A quiet place

We had tenants in this house for four years after we bought it, until I was able to retire and move from Austin. One of the things our tenant suggested once we moved here was that we install a bench down next to the pond. I frankly didn’t pay much attention, because I have spent very little time down by the pond, most of my time last year being taken up with the contractors but also because I felt so unsteady walking down there. I used to go around and weed whack a bit, but we have so little flat land that I often felt like I was going to fall down. However, my weight loss and walking have combined to make me feel stronger and more steady, and we have also put in safer steps to all the places downhill.

So, last week my husband and I lugged the parts for a new bench down to the pond and started putting it together. It was so hot we didn’t get very far. Then we had a series of rainy, cold days, and we just left the extension cord down there but did nothing. However, starting late last week, we had a long series of cool, sunny days. So, over the weekend, we finished the bench.

Our bench by the edge of the pond. The pond looks very small in this picture, but it goes off toward the left for some way. It has a creek running into it from the left and running out of it on the right. Right now on the way down are wildflowers, bleeding hearts and little yellow star-shaped flowers that might be cowslips or Texas yellow stars. And we have found lots of budding flowers that look like they could be wild strawberries.

And it has surprised me how much time we have already spent down there, several hours every day. It is indeed peaceful and quiet. There is a pair of nesting mallards down there (whom unfortunately we’ve scared off twice by talking just as they arrived to land), and I have seen the head of some furry animal swimming around, either a beaver or a muskrat; I could not see his tail. Birds are everywhere, and fish jump every few minutes. We assume we also have turtles and frogs, but we haven’t seen or heard any. Each day we go down when it is shady (all morning and late afternoon), either alone or together, and we sit there and be quiet, sometimes with our binoculars.

In fact, it is becoming very beautiful around our house, although it is shaggier looking outside than it was last year. Our tenant had goats and used to herd them around the property eating down everything that wasn’t supposed to be there, so it looked more groomed than it does with us. We are also talking about getting goats, since there are places on our property that are very difficult for us to keep looking nice. I was fretting about all the volunteer alders that have decided to root themselves in our landscaped ridge in front of the house on Sunday. (Alders are like weeds around here.) My niece and her husband came over to look at the colors I was evaluating for the guest room, and he ran up the ridge and started pulling the little trees out by their roots. I got the clippers for the bigger ones, and in half an hour, he made it look so much better. He said he wanted to come back and take out some more plants and trim some of our others. I will probably start the trimming the plants I can reach sometime later, but there are others I cannot. While my niece’s husband was pulling out the volunteers, his kids dressed themselves up like trees with the ones he had pulled out. They really looked cute.

Here are the azaleas next to our water feature. We need to pump the water out of the bottom of this and clear it out, then put new water in. But we know it runs, because we had it going last year. We don’t have it working yet because of procrastination.

Anyway, the ridge looks much better, and the azaleas are in full bloom on one side with the rhododendrons coming out on the other. It looks really nice right now except for some shaping I need to do.

On Monday, I slowly started painting the guest room. It was one of the few rooms we didn’t have the painters repaint, and I’ve been sorry I didn’t. We originally didn’t plan to paint any of the rooms downstairs, but after the staircase was rebuilt, they had to paint part of the big room by the stairs. Then, the more I looked at the guest room, the more I regretted not painting it, particularly because it seems to me that some former occupant used to walk around with a cup of coffee or tea in his or her hand and spill it down the walls and doors. Almost every door had a spill down it (I spent lots of time washing those off), but I occasionally find marks on the walls that weren’t painted that look like someone threw a cup of coffee at it. The guest room is no exception.

Here’s the bedroom with part of one wall painted. The color of the paint looks brighter and lighter when you are in the room than it does in this picture, but it is still a distinctive color.

I wanted to paint the wall a bright spring green because even though it gets a lot of light for a basement room (it has a large window and a sliding glass door, but on the other hand the deck is overhead), it is still darkish. I picked among four colors, and on Monday I started taping the ceilings and woodwork on one wall. Then on Tuesday, I painted the first two sections of the wall. (Every wall in that room has either multiple doors and windows in it or a bend or both.) I am taking it easy because it is unaccustomed work, but so far I think I am doing a good job. Since today is the day for my walk, I am not sure whether I will have time to work on it. The walk takes a couple of hours and then we usually go out for lunch, so that takes up most of the day. The next step is to tape the next section.

My niece said not to worry about separating my peas, which, by the way, are about two inches tall now.

Last week for our walk we returned to Lewis River park and took the circle around the park. It goes fairly steeply uphill for a little while and then circles around next to the river. For some reason, we always lose the path in this park, I think because part of the time you have to walk through parking lots. We did that again for the final part of walk, taking a side route instead of the main circle back up to the parking area. This walk is about three miles long.

Today, it looks like I will be walking with my sister instead of my neighbor. My sister has come along one other time. Yesterday she told me she wanted to come, then my neighbor let me know she has a cold, so she probably won’t be going.

 

 

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Yep, it snowed

Starting with the weather report, after some beautiful days earlier in the week, it snowed on Friday and Saturday. We just had a dusting of snow on Friday, but on Friday night to Saturday morning we must have had at least two inches. That didn’t stop my niece and her husband from coming over to put together my raised bed kit that day. They worked in the garage while I baby sat their kids inside. They didn’t want our help because they said they were so good at putting kits together by themselves. They are so sweet to us.

My niece and her husband building my raised beds. Note the snow.

We had a debate about exactly where to place the beds. The general placement was always to put it where the old shed thing used to be at the edge of the driveway. But half of that space was covered by patio bricks. Originally, we planned to remove all the patio bricks except those down the aisle of the beds, but my husband thought we could put it right on the bricks. We also had a debate about which direction to face it, because the bricks were situated perfectly for the beds to go sideways on them, but I wanted to maximize their exposure to sunlight, which meant putting them the other way. However, my niece and her husband thought the bricks weren’t level enough, which would put pressure on odd points of the beds. So, we put the beds behind the patio bricks directly on the bed of gravel, facing the way I wanted them to go and putting them even more centered into the space with the most sunlight, which leaves a nice patio in front for a couple of chairs.

My completed raised beds with the patio in front

Anyway, I think my beds look beautiful. They are solid cedar. I have already ordered the garden mix dirt to be delivered to my house tomorrow, so I guess I’ll be shoveling for the rest of the week, which is supposed to be clear.

For our walk this week, we tried a trail through the Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area. To our surprise, this area was smack dab in the middle of a rather prosperous suburban development. However, once you got into the thick cedar forest, there was almost no trace of the houses except for a few glimpses. The cedar forest was beautiful. The trail, although nicely kept in some places, was very muddy in other places. I had to share my neighbor’s hiking poles again to keep from falling down, which was enough to make me order some of my own as soon as we got home. That trail wasn’t very long. It was supposedly only 1.3 miles. We originally planned to walk it twice, but it took so long to navigate the mud that we did not.

In art class, I finished working on the sky for my landscape and began working on the sea. The class seems to be getting too full of children, but I know from experience that the number of children varies wildly from time to time. Next week is spring break, so there will probably be hardly any children there.

 

We think it’s spring, but maybe not

I’ll start out by telling you about something I forgot from last week. It was a date with my nine-year-old great niece for a sleepover in “her” bedroom. She wanted to bake, and although this did not accord with my Weight Watchers regime, we made mug cakes and peach pie. We started with the peach pie, which she claimed she had never had. I had her help with every step, including making a lattice top, to show her how easy it is. We used peaches that I bought last summer and froze. Then while it was baking, we made the mug cakes. Since she made me one, I of course had to eat it, and then we all had pie. I just had a narrow slice of it, no more than an inch wide, although it pained me to do so, and then we sent it home with her the next day (although by then my husband and great niece had eaten half of it). We finished off the evening with some brisk games of dominoes.

By the way, I joined Weight Watchers with my sister, and we are both doing well. I have lost more than 15 pounds since late January.

For our walk last week, my neighbor and I used the Trails app to try to find a loop around Battle Ground Lake. There were two, actually, but the start of the outer loop was hard to find, so we inadvertently ended up on the inner loop. The outer loop is actually the one that is reviewed in the app as fit for walking dogs and taking strollers. The inner loop is a forest path with lots of ups and downs and rough terrain that went right along the lake. That would have been okay except it was very wet. Almost the first thing I did was slip in the mud and fall down. I don’t do down very well, usually, but we had my neighbor’s hiking sticks, and that helped me get back up. Later, we had to crawl under some trees that had fallen across the path. Altogether, it was way more rough than I was used to, still being a beginning hiker. As we exited the loop, we came upon the other end of the outer loop, with people with their strollers walking along! According to the app, we walked (climbed, crawled) about 2.5 miles.

This could get interesting, because while I primarily care about getting more exercise, my neighbor used to be a hearty outdoors woman and sees us eventually hiking rugged paths in the Gorge. (The kind of paths I never hiked even when I was young and slim and fearless, although I probably would have liked to, I just never did.) Although I would like to hike in the Gorge, I have much more modest goals in mind. When I commented on the rough path, she said, “If we are going to hike in the Gorge, we’ll have to hike paths like that.” She already told me one story about being a speed hiker and how one time she was hiking so quickly in Yosemite that she hiked right past a bear without seeing it. Luckily, she has since slowed down to look at the scenery.

Thursday is the day for our Weight Watchers meeting, and my sister and I usually celebrate afterwards by going out to eat. We didn’t think we would be going that night, because my sister had to work after the meeting. But she got put on standby during the meeting, so we went to this really wonderful Greek restaurant in Battle Ground called George’s Molón Lavé. I had moussaka (not having had any for years) and my sister had the delicious lamb chops that I enjoyed the first time my husband and I went. All things considered, I vote for the lamb chops.

On Friday, I happened to ask my sister if she wanted to go in to the Crafts Warehouse with me, where I needed to buy a frame for my bird painting (my husband decided we should frame it—now I just need to find somewhere insignificant to hang it) and some linseed oil. She said it was her errand day, so we spent the entire day out. We bought dirt, chicken feed, stuff at Costco, veggies and fruit at Chuck’s, and linseed oil and a frame. At the art store she picked up some kits, because she has art class with my great niece every week and likes to do different things.

Saturday was very busy. First, I went with my sister and my niece to the Japanese nursery in Woodland. They bought several trees and some tropical plants for a terrarium for my great nephew’s new pet corn snake. (The kids’ pets tend to be unusual, because their mother is severely allergic to cats and dogs. They have a lizard, a snake, and two ferrets.) I bought a bare roots lilac bush to replace the one my husband mowed over last spring and a plum tree for our orchard.

Later in the day, we all (except my husband, the party pooper), went to see A Wrinkle in Time. It was fairly good, although much more of a kid’s movie than one for an adult. But it was for a particular age range of kids, as we found when my four-year-old great nephew ended up having to be taken out of the theater by his dad. His dad later said that he said, “I wish this movie was over!” Of course, it was full length, so it’s also probably the first full-length movie he’s ever seen, his previous experience being with animated movies, which are usually shorter. My great niece, however, thought it was wonderful although “not as good as the book.”

One thing that struck me right away, although my memory of the book is not very good, was that they went a long way to make the movie inclusive, even having Charles Wallace be adopted just so he could be oriental (he wasn’t adopted in the book, was he?), but the setting was Southern California all the way. Hollywood, big news flash—the entire population of the United States does not live in suburban Southern California. My recollection, which could be faulty, places the original story in New England. But I DO remember that they lived out in the country. One of the first things my great niece said when she came out was “They lived on a hill way out in the country. That wasn’t right.” So, if you want to be inclusive, Hollywood, how about including a few other parts of the country in your kid’s movies?

My new little lilac bush next to the small daffodils. In the top right corner of the picture is the very start of the pond. You probably can’t tell from this photo that the lilac is at the edge of a steep slope. Over on the top left are the stairs that lead from the lower drive down to the lower orchard.

Sunday was the start of a run of beautiful cool but sunny days. I went out and planted my bare roots lilac bush, trying to choose a place where my husband was unlikely to run over it with the lawnmower. I chose to put it next to the daffodils near the lower drive on the edge of the slope that goes down to the wolf pen and the pond. That little swath of land next to the sidewalk and drive (outside the lower level of the house) gets more sun than the orchard, because my daffodils are up there and the ones in the orchard are still hiding their flowers.

Over the last few days, we have planted some more trees (two blue spruces and a maple tree) and cleared off the area where my raised beds are going to go. I hope to begin putting them together soon. My niece said she thought her husband could help on the weekend, but they are very busy, so I would rather start doing it than wait for their help.

In art class, I finished tracing my landscape and spent the class painting sky and clouds.

But what does my title to this post mean? It means snow is forecast for Friday and Saturday. The forecast has been pretty steady, too. Over the winter, we often had snow forecast for a week later only to have it turn to a forecast of rain by the time the day came. But for the last week, the forecast has been snow on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and only today did it change to just Friday and Saturday. The Portland forecast says snow at 1500 feet and higher, and we are at 1000, but the local forecast on my phone is usually more accurate for us than the one from Portland. We’ll see.

 

 

Trees, Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas concert, and art

I realized that last week I forgot to talk about trees. Several months ago, we joined the Arbor Day Foundation, whose mission is to encourage people to plant more trees. Around here, we go out and see more and more logged lots every month, so planting trees seems like a good idea. With a donation, you have the choice of either receiving a bunch of trees to plant or telling them to plant them for you. Since we had very little spring color on our property last year, just a couple of apple and cherry trees, and all white, I decided that we needed the trees. All that was specified was that we would receive ten flowering trees and two crepe myrtles.

We received these trees the week before last, so last week, we set about planting them. We actually received five white flowering dogwoods, five redbuds, and the two crepe myrtles, all very small plugs. We planted all of them along the edges of the orchard in places where I thought they would be least likely to get mown over by my husband. Then we went around and stuck stakes in the ground next to each one (the trees themselves just look like sticks right now) to make it more noticeable for my husband. I still have not replaced the lilac bush that my husband mowed down, because I’m waiting for a landscaping box to put it in.

My Friday Thanksgiving dinner went well. I made Russian wild mushroom and cheese soup, turkey, green bean casserole (my husband’s favorite), squash casserole, stuffing, and gravy. My niece brought a raspberry pie. Only the mashed potatoes were a problem. I had bought a bag of Yukon golds a couple of weeks ago, but when I removed them from the drawer, they were a bag of liquid, leaving behind a puddle of goo that was 1/4 inch thick. It was disgusting. The only potatoes that escaped the devastation were the three older ones that were in the drawer by themselves. I never buy potatoes by the bag, so this will teach me. Neither my niece or my sister had potatoes, so we were forced to put the gravy on our meat and stuffing. Not exactly a disaster. My sister told me afterwards that my niece remarked what a treat it was to eat a holiday dinner that she didn’t have to cook herself.

Of course, that meant that Friday was a busy one for me. In fact, I was so tired afterwards that I was lying on the couch feeling like something was pressing me downwards. But Saturday was busy, too. We took my great niece to her new yellow stripe belt class first thing in the morning. This was our first class to take her to since she belt tested, because the day after the belt test she was sick. Unfortunately, they were closed. If they told people ahead of time that they were going to be closed, they certainly didn’t put it on their web site or anything. My niece was already mad at them, because they posted the wrong class schedule on their site, so that my great niece missed her Tuesday class because she went at the wrong time. So she hasn’t attended class since the belt test.

After we got back from the non-class, I had just about enough time to finish the hand wash from Friday before my sister came to pick us up for the Christmas concert. This was a concert with the Portland Orchestra and Choir. My niece’s husband’s stepfather is in the choir. We went with my sister, my great niece, and my great niece’s other grandmother (in case, you didn’t follow that, my niece’s husband’s mother). The concert was very nice, with traditional and not so traditional Christmas songs. A particularly nice touch was the inclusion of the Bells of the Cascades. I always like to do at least one Christmassy thing before Christmas. In past years, that has been difficult, because my husband is not into it, but the Christmas spirit has captured my niece big time (she used to dislike it, before she had kids), so it is no longer a problem. After the concert, we met all my niece’s husband, his brother, and my great nephew for dinner.

Here is my color exercise, with its much too blue sky. Each petal is a slightly different color.

In art class, I finally finished the second color exercise, a simple picture of some flowers. As I mentioned before, my last teacher had misunderstood the intention of the exercise, which was to match the colors on a sample, so, my sky was much too blue. When I went back to my original teacher, I fixed the rest of the picture, but it was too late to change the color of the sky. I also found out that I had missed another color exercise that was supposed to come before this one, so next week I’ll start on that.

This weekend we have another Christmas experience coming up. I’ll tell you all about it next time.

 

Autumn around our farm

My sister seems to be right in that our fall colors consist of yellow before the leaves die. I’ve been looking around, and the only glimpses of orange and red I get are from planted or landscaped plants. The natural colors of the forest seem to be yellow and green.

In any case, fall is my favorite season. I love the color and sunny, cool days. I also love the blustery days. I love seeing pink cheeks on the children. The cooling weather always seems to energize me. I even love the rainy days, which we had most of last week. This week has been gorgeous, though.

Yes, is the same bush I showed you a few weeks ago. We think it might be a blueberry.

So, I give you a few pictures of our fall color, because nothing much else is going on this week. First, that little bush that I showed you a few weeks ago is now bright red and getting ready to drop its leaves.

At least I think this is a maple. It has maple-like leaves. I know very little about trees.

Back behind our orchard is a huge maple tree. It must be a silver maple, as I believe that other maples turn red in the fall. I took this picture when I went out into the orchard to plant more of my bulbs. This week we also planted the Carpathian walnut I bought to be a partner to our other walnut tree.

Behind the house there is quite a bit of color, but it is hidden among the fir trees. Here is the most notable color, at the top of a wild cherry tree right next to the pond. It’s too bad that the color is behind the firs, because I think it’s quite spectacular back there, if you could but see it.

All around our pond there are yellow trees peeping out from behind the firs and the other trees that have stayed green.

In the orchard, something or someone has eaten all our apples. I was out there a few weeks ago, and there were lots of apples on one of the trees, the tree that is supposed to produce Fuji apples. They weren’t quite ready to be picked, and my research shows that they are ready in November, which is when my sister picked them last year. Our other apple tree only had one apple. So, yesterday I went out to the orchard to check them, and there is only one left, high up in the tree. I don’t know what or who has eaten them, but I didn’t find any cores or apple parts on the ground. Perhaps the deer got all but this one, which is too high for them, because our little Fuji tree is leaning over to the ground. I hope it is the animals and not the kids from across the road, as this is the closest tree to the road. In any case, one of these days we’ll take a ladder out there and get our last apple. The apple on the other tree is gone, so I assume that whatever got the Fujis got that one, too.

This weekend is the Spooky Birthday Party for my great nephew, who will be four. I went over there yesterday to find all the adults and his older sister engaged in decorating the house, the yard, and the forest for the party. It is going to be quite some bash. I will be sure to take pictures of the costumes and the decor for next time. My niece must have spent hours on this so far, because, for example, her kitchen is full of bottles that she has labeled “Eye of Newt” and “Arsenic,” things like that, with quaint old-fashioned labels. What an eye for detail she has! Even in the living room are piles of books with titles like Grimoire and references to witches and devils (next to the giant spiders on the sofa pillows). My sister went out and bought a fog machine to send fog down the forest path for the Haunted Forest Walk. These kids are going to have a blast, as long as the little ones don’t get too frightened. All events are scheduled for daytime, though, so it shouldn’t be too bad. The children are excited at having helped their parents put up the decorations, so they dragged me through the house and forest yesterday showing me all the things they had made.

Some pictures from art class

My great niece with her picture of flowers in art class. I think it’s pretty good for a nine-year-old.

We took three pictures in art class last week, one of my great niece and her drawing of flowers. She took a lot of encouraging, but I think she did a good job. Her teacher told her she had a knack with the charcoal.

The other two were of my drawings. One was the finished castle that I mentioned last week. Half of the picture was its reflection in the water, and I was deeply unsatisfied with my rendering of it. But when I went back to class last week, it didn’t look that bad after all. I cleaned it up a bit and decided the drawing was finished.

My castle landscape

The next assignment was to do a still life. I wanted to try one, but after I got started, I don’t think either I or the teacher was very dedicated to it. I remember hearing our original art teacher tell people that she usually skipped that assignment, which she thought confused people because it had no relation to the method they used in the school for learning how to draw. I didn’t know how they were going to let me do a still life, as we sit in rather small spaces to draw, but it turned out that I was allowed to select some objects from the anteroom and they put me at a corner to draw so that I would have more room. The objects I could select from were fairly tacky, so I picked a glass vase and two seashells. I did not think I did such a great job, and my teacher really didn’t help me much. I wanted pointers on how to do the glass and all she said was “Make it streakier.” I remember getting lessons on painting glass in my oil painting class years ago, so I know there is a lot more she could have said.

My really pathetic still life

On the home front, I first went crazy buying bulbs. Ever since we arrived here, my intention was to plant bulbs in the fall so we would have flowers in the spring. But I was hoping to actually have flower beds by that time, which would have been easier. I went out to buy daffodils one day, to plant in the orchard, and I was fairly restrained, but they did not have a good selection. Then the next day, I went with my sister to the farm store, and they had a much better selection, so I got more daffodils, ranunculas, crocuses, and snowdrops. The next day I went out to find places to plant them. I planted some of the daffodils under a rim of sod behind the house and some under one of the apple trees in the orchard. But most of our ground was either rock under a thin layer of dirt or under sod. It was very hard trying to plant, and I didn’t get more done except that I planted the ranunculas at the bottom of the ridge between the blueberry bush and the bird feeder. Still haven’t done the crocuses, snowdrops, or about half the daffodils. But I don’t have to get them planted all at once.

On the weekend, I went on an outing with the kids. My niece, her husband, and their two children and I went to the Japanese nursery in Woodland and then to the pumpkin patch. I restrained myself at the nursery, only buying a partner walnut tree for the one we have in our orchard. My great niece talked her father into buying something called a jujube tree. He is a pushover, basically. Then we all went to the pumpkin patch. My niece needed lots of pumpkins to be jack o’lanterns for the spooky forest walk for my great nephew’s birthday party. So we filled up a wheelbarrow with pumpkins. Then the kids enjoyed the hay maze and the hay ride. Later we went to Fuel, a cafe we like in Ridgefield, and then home. A couple hours after arriving home, it was back to their house for our third Game of Thrones night.

This week I have spent finishing the housework for our guest’s arrival. The days were beautiful until yesterday afternoon, but now it is cold and drizzly. Poor timing, as our guest is coming from Houston and is originally from Louisiana, so she is used to warmer weather. I hope she doesn’t think its too cold here.

Today, our contractors are back to finish our sets of steps in the rain.

Lovely weather and art. What could be better?

After our hot weather the week before last, now we are having highs in the 60’s and low 70’s. Heaven! We had some rain on Sunday. A bit was forecast, but we actually had quite a downpour about 10 AM. The trees and the other plants were happy.

Our cute little sauna from Costco in the morning sunbeams. It is sitting under our deck on the patio outside the basement doors.

The contractors came back and put a rail on our steps, and that concludes their work for a while. But my husband discovered we had more money left over than he initially thought, so we can afford to have them back to redo the steps going up from the driveway to the top of the slope and the steps from the lower drive to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. Then all our dangerous outdoor steps will be gone.

The last thing finished was the sauna. It turns out that the timer was wired to be on all the time, so it was only off when we turned it on. That means that as soon as there was power to the sauna, it burned out. We got a new timer from the sauna manufacturer, and my husband is going to see if he can get a refund on the labor. I have never had a sauna, but my niece and nephew have already informed me that they would probably be over this weekend to take one. We had planned to buy a rigid sided kiddy pool to fill with cold water for after the sauna, so I guess we’d better get cracking before they aren’t available anymore.

My sister’s wolf. See how dramatic her lines are. Although she might prefer her deer, I think this is one of her best pictures.

This week I started hanging some of our pictures around the house. I was able to find the large ones but not the small ones, including one that had been in the kitchen for several months, a historical photo of a tornado next to the capitol building in Austin. I hope to find the rest soon.

My sort of pathetic horse

Those of you who have been interested in my art class might like to see some pictures I took last week. Both my sister and I were finishing up our latest drawings. The figures were supposed to be animals in close-up, and I was drawing a white horse in a snowstorm and my sister a wolf. I have to say that I was the least happy with the results of this picture. It’s very hard to draw a white on white subject in black and white. I thought my horse looked the least like a real animal than any of my other pictures.

Anyway, I’ve commented on how much bolder my sister is in her drawing than I am. She just really goes at the canvas, whereas I am still worried about making mistakes. I think that sometimes my work has come out better than hers, but in this case, it is totally the opposite, as you can see from this series of pictures. Good news! My great-niece will be able to start art class right on time, next week, the same week school starts.

My sister in art class drawing her wolf