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North Shore Weekend

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  • Saturday 7-10am
Genre: 
Variety
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

 

 


What's On:
Gunflint Mail Run by Nace Hagemann

Wildersmith on the Gunflint January 5

Wildersmith on the Gunflint  -  January 5, 2018     by Fred Smith
Holidays are fading into history as the Smith’s return to the normality of life in the north-country. It’s been a holiday whirlwind since our last radio gathering with over twelve hundred ‘round trip miles of windshield time to one of the Smith clan and a spirited visit from the others here at Wildersmith. What a swell time it was!                                                                                                                     
It seems appropriate we experienced the first of two cool, full January moons while our frosty atmosphere has been so “blue cold.” Further, whether it’s an oddity or just the essence of Ojibwe planning, we ascend from the “Little Spirit” moon of December to the “Great Spirit” moon of this New Year. Whatever the case, it’s “blue moon” time in month one.                                            

Its relevant with the “blue moon” cast over-head the Gunflint area would be having a cold snap that’s dominating our everyday conversation and activity. Being out of the area from just before Christmas until a day or so after, I don’t know exactly what day the deep freeze took over. Regardless of when the thermometer dropped below the nothing mark, since our return to the Mile O Pine, the mercury has FAILED to rise above zero.                                                                   

How cold has it been? It’s so cold I’ve lost count of the trips to the wood shed for heating supplements. Commencing this weeks’ report, the temperature gauge has recorded a few mornings of minus thirty plus. With a coldest so far of -36 last Sunday morning, the “old Zamboni” has been in full gear for many days.                                                                           
Speaking of ice making, the thickening hard water on the Gunflint Gal has her murmuring sounds of discomfort, often with thunderous roars. At some points, the noisy lake conversation can make one shake from more than just the cold air.                                                                 
The visiting ice anglers of my family found the ice off the Wildersmith shore to be slightly over twelve inches thick a couple days before the calendar rolled over into 2018. And with minimal snow cover insulating lake ice, fishing drillers will soon be auguring even deeper as the lake trout season nears.                                                                                                                                           

In spite of the bitter cold, we Gunflinters trudge on with daily doings, just layered up against the elements. Its’ official CC skiing, skating, snowshoeing and sledding time, lets’ get at it. Knowing the days’ whiz by so fast, green bud times will be here before we know it, and I’ll bet we’ll be getting the first spring gardening catalogs by the time we meet again.                                                                                                                                                                    

An interesting occurrence taking place right now is making me think spring prematurely. The little holiday tree I cut in early December, now setting in our dining room, apparently has spring thoughts too. I have been noticing bulging buds on every branch since our return, and in the last day or so, those buds have exploded into full-fledged sprouts of a new generation. It’s saddening to know the tree hasn’t figured out this is a false alarm, and all will come to an end sooner than later. However, give the little spruce credit for being of strong heart and hopeful to the very end. Wish I could take it out and plant it come warm soil time.                                                                                                           

The first big Gunflint Community event of the New Year hits the Trail this weekend. Yes the Gunflint is going to the “dogs”. The annual Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Races mush out into the woods tomorrow (Saturday) from Trail Center Lodge on Poplar Lake.                                                                         

Two races commence on the snowy trails beginning at 8:00am Saturday. The eight dog teams run a sixty-five mile course while twelve dog teams run for 100 miles with both races ending back at the Poplar Lake starting point. At the time of this keying exercise, thirty teams have entered.                                                                                                                                                   
This long running event dates back to as early as the late 1970’s. The races are a colorful happening memorializing the historic importance of dog sled transportation in the days before there was a Gunflint Trail as we know it today.                                                                                                                                                                             

The best places for viewing the mushers are of course at the start and then along the route at Big Bear Lodge, Rockwood Lodge and the 100 mile race turn-around at Blankenberg Pit. As usual, this will be a howling good time, come out and cheer them on!                                                 

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with every frosty breath, a reminder its January in border country!
 

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Superior National Forest Update January 5, 2018

National Forest Update – January 4, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Wendy McCartney, fuels technician, with the first National Forest Update of the year.  The Update is the Superior National Forest’s way to keep you informed on things affecting recreation on the National Forest - road conditions, special events, or news in the natural world.  For a frigid week in the middle of winter, there’s actually a lot going on out there right now.

There’s no doubt that it’s been cold.  On paved well-traveled roads, black ice can be a problem as the water in car exhaust freezes to the cold asphalt and creates a thin layer of glare ice.  Watch out for this on Highway 61, particularly in areas where the road is shaded during most of the day and on bridge decks.  In the Forest though, on our less traveled roads, the cold and snow has actually improved conditions in some areas.  Soft roadways are not a problem right now.  Earlier in the season, we had to close some roads temporarily due to extreme ice conditions, but there has now been enough snow on top of the ice to create a layer with some traction.  This is not to say that you should be tearing down the roads at high speed - there are still plenty of slick spots especially in places where the snow cover has worn through back to the ice.

You won’t be encountering many logging trucks this week.  There’s very little hauling going on right now.  On the Gunflint District, trucks are hauling on the Firebox Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County14.  People need to pay particular attention on the Firebox Road as it is dual use with a snowmobile trail.  There’s no scheduled activity on the Tofte District.

This weekend, you may encounter some different kind of traffic.  There are two race events going on January 6th and 7th.  On the 6th, the Norpine Fat Bike Classic is happening on the Massie - Hall Ski Trails and their connector trails.  It is a 24 mile race from the Superior National Golf Course almost to Cascade Lodge and back.  Skiers should be aware of bikers on the trail.  Usually bikers are encouraged to yield to skiers, but this weekend, skiers should have some sympathy for racers and let them roll.  Most of the route is actually groomed for dual use ski and bike this winter, so there should be ample space for both activities. 

The other race is the 100 mile Gunflint Mail Run Dog Sled Race.  This event starts at Trail Center on the Gunflint and runs on trails roughly parallel to the road up to Trails End and back.  The route crosses the road several times, creating plenty of spots for spectators to watch the dog teams.  Drivers on the road need to watch for parked vehicles and pedestrians and follow directions from volunteers at trail crossings.  If you are snowmobiling, be aware that dog teams will be on the snowmobile trail between County 92 and the Blankenburg Pit between 8 am Saturday and 3 am Sunday morning.  Be extra cautious if riding this section.

There’s some wildlife activity out there too.  The annual Christmas Bird Count in Isabella was possibly the coldest one on record.  There were low numbers of finches, redpolls, and pine siskins, but these birds congregate where there is a good cone crop and they were probably just somewhere else this year.  Some birds are actually starting to think spring.  Courtship is starting in our early nesting eagles and owls who could well be sitting on eggs by the end of the month.  And, there are some chickadees starting to sing their spring dee-dee song as our days start to lengthen.

But for now, bundle up, and make sure you’ve got a bucket of winter safety gear in the vehicle.  Enjoy our Minnesota winter and our snowy forest.  Until next time, this has been Wendy McCartney with the National Forest Update.
 
 

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West End News - January 4

West End News 1/4/18

This coming weekend marks the third annual Ski Party at Lutsen Mountains. Billed as a throwback to the good old days, it’s a celebration of skiing and music. The party starts on Friday evening at 8:30 pm with Dead Man Winter, Charlie Parr and Black-Eyed Snakes. Saturday brings Roma Di Luna, All tomorrow’s Petty, and Invisible Boy. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.

The snow is actually pretty good at Lutsen Mountains this year. If you can bundle up with the right Arctic appropriate clothing, you’ll have plenty of room on the slopes. The cold may scare away the less hardy, but that just means more powder for us. So bust out those extra layers, then dance the chill away the Ski Party.

Speaking of music in Lutsen, Papa Charlie’s is once again hosting the winter songwriter series. On Monday and Wednseday evenings, from 8-10 pm Papa’s transforms into a listening room. The idea is to create a theater-like setting with a more intimate atmosphere allowing the audience the opportunity to be immersed into the stories and craft behind the songs. These evenings are free and draw songwriters from around the country. On Monday, January 8th, local favorite Erik Koskinen will be gracing the stage. It’s worth mentioning that the purpose of the listening room atmosphere is to really experience the music. So if you’re looking for a place just to hang out, catch some tunes and chat with your neighbor, this is not the scene.  

In this time of New Years resolutions, if you are committed to being more active in your community or giving back to the youth or volunteer, then you might be a good fit for the Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland. The Center is putting out a call for adults to lead evening activities on weeknights. You’d be in charge of opening the building, monitoring activities like volleyball or basket ball in the gym, filling out the use sheet records and closing up afterwards.

Really what you would be doing boils down to providing a safe and fun space for young people to be. If you don’t have the time to donate, monetary donations can help these programs continue too. You can find out how you may be of help by visiting their website, friends of finland . org or by calling the Executive Director Honor Schauland at 218-353-0300.
 
Whatever your goals for 2018, I hope they include a visit to our beautiful West End.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley, with the West End News.
 

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Magnetic North - January 04 with Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North 1/3/18
 
The True Cost of Love and Art
 
Welcome back to Magnetic North, where our new year dawned, still cold, but without the howling winds that blew out the old one. When I set out to do the first chores of 2018, the change was stunning. The sun and stillness was more a caress, than a slap. I could actually go without the hood of my parka and do all my chores in one trip. For the past week I divided them up out of concern for my life, and by extension, the survival of my two dozen chickens, eleven ducks, two geese and five goats.
 
Going to town for anything more than food was the rule during that nasty spell of weather. But I did make it in to spend a few hours with my fellow fiber fanatics at the butt end of our show at the Johnson Heritage Post. What a deeply delightful time that was. Weavers, needle filters, spinners and knitters, like me, just sitting about demonstrating our favorite things, while greeting curious, or just plain frozen, folks who dropped in. 
 
One day of the exhibit, I brought Julia, one of my two German angora bunnies so that people could see where that to-die-for fiber actually comes from. I set up a Pack ’N Play, the ubiquitous folding soft-sided playpen, for the big, round rabbit and visitors admired and petted her, while I showed them how I use raw angora fiber to create wildly warm mittens. I do that by knitting fat rolls of angora, along with regular wool yarn - a historic technique known as “thrumming.”  I also use cashmere thrums from my goats to make things, however installing a goat in the Heritage Post didn’t seem like a good idea.
 
“How long does it take you to make these?” was an often asked question. In reply, I just laughed and shook my head. Because time has little to do with what I, or most of my fiber friends, love about our art. Instead, making and experimenting and sharing are at the root of it all. And for me, of course, there is having an excuse to keep and feed and clean up after rabbits and goats. 
 
Having critters I love, and that love me back, then getting to relax and create all winter, making beauty things, is beyond satisfying. Why on earth would I count the cost in time or money?
 
The only cost involved that I can say I hate, is that inevitably I have to say goodbye, to suffer the loss of one of my beloveds. Not all are gut-wrenching, though.  I remember one which was actually laugh out loud funny. It involved a chicken, a big White Wyandotte. I named Twisted Sister. It fit her, because she had a beak that crossed, top and bottom, so picking up dry feed like other hens was not to be.
 
Now a true farmer would have culled the chick right off, but not I. Instead, for the several years of her life, Twisted got her egg mash mixed with water, a gruel she could scarf up even with her scissor beak. Naturally, we became fast friends and, when she died one spring day, I decided to have a proper burial for her in one of the raised beds near the goat corral.
 
Armed with Shakespeare’s sonnet 118, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate...” and so forth, I popped Twisted’s body in a fabric feed sack, and dug a hole in the raised bed. Wouldn’t you know, that day the goats got out of their fence and, spying the feed sack in my hands, made a beeline for it and me, just as I was reciting Twisted’s eulogy.
 
“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” I said, between curses at the goats as they nipped at Twisted’s burial shroud. “And summer’s lease hath all too short a date...Ahhhh, get off me you fiends!”
Finally, the mood totally blown as I sound the sack around my head to keep it from the leaping goats, I gave in, chucked my dear old friend into the hole and shrieked,’

“Thanks for the eggs!  Amen!”
 
So there you have it, why I do not count the time or treasure involved in surrounding myself with critters. Or in turning their output into art, or in the case of chickens, breakfast. It’s about joy. It’s about love given and returned. And, truth be told, dear friends, it’s about having a never-ending stream of stuff to write about. 
 
For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.
 

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Photo from Superior National Forest/Flickr

North Woods Naturalist: Tamaracks

Typically tamaracks drop their needles in winter much the same as deciduous trees…but sometimes they don’t. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with North Woods Naturalist Chel Anderson about something different: tamaracks.
 

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West End News - December 28

West End News 12/28/17

Not to state the obvious, but it’s been cold this week in the West End. One benefit of the sub-zero temps is the opening of the Tofte ice rink at the Birch Grove Community center. The ice rink is open all day every day, and even has lights that stay on until 10pm each night. There is also a warming hut which comes in especially handy in this weather. The warming hut has shelves full of skates that are free to borrow. Please return them to their spot neatly when you’re finished, and if you have some skates gathering dust you can donate them by simply adding them to the shelf. The rink and skates are free, but donations are much appreciated. The rink takes a lot of time and skill to maintain so donations and respectful use are much appreciated.

A week or so ago we got an email from someone asking if they could charge their camera batteries at our house while they were up filming an event called the 2018 Minnesota Frozen Butt Hang. Having no idea what he was talking about I let him know that he probably had the wrong outfitter. A quick google search later, however, I discovered that, yes, in fact, the Frozen Butt Hang will be taking place at the Sawbill Campground the weekend of January 18th. Being that the Sawbill Campground is more or less my backyard, I commenced a much more thorough google search to find out what the heck this event was all about. Was it a polar plunge? A nudist winter camping gathering?
It turns out the hang is referring to hammock enthusiasts. Specifically, cold weather hammock enthusiasts. The colder the better it seems for these hardy hangers. Then event began with a small group of enthusiasts getting together for a winter camp in 2011. Since then it’s been growing, and this year over 60 people are signed up to attend. It’s organized and run on a completely volunteer basis, and they even have over a dozen sponsors, many of which are sending sample gear along for folks to test out.

It seems the event draws people from all over the world. Many come from the Midwest, but there are some brave southerners headed up from the US also. I even heard a rumor that someone is coming all the way from Germany to experience our west end winter. There’s nothing like enduring a weekend of below zero weather in a hammock to bring people together, I guess. It’s amazing how far the advancement of outdoor gear has come.

The end of the year is creeping up on us. We plan to celebrate out on the ice of Sawbill Lake, as tradition dictates.  Cheers to 2018 from the West End!
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley, with the West End News.
 
 

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Northern Sky: Dec 23 - Jan 5

Northern Sky - December 23 to January 5 - by Deane Morrison.

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota.
 
She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and in this feature
she shares what there is to see in the night sky in our region.

Her column “Minnesota Starwatch” can be
found on the University of Minnesota website at
 astro.umn.edu 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint December 22, 2017

Wildersmith on the Gunflint  -  December 22, 2017          by     Fred Smith

Although the north land has been tinkering with it for several weeks, the winter quartile is now official. The celestial bodies have aligned themselves for the semi-annual solstice signaling the first day of a new season. It’s a time of unmatched beauty in the purest sense regardless of seeming heartless at times.                                                                                                    

Darkness can be an un-nerving thing to many as daylight shows little sense of a warming obligation. Long shadows are casting chill out over the Gunflint gal right now with the sun having reached the end of its’ annual southerly swing.                                                                                                 
Due to our locale near the base of a granite range to our south, at this time of year the sun barely makes a peek over the ridge. With daylight minutes so precious, the AM sun doesn’t rise above the stone rim until nearly ten o’clock, and on cloudy days at Wildersmith, darkness starts closing in about 2:30 in the afternoon.  On some occasions it seems like all day is twilight time. Even on cloudless days “old Sol” just skips along the rocky edge scarcely giving us but sporadic glimpses of his presence.                                                                                                                                                                                                

Such grayness isn’t bothersome to yours truly, but for folks in despair over these oft short gloomy days, better moments are never-ending. It hardly seems imaginable that with one tick of the solstice clock, daylight minutes will be counting up again although barely noticeable for the next couple weeks. Please keep on Hangin’ on and focus on the beauty of this frosty paradise. Sol is creeping back our way.                                                                                                                                                             

Perhaps with “Biboon” (winter in Ojibwe) confirmed on the calendar, the “great spirit of the north” will get more serious about seasonal obligations. Cold forces have been on the downward swing over the past several days, but in spite of clouds hanging heavy with a belly full of snow, the area remains on the short side of the much needed stuff to really jump start the business of our winter customs.                                                                                                                                                  

Whereas the “Zamboni” got cranked up for several days of ice thickening, we could only muster about five to six inches of fluff in this neighborhood since our last meeting. This is hardly enough to strap on the snowshoes or skis or to make a good snow angel. Nevertheless, this meager dropping from the heavens has “re-decked the halls” along back country roads.                     

One doesn’t need a Hallmark card as a reminder of winter elegance. We border country folk just step out the door. In the words of nature photographer, Jacques Dupont, “we see so many ugly man-made things going on in the world, but the splendor of nature is the counter balance,” especially during our time of this frosty magic. All of mankind should be so lucky as to have an appreciation of that for which we have been blessed, but so often take for granted.                                                                                                                                                  
The coming days and nights are of great significance for human kind, celebrating relevant reverent rituals. As folks gather with friends and family, it would be my hope there be a time of reflection on what a mess we continue making for each other. Furthermore, to make a commitment to be less greedy, less self-indulgent and a lot less “selfie” while doing for others, as you would have them do for you.” Do some good, to just be doing some good in a world seemingly going mad!                                                                                                                                                                     

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with all of us “wild neighborhood” critters, wishing that all your Christmas’ may be white!”                                                                                                                                                                        
Safe travels if you must, and see you next year on the radio, WTIP of course!
 

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Superior National Forest Update December 22, 2017

National Forest Update – December 21, 2017.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with a late December edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  Here’s what’s up around the Forest for the end of 2017.

This is the astronomical turning point of the season, the winter solstice.  December 21st was our shortest day and longest night of the year, with a day length of only 8 hours and 32 minutes in Duluth.  That gives you only 16 minutes of day on either side of your eight hour working day, so if it seems like you can’t get anything done, you are probably right.  The winter solstice day is somewhere around six and a half hours shorter than the longest day of the year in June.  But, from here on, we start adding minutes to the day, slowly at first, with the rate peaking at the spring equinox.  It may not seem like it, but spring is on its way.

Spring may be ahead, but winter actually caused our roads to improve this last week.  Ice was covered by a good layer of snow which provides some traction.  Be wary though, people have gotten stuck in parking lots where the snow layer was plowed back down to the ice.  There’s now enough snow that unplowed roads are mostly impassable, and are being used by snowmobiles.  Snowmobiles are allowed on unplowed roads, as well as in the general forest if there is over four inches of snow cover.  Other than snowmobiles, there isn’t much activity out there on the roadways.  There are no active timber operations on the Tofte District, and on Gunflint there will be trucks only on the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County 14. 

Of course, there’s a lot of opportunity for other activities off the roads.  Ski trails are being groomed in most areas, though under heavy tree cover, there still are some patches with only light snow.  We are designating a few trails for fat tire bikes this year; check at our office or on the web for exact locations. 

While driving to a trail, keep an eye peeled for owls.  This year has seen a large irruption of owls where they move south out of Canada during the winter.  Particularly visible are snowy and great gray owls.  Snowy owls are possibly the owl most likely to be seen hunting during the day.  They spend summers in the arctic where there isn’t a lot of night, so they have to be good daylight hunters.  These beautiful white birds are often spotted near open areas, so look for them where there is a field or wet meadow.  Great gray owls are, as the name implies, very large and gray.  They have a hunting technique of swooping low over openings, which unfortunately brings them into contact with cars as they swoop over the road.  A visitor recently brought in a great gray who was found on the road, apparently unable to fly.  Our district offices are not equipped for animal care, and we usually refer people to licensed wildlife rehab people and facilities in the area.  This time, however, one of our biologists was on hand to examine the bird.  He is a bird bander, and knows how to handle owls in a way that is both safe for the bird and the person.  A great gray has talons that are over an inch long, with plenty of strength to drive them right into your hand, so they are a bird that must be treated with respect.  This particular bird was not happy at being in a box, but calmed down quickly once it was taken out.  It turned out that the bird was uninjured and probably had just been stunned and confused after being caught in the slipstream of a truck.  She was released back into the woods, away from the highway, gliding away on silent wings.

Enjoy your holiday season and our Minnesota winter.  Until next time, actually next year, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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West End News - December 21

West End News 12/21/17
Ski Trails
Merry Christmas from the West End! It is easy to get into the spirit here this year as we have a cold and sparkly landscape that is quite evocative of Santa’s North Pole. When you turn inland from the Shore you have the increasing sense that you are driving deeper and deeper into a snowglobe. Fresh snow on the roads help to reveal our winter neighbors, wolf and fox tracks mingle with moose prints and the ever-present snowshoe hares are abundant as ever.

The heavy snow combined with high winds have created great travel conditions, especially on the lakes. The coming week promises some very cold temperatures too, which will only improve the hard packed snow cover out there. There’s nothing quite like skiing into the Wilderness on a crisp winter day. The snow muffles the sounds of the forest it can be so quiet you can hear your heartbeat louder than ever. Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve heard that the Boundary Waters is one of only a handful of places left in this world where you can go for 15 minutes, or more, without hearing a single human made sound. That is especially true in the winter when you are often the only human for miles.

With a busy holiday season upon us, it’s nice to know that there is a place of cold quiet just out the back door.
Closer to the Shore, the Sugarbush Trail Association has been busy grooming and tracking the vast cross country ski trail system. With somewhere around 400 kilometers of trails, Cook County boasts some of the best cross country skiing in the state. In the West End, word on the trail is that the Onion River Road is the best skiing right now, for both skate and classic. The groomers spend long grueling hours, often overnight, out on the trails keeping the conditions in tip top shape. It’s often thankless work so I’d like to take a moment right now to send out a big grateful THANK YOU! to those folks.

You may have heard that the West End has a new representative on the ISD 166 school board. Tofte’s own Dan Shirley was appointed to fulfill the remainder of Jeanne Anderson’s term. Dan grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico before making his way to Minnesota via Oregon and Montana. He is the co-owner of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters, and full disclosure, if you hadn’t already guessed, he is also married to me. Tune in to the WTIP news hour to hear more from Dan about his new position.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley, with the West End News.
 

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