Gooseberry time

Gooseberry time was what Google Translate made of the Dutch ‘komkommertijd’ or cucumber time. In other words: no real ham radio news to mention.

I just processed a dozen direct QSL cards. That’s about the closest I got to ham radio.

Last week I did RRTC (650 contacts) but didn’t get around to making more contacts in the week after. Then the nice WX broke and there were threats of thunderstorms. I disconnected all cables but left the tower up 2/3rd. One night I was awaken by a modest wind rattling the window blinds and I went to the shack and booted the PC to check the online rain / lightning maps. It was a near miss. Back to sleep, all is fine.

Then by the end of last week I began to read horror announcements of severe thunderstorms, hail balls the size of ping-pong balls to golf balls and severe gales. One French meteo site even gave a +50% chance of a tornado. A tornado? In Belgium! BTW all nasty and dirty WX we get comes from over France. Nice stable WX comes from between 30° and 90°. And since I’m only about 100km or less from the French border, their forecast for ‘Le Nord’ is a good measure of things to come.

So with these announcements I decided to let the tower and all wires down on Friday. The night was calm but shit hit the fan Saturday morning. The dog felt what the online maps showed: here comes trouble! I went outside to secure some chairs and kid’s toys and you could see the storm rolling in. Not only see but feel: all of a sudden it went from no wind to a breeze to strong winds to gales in only one minute time! This is exactly what I saw (although images come from the other side of Belgium).


And this is what it looked like when the demons were unleashed (footage shot elsewhere):


I was glad I lowered the tower! But the worst had yet to come. Saturday night late. It was announced well before and there were strong warnings about severe weather. The online WX maps already showed it: a poisonous present moving in fast across the French border. Just like in the morning: calm weather, the proverbial calm before the storm. Then the grain and corn fields started to make noise. Then the trees started to wave. And all of a sudden tons of rain poured down… well not exactly down from above but parallel to the ground. As if a high pressure fire hose was squirting the house. The wind started to howl, unlike I had ever heard. And trust me, I have heard the wind howl here! The sky seemed to be lit by strong lights, it seemed like lightning never ceased. I went up to look through the shack’s window. Although the wind was blowing hard the antennas (only 8-9m high) didn’t move nor twist too much. It lasted almost an hour, going from severe to really frightening to fading away to the north-east.

When it calmed down I went outside for a damage report. Luckily there isn’t anything to report except for three bent flowers. The corn fields on the contrary showed a lot of broken and fallen stalks. Sunday morning you couldn’t even see it rained so hard the night before.

Since the tower is down and the plugs are disconnected, and there is a threat for more T-storms the coming days, I won’t be making QSO. What really bothers me is that the same scenario is announced for the end of the week, especially the night from Saturday to Sunday: just when it’s EUHFC. Maybe I should slowly start to prepare myself that I could have to sit this one out and leave all lighting-attractors down.

Back to ham radio. I just renewed my ARRL membership. I waited a long time to do so. I became a member somewhere in 2001 if I recall well, under slight pressure of the man who was my ‘elmer’ back then (QRT now). He was an avid DXCC chaser and convinced me to become one too and ARRL membership provides a discount for DXCC endorsements. Soon after I lost interest in active DX chasing and DXCC but the monthly QST provides some good reading. The ON national bi-monthly magazine is a bit light (respect due to the editors though). But twelve years later, it seems that I’ve read it all before. Or just don’t give a damn (like emcomm stuff). Even QST has lost its news value. At least for me, who spends a fair amount of time reading ham related websites, blogs, technical articles, DX and product announcements etc. I think I’m quite up to speed with what’s happening in HamRadioLand. In the past I tried NCJ and CQ Magazine too. Same story. I even tried QEX for one year – too technical for my interests and very specific topics. Maybe I should try Radcom (RSGB membership)? I used to occasionally buy a commercial French magazine called ‘CQ Radioamateur’ found in the bigger newsstands in the bigger cities. But I can’t find it anymore lately. Maybe the newsstands don’t stock it anymore or maybe the magazine is out of business? If I really wanted to get ambitious and dust off my German, I could go for DARC’s CQ-DL? 😆

I must admit I am a very difficult customer and exhibit a very specific and determined taste. In all aspects of everyday life so in ham radio literature too.

In the mean time I renewed ARRL membership for another year and decided to think it over. Truth be told: I read QST in ‘my 1m² little shack’. I might as well buy a tablet (this one or bust) and go for digital online QST only?

Oh my, I just read my daily dose of non-ham newsletters (this one) and came across an amateur radio related article: “ham radio is not dead“. Of course IT IS NOT!

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