The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Radio - Become a Ham, Part 11

Hello, Frank here.

Hi everybody. I hope everybody is well. This, ladies and gentlemen, will
 be the last post for the Technician Class License Study Guide. Most of the information covered here will be basic FCC rules and regulations. You're going to see a couple of 'all of the choices are correct answers', and in most cases that is the answer. Again, read these next four or five pages, understand the basic rules and whether you think they are silly, stupid or wrong is an academic exercise in futility. These are the answers that are on the test.

On a side note, I have received some criticism for what some say is teaching the answers to the test. But I don't see it that way. Yes, there
is a whole, whole lot more information that you can learn from multiple Techinican level manuals. And if this is where your avenue of interest is, then by all means, please pursue it. And if all you want to do is pass the Technician's test and get you a VHF radio and talk to your buddies on the repeater, then this will provide you with that venue. Remember, it's a big stadium and we can all play whatever game we want to play. At this stage now, you should have been in touch with ARRL, located a local radio club, and made contact. These are the folks that will be giving you your test. Whether the test is at their local club headquarters, a special event like a ham fest, or down some dark alley on a late Saturday night, just wanted to see if you're paying attention. If the day the local club gives tests is not convenient for you, ask them about other local clubs testing schedules. Some have their test the first Saturday morning of each even month, some clubs offer it on a Thursday evening. So if you try, you will find a place that the date and time fit your schedule. 

Also, you should be taking the practice tests. I read a ham radio study guide the other day that didn't even recommend a book or course of study. This guy recommended taking the practice tests, whether free or a fee is involved and just continue to take them
repeatedly, over and over and over and over. His idea was even if on the first test you make a terrible score, no big deal. Just keep taking them and your scores will get better. I knew a man, and still know this man, that when he took his first practice test, he scored poorly. He never took another practice
test. He was one of those type that could not handle failure. Remember, life is filled with failure, what separates most of us is how we handle it. Here is a retail outlet site that I have yet to do business with, so I can't speak pro or con. But at the bottom of the page is an interesting concept about taking the Technician's test. This might be of help to some of you. While you're there, I would take a look around the site to see if there is anything you're interested in.

While your at the local ARRL club, you also should have established contact with an Elmer or teacher. Remember, it's perfectly okay not to
know everything there is on the planet. If you have an Elmer and for some reason your personalities don't click, ask for someone else to help you. It's no big deal. If you want to get your license, find somebody to help you and let them teach you. There's a lot of new jargon and things that you're not going to know. It takes time for these things to soak in.

On a different topic. There are some great Black Friday sales going on right now. If you have an idea of the type of equipment you want or are going to need, this is a good time of year to save a few dollars.



For those of you that are interested, I will start a General class in a couple of weeks. It's going to be a little bit more challenging, but it's not something that most people can't get over. You will need your General license to work the HF bands.

Okay. We're about to wrap up this post and I cannot stress safety enough. If you don't know what you are doing, DON'T DO IT. That's what your Elmer is for.

Next time, I'm going to give you my recommendations for entry level equipment. As I've stated before, there is no perfect radio. You can start listening right now. It just depends on what you want to use your ham radio license for. Guys like myself, I primarily listen. Other guys I know that have a sharply more competitive nature are into what's called contesting. Like I said earlier, it's a big stadium with lot's of areas to play in. 

Now, read these last few pages. I hope you do well on your test. Each test will cost you $15.00. So, if you don't pass the first one, just make sure you have plenty of $15.00 bills. Take care.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank


Friday, November 29, 2013

Fixing Up the Porch

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

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

Measure and plan. We don't want it to cover up the window.

Put the legs together. shadow....

Now for more legs and shelves.

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

That's a good fit.

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

Starting to fill them up.

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

That didn't take long at all to fill.

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

Until next time - Fern


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Firing Up the Wood Stove

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

To check out the bottom of the stove pipe and the catalytic converter we have to take off the top of the stove. To take off the top of the stove we
have to take off the warming shelves. This is a real pain, very awkward and difficult to see. It's nice to have a small battery powered vacuum with a hose that can pick up all of the loose soot down around the damper. We didn't get a lot of pictures of this process because it took four hands to get it done. You know when you are all contorted in a knot trying to manage an open end wrench in a space that is too small, and you can't hold
the flash light or get your bifocals in the right place to see? It's not the time to
say, "Hold it right there, we need a picture for the blog!" So you will just have to use your imagination here. This is a great cast iron stove. We chose to not get an enameled version because, one, we like the looks of the cast iron and two, we are just too hard on things. I figured I would have a chip out of the enamel before long and it would be one of many. 

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

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

Our equipment consists of: this excellent fire poker (this is one of the best we've ever used - plain and very effective), metal dust pan, brush, the handle used to open the doors and damper,
a small flashlight to see the thermometer, a bag to carry wood and a pair of welder's gloves that work great.

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

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

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

 We empty the ash pan out on the back porch. There is a small galvanized can there just for that purpose. Frank carefully carries the ash pan out the door. I get the door and the lid to the ash can. We feel this chore is much safer when performed by two people, but it can be completed by one person.
As the ash can fills up over the winter, we empty it into the garden for the calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum and sodium it contains. As a side note, you can also use hardwood ashes to make lye for soap. I have also used it around the base of 
new squash plants to deter squash vine borers and other insects. One time when we emptied the ash can in the garden the coals weren't quite out and when we looked out the window there was a nice line of fire going across the garden. It didn't take long to put it out, but it is something to learn and remember.

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

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

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

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

Until next time - Fern

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Preparing For Baby Goats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time - Fern