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At Home in Ohio

Spring: Then and Now

Connie Moore


A garden journal entry for March 20, 2017: “A blasting red sky is upon the land. It is beautiful and yet bodes ill for the rest of the day. You know — red sky in morning, sailors take warning. The only thing left to write about today is rain — all day.”

That’s the funny thing about garden journals. They either tell a long story or a very short one. A lot could be read between the lines, but, for some days, it’s best not to look too close. After all, just as March can come in like a lamb or lion, so can spring itself. This year it was a lion of rain. Still, that is a good thing. We need it. (Again, another saying that never goes out of style.)

But enough about March. We are clearly into April and fine days of sun, clouds, growing things, and bird songs every morning to bring us to our senses and out into our gardens.


Twenty years ago, in her first spring at her new home, my mother didn’t need any urging to walk her lines and get busy gardening. She told me on more than one occasion that it seemed she had waited her whole life for this yard, this opportunity to plant as she wanted to, to dig, to cultivate, to watch things grow. Her whole day could be in that yard if she chose. And she did choose to spend many days just that way. Often I would come to visit only to find her out back, ready to have me pull up a chair and either talk while she kept working or, more than likely, help with whatever she had going on at that moment. I grew to love that yard and all her plantings and bloomings and garden rows of vegetables. She packed a lot into her space.

In that first April alone, Mom planted phlox, lily-of-the-valley, apple trees, rhubarb, bleeding heart, gooseberry bushes, onions, peas, potatoes, beets, marigolds, cauliflower, peppers, and cabbage. That was in between days of heavy frost, cold so cold that she couldn’t be out, and “rain so cold it felt like snow.”

It all reminds me of the year 1885. The Springfield Globe newspaper reported that the week before and week of April 9th began pleasant days of spring work for farmers in Clark County. Then, just six days later, the report came that “the spring work and gardening received quite a check by the thermometer being away below freezing.” It turned out to be one of those off-and-on planting seasons.

In April of 1999, Mom’s garden was late in coming. Although a cabbage butterfly checked out her yard on the 2nd day of the month, it was not until the 25th that the neighbor man could come in to till the garden. It had rained the whole month. In one long day the soil was tilled and planted with all the usual veggies plus kohlrabi, a dozen tomato plants, morning glories, and half a row of dill/cilantro.


The year 2005 brought typical April weather. Violets and crab apple trees bloomed from plenty of warm sun. On Friday the 22nd, thunderstorms moved through with a temperature of 72 degrees, but by the next day snow was falling the entire morning at 32 degrees. Then rain. The next day, the same mix of snow and rain. By the time Monday came around, my mom's journal indicated her frustrations with notes of “decided not to waste time — cleaned” and “cleaned out freezer — might as well be cold in here too.” Perhaps if Mom had been raised to read the signs of weather from birds, she might not have experienced as many frustrating days.

In April of 1887, the Springfield Daily Republic reported the following experience from the Chicago Herald: “'Have you noticed the amount of waddin’ the sparrers are puttin’ inter their nests this year? That’s a sure indication that it’s goin’ to be a cold spring. The last time I seen the sparrers luggin’ bedquilts and mufflers to their nests there were only three seasons in the year. It was winter until July, then there three months of spring, and then it was winter again. All the garden truck that was planted didn’t come up until the follerin’ year, when the fruit trees bore two crops.'

'That was some time ago, wasn’t it?' asked his companion.

'Yes, several years ago — nigh onto forty, I reckon.'

'Then there’s been more winters than summers in this country, eh?'

'No’p; ‘bout fourteen years after that, I noticed that the sparrers built two nests instead of one.

'The nests were joined together by little avenoos of dried grass. The she-sparrows would hatch a brood in one nest and then walk through the avenoo to the other nest and go to hatchin’ again, while the he-bird would tend the youngsters in the first nest. The season was so long that the sparrers hatched from May to May, and that’s the reason why we’ve got so many sparrers terday.'

'Then there was no winter that year?' questioned the companion.

'Not a flake,' replied the old man. 'People died of summer complaint all that year.'”

Well, maybe it was a tall tale, but the fact remains that spring in retrospect can be entertaining and educational. No two are ever the same. Perhaps that’s the way it should be. Variety and challenge is what life is made of.


No matter what the weather, the family needs to eat. Here are a couple of simple but substantial recipes:

2-Ingredient Bar B Q Beans


• 1 or 2 cans (28 oz.) Bush’s Best Baked Beans (onion flavor)
• 1/3 to 1/2 cup Montgomery Inn Barbecue Sauce


Use one can of beans for 2 people or 2 cans for 3 or more.

1. After opening the can, gently drain off some of the liquid accumulated on top. Place beans in 2-quart baking dish.

2. Stir in the barbecue sauce. Do not cover.

3. Bake in 350 degree F oven for about 45 minutes. Reduce temp to somewhere in the 200s so that the beans slow bake until the rest of the meal is ready. You can take the dish out if you want to, or leave it in the oven (turned off) if you are running late with other dishes.

Sausage Casserole


• 1 pound sausage
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 small green pepper, seeded, chopped
• 1 cup corn
• 2 cups chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh
• 1 can cream of mushroom soup
• Seasoning to taste<
• 1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked macaroni
• 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs or crushed croutons


1. In large skillet, brown sausage (chopping as it cooks to break it up) and onions. Drain off grease.

2. Add green pepper, corn, tomatoes, soup. Stir to blend well. Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder.

3. Heat to boiling, then remove from heat.

4. In large casserole dish, pour half the sausage mixture. Cover with the cooked macaroni. Pour remaining meat mixture over top. You can also just stir the mac into the meat mixture and pour into casserole. Top with buttered bread crumbs, crushed seasoned croutons, or your favorite topping. Yes, cheese goes well with this dish!

5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes to one hour.

Just Eat It

Connie Moore


In December of last year, the Clark County Library got in a new DVD called Just Eat It. Always on the lookout for new culinary information, we ordered it and waited until our turn came up on March 8th to pick it up. Turns out it is a popular documentary on food waste, food growing and processing, and a 6-month experiment by a couple who decided to see just exactly what is out there being wasted.

Every part of this DVD, including the plastic case, is of interest. The film is a winner of over nine major Film Festival Awards; online sources make that number 20 if you count it being a finalist and runner-up. Reviews say it is “Powerful” and “Shocking ... thought-provoking ... inspired.”

The top comment by Variety tells you “Hugely entertaining ... will leave audiences gobsmacked.” So what is that last word? Online definitions for modern slang say it is of British origin, taking the words "gob" — mouth — and a verb — "smack" — and blending them to mean “being utterly astonished or stunned.”

That pretty much sums up how we felt after watching the 73-minute version. The movie case asked the question, “We all love food, so how could we possibly be throwing nearly half of it in the trash?” Well, to be honest, we thought that figure was awfully high.

Tristram Stewart began the journey with a look at the corporate image of a perfect banana. There are guidelines for harvesting and selling bananas that have nothing to do with pesticides, variety, or locations. The literal hill of unwanted bananas is astounding each time they are harvested. Onto peaches, which are graded not only for size but for perfection, hence 20 to 70 percent of all harvested graded peaches (tons and tons) go to garbage dumps. (Only so much can be given to local food banks, which don’t have the capacity or infrastructure to dispense it.) Celery, our beloved crunchy vegetable, is next to see vast waste.

Interspersed in all the photography, facts, and graphs was the story of Jen and Grant, who undertook a six-month journey into a food waste exposé that found them searching out their sustenance from culled produce and foods in farmer markets, stores, and behind stores (dumpsters).

They did not eat garbage, half-eaten foods from restaurant plates, or anything that was expired or opened. The exception to that was when they gleaned from a refrigerator and cupboards of a relative who was in the process of moving. They checked all packages for sell by/best by dates. They also went online to check for recalls on foods that they found entire dumpsters devoted to, such as tofu, chocolate bars, and packaged meals.

An eye-opening find was a dumpster outside a studio where a pizza chain had finished food photography just a day before. The photographer called them; the foods had been in the fridge and freezer until that very morning. Filling the metal box were bags of dough, meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauces. It appeared to us that a thousand pizzas lay in waiting for someone to assemble them.

One thing we had never thought about was that wasting food in this country is not taboo. We have laws to fine people for littering or not recycling, but wasting food is normal.

food to be eaten or wasted?

With two months left in their experiment, Jen and Grant found themselves with kitchen counters, cupboards, a fridge, and a freezer overflowing with perfectly good food. They invited friends in to glean. Those friends were amazed that the amount of food Jen and Grant described to them could actually be found.

Another amazing find was an entire dumpster devoted to eggs. Not outdated, not cracked, just dozens upon dozens of eggs with due dates two weeks away.

In the end, Jen and Grant said they were happy they found food, but sad and upset that so much was being wasted. They also spent time weighing, logging, and estimating costs of all food they brought into the house during this six months.

The film is geared for all ages; there is a farmer, chefs, a scientist, and others, who when interviewed add much weight to this serious subject. The DVD includes a classroom version (50 minutes) and resource materials. We highly recommend this film as a learning tool for schools and families. It takes one to a whole different world within our world. One that grows food that people will waste and not blink an eye at. A world where 40 percent of all food grown is not eaten.

If I can be quite frank with you and dare to use slang — you will be gobsmacked.

For more online info, go to

Comments? Contact Connie at

Signature Writing

Connie Moore


If I could, I would write you this by hand. But the world has changed greatly since I went to school and learned how to write in cursive.

I’ll write up my thoughts on a computer instead, letting my eyes glare at the white screen instead of my hands touching paper and pen. I’ll let the inner workings of the machine spell-check it all and send it by email or the worldwide web. It will be digitally transferred to the screen you’re looking at now.

Is it okay for things to be this way? Conservationists say yes, it saves trees, which I can’t argue with and will even applaud. But along the way, the particular skill of writing in cursive has been lost.

A recent conversation with a friend confirmed my suspicion that — as the keyboard is the modern, eco-friendly way to communicate — children are not being taught the cursive writing that used to establish communications Earth-wide.

It’s been tested and written about for years that cursive writing enables and promotes the brain to greater and deeper abilities. It promotes hand-eye coordination and dexterity. It links words to words and ideas to context with soft, easy, graceful loops of the pen.

Writing means what you write is yours down to your cursive signature. It is not on a machine, not out in some cloud somewhere waiting to be extracted by iPads, smartphones, and the like. It is yours, and you can build with it, sooth frayed nerves with it, explore and compose thoughts with it, build language skills with it, and so much more.

It seems to me that another thing that went out at the same time as cursive was strict spelling. Too many teachers don’t seem to care how a student spells as long as the message can be deciphered. Texting has one-letter shortcuts that halt communication with those not familiar with this new language. Does this means the story writer, the editor, the college professor grading essays, the librarian, and anyone and any profession that rests on words and written communications is doomed? Even if they are able to read the shortcuts or decipher the message, do they get the whole message, the whole story, the feelings and emotions behind the words?

Another argument for cursive writing has to do with speed, or the desire for less of it. Today’s world — because of ever-faster technology and the corporate hype that everyone needs and wants to go at breakneck speeds — seems to send students along at miles per hour that give little opportunity for contemplation. Slower thoughts can lead to better decisions, which can prevent mistakes. That may be my most important reason that I wish cursive writing was brought back.

In looking at an 1898 copy of our Bethel Township Manual of Public Schools, I found some very pointed instructions. It was quite refreshing to see basic reading, writing, and spelling guidelines spelled out for teachers. It did not include any computer programs, digital graphics, or games to enhance the learning experience. First Year Language included just four things: McGuffey’s New Reading Chart, blackboard, teacher, and slate. After specific directions, the piece states: “From the first, the teacher should exercise care that the reading from the blackboards, slates and printed page should take on the character of easy and graceful conversation.”

That is what cursive writing can do for a message — bring about an easy and graceful page of thought.

So if you want to find a creative way of communicating, an elegant way of speaking your mind, a brain-boosting way to better spelling and reading, find a pen and paper. Put your brain and heart into it, and let the letters flow.

Have an opinion on this topic? Write Connie at Box 61, Medway, OH 45341 Comments may be compiled into a follow-up story.

Horse Sense

Connie Moore


A tiny news piece came across my desk the same day a photograph of a horse was given to me. They made me think of the television show, Mr. Ed

The show about a talking horse aired from 1961 to 1966. It was financed by comedian George Burns at a cost of 70,000 dollars — a lot of money back then. Wilbur Post, Mr. Ed’s owner, was played by Alan Young; Mrs. Post was played by Connie Hines. Mr. Ed was played by Bamboo Harvester, a crossbred gelding of American Saddlebred, Arabian, and grade stock. Apparently — going by comments made from those who worked with him — Bamboo was one smart horse. Of course his voice was a man’s, Allan Lane — a western film actor.

Mr. Ed often made use of sayings involving his own species. "Hold your horses," "Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth," "Straight from the horse’s mouth," and "Putting the cart before the horse" are just a few.

It was his knack for listening to Wilbur’s troubles that often gave Mr. Ed the edge on how to solve situations that otherwise might have been Wilbur’s downfall. And that is where a little news piece was of special interest.

In a Mahoning County, Ohio newspaper of 1917, horses were shown to be good listeners. It reported: “The horse is really one of the best listeners in the world. He is always on alert for sounds which concern or interest him. When he looks at anything he turns his ears towards it to observe the better whether any sound comes from it. If a horse is particularly interested in your driving of him he always turns his ears backward toward you, but if he has no concern on that subject or if he sees anything ahead that interests him he keeps his ears pricked forward. A horse hears the whinny of another horse at a greater distance than the average man can hear it.”


Besides being good at listening, it is said horses have a memory on par with an elephant’s. And they stay awake for a whopping average of 21 hours a day. Truly an amazing creature.

Do you know what horsepower is really about? It is the amount of power it would take to pull a 150-pound weight out of a hole 22 feet deep. Oh, and to do it in one minute. That translates to a 1,700-pound horse equaling 1-1/3 horsepower.

To keep up their strength, horses eat grass, hay, and oats. For treats, they are as individual in tastes as humans. Some go for the healthy stuff like carrots, apples, bananas, and hay cubes. But if given an opportunity to try different items, well, horses have been known to love peppermints, cookies, oranges, sugar cubes, different sugary cereals, cat food, hot dogs, and an occasional beer or Coke.

While none of Ohio’s horses talk, they do make inroads into our hearts. Here are a few of our favorite snapshots. The next time you encounter a horse, watch his ears; he’s listening to you, he’s watching you, he’s wondering if you might have a bite of something sweet for him. If you do, he’ll remember you forever.


Celery Sense

Connie Moore


There’s a love-hate relationship with this vegetable that goes crunch. Just look online under “Why do people hate celery?” A 2011 Japanese survey showed it is the most hated vegetable among adults. A 2012 New York Times article began, “Americans don’t use celery much.”

For we who love the green stalks, March is National Celery Month. All sorts of possibilities come to mind. Stewed, fried, soup, stew, appetizers, side dishes, dessert. (Oops, did that say dessert? Yep, celery goes into a ribbon-winning cake.)

Before we get to recipes, though, let’s take a walk through a bunch of celery. It’s low in calories and high in fiber; a good source of potassium and containing small amounts of Vitamin C. The leaves contain more than the stalks as far as nutrients, so use them for garnishes, soups, in place of parsley, and in salads.

Traditional herbalists use celery and celery seed tea for treating gout and other inflammatory arthritis. Celery is 95 percent water, so it can easily be incorporated in smoothies and other nutritious drinks. It can grow to over 3 feet tall in rich, black peat or, as some call it, muck.

Among Ohio towns is Celeryville, located in Huron County. Known as the celery belt, the land in this area was once a swamp (Willard Marsh). Draining a 5000-acre swamp was a challenge taken on by three Dutch families from Kalamazoo, Michigan. That was back in 1896. Today, the Wiers family is raising hundreds of acres of celery. Their business started out with 8 trucks and 10 trailers. Today they have farms in Ohio and Florida. They use 125 trucks and 200 refrigerated trailers. This year will mark 111 years for their farms.

In 1856, in our already mentioned Kalamazoo, MI, celery was introduced as a crop by George Taylor from Scotland. Today Portage, Michigan is home to the Celery Flats Interpretive Center. Located on Garden Lane, the interpretive center is on the north side, and an historical area is on the south side.

While most recipes calling for celery use a very small amount, our recipes highlight this vegetable as a main ingredient. Well, all except the cake, but it’s still important and I promise, it won’t go crunch!

Mom’s Celery Casserole


• 1-1/2 cups bread cubes
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 4 cups diced celery (including leaves)
• 1 can (10-3/4 oz.) cream of chicken, celery, or mushroom soup
• 1 can (4 oz.) mushroom pieces


1. In skillet, sauté bread cubes in butter until crunchy like croutons.

2. In saucepan, cook celery in enough water to cover it for 8 minutes, then drain.

3. Measure out 1/2 cup bread cubes for topping. In 2-quart baking dish, combine the rest of the bread cubes with celery, soup, and mushrooms. Mix well. Top with reserved bread cubes, which may be crushed if desired.

4. Bake in oven at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes.

Recipe source: Together We Share by Connie Moore and Evah Lewis, 2000.


Ants on a Log


• Celery
• Peanut butter or cream cheese
• Raisins, Craisins or chopped nuts


This can be an appetizer or snack.

1. Wash celery and drain. Cut into 3-inch long logs.

2. Stuff with your choice of peanut butter, cream cheese, or even Nutella.

3. Place raisins, Craisins, or nutmeats along the top of the creamy stuffing. Enjoy!

Celery Chowder


• 4 cups cooked, diced celery
• 1 small onion, minced
• 1 cup cooked, diced carrots
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1-2 tablespoons flour
• 2 teaspoons salt
• Pepper to taste
• 3 cups milk, warmed


1. Celery should be cooked well in enough water to cover. When soft, drain. Rub through sieve, discarding stringy residue.

2. Sauté onion and carrots in butter until soft and just starting to turn golden. Add celery. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper.

3. Warm milk in saucepan or microwave. Add gradually to vegetables, stirring to blend well.

4. Cook on low until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from 1948 Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook.

Waldorf Salad Cake


• 3 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 2 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup milk
• 2-1/2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
• Garnish of apple slices, cherries, celery leaves, nuts — optional


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three, 8-inch cake pans.

2. Sift together dry ingredients.

3. In bowl, using electric mixer, cream eggs, sugar, vanilla. Beat in mayonnaise. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix in apples, nuts and celery. Pour into pans.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for a few minutes. Remove and cool completely.

5. Frost (below). Decorate with optional garnishes. Be sure to dip apple slices in lemon juice or fruit fresh product to prevent browning!

Cream Cheese Frosting


• 1/2 cup butter or margarine
• 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese at room temp.
• 4 cups powdered sugar (4x or confectioners’)
• 2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice


1. Beat all ingredients until creamy and spreadable.

Cake recipe won fourth place in 2004 at Clark County Fair and is property of Clark County Agricultural Society. Printed in County Fair Cookbook-Dishes of the Day, 2010.

February Fishing

Connie Moore


Dry, brown oak leaves swirl downward to land in rippling waters like gondolas. Kingfishers call out over the lake. Warm sunshine dissolves into the still icy-cold water.

Suddenly, nine Canadian geese fly in low, bank, turn, and bank again. Slowly, they put down their landing gears, dropping onto the lake. All the while muffled voices float across the water as fishermen, bent on wetting lines, come to grips with rod and reel. There is no danger of an exciting catch. Not today. It is only February. More weather must pass under the bridge before fish bite here.

There is a calmness in the warmth of the day, though. Not so much a seasonal change, but rather a mild midlife twinge of events to come. Bare trees still hold last year’s dried leaves, not quite ready to let go and embrace the new leaf buds tightly curled beneath. Spring’s colors aren’t ready to appear; that’s weeks off.

Colors are in sight though. Sitting under the bobber tree, we wonder how long and how many fishermen it took to decorate these oak boughs so generously with red and yellow bobbers. Silvery spooners and opaque masses of fishing line hang like holiday tinsel. Not wanting to add to the decorations, we carefully cast sideways into the open air, aiming for a particularly warm looking bit of water.

Not that it matters. The fish are still a dozen or more feet below anything we offer. Slow and sluggish to thaw from winter’s cold, they are in no hurry to rise to the bait. We knew that when we came out. But, like the men on the lake, we were drawn out, enticed by the calmness, the warm sunshine, the possibilities of seeing and hearing nature come to terms with the oddness of the weather. So, whether the line is in the water or not, we spend time in our fishing spot.


No, this is not a day about fishing. It is about a moment, pure, warm, and inviting, a nature moment that only comes once before spring heralds the real fishing season.

It's a One Potato Day

Connie Moore


February days can be brutal. Weather is not conducive to outdoor hours. Time is not any more forgiving than any other winter month. Cooking is taking on a boring element.

In desperation, we resort to experimentation of culinary magnitudes. Can what is left in cupboards be combined to make a surprisingly edible something that is not completely off-putting and is somewhat like the imagined outcome?

At the same time — probably due to the common factor of boredom — the Powers That Be have declared the month of February be inundated with special food days. You know, those "holidays" that beckon us to eat a particular food? In the first 14 days of February there are 14 different food days. February’s last 14 days have a "holiday" for 17 more foods. It means you might have to eat banana bread, toast, and chili on the same day (the 23rd). That’s not so bad, but, how about chocolate-covered nuts and clam chowder together (the 25th)?

Referring to the second paragraph — the desperate experimentation — we opt for February 22 as our guide to gastronomical surprise. It is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. We have one sweet potato left in the basket. Iit only takes about 20 minutes to cook in the microwave and yields a straight-forward half-cup of mashed potato. Now what?

Well, we could eat it just like it is, but remember, we are looking for exciting surprises. So we might mix it into some fudge. Or blend it into a can of tomato soup. Or spread it on a piece of toast and top with cheese, melting the whole thing under the broiler. Or we could mix it with pecans, brown sugar, butter, and a touch of cinnamon for a microwaved cup of soufflé.

We could wash the potato, dry it, slice it, and dip the slices in some water that is mixed with lemon juice or vinegar. That will keep the slices from turning brown (like preserving apples or avocados). Then pat the slices dry and fry them in deep oil for a small, one-serving batch of potato chips.

We could make one of my mother’s favorite winter suppers. She boiled a sweet potato or two, and when it was almost done she cooled, peeled and sliced it. In a skillet, she melted butter, added a cored, peeled, sliced apple (or two) and a bit of brown sugar. Over low heat she fried the potato and apple until soft and browned a bit. Sometimes she fixed a whole casserole of this mixture and baked it in a 325-degree oven for half an hour.

Yet another skillet dish is cubed sweet potatoes, sautéed in butter with a bit of orange juice, raisins, or dried cranberries.

But we wanted to use the sweet potato to the best of our abilities in regards to surprise twists, so this is what we did:

Fudge Brownies.

Here is how we made them. And when we passed them out, we put the secret ingredient in an envelope and let the recipient choose to know before or after as to what they were eating.


After all, what’s a day in February without a challenge?

Sweet Potato Brownies


• 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons water
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 box (18.3oz.) fudge brownie mix (We used Betty Crocker)


1. In mixing bowl place potato, vanilla, water, oil, and eggs. Using electric mixer, beat until well combined.

2. Add the brownie mix and stir together using mixing spoon. Mix thoroughly, but do not beat hard.

3. Pour into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated, 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until done.

4. Cool and cut. Can be glazed with dark, bitter, or milk chocolate.


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