I Try to Cheer Up

I feel sorta silly for being sad about a rooster. But it’s sort of on top of three people I know losing beloved horses recently, too. Livestock? Friends? Fellow beings who enrich our lives? Sure.

Portraits of Carlton make me feel better.

I went out to remind myself of how we are all part of something bigger. Tiny mushrooms said, “Look at us!” I spent about ten minutes just looking at the first one there. So detailed.

I went in and tried to work. I’m glad I’m doing something that requires concentrating. It makes time pass quickly. But it’s not terribly cheerful. So, I decided to do something that would please Lee and make the house look better, too. I put actual china in the old china cabinet that one day I’m gonna spiff up. It looks better with Lee’s family china and my green and purple stuff in it. Some day I’ll find the rest of the china.

That made me feel a little better. It still needs some color. I sure was fond of tan and wood when I built this house.

There’s new life, though. A baby snake said hi.

And now it’s raining again so that feels better. I just needed to remind myself of what is good. Life is good, even when it’s hard and we lose our companions. That’s just how it goes.

Yay.

Honoring a Good Rooster

The morning didn’t start out as well as I’d hoped, though I had an inkling I might make a sad discovery this morning. And yes, I was correct that my buddy Bruce, the best rooster ever to crow, had passed away overnight. He was only 2.5 years old, so I’d hoped we’d have many more years with him.

He was in his glory last fall, when is comb looked cool and all his green feathers were shining.

Bruce was an “Easter egger,” who I’d gotten for free when I got a bunch of other hens from Bird and Bee Farm that I named after Bruce Springsteen’s family and band. I’d hoped he’d father some babies that laid olive green eggs. That was a great plan, but my luck with baby chicks has been very bad. One (Peeper) made it to adulthood, but Bruce did him in. He was a one rooster per flock kinda guy. He was mean to poor Peeper and was a bit rough with some of the hens when he was doing his duty, but good to humans. He was very gentle and quite funny.

Peeper, son of Bruce, who thinks his dad was jealous.

Bruce did crow a lot, but no one around here minded. It was really loud, though, if he happened to do it right next to you! There was much flapping and jumping onto high branches involved as well. In fact, that’s how I realized he was sick a few days ago. There was no crowing, and he was not on his branch.

Headed for the branch to crow.

I guess I’m just bummed that I couldn’t help him and that I won’t get to enjoy those beautiful green tail feathers anymore. I did save some from when he lost them in a fight recently, which is probably what led to his decline. He was a good protector.

I’ll take care of my gals. Henly over there is still with us, even!

When I first had him, he was not an attractive young man, in the middle of a gangly adolescence. I’m glad he grew out of that!

I was an awkward child.

Soon after he got big enough to be a dude, we took on a second rooster, but that did not go well. Clarence was not like Bruce at all. He was mean to humans, tried to kill my sister, and gave me huge bruises. So, he didn’t get to stay all that long. That made Bruce happy. Like I said, he preferred to be the solo chick daddy.

Stay away from me, Clarence.

I had to do write an ode to a rooster once before, in 2019, when the late, great Buckbeak passed away. He was the previous greatest rooster ever. That didn’t make things any easier. Buckbeak was even nice to other roosters, and took care of a huge flock that I got put in charge of when their owners had a disagreement and no one wanted to take care of all the dead ones (there was an owl and an insecure hen house). Now you know why we take so much time and effort trying to protect the chickens here!

He was nothing fancy, but a gentleman, our Buckbeak.

I’ve gotten a bit weepy here, even though I still don’t cry very much these days. I was enjoying a period of fewer chicken deaths, to be honest. I think dealing with poultry has helped me be a bit more of a rancher now, and I’ve tried hard to not get attached to my current hens. One, Buttercup, is from my early bunch (only Bertie Lee is older), and she has stopped laying eggs. I swear she thinks she’s the rooster now.

What??? I’d tell her to stop that if I were still here.

Bruce and I had a good couple of years together, and he sure went through a lot. I think the cold weather this winter wasn’t good for him at all. He lots much of his comb to the cold, which had to be hard. And he had to fight off a lot of skunks and snakes and so on. It’s hard being the biggest of the bunch.

I was always ready, though!

I’ll try to buck up and think about adding to the flock again. At least I still have dear striped Bertie Lee, who’s over three years old and refuses to lay eggs in the new nest boxes, but she’s as bright and perky as ever.

These are all eight of my current hens with Bruce. I bet they miss him. Buttercup, Star, Betsy, Bruce, Henley, Bertie Lee, Blanca, and Blondie.

Visitors and Visiting

Our house has a lot of comings and goings for a hermitage, but we’re glad that caregivers can come help out Lee’s brother while Kathleen’s still confined to her hospital bed. I get my dose of visiting by hanging out with the horses and getting them to do some exercises before it’s too hot. Luckily I usually have a little break between meetings.

I’d rather stand here and look pretty.

It’s really great just to be with the little herd and check in on them. Mabel was especially friendly today and kept hinting that she wanted different places scratched. That warms my heart.

Feeling pretty. I can hardly believe those legs hold her up.

Later in the day, I went to give the chickens more water. I noticed they were all inside the henhouse, because it’s so hot. I filled the water trough, and when I looked at it, it was splashing, though no hens were near. The water was almost alive.

Actually, the living part was a rat snake who had been cooling off in the water. It was no doubt quite surprised by the sudden bath. It slid out and headed to the edge of the chicken yard, then climbed the chain-link fence by going in and out of the links.

I’m outa here!

It ended up behind the tin that used to make shade for the chickens before the hen house went up. It seems as if the snake was visiting for the water, not eggs, as I got six, including one just plopped on the ground! This heat must be hard on snakes and other cold-blooded creatures.

I left my visitor, since it was time to go check on Kathleen. Her recovery process is neither quick nor easy! I brought her some little gifts that had come in the mail, plus a pair of new glasses she had ordered. And magazines! All invalids need reading material. Let’s hope she hits all her goals and gets to come home soon.

We miss Kathleen.

Spider spray is going to be generously applied around the outside of the house!

I need more visitors to run my soft little head.

We Have a Fancy Chicken Nursery

You may know we have yet another broody hen. This time it’s Billie Idyll. What a surprise! I let her set, and she still has three eggs under her. It’s about hatching time, so I knew the babies couldn’t hatch in the nest boxes. They’d fall.

Honest, it’s a palace

Our dog crate that we use for babies is not quite right for them, because they could slip through some holes. Last time, we used cardboard to try to keep them safe, but only one made it to adulthood. And he was a rooster. Bruce didn’t like that.

I liked it fine here.

So today, the renovation team renovated the chick nursery. They did a great job. They used hardware cloth to seal all the cracks, cleaned it up really well, then built Billie a nest box.

I am NOT interested.

When they were done, I put Billie and the eggs in the nursery. Whoa, you should have heard her yelling! She wanted back in her nest box! She squawked and squawked. I showed her the eggs, but she didn’t care. Squawk!

Eggs? What eggs?

It took a couple of hours, but finally she figured out that her eggs were there. I hope they will hatch. Certainly they didn’t get too cool. It’s hot again!

Fine. I’ll set here.

Chicks are due in the next couple of days. I’m hoping they’ll make it at least a few days. And maybe there will be a hen? I’ll just keep trying. I do enjoy the chickens and their fancy new house. And of course, I love the doggies.

Howdy from Recovery Land

I’m feeling better about some things and I know Vlassic is!

Suna loves me

We had a good night last night. He slept straight through the night next to me on the couch in the future in-law suite. It’s a comfy couch that makes a bed.

Happy little doggie

I did okay. There is apparently something living in a box that makes occasional noise, so I kept hearing it. I wish Vlassic were more of a vermin eliminator. He’s great at eating grasshoppers!

I’m glad I did this, though. He can run again today and isn’t shivery. He’s recovering.

It’s all about ME

But I made it through work just fine and even got out to ride Apache. It isn’t as hot as it was, so we both did fine.

I guess I have to get to work since I’m wearing all this tack.

We did well. He even came when I called! We practiced all our homework and even did leg yield. But best of all, we made it down the paddock and back with no meltdowns. I did it!! So did he, of course.

We’re a team. In neon.

I think not only I am feeling better, but so are my dog and horse. We all feel safe with each other. I’ll sleep with Vlassic a few more days, so he will know this is his new home. It’s where his food is, and there’s a doggy door! And one day soon he’ll have his human buddy back!

Oh, Let’s Go Back to Fun

I felt a little better today, so I was able to get work done and enjoy my immediate surroundings. I also had some good talks with family, and that always helps. So, let’s see what’s going on with all those projects around here.

Nice water bottle, son.

The tack room (Suna Shack) is moving right along. I love the look of the wood they use for the walls and ceilings. The guys are doing a great job on it, too.

Looks like some wall got removed. Maybe more electrical stuff had to go in.

I love watching them work. The picture below warmed my heart. Those two are in the exact same pose and look the same from a distance. I think that’s sort of important. We all have a lot more in common than differences. This young white man and older black man look the same from this angle!

Holes for new windows. Also new light fixture.

The big thing that’s happened is they’ve taken a small window out and replaced it with two larger ones, which will make the Suna Shack area full of light, even with the air conditioner being in one window. That was not an easy task, either. There was much grumbling about how hard it was to get straight cuts with the Saws-All (no idea how that is spelled).

Ta da. All walls are back and window are in.

Lots of new lighting is also going in, plus a circuit breaker. It’s a class act, for sure. Motion sensors will make walking up to the tack room in the dark during the winter a lot safer and easier. The nephew thinks of everything.

Soon to bring electricity to the building.

Meanwhile, the hens are enjoying their henhouse, except when the door slams. I think they’d prefer I not check for eggs so often. So far, seven hens are happily using the nest boxes, and not all the same one, even. The exception is Bertie Lee, who lays her egg right inside the chicken entrance every day. She never ceases to make me chuckle.

At least I’m better than Bertie Lee at something, says Blondie.

Speaking of chuckling, dorky chicken signs were on sale at Tractor Supply when we stopped there on the way back from Mabel’s vet visit. I actually think the “Hen-trance” and “Egg-sit” signs are helpful to let you know which of the doors actually is the one to use. And it makes me laugh. I need to laugh.


PS: I also wrote Texas Governor Abbott a letter and reminded him he’s actually supposed to represent people, not lobbies. He spoke at the NRA Convention, along with a former US President and some other doofuses who forgot who they are supposed to be serving.

Something’s Different at the Henhouse

I hinted that things were different at the ranch when I came home. I didn’t notice it at first, because it was hiding behind cars and tractors, but the men in the family had conspired to upgrade the chickens’ living quarters. A lot. They even moved!

That hen house looks an awful lot like my tack room.

Wow! The chicken run is now attached to the tack room barn, which is no longer full of saddles and horse feed. It has a full-fledged roosting and nesting room in it.

Note the new flooring, screen door and such.

My nephew, husband, and son (along with their helper Marcus) conspired to move the tack room over and convert it to the Hen House. It also has space for all the food, my workbench, and the brown chair, for chicken watching. That’s fancy.

Just wait until I add chicken art.

Even fancier is the coop. Holy cow these are some lucky chickens. There are lovely roosts that they will probably use in the winter. They still like their branch outside. And there are a bunch of nest boxes. Sixteen! I need more chickens.

The colors!! And bless their hearts, they painted the ceiling blue.

Can you stand the cuteness? The chickens have a little door to come in that we will be able to shut if needed. Plans are to put in a heat lamp for winter. Yes! Electricity! No air conditioner, though.

See the door? And there is hay for them.

It’s all very charming. I think the chickens are wondering what they did to deserve a palace. I’m wondering what I did, too!

We fancy.

We have all the stuff needed to do babies, deal with a sick chicken, or introduce new flock members, too. I’ve got to start giving away or selling more eggs.

So, you may ask a question. If the Hen House is the old tack room, where’s your horse stuff? See next blog! I’m a truly grateful gal.

Sunset before rain. That also was good.

Trying Not to Cry Over Spoilt Milk

Last night the dinner we’d planned to have didn’t happen, so both Lee and I had cereal for dinner. I looked at the milk carton, which said it was good until that day. So I poured it on my Oaty Something and chomped away. The cereal tasted odd but I thought nothing of it. But then Lee said he’d thrown out the milk, because it was bad. Oops. The oats hid it too well.

Speaking of things that smell bad, this one horsemint blossom made my office smell like marijuana all day. In a bad way.

So last night, my stomach told me what it thought about that milk, all night. And it gave me weird dreams, like trying to wash horses in my sister’s living room. (She and my mom have both been in my dreams a lot lately — the women my grandmother messed up real bad.)

These flowers cheered me up. I have to pick them now, because they will soon be gone.

Today I dragged along, feeling pretty fuzzy. I got lots done at work, including reading dozens of surveys explaining exactly how much the users I support hate the software I support. Fun times.

In more cheery things. Look, two kinds of vultures, turkey and black. Who knows what they were eating?

Feeling so rotten meant I had no urge to saddle up and ride, so I groomed Apache and murdered botflies that were after him. Then we headed over to the dreaded new trailer. Imagine his surprise when he discovered all sorts of treats scattered on it! I think it did help settle him down, especially since I approached the trailer slowly and indirectly, like it says in my new book (and Tarrin said, too).

You do know my favorite undergrad course was neuroanatomy, right? Well, next to pragmatics.

We went on to do a lot of ground work, and then just hung around with the menfolk, chatting. It was good for us both. I also spent time with Drew after he ate, practicing standing at the mounting block. That boy is looking better.

No picture of Drew, but this is the best I’ve seen Billie Idyl and Blanca, the front two, looking in ages. Star and Buttercup always look good.

I’m home tonight because I decided I’m no longer a good fit for the Austin book club. I think they also decided that. It’s okay, since I had a special dish I was going to make for dinner. Only, dinner got delayed again! I’m laughing. You just go with the flow around here!

Tomorrow is another day. I hope the sunrise is as nice as today’s was!

And tomorrow I’m double booked. How did that happen when I’m trying to cut down on obligations? It’s because I like both Master Naturalist parties AND horse webinars! Glad the latter will be recorded.

Send me vibes for better sleep tonight!

A Rare Sighting of Wonder

Yesterday, my friend Mandi dropped by to pick up the baby blanket I finished recently, so her imminent little boy will have a nice warm blanket, perfect for Texas summers. Ha. Well, it will be perfect for cold air-conditioned rooms and draughts. Drafts. Whichever.

We spent most of our time over by the horses, because she needed some horse time and I had to feed the equines. I showed her the new and improved tack room, into which I am slowly moving my things.

Vlassic is fond of the chair, which Mandi shared she had tried to give away or throw away multiple times, but must have been waiting to serve as the tack room chair all along.

She also got to enjoy watching me work with Drew briefly. He acted like a doofus at first and was running off to eat grass with no regard to me, but once I got him into the round pen, he remembered what he was supposed to be doing and was just fine. I didn’t want to work with him too much, since he’d had so much time off and had been sick, but at least he got a few jumps and circles in to remember his job.

You starve me, human (he now is on the other pasture with more grass).

When we were done, we walked over to the hen house to gather the day’s production (they are in extra-productive mode right now, with 6-7 eggs a day, which is not bad for just eight hens).

I saw something in the corner of my eye and looked up. There, whirring and spiraling, was a flock of birds. They weren’t geese, since they were the wrong shape and there was a noticeable lack of honking. The birds were not in any particular formation, either, which also ruled out cranes or ducks. They really weren’t making much noise at all.

This is pretty much exactly what we saw, only from someone else near Dallas a few weeks ago. Image © Russ Hoverman Creative Commons.

Of course, I didn’t have any binoculars. I even had left my phone elsewhere! That’s not like me! So, I memorized what they looked like. To me they looked like seagulls, not something you see often here, due to a lack of sea. I took note of the black wing stripes.

An idea of what the formation looked like. Image © Russ Hoverman Creative Commons.

After that, we just watched them fly. They sparkled in the sun as they turned and spun. We were in awe. There must have been a hundred or so, shiny, white and swirling. We watched until they flew out of sight, heading northward.

Screenshot of Merlin Bird ID

When I got back to my phone, I immediately pulled up one of the most helpful bird-watching apps I’ve found, Merlin Bird ID from Cornell Labs (an institution I happily give my charitable donations to). This app has you input a few facts about the bird you saw, then gives you a list of possible birds it could have been. What’s really GREAT about the app is that it knows exactly where you are and has a huge database of past bird sightings for different times of year to draw from.

And that was the key to my bird identification. The app knew what tends to migrate at this time of year in the center of the United States. We were witnessing the migration of Franklin’s gulls (Leucophaeus pipixcan) from South America as they head up to the Great Lakes and marshes in the center of North America. How lucky we were to be outside and looking up in time to see that!

This is the kind of thing that makes life worth living for a naturalist. I’ll remember the sight for the rest of my life.

As it is, life goes on. The gutters are functional now and they got a little test yesterday when we got actual normal rain without any tornadic events.

They go into the ground now. Fancy.

In more Hermits’ Rest news, today the guys are building an entry deck for the pool house. That is going to make bringing things in and out much easier than trying to step on a couple of cement blocks, from which Lee almost fell yesterday, anyway.

Deck in progress. Getting it level was not easy.

It’s currently hard to work, because cattle in the next field are having some sort of moo-off. They can be impressively loud when they are in a cow-tizzy. The dogs are doggedly protecting us from these invisible monsters.

Shut up, cows.

And just for laughs, yesterday I put my new pool float in the hot tub. It was mighty comfortable. I was told it looked like I was on a tiny version of the Lazy River ride in Schlitterbahn (a water resort in Texas), where you get in an inner tube and float around and around in a circle of river water. I don’t care. It was fun (yes, this was also the image from yesterday’s little bitty blog post).

Have a great Friday Eve.

When a House Comes Down the Road: The Pool House Saga

Where to start on this tale? It’s a log one. Once upon a time, during the Pandemic Years, there was a house down the road from us. Suddenly, the house up and moved one lot down. It’s like I blinked and the house was moved. That seemed weird, but people do weird things. Over a period of months, the house got all fixed up and looked very cute.

Then, one day, where the house used to stand, there appeared a different house, one of those pre-built ones that aren’t a mobile home, but are more like a large portable building. It was pretty cute, too. A lady who raises dogs lived in the renovated old house, we found out.

Cute little house just sitting there.

We noticed that no one was living in the new house, and instead folks were living in a nice RV on the property, along with a ridiculously cute pony. At the same time, our family had been talking for a while about having a pool house on the other side of the pool, where Kathleen and her spouse could stay when they are in town, and otherwise where people can change and dry off from the pool. The talk had died off as other stuff happened in the past few months.

The cute pony did not come with the house. The lady with the dogs got it.

But, the nephew didn’t give up. He talked to the owners and found out that they’d decided they didn’t want to turn the building into a house after all. We looked at it and realized this little building is the exact right size for a pool house. It’s not big enough for full-time life, but perfect for occasional use. Talks ensued. And ensued. At one point, we gave up when the company that owned the loan didn’t want to take our money. But, yay, Lee and the nephew were patient and the move was scheduled!

Removing the supporting cement blocks

We were happy to find out they could move the building today. That required a lot of fast work, including cutting down part of our gate to make the gate at the entrance to our ranch, since we needed a 2-foot opening. It’s a good thing we know someone with a welding machine that happens to be on our property.

The pieces of wood are where the entry keypad and edge of the gate used to be. They will go back. You can see that they DID roll over it.

The other concern we had for moving the house was weather. Rain kept threatening, so we just hoped it would hold off long enough to get the house in, but then show up and rain like crazy (we need it).

Moving the house onto the trailer

Luckily, today was just cloudy. We got the call that the house movers were here, and of course your intrepid blogger grabbed her phone to record it all. Let me tell you, it was truly interesting. They have some amazing high-tech equipment that makes picking up a building and moving it a real breeze. Of course, we had our helping team there and were all prepared to do some of the work. I’m so proud of all the lifting of rocks they did (not my son’s favorite task).

Watch the little machine guide the house onto the trailer.

They had a little vehicle that was remote controlled. It could push the big house like it was just a sack of groceries. To get it off its foundation, it pushed the house straight onto a really fancy trailer that also can go up and down and even sideways, as I found out later. The house was on the trailer in no time!

It took it about 15 minutes to get down the road to our house. I enjoyed taking pictures of it as it came, plus I got some wildflower photos while I waited. Yes, people think I am a strange plant lady, but it’s okay. I had fun. And it was cool to see a house going down our road.

The scariest part of the whole trip was making the turn into our driveway. It’s a good thing that boards were put over the places where the gate had been cut off, because wheels went right over it. And at one point, everything was tilting. The trailer fixed it! It was really cool to watch.

The guys had taken down part of the fence, but there was no way the truck would make it in. No problem. The little machine pushed the house onto some wheels, and off it went.

Lowering the house off the trailer.

The guy controlling it was so good. He got the building exactly where we’d put the cones to mark the front boundaries. Wow. Suddenly, there it was!

Once it was in place, everyone got to work setting blocks down for it to sit on. The house movers had a set of lasers to help level the house, so it is accurate and straight.

We still have to put a few more supports in, but by gosh, there’s a pool house out there now! Of course, the dogs had to inspect it. They liked the free couch that came with the house the best, I think.

The general idea of a floor plan for the inside is set. Now the team will have to get onto making it usable. The plan is to make it quite rustic, like a guest cabin. We will paint it to match our house and garage, and plan to use some of the leftover stone from the exterior of our main house as accents. It will all look pretty darned coordinated.

Moment of nature. Oak blossoms.

Obviously, this will all take a while, but first the tack room needed to get taken care of. Today the ceiling got finished and the team made the larger loft smaller, so it will be more useful for what we need. All the insulation is out, so it’s looking more like a real tack room. I’m so pleased. I’m not sure when they plan to do electricity or anything, but it’s insulated and sound!

While all this excitement was going on the horses and chickens wanted attention. Drew informed me he really didn’t want any more horsey Pepto-Bismol, and since he seems fine now, I’ve decided to stop forcing it on him. He is still getting three soupy meals a day and the rest of his medicines, however.

I do not want your pink disgusting stuff. I’m outa here. Notice Drew looks sort of orange. He has been rolling in sand.

And the chickens let me know quite loudly that something was amiss in the hen house. I went over to see, and yep, it was yet another rat snake trying to take advantage of the free food. Sigh. They are such good snakes when they are eating mice and rats. But, this one had to go.

MMM, eggs. If only I knew to flee after I eat eggs.

What a day, right? And I managed to write some scintillating content on project schedule baselines in between exciting moments. I’m all tired again, that’s for sure, even after a relaxing evening last night with friends and family. It’s so nice to see both the pool and the hot tub in use and the grill fired up. Living one day at a time is working out so far.

So, who thought we’d be driving a house into our back yard today? Not me, as recently as last week.

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