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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)

Don't even think about missing our Gallery Walk, or more accurately, the monthly Artrageous Artwalk, this Saturday Evening!  Munchies and refreshments, and lots of good people; how could you not want to join us?
(The squirrel will be in bed at home by then so don't expect to see her, or worry about being attacked by her.) 
You will see the painting that I have just gotten accepted into the Tennessee Watercolor Society's Travelling Exhibition, the same one which won a Silver Award in the Jacksonville Watercolor Show last Fall.  You will also see new paintings by Amy Schrom; and Leigh Murphy has agreed to leave her wonderful paintings up until after Shrimp Festival, even replenishing them.

It seems like forever since I have had time to collect the photos for a story and then to write it, but the taxes are finally done, the butterflies are off on their own, the gallery has calmed down too much, unfortunately, after a nice busy March; the Workshop business has slowed and life with a squirrel is starting to wind down with thoughts of weaning and moving her outdoors in our minds.  This beautiful young lady was brought to me by someone who heard from a mutual friend, Buffy, that I might help her out with raising the squirrel her cat had "dragged" into her home, after killing her siblings.  They called her "Lucky" after her close call of having literally been snatched from the jaws of death.

After about 10 days, and falling in love with her lucky little girl, Chris realized she would be unable to raise her.  Her work prevented her from caring for Lucky.  This was the first day she came to live with us.  She had her eyes open so her first bonding was with another loving mother.

Her first night, as we both felt our way, was a time of adjustment and getting to know each other.  She slept a lot in the beginning.  She wanted to cuddle next to me until she fell asleep, then I'd put her to bed in the box in which she arrived, not wanting to make too many changes in her life too soon.  I found a sleeveless lightweight winbreaker-type vest with large pockets she could reside in while we went to lots of places.  She attended a painting demo by world famous artist, Charles Reid, ran errands to Lowe's, the grocery store, and the Pet Store, and a morning at the City Hall meeting discussing the efforts to keep the St. John's River Ferry from closing.  She would quietly stay curled up in the roomy pockets and if she got restless I would bribe her with a pecan.  It all worked for a while but squirrels do wake up more and more as they get older.

Hiding nuts and any food she didn't want to immediately eat, and exploring every nook and cranny she can access is all part of the squirrel personality.  Remembering the tricks we learned with raising our other young lady we immediately covered the sofa with a quilt she could romp on and play hide and seek underneath before bed time.  Twice she decided she was going to snuggle underneath the quilt and sleep the night, but I was concerned we would forget and sit on her the next morning and I would not let her do that.  Instead I remembered the bed Shelly liked in the towel hanging on the towel bar tied to form a bag.  So the stubborn little girl and I compromised.  She moved into my bathroom where she could be confined at night and she learned to sleep in a customized pocket in a large towel.

Climbing lessons are important so we let her use the piece of driftwood which looks like a big woodpecker my friend Terry bequeathed me when his wife refused to let that be part of what they moved to Minnesota with them.  In the photo is the painting of Shelly which artist Nancy Asbell painted for me.  I had hung it so that it still looked like Shelly was climbing around on one of her favorite pieces of climbing material.  Now another squirrel is learning the ropes there.    

During the early weeks of squirrel raising we had our big art show of the year featuring Jacksonville artist, Leigh Murphy, with some of her wonderful paintings of vintage cars and airplanes as well as her paintings of Sea Shells and Flora and Fauna.  Her show will remain up through the Shrimp Festival so if you haven't seen her exquisite work you still have a chance.  My big show of the year is also the weekend of the Amelia Concours d'Elegance car show across A1A from our house, at the Ritz Carlton, with cars displayed on the golf course fairways.  This year's car show seemed to have drawn a the biggest crowd I have seen there.

One of my customers had the oldest car in the show with only four like it still in existence.  I was able to stay for a while but had a workshop to prepare for, which started the next morning.  I hated to leave such a fun and lively place, only to go to work.  I went by the house and grabbed my squirrel jacket with its furry passenger and off we went.  

Lacy, as she is now called, accompanied me to work for about a week but since we had never put her in a cage (as we did early on with Shelly) and with mild weather and windows and doors open in the gallery, it was too nerve racking to give her that much freedom.  I found as she was becoming awake more and more I just could not get any work accomplished having to take breaks frequently to go to the bathroom, not for me but for Lacy, because it now doubled as the squirrel play room. This was the only room in which I could secure her safely, and even then I had to stuff cardboard underneath the wide crack at the bottom of the door when I left her.

Lacy, as did Shelly, loves to play with your hands, nibbling, and wrestling as they would with their siblings.  It's called play.  I learned with Shelly that they would not really bite you seriously.  Close sometimes...

And Spring turned my small unimpressive home into a thing of beauty as the azaleas erupted into full bloom right on schedule this year.  Last year the blooming had been delayed with our cold, cold winter but the near perfect weather this winter had let Spring burst forth in rare form.

The view out my office window was now one of enjoying the pastel colors of the blooming plants outside instead of the bright spot of color in the Sumac tree I called Fall.

Although Lacy loved the tall faucet, practicing to be a pole dancer, the Bathroom jungle gym was finally forsaken for days at home when I was in the gallery.  I just could not get any work done with her as my constant companion although most all of my customers were delighted to share in the adventure.

She still loves her bottle although she is now down to two a day instead of the 3 and 4 in the beginning.  I am sure she will wean herself as did Shelly when she is ready.  I think I need to start manufacturing a Squirrel pacifer because I think it is the strong suckling instinct in baby squirrels that is more important than the milk.  She gets all soft and cuddley with eyes that almost close as if she is going to nap.  I have now added a nipple to a larger syringe.  As of yesterday, it's become apparent that she is ready to stop sooner than I had thought a few days ago, so she may be almost ready to go fully to solid food.

High places are a favorite hangout spot in a squirrel's life.  Lacy found this spot in the kitchen over the refrigerator and decided it would be her home away from home.  She will climb up there, scaling the back of the fridge, and in one of the side panels of a bed table she started stashing anything that would be nest-like, carrying up pieces of paper towel, corn husks, plastic bags, extra nuts, and food until she had quite a collection gathered up there. Once she is outside there will be time to clean up and get things sanitized once again but for now we are sharing a world with a squirrel and trying to let her develop in as natural a way as possible in an unnatural situation.

Sometimes the high spots are unacceptable, particularly Bruce's prized posession, his tall ribbon speakers, which she loves to scale and run crazy circles all around the nice double knit fabric which covers them from floor to their total 5 foot height.  Although, except for a nearly invisible tooth mark on the tippy top, she has not done them any real damage, I am trying my best to keep her away from the wrath of their owner.

Until we had company last week she spent most of her mornings and evenings with us in the den with this as her favorite place to hang out besides racing back and forth across the back of the sofa, jumping periodically on us to run circles around our bodies.  She set the time when it was her bedtime.  I learned to watch the time to get her night time feeding in or she would just trot off down the hallway and climb up into her bed and go to sleep without dinner.  In case you want to know the bewitching hour for a squirrel, it seems to be no later than 7 pm with 6:30 often finding her snuggling into her bed, but that will vary with the sunset time.  Twice I was remiss, and had to go feed her with her head stuck out of her towel nest.

We brought the old dried up snag of an old Christmas Tree, which we use as a bird perch in the garden, back into the house for climbing lessons.  One of the pitfalls of a young squirrel released into the wild can be falling out of a tree.  So here Miss Lacy learns the ups and downs of climbing a real tree.  At least until just before our house guests' arrival, when I found Mr. Bruce had removed it so no one would stick a branch in their eye.

This the glassy eyed stare announces that it is bedtime for a squirrel.

Lots of times it took a vigilant eye to prevent a squirrel who can seemngly move faster than the speed of light from getting into trouble, such as an accident on top of my computer keys that might fry my next typing effort.  She is pretty good generally, and threats can usually be deterred by observing her behavior.  

Last week with our guests Ocellia, Arianna, and Canaan spending their spring break with us, Lacy was mostly banished to the bathroom but it is a room she enjoys, so that was not a hardship on her.  The towel bars are covered with towels for traction and climbing experience.  Utilizing a robe on the door, she could easly circle the whole room in a very short amount of time using the window sill, the top of the mirror and the cabinet over the porcelin throne.  The slick surfaces of counter tops and tile allow easy clean up.  The colorful towel was her bed/nest.  One near disaster we had been wary of was the danger of the open toilet.  We had been digilent in making sure the lid was closed, except one morning Bruce was shaving in the bathroom and forgot.  Thankfully he was there because a jump onto what was usually a solid surface ended up with her doing a frantic, leaping water ballet.  She was quick to climb up his arm when he reached for her and was very funny rubbing all her wet spots on the towels trying to get that water, yes, just water off.

A squirrel bed.  I tried to show her in there but it was difficult, so take my word for it, there is a squirrel inside the dark opening.  A squirrel and lots of nuts, part of a roll of toliet paper she shredded for bedding, a couple of pieces of Shelly's old soft bedding and I fear to think what else.

A break from a squirrelly world was the annual March Sea Turtle training.  I was able to hitch a ride down with another volunteer who allowed me about 45 minutes while he ran an errand, to go shoot bird photos at the Alligator Farm.  Let me just say that this is a good time to visit for some exciting nest building and early hatchling photos.  I saw two Great White Egrets which already had chicks.  There will be much more on this birding, so stay tuned for news and pix of this ongoing yearly event.

Outside I have been very excited to find that the parsley and carrots I planted last year have indeed attracted Black Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillars.  I have had 3 of these very beautiful caterpillars so far.  Two have disappeared when full sized so I am hopefully assuming that they have gone somewhere to form a chrysalis.  Their chrysalises are not beautiful like the Monarch's but look like a rolled piece of leaf or bark, and so would be very hard to find out in nature.
The yard is also getting a makeover as I plant the many, many plants which rooted from all those cuttings I was begging, borrowing, and anything short of stealing, all 'winter' long.  I should have a virtual Monarch Butterfly heaven in place in a few weeks.

Back at home Lacy is growing daily and is already large enough to start supervis edexploring outside, but we are not going to rush this stage right now.  She is still very small compared to the adult squirrels which are outside our house.

Lacy's learning a new trick and rejoycing in it is such fun to watch.  She learned to jump from the sofa back and land on the slick lamp without falling off and then shinnying down the pole using the palms of her "hands" and feet, realizing that claws were not the only way to hang on.  She had a ball racing back and forth across the sofa and then leaping onto the lamp all evening.  More practice for her pole dancing routine especially when she climbed down head first.

Her tail is now full and fluffy, the more to wrap up with on a cold night and to fluff out full when she is warning the outside world that she is a big girl now so watch out.  Lacy is not an Island Girl, coming from "off island", and so will be adding some new genes to the island gene pool.

In the meantime back at the gallery, I have been working on a commission which is pretty large so lots of area to cover with paint.  The horizon is actually straight, it's the camera lens which curves the line.  The horizon will be the cut off as if you were floating on the surface looking below and above at the same time.  Below will be the underwater sea with the sea critters that live there.

More progress as the sea begins to take on the colors I want, showing lighter toward the top as light filters down the sunrise as the deeper colors of the deep water begin to take shape.

Another day of painting and the water begins to develop more of the look that I want but still a long, long way to go.  I get to play God as I create the heavens and the waters and the creatures which live there in.

In the midst of all this I happened to have a birthday.  I told my houseguests that they could come, but had to bring a birthday cake as their only requirement for staying with us for the week.  Bruce simply ordered a cake with lots of gooey icing, my "Happy Birthday" message, and asked if they could draw a turtle below that.  The local Publix outdid themselves with a perfect cake for me and it was delicious too.

Some of the nice things waiting on me when I got home that evening.  Thanks Bruce, David, Rizza, Canaan, Ocellia, Arianna and my other friends who came to help me celebrate another year on this side of the green grass.

Also a beautiful Orchid which Lacy became obsessed with trying to climb.  It is in a safe place for now.  It had been a stressful week with last Tuesday afternoon finally giving me some relief with delievery of the five tax reports I have to prepare to the CPA.  Now to figure out how to pay the IRS, but the worst part for me is all the work done in pulling all that data together.  It seems to get worse every year.

A new squirrel house has been made and immediately checked out by our girl.  However she still slept in her towel that night.  Next day the towel had started to fall apart with the knot untying itself and all her hoarded treasures starting to fall out.  I decided to let that be a sign of time to move into the new house, placed where her towel nest was.  With the aid of a barstool, I was able to place it it the exact spot the towel nest had been.  After some confusion, as she searched for her old towel, she finally decided these new digs would do.  I brought leaves, Spanish Moss, and seed strings falling from the oak trees into the bathroom, adding some of her old towel cut into small pieces, so that she could choose just how to decorate and furnish her new home.

I can now report that she has happily adjusted to it; tonight when I got home and went in to get her, I couldn't find her.  I called her name and in a few seconds I saw a nose stick out of the entrance to her box.  She had been napping inside.

We are also transitioning her to the out of doors.  More on that will follow.  I have made lots of videos but don't know yet how to downsize them for posting on UTube so others can view. It is fun watching her carefully exploring a whole new world where every thing is a new experience.  Tonight she joyfully discovered DIRT!  Yeah, what fun that was.

(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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