Cabin Fever Series II

cabin in winter

At the end of the last post I had acquired my house building book, an idea, and a few logistical problems.

the site

Privacy and neighbours were not going to be a concern, at least.

The first job was to pick a site. I should mention at this point that I didn’t own any land. Not the land that the log cabin was on, nor the land I was planning to build on. The area was part of a mining claim that no-one had currently claimed. At that point in the mid-70’s no-one seemed to care overly much about small construction projects on Crown land. Not, of course, that anyone ever came out to check back then.

trail to cabin

The trail down to the creek. Photo taken years after the cabin was gone, around 2018.

The site I had picked out was a flat shelf of land close to the creek where I was going every day from the log cabin to get my water, about a fifteen minute walk in from the road via a narrow and fairly steep track.

The next issue was the small matter of building materials. I’d decided that log construction was definitely beyond my capabilities and that, in the circumstances, a frame and plywood construction would be more practical.

I did, however, need some logs for the foundations, so a friend with a chainsaw came by and felled three trees for me on the bank above my chosen building site.

And so began the summer of the come-along.

“What is a come-along?” you might well ask. I know I’d never heard of such a thing until someone loaned me one for this task. Anyway, it’s a hand-operated winch with a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to move much heavier objects than you could by hand.

Comealong

I should say at this point, that I could easily have asked someone to help me with this project, but I was stubborn and felt I could, and should, learn how to do this myself.

That whole summer was spent discovering different ways to use a come-along incorrectly — plus, several novel potential ways to injure yourself.

Once again, however, the forest gods must have been watching me, as I  miraculously survived the process, unscathed except for some blisters. Should you ever find yourself with a come-along and some logs to move, let me share some important do’s and don’ts.

First, don’t start dragging the log across the face of a slope parallel to the grade. If you do, it will roll down the slope in a much faster, and less controlled way than you had in mind. Especially DO NOT stand downhill from the log!

Also, if you drag the log at a right angle down one slope to a flat area, the nose of the log will dig itself deeply into the flat area. You will then spend several days of excavating to free it.

It took, as I recall, about six weeks — during which time I learned to drag the log at an oblique angle across the downhill slope, and to make rollers from bits of wood to stop the nose of the log digging in to the “steps” on the way down.

Oh, and patience. I learned a lot about that. Nevertheless, I’m sure the trees and wildlife for miles around heard more swearing that summer than ever before.

By the end of summer I had all three logs down to the flat area where I planned to build, but was a bit stymied as to how to get them all perfectly aligned. Luckily two tree planting friends happened to stop by just then, and the three of us got the logs more or less level and parallel.

lumber sizes

Now I needed the rest of the supplies — milled lumber and plywood. The fact that I didn’t drive complicated things, but by ordering from a small family-run mill on the other side of Likely, I was able to get it all delivered. Of course, with no road into the cabin site, the best they could do was leave it on the landing, about 20 minutes walk from the cabin site.

Cue more swearing as I spent several weeks carrying and dragging all the wood down the trail, piece by piece. I’d carry a sheet of plywood on my back and sometimes, if I started to run downhill, I’d feel quite close to achieving primitive flight.

finlay in creek in winter

Finlay surveying his new neighbourhood — the creek bed mostly frozen over in winter.

Eventually all of the supplies were on-site and just needed assembling. Again, I could have made this a lot easier on myself by simply buying a couple of cases of beer and getting all of the local experienced cabin builders to come over and whip it together in a day or two. But Fair Isle Sock Knitter Extraordinaires do not take the easy path.

I had to admit though, that lumber construction was starting to look logistically quite different from knitting.

It was hard to see how one pair of inexperienced hands could physically accomplish the task. Fortunately a friend arrived from Wales as I was trying to figure out next steps.  He’d never done anything like this either, so we’d spend each evening poring over the “Illustrated Guide to Housebuilding” by kerosene lamp in the breezy log cabin and then head down the hill to try and put what we’d learned into action. Our vocabularies suddenly expanded — words like  “joist,” “sill,” “studs” and “gable end” were bandied about as if we actually knew what we were doing.

framing

Getting it framed, super-well insulated, and clad in plywood started after the tree planting season, and took the rest of the summer, fall and into early winter. Unfortunately I seem to have very few photos of all of this industry, which as a photographer drives me mad. I was still using my old Kodak Instamatic at that time, and I imagine I was saving all funds for building supplies rather than photo developing.

Below is one of the few pictures I can find. You can see that I’m using a Swede saw. All all of the lumber was cut using hand saws due to my abiding fear of chainsaws. No wonder it took us so long!

cabinbuilding june

frozen

Me, hair a bit frozen, towards the end of construction.

By the time we were ready to put roofing paper on the roof, it was very cold and starting to snow. Roofing paper is impossible to work with in the cold as it becomes brittle and breaks, so we worked out the following system.

One of us would be up in the log cabin at the top of the hill. That person would cut the roofing paper to length in the warm cabin and then roll it up, tuck it under one arm, and run at at full tilt down to the new cabin. There, the other person would be stationed on the cabin roof with a broom to sweep off some of the snowflakes that were falling, and, between us we’d attach the pre-cut piece of roofing paper before it got too cold and broke into pieces.

And then repeat. And repeat.

cabin with laddeer

Ladder set up on the roof for scrambling up with rolls of roof paper.

That part definitely wasn’t in the Illustrated Guide, but somehow it worked and the roof was on, just in time for winter to start in earnest.

my cabin in winter

outhouse

Five star outhouse. A bit chilly in the depths of winter, but great view.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode: moving in and furnishing my cabin.

 

 

If you missed it:

logo with crow

 

does your soul need comforting?

A special Earth Day 2020 post, inspired by the lovely poem, Such Singing in the Wild Branches by the incomparable Mary Oliver.

Such Singing in The Wild Branches

by Mary Oliver — from Owls and Other Fantasies

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves —
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness —
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself a wing or a tree —
and I begin to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that I was singing —
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in there perfectly blue sky — all of them

were singing
And, of course, yes so it seemed,
So was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
And does your own soul need comforting?
Quick then — open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Many of our souls have found comfort in nature over these last few difficult weeks.

If we are lucky, we may have experienced “a pure white moment” or two in the natural world.

I hope it is true that “once you have been there, you’re there forever” because, when the world starts to move on again, we need to remember the things we’ve learned over these quiet, worried, contemplative days.

We need to remember that we need Nature. And I really, really hope that we remember that Nature needs us too.

Now.

And later.

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Cabin Fever Series I

My “living alone in a cabin in the wilderness” years weren’t really comparable to what people are experiencing now.

The outside world was proceeding more or less normally while I was living “off grid” in the Cariboo in the mid 1970’s and I could, I suppose, have chosen to leave at any time.

In some ways though, I felt I had to stay.

Most days I loved it and, on days when I didn’t so much . . . well, for much of the time I was there, I couldn’t drive and didn’t have a vehicle, so an impulsive exit wasn’t really an option.

I’ve been trying to think of which things I learned during those years that are handy now. I chose that experience instead of going back to school to do my Master’s degree. While there have been many times I’ve thought that was a crazy decision, now that I’m older I’m less sure. Every day I’m grateful for things I learned — about myself, mostly — in my Cabin Fever period.

As it’s a bit of a long story, I’m dividing it into a few parts and will end with a small summary of Cabin Life Tips.

june on bridge

Crossing the log bridge at low water.

The first cabin I lived in was an old dynamite shack, left behind from a gold mining operation. Located several miles down a road that ended in the rushing Quesnel River, it was pretty remote.

Only about half a dozen people lived further down Seven Mile Road than me, and getting to the cabin involved a twenty minute hike from that road, including the fording of the creek that fed into the main river, via the rather dodgy log bridge.

This was less, or more, exciting depending on the season and the water level.

7 mile road

Seven Mile Road

While at the dynamite shack I learned how to make bannock and discovered that no-see-ums can fly through mosquito netting. A fit of rustic craftiness almost lost me a finger when trying to cut a bracket fungus off an old log to make into a candle holder, as one did in those days.  I’m sure I must have learned some other things.

One of them should have been “keep a diary so you can remember this stuff forty years later.”

After a few months in the dynamite shack I inherited another, closer to the road, vacant cabin. I had stayed there before with my good friends, Richard and Denise, but they had two babies by then and were moving closer to the amenities of  “town” — aka Likely, where the one grocery store, bar and post office/gas station were located.

Likely Bar-late 70's

Beautiful downtown Likely, mid-70’s.

June&Tiko

It was during this period that Finlay the Magnificent arrived in my life.

A neighbour stopped by with two puppies that his dog had given birth to. Using a uniquely hard sell technique, he told me that, if he couldn’t find homes for them, he’d be hitting them on the head with a hammer. I hadn’t really been planning on getting a dog, but . . .

Of the two, one was much prettier. I picked the plainer one, confident that the  “looker”  would have a better chance of adoption.

This was the start of a beautiful 15 year relationship.

I was told that cabin dogs needed to be kept outside so they could keep watch for bears, so little puppy Finlay slept in the great outdoors. He would get revenge by crawling under the cabin and getting stuck under the porch, yowling, so I’d have to get up in the middle of the night and pry a board off the platform to pull him out.

He was so tiny that first winter, when we walked through the deep snow to visit the nearest neighbours a couple of miles away, his forward motion was accomplished via a combination of swimming and tunnelling.

babyfinlay

There are so many Finlay stories. He came tree planting with me for years and was a pretty legendary camp dog. His favourite sleeping spot was, not beside, but under the airtight stove in the cook shack. While I was out planting, he would stretch out in the blazingly hot sun beside the tree box supply. Sometimes when we got back we could hardly find him because he’d be completely and obliviously covered in dust.

There will actually have to be a whole separate post on Finlay for some of the other stories. The time he went missing for a week, the memorable day he brought me a bear, how he adapted, years later, to city life . . .

june in a box

My first winter in the log cabin was very enlightening. First I learned that a cabin made of logs needs to be “chinked” — i.e. insulation of some sort put between each log. This one had been built without such consideration, so when it was 20 below outside, it was about 18 below inside — with an arctic wind blowing across the floor. I would keep the airtight stove going all night and still the water bucket, located next to said airtight, would be frozen in the morning.

logcabin w

Log cabin in early winter.

Keeping that stove going all night meant lots of wood chopping, which meant a crash course in the care and maintenance of firewood.

First I learned that if you locate your wood pile under the eaves of the cabin, where three foot long icicles will inevitably form, your wood supply will become deeply encased in ice. It actually took longer to use the axe to chip wood out of its crystal prison each day than it did to split it. That’s the second fun thing I learned — splitting rounds in freezing weather is kind of fun as it only takes a tap with the axe and the wood explodes in a satisfying manner.

Miraculously, by the end of the first winter I had neither frozen to death, nor bled to death in the snow from an axe injury. And I had taught myself Fair Isle knitting.

In kindergarten I had been the worst knitter in the class. I still remember the humiliation of being the only one still forced to struggle on with a tangle of red string when all the others had graduated to actual wool.

Perhaps it was over-weaning pride in my new accomplishment, but I somehow concluded that, because I had mastered knitting Fair Isle socks, I was now ready to build my own cabin.

I headed into Williams lake and bought what was to become my bible.

illustrated housebuilding

It was the description “definitive layman’s book” that sold me. That and “for those who need a lot of help.”

As you can see, I still have the book “Illustrated Housebuilding.” I don’t think I’ll be building any more houses myself but I keep it handy in case either of my kids should feel inspired.

My goal was to build my “dream” cabin  — i.e. insulated to an extreme level, and close to a water source. The log cabin was only a few minutes walk from the road, but was a long trek uphill from the stream where water had to be hauled from. I decided I’d rather be further from the road and closer to the water.

So all that remained to do was get supplies and build it.

Since there was just me, and I still didn’t drive, there were a few technical details remaining to be worked out.

illustrated housebuilding inside

Stay tuned for the next instalment, Cabin Construction!

cabinbuilding june

Read on at:

 

logo with crow

The Edgar Diaries

Edgar, so confident that all will be well, now finds himself nodding off during the Prime Minister’s daily briefings.

He is however, adamant that everyone should listen to the Health Officer’s advice and keep on staying the bleep home. Do not cross this cat. You have been warned.

staycation

And, just in case you need a reminder about the vital importance of hand washing …

More on the importance of keeping to some sort of schedule during these discombobulating times.

4:57 Edgar arrives at my desk.
4:59 Geordie arrives as back up.
5pm is dinner time and some schedules must be adhered to, regardless of whether the humans have lost track of the days. Honestly, they say, what would the people do without us …? A good question.

Photo 2020-04-13, 4 59 24 PMPhoto 2020-04-13, 5 01 03 PM

Because his own luxury pet bed is starting to seem a bit cramped, or perhaps just because he feels like a change, Edgar has now laid claim to the dog’s bed as well as his own. Luckily Geordie is willing to roll with the punches.

Photo 2020-04-13, 2 57 24 PM

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And … a rare win for the human, staring contest-wise.

You know the days are long when you’re competing in staring contests with Edgar.

Stay safe!

Raven Therapy

I must confess, I’ve been “hoarding” these ravens since mid-March, working on prints of them as a consolation prize for not being able to get up to the mountains more than twice this winter.

It already seems like another lifetime when I took these photos in late February and mid-March — in the all too brief period between the “fractured foot” and “everything in the world has changed” eras.

On the first trip, it was sunny and lovely, and we saw a few ravens.

The most interesting raven moment that day was when we heard what sounded like a chipmunk being strangled in the shadow of a big tree  …

… and it turned out to be this raven noisily bringing up a pellet.

The second trip, just before the mountain trails were closed to the public, was mid-March. That precious day provided a small conspiracy of ravens and lovely soft light for photographing them.

If it had to be my last day of the winter to see them, it was a good one.

 

 

I should put in a special thanks here to my family who were on the trip and who waited, more or less patiently, while I was taking these photos and perhaps a few more.

While I do love my local crows, ravens are somehow a special treat. Even if I can’t see them for weeks at a time, I find the simple idea of their existence to be therapeutic.

When I couldn’t get up to the mountains for the early part of the winter, I watched this video of ravens playing with snowballs over and over again to tide me over. It seemed to speak to many people. I think it’s the most popular video I ever posted on my Twitter account, shared thousands of times.

I imagine they’re up there now, joyfully living their raven lives, with only trees and the skyline reflected in their all-seeing eyes. I’m sure they don’t miss the human company — except, perhaps their ill-guarded and easy to purloin lunches.

You can find some of these images and others now available as prints in my shop.

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Nesting News

Nesting News Chickadee and Blossom

Here’s a re-post from this time last year, and the chickadees are equally busy this year.

Also, a reminder, if you haven’t read it already, don’t miss the gripping sequel to yesterday’s post: Flicker Saga Part Two

The Chickadee Edition

On your marks, get set, go.

As soon as the plum blossoms flower on our street it’s the signal for serious nesting building to start. From the biggest to the tiniest birds, the clock is ticking.

With great good luck, we have a pair of chickadees, including my special buddy, Braveheart (with the teardrop marking) building a nest in the ornamental plum tree by our house.

Cherry Blossom Chickadee

When I feel too busy, I just go out and watch these two working ceaselessly for a few minutes. Their level of dedication to the job at hand is pretty inspiring.

Busy Chickadee in Plum Tree

Phase One: expanding the existing small tree cavity. The original hole was clearly not spacious enough for their interior design ambitions, so remodelling was undertaken with zeal.

With those tiny beaks, you can imagine how many trips it took do the job. For about a week, the pair of them took turns flying in and out, hundreds of times a day, with their micro-loads of wood chips.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even when they stopped for a break, you could see the sawdust stuck to their hardworking little faces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASawdust beak

I imagine it was a pretty dry and uncomfortable job, chewing and spitting out wood for days on end. The photo below catches one of our intrepid builders coughing up a bit of sawdust. I felt as if I should offer them each a very tiny beer, but I guess they made do with the water in the bird bath.

Chickadee Cough

It’s hard to say if they finally decided the space was big enough, or they just couldn’t stand any more digging …

Chickadee Looking Into Nest

… but one day efforts suddenly switched from digging to interior design.

Moss Collecting Chickadee

Chickadee with Plum Blossom Flower

Nothing like some fresh cut flowers to bring a new living space alive!

I’m not sure what’s going on in there now. I try not to spend too much time hanging around in case I attract unwanted predatory attention, but I’ll keep you posted on developments.

Nesting News Chickadee and Blossom

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ups and Downs

We took Geordie for a short run in the woods this morning. Just being in the forest is wonderful, but watching Geordie let loose is really joyful.

He loves to run — doesn’t need anything to chase, or another dog; he just likes to run for the sake of running.

He’s the very epitome of joie de vivre.

But I have to tell you, as soon as we turned onto the wider path near the end of the trails his entire demeanour changed. He hung back, walking like a condemned dog. It wasn’t just that the run was almost over — he’s usually fine with that. The problem was that he realized that he was muddy . . . and muddy means B – A – T – H.

He really is a dog who’s too smart for his own good and he’s always half-waiting for the “bad thing” to happen. It’s partly his personality, partly his rescue dog past, but he’s an incurable pessimist at heart.

I must say that this is perhaps one of the reasons I love him so much.

I can so relate to that “living in the moment” to “worst case scenario” emotional seesaw. Especially now.

You should know that we spared him the bath this time. Just a brisk towel off (which he likes) when we got home!

 

Edgar’s Cat Therapy

My bird posts are meant to be small flares of love, joy and kindness fired out into a suddenly dark and uncertain world.

Lacking any medical or scientific knowledge, the only other thing I can think to offer a hurting population right now is Edgar.

You may have seen Edgar in my blog before. He is our cat. An indoor cat, about ten years old, with immense charm and a “keep calm” attitude well suited for the times.

I have revived his Facebook page, but I know for a fact that many of you don’t engage in social media, for various good reasons, so I thought I’d reproduce his Facebook posts here, so you don’t miss them.

DAY ONE

Edgar feels he may have valuable advice to offer at this time of being responsibly socially distant at home.
He has ten years of experience in this field, plus he’s a bit of a personal cleanliness fanatic.

DAY TWO

Edgar would like to advise everyone to get outside and enjoy some responsibly solitary fresh air when the weather is good. Socially distancing in wet weather is a more advanced skill, but fear not, Edgar will have tips for that too!

DAY THREE

Of course, Edgar will have most to say on how to survive and thrive as an “indoor person,” but we will have occasional guest suggestions from Edgar’s lovely assistant, Geordie.

Today’s tip is from Geordie and concerns food in a time of social distancing and staying home.
Many people have posted about how they are either
(a) eating too much from boredom and/or
(b) bored with what they have on hand to eat.
Geordie’s tip: stuff your food in a kong and then try to eat it (without using your hands, obviously.)
This will (a) use up calories while you’re eating and
(b) make any food automatically more interesting.
Your’e welcome.

DAY FOUR

Edgar needs to have a serious word.
Stay the @*#% home.
He means it.
That is all for today.

DAY FIVE

Edgar’s key tip for those of you staying at home: NAPPING
It may take you a while to work up to Edgar’s napping prowess, but time really flies when you’re snoozing blissfully for 18 hours a day!

DAY SIX

When I couldn’t sleep last night Edgar was a very therapeutic companion. Here are 30 seconds of his soothing purring sounds, in case it helps you through an anxious moment too. ❤️

Stay tuned for more from Edgar as we get through this together.

 

 

A Small Care Package

I had meant to write another crow update blog post today, but somehow it was a bit hard to focus on pulling the images and words together.

So, instead, here is a small, somewhat random bouquet of things that are helpful for my mental health at this tough time. I hope they help you too.

First, here is Norman the Nuthatch visiting the garden this morning.

It’s just 5 seconds, but I find playing him over and over again kind of restful.

Second, here is Mr. Pants, looking at me from the wires on our morning dog walk.

Crow Therapy is proving to be a lifeline for me at the moment.

Third, in exceptionally good timing we have Luke the Super Emotional Support dog staying with us for the weekend. Triple-strength dog therapy with Geordie and Nina. They take their work very seriously.

Fourth, and last, we need Edgar’s advice …

As an indoor cat he is already a master of both social distancing and extreme cleanliness.

Further advice he would like to share:  stay safe, nap frequently, and be very kind to others.

 

 

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Inheritance

Another crow probably came before, but George Broken Beak was the first I knew of to claim the golden ring.

George, fall 2016

Mabel inherited it, and since George died in 2017,  only she has been allowed to perch there. Until very recently.

Mabel, February 2020

The coveted golden ring is actually a yellow metal loop on a yellow metal pole — one of a pair used to suspend the chain that guards the local elementary school parking lot.

A relatively humble throne, but apparently of great significance in the local crow pecking order. I have never seen, for example, Mabel’s new mate, Gus, sit upon it.

In January, Mabel on her post with Gus and one of the kids below.

As recently as February, Mabel seemed to retain exclusive rights to the perch. One day I was walking by and noticed  one of Mabel’s young ones come in for a landing on the revered ring. His claws a-l-m-o-s-t touched down before he remembered himself, making a last minute mid-air flight correction to land on a spot more befitting his station.

Whew, that was close …

Mabel must be getting on by now. Her one bad eye looks worse, although she is still apparently able to see out of it, and she still seems to more than hold her own with the other neighbourhood crows. But some sort of succession plan seems to be in the works.

Family meeting on the railings.

Just last week I walked by and saw a crow that I assumed was Mabel in her usual spot. But no, it was one of the youngsters, and Mabel was sitting by and watching with equanimity. In the photo below, the crow on the furthest spot from the post was Mabel, supervising and making no effort to chase the young one off.

Practice percher

The Heir Apparent, apparently.

I’ve been by a few times lately to see one of the young ones on the perch. I can’t tell if only one of them is favoured with the honour, or if they’re taking turns.

I’m hoping that, in spite of this apparent abdication, Mabel will be around for many years to come. She still seems to rule the neighbourhood with with a determined personality and impressive feather floofing technique.

I can usually tell it’s Mabel from a distance just from her silhouette — the fuzziness, and the attitude.

Mabel, Queen Boudicea of Crows

In looking for the first photo in this post, of George on his yellow perch, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole of memories of him and Mabel together.

Here’s just one of the photos of the two of them I found …

And here is Mabel, keeping on keeping on all these years later.

I photographed her just this afternoon in the plum tree, with spring just around the corner.

 

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© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.