W4H Sticky

W4H - 2nd Anniversary of the 470 Amateur Radio Group
Start Date: November 1, 2009
End Date: November 15, 2009
Frequencies:Voice - 24.450, 14.260, 7.260, 3.860
PSK31 - 14.070, 7.070.
QSL Info: Note the amateur's name and send QSL to the call that is working the W4H event. For example if you work me as W4H I will also give you my home call and tell you to QSL to me AJ4IJ.
More Info: The 470 Amateur Radio Group website

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Evening in the Field

The weather here has really given me the bug to be outdoors... even when it comes to Ham radio. It's October. The weather is perfect. The leaves are changing color, the dogwoods have berried, the walnuts have fallen, and the fields have been mowed for the last time this hay season. This is good news for us. It means that from now until next growing season, the field is ours. Our secret little place to try to contact the world, the space station, or just gaze at the sky for hours during the winter season for meteor showers and iridium flares.

Last Saturday (11/10-08), we once again disassembled parts of Daddy's (KU4ME) station and toted it up the ridge. Thank goodness for the Jeep, though. I wouldn't have carried all that without a mule or llama, and Tim (the XOM) doesn't count. We took the most necessary out-of-doors items, including an awning, a table for the radios/equipment, chairs, rope, lanterns, TP & the ages old percolator coffee pot that hasn't let us down yet. Add in the generator, extra fuel, power cords, and fuel for our bellies and we had ourselves a nice little evening in the field.

Unfortunately, the most beautiful aspect of fall in East Tennessee is also a hindrance. The dry, fallen leaves combined with an already unusually dry season means that building a fire on top of a ridge bordered by a tree line thicker than the eye can see is out of the question, especially when the wind wouldn't let up long enough to catch your breath. Therefore, our smoked sausages stayed in the cooler, instead of on a roasting stick. This was a bit of a set back that the smallest of our group, the bottomless-pit, growing-like-a-weed, 12-year-old Ashby (KJ4EGJ) wasn't ready to cope with. But seeing that I had brought enough snacks to probably keep us sustained for a "few" hours, she was cool about the whole thing long enough for us to have a good evening.

When we arrived, it was still daylight. Since we had Field Day 2008 at the same location, our ropes for a tree-to-tree dipole were already stationed (and to our excitement, were still there - unharmed by the many fallen trees). Tim and I had drove up first, to deliver all the loot -- and while he went down the ridge to collect the others, I stayed behind and set up. It's a breeze to put up the awning we have, and I seem to get better at it each time. I set up the awning and the chairs, and still had enough time to enjoy my sole presence there and listen to the "ridge-talk." Shortly thereafter, the rest of the field-party arrived.

Since daylight was fading fast, we all jumped into action. Ashby picked up walnuts for me (long story, but I wanted the walnuts), Mom (KF4SSI) straightened out some of the chairs and did other miscellaneous things, I hunted firewood (unbeknown to me that the wind would keep us from building), and Tim and Daddy set up the antenna (a G5RV we had built earlier in the day). The work didn't end there. Tim and I set up the station, while Daddy made roasting sticks (thank goodness I wasn't the only one doing needless work). Once all of that, and a little bit of other work, was done, we were on the air and ready to go.

Daddy spent a little while tuning up, while Tim helped by keeping a chart for ease of use later. Night fell, and I spent nearly a half-hour rigging up a lantern behind them so that they could see better, almost collapsing the awning in the process. Later, I once again felt that crazy sensation that all that work was for naught... seeing how the lantern didn't have a full charge and died within the first 2 hours of use.

Tim did most of the playing at first, making contact with a couple DX stations -- I can't remember now what they were; it's too early in the morning. Later, when nothing was left but the Pennsylvania QSO party, we joined in on that. We didn't plan on contesting, nor were we going to submit our logs to it... but it was fun nonetheless, and better than sitting there spinning the dial, which we had done for nearly an hour before we gave in to the party.

It was nearly 10:30pm local time when our bellies were telling us that the PB crackers weren't sustaining us. Ashby had already crawled in the Jeep to escape the wind and sleep. Mom was covered in a quilt, nearly asleep in her chair. Daddy, Tim, and I had had our fair share of the coffee, and Clover Beene (our pooch) was tuckered out and bugging about food (her crackers and treats were used up, too). We decided it was time to pack it up... although I wish we could have stayed longer. I always wish that when I'm there. I get there, and never want to leave.

We disassembled the station, left the antenna for pick-up in the daylight, and Tim took Mom, Dad, and Ashby down the ridge. I stayed behind with Clover Beene, packed up, and waited for him to come back. There is absolutely nothing that speaks to my soul more than that ridge. There's just something about being up there alone -- with the moon shining bright; the whispers of the wind; the sweet scent of cut straw, fallen trees, dried leaves, and walnut hulls -- that clears my mind and cleanses my spirit.

AJ4IJ, Robin with Tim, AJ4JD in the background

Daddy, KU4ME, tuning up

Tim, AJ4JD, making contact.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More Updates!

Well, I was running out of room below (or at least I felt like it was becoming a novel), so I started a new post. Don't forget to read the post below this for other updates.

Tim held his first Net the other evening. He was net control for the Weather Training on our weekly ARES net. He says he was really nervous, but you couldn't tell it. He did a fine job, and I'm really proud of him. I don't have any pictures, sadly, because I was running the rugrat around town -- one of my other motherly duties -- the kid taxi.

And I've received quite a few interesting QSL cards in the past few weeks. I got conformation of my Tonga contact! WOO HOO! Got the FBI special event card and certificate, and the Football Hall of Fame certificate (I can't remember all these call signs, and I'm too lazy to get up and look at the moment, if you want to know them, send me a comment or email, and I'll send them your way). I've had 2 Nova Scotia confirms, 1 from Mexico that came with a ticket or something that I can't read because I know no other language other than English. I got the Nautalis card, and another one from Australia, which is the most interesting at the moment.

Back during Field Day, I made my first dx contacts. One was an Australian station, VK2TSB. I could hear him okay, but he kept dropping into the noise... a lot of QSB. In any case, this was so exciting to me, to hear Australia like that. So, even though we had a dipole strung up about 30 feet, in the middle of a field running barely 100 watts, I tried to make contact with him. He couldn't hear me very well, but stuck with me to make the contact. There was a Lady Ham in New Zealand, whom I could just barely hear over the noise, but she was hearing me quite well and was relaying my information to the guy in Australia, whom I could hear better than her. In any case, I didn't expect to ever really get confirmation of that QSO, but I sent a card anyway. Now, 3 months down the road, he sent me one back. I was so excited to get that one. So, thanks Steve, for sending me that card. That was a milestone card for me. That was the evening that I finally let go of my mic shyness, and started getting excited about HF. Thanks for sticking with me.

Ten-Tec Hamfest, Skywarn Class, SET, & Other Updates

Wow. I have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to sit down and actually write something worth reading. Now, I'm way behind and I'll have to do some major catching up.

Way back in September (Ha, time seems to be flying at the moment), on Saturday the 27th, the family and I piled into the car and drove an hour to the Ten-Tec Hamfest, in Sevierville, Tennessee. I was Tim's first big hamfest, and he was pretty excited to see all they had to offer. The boneyard is huge there; larger than he'd ever seen. We spent a considerbly large portion of the morning sifting through all of that junk. We went in empty handed, and came out with 500 feet of 800 lbs rope that we paid $40 for. Other than that, we didn't really see anything we were looking for. We took the tour of the Ten-Tec factory around 10am, and came out of there with 2 t-shirts, a coffee mug, and an Emcomm book. We needed log books, and were going to buy them, but Rick (N4JTQ) volunteered to give us some that he had laying around. I thought that was very nice, and I declared that as my "Ten-Tec Hamfest Winnings." I'm never lucky enough to actually win anything, but that's okay. Cathy (KI4YPO) actually did win something, but I honesting can't remember exactly what it was. Some sort of antenna mount, although should would have been better off with a Ten-Tec Sky Hook (ha ha).

Row of Omni VII's at the Ten-Tec Factory

Ashby, KJ4EGJ, with an Orion II

Dad, KU4ME, at Ten-Tec Factory

Closest that Tim, AJ4JD, will ever get to an Orion II

After browsing, we spent the rest of the morning talking and visiting with people. Later on, we attended the Skywarn class for weather spotter's. I really enjoyed that class. We had to watch a pretty long movie smack dab in the middle of it, and I'm not sure what I enjoyed more: everyone's snoring or the terrible acting. Ashby took the class with us, and it was so funny watching her pick out and giggle about all the sleeping class members. Everyone was so worn out after Ten-Tec, that it was difficult to stay awake once we all sat down. HAHA But we made it through, and I really enjoyed that class. I don't know how many others did, but I liked learning all the information that we did. Unfortunately, most of the things we learned, we'll never actually see in the hills we live in. Because the horizon is changed by the rolling hills, we don't see storms roll in like they do in the flat lands.

Skywarn Class, Sept. 27, 2008

Moving on -- Last Saturday, October 4th, I had my first encounter with the Simulated Emergency Test (SET). Tim, Ashby, and I are members of the Claiborne County/Union County ARES, and our EC, Rick Blasco (NX6R), had to go out of town. He appointed me and Tim (and one other fellow) Assistant Emergency Coordinators while he was away. I don't know how I ended up volunteered to run the SET, but I did. I was totally thrown to the wolves, with no idea as to how to run things. However!! I was invited to attend another ARES groups Pre-SET meeting (Sevier County's), where I learned exactly what I needed to do, and how to go about it. I came home that evening very confident that I could tackle this task.

So, Saturday morning came, and I was shaking like a leaf. My stomach had migrated to my throat, my heart had migrated to my feet, and my brain couldn't be located anywhere in my body... Needless to say, I was nervous, and that is putting it lightly. I was Net Control for our Simulated Emergency training net (my first time at the helm of any net), and I was also expected to pass and receive formal traffic (which I crash-coursed myself on the night before) to an Army MARS station.

In the end, everything went wonderfully! We had a great time, we discovered where our weaknesses were, I successfully passed and received the message to Army MARS, and I did the net control thing without too many flaws. HAHA It was a lot of fun, and we ended up with 10 members participating, 53 messages passed, 1 formal message passed, 1 formal message received, and quite a few silent giggles to add to the collection.

Scavenger Hunt Sticky

Thanks to all for helping me with the Scavenger Hunt!