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6 Posts authored by: Scott Stone
Scott Stone

Sale Day

Posted by Scott Stone Nov 8, 2017

This is an article from the November 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.

 

The day has arrived. I knew it would come, but had hoped not so fast; and maybe some days not fast enough. Nonetheless, it is here and I must face reality. There will be sadness for sure, an empty spot in my heart, but it is time to hand the ownership of these kids over to the next individual.

 

As I sat on a cold stump in the yard, I could not help but realize that just like this chapter on the farm is coming to a close, so is another chapter in my life. My years of service to the NAAE has been a journey that I will forever cherish. As I think about sale day on the farm, there a lot of parallels to my years of service. 

 

I can remember back to when the kids were born. There was a warm streak in December, and thankfully, the mommas decided that would be a great time to go in to labor. The barn had been cleaned, disinfected, and re-bedded in preparation for the new crop of kids.

 

The process of raising these kids started way earlier in the year. About 7 months ago, I sat down with my children and we talked about which bucks to use on which does. We studied the phenotype and genetic potential of each doe and selected the buck that would enrich the doe's strong points and improve her areas of weakness, all with the goal of producing offspring that would be better than either parent. After we had done all we could, we put the bucks in and left it to fate.

 

Just like we strategize on which bucks to use on the does, I could not be more proud of the strategical work the NAAE Board of Directors, committee chairs and members, and the NAAE staff do to ensure that the programs and services offered through NAAE best meet the needs of our members across this country.  We evaluate all programs and redesign, develop new, and sometimes remove programs and services to best meet the needs of our members. Since I started as a regional secretary, I have seen numerous changes put in to motion for the betterment of our members. Whether it was a new committee structure or revamping our awards program, we are constantly changing to better our organization.

 

Now here we are, five months later, and the first signs of labor have begun. The first set of twins came late at night. It was an easy delivery, but the mother only wanted to nurse one of the babies. After some time and retrying numerous times, she finally accepted the other kid. You see on our farm, it is our goal to produce more highly-developed kids this year than we did last year.

 

Just like in the case of this doe, Ellen and the entire staff, dedicate themselves to recruiting and saving every ag teacher in the country. Given the shortage of ag teachers we face, we must do everything in our power to recruit, train, and retain the best ag teachers. Now, once we get the teachers into the classroom, Alissa and her team provide the best professional development possible, so that our ag teachers have the necessary tools to experience success. 

 

Then the second doe began -- this was not such an easy birth because the first kid was backwards. So we had to do what we had to do -- glove up and help with the delivery. After some effort, we were able to free the first kid and the other two came with ease. This doe quickly took all three, and they were up on their feet in no time.

 

Serving as a leader in NAAE does not come without struggles. When we first made the change in the committee structure, many individuals were quickly frustrated and wanted to change back. I will never forget the meeting where I made the motion to stay with the new structure for three years and then re-evaluate. My heart was pounding in my chest. What if this is not the right decision? What if this hurts the organization instead of helping? But in hindsight, I think it was the right decision. Once we got the new committee structure up and running, it has been amazing to see how the members have taken ownership of their committees and are bringing forth new ideas for the betterment of all.     

 

The third doe went into labor, but unfortunately she delivered a single stillborn baby. However, it was not a total loss. We now had a doe to milk and provide nutrition for any kids that needed extra milk or to be bottle fed.

 

Sometimes along the way, decisions do not work out like we want. But we have to always be willing to put the loss aside and take away lessons learned. How can we use the present situation to improve all the other circumstances surrounding us? At every board meeting, I am amazed how our staff and board members take a challenge and craft an idea or concept that will help not only the affected party, but everyone in the future.

 

The fourth doe had a set of twins with ease. The first kid to hit the ground was strong and healthy. You could see he was a fighter. The second kid lacked in the area of desire to live. It is a good thing we have a great team on the farm. My wife and daughter snatched up the baby and took it into the house to warm up and give it a mixture of molasses and coffee. This concoction, which my wife found the recipe for on the internet, was sure to provide the extra boost the baby needed.

 

This doe reminds me how important it is to have a great team. I feel like we have a staff that builds on each other’s strengths to help further the profession. I am truly humbled to have had the opportunity to work with such a dedicated staff, board of directors, committee chairs, and members. Just like the coffee and molasses mixture provides support to the kid, the sponsors of our organization are invaluable in allowing us to meet the ever-changing needs of our members. Then I am reminded of how helpful the internet is, and I cannot help but think of all the great resources that are out there for teachers on Communities of Practice. I have watched teachers upload numerous documents on mentoring and professional development.  Every time I use CoP, I am reminded how talented ag teachers are and how their lessons and ideas are oftentimes life-saving to my lesson plans.

 

Soon the does had all finished giving birth and the exciting time began. The moms did their jobs and the babies grew. It is always fun to watch the kids run and play in the pasture as they explore the new world around them.

 

One of my fondest memories of my years of service was spending time in the NAAE booth at National FFA Convention.  I had the joy of watching ag teachers bring their students to one of the premier leadership development events. I experienced ag teachers reconnecting with fellow ag teachers and sharing stories. This is what teaching ag is all about -- the connections you make. I am very grateful for every teacher who has played a role in my journey, and I hope each teacher can find traveling partners like I have.

 

Then came weaning time. This is never fun. The does cry and the babies run the fences looking for their moms. As hard as it is, it is something that must be done. The moms need a break and it is time to move the kids to more solid diets, which will provide the extra nutrients needed for them to grow to their full potential. 

 

Another highlight of my year, was working with student teachers and Teach Ag Ambassadors.  It has been so rewarding to see these new professionals grow and develop when they enter their own classrooms. I know they have not been without struggles, but our organization has put a lot of safety nets in place to help them not only survive, but to also flourish.

 

Now, several months later, the same team who worked so hard to get the babies here and keep them alive are loading them on the truck one-by-one, to sell to a new owner. I cannot help but think about all the joys and struggles that have taken place over the past several months. 

 

In a few short days, I will hand the gavel over to Nick Nelson, who will do an amazing job leading the organization. It has been a true honor to serve each and every member of NAAE. The team we have assembled is second to none. Each and every member of the leadership team serves each day with compassion and humility. I feel like we have made progress as an organization over the past few years. Just like it took a team to raise our goats, I would have accomplished nothing as President without the team we have.

 

When the gavel falls at the livestock auction and the auctioneer says "sold," it is my sincere wish that the new owner of the goat kids my family sold proclaims, “these goats are better than his crop was last year,” and “the former owners did everything in their power to produce the best kids possible”.

 

When the final gavel falls at convention and Nick says "meeting adjourned," I hope that our members feel like they are in a better place due to my service to the organization. If that is the case, then I have fulfilled my goals as President of the NAAE. 

 

This is my final observation from my side of the barnyard as your NAAE President.   

 

Sincerely,

 

Scott   

 

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Scott Stone

Everyone Wins!

Posted by Scott Stone Sep 6, 2017

This is an article from the September 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.

 

One of my favorite summer activities is attending the county fair. As an agriculture instructor, I get to spend a lot of time in the fair barns watching my students and my children prepare for the shows. Whether it is the occasional water fight at the wash rack, or the fake spider being dropped over the rafters and in front of fair goers, there is never a dull moment. 

 

When you ask the public about their favorite part of the fair, you will have an onslaught of answers ranging from the food to the truck and tractor pulls, but my answer never changes. My favorite part of the fair is watching the 4-H and FFA members helping each other to prepare for the shows. On one end of the barn, an older member can be seen helping clip a first-year member’s calf. In the small animal barn, you can see children helping each other comb out the rabbits. In the swine barn, the exhibitors all grab a pig sorting board and help guide the pigs to the ring. It seems like an "all-hands-on-deck for everyone" kind of atmosphere.

 

Now this summer, I had an acquaintance that had not been to a lot of county fairs and he insinuated that once the exhibitors entered the ring, the "one-for-all, all-for-one" attitude would end quickly. My response was, "just wait and see." He was amazed that exhibitors would show other members' animals to the best of their ability, even though they had their own animals. Then came the high fives and handshakes of the winner from everyone they just beat. He said, "what is wrong with these children, are they happy about losing?" My response was, "no, they just realize that when one person wins, they all win."

 

Now the very same thing can be said about agriculture teachers across the country. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times, “you ag teachers are like one big family, you all are in this for the benefit of everyone.” My response is, "yes we are ,and that is what makes us so special." 

 

For the skeptics out there, you have to look no further than the NAAE Communities of Practice website. Teachers from across the country have shared thousands of documents relating to content, useful documents, and Career Development Event training materials. Even though our students will someday be competing against each other in competitions and for jobs, the crazy fact is, just like the showman at the fair, the fierce competitors will be the first to turn and congratulate the winners. You see, we realize that when one person wins, we all win.

 

If that was not enough evidence, you can look at the ag ed discussion boards, ag teacher share, and lead teacher mentoring programs. All of these avenues are used so that we can train and retain the highest quality of ag teachers in this country.

 

Even with all the family members helping out, we still we need more to join us every day, if we are to provide a high-quality teacher for every program, in every county, in every state. This challenge makes National Teach Ag Day of utmost importance. On this day, we will take time to celebrate those in the profession, roll out the green carpet for those entering the profession, and show college students why they should join the profession.

 

I cannot wait to join fellow NAAE members, agriculture students, and sponsors in Chicago. This will be a time to celebrate those in the family and welcome new members into the family. Ellen, Andrea, and Victoria have assembled a schedule that will offer something for everyone, in every stage of their ag teaching career, during the National Teach Ag Day celebration. I am most excited about the agriculture teacher spotlights, which will allow us to highlight some of the best and brightest agriculture teachers in the country.

 

Along with Ellen, Andrea, and Victoria, the NAAE staff has been very busy working on our behalf. Dr. Jackman spent a few weeks in Uganda as part of the NAAE Farmer to Farmer initiative. Alissa is working on developing high-quality professional development sessions to be held at the National FFA Convention and the NAAE Convention. Julie is working on developing the promotional materials, along with videos that will highlight our members at both conventions. Ashley is busy processing state rosters to ensure our members can take advantage of their membership benefits. Last but far from least, Katie is planning and preparing all the space and facility needs for our conventions.

 

As I exit the county fair for the evening, I cannot help but wonder if the county fair exhibitors act the way they do as a result of the influence they see on a daily basis from their agriculture teachers. I am convinced that is the case, and this is just another one of my observations from my side of the barnyard.

 

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Scott Stone

Premiums Due!

Posted by Scott Stone Jul 7, 2017

This is an article from the July 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.

 

As I came in from a long day of work, I sat down at the table to go through the mail.  The first couple of pieces were ads that could be thrown away. The next was a back to school letter. I was in no way ready to read that, so I shuffled through to the next envelope. The next envelope was larger than most and had the red and black MO Farm Bureau emblem on it. There was no mistaking what was in that envelope -- my car insurance premiums are due.

 

As I opened the envelope to see how much it would be, I began to think about car insurance. It is a necessary evil. It is something I need but hope to never use. I read that there is a car wreck somewhere in the world every 60 seconds. Many times, those wrecks are not even the fault of the driver. It could be the other driver, the pothole in the road, or the animal that darts out into the road. When one of the accidents occur, it is nice to know that there is insurance to help pay.

 

Then I began to wonder, why do I go with Farm Bureau for my insurance and not one of the other companies? As my mind wondered, I came up with a lot of reasons I stay with Farm Bureau. I know that Farm Bureau is advocating for agriculture at all levels. They work tirelessly to preserve our rural way of life, not to mention the staff are always great. They are there to answer my questions and help in anyway they can.  I always know they are on my team. Then I remembered how I used their website to gain a lot of valuable information to use in my classroom. I am also reminded of how the organization is grassroots and listens to the members on the local level and shifts that information up until it finally reaches the national level.

 

I was quickly brought back to the present when my wife and kids came through the door. That meant supper was soon to come, so I had better hurry and finish going through the mail.

 

The next envelope was from the MO Vocational Agriculture Teachers’ Association. It was the invoice to pay my state and NAAE dues. My mind began to wonder, why again do I pay my dues to MVATA and NAAE? Just like Farm Bureau, numerous reasons began to pop into my mind.

 

The first thing to pop into my head was that insurance thing. Again a necessary evil. The professional liability insurance that comes with my NAAE dues is something I hope to never use, but never want to be without. We all hear of cases where teachers are being sued for one thing or another. I even heard that a set of parents tried to sue a teacher because their child earned bad grades. Our professional liability insurance is an NAAE benefit for every member. As a member, you also have the opportunity to purchase more liability insurance.

 

Then I began to think about the other benefits that NAAE provides, just like Farm Bureau. I know that the NAAE staff works tirelessly to advocate on behalf of agriculture teachers all across the country, not to mention the staff are fantastic. We could not be luckier to have such a talented and dedicated staff. They are performing numerous  activities from Dr. Jackman participating in a Farmer to Farmer exchange in Africa, to Alissa working on professional development workshops at state conferences, to finalizing award judging. Julie is updating the website, monitoring CoP, and developing materials for NAAE conferences. Katie is working to finalize travel and hotel accommodations for the NAAE conference. Andrea is working on the Monday Morning Monitor and the News and Views. She is also managing the NAAE Facebook page, which has seen a lot of activity this summer. Ellen is busy working on meetings with State Teach Ag Results teams and working to make sure every open position is filled. The CASE staff are busy hosting numerous CASE Institutes across the country. And Ashley Hood accepted our offer to become our new Membership Coordinator/Program Assistant, with retirement of Linda Berry.

 

I could not help but think about all the professional development that NAAE offers from Teachers Turn the Key, to the National Agriscience Ambassador program. Not to mention the virtual book club, which is in progress right now. Who could forget the Community of Practice page that has countless resources for ag teachers on just about every topic imaginable? Just like Farm Bureau, NAAE is a grassroots organization.  Teachers on the local level funnel ideas and concerns to the state level, which in turn bring them to the regional level. Finally, the regional committee members and vice presidents bring those items to the Board of Directors. Every decision we make on the board is in hopes of providing each member with the tools and resources they need.

 

I was again pulled back to reality when my wife yelled "dinnertime!" I will just have to remember after dinner to pull out the checkbook and pay my premiums. It is well worth the investment and I hope you do the same.

 

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This is an article from the May 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.

 

This past year, when my children decided that they wanted to keep their gilts from the county fair and breed them, I became a little stressed. I had been an ag teacher for 18 years, but had never artificially inseminated pigs or watched them for standing heat. The pressure was on.

 

So, I did what all good agriculture teachers do, I Googled it. I found more information and videos than I could possibly read and watch. My Advanced Animal Science students began to sort through the videos and articles and pulled out the credible sources and highlighted themes. We also sought out local experts on the topic and asked for their advice.  Our next step was to develop a calendar of events and prepare for some baby pigs.

 

Three months, three weeks, and the three days after breeding, we had a litter of five baby piglets. These babies were the result of the network of knowledge, resources, and contacts we had developed.

 

As we were searching for sources of information about swine reproduction, it was no surprise when the NAAE Communities of Practices page popped up on my Google search. It provided links to lesson plans and Power Points that fellow agriculture teachers had developed on the topic. It even provided me with email addresses so I could contact fellow agriculture teachers who had posted information on the topic. There is no way I could possibly put a value on the experience and expertise that those fellow agriculture teachers provided.

 

Speaking of those fellow agriculture teachers, every time we go on a field trip, I spend a great deal of time talking with the agriculture teachers who are there. My students often comment, "Mr. Stone, I think you know everyone." Well, the truth is, I do not know everyone, but NAAE has provided me an opportunity to meet and work with hundreds of agriculture teachers from across this country. Those agriculture teachers are the ones I rely on when I have questions on anything from curriculum mapping to finding information about National FFA Housing on the website.

 

Speaking of websites, the NAAE website also has a tremendous amount of information for downloading. These resources provide information on anything from advocacy to professional development opportunities. The NAAE staff is currently working very hard on some of the professional development opportunities.  The National Teach Ag Ambassadors have just been selected and you can find more information out about these individuals at  http://www.naae.org/teachag/index.cfm#ambassadors. You can also expand your network of resources by attending a CASE institute this summer, that the CASE staff has worked very hard to develop. Finally, the NAAE staff has put together quite the line up of Teacher Appreciation Week activities.

 

As we watch these five little pigs grow and develop into what will hopefully be our show barrows for this summer, I cannot help but think that none of this would be possible had we not developed a network of resources to help us through the process. The same is true with agriculture teachers across this country. Our professional careers would not be where they are today had we not developed a network of resources, which oftentimes begins with NAAE membership. This is just another one of my observations form my side of the barnyard.

 

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This is an article from the March 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.

 

As I drive up to the barn and look out across the pasture, I can see the old cow path. It is has been worn over time and very little grass grows there. The soil has been compacted by the cows as they walk to the barn each day. The cows hear my truck and come walking towards the barn, each cow walks in a single file line on the old cow path. They have a huge pasture with lush grass they could walk through, but they do not. It may be the fact that they chose the path of least resistance. This has become their daily routine.

 

After 13 years of teaching, I was acting a lot like the cows. I would show up to teach my students each day. I would get new students each year, but my lessons were starting to look much the same as the previous year. This was most definitely the path of least resistance. I had fallen into the trap of walking down the same old cow path each day.  The excitement was waning and I was beginning to think that maybe it was time to try my hand at something else.

 

Then one day, I received an email blast from NAAE about a professional development opportunity that they said would change the way you teach forever. My first reaction was, oh great, another wasted day of my life where I sit and listen to someone who has not taught in ten years tell me how to teach. So I just moved on to the next email, but for some reason I came back to that email -- I figured what could it hurt to check it out. 

 

As I read about the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy (NATAA), it sounded different. First, it was completely free. Second, I would get to spend a week in Maryland. Third, it was just for teachers. I was starting to get excited like the cows do when they see me dump the feed bucket, so I filled out the application and sent it in. Then I waited, and waited, and waited…….the email finally came. I took a deep breath and opened it. The email started off with the word CONGRATULATIONS. I was super excited.

 

When I arrived in Maryland at the DuPont Farm, you could feel the excitement in the air. We were told this would be the toughest week of professional development we had ever been to. We were expected to give 100% all the time. The week flew by as we found out what it meant to inquire into topics and how to force our students to inquire, instead of just taking notes and reciting information. I have to admit, I was very much out of my comfort zone. I wanted a right and wrong answer, but there was not always one.

 

Our challenge at the end of the week was to return home and help our students become the problem solvers of tomorrow. We were to make them ask the tough questions and seek new information. It was a whole new way of teaching and learning.

 

After returning home I was super excited to start teaching, but I had to wait another month for school to start. When it did, I was ready to go. I started each class off with the chewing gum lab. The students were not nearly as excited as I was. In fact, one of them said, "Would you just tell us the answer?"

 

I did not let this discourage me, and I kept trying.  Now several years later, inquiry has become a way of life in my classroom. My students explore, seek, question, and some days we never do find the right answer, but know what questions to ask next time.

 

If you would like more information on the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy, you can find more information on the NAAE website. Also, the staff have been working very hard to get all the award applications up on the website. In addition to the applications, they are working on planning the NATAA professional development session that will be offered this summer, along with finalizing the National Policy Seminar.

 

I have to admit, if it had not been for the email blast from NAAE staff I probably would still be walking on that same old cow path in my classroom, or I may have moved on to a different pasture. I would encourage you to venture off the old cow path and give this life-changing professional development a chance to enhance the educational environment in your classroom.

 

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It was an unusually frigid mid-Missouri afternoon. I was feeding the cattle in the big barn when I heard a shrieking scream coming from the chicken coop. Not sure what was going on, I set off at a brisk pace towards the chicken coop. As I got closer, I could hear my pre-teen daughter shouting get off of me you big meanie. The first thought that went through my head was, her brother is at basketball practice, so I know it was not him she was yelling at. Deciding this was serious, I rounded the coop corner and met my daughter who was madder than a wet hen.

 

I quickly asked if she was ok and she said, "NO!" I inquired as to what might be wrong. She held up her hand, which had a cut on it, and then she pointed to her leggings which had a tear in them. Puzzled, I asked, "Who did this to you?" She said, "That mean old rooster." She informed me that he attacks her every time she goes to feed. She demanded, "Either he goes, or I am not feeding the chickens again!" Now keep in mind, this is my wife’s favorite rooster -- slim chance he is on his way out the door -- so I had to devise a plan.

 

I explained to Annamarie that the rooster has never hurt me. After we put our heads together, we decided that the rooster liked me because I was the one who he knew. I feed and water the chickens most days. He knows me when I walk into the pe,n and he knows that I am usually bearing gifts of corn and water. I told her if she developed a friendship with the rooster, he might not want to take a chunk out of her leg next time. She argued with me about how she is too busy, does not know how to feed the chickens, and really is not into chickens. I told her, "Either become friends, or he will always see you as an easy target."

 

My daughter’s relationship with this rooster is much like the relationship we have with our elected officials. We tend to pay them a visit only when we need something because we are too busy, or are just not into politics. If we do not develop a relationship with our legislators, they will not know us, and they instead will care for the hand that feeds them.

 

Now I have to admit, when I started advocating for agricultural education, I was way more knowledgeable about feeding the rooster than I was about developing a relationship with legislators. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I found all of the wonderful items that the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) and the Association for Career and Technical Education have developed for us to use. These can be found on the NAAE Website at http://www.naae.org/advocacy/index.cfm. One of my favorite resources on the website is the State and National Ag Ed Profiles that can be downloaded and printed to give to legislators at all levels. If your state does not have one, simply contact Dr. Jackman, or any of the other NAAE staff members, and they can get one developed for you.

 

Another great opportunity to train, equip and develop relationships is coming up in March, but it is not too late to get involved. You can join ACTE and NAAE members March 13-15 for the 2017 ACTE National Policy Seminar and Ag Ed Track. During this conference, you will visit our nation’s capitol, improve your advocacy skills, meet with important members of Congress, and hear from national leaders in career and technical education. NPS will also include agricultural education-specific activities especially for NAAE members. NAAE will pay the registration fee for one NAAE member, per state to attend NPS. Your state's representative must register through NAAE -- please do not register through ACTE. Please complete the online registration form no later than Wednesday, February 1, 2017. The NAAE staff works diligently to help us further the causes of agricultural education though advocacy. I hope to see you there.

 

Dr. Jackman, Alissa Smith, Julie Fritsch, Andrea Fristoe, and Katie Wood are also working on numerous other initiatives, to help train, equip, and foster agricultural educators across the country. They are busy planning state level Communities of Practice workshops in hopes of making CoP more user-friendly for teachers. They are also working on transitioning News and Views to a condensed, monthly, more reader-friendly e-newsletter. And believe it or not, the staff has already begun working on plans for the 2017 NAAE convention, which will be held Nashville. 

 

Ellen Thompson, with National Teach Ag Campaign, is busy collecting final data from the STAR states and working with them to develop quality programming to recruit and retain the highest-quality agriculture teachers, so no program goes without a teacher.

 

Speaking of making our job easier, if you have not checked out the newly-designed CASE website you need to take a minute and look it over at http://www.case4learning.org/. It is very user-friendly and eye-catching. While you are there, check out the 2017 course offerings that Dan and Marlene Jansen, Shari Smith, Miranda Chaplin, Carl Aakre, Melanie Bloom, and Sara Cobb have put together. Registration is now open and the early bird usually gets the worm.

 

Speaking of birds, upon returning home, my daughter was informing her mother about the rooster and how mean he was. My wife said, "I do not think the rooster is mean. If you are nice to him and he knows you, he will be nice to you." My daughter shrugged her shoulders and said, "I guess I will try again tomorrow." I hope you, like my daughter, will give advocacy a try. I am sure the results will be better than any fried egg my daughter might get out of the chicken deal. Just an observation from my side of the barnyard.

 

 

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