Tamron Tele-Macro Lens – Part 2

Quite frankly, I was so interested in getting a good telephoto lens, I essentially overlooked the macro features of the Tamron 70-300 Telephoto/Macro lens. On my daily walk around the yard, I discovered a small (less than an inch body length) green tree frog resting on the leaf of a lily. Finally, the “macro” feature of the lens came to mind.

It took a few minutes to determine how to switch to macro mode, and it was immediately obvious that I would need a tripod to steady the lens/camera combination.

The little green tree frog was my first subject. The first photo is maximum magnification by the camera and lens. The second is a cropped version of the photo to look at the detail captured by the lens.

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Green Tree Frog Resting on Lily Leaf (Original Photo)

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Same Photo as Above Cropped to Enlarge the Tree Frog

Next to the lily, there is a bed of pink and blue Vinca that attracts many small butterflies. One of the butterflies posed cooperatively for me as I adjusted the camera and tripod for its portrait.

Again there are two photos as above.The first is the full image captured by the camera, while the second has been cropped for composition and increased detail.

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Butterfly on Vinca – Original Photo as taken by Camera

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Cropped Version of Photo Above. Note Clear View of Proboscis Penetrating the Center of the Blossom for Nectar

I have been wanting to experiment with macro photography, and while this is not a traditional macro lens, the Tamron 70-300 Telephoto/Macro lens is delivering functional macro capability.

If anyone recognizes the butterfly, please leave a comment.


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Raised Garden – 2020

I love a garden, but I am a lazy gardener. Too often, I have laid out and planted an area that was too large to keep up and had no time to do anything else.

With this in mind, I went through a decision process with the objective of having a manageable (by my standards) garden that would produce what I wanted.

The 2020 Raised Garden

The first option was simply a smaller garden spot. I made tentative arrangements for my neighbor to plow a small area I had laid out in a section of our front yard. We are fortunate enough to have enough room to make this plan work, and in fact, have had such gardens in the past.

Still, I was not settled on “plowing” in the yard. Using a tractor to plow creates tractor tire track damage to the areas outside of the garden as the tractor is maneuvered in the process of plowing.

Meanwhile, over the past several years, I have had two small raised beds in which I grow asparagus and flowers.

Then it dawned on me, make the entire garden of raised beds. I had seen photos of several such gardens, and I like the way it was possible to have vegetables growing in a nicely managed area with grassy paths between the raised beds.

The objective was simple, “raised” garden beds. This would make it easy to care for, provide for our favorite vegetables and herbs, and, if I decided I did not like it, I could return it to full lawn status within the next growing season, and no one would ever know there had been a vegetable garden there.

With this in mind, landscaping timbers could be used to enclose the raised beds—they did not have to be that deep—simply well-defined and deep enough for four or five inches of topsoil. I laid out a rough plan. To simplify the design, I started with standard 8 ft. landscaping timbers. I could easily cut several timbers into 4 and 2 ft. lengths to build the different sized beds. This enabled me to create a materials list.

The Landscaping Timbers

My basic design consisted of rectangles that were eight feet long and four feet wide. This meant that I could tend each bed standing outside the bed. For variety, I could also have beds that were four feet square and two feet wide by eight feet long for several row crops I wanted.

Note how the ends of the timbers are arranged in the photos below—top timbers overlapping the ends of the lower timbers. This allowed me to drill a hole through both timbers and slide a pike through the holes to secure the corners without permanently nailing them together. It also turned out that I needed only one spike per corner.

The Basic Layout of Timbers – Note Overlap at Cornres
Eight-Inch Spike Through Overlapping Corners of Each Bed

I laid out the basic plan on paper to experiment with arrangements of beds and to double-check the number of landscaping timbers and bags of soil I would need. I also experimented with the layout of the beds. This was going to be in the middle of the yard and I wanted it to be interesting as well as functional.

I started with a basic bed that was 4 feet by 8 feet. This plan required six landscaping timbers; two timbers cut in half (four ft. lengths). Each bed was about six inches deep.

As you can see, I made several different shapes of beds, partly because I had specific plans for the long narrow beds, and the diamond shaped beds just to add a little to the garden layout, and provide space for a chair or two within the layout. Clearly you could arrange these beds in any manner that fits your yard to make the best use of space or to take advantage of design potential. Locations in the yard that receive full or maximum sun are important for best growth of most plants.

Note that bed number 1 above, was for climbing green beans. The two timbers on the ground were used to make a trellis. I nailed two cross pieces to these timbers and attached chicken wire to form the trellis. Then dug holes for the posts to erect the trellis. It worked well, except, next year I am going to try panels of wood lattice rather than chicken wire. The wire tended to sag under the weight of the bean vines.

Before I began assembling the beds, I mowed the area with the mower set to cut existing grass as short as possible. Once all the timbers were in place, I filled each bed with inexpensive bagged topsoil. I put the topsoil on the grass—I wanted garden plants to have access to the soil below the bed. Also, I mixed in several cups of fertilizer as I filled each bed with topsoil.

I filled each bed with about four inches of top soil.

Incidentally, in a rare instance of planning ahead, the space between each bed was measured so that my push mower would fit between the beds, making it easier to keep the grassy paths neat. This spacing also made it easier to care for and tend plants, remove weeds, and harvest vegetables. The results can be seen in the photos at the beginning of this post.

Lessons Learned

Squash, cucumbers, and zucchini are likely to grow well beyond the boundaries of a bed 4 feet wide. I may add or rearrange the beds and include a couple of 8 x 8 ft beds for these plants. I had one hill each of these plants and had plenty of squash, cucumbers, and zucchini for us.

Incidentally, the okra, in bed 5, were best plants I have ever had, some of them more than twelve feet tall.

Also, as plants ceased to be productive, I cleaned out the beds. Several of the beds were bare by the time we planned our annual “Fall Fest” Family Reunion, which normally involves about 60 people. I planted mums, ornamental cabbages, and other fall flowers in the cleared beds to add a bit of color, extending the useful season of the beds.

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Why I am the Digital Age’s Equivalent of Indiana Jones

Oh, there are differences, of course—he trained in history, ancient cultures, and archeology; I trained in biology, aeronautics, writing, and digital communications (okay, a word processor), but we are both writers in our respective fields.

“It was his father who had been the archetypal archeologist, digging, discovering, and writing as necessary to document his finds for the rest of the archeological community. With some disdain, Henry Jones senior says to Indiana1, ‘you write books,’ as if he were not a true archeologist.”2

I have worked with many “Henry Jones seniors” who work hard at digging through the bits and bytes of technology to unlock the next “big thing.” When they finally discover or invent that new algorithm or process, they may promptly write a scientific or journal paper on the topic, suitable for reading only by other highly technically focused minds that are capable of understanding the intricacies of the technology.

As a technical and proposal writer, it has been my job to research and nominally understand these new technologies enough to write about them—intelligently—so that curious, literate readers could appreciate what this new “process” had to offer (without having to understand the “bits and bytes”).

Much of my professional career has involved writing technical proposals for major companies focused on research and development. The research engineers could speak eloquently of formulas, processes, structures, etc. The fact is, though, the decision makers in government and industry that use the technologies are not necessarily adept at realizing the why, how, and the potential benefit of these new technologies (they do have technically astute advisors). It is not due to any lack of intellect or poor reading skills. Their roles are business and strategic thinking. Give them tools that work, and they will convert them into strategic or tactical business successes.

Enter the technical writer—at least in my role: my job was to be able to understand the technology enough to explain it and to bridge the gap between the technology-focused engineer and the astute business person so she or he could see it as an opportunity to solve a problem, overcome a challenge, or improve a process (and be a sound business—or strategic—investment).

Often my assignments involve research into the digital archives of the World Wide Web that must first be located, studied, and if applicable, “dusted off,” and written about.

So, I am sort of like Indiana Jones, searching for nuggets of technology—only my “digs” are digital; oh, and I don’t carry a whip.

1 Indiana Jones, Film Character, Lucas Films (The Walt Disney Company)

2Judith Weinraub, Umberto Eco His Complex Design, The Washington Post, November 26, 1989.

Bullwhip Image: Colorado Saddlery – The Supreme Bull Whip (Amazon.com)

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Angina – An EECP Update

In the summer of 2017, I was diagnosed with angina (angina pectoris), pain in the chest caused by restricted blood flow to the heart during periods of exertion. The original series of three  posts covered the diagnostic procedures, an explanation of angina, and finally, treatment using Enhanced External Counter Pulsation (EECP) (https://reninassancemusings.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/angina-from-detection-to-treatment-part-1/).

At the time, the doctor explained that the treatment should last three to five years before symptoms of angina returned.

Since it has been about three and a half years since the treatments, I thought it worthwhile to report on my current status.

I am pleased to report that I have not yet had any recurrence of symptoms of angina.

I have made some basic changes in my life, but nothing drastic. First, I have lost 30-plus pounds and am now down to what my doctor says is a normal, healthy weight. Weight lost was achieved through two actions: (1) a healthy, essentially keto, diet and (2) regular exercise, largely based on walking regularly.

Minimum walking distances most days is at least 2.5 miles (about 5,000 steps). I try to get in as many as 10,000 steps one or two days a week. I look for ways to incorporate walking into daily activities. For example, rather than using the riding lawnmower for all the yard, I use a walk-behind (powered) push mower. When the grass does not need mowing, I can usually find chores and tasks that will involve walking. It no longer upsets me when I forget a tool and I have to walk back across the yard to get it.  I also take walks around the neighborhood if I cannot find something specific to do. As a last resort, or in the case of bad weather, I do have a treadmill.

I use a Fitbit watch to record daily steps. I keep a daily record that includes weight, morning blood pressure, and steps.

Periodically, every year or two, my cardiologist puts me through a stress test that amounts wiring me to an EKG machine and having me walk on a treadmill at increasing speeds and inclines. He is looking at my pulse and blood pressure, both how high the values are at maximum exertions, and how quickly these numbers come back down to resting state values. And, of course, to see if I am having any symptoms of angina. So far, so good.

I am told that I can repeat the EECP treatments as frequently as once a year, if needed. I will be having my next stress test later this year.

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Personal Trifecta

It began like this.

Early in the year, I learned that the US Air Force Museum was going to unveil the Memphis Belle B-17 exhibit in early May. I called my friend, John (of Michigan and New Orleans trips “fame”), and we began to make plans for the trip to Dayton, Ohio. Of particular interest were the three other B-17s that were going to fly in for the unveiling.

During initial planning, I realized that my manager for my ongoing writing job as editor for the Velocity News, Reiff, lives in the Dayton area. I contacted him, and explained our plans, and before I could say anymore, he promptly invited us to see his “83%” XL-RG (N142AZ). He also said we might be able to visit another builder that lived nearby.

The Velocity is a unique composite (fiberglass-plus) “home built” aircraft with more than 300 either built or under construction. Most of the owners and builders belong to their association, the Velocity Owners and Builders Association.


The Velocity is pusher/canard kit-built aircraft. (Photo: Velocity Aircraft)

Leg One of My Trifecta — B-17s

Days One and Two in Ohio were spent at the USAF Museum. John and I witnessed a formation of three B-17s and five P-51s much as it must have looked on a bombing run over Europe in 1943. They did not land because the weather outlook suggested they might not be able to take off again. On Day Two, the Memphis Belle exhibit was unveiled, the B-17s were able to come in and land, and we got to walk through two of the B-17s on the flight line.

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The initial reason for our visit to the Dayton Area—the unveiling of the Memphis Belle exhibit celebrated by three of the currently 12 flying B-17s.


The Memphis Belle on Display at the USAF Museum


One of the five P-51 Mustang aircraft that participated in the B-17 fly-over.

Leg Two of the Trifecta

Early Friday morning we drove over to Reiff’s home. He greeted us and opened the garage door, revealing his “83%” Velocity XL-RG (many builders post and update their estimate of how near completion they are—Reiff feels he is “83%” to completion. “XL” indicates extra-large cabin, “RG” indicates retractable landing gear). We spent the next two hours going over the aircraft. Reiff guided us through many of the features and unique aspects of the Velocity, showing me many of the features of the aircraft we have been writing about.

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Reiff greeted us in his garage.

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The engine is mounted on the rear of the aircraft—a “pusher” aircraft.

Later that morning we drove to the home of Jerry and Linda who are well into the construction of their XL-RG. They were preparing to cut and fit the metal firewall in the engine compartment.

Like most tasks, before you do anything, you have to do something else first. In this case, it was to remove the right wing, move “stuff” around the shop floor, and reposition the aircraft to make room for the “cutting table.”

After lunch, the work began.

What followed looked like finely-honed teamwork: Jerry driving the nibbler (metal cutter), Linda guiding the vacuum to pick up bits of cut metal, and Reiff steadying the sheet of metal. Within a matter of minutes, the firewall was cut, and ready for fitting. The afternoon was declared a success, and we returned to Reiff’s home.

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Reiff steadies the firewall material while Linda vacuums metal chips from Jerry’s metal cutter.

Of course, for pilots, at least, nothing is better (well almost) than talking about, or working on, airplanes, unless, of course you can go flying. To top off the second leg of my trifecta, Reiff drove us out to Dayton Wright Brothers Airport (KMGY) for a demonstration flight in N44VF.

There I was…

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Our ride, Velocity N44VF

Unfortunately, the ceiling was only high enough to get up to pattern altitude, and the air was anything but smooth. Reiff offered me some stick time, but the bumpy conditions were such that I would not have been able to really get a good feel for the aircraft’s controls. Still, the ride was a great experience and I will be looking for another opportunity.

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The iconic Velocity over-the-shoulder shot of a winglet/rudder!

Velocity Reiff and Jeff

Reiff and I standing in front the aircraft we had just flown.

To top off the day, Reiff had scheduled a dinner in town with five other Velocity couples, but before dinner, we had to mount the base for his ELT in the nose of his aircraft. This, like many smaller tasks, is not difficult, if you have an extra set of hands available to hold things in place.

Dinner was excellent, but most of all, I enjoyed listening to all of the experiences and plans of those who were flying or still building their Velocities. It was a great end to a great day.

A note about the Velocity: the aircraft is typically built from a kit. Anyone may build a kit aircraft, but it does have to pass an FAA compliance inspection before an airworthiness inspection will be issued so the aircraft can be flown. All home-built and kit-built aircraft must registered as ‘EXPERIMENTAL” aircraft.

Leg Three of the Trifecta

Late last year, out of the blue, as they say, I received an email from my freshman year college roommate, Chip. Over those first two semesters we had become good friends, even going to the New York’s World’s Fair, which was not far from his home in New Jersey.  At school, he and I were on entirely different academic tracks, so we had no classes together. The next year I was able to obtain a room off campus, and after that, I did not see Chip often. One afternoon, I learned that he had left the college. The circumstances were not clear, and there was no explanation, but the fact is, I never heard from Chip again. Now, nearly 50 years later, I received his email. The key piece of information I learned, relative to this post, was that he too lived in Ohio, only a couple of hours away from Dayton.

As I began making plans for the trip to Dayton, I sent him a note and let him know what we were doing and that he might be close enough to meet us there. He did, and we met, again for the first time in a long time on Thursday at the Air Force Museum. We walked, talked, and looked at everything, watched the B-17s fly over again, and went out to the flight line to tour the aircraft—all the time talking about what we had been doing over the years.

Later that evening, Chip came over to our campsite to share a drink, and wide-ranging conversation that lasted well into the night. And I did learn why he left college—he was not happy with some of the most conservative—and deep seated—attitudes of the college staff, and vocally conveying his ideas to the president resulted in a mutual agreement that he might be happier somewhere else. Nearly a half century later, we are back in touch.

For a person with my interests—airplanes, friends with airplanes, and just plane (Freudian typo) long-lost friends—to score big in all areas on one short-notice trip was truly a trifecta event for me.

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Memphis Belle Exhibit Opens at Air Force Museum

Grand opening accompanied by fly-overs and ramp tours of WWII B-17 bombers and P-51 fighters.

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The Memphis Belle Exhibit Grand Opening Day – May 17, 2018

Early in 2018, the US Air Force Museum announced that it would be unveiling a new exhibit dedicated to the Memphis Belle, and that the three-day event would also feature fly-overs by three B-17s and several P-51 fighter aircraft that often accompanied the bombers on raids into Nazi German from 1942 to 1945.

This announcement set in motion planning for a trip to the museum, for the new display and one of the rare occasions where several B-17s would be airborne together.

The Aircraft

The prototype B-17 first flew in 1935. A total of 12,731 of the Boeing-designed aircraft were manufactured during the Second World War by the Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed companies. Today, fewer than a dozen B-17s remain airworthy worldwide, so the opportunity to see several of the aircraft together is a rare event.


The Memphis Belle, June 9, 1943, returning to the US after successfully completing 25 bombing missions over Nazi Germany (Source: USAF)

Dubbed the “Flying Fortress” because Boeing believed that, with sufficient defensive firepower, the B-17 could fight its way in and out of enemy airspace. For example, Aluminum Overcast (a B-17G now owned and operated by the Experimental Aircraft Association and one of the three B-17s participating in the museum’s Memphis Belle exhibit grand opening) was armed with 13 50-calibre Browning machine guns. Still, fighter escort proved essential to protect the bombers from enemy fighters.

The other two aircraft participating in the ceremony were the “Yankee Lady” (B-17G, owned by the Yankee Air Force) and the “Movie Memphis Belle” (owned by the National Warplane Museum in Genesco, NY).

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The “Movie Memphis Bell”  flies over the Memphis Belle Exhibit Grand Opeing

The original Memphis Belle, now on display at the AF Museum, is a B-17F, which did not have the forward or “chin” ball gun turret. The aircraft that became the “Movie Memphis Belle,” was a G-model that had to be modified to match the appearance of the original Memphis Belle.

The Memphis Belle attained notoriety because if was one of the first aircraft to survive 25 bombing missions over Europe during WWII. The aircraft and its crew were returned to the U.S. for a promotional tour to help sell war bonds.

The Event

The official opening of the Memphis Belle exhibit was Thursday, May 17. However, the three B-17s were due to arrive the day before, perform several fly-overs, and land and be available for tours. The weather, however, did not cooperate. Low clouds prevented their arrival at the scheduled time. Later the sky cleared somewhat, and the three aircraft did make a fly-over but did not land.

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Three B-17s — Aluminum Overcast, Movie Memphis Belle, and Yankee Lady — accompanied by P-51 Escort Fighters much as they would have appeared in WWII

Not having been to the museum since the opening of the new fourth hangar, we spent several hours walking through the Research and Development and the Presidential collections of aircraft. The aircraft in this section are prototype, limited production, or highly specialized aircraft such as the XB-70 supersonic bomber prototype or specially modified presidential aircraft. XB-70 Valkyrie on display is the only one remaining of the two that were built. The other was destroyed in a crash early in the test program. The 189-ft-long aircraft dwarfs many of the nearby aircraft in the hangar yet takes up only a small portion of the total display space.

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Just a small part of the exhibit in the AF Museums new fourth hangar. The XB-70 Valkyrie looms over the other aircraft.

The Memphis Belle Exhibit

The AF Museum Memphis Belle exhibit is well displayed, and the aircraft and its history are well interpreted. The aircraft is mounted on stands that allow visitors to get a look up into the bomb bay. Signage in the exhibit provides detailed descriptions of the aircraft, its mission, and its history.

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The Memphis Bell Exhibit Opening Day

Restoration of the aircraft for the exhibit began in 2005 and was completed in 2017. According to reports, the aircraft has been restored to its condition and appearance when it returned to the United States. Since there is no plan to ever fly the aircraft, the engines were not restored to operating condition.


© 2018 Jeff Richmond


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Birdfeeder Intimidator

The bird feeder mentioned, in an earlier post, continues to be a source of satisfaction and entertainment. A casual count includes more than 20 different species of birds visiting the feeder or the surrounding area. In addition to the feeder itself, there is a nyjer (thistle) seed sock for finches, suet feeders for woodpeckers, and blocks of freeze-dried mealworms for birds not attracted to seeds. These are arranged in a general feeding area so that different birds can select their preferences without competing for feeding space. Yet, this “feeding area” is all clearly visible from the front porch, providing excellent views of all feathered visitors.

Each species has its own manner and attitude about feeding. Many birds such as sparrows, cardinals, grosbeaks are content to share the feeder with others. Others demand, or at least try to have sole access to the feeder.

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The White-Breasted Nuthatch

One of my favorite birds to watch is the white-breasted nuthatch. It is a small gray bird with a large head, sharp pointed beak, white “cheeks” and a black cape. It is unique in that it is one of the few (if not the only) bird that can walk up, down, or around a tree with equal ease, always head first. Movements are quick as it searches for food, usually insects, in the bark of a tree. They also feed on seeds and nuts and enjoy suet feeders too.

The nuthatch that frequents our feeder seems to prefer to dine alone. He will often fly in so quickly that it startles other birds that fly away, at least long enough for the nuthatch to grab a morsel or two of food and fly off quickly.


The Nuthatch tries to intimidate a female Grosbeak, who is not impressed nor intimidated.

Not all birds react to the nuthatch’s arrival. In that case, the nuthatch will hop around on the top of the feeder, then walk down and around the sides trying coax stubborn birds away by spreading his wings in a threatening manner. At least one species, the rose-breasted grosbeak, is not at all intimidated by the nuthatch’s antics.

For comparison, the male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is shown below.

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Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak in a tree, waiting his turn at the feeder.

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A Ferry for Two…

Cars, That Is.

There are two ways to get from Ophelia, Virginia to Sunnybank, Virginia: either Hacks Neck Road to US 360 (18 miles) or via State Rt 644 (2 miles). A no-brainer, you say; “down State Rt 644!” Well, yes and no.

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The Sunnybank Ferry, the Northumberland, begins its ten-minute journey across the Little Wicomico River toward Sunnybank.

It is like this. The Little Wicomico River, some 300 yards wide, separates the two communities. But, there is a ferry for cars, so problem solved. Well sort of—yes during the daytime hours, and in good weather.

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A motor pulls the ferry along a cable to make the crossing.

Recently, visiting friends Ginger and Miller in eastern Virginia, we set out to explore coastal areas around the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. Miller mentioned a two-car “cable-ferry” near the town of Ophelia. Ferry boats are almost as strong an attraction for me as lighthouses.

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The Northumberland begins its 10-minute journey across the Little Wicomico River, near the Chesapeake Bay.

Cable ferries were common in the 1800s, but only a few still exist, and most are maintained for their historical and tourism value. The Sunnybank Ferry started out in much the same way in 1903. It was a privately-owned hand-pulled cable ferry to transport people, wagons, horses, cattle—whatever could be herded onto the ferry—for the 10-15-minute ride across the river. Later in 1912, a power boat was lashed to the side of the ferry to power it across the river.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) took over operation of the ferry in the 1930s. The ferry remained in service until 1954 when it was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel. In 1955, a new ferry, appropriately named Hazel, was built and service resumed. The Hazel was retired and replaced by the Northumberland, the Sunnybank ferry that is still in service today. Until 1985, the ferry continued to be tied to a workboat to drive it across the river, after which it was converted to a powered cable-ferry.

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A view of the Wicomico River. This is Chesapeake oyster country. One of the cables (left side of the ferry) can be seen being pulled out of the water.

The Northumberland crosses the river via two stationary cables stretched some 300 yards across the river. An engine-driven motor and pulleys pull the ferry along the cable. The cable lies on the bottom of the river–as the ferry moves along, it pulls the cable up in “front” of the ferry, and lets it return to the bottom behind the boat as it “crawls” along the cable.

The crossing takes about ten minutes. The free Sunnybank Ferry is something of a novelty, but it is a working ferry. Although, not just a tourist attraction, it may be worth the trip to experience one of only two working, powered cable ferries. There are other similar ferries across the country, but they are operated more for their historical and tourist value.

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The ferry is operated by one person. Here, he prepares to return to the other side to pick up more cars.

The Sunnybank ferry runs on a “casual schedule”—my words. If there is no traffic, the operator waits until a car arrives. If a car arrives on the other side of the river, he takes the ferry over to pick it up.

The ferry operates from sunrise to sunset, unless weather or high tides make the crossing unsafe. Typically, the ferry is shut down from 12:00 noon to 12:30 for the operator’s lunch break. Along the route to the ferry there are electronic signs indicating if the ferry is in operation.

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An Osprey nest guards the Sunnybank side of the river as we approach the landing.

There is one other similar VDOT cable-ferry in Virginia. The Merry Point Ferry on Rt 604, runs across the Corrotoman River between the towns of Merry Point and Ottoman in Lancaster County.

Incidentally, Virginia operates these two ferries as well as the more conventional diesel powered Jamestown ferries (some capable of hauling 40+ vehicles) at no charge.

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Sunset Cardinal

This fall I put a new bird feeder on the west side of the house, where it could be observed from our front porch. Birds have gradually become aware of the feeder and are beginning to show in good numbers, especially as cold weather begins to settle in here in Middle Tennessee.

I stepped outside yesterday evening and noted that the western location offers an opportunity I had not anticipated–sunsets.

Sunset Cardinal

Sunset Cardinal

©Jeff Richmond 2017



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“The Last Jedi” Does Not Disappoint

Yep. Went to see the latest incarnation of Star Wars, The Last Jedi.

In 1977–40 years ago–I saw the movie, Star Wars-A New Hope, and then Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back (1980). I really enjoyed them. It had all the elements I liked: Sci Fi, good heroes, really evil bad guys, reluctant but ultimately heroic good guys, a well-paced story with suspense and action, excellent cast, etc., etc.


“The Last Jedi”

Since then, I have seen all the subsequent movies in this family, some of which did not rise to the level of the original two episodes.

“The Last Jedi,” however, was cut from the same celluloid as the original, with all the same traits: action, suspense, great characters, including several from the very first movie (and the same actors, too). It works as a stand-alone movie, but, for those familiar with the series, there are story threads that reach back to the original. And the bad guys are really evil and get their due! Well, except for one who will be around for the next sequel if needed.

Two actors from the original, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill reprise key roles, adding to the movie for me.


Carry Fisher as Princes Leia

Like many movies in futuristic settings, there are events and time lapses that defy logic as we know it, but we can assume that in such a futuristic environment that includes the space cruisers and superpowers of the Jedi, these challenges to mere mortal logic are little more than a curiosity and do not detract from the movie or the story.

Finally, in what is clearly a very futuristic setting-space ships, hyperspace, light sabers, highly advanced robots, etc., there is a very human aspect to the story and the characters who have real, appropriate responses and emotions despite some extraordinary abilities. Unlike many contemporary movies, where the CGI imagery and action overshadows the characters, the storyline, and even the plight of the human condition, “The Last Jedi” is about the characters and their stories.


– Mark Hamil (Luke Skywalker) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren): The Last Jedi Japan Premiere Red Carpet 1 

It was a very entertaining trip to a place distant in space and time.

1 Dick Thomas Johnson at https://flickr.com/photos

2 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55103929


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Mother’s Cooking

No. 7 – My Mother (Continued)

My mother was a pretty fair country cook. I think she did not enjoy cooking all that much, but in those days, that was the woman’s role. Balanced meals were usually prepared from fresh ingredients and included a meat, a vegetable, and a salad. If my father and I were fortunate, there may have been a dessert. There was no question like “What would you like for supper?” We—my father and I—ate what she fixed—and liked it. That became part of my personal behavior throughout my life. I have tried (almost) anything new to eat set before me. Where ever I traveled, I figured if the local people could eat something, then I could at least taste it. Food has been a constant adventure for me (I did not say I have always liked everything, but would not have known that if I had not tried it). I have my mother to thank for that.

The only concession Lois ever granted me was that I did not have to eat country cured (“old”) ham. If she fixed that for dinner, she would fix me something else. Not sure why I refused ham, but that lasted about five years, then one day I announced, “Oh, I like country ham.” That was end of that. (I could be a strange kid.)

Throughout my preschool and elementary school years, mother prepared most meals from scratch, except that about once a week we had Swanson “TV” dinners.


Swanson introduced the TV dinner in 1954. Mother must have discovered them within the next year.

Lois was the equivalent of a modern pioneer woman. She would cook anything we brought in from hunting—so long it was cleaned and ready to cook. We ate well, even in lean times. We ate squirrel, venison, rabbit, duck, as well as many kinds of fish. My father trapped the marshes for muskrats for their pelts, and we ate muskrat on several occasions. It has a definitely gamey flavor, but it certainly was palatable. Not all of mother’s cooking efforts, however, were so successful.

One day, several hunters who had launched their boat into the river from the farm left us four or five ducks. I recall mother being happy about the prospect of fresh duck. She spent some time cleaning and preparing the ducks, then put them in the oven to roast. Within an hour, the house began to fill with the most noxious odor—a very nasty oily-fishy aroma. It turns out that the ducks were mergansers—fish-eating ducks that were not fit for cooking because of the fish oil their bodies stored. It took a week to get the smell out of the house. As I recall, we ate at Susie’s house the next several nights. My father thought it was funny. Occasionally he would say, “Remember the time you cooked those fish ducks?” All he got in return was a glare.

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