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.