Quick update

Sorry for so long between posts. Temps here have been in the single digits with highs in the low 20’s for almost 2 weeks. Ive spent the last 3 days planning our spring garden. If you plan to put food in the ground this coming year (if not, why not?) you need to be getting your seeds in by Feb.

Being as it’s the Christmas season, here is a story I wrote some time ago. I keep meaning to go back and add more to it, but life keeps getting in the way!

Can You Hear Those Sleigh Bells Ring?

Nick passed through the kitchen on his way out of the house, patting his wife’s round bottom on the way by. She made a half-hearted attempt to flick him with the dishtowel in her hands and gave him a coy smile.
Nick threw on his fleece lined leather coat and work gloves and strode towards the harness shed. A three-quarters moon shone on six inches of new snow, broken only by the paths trod by the house elves who had spent all day preparing his sleigh and harness. He took a moment to let the cold, clear air sweep the cobwebs from his mind. His mind settled into crystal clarity allowing him to absorb his surroundings. He saw the moonlight, tasted the flavor of snow in the air, caught the delicate scent of the surrounding pines underneath the more immediate scents of wood smoke from his chimney and apple pie which had followed him from the kitchen. His ears reported the crunch of dry snow under his soft boots and the creaking of snow laden pine boughs. His skin was sensitive all over, reporting contrasts between his silk underclothes and wool outers. The leather of his gloves and the cold band of his wedding ring.
He entered the shed and began inspecting his equipment. The sleigh was light brown stained Holly with black iron accents and runners. It was heavily scroll worked and had a smooth, satiny finish from its recent polishing. It was just big enough to carry him and one other on the front bench seat with a small cargo area in the rear for his bag. He ran his hand lovingly along it as he headed towards the long tables where the harness was laid out. The heavy leather harness had been polished and checked for dry rot and cracks. The silver bells attached to the backlines were likewise freshly polished and tinkled seemingly too long at the slightest touch.
He paused for a few minutes, reflecting on the years. This was a touchstone for him, a time to remember all that went into this night each year. Like little medals he took out small memories of heroic victories and painful defeats of years past. With a sigh he turned back towards his home, retracing his solitary footsteps.
He passed through the empty kitchen, dropping off his coat, gloves and boots in the mudroom. His bride was seated at their dinner table. She presented a study in contrasts to his eyes. Her flawless ivory skin and deep, brown eyes gave the impression of a lass of twenty years or so. Her care worn hands and silver shot black hair put her solidly in middle age. The look in her eyes, though, full of wisdom and compassion, comes only to those who have lived long and well through many trials and seasons. She wore a heavily brocaded black velvet gown with a plunging bosom and a short string of pearls. A single, simple silver band adorned her left hand. She rose and took her husbands hands. He placed his on her hips and pulled her close, kissing her lips lightly and then smiling down at her. She was no small woman, carrying a full figure well, but he was a veritable giant, well over six feet tall with heavy shoulders rolling with muscle. His hips were still relatively trim but his belly had spread to become “generous”. He seated his lady and took his place across the small table from her. The room was lighted by several silver candlesticks on either end of the table. They illuminated a veritable feast for two. He took a biscuit and crumbled it onto his plate followed by shredded venison roast and brown gravy. He dipped potatoes and carrots that had cooked with the roast to his plate and poured a tall glass of sweet tea. He held both his wife’s hands across the table and spoke grace over the food, asking for God’s blessing for the night’s duties and thanks for the many years of past blessings. They completed their meal with a slice of apple pie and mulled wine.
Nick rose and kissed the top of his wife’s hair. She held, briefly, to the hand he placed on her shoulder and he turned and entered his private rooms. His valet, an aged elf, had drawn his bath and laid out his cloths for the evening. He soaked himself in the hot water and neatly trimmed his flowing beard and mustache, neatly dividing it and braiding it in two forks, tied off with blue glass beads. His long, now mostly salt, salt and pepper hair was neatly clubbed behind his head and his valet tied it off with a black, silk ribbon.
He stepped into the padded arming doublet and high, wool socks. His valet assisted him into his leather covered, steel cuirass and then the un-dyed wool sur-coat. The sur-coat was a work of art heavily filigreed with gold wire in a swirling Edelweiss pattern. It was almost criminal, he felt, since it would return in the morning sliced and pierced and stained with blood and grime. It was held in place with a wide, black leather belt and brass buckle. He donned greaves for his forearms and highly polished knee length black hobnail boots. Their only adornment the golden spur affixed to each. . He tucked heavy, leather gloves into the belt and attached a strap running from the rear, left portion of the belt over his right shoulder and to the left front of the belt. He placed a simple, steel cap on his head and covered it with a long, pointed wool one. His aide entered from a side door carrying his long, hand-and-a-half sword in its tooled leather sheath. Ororoan (Golden Ruin) was a “special” sword, able to cleave both in the flesh and the spirit worlds. He slipped the sheathed sword into the frog over his shoulder. He nodded to both elves and stepped into the hall to a large, wooden door fitted into a stone arch. He pulled outward on the two iron rings set into the doors center and it split, revealing a long nave leading to an alter. The small chapel was dimly lit by candles set in sockets around the walls. He strode down the center isle and removed his sword, setting it point down into a setting below the alter. He bowed, using the sword as his cross and began to pray. His prayer was simple, beginning with adoration of his God, praising His might and power and beauty and mercy. He then confessed his sins, his willfulness and unbelief. He gave thanks to God for His sacrifice, for purchasing his soul and forgiving his sin. For his many blessings and the joy of his life. Finally, he prayed fervently in supplication for himself and his household and his domain. For all those he would come into contact with this Holy evening and their souls.
He crossed himself and rose, re-sheathing his sword and stepping towards a side door. As he opened it the elf warriors lining the hall broke into song, the Carol of the Bells. Each came to attention, raising his spear into an arch. Nick strode through the arch and out the side door of his home. The courtyard was now lit by hundreds of torches, each held by an elf. All were there, Elf warriors and artisans. Elfesses’ and Elf maidens. He strode out, into the courtyard and looked towards the wood just across the small cleared space out from the yard.
Like ghosts, materializing from the snow a line of reindeer appeared. Each was creamy white with dark brown muzzles and socks and, even from this distance, huge antlers. As they paced towards Nick it became apparent how huge each truly was. Standing over 16 hands high at the shoulder and weighing over 1000 lbs each was a living, breathing example of perfect freedom. The leader approached him first, accepting his hand to sniff and then rubbing his huge head along Nick’s shoulder in affection. He greeted each of the nine reindeer individually and then led the procession to the center of the courtyard. Each of the reindeer took his place in pairs with the lead out in front. Elves ran the sled up behind them and began buckling up the harness. Nick stood back, inspecting the harness and again chuckled to himself the current foolishness revolving around his own myth. The reindeer before him were the embodiment of wild and free and to compare them to the concept of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was truly laughable. These reindeer suffered themselves to be harnessed once a year because they were his allies. All but the two new reindeer bore the scars to mark them as veterans of past Christmas Eves’.
Finally the last buckle was cinched down and the last strap tightened. He strode towards his bench and was met by his wife and five of her elf-maidens. She was still in her velvet dress, but had added an ermine cape. The lead maiden carried a silver tray with a wooden goblet and a clay plate. His lady took the cup of wine and offered it to him. After he had drunk she took it back, drank from it, and placed it back on the tray. She then took the flat loaf of bread from the plate and broke him off a piece. He ate it and she ate hers. She stood up on tiptoe, kissing him passionately and stepping back. The second maiden handed her a black cape, worked with silver wire. She placed it around his shoulders and closed the Celtic knot clasp. He stepped into his sleigh, settling himself. In a holder to his right was a filled flask of black coffee, heavily laced with good Irish whisky. Behind him was a bulging leather sack. It, like the sword, was “special”. Anything that would fit through its neck would fit in the sack and the sack could never be filled up. All he had to do was imagine the person he wished to gift and the appropriate item would come to his hand.
He looked one more time at those around him. The artisans whose work and skill made his mission possible. The warriors who guarded his domain and household. The ladies and house elves who served his family. And, finally, his beautiful beloved. She who sent him off each year with all her love and faith and heart, risking all, trusting his skill and competence and heart and, most of all, their God. He raised an arm in farewell, grasped the reigns in his left hand and spoke to the reindeer “Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!”

Chapter 2

Lifting high on the reins, the sleigh with its lead of reindeer shot rapidly almost straight up. He anticipated his enemies would lay a picket line of minor demons around his domain, seeking to delay his departure long enough for the larger, more deadly demons to arrive from where they circled high above. On many years, he would use his knowledge of the surrounding terrain to fly nape of the earth, between the very tree tops and rapidly out-distance the smaller, slower pickets. But, some years, just to throw off his enemies he rose straight at the greater enemies, meeting them high above the earth in combat to win free into the wider world on his way to his nights missions.

This year was no exception. He could see the smaller pickets, dark oil stains against the white and green background, seeking to rise behind him in a loose circle around his home. Above, the greater enemies floated, bitter clouds with ember eyes, waiting to fall on him. There were three of the great ones this year, coming into line with each other they charged straight at him, one behind the other. Reaching behind him with his right hand, he drew Ororuin from its scabbard and prepared to meet his foe. At the last instant, the lead demon sought to rise above him, doubtless planning to wing around and fall on him from above and behind. He reckoned without Nick’s allies. As the lead demon rose the leader of the reindeer rose also, bringing Nick’s sleigh still further vertical and allowing him to gut the demon from chin to crotch as it rose past. The reindeer’s antlers blazed silver-blue holy fire and the demon’s remains fell past Nick in a cloud of ash and cinders. The second demon in line at the same instant attempted to fall below the sleigh and Nick heard the score of his claws as he found purchase on the bottom of the sleigh, seeking to rip the belly from the craft. The last demon made the fatal mistake of attempting to rip the lead reindeer’s throat out as it reached for the first and was simply trampled down by the nine-thousand plus pounds of reindeer as they passed over him. Nick took his sword and reached low, jabbing with the point of the long sword underneath the carriage until he felt the smoky, slimy resistance of spiritual flesh. He jabbed hard and with a flash of silver-blue light and oily smoke the sounds of wood rending underneath the sleigh ceased.

Nick brought the sleigh down in a hard drive, making for the East. The minor demons still rose in a netlike formation below him but with hoof and sword and his superior speed he simply ran through their formation, making for distant parts of the earth. He surveyed the damage. The lead reindeer had taken a talon cut on the back of the head where the first demon’s paw had sought to turn his head. All of them were coated liberally with ash and cinder burns. He looked beneath his feet and saw that the Holly floor had been gouged clear through in a spot about a half by three inches. Otherwise, there did not appear to be any significant damage. He chuckled a little darkly to himself. The children of the world who had seen him in years past had taken note of his many cinder marks and ash stains and begun the rumor that he came into their homes down their chimneys. As though he wanted to sit on a fire! Still, it had become a little part of his legend that made him smile.

Now that he was free of his pursuers, at least temporarily, he could get on with his mission. Long ago he had been gifted by the Creator with a special mission and the gifts to complete that mission. He would travel the world tonight, outside the confines of time, with the sole mission of bringing the joy and peace of the Savior’s birth to those most in need. For him it would seem a single night but for his family the time would stretch on. He would seem to be gone from home, sometimes for a month, sometimes for a year or more. Then, a year would pass for him at home until the next Christmas Eve in this world.

He surveyed the land beneath him. The world was brighter in many ways than in decades past. Electric lights had supplanted torches, lending the world a sparkling quality under the moon. But the same dark spiritual blotches roamed the streets of the more populace land. Feeding on the fear and anger of Men. Swaying them to live in their woundedness, feeding their base hungers. Clouding their vision so they are unable to see their noble purpose in Creation.

Guided by an instinct he could not name, but had come to trust he steered the sleigh to the South, coming to rest on the lawn of a large mansion, well back in the trees from the light spilling from the many windows.

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Work Weekend

This past weekend we hosted a work day here on Centurion’s Faith Farm. A number of our friends from the Fort Leavenworth Chapel community and Kaw Permaculture came out to help us get the place ready for winter. I owe each of you who came out a great debt. Not only did you help us get some projects done we simply haven’t been able to get done or physically couldn’t get done by ourselves but you validated our whole purpose for doing this great experiment by exhibiting the very heart of community. I can’t stress enough how blessed we are in the community we live in and among. Nothing we do here will mean much of anything if it does not grow family and community.

My special thanks to the Batchelor, Curry and Hanson families and Pete Maynard of Cedar Sky Farm (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32OWQvrdkEU) for all their hard work.

Among the projects we tackled were breaking down a loafing shed in the pond pasture and relocating it to the horse pasture. We now have the corner posts cemented in and will be putting the framing and roof back on this week. This is a major project I could never have done myself which is essential for the health of our horse this winter. The barn and tack room got cleaned (thanks for braving all the spiders ladies!) the kids put plastic around the chicken tractor for use as a cold frame and we built one bin of an eventual 3 bin composting system.

I love this work. I love my family and this farm. I am VERY grateful to each and every one of you who helped out, not just because it aided our family, but because of the investment you made in the future of the community we are trying to develop here. I am excited at where this is all going and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Loafing Shed

Chicken Tractor Mulch

 

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Work Day!

Announcing the first official event at Centurion’s Faith Farm!

Work Weekend Flyer

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I will go for a soldier no more

Well, it appears my time has finally come. As of 30 Sep 13 I will have 17 years, 8 months and 24 days of active and Guard service. Unfortunately, my 3 years of ROTC don’t count towards retirement, but hey, I got a free education, so no complaints here. I have been wearing the uniform, in one way or another, since I enlisted on 30 Oct 1993. In that time I have gone from being a Military Police Private to a cadet to an Ordnance Lieutenant to an Armor officer up to my current rank of Major. I have deployed 3 times for a total of 3.5 years away from my family, twice to Diyala, Iraq and once to Kabul, Afghanistan. I deployed as a Cavalry Platoon Leader, Armor Company Commander and staff flunky. I have missed more birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays than I have made during that time, but hey, I was there to help deliver all 4 of my kids, so no complaints!

During that time, I have never not struggled with maintaining the Army’s height/weight standards. I have never not had to be taped. At Advanced Camp as a cadet I was sent home my junior year because I failed a PT test (principally because I pulled a muscle in my back the day before, but that is how the ball bounces). As a new butter bar down at Ft. Jackson I had the same problem and only pulled out of it by a hair. It cost me a satisfactory rating at my first job, which led me to not be selected for Captain my first look, the kiss of death to my career and why I eventually left active duty for the Guard. Every 6 months for the last 20 years it has been the same stress and the same struggle. In 2007 during my second trip to Iraq I tore the tendon on the outside of my right ankle, and I had to have replacement surgery while I was at Monterey in 2009. The long delay in getting it repaired and the long recovery time after the surgery left me badly out of shape. I’m not complaining or making excuses, my weight gain lies directly on my shoulders, but the last couple of years worth of struggle have been exacerbated by extenuating circumstances I never faced before and added a complicating element to a life-long struggle. But I never quit trying.

The funny thing is, despite this one, major, flaw, I seem to do what I do pretty well. I judge that on 2 things. I have never had a rater or senior rater tell me that my staff work or my leadership or tactical skills or communication skills are anything less than among the very best they have ever seen. I have never had a job where I did not provide much more than what was expected and routinely was asked to mentor my peers to help them learn what I seem to know. And the second is I have had dozens of NCO’s, all of whom I consider consummate professionals, seek me out to maintain contact with me long after I can help their careers. They have sought my council and, long after I have left their commands, thanked me for allowing them to flourish as NCOs and really do their job as it is supposed to be done. So, I guess I do this officer thing pretty well, despite being big-boned.

But, the time for all that is past. While on my third deployment, the powers that be decided that, of all the fat staff officers in Kabul (if you have been there, you know what I mean) I was the single one that needed to be put out of the Army. I am going to refrain at this point from naming names, because the simple fact of the matter is that regardless of the personal, unprofessional animosity of a particular O-6, when it comes to weight; mae culpa, mae culpa, mae culpa. So, based on my own faults, the Army is doing what is within its legal rights and best interest and I will be honorably discharged no later than 15 Oct 2013. The characterization of the discharge is honorable, so I will retain my Post 9/11 GI Bill and VA benefits, but no retirement for me and the personnel code I will receive will prohibit me from re-joining the Guard to finish out my 20. Of course, I can appeal that and likely get it changed and, assuming I get my fat ass in shape, get into the Kansas Guard.

But, with so much that is good and positive opening up before me, I’m not sure I want to.

We just bought 12 acres here near Leavenworth. I finished my Permaculture design course and am now a licensed Permaculture Designer. I have applied to Kansas State for their Masters of Science in Horticulture program with an emphasis on Urban Agriculture. Angela is going bangers with her music at the post chapel and homeschool. I am applying for a part-time, on call job with Northrup-Gruman here at Leavenworth working during staff training exercises as OP-FOR at the staff level. My buddy says they are desperate for guys willing to work part-time and, depending on how much time I want to commit, I can plan to clear between 30 and 60K a year. Of course, that time is a sunk cost that takes me away from developing our farm into a Permaculture showcase and teaching laboratory and developing my own Micro-Ag consulting and design business.

I will actually get to be home and watch my kids grow up. I will get to be one of their homeschool teachers and help with the local homeschool co-op. I can get involved with the outdoor and father-son ministries I have been feeling called toward. I will get to work every day with my best friend.

So, no sour grapes here. I had a great run, got to do things I never thought I would get to do in places I never thought I would get to go. I got to live in Europe, travel all over the Middle East and SW Asia, lead some of the finest warriors ever and earn their respect doing it, and met some of the finest humans alive, anywhere. I will miss it. I will miss the smell of JP-8 running through a tank. I will miss being part of something much bigger than myself but so very visible. I will miss the brotherhood of arms. It isn’t the way I wanted to go out, but it is what it is. I continue to learn about myself and to improve my fighting position every day.

In the coming weeks I will be launching some new endeavors. I need to get a website set up for our Permaculture stuff and a new blog dedicated to that. I need to flesh out my ideas for the farm and begin to develop both local and virtual communities of folks who are interested in what we are doing. My first love has always been teaching, and it has helped me be a great mentor and leader, but I am very excited at the prospects of doing it more directly and in areas I am only just learning myself. It is a great and noble challenge before me and I am as excited as I have ever been.

I can never thank my family and my friends and, particularly, Angela and the kids enough for putting up with and supporting my career.

Onward and Upward!

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Better served cold

Twelve years ago today I was a 1st Lieutenant stationed at Fort Hood, TX. I had just walked into the intelligence section of the Division Support Command HQ when the 1st plane hit the tower. The Sergeant on duty and I both watched the news until the second plane hit, whereupon we both looked at each other and wondered out loud who we were going to war with.

And, indeed, we did go to war. We struck while the iron was hot, and did about as much damage to ourselves as we did to those who struck us. The last 12 years have radically changed America. The Patriot Act has ceded much of our Liberty in the name of ephemeral security. Our military has ground itself far beyond the razors edge, well into the spine of the blade. The force that crushed the Taliban and Saddam in days is now a superb counter-guerrilla force, but has forgotten much of what it knew of war fighting. There is a whole generation of warriors, most of whom bear the scars of war on their body and in their psych. And a whole generation of young warriors who know how to deploy to an established theater at the drop of a hat, but who have lost invaluable experience in how to train for and conduct combat operations in defense of the nation. I’m talking about young infantry and armor NCO’s who can lead patrols, who have proven themselves under fire time and again in small unit actions, but who have no idea how to act as part of a Battalion and above force to close with and destroy the enemy using combined arms.

Our economy is in a shambles. The recompense promised our veterans, civil servants and working stiffs in exchange for 20+ years of hard labor is turning into a Poe inspired pipe dream. Promises were made that cannot be kept. Mega Corporations and Big Labor have colluded at the highest levels to rob Americans of their Liberty, their property and their culture. And we, the willingly led, have surrendered these precious things for baubles and circuses in a con worthy of the rape of any indigenous culture.

Those who died on 9/11 and in the subsequent wars died for a host of inter-connected reasons. In an almost chicken and egg situation, a largely violent and medieval religion, victims of economic injustice, corporate welfare and Western imperialism struck at what once was a bastion of Freedom in a way abhorrent to the tenets of the religion against a foe that was already circling the drain of cultural rot.

We reap what we sow. 9/11 was both a reaping and a sowing. We are in a summer season, rapidly approaching fall. The crops sown on 9/11 are beginning to bear fruit in the Arab Spring, increasing tribalism, the polarization of the American public and the crushing of the world economy. There is a point, one I fear we are already past, where the end result can be changed and a bitter crop redeemed. But, History does not provide much hope.

America is as internally divided as she was in the 1850’s, maybe more so. The division is not the neat and clean division of North and South, or even the bitter division of slave vs. abolitionist. It is a street by street division of producers and consumers, pro-Liberty vs. security at any price individuals. And the boiling tension is reaching a critical mass. All that is missing is a catalyst event. If we do not pull back from the brink and find rational solutions to these problems History tells us there is only one solution. We fight it out and winner takes all. I have had this similar conversation with, literally, hundreds of individuals, the vast majority veterans. To a man and woman they have, privately, made statements that in a court of law would probably qualify as advocating armed insurrection. And the sense I have from reading the writings of the Left and talking with folks I know who hold very opposite views from me is their level of frustration is also rapidly approaching the level of violence. Certainly there is sufficient evidence of racial tension reaching a violent tipping point.

Some of my friends advocate fixing these things at the ballot box. Some will tell you the ballot box is already bought and paid for, the best you can hope for is to stock up on beans and bullets and keep your head down. And others will tell you that the very act of voting is immoral, that what you could not morally do as an individual you cannot morally vote to have the government do by proxy for you, namely use force and the threat of force to relieve an individual of their property to pay for things you cannot pay for on your own.

I find myself caught in the middle of those three positions. I simply haven’t made up my mind. What I do know is, whatever side of the current arguments you come down on, embrace them fully. Live your life with gusto, pouring out all that you have as a libation to the values, mores, customs, beliefs and desires you hold dear. I may not agree with you. It may even come down, some day, to my looking at you over the barrel of a gun. But let us not live small lives. The one thing we can truly do to honor the fallen, on all sides, is to do what they cannot. Live fully alive!

Option A: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFHJ41ktt3Q

Option B:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFi7bWkyRpA

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Geese

So, it seems my pastures need some love. The guy I had come look to see if he wanted to cut them for hay said I had too much fescue among the brome and clover and it was only fit for cows and goats. The Extension would have me disk it, spray herbicide and replant. After much consideration, and the recommendation from a friend to mob graze it, I have come up with a variation. Why not mob graze it with geese? I think it is worth a try, if I can find some geese!

The pic is my design for a geese enclosure that is moveable around the pasture. Not worried about predators with adult geese other than a pack of coyotes, but I think we will be ok. What do yall think?

Goose House

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New Chicken Tractor

So, I go by the recycle drop off fairly regular now, I have been collecting cardboard boxes since they come broken down and I can use them in our garden to transition from traditional to raised bed system.
bed 2

A few days ago in the metal bin I found this metal twin bed and thought immediately “Chicken Tractor!”. The bed is very solid and heavy and about 18” from the ground to the top of the center head and foot boards and, importantly, the head and foot boards are level.

ch tractor 1

ch tractor 2

The chicken wire is recycle from when we rebuilt the coop in the pasture. The boards are from the Home Depot bad wood bin and the top board is from a pile left by the previous owner out behind the tractor barn. The bottom is 2×4 with 1×2 cross pieces screwed down. That held the bed pretty tight and created a firm foundation.
I then tied the bed down to the cross rail with a hitch knot.

ch tractor 3

ch tractor 4

ch tractor 5

I stapled the wire around the bottom, piecing it together from a couple of large pieces and zip tying the edges together.
At some point I may cut a door into it, but for now I have two 550 cord handles on each end and can simply chuck a couple of chickens up under it. I will be adding a plastic cover over 1/3 at some point before I use it, to provide shade and I may build a portable nesting box for keeping laying hens in there.
Just because she is cute!

girl1

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