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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Amelia Island Artists Workshop
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell
Amelia Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)


The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Fran and I finally found some time which included fishing.  One of my nice customers was in the gallery checking out the commission Koi painting before it left for its new home.  I was commenting that I was definitely going fishing as a reward to myself for finishing the painting after working 12 straight days on it without a full day off.
She very generously offered us access to her dock to fish and some advice on when the best fishing time was.  We showed up bright and early to catch the low tide and the best estimated fishing time.  As in love, gambling and fishing, we caught some and lost some, but in the end we wound up with our limit of two, with Fran catching the prize.  It was a beautiful day, warm, sunny, and a bit buggy but still that is part of fishing in the marsh when the weather is warm.
There are lots of restrictions on the catching Red Fish, such as this one, as to size limitations, both how small and how big.  We caught our limit of two and one just reached minimum and second one was solidly in middle ground at 23-25" I can't remember which.  We felt like we had a good day and promptly went home cleaned them, fried them up with hushpuppies, and enjoyed a great pre-Thanksgiving feast together.
Looks like I am back into the Caterpillar/Butterfly business.  I found this fellow out in my flower garden.  For its safety I brought it inside.  It quickly grew and I was kept busy supplying him with more leaves.  However, the one quickly became 3 as I found others munching away on the Butterfly Weed left over from last years bout of raising 10 Monarchs.
Since I was finding Caterpillars in my small garden I decided to stop in and check on the Butterfly garden at the History Museum just down the street from the gallery.  A beautiful Passion Flower was one of the plants which had been planted and it was doing exceptionally well, except that the Fritillaries like the "Blue" Passion Flower instead of the "Red".  The blooms were very beautiful anyway.  This is a mistake often made by people who read that Fritillaries like Passion Flowers, but they are a bit more specific than that. 
During the day of Thanksgiving Eve, as I was sitting in my gallery with not a soul in town coming to see me, a good friend and fellow artist, Sandra Hunter, one of my jewelry designers, called to see if I wanted to join her on the River Cruise. With 30 minutes to departure time I told her I had to work.  After a few minutes of pondering the situation I reconsidered.  I had made one little sale all day, and doubted that there would be any more folks passing my threshold.  I say, "What the heck", called back and said, "Hold the boat, I'm on my way!!!"  Bruce happened to be close by, and was also able to sit the gallery.  I have always taken the Amelia River Cruise's Sunset cruise so this mid afternoon one would be a new experience.  
 I noticed that we had some new Shrimpboats in town.  I asked about them and was told that they were from Georgia.  I am not sure what shrimping season is exactly, and how it differs from Georgia, but I do know that after reading "Last Light Over Carolina" that shrimpers from Georgia often come South in winter to try to get a longer season in to help the bottom line.  It is hard though because of the fuel and travel expenses for the whole crew and the toll it takes on family relationships the long separations causes.  A big ship was also in port waiting to be loaded.  It is taking steel to the Panama Canal for work that is being done there to expand the size of the canal.
It was not a good time of day for shooting reflections in the water but I thought the ships anchor was a nice composition in itself with the telltale signs of the many trips the anchor has made, left recorded on the side of the ship.
The railroad cars lined up at the Paper mill and Port area are a roving art gallery in themselves.  I just wonder about the artists who create them; who they are and what kind of lives they lead.
Something I had not noticed before was pointed out by Kevin (yes, we were fortunate to have the Grand Poobah himself as our captain that day, Kevin McCarthy, owner of the boat), -the device for lifting up the big eighteen wheelers to shake every last chip out of the trucks so that nothing is lost.
The Double Crested Cormorants were just taking it all in as they also enjoyed the warm Florida sunshine.  I see a nice painting composition here.  Look at the warm greens in the pilings, the coloring in the heads of the birds, yes, it could be very nice...
Kevin pushed the speed of the boat to get us on out as far as we were permitted to enter and watch this "small" Submarine head out.  He thought it was a British Sub.  Another first for me, and as Kevin, who knows all, told us what was about to happen.  The tug which had been coming toward the sub, turned so that it was now moving parallel to the submarine.
A ship, or in this case a Sub, leaving or entering our port must have a local pilot, the Harbor Pilot, on board who knows the channel to guide the vessel.  In this case the Tug has a boardwalk mounted on its side which is lowered at just the right moment to allow the Harbor Pilot to exit the Sub onto the Tug so that he can return to his home port.
It only takes a few seconds for this to happen so I barely and not very clearly recorded the Harbor Pilot's quick dash across the boardwalk to the tug, his job finished.  Submarines like our big Nuclear subs cannot submerge until about 60 miles off shore and the continental shelf drops off to allow them proper clearance.
Kevin says I bring him good luck because we always see interesting things when I am on board.  I think he exaggerates because I think there are always interesting things to be seen.  I do know that we saw at least 3 bands of horses that day, more than I have ever seen on the evening cruises.  Lots of oyster beds were above the surface with the low tide.
The horses live in bands with one stallion and his harem and all the kids, at least until the young males get to be about 3 years old, then they have to go out and find their own girls and start their own band.  A male will eventually get too old to keep defend his position and keep his band together and will be challenged by a younger male.  Once he is beaten he goes away to live a solitary life until he finally dies of loneliness.
They all seem to be peacefully enjoying this beautiful Thanksgiving Eve munching on the tender young marsh grasses.
Sandy and her family were enjoying the day as they prepared to spend a family holiday together.  If you have not met Sandy Hunter, and are wearing some of her beautiful jewelry, here she is for you to put a face to the creator of your treasure.
As you scan your eyes over the patterns of the Palmettos, even in a photograph, it almost makes your eyes feel like one of those optical illusions of dizzying motion.
We were also blessed with a pod of Bottle Nosed Dolphins as we headed up Beach Creek at the bottom of Cumberland Island.  They had been up in the creek fishing.  A trick they have is that they work in a group and corral the fish, herding them toward the bank, literally chasing them out of the water.  They then slide up on the bank and grab the fish.
Getting ready to enjoy the rewards of the Dolphin's leavings is Henry the Heron here as he patiently watches and waits for some of the fish to be left on the beach by the Dolphins for his enjoyment and an easy lunch.
We were able to get close enough to see the ruins of the old Dungeness mansion.  The illusion of the flat ground does not do justice to the actual perspective of the spacious lawns stretched between us and the mansion.  It looks as if the house is sitting on the edge of the marsh when in reality there is a low retaining wall which separated what was, once up on a time, the lower vegetable gardens from the wide expanse of lawn, and then the walls of the lower structure of the house rise beyond that.
The Dolphins worked their way around the boat and now led the way out of the creek.  A Cormorant which was also fishing in the creek when we entered it is still holding his low spot in the water in the distance.  Another band of horses were on the bank nearby so it was difficult to decide where to focus the camera, on the horses or try for the illusive Dolphin shot. 

The horses lifted their heads from their almost constant position of heads down eating to give me a chance to get a picture of them just walking away in a group.  I guess our presence caused them to want to move further away.
The Dolphins lift their eyes above water to keep watch on us.  Once they got us out in the channel they watched until we were for sure headed away then went back toward the creek for more fishing.
A perfect day.  Before the Thanksgiving pre-cooking began, I closed down the gallery and headed to the Ritz for the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.  There was a huge crowd of people already there, and if I write about it maybe next year I will remember NOT to go to this side of the viewing area.  I was thinking Santa was entering from this side and I could get a good shot of him.  However, there was a huge, tightly packed crowd and the Ritz had more of "their people" than usual making sure you did not get outside the ropes they had erected to protect us from the stampeding hoofs of Santa's reindeer, actually a one horse drawn carriage.  But anyway, the grounds guards would not let me cross the lawn behind the tree, and it was impossible and too late to retrace my path to the other side.
Here is your shot of Santa as in a blur the carriage passed me by, too close and too fast to focus on anything.
You can vaguely see Mr. and Mrs. Claus from their hindsides and to create the right atmosphere for making a big splash with the tree lights it was a bit too dark to see the performers or Santa.
But then Santa led the countdown and we finally had some light as the beautiful tree shined with its thousands of multicolored lights and then the fireworks started.  Oh, and did you ever wonder what sometimes happens, re: hungry/thirsty insects, on a calm warm night at the beach?  Well, when the wind abates, the bugs can be vicious, and this was just such a night.  I wore a jacket because I thought it might be cool.  I told friends I ran into in the beginning, that I needed to take my jacket off because it was too hot, and they said don't do it, you'll need it for bug protection.  Since it had been a balmy day I still had on my Capri's which left about 15 inches or more of bare skin.  I, at this point, could have cared less about the lights as my legs were being torn to shreds by the thousands of insects having a great Thanksgiving pre-meal out of me.
Even though Santa had cleared the area, the yard police would still not allow me to cross the lawn, so the choice to shoot the fireworks was through the palm fronds, which nicely blocked my view, or the street light buzzing with a cloud of mosquitoes.  I was very happy to return to the sanctuary of my house shortly afterward, free of bugs and crowds, with just the quiet of the evening and the cooking smells that were starting to tell me that tomorrow was going to be a good day.
I awoke Thanksgiving morning to see that the caterpillars had already been feasting all night long.  Since my one had now become three ravenous yellow, white and black Monarch Caterpillars, I could barely keep enough food supplied to last them through the night.  If you look at them closely, you will notice that each is slightly different with the various striped patterns varying with each cat, just like your fingerprints vary from one another.  The youngest one was noticeably darker than the other two.
I stopped by once again to check out the History Museum's Butterfly garden to see if there were Caterpillars on their plants too.  Yes, they also had several about the size of mine and more Monarchs fluttering in and around the plants so it looks like we will be having some more butterflies about the time it starts to turn cold.  I'm not sure how cold tolerant they are.  Does anyone know?  I don't plan on taking another trip to the Magic Kingdom this year to release butterflies in warmer weather.
I was able to briefly catch one as she was sipping nectar and possibly depositing more eggs.
This is the beginning of a painting which will, like the butterfly caterpillars, metamorphize into something beautiful when it is finished; but for now it is in its very early not so beautiful, rough stage. 
Our three fellows are about a day apart with one already turned into the Chrysalis, the second in its "J" position a day away from the Chrysalis and the other one, the dark one, on the prowl trying to find the perfect spot to suspend himself.  "Blacky" actually had a bit of a misadventure before he started his changing lifestyle. 
I left the lid slightly cracked because he had his feet along the edge, as you can see, and I didn't want to pinch his little toes.  Next morning he had disappeared, escaping through the small crack I left.  Finding a wandering caterpillar in my office, well, finding anything there is a challenge, but finding a caterpillar who may have already attached himself to the underside of something was a bit daunting.  I was afraid he might be where the computer keyboard drawer would squish him or heaven forbid inside the printer, that could be fatally messy.  Miraculously I finally located him, not yet attached, inside an open box, underneath its topside, and the box inside the bottom shelf of the bookcase on which the terrarium sits.  Thank goodness!!! 
Now, all three are happily sitting inside their lime green Chrysalises doing whatever developing butterflies do.  However, the stems of Butterfly Weed which I brought in to feed the others had no less than 5 teeny, tiny little caterpillars on them so we now have two more age groups of caterpillars coming on after these guys.

Does anyone in the neighborhood have any spare Butterfly Weed (Milkweed)?  I am running out and I can't find any to purchase on or off the island.  I have one more place to check, the Reflections of Nature Nursery, and if they don't have any then I am going to have some hungry mouths I might not be able to feed once they start to really grow.  It doesn't take these little fellows long before they are big guys.  I know where two wild ones are growing in the soil in the garden section at Ace Hdwe if they will let me dig them up I will be happy to pay for them or return them neatly pruned in a couple of weeks.
(Please take a moment to consider:
These photo-stories have always been offered completely free, to simply share the wonders of nature. Thousands of hours have been poured into them and it has even become necessary to enlist the services of a paid email service to send out the large numbers who now receive them. So, with the current economic situation if you are able to make a small donation to help ensure the continuation of the stories it would be greatly appreciated.)

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