishing Community, prepared for the Township of Richmond, 1986, Richmond Public Library. Historical Photographs Photograph No. 2151 dated 1908, Vancouver Public Library. Photograph No. G-3492 dated 1927, BCARS. Scotch Pond 1949, Joe Bauer Collection/Richmond Museum. Scotch Pond 1952, Joe Bauer Collection/Richmond Museum. Scotch Pond 1954-55, Joe Bauer Collection/Richmond Museum. Location and Type of Plans Found Geological Survey of Canada, 1921. UBC Special Collections. Steveston BC. c.1895-1911. Richmond Archives Map Collection, Item #1985 132 12 and 13. Waterworks Atlas Map of Garry Point and western part of Steveston Townsite, 1936. Item #1991 40 21, Richmond Archives.

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

My Vintage Kitchen

Part of my mandate in getting my house as off-the-grid as possible, is to find ways to do things that don't require electricity to begin with. I find myself fascinated by the lives of the settlers and how they managed when electricity wasn't available and with no stores nearby to buy the basics. I have been keeping my eye out for hand operated gadgets and collecting them as I go along. Here are just some of my finds this summer....

A hand operated pasta maker,worth considerably more than I paid for it!

 A large canning pot with rack ( not shown in the picture is a couple of cases of canning jars and lids as well as paraffin wax all courtesy of the thrift stores)
 A thingy to grind food into a pulp for things like tomato paste
 A grinder for flour and nut butters

A butter churn

Along with vintage kitchen utensils I have refinished and installed a 1950's steel kitchen sink unit

Added a bead board style kitchen island with a vintage plate stand

 Installed leaded glass doors ( love that sign, it came from a wonderful home decor store in Steveston BC ,called Pieces)

I had to get oven mitts

which thankfully I only had to pay $1.99 each for as opposed to the original price tag of $37.98!!!!


Isn't she a beauty?
My grandmother ,whom I lived with for a few years, had one just like this and I have missed it so much. I was thrilled when I found this one, it was the perfect finish to this room!

Here are some of the vintage cooking utensils I have collected for it. Old cast iron pans, an old metal trivet, the mesh rectangle is a toaster

The top warming shelf has some small oil lamps and another treasure from the store Pieces, this super- cute, whale weathervane

I have a bunch of other vintage objects  that I found after I had done this post so will save those for another day. Here is a sneak peak into the direction I am going with my dining room.
This beautiful antique Asian altar will be joining the Asian buffet in the dining room once I have some walls built

And to finish off today's post here are my flowers in the kitchen window box now in full bloom.

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Thursday, 21 July 2011

Waste Not, Want Not - Saving Our Environment

Today I am going to talk about the dark side of  living on the water. What to do with your waste, and more specifically your sewage.

Since I moved onto the water four years ago, I have become ever more aware of the problem of garbage, sewage and toxic stuff leaching into our water ways. We tend to live in this Utopian mindset that we have endless fresh water and all will be diluted by it. It's just not so and I know because I watch it all float by from my front door and it totally disgusts me.

 Every little oil or gas slick I see on the water sends me into a frenzy. I feel close to all the different animals that call this part of the river home, and when I think of them having to drink and eat from the contaminated water it makes me feel physically sick. I watch vasts amount of plastic garbage float downstream daily on its way to the great garbage patch in the ocean. That stuff  NEVER goes away, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces (eventually) and gets eaten by all manner of sea life which we then catch and eat thereby ingesting all the toxins contained in plastic. What goes around...comes around!!

Please, please, please... stop using plastic as much as you can. If you search them out, there are alternatives for all of it. Just be diligent, future generations will be depending on it. Read the Plastic Diet to find out more. Read David Suzuki's article on the state of the oceans today to see why it is vital that we act today!!

I have become quite fanatical about trying to reduce my plastic footprint and recycle everything I can. I now throw out the equivalent of one small plastic shopping bag of garbage a week and ninety percent of that is cat litter. It's been really bothering me to be throwing clumpy clay cat litter into the landfill. I thought of training the cats to use the toilet but, there are studies that show that pathogens in cat feces may be killing sea otters. Even the treatment plants can't treat cat feces to remove the pathogens.

My other big concern has been my own waste management. As it stands right now all the water from my home just drains directly into the river. This has made me conscious of what I add to the water. All my personal care products, household cleaners, laundry soaps etc had to be overhauled to make sure that only biodegradable, natural things were going down the drain. Here are some recipes in case you want to try this as well. This has had the added benefit of saving me money as the simple, natural products that I can make from things like baking soda and vinegar are much cheaper than store bought chemicals.

The toilet has been my biggest shame of all. I thought I would have to save my money to buy an expensive composting toilet ( in the range of around $1600.00) or spend many thousands trying to get a system in place to hook into the city sewer line.

 I've been doing some research and have found that all sewage, whether human or pet, is compost-able and all you really need is some buckets, pine sawdust, some hay and for pets some Septo-Bac, an enzyme-active biological compound formulated to increase the digestion rate of sewage.

 The only other requirement is some land space to do all this. This is the hardest thing to come up with when living on the water. Perhaps a community garden would be a place to ask for a corner of land to give them prime compost? I have a few friends with a fair size plot of land that would probably be OK with a compost area.

For pet manure composting you need a hole, a lid, some Septo-Bac and some green and brown yard trimmings. You can line the hole with a few different things like mesh screen or a garbage can with the bottom cut out and holes drilled in the sides. Layer the bottom with pebbles to insure good drainage and your ready to start. Here is a video in which a woman shows her set up and explains how it works

And this video is from an excellent organization called City Farmer which shows you how to do the garbage can lined hole

They aren't recommending that this will be compost that you later dig up and use for the garden but it turns all the waste into a liquid that leeches out the bottom ( recommended to put this hole away from the food garden, ornamental bushes are OK)

Apparently there is no smell and the whole process is natural, you got to like that!

Now as to the humanure, there is an easy, cheap way to deal with that. You can build your own system or buy one pre-made for you.

 What is required is four - 5 gallon buckets with tight fitting lids, a box frame built to hold one bucket snugly with a toilet seat attached and some pine sawdust. You use the toilet like any other, can throw the toilet paper into it( try to buy paper that doesn't have chemicals in it and is totally biodegradable such as for septic fields) and cover your deposit with enough sawdust that you can't smell anything foul. When the bucket is full, take it out, put a lid on it and store until you have two or four full buckets.

The other part of this system is the composting site. You can build a three or four bin set up with used shipping pallets. You may need to staple some mesh over them if they have large gaps between the boards. Stand them up on end and make a three sided container by tying or screwing the pallets together. A fourth pallet or some bales of hay can be used to hold things in at the front. The middle bin can have a roof built over it to store your hay under and use a non toxic tile such as slate  so that you can collect rain run-off to store in a barrel. This water is used to clean your buckets after emptying them and for handy water should your compost need watering. It should have the consistency of a damp sponge. If it gets too dry it won't cook properly.

Keep your compost pile covered with lots of hay. When it's time to make a deposit, clear the hay away from the center of the mound. Use a pitchfork to create a depression in the center. Dump all your buckets into the depression, then recover with the old straw from around the edges and add fresh straw to top that off.  You can also add a mixture of 60 percent brown(dead leaves etc) and 40 percent green (fresh lawn clippings) to the compost as well as all food leftovers such as meat, bones, egg shells, coffee grounds, veggie scraps, fat etc. I had always heard that meat and fat etc were not recommended in composting, but these people over at  Humanure swear it is all OK. The trick seems to be, to dig a depression in the center of your pile and bury it all to some degree and cover well with straw. A piece of wire grate can be laid over top to keep out savaging animals. With those worried about bears and other critters attracted to the food, apparently having it surrounded by piss and shit, takes the charm away from it.

Once you have dumped your buckets, use some water to rinse them out and then some more water with biodegradable soap and a long handled toilet brush to give them a cleaning. Dump all the water used to clean the buckets onto your compost pile. Leaving the buckets to air out in the sun for a day or two is supposed to help with any lingering odor issues as well as making sure to line the fresh bucket with some sawdust before the first deposit. Someone brought up a point that metal buckets ( if you can find ones with lids and a swinging handle) would be less likely to absorb lingering smells. I would maybe worry about them rusting possibly, make sure it's a galvanized bucket!

So that's it really. You don't have to turn the piles or anything. If they smell, add more hay and green material, and make sure it's a big enough pile to cook properly. Let it sit for a year or two then use as compost in your garden. The high heat attained is enough to kill any dangerous pathogens and it apparently grows amazing crops! From what I could gather on the Humanure site, it seems like it would be OK to compost your pet waste in the same pile as well. For those not comfortable with the idea of pet waste in their garden then I would recommend you compost it separately as discussed above.

Have any more questions? Here is a link to a forum to discuss any humanure composting concerns and innovations. This link will take you to the video library at Humanure which has videos on all aspects of composting human manure

 Just think if we all did this...... we would be saving the landfills from all our yard and kitchen waste not to mention all our pet waste,  we would be saving our water sources from raw sewage and the chemicals needed to treat it, we would be saving tons of gallons of water from all the flushing that we aren't doing and in the end we would have something healthy to replenish our depleted soils with, so we can grow healthy lush crops! And all for the price of some buckets, sawdust and hay!(which hopefully you can find for free)

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Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Makers Faire

Last Saturday, I booked off work a few hours early and  attended the first annual Makers Faire in Vancouver. My main focus on going there was to talk to a young man that had designed a propane heating system for a hot tub. Once there though, I was surprised and delighted by all the other exhibits that I saw.

What is a Makers Faire you ask? well this is what the web site for the fair had to say....

"“Maker” culture grew out of the DIY movement and is based on the principle that ordinary people, given access to knowledge, skills and technology, can and will create extraordinary things. A maker can be any person or group who invents, designs, and/or builds objects or information systems with the goal of learning, teaching, inspiring or improving the state of the world. Vancouver Mini Maker Faire is a two-day celebration of making and creating. It’s an all-ages family festival promoting the ethos of DIY on a large scale.

Vancouver Mini Maker Faire will take you through an inspiring, energetic and captivating range of exhibits, including workshops, performances, displays, and a speaker series. Some of the features include pyrotechnics, kinetic sculptures, interactive musical installations, and 3d printers that can print themselves. Interaction booths stationed throughout will centre around education: teaching people how to complete a circuit, spin wool, or smoke bacon!"

I only had about two hours to see it all as I crammed this into my work day. I spent a lot of the time talking to the various people whose creations I wanted to know more about, so didn't get photos of everything that caught my fancy, but here are some to give you an idea of the kinds of things you can see at a Makers Faire.

I met this girl who sews with led lights. One of her creations was this incredible skirt with little lights embedded in it that change colour and blink as you dance and move around

Here is the link to the instructions if you would like to make your own version.

The Robinson Caruso in me loved this raft that was built by recycling wooden pallets, old plastic drums and used the rubber from bicycle tires to hold it all together.

Then there was the electric car. Gerry Martselos will, for about $10,000, convert your car into an electric one for you. Here is his website if you are interested.
 Add some solar panels to your garage roof and you have free power for your transportation needs.

Here is a peek under the hood

and this is a view of the back seat area which stores all the batteries. The car had a range of about 50 km on a charge which should be more than enough for short daily commutes to work and run errands which is probably 90 percent of our car use. His theory is, have the electric car for daily use and rent a car for the odd occasion when you want to go afar.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this thing was, but at one point a guy sat in the middle of it and all the legs moved independently to make the whole contraption walk around with him in it. Kind of like riding a giant spider!

A welders fancy creation of an ant made from old propane bottles

and a little piggy BBQ made from another propane tank

This was the portable hot tub I came to see. The sides are made up of wooden planks that have a giant bungee cord running through them all to hold them together. The outside was stabilized with huge tension straps.The inside is lined with sections of foam and covered with a sheet of poly. A section was built from plywood to be a seating area and placed in one side.

The water was run through this small RV water pump that was powered by a car battery to circulate the water through the heater.

Some LED lights were run through a thick clear hose and under the poly to provide mood lighting at night.

This is his heater contraption that he has just lit and is replacing the coil over the flame which you can just see between his elbows.

The water circulates down through the coils and out the bottom where it goes back into the tub

 This was a weird and wonderful thing. A huge tricycle powered by solar and wings.
here are some pictures of it when it was being test driven at Burning Man

These guys had a system to make your bike glow in the dark

 Again, not sure of the purpose of this one, but cool to look at!

Love this concept of cutting a bottle in half and inverting it with something as a wick in the neck to keep the plants watered

Yet another , I'm not sure what this is, thing. It was a truck with propane canisters mounted all around the outside. Every now and again, they would light it up and flames would puff out of it.

I love recycled art , so was impressed by this sign which says REGENERATE with each letter made from different recycled objects.

Here is a close up of each of the letters

a close up of  the letter E

 The best part was, the back of the signs, which were pallet gardens. Burlap bags hold soil in place and slits are cut to let plants grow out of the vertical garden.  The tops had more plants growing out of them

This was my favorite exhibit. This guy took an old Airstream travel trailer, gutted it and
refabricated the interior into an amazing experience. He quickly showed me some of its features which included a great stereo, fold down large screen TV, built-in vacuum, steam shower etc etc. I have included a link to his site which has many more pictures of the features.  On his site, scroll down to the picture of the trailer and click on it, that will take you to the library of photos. Well worth taking a look. I couldn't believe how spacious it felt inside, all the awesome luxury's of home were included, even laundry facilities. You could easily and comfortably live in this unit for quite some time!

So that was just a small sampling of what I saw that day. Some other exhibits that interested me was a workshop on how to build your own solar panels, another workshop on how to make glass beads and blown glass, a lantern making booth, another booth filled with wild and wonderful nonsensical Jules Verne type creations, a small hydro pump system that I couldn't find the guy to ask questions about and a myriad of robotic type constructions for all sorts of purposes.

I had a great time, was inspired and learned a lot. I would definitely attend next years fair and plan to spend the whole day there. 

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