What is this?

I am surprised how many things grow around here in December. I really am. I guess in the back of my mind, I’ve seen these plants before, I just haven’t been paying attention like I am now. That’s true of a lot of things, isn’t it? 

Since we have been trying to grow more and more of our animal feed in an attempt to eliminate buying grains and become more self-reliant, I have begun to pay attention to what is already growing here, and what grows well here that we can cultivate. We have written several articles about the garden produce grown for the animals including corn, sunflower seeds, cow peas, turnips, carrots, beets, comfrey and sunchokes. Now I am finding wild, weedy things that the chickens really enjoy, and the most interesting part of the current discovery is that these weeds are growing in December. You can already tell that I am wondering if they will continue to grow throughout the winter. 

The problem is, I don’t know what these plants are. I have looked in my wild edible foraging books to no avail, so I don’t think they are meant for human consumption. If you know what any of these plants are, we sure would like to know. I have put my foot in these pictures for a size comparison. None of these plants are very big, which doesn’t surprise me because it’s winter. I have numbered the plants for ease of identification. So, tell me, what do you think?

1.  There are not a lot of these plants around. The interesting thing about them is the red veins on the leaves. Since there aren’t very many, I haven’t been picking them to see if the chickens like them…yet.

2.  This plant is fairly small, but coming up all over the place. I don’t know how big they will eventually get. As they get bigger, the middle stands up more off the ground. When they are small, they are flat to the ground. The chickens love these. In no time at all, these plants are gone, leaves, stems, roots and all.

3.  I didn’t get my foot in this picture. This weed is fairly large compared to the others. The leaves are about five to six inches long, and this is the only one I remember seeing. I picked many of them and the chickens liked it as well.

4.  Another large leaved plant. Oops, I know what this one is. It’s a turnip in the garden and the chickens love them, leaves, root and all. I picked some of these greens for dinner last night.

5.  I ran across something in my wild foraging book that made me wonder if this is a wild carrot. There are a few here and there. Any ideas?

6.  This small plant with the scalloped leaves is another one the chickens like. There are quite a few of them around.

7.  This one with the rounded leaves they don’t particularly care for, but they will eat it. This plant gets much larger than the others and there are lots of them. It has some similar characteristics to my lemon balm, but that’s not it.

8.  I have just started to notice these plants, and have only seen a couple. The leaves are rounded and darker than the other plants so far.

9. We have lots of healthy looking dandelions, especially along the porch on the west side of the house,where they get more warmth when the sun is out. We gathered seeds from these last year and started a dandelion patch in the herb bed, so we can harvest and dry our own roots for tea.

These are what we hope will come of these weeds. Aren’t they beautiful? We are still getting pullet eggs from our young hens, with a gradual increase in their production rate. Not fast enough for us, but we’re getting there.

So, in December, when it is cold, and not a lot grows, I become the shadow farmer in the long slanting rays of winter, wrapped in my barn coat. That is, when we have rare moments of sunshine.

These plants have some similarities to other plants, both wild and domestic. Number one looks like a beet, but it’s not. Then number two looks like clover, but it’s not. And number eight almost reminds me of the violets that come up in the early spring, but I don’t think so. Please share with us what you know, we’re ready to learn something new and useful. Pick a number and give it your best shot, while I keep picking leaves for the chickens.

Until next year – Fern

Radio – Adventure with a New Antenna

Hello, Frank here.

Hi Everybody, hope all is well. Once upon a time, before the realization that ham radio was achievable, there were pursuits to communicate 30+ miles by radio. Okay, let me switch to real time here. When Fern and I moved to Oklahoma, we worked about 25 miles from our home. I put a CB radio in each vehicle, and one in the house. Well, I like CB radio, but being the nature of what it is, and living in hill country, CB just would not do the job.

Then I discovered another citizens band radio called MURS, which is around 151 MHz, and by the way CB is around 27 MHz. But, back to MURS. We picked up a few handheld commercial radios, which are programmable, and I put the MURS frequencies in the handhelds. Got a couple of mag mount ham radio antennas, which are built to function between 144 – 148 MHz. I thought, well 148, that’s pretty close to 151, and this little set up worked pretty good. We also use these same handhelds to communicate around the farm here.

But, getting back to the theme of tonight’s post, I decided to go big time. Now, remember, at this time I did not have a ham radio license, and the stuff I’m doing here really had nothing to do with ham radio. So, I devised a little system. I engineered a way to raise and lower an antenna pole, which I’m still using today, by the way. I still think that it was one of my more creative moments. But, on top of this raising and lowering marvel, I put a 16 foot Comet antenna. Except this antenna was not made for ham radio, it was made for 151 MHz, the commercial frequencies, and it worked great for the MURS frequencies. So now Fern and I can communicate from home to work, depending on whether or not the car was in a low spot or a high spot, it worked quite well. But, as fate would have it, our little newspaper had a little, bitty, teeny article about a ham radio class starting. And the rest is history, especially when I found out that you don’t have to learn Morse code at any level of ham radio any longer.

 So I tried this radio, I tried the Alinco mobile VHF/UHF, and it worked more than adequate. Good radio. But it’s a ham radio. What I wanted was a commercial radio, which is 100% legal on the ham frequencies. Now that I am spending more and more time on the ham frequencies, I needed a different antenna. Well, once I discovered the ham world, I put a couple of different antennas on the vehicles, and they work great. Then I decided I would take that same antenna, which is a CA 2×4 SR, CA means Comet. I connected it to a TRAM 1460 ground plane kit. 

Fern and I took the time to put it up on the pole today, and it doesn’t quite work as well as it does on the vehicles. I have two friends that

have this same type of antenna system, each one mounted in a base configuration. With two of my meters, their SWR checks okay, not

great, but okay. Well, here a few days ago I bought a new SWR power meter and mounted it permanently connected to my HF and VHF/UHF radios. It shows my SWR on the VHF to be unacceptable, not horrible, unacceptable, but still usable. And I can’t figure out what the problem is. I have three different SWR meters, these things kind of grow on you after a while, then you forget you have one and buy another one. Here’s the problem. My two portable SWR meters read high, but acceptable. My higher dollar SWR meter reads unacceptable, but still doable. Not the results that I wanted. So is my brand new higher dollar meter just a cute piece of junk? I wish I could tell you.

For you ham folks, my antenna analyzer shows high but acceptable SWR and the antenna tunes perfect at 161 MHz, you know, up by the railroad frequencies. But it shows about a 2 or a 3 from 144 – 156 MHz. I guess I need to reconsider my new high dollar meter, don’t I? But it’s up and it’s in the air, and it’s the first time I’ve done anything really strenuous since my back surgery. And at this time, I’m still walking. 

We started about 2:00 in the afternoon, I guess, and finished at about 6:00pm. Fern took a bunch of pictures. And you might ask yourself, why did it take so long? Well, I had to cut the coax, solder the connectors, doctor the burn from the soldering iron, it never fails me that I will touch that hot tip.



I had to get out my fingernail polish that I use in place of lock tight. 

I put Stuff on the new connections. Stuff, let’s see, it helps keep out moisture, that’s the main reason I use it on the connectors. And I used a new type stretchy tape to help seal the outside connectors.

Attaching ground plane

Putting Stuff on the antenna connection

But what took so long was getting the old antenna off of the pole. And it’s cold, my fingers didn’t want to work at 45 degrees with a cold northwest wind. I know that’s not cold to some of you fellas, but I’m sensitive. I had to move my cell phone booster antenna, and I also removed an 80 meter dipole that I had constructed. I really wish that they would not use metric on these antennas, but that’s another story.

We put the connectors on the ends of the coax in a bucket to keep moisture out.

Stainless steel scrubber blocking coax entry port into the house.

Attaching the new antenna to the pole.

Dusk is fast approaching as we prepare to lift the pole back up.

Wire has been run back into the house and hole blocked with a scrubber.

Finishing up by flashlight

The kitchen was a mess, but the new antenna is up.

Reconnecting all of the antennas

Fern took some pictures along the way. I hope you enjoy them, because here one of these days, if this experiment works okay, I’m going to put up a couple of new towers and try to improve my communication system. The new antenna works fine. I called a buddy down the road to see if we could still contact each other on simplex. You see, he lives closer to the highway than I do, and when the buses come to relocate us they will stop at his house first, and I want to know when the buses are coming. You should, too. Because the buses are going to come someday. Don’t get on the bus.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

P.S. Tuesday, December 30th is book bomb day for James, Wesley Rawles new book, which is a guide to the selection, use, and care of tools. Here is the link for your reading pleasure. We are looking forward to his latest publication.


Watching Our Pregnant Does Grow

This is the time of year that I start keeping a close eye on our does. One Stripe and Copper are due February 10th, which won’t come too soon for me. I have been lamenting our lack of fresh goat milk for a while now, and I miss the daily milking routine. Some folks would find milking twice a day to be a grinding drudgery. There are days the weather doesn’t increase my enjoyment of milking my goats, but they are few and far between for me. My friends have already had to start listening to me tell them again and again how much I love baby goats and having fresh milk. I’m grateful they are patient with me and tolerate my repetitive excitement. So, here is an update on how my wonderful does are doing.

One Stripe tends to get almost as wide as she is long toward the end of her gestation. She is on her way to the waddling stage and her udder is just starting to fill out. Since she lost her babies last year, I am more concerned about her than I have been other years. One Stripe is our old lady goat, she will be seven in May. Except for her mishap last year, she has been a great mom, very attentive, with strong, healthy babies and lots of milk. I have been watching her closely to see if she is showing any signs of aborting early again. So far, so good.


Copper will be having her second set of kids this year and is filling out quite nicely. She is already bigger than she was last year, or it seems like it to me. Her udder is also starting to slowly fill. She had twins last year and was also a very attentive, with lots of milk just like her mother, One Stripe.


The body condition, udder and alert, attentive behavior are some of the things I watch for in my pregnant does. I keep an eye on their skin condition, too. One Stripe tends to get a little dandruffy, dry skin toward the end of her pregnancies. Copper doesn’t. I check the base of their tails to see if their hips have begun to spread, which so far, they haven’t.

 Next week I will start bringing One Stripe and Copper in the barn in the morning and giving them a little extra grain. All of the does get some grain in the evening, but not much. Kids put on most of their size and weight the last month of gestation, so this extra feed in the cold of winter will help keep these does in good, healthy condition. I also make sure to keep minerals out all the time during gestation. The goats are still out grazing everyday and getting plenty of exercise. There are certain grasses and weeds that grow almost all winter here so they have some fresh things to eat each day. If it is cold and wet with rain or snow, we keep hay in the manger. Otherwise, the fresh graze of the pasture is much more nutritional and meets their needs for roughage. 

We have three young does that will be first fresheners, or having their first kids this spring. These does are not due until the first week in April. They are all looking very good, starting to thicken in the middle, while they continue to grow to full size goats. These three does were bred when they were 8 months old. 

Penny, December 21st

Cricket, December 21st

Lady Bug, December 21st

There are varying opinions on when to breed young does. Some folks will not breed them until they are a year old. Some go by weight, the common recommendation is 80 to 90 pounds or 8 to 9 months old. Some folks insist that it will stunt the growth of the doe if they are bred before they are a year or more old. Others insist the does will not produce as much milk if they are allowed to wait until they are older to have their first kids. So, if you are interested in, or are getting started with goats, you will have to decide how you are going to handle your breeding and birthing conditions. There are also other goat owners that run the herd together year round, allowing them to breed and birth as they will. We control our breeding times by keeping the buck separated from the does. As I discussed in the last goat article, we tried to breed One Stripe in July, but the buck was not mature enough. So, our breeding schedules don’t always work out the way we prefer. We have also had does breed at times we didn’t think it would ever happen. Like one month after birthing when they were raising triplets. That was one of those learning experiences we wished hadn’t happened, strictly for the health of the doe. I think that is way too hard on their bodies. Some folks let their goats breed anytime, and want them to produce as many kids as possible. To me, that’s just breeding them to death, literally. It uses up the strength of their bodies long before it otherwise would.

Lady Bug & Cricket at 11 days old


Penny as a newborn

Since I have already warned you about my repetitious nature when it comes to baby goats, you won’t be surprised when I say, “Did I tell you how much I love baby goats?” I will continue to keep you up to date about the progress my does are making. If you have any questions I can help you with, please ask in the comments. On some past posts, I had some great questions that helped me to learn more, as well as gave me more ideas of things to share here. So, let me know if you have questions. After all, since I love baby goats and the whole birthing process, I’d love to get a conversation going.

Until next time – Fern

Making a Baby Doll for Christmas

I couldn’t find a gift I cared to buy for a little girl in our family. After I thought about it for awhile, I remembered I have a pattern for a very simple doll. So, I made one. I only remember making one other stuffed doll-like moose couple, representing Frank and I, of course. Silly, huh? With my limited experience, this doll turned out to be a little more of a project than I envisioned, but it turned out fairly well. The nice thing about it is a two year old doesn’t do much of a critique on a home made item. The adults around her might, but she didn’t. She just took it to her miniature recliner with her sippy cup and they both watched cartoons together.

I found this pattern at lds.org, here. It has recommendations for fabric and such, but I have always liked to try to make things from what I have on hand. I had some old fabric that has a more open weave pattern than regular cotton, it’s almost like a tight weave burlap, and I thought it would work well. It is a little darker brown than I would have chosen if I were shopping, but these scraps have been around for probably 20 years. It’s good to get some use from them.

The hardest part of this project was turning the doll right side out after stitching up most of the body. The pattern chooses to leave the opening on the inside of one of the legs which makes sense if you’re thinking about limiting visibility of the slip stitched final closure after it is stuffed. But I found it difficult to turn and difficult to stuff the head and arms from this location. For working purposes, it would be much easier to leave the opening on the side of the body instead.

Do you know how many pairs of old, clean panty hose you can get in a small doll like this? I probably used at least 15 pair, which is good, since I have been saving them for quite a while. There aren’t many women that wear panty hose any more, but I do. I’m very old fashioned in that I must wear panty hose and a slip with a dress, or I’m just not dressed. And don’t look at the feet very close, because one of them turned out bigger than the other, rather noticeably. But when you’re playing with a doll and you’re two years old, it won’t matter, right?

The clothes for this doll are very simple. I decided that every little girl needs some ruffles, so I brought out the bag that has Frank’s grandmother’s Eastern Star dresses. She gave these to me before she passed away, and I have used bits and pieces in several projects. This gave me a gauzy covering for the little shirt, and a couple of layers, along with another piece of lacy fabric for a ruffledy skirt. It took a bit to get them adjusted correctly, but I liked the way they turned out.

The next challenge was the face and hair. I found it interesting to make the eyelids and nose out of the same body fabric. The recommendation was to make the eye pieces out of felt, but I didn’t have any, so I got out my bag of embroidery thread and took a stab at it. It looked pretty funny until I got all of the detail finished, and it turned out better than I imagined. Not great, but okay. The hair was another story. They have several examples of pig tails and baby loops, but I wanted some curly blondish hair to sort of match that of the little girl who was receiving this doll. I got out a big tapestry needle and did a combination of loops and straight cut off pieces of yarn tied in place until I had a nice messy mixture that almost looks like hair if you use your imagination.

It was fun making this doll. All together it probably took me about four to five hours. I sent a picture of it to a friend when I finished, and her comment was that we will need to know how to make toys for the children after the collapse comes, because they won’t have all of the electronic gizmos and contraptions they have now. People used to make their children the toys they had, or they didn’t have any. I guess this is one of the reasons I made this little girl a doll. Good old, imaginative play, without batteries or electricity appears to becoming a thing of the past, much to the detriment of society, in my humble opinion. Imagination requires children to think instead of react. It involves a whole different set of thought processes.

Through much of my teaching career I would bring my special education students out to our farm on a field trip. We would be gone the whole day, playing at a park, having sack lunches, then

visiting the farm to see baby goats or lambs, baby chickens and the garden. They always had a great time. It was the only day of the whole year I would give them a soda and a snack bag that had crackers and candy. Otherwise, I never provided any sugary snacks for them. I allowed the kids to bring something to play with at the park as long as it would fit in their backpack. But one of the main rules about toys is that it could not be electronic or have batteries. No cell phones, no game boy things (I know their called something else now, but I don’t know what it is.), only plain, old fashioned toys. Otherwise they could run and play, all day long and use their imagination. It was great. By the end of the day, they were tired and happy. 

I’m glad I made this little girl a doll for Christmas. It reminded me of yet another important skill we will need, to provide loving support for children when the world turns upside down. 

Until next time – Fern

For Unto You A Child Is Born

Luke 2: 1-20 KJ 

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

We pray that you and yours have a blessed Christmas. 
May God and Peace be with you.

Frank and Fern

How Do I Help Others Prepare?

We had a very interesting, thought provoking email a few days back. Part of our response to this reader was, Your email has created quite a bit of discussion in our house.” It really has. Initially we started thinking of items that would be useful. Then we got to the point of lists of lists. But as we pondered and discussed it further we came to a realization.

You can’t help someone 
who doesn’t want to be helped. 
Here is the email we received.
Hi Frank and Fern,
I have a question that I thought might appeal to some of your readers, as well as myself. I have been working for the last few years at becoming more self-sufficient, and am really ramping things up as I feel we are rounding the final corner. That said, my family has been watching me put up fence and raise animals and grind my own grain with a tolerant shake of their heads, but without much concern that I might be right about the future. So now that I see things really looming, I have realized that I need to at least make an attempt to insure that they have some of the basics that they will need. And finally to my question: what would you suggest putting into a “starter kit” that I could put together for a couple hundred dollars? I would like to make up a kit for my parents, and perhaps each sibling, or at least give them a list of where to start. I have the skills, and some of the tools necessary that I can teach/lend, but where to start for them? Lighting? Seeds? Water? Food storage? Canning supplies? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
[Name Removed]

It is very admirable that this woman wants to provide starter kits for her family members, especially for family members that tend to just shake their heads and wonder if she will come to her senses someday. She asks some good questions about where to start. FEMA has lots of information on their website about creating disaster preparedness kits. So does the Red Cross and a number of other sites, including many, many blogs. Each individual family member’s medical and dietary needs would drive the contents of a personal preparedness kit. Of course, at the top of everyone’s list would be water. Then other items that may be needed or desired would depend on the individual, their location, age, physical condition, and on, and on, and on.

This may not be the type of information this woman was looking for when she wrote to us. But the more we thought about it and talked about it, we kept coming back to one basic foundational concept.
You can’t help someone 
who doesn’t want to be helped.

What we mean by this is that a person that truly doesn’t foresee any disasters, downturns, collapses, catastrophes, or TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) scenarios possibly occurring in their lives, will

not benefit from anything you can prepare for them. Why? Because it has no meaning or value to them. They have no use for any material items you may give them, because they will never need them. IT, a disaster, won’t happen to them, maybe to you, but not to them. And if IT, a collapse, ever does happen, they probably won’t be able to handle it mentally or emotionally, because IT wasn’t supposed to happen in the first place.

For example. We have tried to give useful, functional Christmas gifts for many, many years. Almost every year the recipients give us that forced smile and say, Thanks. You can see in their eyes that they are thinking

more along the lines of, “What in the world did they give me this for?? I will never use it.” Then there was the year we gave everyone heavy duty outdoor extension cords. Our brother-in-law opened it and said, “Great! Thanks! The rats just ate through my extension cord last night. This is just what I needed.” Or another year when a nephew had just started to college. When he opened a set of Maglights he said, “Great! I needed a flashlight just the other day and didn’t have one. Thanks!” Other examples of Christmas gifts we have given are fire extinguishers, small battery chargers, rechargeable lanterns, water storage containers, hooded sweatshirts and other items of this nature. But, most of the time, the kind of gifts we give just get tossed aside once people get home, never to be thought of or used again.

So, back to this person’s question. What should she give her family? Our answer? Her continued vigilance and example of what it takes to be prepared, doing the work entailed in trying to learn and live a self-reliant

life style. Encouragement to learn, and gentle challenges to try a few new things, may be all she is ever able to do for these family members until the time comes. Then, it is almost guaranteed they will show up at her door, if possible, knowing that she was right all along. Knowing that they are not prepared and ignorant of the knowledge and skills needed to survive. Knowing that with their arrival, they are placing an impossible burden upon her for taking care of their needs, and in many cases their wants, as well. 

So, what advice can we offer this woman? That’s a really tough question, and the answer will be colored by our own experiences, biases and opinions. We have long wrestled with the total lack of preparedness of our family members that live in this area. No matter what we say, do, or how

we live, there is not one, NOT ONE, of our family members that is in the least bit ready for the collapse of our society and world. And, you know what? We can’t feed them all. It’s impossible. We have read about people that say they will let everyone in and when they run out of food, they’ll just all starve together. I’m sorry, but that’s ludicrous. Just how long will that happy family get along all hunky dory when there isn’t enough food? I’m not going to paint the picture of what will happen, but it won’t be pretty, and not everyone will survive. Harsh? Yes, incredibly so. But true. Hiding from the truth of the starvation and deprivation that will come with a collapse of society will not change anything. It will still happen.

Our recommendation comes down to this. Instead of giving people something that they don’t value, will not use, and will probably waste instead, store what extra things you can at home. Then sit down and do some very serious soul searching. If you cannot feed the people you are thinking of in your family in a collapse situation, then you need to decide

ahead of time who you can feed. Then once that decision is made, you have to come to terms with turning away those you can’t, if they make it to your house. Another question to consider is, are you going to tell them ahead of time that they are not welcome at your house if a collapse occurs, because you will not be able to feed them without causing your own family to starve? Easy conversation? No. Will they believe you even if you tell them? Probably not. After all, it’s not really going to happen anyway, and you are just one of those whacko prepper people that think the sky is falling. Just like Henny Penny. And they have never believed you anyway. Another very hard question. Are you prepared to do what is necessary for the survival of your family if they do show up and refuse to leave? Hard thoughts.

We are grateful for this woman’s email. It has caused a lot of thought and discussion in our house. Please share your thoughts and ideas on this topic. We can all benefit from this conversation. The conclusion we have come to can be considered disheartening by some, but in the long run, we prefer to have a clear picture of the possibilities. We don’t like to play head 

games with ourselves, and pretend everything will always be peachy and smell like roses. We have tried to share, teach, show, gently nudge and point out some of the markers of the coming collapse to our friends and family, and by writing this blog. But few there are that have come to see the truth of what is coming. While there are many that continue to be blinded by the distractions of the world, and choose not to see what is happening around them. We have been brought to this place and to this blog. We will continue to share what we have been shown in the hopes of reaching just one more person, that they might be ready. And maybe, just maybe, they can help one more person to be ready as well. 

Until next time – Fern

Radio – To Be or Not To Be

Hello, Frank here.

Recently I received some correspondence that I wanted to share with you. Each one of these notes has a different general theme, and I’d like to talk about each one individually. 

The first is from an experienced ham radio operator. In his original correspondence he included his call sign, which I have removed for his security. He has an Extra class license, which is the highest level of ham radio. According to his comment, he used an antenna

and a ground plane that I have recommended, but his results were sharply different than the results that I received. I wish I could tell you exactly why we got different test results, but I can’t. There are many variables and factors to consider. Since this gentleman is obviously not a beginner, and has significantly more experience than I do, I wish that I could tell you why we got different results. Sometimes there just aren’t immediately obvious answers. Please read his question and my response. When you’re dealing with electronics, it can be a connector, it can be coax, moisture in your connectors, loose connectors, where you’re sitting in relation to power lines or buildings. But this man, being an experienced ham operator, already knows these things. There are sometimes where there just aren’t answers. Again, please read his comment and my response.



I just got done trying out the Comet antenna with the ground plane adapter over the weekend and my SWR on any 2M frequency was 3 or higher! I use these antennas on my vehicles and hardly get above 2. Needless to say, at 3+ SWR, any meaningful distance on 2M is impossible. I am curious if you tested your SWR with the Comet and the ground plane adapter, and if so, what results did you get?

Thanks and 73,
Bill [call sign removed]


 Hi Bill. Here’s what I’ve got. The antenna is the Comet CA 2×4 SR. The ground plane kit is a TRAM1460 UHF.

On my automobile, without the ground plane kit, the SWR was flat. That is using UHF and VHF ham frequencies, UHF using GMRS, and VHF using MURS 151-154 MHz.

Next, I went to a friend’s house that has this system, the antenna and the ground plane kit. On the upper MURS frequencies, around 154 MHz, we had an SWR of 2. All of the other frequencies mentioned above were flat.

At another friend’s house with the same set up, the antenna and ground plane kit, using 2 separate meters, the SWR was flat, straight across. At both test sites we used power ranging from 4 watt HTs to mobile radios with 5 to 50 watts.

Bill, I can see from QRZ that you have a solid knowledge of SWR. I don’t really know what to recommend, except you might want to check your connections and your coax. Because with both of these gentlemen, the SWR readings were good and low, including outside of the ham frequencies. On my automobile, with just the antenna, they were flat straight across the frequencies using a mobile radio from 5 to 50 watts.

I certainly appreciate your observation, and I appreciate your comment.

73s, Frank


This next comment is from a gentleman that I have shared with emails back and forth. He is trying to decide what type of radio he would like to use. The problem here is, there is no perfect radio. Different radios have different features, but as a general rule, features come with a price tag. Some people like a certain brand of radio because that is what their grandpa used. I am on my second set of mobile VHF radios. I thought my first choice was the one I would stay with forever, but after I learned and 

grew more, and my knowledge base expanded sharply, I switched to a commercial radio for my VHF/UHF operations. It’s not that the first radio was poor quality or a bad choice, but my second choice had the features that I desired. It’s true that everybody wants to buy what meets their needs the first time, and if you can achieve that, great. I wasn’t quite so fortunate. In relation to HF radios, I am more than happy with my first choice, and that’s where I plan to stay. It meets my needs. Do I still look at the features of other radios? You bet. But I’m pretty happy with what I have right now. Just like lots of things in life, you need to decide what you want to do, and make the best choice you can. Read the correspondence with this gentleman and you can probably feel some of his frustration with not being able to choose the perfect radio, because there ain’t no perfect radio. So, if you would, read his email and read my response. I hope in the near future he gets his license, and he picks a good radio that works for him.

On a side note here. A popular country and western singer a number of years back, had out a song referencing “there ain’t no 10’s”. And, you know, there ain’t no 10’s and there ain’t no perfect radio.



Hope all is well with you and the misses!

Since last contact with you I am working toward getting my license,
should take test after the first of the year.

I have studied your “radio setup picture” quite a bit and have some questions. When we last discussed radios it was between the Icom IC-718 or the Yaesu FT-450D, and I thought I had settled on the Yaesu. Now I am not sure???

I have studied your “radio setup picture” quite a bit and have some questions. I see from your picture that you have (3) radios, the Icom, Alinco, and the Ranger. I understand the differences, but was wondering in my choice, should I just get a higher end rig to cover what all 3 of yours does? Is there an advantage ether way? Thanks again!


Hi Todd,

The pictures of my radio shack have changed multiple times. I no longer use the Ranger, it has been replaced with a standard CB radio. The Alinco has been replaced with an Anytone, and the 718 has stayed the same.

No, I do not recommend an all-in-one package. Reason being, unless you get a higher end radio, you will not be able to hear both VHF and HF at the same time. A lot of guys, while they are looking for HF frequencies, talk to their buddies on VHF and share the information they have found. I would recommend a separate UHF/VHF and an HF radio. Even if you get an all-in-one radio, you’ll still need two separate antennas. But this is just my humble opinion.

The Ranger radio that you saw in the pictures, was a 10/12 meter modified to operate on 11 meters, or the CB frequencies. One day it dawned on me that for CB purposes I was using an illegal radio. You can lose your ham license forever for doing this type of activity. So, I replaced the Ranger with a standard unmodified CB/SSB radio.

But, if you choose, you can modify almost any HF radio to transmit and receive on the CB frequencies. Listening on any frequency is legal. Transmitting on the CB frequencies with an HF radio is illegal. Do people do it? Sure they do. Can you lose your ham license doing it? Sure you can. The choice is yours. I listen all over the CB bands with my HF radio, because it has higher quality reception. That’s what I mostly do on my HF radio is listen.

Hope this helps. Good luck on your test.

73, Frank


This next email I received was very interesting. This gentleman has his Technician’s license, and had some questions. One being how to

get young folks in his family interested in radio. Well, I am a retired educator, and if I knew a sure fire way to get kids interested in anything, I would be the most successful educator on the planet. Some kids are interested in some things that other kids could care less about, and that applies for all topics. But, I think the most successful way is by showing enthusiasm for something you are genuinely interested in. Kids pick up on these feelings, and they may not outwardly express it, but if you’re interested, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a young person interested.

He also has a concern about being able to reach his loved ones if there is a break down in society. There are ways that this can be done, I’ve talked about them before, and I mention them in the response to his email. At this time, he lives adjacent to a large metropolitan area in the deep south, and I shared with him some of my feelings about relocating to a part of the country where snow shovels are standard issue. His name and location have also been removed for his security.


Dear Frank and Fern,

Just wanted to thank you for your (old?) posts regarding amateur radio. I copied them as pdfs to my iPhone and took them with me backpacking last week. Reading them in my hammock after sunset, huddled in the sleeping bag and rocking to the occasional cold gusts that blew across the mountaintop, well, they sure turned out to be more accessible and enjoyable to read than the ARRL manuals. So, after taking the technician’s test last summer, I thank you for stirring up enough interest to get my general.

Like you, my interest in ham sprang from a perceived need to have communications ability in case of a grid down situation – mainly to stay in touch with our large family over a few hundred miles. However, I do seem to have been touched by the magic of being able to CW and talk with someone using no more than components from Radio Shack and some wire. Or maybe with my background being chemistry, electronics may simply always be a magical mystery to me.

As for us, we’re Atlanta natives living in [location removed], north of the big city, tolerating the traffic and McMansions that keep moving our way. Think we’re one of the last living on a gravel road, too, but that means we can still have a big garden. Still work at my business at 64, and we just had our first of what I hope will be five marriages and a passel of grandchildren. In daydreams we do think about moving somewhere like Idaho or Wyoming, but it may depend on where the children settle.

Please keep posting your thoughts and recipes. We do enjoy them.



PS – Any suggestions on getting nephews interested in ham? I thought perhaps to give them a Rock-Mite CW kit for Christmas? I know one of them used to use Morse to pass messages during class. Must admit that this latest generation is a tough nut to crack, though.


Hi Cameron,

Let’s take the kids first. The YL and I are both retired teachers and school administrators. I do not know of a solid way to get a kid interested in something. I do not have a relative, period, that I can even get to put

a two way handheld in their house, and there are a lot of us that live within line-of-sight. But, if you could show your young ones what you do, and explain to them what is happening, a few might show an interest. Fern is fascinated that with a little piece of wire and a radio, one can communicate around the globe. Some kids might find it interesting, about adding voice frequency to a carrier wave and bouncing it off of the ionosphere when the conditions are right. Other kids would find it to be worthless and boring, because you can’t reach them all.

About your General. I would encourage you to pursue it soon, because there are ways you can stay in contact with your loved ones within a few hundred mile radius. Check out NVIS. It’s used primarily on 40 & 80 meters, which to use will require you to have your General license. The General test is no more difficult than the Technician, just different information. Check out NVIS. The military discovered it a number of years back, and they still use it today. FEMA uses it currently to stay in contact within approximately a 200 mile radius. If you have line-of-sight, use VHF. If you don’t, use 40 meter NVIS.

Don’t forget your trusty CB radio. It’s just an 11 meter HF radio. And an SSB CB allows you to talk all around the country, and on

occasion, around the world. When you get an HF radio, you will be able to hear the CB frequencies on it. Free banders operate just outside the CB frequencies and they use LSB, lower sideband. I enjoy listening to these guys as much as I do ham radio, because when the collapse occurs, these guys will be a great source of information. This is the reason why I do ham radio, it’s for information. Your HF radio is also a first class shortwave radio. Food for thought.

As far as Idaho goes, as you may be aware, Fern and I spent a number of years in Alaska. There ain’t no way in the world I’m going to move to Idaho. Too cold, too much snow, too short of a growing season. Did I mention snow and shovels? Ain’t no way. And when the utilities go off, and the trucks quit running, and there’s no gasoline to be had, those folks in Idaho are going to freeze. More food for thought.

Hope this helps.

73, Frank


Folks, I believe that most of us have not given serious thought to how important communications are to us. Whether it be your cousin next door, the guy down the road 10 miles, or that relative 150 miles away. In the scenarios   I just mentioned, communications today are taken for granted. But there is a strong likelihood that in the near future, whatever the reason, we’re going to have a shut down of society as we know it. The tools that we rely on today for information, after a couple of days, aren’t going to be there. Nobody is saying that you need to set up a communications post, but it would be real nice to know how your cousin next door is doing, and the information a man 10 miles down the road can share with you could have a major impact on how your day goes. It would be real nice to know how your kids are doing 150 miles away. 

Without this type of information that you are accustomed to daily, almost instantaneously at the push of a button, you are going to feel like you are living in a vacuum. There are times you will want to know what is coming down your road, whether it’s a short road or a very long road, you’ll really want to know what is coming. I know there’s folks out there that think people like me are crazy, but if you will open your eyes and look around, then you’ll see a different picture. My Inspiration right now is communications and this is the post I have been assigned. That is the question.

We’ll talk more later. 73s, Frank