Catching Up With Stuff

I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting this blog recently because, well, to be honest, not a heck of a lot is really going on this time of year.


The tomatoes are going crazy this year. They’re almost chest high and at least 4 feet wide at this point, and loaded with fruit. In about a week or two at the most we’re going to be able to start picking tomatoes. If we manage to avoid blossom end rot and other problems this year, we’re going to have more tomatoes than we know what to do with.

I’m not sure why they became this ridiculously prolific this year. MrsGF pointed out that we added a lot of compost to the beds this year and top dressed with a very mild fertilizer. But even so, this is a bit much. The wire tomato cages are starting to collapse from the weight of the plants and I’ve had to put in additional rods to keep the cages from collapsing.

I don’t know why I bother with the wire tomato cages they sell in the garden centers around here. They just can’t handle the plants we grow here. I think I’m going to have to go get some rebar or something like that, fire up the torch and weld up my own.

We put in 2 varieties, Early Girl and Wisconsin 55, and both seem to be doing equally well.


We’ve been getting raspberries too this year. MrsGf’s sister gave her about a dozen plants a couple of years ago and they’ve completely taken over the corner of the garden where they were planted.

We aren’t getting a huge number, but enough to give us a nice sized bowl full every few days. I’m not supposed to eat them anyway. I have  diverticulosis which, fortunately, has never flared up on me, but I still need to be careful. I’m supposed to avoid eating things with seeds and chopped nuts, which means raspberries are on the avoidance list. But, well, come on, fresh raspberries right off the plant? I’m afraid probably half of the berries we get never make it into the house.

IMG_0935I picked up one of those goofy little roses in a teacup that you see at discount stores sometimes for MrsGF one day because I thought it would look neat on the window sill in the kitchen for a few days, and then it would probably die and we’d toss it and that would be the end of it. Well, MrsGF transplanted the dopy thing into a larger pot, stuck it outside and it’s been going crazy just like the tomatoes have. It’s quadrupled in size and has been putting out brilliant red flowers ever since.

We’re going to try to keep it through the winter and see what happens. If it makes it, great. If not, no big deal. It only cost me something like $5

Other Stuff:

I just realized the other day that I’ve put more miles on the bicycle than I have on the Corvette this summer. Nothing wrong with that but it does seem a bit odd for someone who enjoys driving as much as I do. MrsGF and I haven’t really managed to get away on a vacation this summer. Since, oh, 2007 or so, we’ve managed to get away for a couple of weeks or so to go somewhere, usually out west. And I used to go to South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming at least once during the summer by myself if I could. One year we took a three week road trip on the motorcycles with Eldest Son out to Maine.

One reason is MrsGF has been crazy busy this summer. The state is trying to bring an electronic health records system on-line before winter and she’s involved in that and you wouldn’t believe how difficult and complex that project has been. Plus she’s going to be on the road now for two days to do audits. She’s managed to get a few days off here and there, but any kind of real vacation for her is going to have to wait until October.

She’s still planning on retiring in March and is really looking forward to that. She’s already been looking into getting into the Master Gardener program. One local charity is pushing to get her on the board, and I’m threatening to run her for town council <grin> just to keep her busy..

Amateur Radio Stuff:

Right now there is considerably controversy about the Technician class license, which has become the entry level license for amateur radio.

AR is in a rather odd situation at the moment. We are seeing record numbers of new licensees. The latest number I’ve seen is that there are over three quarters of a million holders of an amateur radio license, most of them holding the Technician license. This may sound like amateur radio isn’t doing too bad since we have more than 750,000 people in the hobby and that number is growing every year. But there are some concerns.

First, most of those new Tech licensees don’t seem to be actually using that license. We should be hearing them popping up on those parts of the spectrum where they are licensed to operate. Only we aren’t. Tune in the local repeaters around here (and everywhere else, apparently) and you almost never hear any of the new licensees on the air. And we never hear them down on the HF (shortwave) frequencies where they are permitted to operate.

Second, the vast majority of Tech licensees never upgrade their licenses to General or Extra class to get access to all of the HF spectrum. They get the Technician license and stay Technicians.

A lot of people find this troubling. If these people are getting their licenses and never actually using those privileges, or using them only very rarely, why aren’t they? Obviously they were interested in amateur radio in the first place or they wouldn’t have gotten the license. So why aren’t they actually using it? And why aren’t they eventually upgrading to the General or Extra license?

The ARRL thinks it’s because the Techs only have extremely restricted access to the HF bands. Below 50 mHz, Techs can legally only use a very small portion of the 10 meter band for voice and CW. And below the 10 meter band they only have access to an even smaller range of frequencies, and there they can use CW (morse code) only. The ARRL believes that if Techs were granted expanded privileges on HF they would be more interested in AR and actually get on the air, and even become interested enough so they would upgrade their licenses to gain more privileges.

The problem with that is there is no actual evidence to support that belief. The ARRL is basing that on the results of a very flawed survey that almost no tech licensees actually saw or responded to, and on little more than wishful thinking.

The ARRL’s thinking in this is fundamentally flawed, I believe. The Technician licensees they’re so worried about haven’t upgraded because either A) they aren’t interested in HF at all and are only interested in VHF/UHF, or B) they aren’t interested in amateur radio in the first place and got the license for emergency communications, storm spotting, flying drones or are “preppers” of one variety or another.

In any case, any Tech who is interested in the HF frequencies can get access simply by taking the General license test. It isn’t that hard. Seriously. It isn’t. A current Tech license holder could easily pass the General with minimal preparation.

I don’t particularly care if the ARRL gets this past the FCC or not, to be honest. It isn’t going to effect me one way or the other. I rather doubt the FCC is going to grant the ARRL’s petition. I suspect the FCC will point out to the ARRL that if Techs want access to HF they should just take the General test.


Author: grouchyfarmer

Yes, I'm a former farmer. Sort of. I'm also an amateur radio operator, amateur astronomer, gardener, maker of furniture, photographer.

6 thoughts on “Catching Up With Stuff”

  1. I got my extra back in 1993 when element 1C was required. I looked at it this way, I didn’t want to have to worry what frequency range or mode I operated. And here’s something more interesting two of the three VE’s they’re now SK. I’m a VE myself.

    As to the bumper crop of tomatoes – you could always ship them to me in the northeast. I know what to do with them.


    1. Thanks for being a VE. Without people like you willing to volunteer their time amateur radio probably wouldn’t exist any longer.

      I’m studying for the Extra right now and will probably go for it next spring. There’s really little incentive to go for it any more except personal satisfaction. But that’s the same reason I’m trying to learn CW again. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to copy CW at a reasonable speed, 10-15 wpm or at least good enough to play with it more.

      I’m hoping the tomatoes survive. We can always deal with excess. If we can’t can them fast enough we quarter them and freeze ’em and then use them as needed during the off season. But We’ve had issues with blossom end rot here before and while that didn’t hit last year, we did get some kind of fungal disease that killed off the plants long before they should have died. So I’m always nervous about them.

      Too bad there isn’t a market for mosquitos. Oh dear lord they’re horrible this year!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your observations about amateur radio operators stagnating in the Tech ticket are right on. I wrote a lengthy article about this about a year ago on my own blog. There is even legitimate evidence out there that suggests many if not most new hams never get on the air! The ARRL, bless their soul, means well but are going for quantity over quality. They have dumbed down testing to the point that grade school kids can make Extra with just a few weekends of tutoring…and the ARRL thinks it’s STILL too hard! Enough already.


    1. I’ve seen reports too that indicate a lot of new amateur radio licensees never get on the air as well and I really don’t understand that. Why go to the trouble of taking the test if you’re not going to use it?

      I agree that the current tests are way too simple. With the technician license I could have passed it easily without studying at all, with the exception of the FCC rules. The General wasn’t difficult either. Anyone with any kind of background in electronics at almost any level could pass the General with just a few hours of study. I haven’t taken the Extra yet, but I’ll probably go for that next spring just for the heck of it. That one looks like it’s going to be more difficult.

      Considering the number of amateurs who take the test but never get on the air, I sometimes wonder if we shouldn’t go back to something like the old Novice system, where the license was only good for one year and was not renewable. If it expired before you upgraded the license you had to take the test all over again.


  3. I’ve been meaning to get a license recently, but have been busy with other things. When I do get it, I doubt I’ll use it that often & when I do, I know I won’t be using it for voice or CW. My only interest in it is digital modes. I’ve had a few ideas on some fun possible uses for voice, but they’ve largely been ruined by FCC regulations against them.


    1. That sounds about how I operate. I’ve only used voice maybe a dozen times in the last three or four years, and while I’m learning CW I doubt if I’d use it much. I run almost entirely digital. I started out using PSK but back in, oh, Feb. I started using FT8. A lot of the digital modes work well with low signal strength so even if you’re running low power and have a less than ideal antenna system you can do pretty well with them. Once in a great while I’ll dust off one of the 1,500 watt amps and fire it up on 75 meters single sideband just to make sure the stuff still works. Then it gets put away and I go back to digital.


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