Times Are Changing

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Let’s talk radio.

It would appear that in the very near future, radios might be a great way to communicate. Radio communication has taken a back seat to the internet and cell phones. It is easy to understand why. Internet is mighty convenient. Cell phone, I don’t even stop and think at this communication marvel.

Times are changing. Times are changing quickly. I’d like for you to think about radio as a backup system to cell phone and internet. Yes, radio will never replace internet or cell phones, but if you need to talk to someone in your area, or you just want to listen to that same group of people in your area, you can do this with radio. We’re going to talk about that.

A few years back I wrote a number of articles about various radio communications. Here is a link to a list of those articles. It’s also on the side bar under Frank’s Radio Communications.

LINK: Frank’s Radio Communications

Some of the information is dated. Some of the test manuals are out of date. Some of the links to various businesses may not work. But the information about the radios themselves, very little has changed here.


Look through some of these articles. Times are changing. If you have questions, put them in the comments. Boys and girls, we need to be able to communicate. Think about it. If you say to yourself, well I can’t do that. Then you can’t. If you see Bubba riding down the road in his old truck with his CB antenna on it – well he can do it. Fear of learning is common. Adults generally are not good students. Get over it. Learn.

Read some of the articles. If you don’t understand it, let it soak in. Most radio is push the button and talk. I live surrounded by Bubba, it’s a great place to be. Learn. Read. And do.

Always use caution when sharing information with folks you don’t truly know. One last thing. Anything you say on a radio can be heard by somebody else. Don’t give out phone numbers, addresses, it’s called operational security, OPSEC. Let’s do this.

Put questions in the comments. Local is where you live. Local is where you will survive. Bubba is your buddy. Remember, humor is the essence of survival.

 

We’ll TALK more later, Frank


End Fed Antenna Review

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Okay, let’s review. By the title you can tell that this is going to be a review of an end fed antenna. Now, the review part. A wise man once said, write what you know about, and me being an advocate of advanced humor, I’m going to try to combine a little bit of knowledge with a little bit of humor. 

A disclaimer. Anywhere on this site, whether it is radio or chickens or pigs, we make no profit off of anything. There has been no gratuity awarded for any product endorsement. For those that do profit off of what they write, great! It is just not our forte.  

It’s been 3 years since I posted any type of article. A lot happens in three years. I have tried some antennas, some radios, I decided to try out heart surgery. I’ve now got one of those zippers from stem to stern. Not literally of course. And not being a person of nautical persuasion, I do not know the difference between stem and stern. But for those of you that are interested, I will share information about the bypass at a later date.

At a radio meeting one night, I heard a guy talking about his new antenna, and he was raving about it. Now all this guy does is CW, or morse code, he doesn’t even have a microphone attached to his radio. Let me back up here a little. This article is not being written at an entry level knowledge base. I’m sorry. So, if we’re speaking of CW and end fed, then you know I’m talking about HF radio. And yes, I know there is some CW on VHF, but that is not what we’re talking about here.

So, continuing. I listened to this guy, and he is a senior operator. So I listened for a while, and this guy learned CW from the United States military. And this guy talks CW all over the world. I’ll get back to this part of the story later.

Okay. The antenna I’m going to review today is made by MyAntennas.com  Yes, that is the name of the company. I will start off by saying I am highly impressed with this product. Are they pricey? Yes. Could you build your own? Probably. And if you would like to do that they will sell you the parts to do so. I bought the EFHW-8010

It is 130 feet long, resonant on 80/40/30/20/17/15/12/10M. It is rated at 1kW maximum. These are the specifications. If you’re not familiar with an end fed, which at the time, I was not, it is basically half of a full wave dipole, in this case, for 80 meters. Because if you remember, the number 468, that is your magic number that you use to figure the length of a half wave dipole. A small example, 468 divided by 3.5 equals 134. 3.5 is the lower end of 80M. So, 468 divided by 3.5 is 134 feet. If you were building an 80 meter dipole, it’s full length would be 134 feet, which would be 67 feet on each leg of the dipole.


Now follow me here. Through the miracle of using a balun, using the end fed half wave length antenna, then you can tune all of the afore mentioned frequencies. Or that’s how it works in theory anyway. Now I’m going to tell you how it works for me in reality.

Equipment used. My power supply is solar. The radio is an IC-718. I have approximately 100 feet of RG-8X from the radio to the end fed antenna. The feed end of the antenna is at 30 feet in the air, it runs approximately 50 feet to an apex of 40 feet and then continues whats left to a 30 foot height. This works okay for me. Your mileage may vary. I have a power transformer from the electric company about 50 feet away, and the apex of the antenna passes over a metal roof that is about 16 feet from ground level. These are the parameters that I have.


Now. This antenna will not transmit on 160M, but it will receive. I did not check for SWR on 30, 15,  or 12 meters because I don’t use those. It did work great on 40M, so 15M should also be good. Here’s what I got. 
All the following readings are SWR. 
80M – lower end 1:1.1
80M/75M – right at the higher end 1:2.5
40M – entire band 1:1.1
20M – entire band 1:1.1
10M – lower end 1:1.8
10M – middle and upper part 1:1.4
60M – the 5 channels 1:2.5
11M/CB – 1:2

As you can see, these are all easily tunable without a tuner. But with a tuner, your radio is happier. So, example. If you have a radio with a built in tuner, it would easily tune these numbers. If you have an external tuner like I do, then for most bands I don’t even use a tuner, and if I do, it just makes my radio a little bit happier.

Because this is a review of an antenna, I’m not going to discuss the theory of SWR. It’s one thing if you’re running 100 watts power, and another if you’re running a 1000 watts. But if you’re looking at this antenna, then you already know the difference.

This company, MyAntenna.com, also provides higher power antennas, just look around. They also sell baluns, RF isolators and other assorted goodies and toys.

Here is a link to eHam.net. I think you will find the reviews impressive.

If you have the space, or the desire, I would highly recommend this antenna. For me, it works. You can also configure it like you would any other dipole. Yes, it is a little pricey and it takes up 130 feet. What do I use it for? I do not contest, nor do I use CW, therefore there is no review of 30 meter. I have made contacts on 80/40/20M, and mostly on 40M. I seldom DX. And I seldom talk, but the reports I receive back are all 5/9, or easily intelligible. 

Again, I have no other end fed experience, I have never used a directional antenna, yes I know these are directional, but you know what I mean. For 10 & 11 meters I primarily use a vertical A99. 


 

I would appreciate your feedback, how your antennas are configured and what type of results you get. We’re all in this ballgame together, and if we can help out a fellow man, let’s please do so. If you have found mistakes in my writings or calculations, please let me know. This is just my experience. I look forward to hearing from you.

My XYL just reminded me that I need to let you know why I do this. First off, I listen. I want to know what’s coming down the road. As mentioned earlier, I operate from solar, not my whole house, but all of my radios, and that’s what it’s for. The system I use is simple. For me simple works better. The man I mentioned earlier that I learned about this antenna from operates all over the world when conditions permit.

In a future article I will tell you about my IC-7300 experience and why I went back to an IC-718. Thanks for being there.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Survival Radio Net #1

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

If you recall back a few weeks, our little community started and completed a Survival Radio Class. This class included preparation for those seeking their ham radio license, which ended up being about nine Technicians and three Generals. Pretty good turn out. Also, for the record, all of the students that took the test, passed. In most circles that is considered to be 100%.

But, back to the main gist. Besides the folks pursuing their ham radio ticket, the class was geared for those that wanted to learn to communicate by other means. Those means being scanner for listening, and folks listening is CRITICAL, also CB, GMRS/FRS,

MURS, shortwave and smoke signals. Just wanted to see if you’re paying attention. We had a handful of people in the class that this was their goal. Well, you say, this is all redundant information, and it is, but when I was a child and I went to cross the street, my daddy told me to look both ways every time I crossed that street. Just because somebody hears something once, doesn’t mean it’s going to penetrate or settle. Some folks, myself included, need to hear things more than once.

I know lots of you had CBs when you were kids. It was real popular. It was a form of freedom, able to get out. Pitch in four wheel mobility and life is good, till you have to start paying your own bills. 

GMRS came along later, new technology, FM not AM, higher frequency. For those not familiar with the term GMRS, these are the little handheld radios you can buy at any sporting goods store, and they work real well. Hunters use them, kids playing hide and seek, it’s a handy tool, and some businesses use them. Fern and I have used them for years.

MURS is also a free group of frequencies that is for citizens use. It is rarely, rarely used, a great way to communicate, FM, higher frequency than CB, lower than GMRS. It’s in about the same frequency range as most small and medium size towns’ police and fire departments. 

Let’s not forget the scanner. Most, if not all, scanners can receive the VHF/UHF ham bands, GMRS and MURS. Some scanners, but not all, can receive the CB frequencies. Remember, listening or being able to hear is CRITICAL

But again, you say, this is all redundant information. Go back and read the explanation of redundant above. Some of us need to hear something more than once before it soaks in. Does that need repeating again?

Let’s not forget shortwave. Everything we talked about above is pretty much short distance, line of sight, sometimes one mile, sometimes 40 miles depending on the terrain. Shortwave is the ability to listen to long distance signals. It lost popularity with the introduction of the internet, but there is still traffic out there to be heard. That means that there are things out there to be heard around the globe. Many shortwave radios will also receive the lower ham radio frequencies, because that is where shortwave is located. So if you have a scanner and a decent shortwave radio and the appropriate antenna, you can hear local and long distance. Remember, being able to hear and receive is CRITICAL.

So, one more time, where is this going? It’s going right here. Last Tuesday night we attempted our first ever Survival Radio Net. Now you’re going to have to follow me here because we did a lot of things in a short period of time. Most of the participants of this net were from the radio class with a few additions. I sent out an email to the folks that were in the class letting them know about what we were going to try to do. This email had time, date, place and purpose.

  • Time was 20:00 (8:00pm)
  • Date was Tuesday night.
  • Beginning place was our local ham radio repeater.

You say there’s a problem here. The CB, GMRS and MURS crowd can’t communicate with the repeater. Well, that is only half right. If they have a scanner, or a handheld that will receive the repeater, then they can listen to and follow instructions. 


A side note here. I got permission from our local emergency management director to use this repeater at that time for this purpose. He was more than happy to accommodate. 

The email included some instructions about what we were going to try to do, which are as follows.

  1. We would start at 8:00pm.
  2. I was the net control operator.
  3. We started off with basic introductions, took care of the legal things, and then started taking ham radio check ins.
  4. After the check ins, those of us that had CB capabilities, did the same activity, except on a local basis. Not everybody could hear everybody, but some could hear and others would relay.
  5. During this time, which took about 10 minutes, we asked those that could hear, who they could receive, and then we continued this process. Who hears who, their location, their name or call sign or handle. Now, get this, we had folks that could hear CB reception from 40 miles away. Okay, one guy lives on the side of a tall hill, and another man could hear him 40 miles away.   You see, this contact is what this net is all about. Hearing, listening, receiving. It is CRITICAL. 
  6. Next, we went back to the repeater, which was our base and we had a discussion, those that could talk on the repeater, about some of the contacts we had just made.
  7.  Then we proceeded with GMRS and MURS with the same activities.

Due to the characteristics of the different frequencies, CB, GMRS and MURS, different people at different locations could receive different transmissions. Like I said above, follow me here. Example. Two guys, 20 miles apart might be able to hear each other on MURS, but not CB. One of them may be able to transmit on CB to somebody else that can’t hear MURS.

A side note here. The big ham radio group in this country that has been around for a long, long time, is called the ARRL. Amateur Radio RELAY League. That second ‘R’ is what radio used to be, Relay. That’s what it’s going to be again in the future. RELAY.

This was a first time experiment and most of the participants would agree that it sharply exceeded their expectations. We’re going to do it again very soon, and we’re going to try to do it the first and third Tuesdays of each month. I was surprised at the number of people that eagerly participated in our net. But then it dawned on me that they also see an urgent need for communications. 

The reason I am telling YOU this, is that this same activity can be duplicated in your area. We need a time to communicate. Let’s pick 8:00 at night. Well, we need a frequency to communicate on. How about CB channel 22, which is 27.225 MHz? That’s a good start. How about GMRS channel 22, which is 462.725 MHz? How about MURS #2, which is 151.880 MHz? This is something that you can do. Anything that I can do, you can do better. Talk to your local emergency management director, these guys like public attention, remember that. Always say please and thank you. You could even talk to your local ARRL branch. Some of them will be helpful, some won’t. This is doable. Now do it.

Another side note. We developed a simple form, 20 lines, about 5 columns. First column was call sign or handle, next name, then location, then mode of communication (e.g. CB, GMRS, etc), lastly we left a column for comments, which could include people contacted or relays made.


Ladies and Gentlemen, most of you know we have perilous times right around the corner. But even if we don’t, how about a natural disaster, or a man made disaster? We need to be able to communicate. I’m going to leave these thoughts with you. Knowing what is happening in your area is of CRITICAL importance. You never know what a man made or natural disaster could look like, and you might want to know what is coming down the road. Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t get on the bus. 

We’ll talk more later, Frank

Show & Tell the Ham Way

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

As some of you are probably aware, I’ve been teaching a ham radio and survival communications class to some of the folks from my local, small town community. This has really been a fun time. It’s caused me to dig a little deeper about radio information than I normally do, and it’s given me the opportunity, when I didn’t have a clue what the answer was, to refine my lying skills. Just kidding, of course. Kinda.

This is a group of adults, with one 16 year old young adult, two ladies and about 15 men. It’s also a very diverse group with various occupations and perspectives about life. But one thing that most of us agree with in this group is that something is coming that is not necessarily going to be good. And that is interesting, because most of the people in this class I did not know before it started.

But back to the story. Last Tuesday evening I got to do show and tell. If you’ve forgotten what show and tell is, it’s that major event when little kids bring something from home to school and talk about it. You know, show and tell. Well, I brought my little Jeep Liberty loaded down with assorted radio toys. My Jeep already has three antennas permanently mounted on it. One of them is the AM/FM radio antenna which gets very little use. Another one is a four foot CB antenna and the other one is a 40″ VHF/UHF antenna. The last two are mounted on the rear of the vehicle where the hatch opens, on opposite sides.

I disconnected my CB and my VHF/UHF radios in the car, then rerouted the coax to the back of the vehicle, and used these two antennas during show and tell. But, I need power for these radios, so I took about a 10′ piece of 14/2 speaker wire, put a power pole connector on each end, connected one end inside the vehicle to the power source where the original two radios were connected. I routed that power extension out the open hatch in the back. Now we have power at the rear of the vehicle, a CB antenna and a VHF/UHF antenna.

I borrowed a little individual student desk from the church hall where we’ve been holding our classes, and set up an HF radio and a VHF/UHF radio on this little desk. But I didn’t want to use my CB antenna because it is rather limited. As part of the show and tell demonstration, I removed the 48″ CB antenna and replaced it with the world famous 102″ stainless steel whip antenna. This is the antenna that all others are judged by. The 102 is the one that the really cool cowboys have on their pick up trucks with their CB radios, and now, I was really cool, too. Why the 102? It’s by far the best mobile CB antenna made, not the most expensive, but the best performing. So why doesn’t everybody use it, you ask? Pray tell, not everyone can handle being cool. Or, maybe realistically, it’s because it’s 102″ long, and it just doesn’t fit in everybody’s garage door. But the primary reason I used it is because CB is actually the 11 meter HF band, which is right between the 10 and 12 meter bands. With a good tuner, you can tune down to the 20 and 40 meter bands.

Well, we listened for a while on some of the HF bands, and we also listened to some shortwave frequencies. The radio we used to do this with is an ICOM IC-718 accompanied with a LDG IT-100 tuner. I purchased this radio used a couple of days earlier, cleaned it up, reprogrammed it, made some modifications and now it’s ready to go. It’s a no frills radio with solid performance. The LDG tuner is an excellent compliment to the radio.

Is the 102 the perfect antenna? It is for the CB bands, and it met the needs that evening for show and tell. But you ask, what about the

other radio? Well, the other radio was a VHF/UHF, commonly called a dual band radio. It was connected to the same power supply that ran from the front to the back of the vehicle. It was connected to my mobile antenna that I use everyday, which is a Comet CA 2×4 SR. It’s not your everyday ham radio antenna, but it works great on the ham frequencies, and it also works great on the search and rescue frequencies which is what the SR stands for. The radio I was using is the same type I use everyday in my vehicle, but I didn’t want to disconnect it, so I used my back up storage radio, which is also and Anytone AT-5888UV. It is not a ham radio, it is a commercial radio that works fine on the ham frequencies and the search and rescue frequencies. We did make contacts with a couple of outside stations and it was fun.

On hand that evening I also brought a VHF/UHF magnet mount antenna. This is the antenna that Fern and I first used on our vehicles. It’s a good solid mobile antenna that is also made by Comet, model M-24. Due to time restraints, I did not hook up this antenna, but I did bring a hand held Wouxun dual band VHF/UHF and showed the group how you can connect this radio to the external antenna with an adapter, using what is called a 

battery eliminator that plugs into a cigar plug or power port. With a good microphone attached, and a little Velcro, you now have a solid performing, mobile, 5 watt, VHF/UHF, commercial radio that works on the ham bands, and also the search and rescue frequencies. This is the set up that Fern and I used when we started getting serious about longer distance communication. This set up worked quite well and it would still work quite well. For under $100 one can have an outside the vehicle antenna, which is a must for reliable distance communications, a radio, power supply, and Wa-la! you have communications. There are thousands of ham radio operators that use this type of set up for VHF/UHF. If you get the inclination, you can disconnect the radio from the outside antenna, remove the battery eliminator, insert the original battery, attach the original antenna, and you can now take your hand held radio for a walk. Life is good.

The overall demonstration that night went well. Sitting in a classroom and talking about something is one thing, but seeing it right there in front of you is the best teacher. I’m happy to say that show and tell went well. If some of the language in this article seems a little foreign to you, may I recommend you scoot over to the right hand side of this blog, and up toward the top you will find Frank’s Radio Communications. Inside Frank’s Radio Communications you will find many articles about radio communications. Some are about ham radio, but there are also articles about CB, GMRS, scanners, shortwave and other radio articles in general.

Ladies and gentlemen, teaching this class has been lots of fun. It’s been very eye opening. If you want to learn how to communicate, you can do it too. Here in the near future you might want to have a different way to communicate besides what you depend on today. There is thunder just over the horizon. I would like to be able to quote Ronald Regan, but I can’t, so I will paraphrase him. When the man from the government shows up at your door and says he is here to help, turn around and run. Ladies and gentlemen, that man is at the door. Don’t get on the bus.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

Life’s Little Trials

There are times recently that we feel like we’ve been given the chance to practice the future. The future that doesn’t contain all of the wonderful modern conveniences we have grown so fond of and in some cases, dependent upon. There are skills we can practice now, some by choice and some by circumstance, that may increase our success and comfort when the chips are down for good. Here are just a few things we have had the opportunity to experience in the last few weeks and days.

  • How to garden with too much water

 

 

       

      • Preparing to have the water shut off due to flooding or contamination of the public water supply (this ended up being rumor, but was good mental practice) 

       

        • Power outage involving a fire at a regional substation (found out a transformer blew; odd it didn’t happen during one of the major tornadic thunderstorms we had on Monday, it happened in calm weather; we found this strange)

        • The main ham radio repeater in our area was down due to a power outage. A generator that was donated to the radio club has not been installed, and there is limited battery backup to keep the repeater operational. This repeater is the main source of communication for our regional storm spotter and emergency communications hub.

        So, what does all of this teach us? Many, many things, which is good. Let’s start with the garden. We have had historic, record breaking rainfall amounts in this area for the month of May, with this came muddy soil conditions for planting which is far from ideal. A few years back we were in serious drought conditions and when we tilled the garden it was in a cloud of dust, literally. This year, it was really too muddy one time, but we knew our window of opportunity was very narrow, so we took it, and now, I’m glad we did. There are still folks waiting to plant or replant their gardens, and what they did get planted may or may not make it.

        Yesterday, in the beautiful, rare sunshine, we noticed a few of the squash plants were wilting, which immediately made us think of squash vine borers. We have applied two batches of green lacewing eggs and nematodes in hopes of combating the vine borers, among other insects, so we were very disappointed. But upon inspection, we could find no damage from vine borers, so we pulled one small squash plant. The only conclusion we could come to was that it rotted in the ground from all of the rain.

        Slugs. The slugs are proliferating at a phenomenal rate in all this moisture, and eating everything. We are in search of some iron phosphate which is supposed to be deadly for slugs. We are now finding tiny little new slugs everywhere. We have been putting out eggshells and coffee grounds, caffeine is supposed to be fatal to slugs as well, when we have them. We could also apply diatomaceous earth, but with daily rain, it would just wash away again and again. If we get a few days without rain, we will apply it everywhere. The cabbage worms have also showed up in mass, even with the lacewing applications. It has been a tough year for gardening.

        Along with our record rainfall this month there have been a number of days that we spent in very, very stormy weather with too many tornado warnings for comfort. We’ve had neighbors that have been flooded in for days, remember we live in hill country. There are some houses that when you have a heavy rain, you just can’t get out. As of May 20th, we had record rain for the month of May and it has been forecast everyday until the end of the month. Most of the folks we know that have been rained in, or conversely rained out, are doing fine, but not everybody has been so fortunate. We have lost a few rescue workers, and that’s really tough on a community. We’ve had people’s houses washed down rivers, thousands of acres of pasture land and cattle ranches are under water. There are still a handful of people that are unaccounted for. These are just some of the tragic stories. 

        As mentioned earlier, our local ham radio repeater, and every antenna tower on top of a mountain was without power for about two days. Most of the commercial towers had reliable backup power. Somebody made an intelligent decision to shut the repeater down. The reason being, it is the primary radio communications system involving severe weather, and since we have severe weather forecast almost daily, it can be turned back on if needed for severe weather use.


        Other types of communication needs. We were told by a reliable source that our local water treatment plant had been compromised with flood water. Then we started hearing the same thing, via the rumor mill, from multiple sources. The fact is, it never happened. We contacted our local water distributor the next day and they told us to listen to the local country stations for any announcements. Well, we don’t get AM radio where we live, and our main local little town, which is 25 miles away, had a 12 hour power failure. So, how are we supposed to know? 

        Next, we had a power failure in our area. As a general rule, during the worst weather, we seldom lose power, but it does happen. We called a couple of nearby neighbors. No power. We called some neighbors five miles down the road. No power. We called some friends 10 miles away. Get the picture here? This was not just a little power outage, the entire area was black. So, here come the rumors. The good news is, we could get rumors. The bad news is, they were also false. There was a fire at a local transfer station, not sure how it happened, it was not a hot day, there was no bad weather in the area. But we didn’t have a way to communicate, not effectively anyway.


        Before it got dark, we went around and gathered up lanterns. Fortunately, the day before I had charged up the rechargeable batteries and lanterns. By the way, all of our lanterns are battery operated. But the reason they were all charged is because the day before, on Memorial Day, we had four separate tornado warnings one right behind the other in our little neighborhood. Thank the Lord this happened during the daylight hours. But, all of our batteries were charged. 

        We have some interesting pictures for you, of some of our local flooding. This is the highest I have ever seen the water in this area. If it’s a low lying spot, it’s got water sitting in it.


        So, that’s what we’ve been dealing with for the last week. But the whole month has been a down pour almost everyday. We’ve learned a lot. Sometimes people can get a little edgy when they don’t get enough sunlight. In the northern climates they have a condition called SAD, seasonal affective disorder. When we lived in Barrow, Alaska they used a special type of fluorescent tube in the classrooms that provided kids and adults with a broader spectrum of light. We also had a special light in our home, for some people it worked and for some it didn’t. But there’s been a lot of folks in this area that have been a tad bit edgy lately. I guess that lack of natural vitamin D will do that to some folks. 

        We have some eggs in an incubator right now and they’re about four days away from hatching. We’ve had some incubator issues lately, which I’ll discuss more in a chicken post in a couple of days. But when you have eggs in an incubator, and your power goes off, you better act quickly. In this case we grabbed a bunch of blankets, wrapped up the incubator, and hoped for the best. Our power was only off for three or four hours, but if it had been like the little town close to us and it was off for about 12 hours, then that would have been a different story. More on that later.

        And to add to it, we went up to take a peek at how the livestock were doing, and discovered that the pigs were out. At first it was a serious concern, but like most animals that you feed, with a small can of feed, you can easily coax them where you want them to go. That was a great learning experience.


        Part of what we’re talking about here is how you deal with things. When life is great, and everything is going along well, then it’s easy to deal with life. But we all know it’s not like that everyday. We didn’t lose any animals to flooding. Nobody got hurt. Our chicken pen is in sad shape, but someday it will dry. Overall, we are doing pretty good. It’s easy to deal with things. But the last few days have been excellent practice. Today the power is back on, we don’t have any real issues with our drinking water, the stores are still open, my retirement checks are still coming to the bank, and the shelves are still full of items that people need and don’t need. But tomorrow that could all change. One of us could slip and break a leg. We still have severe weather just a hundred miles west of us and it’s got to go somewhere. So, take advantage of the good days, because someday, maybe someday soon, the days are not going to be good. Practice today while you can. Learn your weaknesses and your limitations. And if you’re of this persuasion, then thank God for what you have.

        We’ll talk more later, Frank

        Why We Are Here

        Hello, Frank here.

        We received an interesting comment on our post, “I Can’t Think of a Thing to Write”, which, by the way, was the post before this one. We’ve been receiving comments from N.W. Illinois for a good while now and I’m going to try to give an accurate assessment to his question. I really don’t know if it’s a him or a her, but I’m going to respond as if it’s a him. Then I don’t have to him-haw around playing semantics.

        His question is, why did we move to southeast Oklahoma. But, here is his comment in it’s entirety. 

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        “Hello Fern & Frank, For having nothing to say that was an interesting read. This is N.W. Illinois again, been a while. It’s too cold to plant anything in the ground here. A week ago the ground was covered in snow! Yuck. The weather has improved this week, 65 deg. on Mon. 3/30/15. On the note of something to write, how about telling us why you picked Oklahoma to retire in, what’s the advantages over say N.W. Illinois. Other than the fact our growing season is three months shorter or we have more snow.”

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        There are a lot of parts to the answer here, as to why we moved to Oklahoma. So I’m just going to start.

        Fern and I were both born and raised in Texas, but we didn’t know that about each other until we met in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She was

        a normal aged junior, and I was about ten years older and trying college again on a full time basis. What brought us both to Oklahoma State University? Well, Fern’s dad passed away when she was a young child, and in about ninth grade her mother married a man from Oklahoma. His wife had passed away a couple of years earlier. So her mom left her college teaching position and moved to southeastern Oklahoma where her new husband lived. That is how Fern ended up going to Oklahoma State University.

        My case is a little bit different. I’m a big city boy, born and raised. I have pulled two tours in the military, both of them short tours. I had been researching major universities, not located in major cities. Oklahoma State University, OSU, was kind enough to offer me about 36 hours of good solid credits for my military training. So that’s what brought me to OSU. 

        Fern and I met in Biology 101, and just about two years later we got married. A couple of years later we completed our education we started looking for jobs. That started our teaching career in Oklahoma. We worked in Oklahoma for six years, not anywhere close to southeastern Oklahoma. We took jobs in Alaska for one year, came back to Oklahoma, and worked for nine more years. We are still not in southeastern Oklahoma. Then we moved back to Alaska and taught there for eight more years.

        During our sixth year in Alaska ten acres of land became available that was in the vicinity of Fern’s family. It was a nice, pretty, square ten acres, and each summer when we would come down here to visit her folks, we would look at assorted pieces of property. We really didn’t plan on living on this land some day, it just seemed like it was a good investment. Even after we bought the ten acres, we still continued to look at other pieces of property.

        Now, what brought us here? Well, let me back up a little bit. We had also very casually looked at locations in Washington state, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon. But there was nothing that ever really flipped our switch. And upon doing a little deeper research, not all, but most of these states have restrictive water rights, and that’s just not something we were looking for.

        But the major reason for not moving to any of these states just mentioned, was the snow and the cold. We had just spent eight years in some climates in Alaska that were, to say the least, extremely bitter and harsh. As a school principal, I had to shovel snow on a regular basis. Then, about my fifth year, I injured my lower back, which I still suffer from that injury today. I knew that I never in my life wanted to shovel snow again.

        Now I’m going to back up one more time. The last couple of years in Alaska, I started noticing some very dangerous trends in the

        economy. This was about 2006. Now, I’m by no means an economist, but some things I saw going on in the financial world started to give me grave concerns. I started educating myself about the financial world, and to me it became apparent that the economy was in a death spiral. I did not want to be in remote bush Alaska when things spiraled out of control. So, in 2008 we quit two successful administrative positions, sold our condominium in Anchorage, rented two big UHaul trailers, and made our last trip down the Alaska highway. 

        Which, on a side note, cell phones don’t work on the vast majority of the Alaska highway. So we purchased two GMRS handheld walkie talkies, and that’s how we communicated while we were driving down the Alaska highway. That was the beginning of my jump into ham radio.

        I’m going to back up one more time. A really interesting thing happened about four months before we left Alaska. There is only one house that bordered our ten acres, and the lady that owned the house happened to know Fern’s mom. She mentioned that she was going to sell the house, and asked Fern’s mom if we would be interested. The day that we got here from Alaska, the next day we picked up the keys and the house was ours. I can’t help but believe that we had some divine help there. We already owned the ten acres, and now we had one acre with a house that attached to it. That’s how we got here.

        Now, let me share some benefits of being here. A lot of folks don’t know this, but southeastern Oklahoma is a mountainous area. Ok, ok, they’re not the Rocky Mountains and they’re not the Appalachian Mountains, and some folks would just call them big hills. But whatever you want to call them, they are what they are. And they are beautiful. There is one medium sized town about 30 miles away. There is a fully functional town about 60 miles away. And there are two big towns, or what we call big towns, in different directions about three hours away.

        Taxes overall here are less than most other states, and that includes income tax. There is an income tax here in Oklahoma. We have crime here, but it is less than the national average, especially out in the rural areas. The schools here are as good as they are anywhere. Yesterday I was out in my backyard sighting in a rifle. About two miles away is a huge national forest. About a mile in the other direction is a large wildlife refuge. We can grow things successfully about seven months a year. And there are some things that will survive year round. It’s hot in the summer, it’s humid in the summer. I know most folks think of Oklahoma as the dust bowl, but not the southeastern part. We are heavily treed, with mountains. It says so on the map.

        It can get cold in the winter, but on average it normally doesn’t get any colder than 20 to 25 degrees. We get snow, but you can normally sweep it off of your porch. On occasion we get ice storms which shuts everything down. We do have tornadoes and some violent thunderstorms. But these are things you learn to live with, because you have violent thunderstorms just about everywhere. Most states have the occasional tornado. But we don’t have hurricanes, we don’t have mud slides, we do not have tsunamis, but we do have wildfires. 

        Something that some people will find probably a little surprising is that not one precinct or district or polling station had a majority vote for Mr. Obama in either election. You read that right. Not one. You can take that for what it’s worth. So, if you think that Wyoming is conservative, welcome to Oklahoma. 

        We also have more churches than we do bars. That means that church has a significant influence in everything that happens here, especially in the rural areas.

        This part of Oklahoma has a higher unemployment rate than the national average, and it has for many years. There’s just not a lot of wealth in this part of the state, if you judge wealth by the amount of money someone has. But you will see a man driving a tractor with his child sitting on his lap. And you will see a family fishing together. I guess you can judge wealth by other values also.

        Okay, I’ll try to get back on topic now. When Fern and I left Alaska and moved here, we did not have jobs lined up. At first things didn’t look like they were going to pan out. Fern would get an offer at one

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        little school and I would get an offer at another little school, but our entire married life and teaching career, we’ve always worked in the same district. Maybe not the exact same building, but very close by. Then one day we interviewed at a school and the superintendent there offered us both teaching positions. That was around July 4th. It was starting to look like we might need to apply in Alaska again. But, again, the good Lord was with us, and He gave us two teaching jobs, me at the high school and Fern at the elementary. I taught there three years and retired. Fern taught there six years and retired. You see, God has been very good to us, and for that we are truly thankful. And I really believe that, too.

        Okay, let’s review. Why southeast Oklahoma? It’s beautiful. The winters are survivable even if we didn’t have heat, as long as we had shelter. There aren’t many folks here in this area. We can grow food almost year round. If need be, we can harvest game. The climate is not harsh on our livestock. The water laws and rules are easily livable. The folks are ultra conservative. The vast majority of people are Christian. The folks here are just decent, hardworking people for the most part. The taxes are kind to retired folks, and to everybody for that matter. No national politician is ever going to retire in my neighborhood. That’s another thing to be truly thankful for.

        On a serious note. If there is a collapse, and for whatever reason there is no electricity or power, this part of the world is survivable. Those states I talked about earlier. If you live inland, away from the major population centers, the winters are not survivable without external assistance. Maybe a few very young and very hardy might be able to, but the majority will not. And I’m sorry to say that, but these are facts. A lot of folks may think that with -20 degrees below zero temperatures that they are going to be okay. Well, they’re not. That is an illusion. 

        So this is why Fern and I settled in southeast Oklahoma. There is going to be a collapse in our society, because it is already starting. It’s a big ship and it takes a long time for it to stop. The economic and social trends that I seriously started following in 2006 have not halted or reversed, if anything, they have accelerated. This big ship is grinding to a halt. If you can’t see it, I’m sorry. But this area is survivable. 


        N.W. Illinois, I hope this answered your question. I want to thank you for the comment, and I want to thank you for reading. But first and foremost, I want to thank God for giving me the ability to see what is happening. And I want to thank my wife of 32 years for always being by my side. I am truly blessed. 

        We’ll talk more later, Frank

        What Have We Been Up To?

        For the past month, Frank has been attending a CERT class. Community Emergency Response Team. Some of it has been a good review/refresher to some of the things we learned in our EMT training. This training involved five Thursday nights, one Tuesday night, and two all day Saturday classes, with this last week involving a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. He finished up this afternoon. In the midst of this class, he also attended a Tuesday evening storm spotter class, during another week that CERT was on a Thursday evening and all day Saturday. Now he only has his monthly county Communication Support Team meeting, which is next Tuesday evening. It has been a rather busy month for Frank in this respect.

        In the meantime, we have both been studying for our Amateur Extra Class license. This is the top level of ham radio licensure and is more involved and detailed than the Technician or General class license tests we’ve taken so far. We have been trying to put in an hour or two per day for our studies, but haven’t always been successful. There is an area ham fest coming up in about three and a half weeks where they will be administering licensing tests, but we’re not sure if we will be ready by then. It just depends on how much time we can devote to studying.

        In the search for variety in our new low carb life style, I have come up with a new twist for egg salad. We have some Chevre cheese in the freezer we need to get eaten up, so I have been gradually thawing it out and experimenting with a ranch type of seasoning. Not long ago, Frank mentioned having egg salad. I have to admit, my egg salad has always left something to be desired. Like flavor. Well, this time I chopped up six boiled eggs and added a few spoonfuls of the ranch flavored Chevre, along with a little mayo and bacon bits. It’s actually pretty good for a change.

        We had been crossing our fingers in hopes that the hay in the barn would last long enough for the snow to melt, and it did, just barely. So yesterday we cleaned the last of the old bale out and moved another large round bale into the barn. We shouldn’t need to feed much of it now that the temperatures are rising and the grass is beginning to grow. But we will need it in about three weeks when Penny, Cricket and Lady Bug kid

        The other thing we needed hay for is the ‘baby pen’ where we pen up the kids at night, so we can milk the does in the morning. This will keep the babies from nursing in the night and will probably give us almost a

        gallon of milk a day. After I finish milking, I let the babies out so they can have their breakfast. We planned to start penning the babies up a couple of weeks ago, but then went into temperatures in the teens and low 20’s at night and decided to wait until the weather was a little more cooperative. So, today

        while Frank was finishing up his CERT class, I finished cleaning out and setting up the baby pen. I didn’t take one picture, though, so this is what it looked like last year when we penned up Penny, Cricket and Lady Bug when they were babies. When we did the chores tonight, we penned up Patch, Breakfast, Buttons and Lunch. Surprisingly, they didn’t do much complaining while we were still in the barn finishing up, but I expect they will be complaining in the morning when I go to milk.

        I also moved the ‘garden’ outside today while Frank was gone. The weather was gorgeous with light winds, sunshine and temperatures in the 60’s for most of the day. 

         

        We will leave the seedlings on the south side of the house in the sun during the day, and move them onto the west porch in the evenings when the temperatures are predicted to be in the middle 30’s just in case of frost. 

        All of the seedlings so far are cold hardy, so they should be just fine. As long as the kittens stay out of them, that is. I’ll have to keep my fingers crossed on that one. 

        While I was at it, I planted another 40 paper pots with carrots and 40 with beets. Now that the south window in the house is empty, it’s time to start the tomato and pepper seedlings. Maybe I can get to that tomorrow afternoon after church.

        Cabbage
        Transplanted seedling for a friend

        Carrots

        My favorite watering can

        That’s what we’ve been up to. We have been very grateful for some sunny, warmer days. The weeks of long, gray, cold, dreary days were really beginning to wear on me. They always do. Just looking out the window at the sunshine can make my day, and it’s even better when I can be outside playing in the dirt. 14 more days until spring. We hope you’ve had a good productive week. It always makes you feel good when you can get something done, even if it’s just the little things. Thank you for taking the time to read.

        Until next time – Fern