Homestead News, Volume 15

It’s raining here today, which is expected to continue for a number of days. That’s good, because it was very dry here. Since we have been doing a lot of tractor work in and around the garden and antenna tower locations, much of the ground was just dust. We didn’t want to have any of our new topsoil wash away again like it did in the spring, so I took what was left of an old bale of hay and spread it out pretty thickly in the bare places. Then we turned the sprinkler on for a little while to mat it down and hopefully hold it in place. We got a good rain last night that wet it down even more. So far so good.

Lance, the boar

Our pigs are doing well. Their behavior is acceptable, and they like their routine. I have been watching Liberty, and petting her more than the boys, to see if there are any signs of pregnancy. She seems to be getting rounder by the day, and if I’m not mistaken, I think her teats are developing. Maybe some of you that are experienced with pigs can give us your opinion of these pictures. I can only guess at her condition based on a goat’s body, which is woefully inadequate since one is a ruminant and one is not.

Liberty, our gilt

 

In between antenna towers, the steps for the outdoor kitchen were built. The two posts to the right will host a handrail once the concrete at the base of the posts cure. The metal for the roof and lumber for the framing is in. Depending on the amount of precipitation we get early next week, we may see more progress on the kitchen.
 

Tower #2


Antenna towers. We now have three concreted in the ground. The main tower was the last to go in since it necessitated taking the radio shack off line for a while. We had our third Survival Radio Relay Net this week with another increase in participation from around the area. There are even folks that are starting to try to contact each other every evening at the same time, just to check in and see how well their radios are working.

 

Tower #3

 

We will do an indepth article on the changes in Frank’s antennas, the towers, their installation hows and whys, when we complete this project. If you have any questions beforehand, please post them so he can address them in the article. Our current set up surprised us with the number of people we could reach and the distance some of them are from us. We can’t wait to see how the taller towers will affect our communication abilities. This is a very exciting project indeed.

Bucket with a hole for watering trees

When we put the lattice work up across the front porch, we had to move a small jungle of trees that had lived in pots for a couple of years. Most of them had died due to neglect, but some of them made it by growing out of their pots and into the ground. One of them was this mulberry. We had to lop off a very large root to move it out of the way, and I wanted to try to save it. We really expected it to die. I pruned it severely, planted it by the chicken pen, and watered it regularly when we watered the chickens. The leaves all gradually died and fell off, but then the other day there were new leaves. Yea! This tree can provide berries for us and chickens alike, and will also provide some much needed shade for the pen in the heat of summer. 

Our wonderful Pearl


Our critters are doing well. Here is a glimpse of a few of them.

The chicks are growing.

The chickens like pears.

Scruf is funny.

Patch

Lady Bug
Okra blossom

I have one more day of pear canning ahead of me, hopefully tomorrow. I have a few more green beans I can put up as well. It won’t be long before the first frost comes and puts an end to the outdoor garden. Then I will really concentrate on learning to grow our winter food in the greenhouse. I already have visions of seedlings for spring lining the shelves. But first, we all need to weather the coming winter and whatever it holds in store. 

We continue to appreciate each and every day that we can live these comfortable, ‘normal’ days. That gives us one more day to prepare.

Until next time – Fern
 

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