Various things

First storm of the season

“ When the barometer indicates a storm, lamenting becomes the norm ” – ON5ZO

Last weekend my plan was to raise the tower and participate in the LZ DX contest. For the second year in a row I had to cancel this plan. A few days before the weekend, the forecast indicated a nasty storm on Sunday morning. Not cranking up the tower then. And there is no fun in playing while being crippled antenna-wise. It was indeed a storm. One of my neighbors is missing a big chunk of Styrofoam. I don’t know who but feel free to come and get it. Monday we saw a big trampoline upside down in the middle of a field! Someone must be missing one trampoline.

One particular gust around noon on Sunday blew away the covers of my compost bins. Including the weights I had put on top. This gust probably is to blame for the yagi to have moved again. Just like last year. The boom-to-mast clamp needs a makeover. I really should address that. I tilted the tower over earlier this week and yanked the boom to align the antenna with the rotator controller and to have the driven element parallel again to the 40m dipole. So obviously  the clamp isn’t too tight anymore. I know why and how to fix it, but I need a scaffold to reach it.

The good thing is that my homebrew tilt over mast didn’t move an inch. Not even a millimeter. I designed the thing to put it horizontal in case of storms like the one announced but I didn’t even bother. I admit I wasn’t too comfortable and regularly checked how it held up. But it seems I did a good engineering job and my welding skills passed the ‘medium storm’ test.

The wireless hobby is a lie!

Wireless hobby? Yeah right! You should see my garage, the hub of all things cable here at ON5ZO. And behind and below the operating desk. When I got my VHF-only license I persuaded my dad to drill a hole from my bedroom to the attic to route one simple coax through it. My co-worker at the time (ON4BCB) chuckled: ‘Only one hole? You’ll soon find it to be insufficient’. How right he was. As soon as I got my HF-license, more holes had to be drilled for more antennas. One extra hole to bring the antenna count to two actually.

The same happened here in my own QTH. One of the first things we did while renovating, months before we moved in, was to make a hole in the wall with a big PVC pipe through it. One simple coax went out the shack through the pipe and into the garden. No wait, as I type this I remember: there was no pipe yet at that time. Just a hole. The coax bungled against the wall and ran over the ground. I put up a 10m fishing pole with a vertical wire and a bunch of radials. I used a SG-230 SmartTuner and ran an extension cord through an open window to feed it. It was the EU Sprint Spring SSB 2003. I was so glad to finally have my own QTH and had big plans and big dreams. The plans got executed, even more than I dared to think of back then. The dreams are gone because simply not feasible. I just looked up this contest on 3830. Zeppos passed away last June. Just like the EU Sprint contest itself: nothing is forever…

Back to the cables. Over the last fourteen years I probably spent the most time on cable and wires. In the air, underground, in trees, on the wall, in a conduit: EVERYWHERE. By now the plastic pipe from the shack to the garage is half full. Four coax runs, three general purpose 12-wire cables and the big rotator cable. For years I used one of the coaxes to bring the dedicated RF earth into the shack. Don’t ask. But now I wanted to put this one to use for more RX antenna options. So I added two big green-yellow earthing wires and a stretch of RG-58 coax. More cables. And a few days ago I found myself making cable jumpers to match a variety of plugs (PL, N, BNC). I find my own jumpers more reliable and often cheaper than off the shelf adapters. And I hooked up a new control cable for an antenna switching job. Lots of cable and wire. Wireless hobby? Think not.

QRM from LED lights

A few weeks ago I installed a motion detector to switch my homebrew light cart. I want to illuminate the garden and the terrace when going outside in the dark. I bought a set of cheap no brand LED floodlights. Yesterday I was SWL’ing to test a new low band RX setup and I discovered that these lamps completely wipe out the bands. The QRM is gone from the second the lights turn off. Quite shocking. It sounds EXACTLY like the QRM that bothered me two years ago. Only then it wasn’t my stuff. The good thing is that I can just pull the plug of these LED lights whenever I’m in the shack. The VERY BAD news is that if everyone starts putting up this shit, I’m knee deep into Shit Creek. New item on the to do list: buy a more expensive LED light from a known manufacturer and see if that makes any difference. Question is: what brand should / could be trusted not to pollute the bands? I wonder if there are any test reports on the matter. This one is worth noting: Eliminating radio interference (QRM) from LED (flood) lights by ON7EQ.

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