It seems like it has been forever since I have touched base with
We made it through the hectic long days of being a merchant
during the Christmas Season. The T-Shirt sales make a big
difference in our making ends meet even though it is a really
thing to do, trying to keep it all straight with sizes, styles, and
quantities. I only have one order which has not been picked up
and paid for. We appreciate each and every one of you who bought
from our gallery anytime, throughout the year, as it all adds
I miss the times when my Christmas's were spent on the other side
of the counter and the only deadlines were getting the Christmas
January and February are some of the slowest times at the shop and I
would have time to recoup from the surgery before Sea Turtle
Season. I went ahead
and scheduled the other knee replacement a bit earlier than what I did
last time. I expressed my concerns with the coming changes in insurance
coverage to my surgeon and he confirmed that my logic was sound...that any
more cuts in his fees, and he would have to discontinue working on
Medicare patients. Medical staff also need to make a profit as
they are business people and not missionaries. We scheduled the
surgery for January 19th.
set about trying to get as much done in the gallery, paintings,
framing, writing checks, etc. as much as I could in the days before the
surgery. For some
reason right after Christmas I called the Orthopedic Clinic to check to
see if everything was on schedule since I had a lot coming up,
including a gallery show of my own up on St. Simon's Island.
Well, well, well--what a surprise!! I was told my surgeon
leaving the practice, which he had founded and carried his
name, at the end of December, to open a smaller practice on his own.
On top of that he was taking January off to have his own knee
replacement. But I could still have him be my surgeon if I desired, which I did.
was rescheduled for February 3, assured there would be no problem with
my insurance. I was
scheduled for Pre-surgery day with the Doc and hospital of Jan. 19, so all was cool. I
called the surgeon's
office the morning of the pre-surgery appointment to make sure all
insurance issues were resolved and was told it was A-OK, that my
name was on the list, so
come ahead. After I did X-Rays, etc. that was in my
and was checking out to go to do the Hospital part,
surprise, surprise, I had not been cleared by my insurance after
all. To make a long story short I was not approved until Thursday
before Feb 3rd, a Tuesday.
I was afraid it was going be a heart attack which sent me to the
hospital instead of knee surgery.
surgery did take place on schedule but it opened my eyes as to what is going on in the world of medicine.
Doctors have no power, insurance companies have no power but the
"management groups" that have have been created to oversee it all...middle men...are these
godlike middle management companies who control all the decisions.
now it is over, the
surgery is behind me, I am truly doing great from
the first day. Much better and easier than the other one.
The hospital staff thought I was super woman I did so
well the day after the surgery. Of course I popped a stitch in
doing so. I finished with the therapist
after two weeks this time instead of last time which at 4 weeks I
pushing it to be released. I have continued to be ahead of
the curve, but it still bears on my patience. I had in my mind all
this creative work I would do at home and found I could not even type a
readable sentence when I got home. I
am thankful to be past the worst of it, and am anxious to get back to
feeling like my old self only better. I continue to do all the
therapy myself every day with no skipping. My insurance would
paid for 2 more weeks of outpatient therapy but I would have had to pay
out of pocket an additional $60 a week, which I felt
could be better spent in other directions. With my progress
the therapist and I felt I could finish on my own with the "Y"
membership my insurance provides.
As Spock said so often, now to just "live long and prosper".
in the Fall during the time I was about to start putting the Squirrel
Girl Trio outside to adjust to the other squirrels and their new world,
I put out a request on a NE Florida Farm group for someone who could
loan me a cage. A lady named Patricia offered me the loan of hers..
The trip to borrow the cage proved to be a very fun experience as Leigh
Murphy, friend, fellow artist, animal/plant/antique motor vehicle lover
accompanied me. Her main reason was to get some photographs of the
animals, especially the horses. Leigh has been entering some
Western art competitions and besides winning prize money she has
sold many of the paintings.
Collecting painting subject matter is why all painters can also be
considered photographers. We are also the worst when it comes to
deleting worthless photographs because we don't always need the best images,
just the composition or colors may be the only reference we need to
paint a subject. The cage I was going to borrow was previously a
squirrel but also a rabbit cage. Some of her really cute rabbits
were running free, guess they were escapees. There were other
pretty ones some with pink eyes some with blue...
some so fluffy and cute the Easter Bunny would be proud to call these his/her own. Leigh also knew
Patricia since she had taken in Leigh's blind rooster who needed a home
that was not in the city. Told you Leigh was an animal lover.
Patricia had quite a collection of critters on her mini farm on the
West side of Jacksonville. There were setting hens producing more
chicks, and young piglets in cages and who knows what else. She
had also raised some orphaned squirrels for release in the cage I was borrowing.
The sale of her overstock of animals helps
Patricia maintain her happy menagerie and her agreement with
her husband. As long as she figured out a way for them to pay for
would get no objections from him.
Now this big Pot Bellied Pig is one of the more ugly faces on the place and one only a mother or Patricia and Leigh could love.
There were two adults in this pen and I assume the parents of the younger ones in another pen.
Nothing prettier than sunshine on white ducks.
All the fowl, -chickens, guineas and turkeys, -seem to tolerate and like
each other's company. She had young turkeys which she said would
be ready for Thanksgiving, so like most farm people, a real farmer will
sell some of what they raise to enable them to sustain their livelihood or resources to
maintain their menagerie.
If you didn't think a horse can pucker with delight, then this photo
should prove to you wrong. This is the funniest horse
picture I think I have ever taken. The horse is so
happy because it is getting its tummy sprayed by the water
hose that Patricia is holding.
Patricia had a long whip she would crack and the horses would take off
running and playing in the big dirt pile in the middle. They
loved rolling in the dirt and running around the big pasture.
Between the menageries I did get to catch, despite a few raindrops on my lens, a double rainbow over the beach and water.
first animal menagerie was a small one of more domestic
and animals common to our area. Some purebreds some not.
A short time later a very
special invitation came my way and I jumped at the chance, after 12
years here, to finally get to see this special place for myself.
An old friend popped by the gallery and invited Bruce and me to go on a
very special tour with him and
his wife. It was an invitation I did not hesitate to accept even
though Bruce had no idea what to expect.
White Oak Plantation is a very special place, known to all who
live here, but where not that many have been in to see. The
main reason is it costs $100 per person to go in and is usually connected with some
kind of charity event. I wanted to see it but never
felt I could afford to do it. It is a very special
place with a very special reason for being, at least in today's time.
It is a study, breeding, rehabbing, facility for injured animals who
are endangered, but also many other functions. They recently
rehabbed a Florida
Panther, which later reproduced. Dama Gazelle is the name of
this beautiful species and they are critically endangered. They
are from an area of
the Sahara Desert and live in a fragile habitat. Over-hunting
factor in a poor third world environment, and it has added to the seriousness
of the situation. The Plantation has had 270 births up until now
to add to the endangered population and have become experts in
their care. The morning we were there, a
worker was watching them for droppings so they could test and study it.
So you gotta be pretty serious when you go to such extremes to
know about an animal.
There are around 200 animals as part of the program and so many
different species that I won't try to tell you what they are.
They are not your normal animals to see in every zoo. Some
of these animals are so rare that you may have only seen them in
photographs. It is an amazing program which works with various
zoos, universities and other organizations dedicated to trying to
that these rare animals from around the world will survive through
breeding, artificial insemination, frozen fertilized eggs, and all
research programs directed toward learning about these animals and how
to keep them healthy and reproducing.
These were some of my favorites. They are called
Giant Elands. There are both Eastern and Western ones with one
than the other. The beauty of these guys is that they have so
many pretty features from a great robust body and beautifully shaped
horns, even smaller ones have horns and especially have the prominent
that looks like they walked underneath the eave of the house when
someone had just spilled paint that is dripping down, their colors are
very velvety looking and they are pretty docile to boot.
Who would think that such rare and wonderful creatures are tucked
away on 7400 acres in the backwoods of our own Nassau County.
Yeah, he's got my back!
But here were also some of my other favorites, and success within the
programs, Cheetahs, the fastest running mammals in
world. This mother was caring for 4 kittens, three of her
own and one adopted from another mother, who only had one. It
seems they do better in a litter of several than a single kitten so
the decision was made to put them all with one mother. I can't
remember exactly why they combined them, but I think the Mom who only
had one was either not taking very good
care of it or else they wanted to let her be available for the breeding
program sooner when another mom could handle all the kids.
The adult males, not these cute little ones, had been out that morning showing off their running
skills for the new owner. There is a lot of history to this
former Rice Plantation; it was once owned by Zephaniah Kingsley who also owned
Kingsley Plantation down on Fort George Island. After the Civil
War it ceased to be a Rice Plantation, due to the difficulty level and
intensiveness of the crop to grow. You can still see where the paddies were
located. It had other owners through the years but was then
bought by Howard Gilman, owner of Gilman Paper Company.
These Cheetahs, which had been out showing off their
running skills earlier that morning for the owners, were much more
trustworthy for the humans who work with
them, to have personal contact with. They have a much milder
temperament than the fellow below.
This cat is totally different in attitude, and none of the humans
would ever trust being on the same side of the wire fence with this
beauty. You might ask Sigfried and Roy how unpredictable
these cats can be. This Tiger was actually a retirement
resident and not part of any of their breeding or study animals.
This cat is not kept in this cage but is brought inside for
feeding and also to be put in a separate smaller section, which will
allow the workers to give treatment and still be safe. The gal is
putting a ball of meat on the end of a long stick to give to the Tiger.
No hand feeding with these guys.
Right after this placid moment, the tiger hit the screen so suddenly
and with such force that a dozen folks nearly jumped out of their
skin. I'd have three padlocked chains on that gate.
Credit for these animal studies, the vast collection of artifacts, art
and performance venues that are contained in this place, is due to
varied interests of the
previous owner, Howard Gilman who had wonderful collections of
artifacts and art, and a place for the great ballet performance arts to
be studied and perfected.
This building is one of the most visited
parts of the architectural building part of the Plantation. It
built as a dance studio for the Baryshnikov Dance Group.
Inside this building is contained one of the most amazing
eclectic collections of "stuff" I have ever seen.
I don't remember the story on this big Polar Bear but in an adjoining
room. which contained a lovely old Bar, the room was surrounded by
taxidermist preserved animal heads, all of which had died through
natural causes, former residents of the Plantation. It was a
a person who had a wide interest in everything..certainly not from a
person who's only collected china dolls. There was a vast
collection of autographed posters from the Ballet world of Baryshnikov,
whom this place was created, to enable the dance troop a quiet
place where the ballets could be put together and perfected before
performances. It had every convenience for the dancers.
I do not know the history of the beautiful wood carving which became part of the architecture, but it
shows the idea of the varied kinds of things one would find in this
As well as a golf course, tennis courts, swimming pools there was also
a couple of well equipped bowling lanes in a perfectly decorated Art
If you are an art Deco fan, as I am, you can appreciate the beauty and
simple lines of the suitably Art Deco style chandelier in the bowling alley space. I was
told by a friend who was allowed to spend a weekend there that no
matter what they wanted at any hour, if it was possible, they could have
it. If you wanted a massage at 3am, then just ask!
A perfectly restored working Wurlitzer Record player was always ready
for playing. The Caretaker of the place said when younger people
stayed there they would always think it was broken because of the way
it carefully selected and deposited the 45's on the record platter,
since it was so different from the CD's they are used to.
A amazing collection of wonderful fossils such as this T-Rex head.
This was interesting especially with for this dual horned fossil identified as it
is a Woolly Rhino and the White Rhino and some other species of Rhinos
are part of their breeding program and I was able to hand feed these
truly wild majestic creatures. I was used to seeing them
threatening to ram a Land Rover on some wild kingdom show and the
thoughts of them being docile enough for me to hand feed was outside my
thought box. Some species have a prehensile mouth, much like a
giraffe, and some of the other animals we saw. This means they can use their mouth to pull
or hold onto food with their mouth kind of like we use a hand.
It's not every entertainment Hall which has a Triceratops head and in addition to a
Saber-toothed Tiger, which was beautifully black since it was found in a
tar pit. Bruce was able to snag a great photo of the Saber-toothed Tiger and perhaps he will let me show it here.
In the same room is a small delicate Bronze sculpture that just
seemed to work in with this architectural detail over this fireplace.
Without the assistance of places like White Oak Plantation these modern
day Rhinos will only be available to us in the form of photographs or
possibilities millions of years later as a fossil, because they
killed at a horrible rate of 1 every eight hours. These are the
one horned Indian Rhino Species. Their skin looks like it is
covered with plates of armor. The Rhinos are being killed of
course because of the horns, made out of a material similar to a
fingernail, so sought after, especially in the Asian market, as a
status symbol, or ground up and used as a medical additive,
especially as an aphrodisiac. The horns could be
harvested, and the animal left to live, but that that is not what
Here are the stars of the show, the newest residents of the
Plantation...six White Rhino youngsters, brought here from South
African private sanctuaries because of the danger they were in there
from poachers. They will join the larger herd as soon as they
adjust to their new surroundings. They have quickly learned that
the van may mean special treats. White Oak programs include the
Indian, Black and White Rhinos. The "White" part of the name is a
misnomer possibly from a similar African word which means wide, as
they have a wide head and a wide mouth--more suited for grass eating,
unlike the Black Rhino which has a prehensile mouth like the Indian one
for eating leaves off trees.
More photo bonus!
This bird, a flightless one, is called a Double Wattled Cassowary.
The most interesting thing about this bird besides it unusually
bright coloring and its amazing speed (since it can't fly) and its hard
head, is the fact that the male is the one who incubates the eggs and
raises the chicks. The Female just lays the eggs and moves on to
the next Mate, and starts the process all over. Talk about keeping
those men out of the pool halls, that would be the trick. The
female may mate with 3 to 4 males in a year.
A lot of fun were the giraffes as our guides had brought lots of leafy
branches as treats for us to feed them.
By now the sun was
getting pretty low and the strong sideways rays made for some
interesting contrasts. The trees are surrounded by a wire cages to
protect them from the giraffes eating their bark and killing the tree.
I love the big dreamy eyes of the giraffes, each with his own unique set of brown splotches looking like some sort of map.
This lovely mother-in waiting is a Gerenerk or Giraffe Gazelle.
They are called a Giraffe because they can stand on their hind
legs and reach with their long necks and prehensile mouth and eat leaves that other animals
are the endangered Somali Wild Asses which, seems to have gotten its
laundry mixed up with a Zebra and ended up with the missing Zebra's
socks. These Donkeys are believed to be the origin of our modern
There were approximately 20 animal species and also endangered birds which because of time we only glimpsed on our
fleeting drive through the grounds. So many animals: the list
includes Carnivores, Rhinos, Giraffe and Okapi, Antelope and Buffalo,
Eguids, and Birds.
The day was passing quickly and this more domestic scene reminded me of
Patricia's Mini Farm. The horses have only recently been brought
back to White Oak as Mr. Gilman and the Foundation had stopped having
them some time back. The new owners, Mark and Kimbra Walter,
both which are longstanding conservationists, had planned on
creating a place similar to White Oak. About that time it was
announced that White Oak Plantation was "For Sale". It made a lot
of sense for the Walters to buy White Oak and continue the work
already in operation. If you are a Baseball fan you may recognize
the Walter's name as the owner of the L. A. Dodgers. I used to be
a huge fan of the team way back when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers.
As we left the grounds and crossed the St. Mary's river at the end of
the day, I left with a good feeling that the new owners will be even
more open to having people visit White Oak, especially using it as an
educational tool for work with children, possibly having children's
camps there in the near future. I am very relieved that someone bought
it who shared the interests of the former owner, and the important
work done there.
You can go to their website, http://www.whiteoakwildlife.org/, and see how you can too can visit this wonderful place.
Back home in our own backyard menagerie I find our girls happily exploring their new habitat.
They took to the out of doors like bees to honey, gradually expanding their area, exploring it all.
For a few weeks they would wander back inside to get a taste treat and
even an occasional syringe of milk. Then the time change
happened, and I was no longer there when it was squirrel bedtime.
With less contact they quickly went back to the wild, unlike our
Lacy who still visits and jumps on our shoulder. But on the whole
it is probably better that they be totally wild.
Please keep us,
here in our own little menagerie, in your thoughts as we too, struggle to
survive the sparse winter, and to regain my physical strength to truly
get back to work.