Blueberry Jam and Country Childhood Memories

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Vanilla Blueberry Jam Recipe and Country Childhood Memories
Vanilla Blueberry Jam Recipe and Country Childhood Memories

My sister and I grew up running barefoot through 10 acres of dense Florida woods. That 10-acre farm held our home, my grandmother’s home (a house my grandfather built with his own hands), a chicken coup, a fresh vegetable garden, a plethora of climbable trees and hiding spots only we knew about, and a gazillion wild blueberry bushes.

How Country Girls Spend Summer

Our summers were simple. Sometimes, we helped my grandmother collect eggs or pick fresh veggies out of her garden. Lord knows I’ve shelled more than my fair share of peas. If I never have to hull another butter bean, I’ll be happy.  During late summer afternoons, we’d play Hide and Seek, coming home when the lightning bugs twinkled like secretive pixies hiding in the darkened woodland scrubs.

Little green blueberries from my yard. They are just waiting to ripen so I can make blueberry jam
Little green blueberries from my yard. They are just waiting to ripen so I can make blueberry jam

My sister and I picked the sweetest wild blueberries. When the dinner bell rang, we came home covered in scratches, mosquito bites, red clay, and blueberry juice.  Believe me. That stuff gets everywhere!

Sometimes, we’d take a 5-gallon bucket and fill the buckets with the wild berries.  My dad sometimes sold them to his work buddies. Sometimes, we’d give some to my grandmother.

My grandmother frequently canned her garden bounty. I remember a huge barrel full of pickles she used to prop her kitchen door open. She also made the sweetest homemade rum for her rum cakes.  It seemed like always cooked.

One of my favorite memories, I was so small that I had to stand on a chair to see over the counter top.  I stood on a large swivel chair my grandfather carved from a whiskey barrel. I’d eat her raw biscuit dough faster than she could cut them out.

My Second Home

To me, my grandmother’s house was a second home. I spent so much time there and had such a close relationship with my grandparents that I called their home my playhouse. I remember my grandfather pulling me in my red Radio Flyer wagon down the long, bumpy dirt path separating our patch of woods from theirs. My favorite and earliest memories come from that farm.

My own family moved around a bit. In fact, in my entire life, I’ve never lived in one place for more than five years. However, I’ve lived on that farm several times. When I was born, my mother had a little trailer there. After that, we moved to Grand Bay, a small town in southern Alabama. When I was 10, we moved back to that farm – putting our own trailer right in the same spot my mother lived when I was born. Then, when I was 15, we moved to the other side of town.

When I was an adult, I moved back there again with my own two small children – into that same trailer. Again, we lived there five years, and I moved.

The House That Built Me

Have you heard the song by Miranda Lambert? The House that Built Me? (If not, I linked to it so you can hear it. It’s free with Amazon Prime). In a lot of ways, that patch of woods is the home that built me. Whenever I felt broken, it was where I felt safe. I always knew that place as my home. Don’t get me wrong. I feel like my parent’s house is home, but we didn’t move there till I was 15 – and I moved out three years later. Their house wasn’t the ever-present home from my childhood.

Unfortunately, I said my final goodbyes to the family place a few weeks ago. The neighborhood is changing. It’s no longer a small farming community. Huge, overcrowded covenanted subdivisions and gated communities are springing up overnight and pushing the small, country folks out. My grandmother couldn’t take care of the place anymore. So she sold the land and moved in next to my parents.

We all got together to help her move. It was a family affair. My nephew, niece, husband, parents, grandmother, and great-uncle gathered to help her move into her beautiful new place. It’s a charming modular home that suits her well.

Conflicted

While I am happy for my grandmother and feel it is all for the best, I find myself conflicted. I can never go back to that home. The one place that represented stability is gone. Soon, concrete driveways will replace that dirt path. Houses with yards so close together that a person can spit in their neighbor’s lawn will replace the rambling forest.  Street lights will displace the lightning bugs.

I guess that’s the difference for me – Miranda Lambert could go back to her childhood home. I cannot.

Thankfully, when we moved back home to Florida, David and I were blessed enough to find some wooded acreage that reminds me of home. I think it’s a place I’d finally like to live for more than five years.

Recreating Memories

But like the song – I did take my memories. And I left for the last time.

That place is an essential part of who I am. While I will mourn its loss, I have many memories that I can pass on. I have my photos. I have good times. And I can do things that remind me of home. Like remembering the familiar smells of my grandmother’s  southern cooking and her homemade jam.

My mother brought us a ton of blueberries from her bushes, and I was especially missing the old place. Moving was still fresh. I decided to make my own blueberry jam.

Since David is diabetic, I modified it. So, this isn’t exactly like my Grandmother’s blueberry jam. I don’t add any sugar at all.  The blueberries are sweet enough, in my opinion. Give it a taste after it’s done cooking. If it needs a little sweetness, stir in a little agave or monk fruit to taste.

My vanilla blueberry jam with goat cheese and crackers
My vanilla blueberry jam with goat cheese and crackers

I couldn’t resist having a spoon of it with goat cheese and crackers right after I made it. It was delicious! And peaceful -and almost as sweet as the memories it inspired.

Pectin-Free Blueberry Jam with Vanilla

  • Cook time: 30
  • Total time: 30

Yields: 2 1/2 Cups

This no-sugar added blueberry jam uses no pectin, but relies on the fruit’s natural pectin for thickening. It gets its sweetness from the blueberries themselves and a surprise ingredient – a handful of raisins. Vanilla adds a bit of unexpected flavor depth. This makes a small batch of about 1 1/2 pints.

  • 1 1/2 lb blueberries
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Juice of one lemon
  • grated lemon peel
  • 1 TBSP Vanilla
  • 1/4 Agave (Optional)

Place an empty saucer in the freezer.

Combine all ingredients except vanilla into a pot.

Cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium, uncover, and allow to cook for about 15 minutes - until most of the liquid is gone.

Place a small spoon of jam onto plate in the freezer. Allow to sit in freezer for a couple of minutes. Touch the jam. If it's gel-like, it's ready. Otherwise, give it a few more minutes on the stove.

When it's ready, stir in vanilla.

Taste for sweetness. If you prefer it sweeter, stir in a little monk fruit or agave syrup. I added about 1/4 cup agave syrup at this point because David likes things a bit sweeter.

Pour into jar and refrigerate. It should stay fresh for a month.

Full Nutrition Information - Figured with Agave

Calories 19, Total Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 0 mg, Potassium 33 mg, Total Carbohydrate 6 g, Dietary Fiber 1 g, Sugars 4 g, Protein 0 g, Vitamin A 0 %, Vitamin C 2 %, Calcium 0 %, Iron 1 %

The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the USFDA. I use a publicly available online nutrition calculator. Nutrition information may vary by brands used and individual cooking methods.

Nutrition

  • Calories: 19
  • Carbs: 6 grams

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.My words are:

exactly ~ eggs ~ secretive ~ scrubs ~ pixie
They were submitted by: http://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

Here are the links to the other blogs in this challenge:

  1. Baking in a Tornado
  2. Cognitive Script
  3. Part-time Working Hockey Mom
  4. On The Border
  5. Blogging 911
  6. The Bergham Chronicles
  7. Southern Belle Charm
  8. Bookworm in the Kitchen
  9. Climaxed
This country vanilla blueberry jam uses no pectin. The agave syrup is completely optional. If you don't add it, it's a no-sugar added jam. It only takes 30 minutes to make.
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Happily married to the love of my life. It's just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I'm loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.


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Alicia Taylor

Happily married to the love of my life. It's just us, our 5 cats, and our beautiful woods. I'm loving living back in the Florida panhandle being close to family. I love cooking, living a healthy lifestyle, taking care of our cozy home, and trying new things.

We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.

79 Comments

  • Elizabeth O

    August 23, 2017 - 1:48 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of blueberry jams but yours sounds delicious. I love the addition of vanilla and the huge reduction of sugar. I’d love to try your recipe.

  • Vanessa

    August 23, 2017 - 3:53 am

    This recipe looks good, but I assume that the memories make it even more special! I feel the same with my mom’s strawberry jam

  • cookilicious

    August 22, 2017 - 3:16 pm

    I always love it when a recipe rekindles so many wonderful memories.

  • Swathi

    August 21, 2017 - 10:04 pm

    I born and brought up in India but now going to visit my family back there is not easy I always think yes almost 3 years I have made a visit. Yes family home and grandma is always fond memories. Happy to hear about your memories too. Love these blueberry jam, homemade is best.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 22, 2017 - 9:39 am

      I just saw her yesterday 🙂 It was heartwarming. I am glad that I don’t live far away anymore. It must be hard being separated from family for so long.

  • Krizia Velez | Reckless Babe

    August 21, 2017 - 11:51 am

    My grandparents home in Mexico City was like a second home for me as well… I spent most of the winter breaks there when I was little. I miss them and it a lot, same as you, I have memories that will never forget. On another note, I can’t wait to try the blueberry jam!

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 21, 2017 - 1:27 pm

      I hope you do try it! Be sure to let me know if you do 😀

  • Marlynn Schotland

    August 21, 2017 - 10:17 am

    I love fresh homemade berry jam! I think we’ve made so many different kinds but can you believe we’ve never made blueberry? We always pick so many blueberries each year and I’ll have to try your recipe!

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 21, 2017 - 1:27 pm

      It is really easy to make. I’ve made several kinds, too – but blueberry is my favorite by far.

  • Christine - Jar Of Lemons

    August 20, 2017 - 7:04 pm

    Obsessed! This looks so incredible. I’m really loving blueberries right now, so I definitely want to try it out!

  • Noel Lizotte

    August 20, 2017 - 9:19 am

    food and memories are so often tightly bound. Thanks for sharing your recipe! I’ll be trying it out.

  • nicoleflintkontrol

    August 20, 2017 - 5:15 am

    Childhood memories are the best! Mmmmm thay bluberry jam recipe sounds amazing, even with the goat cheese. Savory and sweet 🙂

  • Veena Azmanov

    August 20, 2017 - 4:49 am

    Love the wonderful memories of you and your grandmother. Those are the best ones. I love Blueberry Jam and I am too make it without any pectic. It’s the best and most delicious.. I always love the color or blueberry jam the best!

  • Via Bella

    August 19, 2017 - 8:16 pm

    I would not thought that blueberries and vanilla go together in a jam. That sounds delicious.
    XO

  • Gloria Duggan

    August 19, 2017 - 5:15 pm

    I loved reading about you and your grandma. I too have wonderful memories about her….I would visit every day after school. Now that I am a gramma myself, I am trying to create wonderful memories with my grandkids too. As for blueberries….they are my favourite berry of all. My aunt had a fruit orchard when I was young. It did not have berries, but I spent lots of time picking pears, cherries, plums and peaches.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 21, 2017 - 1:30 pm

      Yes – I think grandparents play such an integral part of children’s lives. I am really blessed to still be able to visit with my grandmother and continue making memories with her. The jam is delicious – and like you – we grew up with all kinds of fruit trees. My grandmother had persimmons, kumquat, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and – my favorite – figs.

  • alisonrost

    August 19, 2017 - 1:00 am

    I too grew up on a farm, although is in Iowa. I have the most wonderful memories of the church ladies getting together to make jam on Saturday afternoons. There was nothing better in the winter time than pulling out a jar of jam made with fresh-off-the-vine berries! x

  • Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh

    August 18, 2017 - 9:25 pm

    Oh my goodness, aren’t childhood memories the best?! I love blueberry jam, it’s one of my favorites, and I love the sound of adding vanilla.

  • Gabriel

    August 18, 2017 - 4:32 pm

    I’m in the exact boat. My father died unexpectedly a couple of years back and trying to decide what to do with the cabin that he and I spent three years building is heartbreaking.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 18, 2017 - 10:02 pm

      I’m sorry for your loss. I know it’s been a while, but I’m sure you still miss him daily. I hope you are able to come to peace with whatever decision needs to be made.

  • Tanvi Rastogi (@Tanviidotcom)

    August 18, 2017 - 10:48 am

    With time I have realized the concept of ‘home’ is quite transparent. It is more of a place in my heart than physical presence. But I get what you meant there. I have never had blueberry jam. I always go for strawberry 😀

  • keisha1989

    August 18, 2017 - 10:16 am

    I love blueberries! this jam sounds amazing!!

  • brigettedanielle

    August 18, 2017 - 8:22 am

    I remember picking mulberries all summer with my grandma to make jam! It was the best part of my summers, besides camping lol. This sounds really easy and yummy!

  • Vanessa

    August 18, 2017 - 6:03 am

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. My mother is considering selling the family house and my heart sinks every time I think of it

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 18, 2017 - 10:38 am

      While it’s a sad occasion, I hope that you can hold on to some positive memories.

  • Allison

    August 17, 2017 - 8:27 pm

    This recipe is mouth watering! I’ve never tried adding vanilla to a jam before but it sounds wonderful.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 18, 2017 - 10:39 am

      It is. It’s not extremely noticeable, but it does add a mellow flavor.

  • Amber K

    August 17, 2017 - 1:26 pm

    You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had blueberry jam. Strawberry is my go to, but I’m going to have to try this now.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 17, 2017 - 1:50 pm

      I’m betting this would work with strawberries, too! I haven’t ever tried it – but it’s a favorite.

  • Shannon Gurnee

    August 17, 2017 - 11:30 am

    I am very excited to start making jam. This combination sounds delicious!

  • kleebanks

    August 17, 2017 - 9:08 am

    The blueberry jam looks scrumptious! I can relate on losing your childhood home. My Dad passed away in 2002, and my Mom in 2011. My siblings and I were left with the task of cleaning out the old homestead and selling it, and the profit was split four ways as our inheritance, since our parents were not wealthy for any other kind of inheritance. It is sad that we can no longer go back to that place we called home.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 17, 2017 - 1:53 pm

      I am very sorry for your loss. It’s hard to say goodbye to the place, but I am blessed that I still have my grandmother.

  • Lynndee

    August 16, 2017 - 11:43 am

    Great story! This reminds me of our house where I grew up. We checked it out on our recent vacation to my hometown and it was no longer there and the place didn’t look like the place I remember. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for sharing your jam recipe. Looks good!

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 16, 2017 - 1:55 pm

      I know that was disappointing for you. I hope you enjoy the jam recipe 😀

  • Carol Cassara

    August 16, 2017 - 7:51 am

    That’s really lovely! I’ve always enjoyed the combination of blueberry and goat cheese. This jam looks so good! I’d love to keep the recipe, thank you.

  • Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

    August 16, 2017 - 4:38 am

    Wild Blueberry and vanilla sounds like the perfect breakfast treat to me! #NomNomNom Get in me Belly! 🙂

  • HilLesha

    August 16, 2017 - 12:17 am

    How delicious! I have always loved blueberry jam, but I have never actually made my own before. I need to try to sometime, though!

  • Chrystal | Nevermore Lane

    August 15, 2017 - 5:15 pm

    I love blueberries so much. In about 2 weeks the neighboring town has their annual Blueberry Festival and I count down every year.

  • Amy @ The Cook Report

    August 15, 2017 - 3:48 pm

    I love the idea of adding vanilla to this jam, sounds delicious

  • Meyer Food Blog

    August 15, 2017 - 3:37 pm

    I could eat this without anything – awesome, thanks!

  • Jenn

    August 15, 2017 - 2:55 pm

    What amazing memories! Sounds like the perfect childhood. And this jam looks wonderful too!

  • Hannah Healy

    August 15, 2017 - 2:52 pm

    This looks so yummy and tasty! Ready to put it on everything and anything.

  • brandidcrawfordgmailcom

    August 15, 2017 - 2:49 pm

    Yum! This looks delicious! I love that you paired it with goat cheese.

  • Mrs. Jilly Spellman

    August 15, 2017 - 2:48 pm

    This jam looks incredible Alicia! I would have never thought of using raisins! The pictures are mouthwatering.

  • Carrie Chance

    August 15, 2017 - 7:38 am

    Oh that looks and sounds amazing. I was craving blueberries last night and this would have hit the spot for sure. Yum!

  • Dogvills

    August 15, 2017 - 2:00 am

    This sounds yummy. Both my husband and dad are suffering from diabetis. I want to make this for them. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 15, 2017 - 11:53 am

      My husband really enjoys it. He also has diabetes, so I try to find recipes that don’t use artificial sweeteners that are still low-glycemic.

  • Ricci

    August 15, 2017 - 1:59 am

    Oh gosh this jam sounds amazing!! I would love to make my own jam one day!!

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 15, 2017 - 11:54 am

      It’s so easy! It only takes 30 minutes, too!

  • Reesa

    August 14, 2017 - 10:45 pm

    I love reading about your special memories. We just planted blueberry bushes.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 15, 2017 - 11:54 am

      I love my wild blueberries. It’s nice to have them fresh every year – and I don’t have to pay grocery store prices for them.

  • NYCTechMommy

    August 14, 2017 - 9:08 pm

    You had me at jam! Crackers and jam are my go to snack when I need something a little sweet. I must try this! Crazy how food can be so connected to our childhood memories. 🙂

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 15, 2017 - 11:55 am

      Isn’t it though? The sense of smell is the #1 memory trigger for people and food is strongly tied to the olfactory senses. So it does make sense that it would bring comfort.

  • Kristin

    August 14, 2017 - 8:42 pm

    This looks so great! My kids would love to do this as a family!

  • Candy Olivares

    August 14, 2017 - 8:27 pm

    My kiddos just love blueberries. We are going to have to make this for their lunches.

  • fashionbeyondforty

    August 14, 2017 - 7:45 pm

    It is sad not to be able to go back home to the place of our best memories. I need acreage! At least a little! I would love to have my own blueberries growing ! I may have to try this next year. Now truth is, you had me at JAM. All of my life I have been a HUGE lover of quality jams. I love your recipe and plan to try it!

  • Gingermommy

    August 14, 2017 - 7:30 pm

    Wow! This looks amazing and delicious. Homemade JAM! My family would love this, there is nothing better in the morning that a good jam on toast!

  • Dawn Nieves

    August 14, 2017 - 6:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing your memories with us. It sounds like you have some really wonderful memories there. And this jam looks delicious. I cannot wait to try it!

  • Rebecca

    August 14, 2017 - 5:54 pm

    I miss the simple life before electronics. Don’t get me wrong I love my computer but I miss spending summer by the lake swimming and picking fresh berries for homemade jam. Those were the days.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 14, 2017 - 5:55 pm

      Those were the days. I was just telling David the other day that if someone dropped a bomb that eliminated all electronics, I would not miss it.

  • Eloise

    August 14, 2017 - 5:33 pm

    my mother makes jam every now and then, I have yet to try it, but I should try your recipe and surprise her with it! blueberries are one of my favorite fruits and they’re so good for you (superfood!) thanks for sharing ; )

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 14, 2017 - 5:55 pm

      I bet she would love it – and with the vanilla and lemon, it’s got an interesting flavor. It’s so easy to make, too!

  • Alecia

    August 14, 2017 - 5:24 pm

    I grew in in the country, near my grandparents dairy farm. I have so many memories there. It stopped being a working dairy somewhere in my early teens but even now I go back to pick feral apples off the trees planted by my great grandparents. My grandfather died in January and the farm has been on my mind more than usual.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 14, 2017 - 5:58 pm

      It’s interesting how a place can have a stabilizing influence. When things are hard, I really crave the quiet life at my grandparents place. I’m sorry for your loss, Alecia. I hope you are close enough to drive by and pick some apples again – and keep your grandfather, your connection to him, his connection to your great-grands – and the all of your connections to the land – in peaceful thoughts.

  • irishred13

    August 14, 2017 - 4:47 pm

    That jam looks delicious! Where can I get a jar 😉

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 14, 2017 - 5:07 pm

      It’s easy to make 🙂 Recipe in the bottom

  • Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle

    August 14, 2017 - 4:29 pm

    Yummo! Our neighbors have blueberry bushes, so I see some delicious blueberry jam in our future next year! Om nom nom.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 14, 2017 - 5:59 pm

      You should make a little extra for your neighbors. It has an unexpected flavor twist

  • Rena

    August 13, 2017 - 9:36 pm

    What a beautiful memory extremely well told! I have two year old twin grandchildren who spend a lot of time here and I hope their memories are as sweet as yours after I’m gone.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 14, 2017 - 11:28 am

      I hope they do, as well. My memories with my grandparents are some of my most precious. I am blessed that she is still alive and my adult children have gotten to know her. My mom and dad have been there to provide “grandparent” memories for my children as well. Grandparents are a vital part of children’s lives.

  • Cognitive Script ~ Dawn

    August 11, 2017 - 5:29 pm

    Good job with the words but thank you for sharing your memories and heart. I do love that song! The house that built me no longer stands and is but a distant memory.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 14, 2017 - 11:31 am

      I got to see her sing it live in concert before it was released on an album. It became my favorite right away – and I’ve always related that song to my grandmother’s place. I didn’t know how much that song would mean to me.

  • Jules B

    August 11, 2017 - 4:44 pm

    Such great use of your words!!! This jam looks amazing. My Gigi LOVES blueberries. House that Built Me is one of my favorite songs ever. Great post!! Thank you for sharing the memories and recipe!!!

  • Karen

    August 11, 2017 - 2:54 pm

    You got my words!!!! Great job and welcome!!!! Wonderful memories, I know it was bittersweet when my parents sold the home I grew up in. I am happy for them, but wow, what a surreal situation.

    So going to try this! My guy loves blueberries.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 11, 2017 - 3:02 pm

      Yes – it won’t just be sold, though. They are going to tear it all down and build an apartment condo complex. And yes – your words took on a feeling of their own 🙂

  • bakinginatornado

    August 11, 2017 - 11:10 am

    Such a bittersweet time. I’m glad your grandmother is in a house that suits her, but I know it must be hard not to be able to return to the place you came to know as home.
    Hubs and I are blueberry lovers. Your recipe looks amazing.

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 11, 2017 - 12:00 pm

      We love blueberries, too. And yes – that recipe is good. It makes a small batch, but it’s easily doubled. I am very happy my grandmother is nearer to my mother now. And her new home is beautiful.

  • Tamara Gerber

    August 11, 2017 - 9:48 am

    Sorry to hear your “home” you could always come back to is now gone. Good thing you made lots of wonderful memories! Eating that delicious blueberry jam will certainly bring back those memories.
    Nice job on your first USE YOUR WORDS!

    • Alicia Taylor

      August 11, 2017 - 12:01 pm

      Thank you, Tamara! Yes, I have many wonderful memories growing up there. The place meant so much to me that, when we moved back home to Florida, my husband made sure we bought a place with lots of trees 🙂

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