Tag Archives: Norway Crimson King Maple tree

2015/07/06 (M) Arrested

Our morning started with coffee, once we got up, and then granola for breakfast.  We are both in better health, generally, than we were in our 30s, 40s, and early 50s, but having Madeline here requires a different kind of constant energy and attention and we are somewhat tired by the time her parents take her home.  It’s a good tired, of course, but we were still tired this morning and slept in for a while.

I had hoped to get back to work on the bus today but the afternoon highs were forecast for the mid-80’s which would make for less than comfortable working conditions.  The forecast for the rest of the week was for highs in the 70’s so I decided to wait another day.  I really needed to get back to work on the bus but I also had other things to take care of that seemed at least as pressing.

At the top of my list was the SLAARC website.  Scott Neader had successfully copied the SLAARC WordPress website from GoDaddy.com to QTH.com and changed the domain pointers to point to the QTH servers.  He needed me to check that everything was working correctly.  He was also preparing to transfer the domain name registration and needed my involvement for that process.

Part of our home ham radio shack with the new Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm mobile radio shown lower left.

Part of our home ham radio shack with the new Yaesu FTM-400 2m/70cm mobile radio shown lower left.

Continuing with the ham radio theme, I needed to resolve how I was going to mount the new Diamond X-300NA 2m/70cm antenna and possibly remount the outside omnidirectional antenna for the cellular booster system.  That meant doing some minor engineering and possibly ordering parts.  I was also preoccupied with the fact that I was unable to participate in the SLAARC info net last night, apparently due to some malfunction in our ham radio system, and it was going to bug me until I figured it out.

Last, but not least, was the fact that I was now one month behind on uploading posts to our blog.  The farther behind I get the more of a chore it is to get caught up.  Like cleaning up my e-mail inboxes, which I also need to do, it finally becomes “the” thing I “have” to take care of before I can concentrate on any other work.  I hate it when that happens, but it is a recurring problem and I have no one to blame except myself.

I often seem to spend the first part of each morning finishing up my blog post (draft) for the previous day and outlining the one for the current day or making notes for future days.  It’s my way of reflecting on what I have done and thinking ahead to what I need/want to do next.  By the time I actually got to work this morning it was after 10 AM and Keith showed up to cut the grass.  It did not rain this past week and he was finally able to cut the grass at the west end of the property, which is low and often wet.

Before going to my office I checked the rebate paperwork which Linda had assembled for the new Yaesu ham radio and got it ready to mail.  I also started filling out the prescription form to send in to Catamaran Home Delivery when I realized the doctor had written the Rx for 30 days instead of 90.  I called the clinic and they said it would (probably) be OK to have Linda bring it to her appointment tomorrow and have the doctor rewrite it.

Our coaxial cable adapter kit.

Our coaxial cable adapter kit.

When I finally got to my office I looked at the SLAARC WordPress website on my computer to make sure everything was working.  The only thing that was not working was an online tool for logging check-ins for the Sunday evening info net.  I e-mailed Scott about that and then logged in as an administrator and updated several plugins.  I logged in to the FMCA-GLCC website and updated it and then did the same for our personal website.  I then created a support ticket at iPower.com regarding the broken FMCA Freethinkers website.  I dealt with SLAARC related e-mails throughout the day.

I spent the rest of the morning editing blog posts for the second half of June and early July and then started selecting and processing photos to use with blog posts, and processed those further.  By the time I quit working I had photos ready for everything except the three days of the ARRL Field Day event.

It was a nice day, if a bit warm, and we had the house opened up including the basement doorwall.  Other than a short break for lunch by 2 PM I had sat long enough and decided to setup the new Diamond X-300 2m/70cm antenna on a temporary pole.  I rummaged around the garage and found the four section pole I had used at the old house.  The pieces were buried under a pile of GLCC related PVC flag pole sections but I was able to slide them out.  I cleaned up the swaged connections and used a light coating of anti-seize compound before assembling them.  I stood it upright on the ground at the NE corner of the deck and zip tied it to the corner post at three points.  I then set up the 7-foot step ladder on the deck and removed the upper two sections.

The new Diamond X-300NA VHF/UHF ham radio antenna is visible atop the pole at the corner of the deck.

The new Diamond X-300NA VHF/UHF ham radio antenna is visible atop the pole at the corner of the deck.

I unbolted the X-300 antenna from its storage place on the side of the 40-foot tower and set the base on the east deck railing.  I then got one of the 35-foot heliac coax cables from the basement and attached it to the feed point of the antenna.  With Linda’s assistance I mounted the antenna to the top of the topmost mast section and zip tied the coax to the mast.  Back up on the ladder I was able to slip the upper mast sections into the lower mast sections and add a couple more zip ties to secure the coax.

I routed the coax over to the cable entry box (CEB) so that it was not visible.  The antenna is shielded from view by our Norway Crimson King Maple tree and the mast is very inconspicuous; not bad for a temporary installation.  I disconnected the X-50 antenna coax from the Morgan UHF/VHF Lightning Arrestor in the CEB and attached the coax from the X-300 in its place.  I went back to the ham shack, turned on the Yaesu radio, and listened.  Nothing.  I tried calling the South Lyon 2m repeater but nothing came back.  I tied the Novi 440 MHz repeater…nothing.  I turned the radio off and moved the coax to our Icom IC-7000 radio and repeated the tests.  Same results.  Something was clearly wrong so I called Mike (W8XH) to see if he could help me figure it out.

Mike was out but on his way back home and called me when he was back at his base station.  We verified the transmit and receive squelch settings on my radios and then tested both antennas on both radios.  Using our cell phones we confirmed that he was not hearing my transmissions and I was not hearing his, either direct (simplex) or through the repeaters.  It was now clear that RF signals were not making it into or out of my system and there was one component that was common to all configurations; the Morgan M-302N VHF/UHF Lightning Arrestor.

I have a coaxial cable adapter kit that allows me to temporarily interconnect most of the connectors used in amateur radio coaxial cables.  At Mike’s suggestion I used the kit to assemble an adapter (barrel connector) with N-female connections on both ends.  I then disconnected the antenna and radio coaxial cables from the lightning arrestor and connected the radio coax directly to the X-300 antenna coax.  Back in the ham shack I tested this configuration with both radios on both repeaters.  I was receiving both repeaters with S7 to S9 signal strength, which is good, and very little noise, which is also good.  Mike reported that my signal was very strong into both repeaters and that he was receiving me full-quieting.  I shut the radios off and then switched the connection in the cable entry box to the X-50 antenna.  We repeated the tests with the same results, confirming that the problem as the lightning arrestor and only the lightning arrestor.

The current status of the cable entry box.

The current status of the cable entry box.

Although I was disappointed that the M-302N was defective I was overjoyed, or at least relieved, that everything else was working perfectly.  Although the new X-300 antenna turned out not to be “necessary” having it on a mast above the tower will give us an even better transmit and receive capability than the current X-50 installation.  I even have some hope of being able to reach repeaters farther away in the Detroit metro area as well as in the Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti areas, and perhaps much farther beyond.  Windsor (Canada) and Kalamazoo are possible when atmospheric conditions are right for longer range propagation, and the Saginaw, Mt. Pleasant, Fort Wayne (Indiana), and even Cleveland (Ohio) areas are not out of the question.  Once, at the old house, I was on the Spirit of 76 repeater atop the Renaissance Center in Detroit when it picked up a 2m station from Iowa.

Relieved of my concerns, especially about the operation of our new radio, I returned to my computer-based tasks.  The first thing I did was e-mail Chris Perri at KF7P Metalwerks regarding the lightning arrestor, which I purchased from him as part of the cable entry box.  He apparently forwarded my e-mail to Morgan Manufacturing Inc., or at least e-mailed them, as I got an e-mail from Bob at Morgan with instructions on where to return the unit.  It has a lifetime warranty and he indicated they would repair or replace it as needed.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening, except for dinner, working on photos.  Dinner was chickpea salad on a bed of greens with steamed baby bok choy dressed in rice vinegar.  It was a perfect meal for a warm summer evening.

The humidity had been up all day and rose as the temperatures dropped at sunset, although they did not drop much.  Linda was watching an episode of Scorpion when I finally came upstairs.  We watched an episode of NCIS Los Angeles after that and then an episode of Two and a Half Men, which I have always enjoyed.  We turned on a small fan but it was a warm, uncomfortable evening for sleeping.  For whatever reason we did not turn on the air-conditioner although in hindsight we should have.


2014/06/22 (N) Outside Inside

We split our time today between outside work and inside work.  The temperature was 60 degrees F when we got up so after a light breakfast of homemade granola with fresh fruit and some coffee we resumed our tree trimming work from yesterday.  While Linda gathered up branches from yesterday’s trimming, I worked on our Norway Crimson King Maple.   This is a magnificent tree, one of the nicest on our property, but it is close to our rear deck at one end and has grown out over the deck such that low branches are at or below eye level and block access to part of the deck as well as the stairs that lead down into the northeast yard.

In the same general area as the maple tree are several large White Pine trees.  The lower limbs had grown out and down to reach sunlight, placing their extremities at or below eye level.  We want to be able to walk under these trees without getting poked in the eye and we want Keith, who cuts our grass, to be able to drive his zero-turn riding mower under these trees without getting poked or knocked out of the seat.

While I was trimming the maple and pines for clearance I also removed as many dead branches and limbs as I could reach with the pole saw.  I had noticed yesterday that our pear tree and our apple tree also had quite a bit of deadwood so I turned the pole saw on them next.  Linda continued to gather the smaller branches and pile them in manageable size bundles around the outside of the fire pit.  She also dragged the larger limbs over near the fire pit.  Once I was done pruning I used our bow saw to remove the smaller branches from these larger limbs and then cut the limbs into 3-to-4 foot lengths.

Linda was going to shovel the ash from yesterday’s fire into a plastic bag but discovered that it was still quite hot.  We stirred up the ash cone, made a big pile of small branches on top of it, and then stacked the larger pieces of wood on top of that, teepee style.  It took a while but the amount of smoke steadily increased until we finally had a small flame.  It did not take long from that point for it to develop into a good size fire.  We also recalled that ash from a burn pile is good to add to the soil for some flowering plants and decided we would use it rather than dispose of it in the trash.

We needed to work at our desks today and did not want to exhaust ourselves doing outdoor work so we quit at 1 PM and put our tools away.  We had lunch at 2 PM and then spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening doing various tasks at our desks.  Part of that time I investigated a web-based RV trip planning tool called RV Trip Wizard.  Making recommendations relative to this program is one of the things the FMCA education committee has been asked to do.  The website had a demo available, as well as a tutorial and a user’s guide, so I was able to get a good feel for what it does and its ease of use.  The Geeks On Tour also had a review available which filled in some details and highlighted a few deficiencies.

Overall I found the website well conceived and nicely implemented, having most of the features needed to plan an RV trip without a lot of unnecessary clutter.  Features included routing with: turn-by-turn directions, mileage, overnight stops (17,000 in the database and growing), points of interest, and estimated expenses.  Trips can be exported as Excel spreadsheets and as files that can be imported into a GPS.  The trip preferences section allows you to specify key parameters about our RV, travel “style”, and estimated costs.  Missing from the parameters, however, was weight and propane.  It also allows you to indicate a prioritized order for RV parks and campgrounds when looking for places to stay overnight.  When planning a trip it will alert you if your rig is incompatible with part of your route, but does not automatically route you around it.  That would be unacceptable in a GPS, but is probably OK in this case as you can drag the route around on the map or add waypoints to change it.  Finally, you can save an unlimited number of trips indefinitely, recall one, do a “save as,” and then modify it if you want to repeat a previous trip with modifications.  RV Trip Wizard is a web-based subscription service and you must have an Internet connection to use it.  You cannot save your trips to your local device, and if you do not renew your subscription all of your saved trips are gone forever.

We had fresh fruit at 7 PM (bananas, blueberries, and strawberries) and a glass of wine, after which I worked for a couple of more hours before turning in to watch season 3 episode 2 of Doc Martin.