Fixing Up the Porch

We are gradually getting some things set up like we want. Like these shelves on the porch. They have been sitting here for a while waiting for us to put them together. It doesn’t take long. They are strong, sturdy shelves that can handle a lot of weight. We have used them in many places over the years. This time they are meant for the porch as a place to put some of the supplies we use for plants and seedlings. So here goes.

You can get these at a warehouse market.

First, move all of this stuff out of the way. This is where the shelf goes.

Measure and plan. We don’t want it to cover up the window.
Put the legs together. Hmm….my shadow….
Now for more legs and shelves.

We put two sections together sharing the legs in the center. Isn’t Frank funny?

That’s a good fit.

Remember the guy named Wilson on Home Improvement? Frank is my funny Wilson.

Starting to fill them up.

You know those collections of ‘things’ you keep because you might use them? Time for them to go.

That didn’t take long at all to fill.

It always feels great to complete a project, whether large or small. Being organized makes things run more smoothly. Now if I could just remember where…….

Until next time – Fern


Firing Up the Wood Stove

It’s that time of year, when the temperature occasionally drops down far enough for us to run the wood stove to heat the house. There are many winter days here that are in the 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s when it is just too warm for the stove. But this week we have had some cold, wet, icy weather with high’s in the low 30’s. So it was time to check everything out before we lit that first fire. Our stove is a DutchWest Federal with a catalyst. When we bought it, it was made my Vermont Castings. Times change.

To check out the bottom of the stove pipe and the catalytic converter we have to take off the top of the stove. To take off the top of the stove we

have to take off the warming shelves. This is a real pain, very awkward and difficult to see. It’s nice to have a small battery powered vacuum with a hose that can pick up all of the loose soot down around the damper. We didn’t get a lot of pictures of this process because it took four hands to get it done. You know when you are all contorted in a knot trying to manage an open end wrench in a space that is too small, and you can’t hold
the flash light or get your bifocals in the right place to see? It’s not the time to

say, “Hold it right there, we need a picture for the blog!” So you will just have to use your imagination here. This is a great cast iron stove. We chose to not get an enameled version because, one, we like the looks of the cast iron and two, we are just too hard on things. I figured I would have a chip out of the enamel before long and it would be one of many. 

After Frank finished contorting and putting everything back together we both agreed that it was just too much trouble, so next year we plan to leave the warming shelves off when we inspect the stove again. They are pretty and make for nice aesthetics, but we don’t trust them to sit anything very heavy on, so off they go.

We keep a bus tub (a plastic tub used in restaurants to clean tables) nearby to keep our equipment in when it’s not in use. For now we used it to hold the ash and soot we were cleaning up.

Our equipment consists of: this excellent fire poker (this is one of the best we’ve ever used – plain and very effective), metal dust pan, brush, the handle used to open the doors and damper,

a small flashlight to see the thermometer, a bag to carry wood and a pair of welder’s gloves that work great.

Now that we have everything cleaned up, it’s time to light a fire. We have a number of battery operated lanterns that we use on a regular basis. If the grid goes down we will be able to recharge them with solar panels. We feel this type of lighting will last us longer than others that require fuel storage. It came in real handy on those dark spots where it was hard to see. Just for information purposes, this is a Coleman LED, variable rheostat, with eight rechargeable D cell batteries. The only negative is the batteries will not charge in the lantern. They have to be removed and charged separately. But eight D cells on low power lasts a long time.

This is a small stove, but it can quickly heat up our small home to the point that we open several windows a bit. We always keep a window close to the stove cracked open for ventilation and oxygen renewal. There are several settings on the stove to review and familiarize ourselves with again: the damper, air intake and catalytic converter. We always review the manual each year to make sure our memories are correct. Fire is not something to take lightly. It can be the end of all you have including your life, in very short order. So even though it is a pain to take the stove apart and inspect it each year, we always do so before we use it. It is well worth our time and effort to insure our safety and the safety of our home.

After the first fire or two, we had everything up and running right. Our stove has an ash pan that needs to be emptied once or twice a day depending on how much wood we burn. This is one chore that requires much care. Frank uses the poker to stir the coals and cause the ash to fall down into the ash pan below the firebox. We keep a heavy cast iron pot of water on top of the stove for moisture.

 We empty the ash pan out on the back porch. There is a small galvanized can there just for that purpose. Frank carefully carries the ash pan out the door. I get the door and the lid to the ash can. We feel this chore is much safer when performed by two people, but it can be completed by one person.

As the ash can fills up over the winter, we empty it into the garden for the calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum and sodium it contains. As a side note, you can also use hardwood ashes to make lye for soap. I have also used it around the base of 
new squash plants to deter squash vine borers and other insects. One time when we emptied the ash can in the garden the coals weren’t quite out and when we looked out the window there was a nice line of fire going across the garden. It didn’t take long to put it out, but it is something to learn and remember.

Now that we have a good fire going, I think it is time for some soup. I tried something like this a couple of times last year, but I don’t remember how it went. There is a small flat surface on top of the stove that will hold a small pot. I am careful not to cover up the thermometer that goes with the catalytic converter. I think this was the reason I got the smaller cast iron dutch oven. My other one is just too big to fit on this small surface.

It is great fun to go into the store room and pick out things we have grown and preserved to put into a meal. This time was no different. Yesterday I baked a goat loin and had some meat leftover that would go great in a soup along with some green beans, squash and carrots. I used corn, onion and tomatoes from the store. The potatoes we grew in the spring are starting to sprout quite well, so I used some of them and a jar of the dried pinto beans we canned. Add some salt, pepper, dried minced garlic, barley and parsley and we’re in business.

Now to let it simmer on the stove for the afternoon and dinner will be ready. 

The blessings of a simple life never cease to amaze me. It’s not that this life is not a lot of work. And it’s not that this life is not way outside the norm and looked upon with some derision. After all, it’s so much easier to go and buy it at the store. It’s just that this quiet, simple life is what feeds our souls with a deep and abiding satisfaction. It gives us confidence and knowledge that we can provide for ourselves given the time and opportunity. I pray that the privilege of living our lives the way we see fit will always be an opportunity before us and not a memory behind us.

Until next time – Fern

Preparing For Baby Goats

Your goat is getting bigger and bigger and bigger everyday. She looks like she is just about to pop and waddles worse than a duck. When she lays down she makes these strange little sounds because she is so full of kids, it’s hard to breathe. She is obviously ready to be done with it all. Are you?

This is another take on being prepared. When you sign on to be the steward of other living things you accept the responsibilities that come with it. This is also another instance of there are just about as many ways to take care of animals as there are people.

The first time your goats kid, you will be nervous and worried. Actually, you will be a little nervous and worried every time. Isn’t that encouraging?? Even when you have a proven doe that has easy births and is a great mom, you still want everything to go just right. The vast majority of the time it does. But not always. I have learned to pull kids that are not making it out on their own, usually because more than one is trying to be born at once. I really hope that doesn’t happen this year, but if it does we will try to get some pictures. It is a rather busy time with all hands on deck, but maybe we can…if it happens….which I hope it doesn’t.

One of the first things I always do is get out my goat books and read about kidding. Really, no kidding (sorry, I just couldn’t resist). I read all of these books over and over, every year. I always find it interesting that all authors don’t agree on everything. And then sometimes on some points, I don’t agree with any of them. That goes back to the different ways people do things. There is always something to be learned from others, some things I don’t want to do and some things are very valuable to know.

I used to take just about everything I thought I might need to the barn when I was expecting kids. Now, I take what I know I will always need. If there is something else that is needed there will be time to get it and bring it to the barn later.

Here is my tote and the extra towels I keep in the barn. They are dirty and the tote has extra stuff in it I don’t need. Since One Stripe will be kidding soon, it’s time to get things in order.

I brought the fly spray we use on the dog to the house so it won’t freeze. We won’t be needing it for a while. We also have a mixture of 1 part Betadine to 2 parts water in this old Ivory Liquid bottle. We used it on some hot spots the dog had in the summer. It could come in handy for disinfecting my hands if I need to pull any kids.


I always keep some strong 7% Iodine on hand in the barn for all kinds of things, like spraying hooves if I trim them too short. It is the type of iodine needed to put on the kid’s umbilical cords shortly after birth. It is very strong and will close off the cord and prevent bacteria and germs from entering the newborn. This is not the type of iodine you use on many things. It is very strong and not appropriate for regular wounds, yet we have been known to spray it on minor cuts we get while working in the barn. It will cauterize according to the vet. Mineral oil is kept in the birthing tote in case I have to pull or rearrange the kids during birth. I use it to lubricate my hands.

We keep a few syringes and needles in marked ziplock bags in this tote. There is also a medicine dropper. It works great for dribbling colostrum into the mouths of weak newborn kids. We will need the scissors to cut the umbilical cords.

We get the vast majority of our animal supplies from Jeffer’s Livestock and Pet online. They carry everything from animal wormer (dog, cats, chickens, goats, etc.), Pick No More for chickens, needles, syringes, pet vitamins, electrolytes we use for baby chicks, antibiotics and most everything you would use for pets and livestock. We have used them for a long time.

The tote itself is a dirty mess. It has a fine coating of ‘barn dust’, better known as pulverized goat poop on it, and needs a good washing.

Since it’s a cold day outside, I chose to wash it out in the bathtub. Isn’t nice, hot running water great?

There. Clean and packed with the normal necessities for a regular, run-of-the-mill birth: mineral oil, iodine, betadine solution, scissors, syringes, medicine dropper and old towels. I just hope I’m there when it happens. I really like to see the whole process. I set up my chair in the peanut gallery and talk to the does and the dog and the cats and anyone that happens to come visit. Most folks don’t find sitting in a cold barn watching goats being born very exciting or entertaining, but I do. I’ll keep you posted.

Until next time – Fern

Chickens by the Numbers

Hi All, Frank here.

The title implies we’re going to talk about numbers. I can tell you what we’re not going to talk about this time. We’re not going to talk about breeds, who is the best, who is not, who lays the most or grows up the quickest. We’ll do that later.

But I want to introduce you to a cycle. I use 6, 12 and 18. Now these numbers are not cast in stone and they are just for reference.You will need to shift them for your climate. I like to follow Mother Nature’s cycle. If you

have already gone to some chicken hatcheries and looked around, then you know that there are some birds or some breeds that you can buy year round. And if that meets your need, great. But most birds in the wild have their babies when it starts to warm up, sometime in the spring. So this is where I will start the cycle.

The first six equals June. Remember, this is just for reference. If you buy DAY OLD CHICKENS from a hatchery or from your local feed store or co-op, then we’re going to call them zero days old. In actuality they’re 

going to be three to six days old, and I’ll tell you how they do that in just a minute. Let’s say it’s June 1, zero day for the baby chicken. Most chickens start to lay eggs in about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 months. Okay for math purposes, I’m going to call this six months. Now December 1, your birds are six months old and they are starting to lay. Remember, these numbers are just for math purposes and you will need to shift them forwards or backwards, more than likely forward for your region.

Now, you’re all happy, your birds are starting to lay, but these are teenager eggs, or pullet eggs. It is not recommended that you try to hatch eggs from a hen this young. It is recommended that your hens be about twelve months old before you consider hatching their eggs. Eat all of them you want, they are excellent eggs. Now, we’re back around to June 1st again. Your birds are one year old, they have been laying eggs for six months or more. Now your eggs are hatchable. 

So, let’s back up three weeks and you have saved up some eggs and you want to hatch a batch of baby chickens. It takes a chicken egg 21 days to hatch, give or take a day. So, you start around May the 7th. You can hatch eggs in an incubator or let one of the hens do it. You start May 7th, 21 days later it’s June 1 and you have a bunch of day old chickens. Now think about it. You started one year ago with day old chickens and now you are producing your own day old chickens.

Follow me here now. Those day old chickens that you just hatched will start laying around December 1st. Now you have 18 month old adult chickens and 6 month old pullets starting to lay. The cycle continues.

You have more eggs than you know what to do with. Your adult chickens production will start to drop somewhere in the next few months. If you choose, you can get rid of the adults at this stage. The older hens will be 18 months old. You can sell them at a swap. Give or sell them for about nothing to help a family starting out with chickens. You can butcher them even though they will be a little tough at this stage, but there are things you can do with the meat. These numbers are where 6, 12, and 18 come from. Shift the numbers around to fit your circumstances. This is a great system for sustainability. 

A story about day old chickens. Let’s say that you decide to buy them from a hatchery and they come via U.S. mail. You think the poor babies will starve to death in route. No, not the case. Right before a baby chick hatches, it absorbs the yolk into it’s body, therefore, it can live comfortably around three days without food or water. These hatcheries have been shipping chicks via U.S. mail for many, many years. So, that’s how they do it.

Okay, we’re just going to talk about numbers this time. How many chickens do I need? It depends on the reason you’re raising them. If you have

eight growing kids, then you might eat a couple of dozen eggs a day. If you are an eighty year old couple, you might want two eggs a day. If you want chicken meat, and you’re going to raise an exclusive meat bird, then you can buy a special meat bird, feed it a special diet, and at about eight weeks old you put them in the freezer. If you’re a homestead, let’s say you eat a dozen eggs a day forwhatever reason. Here is where keeping younger hens will give you a more reliable number of eggs per day. 

An example: A Barred Rock is a good laying bird and also grows to be a nice sized meat bird. Let’s say you have 20 hens, one rooster and you’re

getting about 16 eggs a day on average. Come spring time you hatch using an incubator, and you get about a hatch rate of 40 chicks. As a general rule, they will be half and half, males and females. Here’s your 20 replacement hens and 20 roosters to put in the freezer. This is how the system works. A valid question: Can you mix young birds with older birds? Not for a while. You will need to have separate accommodations for the young birds for eight to ten weeks. That’s where the term pecking order comes from. At about 10 to 12 weeks you will be butchering the young roosters anyway. We’ll talk more later about how to separate the birds. The Barred Rock, as mentioned earlier, for all practical purposes is a non-setting bird, which has it positives and negatives. If you want a bird to raise it’s own babies it is a poor choice. When a bird is setting, after a point it quits laying eggs and becomes a mommy. Other birds will give you the same egg production and same meat production and are setters. It just depends on what you want. 

By the way, I have found a website that sells 12 volt VDC incubators. Cool, eh? What Fern and I do is set up two incubators at the same time and hatch as many birds as we can at one time so they are the same age. 

Back to numbers. Let’s say you have 20 hens and one rooster. In the warm months, the chickens lay better. There are reasons for this that we will

discuss later. How much room do I need inside a chicken house? Well, if the birds are adults, it is recommended you have four to five square feet per bird. So, therefore, with 20 hens and one rooster, you will need about 100 square feet. Okay, so that’s a building       10′ x 10′. That’s not very big, is it? Now there are all different ways to build chicken houses and chicken pens. There are climates where birds never see outside unless they are looking through a window. In that case, I would want a little more space. Just like people, you get too many people in a small house on Thanksgiving and somebody is going to want to peck at somebody else. Birds need their space too. I have raised birds that never left the chicken house. I have raised birds that have a chicken house connected to an outside run. I have raised birds with a three sided lofting shed built inside a larger enclosed pen. So. There are as many ways to build a chicken house as there are people that build them, depending on where you live, and what you want. 

Okay let’s go back to the 20 Barred Rock hens and about 16 eggs a day. If you need more eggs, then you need more hens. If you need more hens, then you need more square footage per bird. It’s that simple. Numbers. Another little tidbit here. We don’t pluck our chickens. We skin them. It has nothing to do with that nasty skin on a chicken being bad for my health, actually I love fried chicken with skin on it. It has to do with the ease and convenience of butchering and processing a bird. Okay? Okay.

We’ll talk more in the future about number of nest boxes per number of laying hens. We’ll also talk more later about feed conversion, setters vs. non-setters, meat birds, laying hens and dual purpose breeds. This is what the majority of what I discuss will be about – the good, ole’ dual purpose

breeds. There are probably local hatcheries in your area. Their prices may be a little bit less expensive. I’m only going to recommend one commercial hatchery that I have used for years. I am more than happy with their service before the sale and after the sale. Their website is filled with information about birds, all kinds of birds. Their prices are a little more expensive, but this year, when I buy some replacement chickens to go along with the ones that I hatch, I will buy them from Murray McMurray Hatcheries. As always, with anything that I recommend, I have no affiliation with these folks. Go to their website and look around. They have a tremendous amount of information about how to raise birds.

Okay, on a personal note. This year I decided to try a different breed of chickens entirely and have gone with the Aracanna breed, or commonly called Easter Egg Chicken, that I bought from Murray McMurray. This has nothing to do with the hatchery, it’s just that I don’t care much for the breed. So, I will be replacing them with another breed. I don’t know exactly what yet. So we will get to choose together. 

If I can be of any help, please comment. I hope the numbers help. If you read my radio posts, then you know that I encourage people to think for themselves. There is no perfect chicken, no perfect radio, no perfect gun, you’re going to have to think and choose for yourself.

We’ll talk more later. Frank

Homestead Delusions

You think you’re going to move out to the country and be totally self-sufficient? That is not going to happen. We do many things that decrease our reliance on the ‘things from the world’ but we cannot do it all. Here is a reality check.

So you’re going to move out into the woods and build you a cabin. You’re going to trap that fresh spring water. Hunt and live off of the land. What a great life! It is if you’re on a Hollywood set somewhere. I’m sorry. Hate to burst anybody’s bubble. But it’s just not going to happen.

Most of us have seen the older movie, Jeremiah Johnson. It’s a great movie about a man that is not happy with the way life was and, “It should have been different.” Like I said, great movie,

beautiful scenery, good story line, but that’s the Hollywood version of it. The book version, Mountain Man, by Vardis Fisher goes into more detail about the story. In the book, on occasion, he has contact with and trades with the Indians. He goes to a town for items like flour, tobacco, whiskey, black powder and the whole gamut of things that a person cannot make for themselves.

When I say cannot make for themselves, yes, most things can be made. An axe head, for example, can be manufactured. But it’s one of those skills that takes years to acquire, and you’re not going to carry the equipment

necessary to forge an axe head on the back of a horse heading up the side of a mountain. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to be totally self-sufficient, but man has been trading with other men since the times of Cain and Able. 

So. I think a person could do it for a couple of years. But it’s still going to be real, real difficult. You have to have vegetables. What I mean by that is a lot of us tend to think that man lives by meat alone, and I happen to

be one of them. But I remember reading an account of Lewis and Clark when they were just shy of the Pacific Ocean and were holed up for a winter. The men complained about only having elk meat to eat. In our time right now, elk is considered one of the finer meats of the deer family. But can you imagine eating it for every meal for weeks and weeks? These guys weren’t a bunch of little, sissy boys. The Lewis and Clark team were veteran, experienced outdoorsmen.

A number of years back, we were camping with another couple in an extremely remote part of Alaska. This guy was a biologist with the Federal Fish and Game in the area. I was about to drink from a fresh stream flowing from the melting snow when he advised me, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” It seems that most wild animals have been exposed to man and the viruses and parasites that he carries, and that there are very, very few safe streams to drink out of anywhere. So I took his advice and filtered my water.

Now what about that log cabin you’re going to build? Do we even need to talk about nails, screws, windows, doors, flooring? So, let’s say you don’t build a cabin and you have a nice little homestead. Do you know how to garden? I know it seems that you stick a seed in the ground and when it grows up it will feed you. But did you know that rabbits like squash? And so do deer. And I’m not sure, but probably even elk like a nice, tasty squash. Not to mention the gazillion bugs that also like squash. Okay. So. Too much water. Too little water. Too hot. Too cold. Give it some thought. What kind of fertilizer are you going

to use? Are you going to buy it by the ton at the local co-op? Are you going to scrape it out of your chicken house? Oh, by the way, chicken manure has a very high nitrogen content and you can’t apply it directly to your future squash plant, it will burn it. That’s assuming you have a chicken house and you have chickens and you have chicken feed. 

Yesterday I doctored a chicken’s hiney. There is a gland right at the top of the tail of a chicken’s hiney. And for some reason, I don’t know why, chickens like to peck this area. Occasionally, when pulling out a feather

there will be a little blood spot. The color red to a chicken is similar to a matador’s cape to a bull. Which is the reason you don’t see ranchers wearing red shirts, but that’s a different story. I just made that up about the rancher. But the chicken blood, is real. Chickens will obsessively peck at the color red until they eat that chicken. So, do you have Pick No More in your pocket to treat that chicken’s hiney? Didn’t think so. What are you going to do?

Okay, but, back to the chicken manure that you can’t put in the garden because it will burn the seed. What are you going to use? Compost?

Yep, compost will work. I’ll just get me one of those little green barrels and fill it up with organic matter and twirl it around once a week. Through the magic of mother nature and decomposition, you have compost. But you open up your little plastic barrel and it looks just like it did when you put it in there. Well, gee willickers! I guess mother nature is smarter than I am. I have tried to compost unsuccessfully for decades. I know the guy on the TV gardening show makes it looks easy, but remember they have the ability to edit, I don’t. Could I learn how to compost? Probably. Have I ever been successful? No. 

That squash looks a little tougher to grow all the time, doesn’t it? When I’m spending all day long trying to forge that ax head, I’m probably not going to have a lot of time for that squash seed. And I’m getting real tired of eating elk meat, but by golly, I’m going to get that ax head made if it’s the last thing I ever do. And it might be the last thing you ever do.

Okay. So we decide to give up and we’re going to drive down the hill in the car where the gasoline came from the Middle East, transported in a

super tanker made somewhere in Greece, with an electronics navigation system made by a Japanese company outsourced to China. And what about the tires on that car? The good Lord only knows where the tires were manufactured, but the rubber for the tire came from somewhere in some jungle that I can’t say. Gettin’ hungry yet? By the way, the Lewis and Clark expedition was complaining about eating boiled elk, not barbecued. So, how is that squash seed doing?

You want to be self-sufficient? Are you going to develop a photovoltaic cell for your solar panel? Okay. So you don’t have a photovoltaic cell for your solar panel, and you’re going to eat off of a wood burning stove. Where are you going to get the wood? I know, I know! You’re going to chop the tree down with that imaginary ax head that you never got forged. Then you’re going to cook boiled elk and squash for dinner.

Now what I’ve done here is taken two items, a squash seed and an axe head. Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of items that are in our houses and cars everyday that we take for granted? Nuts, bolts, thread, wires, metal, plastic, wood, and the list is endless. If you want to read a good series, read Laura Ingalls Wilder – about seven or eight little books. It will give you a pretty good idea and perspective about a self-sustaining type of living. These were tough, tough people.

Okay. So. Let’s say you have a house, a chicken pen, you’ve got some goats, your garden’s growing, you’ve had some water wells dug and they’re producing. Now you’ve got a chicken pen for your chickens. For your goats you’ve got a barn, corral and adequate fencing. And you’re good at repairing your fence that your neighbors cut during deer season. Life is good. 

Then one day here comes walking up the tax man. You will never, ever be totally self-sufficient. Not to mention all of the items that you use every day of your life. At some time or another, most will need to be replaced. And that is if you have good health, no problems, you never need to go to a dentist or doctor or a psychiatrist. Okay.

But I want to let you know that it is fun trying to be self-sufficient. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

We’ll talk more later. Frank

Radio – Become a Ham, Part 10

Hello, Frank here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, or should I say YL’s and OM’s, things are quickly coming to a close. I expect this to be the next to the last post for the

Technician’s exam. This part coming up will deal with operating procedures. Before we get to operating procedures, let’s say you have read the manual, taken practices tests, talked to the ARRL folks, got yourself an Elmer, maybe taken the test, maybe even passed it. As eager as you are, you still cannot transmit on the radio. Now you can listen, listen anytime, anywhere, to anything going across the airwaves. But you ask, “I passed my test?” Congratulations! But until you receive notification from

the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), you cannot transmit. But they will notify you 1) via U.S. mail, 2) via FCC website. You will need to have your exact name as it was turned in on your application. When it is posted on the FCC website, then you are licensed to rag-chew with anyone that will listen within your band of authority.

Okay, so what are these band authorities? 10 meter, 28.3 through 28.5 MHz, 6 meter and up. One other thing you need to know. When you put

your call sign on an email anybody can go to numerous websites, for example, and get your name, address, city, zip code and a friendly map to your house. So be cautious who you give this information to. If you choose, when you take your test, you can use for

your address a post office box. You say, “My Elmer told me I have to use a physical address.” In the past you did, in the present you don’t. A post office box is perfectly acceptable with the FCC. As most of you know, Frank and Fern are pseudonyms. This is why I have never given you my call sign. So don’t feel slighted if I don’t share with you my personal data. Fern and I are very

particular about operational security. You should be too.

Okay. FM operation. You’ve got your VHF/UHF radio and you want to program it. I would highly recommend some type of computer program.

Most manufacturers provide either a disc or a download so you can program your radio. If you have an extra $40 to $45 I would highly recommend the RT programming systems. This makes life a whole lot easier. Okay. To program your radio, let’s start with simplex. This means you’re talking directly to another person, line of site.

Your transmit (TX) and receive (RX) frequency will be the same frequency, example: 146.52 MHz, which is a frequency that you might want to put in your radio. It is the national simplex frequency. That’s not on any test anywhere, I just thought you might want to know it.

On rare, rare occasions, simplex will have a CTCSS subtone – rare, rare, rare. You ask, “What is CTCSS?” Hold on, and I’ll let you know. If you want to use a repeater, which you probably will, it gets just a little bit more complicated. It is commonly called duplex operation. The reason being, 

when you transmit to a repeater on one frequency and it rebroadcasts your transmission out on a different frequency. For VHF this is plus or minus 600 kilohertz. If you have a scanner, then the frequency in your scanner is your receive frequency. So when you are programming your radio, if you put in the receive frequency, most newer radio programs will automatically set the offset. This is not difficult. Remember 600 KHz is 0.6 MHz. So either add or subtract 0.6 in the ham bands 144-148. Look at the little ICOM chart. You will see frequencies set up for repeaters above 146 and below 146. Play with it, figure it out. And it’s the same thing for UHF, except the plus or minus is 5 MHz. 

Well, if you say that that was easy enough, what’s this CTCSS? Most repeaters, but not all, require a PL tone or CTCSS to activate the repeater. This is normally used for transmission to the repeater. Otherwise you will

not be able to access the repeater and it retransmit your signal. So, you will need to put whatever the PL tone is for that repeater in your radio via your program. In rare, rare cases a PL tone is also used on the transmit side of the repeater, but this is very rare. These are normally used by police departments.

How to make a transmission: You’ve got your radio programmed, you put in the transmit frequency, you’ve put in the PL tone to open the repeater and you’ve put in the receive frequency. Here’s how you do it, this applies to duplex and simplex. You don’t go, “Break one nine, good buddy.” Do not use CB lingo. No ten-four. I do CB, I like CB, but I do not use CB talk on

ham radio. So, you want to call somebody. Let’s say their call sign is KF7MOM. You start off by calling them first, “KF7MOM” and then you give your call sign. Let’s say, “W7NEW”. You wait about ten seconds and you say it again, “KF7MOM, W7NEW”, you wait about ten more seconds, if you do not get a response, then give your call sign and you are finished. That’s it. Okay, why do you wait ten seconds if radio waves travel at the speed of light? Good question. Because KF7MOM might not have a VHF radio on and is receiving your radio’s transmission on the scanner. This will give KF7MOM the time to turn on the VHF radio and respond. Be patient. Okay, let’s say that you want to talk to anyone out there. Listen for a minute, make sure no one is on frequency

and put your call sign out. Some people will put out their call sign and say monitoring. How do you end a conversation? Just talk on the radio like you normally would, then say, “See you later.” and give your call sign. These rules are not set in concrete. There are local variations everywhere and no one is going to laugh at you, not that you will hear anyway. So just key up the mic, hold it about six to eight inches from your mouth and talk in a normal voice. Make sure that your finger is not covering the little bitty hole where the microphone is. 

Okay. Let’s switch over to HF for just a second. If you know who you are calling, the same protocol applies. If you just want somebody to talk to,

which remember is between 28.3-28.5 MHz, which is 10 meter upper side band. Turn your radio on, that is probably the most important step – the ON/OFF switch. Wait for a minute, make sure no one is on frequency and say, “CQ, CQ, CQ” (calling any station) and then give your call sign. Proper phonetics is used more often on HF, so use proper phonetics. Whiskey Seven Nora Echo Whiskey (W7NEW). For those of you that are long winded, you are required to give your call sign every ten minutes VHF, UHF or HF. Don’t forget, 10 meter is upper side band. 

Once you get to playing on your radio, you will find that most people are very, very polite, courteous and helpful. So please do not be the new, rude jerk. If you have an emergency and need to break into a conversation,

the standard procedure is to wait for a break in the conversation and say “Priority” or “Emergency” followed by your call sign. If you are rag chewing with your buddy, be it simplex or duplex, and anybody breaks in with an emergency, be prepared to take notes, but first clear the channel immediately. Let me repeat that. You clear the channel immediately and be prepared to help.

It’s recommended that you use the least amount of power required to operate your radio. The VHF repeater that I primarily use is about 25 miles away. I can activate the repeater comfortably with five watts. But, if there is a torrential downpour, I might need to use more power. Use the appropriate power level. This is one of those cases to where you really don’t impress anybody by using the most power that you can.

Okay, there’s some other stuff here that we didn’t talk about. I finished up through page 42. Next time we will pick up with rules and regulations and it should be the last post for the Technician exam. One last thing. After you get your Technician ticket and you decide to take your General test and pass it, then you will have General operating privileges at that time. Just thought I would throw that in.

Get in touch with ARRL. Schedule a test and take it. Take the practice tests, either free or paid for, it’s your choice. If you don’t feel comfortable, or that you’re not ready, go back and reread the posts again.

Read the other posts about CB, 10 meter radios and scanners. There is lots of good information in there. Get you an Elmer from ARRL. They give them away free. And one extra last thing. Don’t try to be a hotshot and fry your little girl’s brain. Being stupid is not pretty or funny. It’s kind of like being drunk, it ain’t cute. Safety first.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

The Goat Stork Cometh

One Stripe will be having her kids soon. There are subtle signs to watch for when a doe is within a few weeks of giving birth. Not all goats present the same signs or symptoms, so sometimes it’s more of a guessing game than not.

I try to keep good records of when the does have bred so I will have a decent idea of when to be prepared for kids. This doesn’t always mean I catch them on the day they actually breed, though. It seems that every year, there is at least one doe that my ‘guess-timate’ is a few weeks off. 

You can tell by the goat breeding schedule that the first solid breed date I had for One Stripe was July 19 which gives her a 150 day gestation on December 16. I’m not sure if she will go that long, but I have thought the same thing about her before. She is pretty consistent in the length of her gestation. The benefit of keeping a doe for a while is having a history of past pregnancies and births. We bought One Stripe in January of 2009. Here is some of her history.

  • 1st kids – May 2010; twins – a buck and a doe; 153 days (after breeding).
  • 2nd kids – March 2011; twins – 2 does; 150 days
  • 3rd kids – March 2012; triplets – 2 bucks (one born breech with no problems) 1 doe; 149 days
  • 4th kid – January 2013 (accidental breeding); 1 doe; days unknown; had to fix kid’s ear since it stayed folded over

This is Copper. She will be having her first kids in March.

If you keep a doe for a number of years you get to know the patterns she follows during gestation and have a better idea when she will birth and how she will do. Past history of easy births is not a guarantee there will be no problems, but does lend to some peace of mind knowing a doe is experienced and has shown reliability. 

One Stripe really does get ‘big as a barn’. There have been two previous years that I just knew she could not go another three weeks (which is the time between heat cycles and breeding – usually), but she did.


Early November

Her udder tends to get large and very full before she gives birth. It started filling out a few weeks ago. It has a ways to go to be full and is still soft and pliable at this point.

Mid November

This is how I check their hips. This is Copper, not One Stripe.

As One Stripe gets closer to kidding her hips will spread until there is no bony protrusions left to feel. You can push in all the way around her tailbone. 

Here is Copper again, modeling for us.

One of the most fun things to check as the birth draws close is the activity of the kids. Sometimes, not always, I can feel the kids kicking when I place my hand on her right side, like this. If the kids aren’t active I gently pat her side a few times and wait. Many times I can feel a gentle kick. This happened for the first time yesterday. According to Pat Coleby in Natural Goat Care this usually happens about two weeks before birth, so I shouldn’t have to wait too much longer.

I am excited about new kids, they are so fun to watch and are a renewable source of milk and meat for our table. We are especially looking forward to more milk since the one doe we are milking, is not quite keeping us in enough milk right now. I bought a gallon of milk at the store today. But if we only have to supplement with store bought milk for a few weeks this year, we will have almost met our goal of being able to drink our own milk year round. For the past several years we have gone without our own milk for at least two months between the goats drying up and the new kids being born. So we’re almost there.

One Stripe and Copper

It takes time, effort and a lot of trial and error to accomplish many goals, especially when that goal deals with a live product. What are the goals you have for your own self-sufficiency? Take the time and expend the energy to increase your skill and knowledge so that you will be closer to accomplishing your goals. The more you learn, either from trial or from error, the better off you will be in the long run, and the coming run will be a long one.

Until next time – Fern