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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell

I was getting ready to put out a call to my angels of mercy for some offers to baby sit me for about a week and a half when I got an email from a friend up in Chattanooga, Ocellia, that her oldest daughter, Canaan, was dropping out of college and would be taking a leave from her job to come take care of me while I recoup from my second knee replacement.  She was not dropping out of college for me but because in her third year she still hadn't decided her direction.  If any of you have some time to spare you can come during that time and give her a break from baby sitting me.  
Biggest problem right now and it may be last minute before I know.  I am scheduled for Feb. 3rd surgery, however, since Dr. Heekin my surgeon has decided to leave the group of surgeons he was with and go out on his own, he is not yet approved by my insurance company.  That may not come until the 1st of the month.  Although I am ready to go I am still on hold as far as officially being ready.  I hate uncertainy on on something like this.

The Squirrel Girl Trio was their new identification tag as it was too hard to remember which was which except for the one with the spot on her head and its instant identification, and Bruce had called her Knothead, and my efforts to give them more girly names had failed.  So Knothead it was.  Unless I saw Bitsy and Cindi together I could not tell them apart, with the only visible difference in them was size.

This ended up being the last day at the gallery for the Squirrel Girls.  As had happened before with previous little ones, when I got nothing else done besides play with squirrels all day long at the gallery, it was time for them to stay at home.  They no longer were content to ride around in my apron or play in their cage.  No the gallery was their world to explore.  The towel was spread over the cage to help them sleep through their naps but became instead a great hide and seek playground as they were more interested in play rather than sleep.

 They were offered lots of different foods to learn to eat an expanded diet.  It is normal and important for them to learn to chew and one of the reasons is they must keep their teeth worn down as squirrel's like rabbit's teeth continue to grow and without some grinding action could cause some real health issues if not kept in check.

This is the "ready, set, go" look because I am about to be on the receiving end of a flying squirrel.

Touchdown!!  They are always so curious about the camera.

Since it was difficult to tell which one I had fed I finally got to the point where as I fed them I would stuff the fed one in the cage.  Feeding Knothead first made it easier as I could always tell if it was her or not and did not have to be put in lock up.

Squirrels can be very curious and want to check out everything especially if it involved food.  She kept trying to peep over the edge of the plate so Bruce said let's see what she does and he grabbed the camera.  She jumped up and grabbed a Lima bean to eat so I saved some back and added them to their diet.

The beach at the pier was filled with birds, more and more as time passed, many migratory, as winter was drawing neigh up North.

Big freighters sometimes leave or come into port when I am out on Turtle patrol duty.  Many from Bermuda or headed in that direction.  We like to see them leave fuller than when they arrived.

One of the Girl Black Swallowtails is ready to be released.

A "Crablike Spider", that really is its name, is an interesting creature and the web they weave very unusual with its fluffy dots up and down each stand at odd intervals but each strand seemed to have similar spacing on that particular strand.  They are small but with dramatic coloring with red, black, and white contrasting.

 As had happened before with previous little ones, it was time for little squirrels to stay at home and learn about the out of doors.  I had made a very interesting contact with a lady whose hobby is raising animals, with small farm on which she had room for them to roam.  I borrowed a great cage from her which she had used for squirrels and had most recently been the home for some of her rabbits.  I thought this was one of the saddest photographs I had ever taken.  The first day is always hardest on mom and kids.  

It took tough love to not get them back out.  But in no time they settled into playing in their new playground of branches with an upstairs separate napping/nest area.  They were very still very happy to be gotten out of the cage at the end of the day, although they learned to take their mid day naps just fine in the nest box I had made for them out of a shoe box filled with some soft cloths and Spanish Moss.  We put plastic over it to waterproof the nest area as there were some rain showers for them to experience.  The bottom of the cage I filled with leaves, pine cones, magnolia pods, other and natural materials for them to get used to.  I cut fresh Oak branches each day for them to chew on and eat.  Bark is a favorite food of squirrels.

Fall continued to give us tastes of weather changes although nothing drastic.

The flocks of birds continued to grow.

This is the "deer in the headlights" look as the deer stretched its neck to see what was going on below on the beach with the beach buggy.

They enjoyed the time in the evening when I came home from work and brought them inside for dinner and play before bed.

They were not sure how the foot thing was connected to my body as their curiosity was not sure what tho think of that funny appendage that moved up into their play area.

A quick trip up to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, was unexpected and interesting.  Small turtles of the pond variety had hatched out recently and were warming underneath a heat light on their man made island.  They looked like little brass turtles you might find in a gift shop.

A beautiful Green Turtle shows off it beautiful patterned carapace.  The patterns on each scute look like sun bursts.  I have painted several of these turtles and the one which was the year before lasts was my favorite with the batik method of painting it.

Jekyll Island where the Turtle Center is located and is a very beautiful place, smaller than our island but has more turtles nesting.  I really believe it is because of the Sea Turtle Center which releases many turtles there and I believe they consider that home base after spending long periods of time there.  They even had one which they could not get to leave.  The police would call them and say "your turtle is back".  Finally they had to place him in the care of  an aquarium.

The girls were growing up.  Down to two bottle meals a day they were learning a lot and shortly before we did the final release we left them outside for overnights in the their cage.

Time for the official family portrait posed in front of the painting of our first squirrel Shelly.  Shelly had three litters of babies before she was run over by a car out in the street.  I learned that the artist who painted this portrait had passed away back in the summer.  A very courageous lady was Nancy Asbell, who fought a long battle with Lupus before finally losing one of her many rounds she had with the horrible disease.  Nancy Asbell was a singer, played guitar, taught both music and art as a very accomplished artist herself.  I only found out about her death when I made attempts to find her, after the post office returned a check to pay her for some art of hers I had sold.  But it is the tradition to photograph each squirrel we have raised on this great piece of driftwood sculpture given to be by Terry Stewart when he was not allowed to take it on the move back to Minnesota and front of Nancy's painting of Shelly.

This was the night we learned we had a voice.  This little one was making one of the sounds that squirrels make and seemed to be surprised that the sound was coming from her.  Squirrels have many sounds and the sounds are made in their throat.  One day Lacy was making a cat like sound which serves a number of purposes.  I kept trying to figure out where the noise was coming from and followed it to Lacy who was hanging down from a tree and although there was no facial movement to lead me to believe it was her, just like you can't tell where a squirrel is looking with those big black almond shaped eyes.

By this time the three girls were pretty hard to catch in the same photo--always on the move.

Learning to eat bark is a good thing as bark is a big source of squirrel food out in the big world.

This one seemed to be asking "who me?" as to some sort of mischief she had been into, like chewing up my good eraser.

Or maybe chewing all the rough surface off my emery board.  A manicure could be in my future.

To go with the new hair style I had just been given.  For some reason they went through a stage of being fascinated with my hair.  They would dig around in my hair as if trying to hide something, I never knew what it was but it was funny.

This is two in my hair fluffing and digging through it.  I think they were actually looking through my hair for nuts as it resembled the grass out in the yard which is a good place to find someone else's nut stash.

When you saw this look you knew it was time to put 3 little girls to bed.

When I had a day off I usually just let them hang out in the house with me.  This was a learning day of climbing and exploring the rest of the area away from the sofa area.  They had to be restrained sometimes before they got into too much trouble or broke something.

Yay, I've reached the top of the mountain.

I knew it was almost time to go outside and live when Knothead began searching for a place up high to build a nest.  She became obsessed with bringing pieces of paper towels up there and trying to stuff them in the curtain but couldn't get them to stay.

She kept studying the situation.

Finally, with a bit of help from me she finally found a place the paper towels would stay put.

Learning to shuck sunflowers was another learning exercise and one they liked a lot.  And so it went with not much time left for them to live with us.  They were not long for this protected life.  It was fast becoming time when they needed to be outside getting ready for winter.  They had given us many hours of pleasure as well as being a royal headache sometimes but fun to have around.  The day would come when I could put away the squirrel quilt and put the vacuum in action to suck up all the sunflower hulls from the floor...well not totally, we still have Lacy visiting us most days.

(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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