Jul 02

The fourth full weekend of June.  Those words have special meaning to those with amateur radio licenses in the USA.  It is always the weekend for ARRL Field Day.  This annual event is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.  It is a combination of a contest, an emergency communication exercise, and a social gathering.

For those who don’t know it, I am a licensed amateur radio operator with the callsign K8MIO.  Kieran and I participated in Field Day in 2008 and 2009 with the Arrow Communication Association in Ann Arbor.  After skipping the last two years we wanted to get back to it.  This year we accepted the invitation from the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) to attend their Field Day.  I used to be a member of the defunct Edison Radio Amateurs Association with Gary Morgan, WA8TJA, who is now the SLAARC president.  I also knew that another former Edison member Bob Pratt, WD8AQX, would be attending the SLAARC event.

The SLAARC Field Day site is behind the Lyon Township municipal center.  It’s a very good site because it’s high.  The view is great in all directions.  So the radio waves propagate quite well too.  The site is on top of a former garbage dump along I-96 near Milford Road.

The members of the club setup a lot of the antennas on Friday.  We weren’t able to help with that.  However, we met the group at 8:00 am on Saturday morning for breakfast.  Then we headed to the site with everyone else to complete the setup of the tents and radios.  The on-air event starts at 2:00 pm and runs for 24 hours until the same time Sunday.

Gary had one of the old Edison club tents for use as an operating tent.  He put Kieran and I in charge of setting that up, but he helped too.  Those tents always used to give us grief back in the days of the old club.  It got easier when we used multiple colors of electrical tape to color code the various pole pieces during the final Edison years.  I was happy to see that the color coding was still on the poles.  It didn’t take too long and it was up.

So after all the setup is done, what do you do at Field Day?  Aside from socializing you spend as much time as possible on the radios.  The goal is to contact as many other stations around the United States and Canada who are also taking part in Field Day.  You exchange a specific set of information with each station.  Once that is done you record it in your computer log program and move on to the next station.  You can either tune around the radio bands looking for other stations to call or you can park yourself on a particular frequency and announce that you are waiting for others to call you.  Kieran and I did some of both.

I spent most of my time operating a radio, and Kieran spent the time logging the contacts into the computer.  We exchanged roles for a little while at one point, but he decided he liked logging better.  That’s not unusual for somebody who hasn’t done much operating before.  I’m sure as he does more, he’ll want to do more.  The good news is he really wants to get his own license before Field Day 2013.  I have my work cut out for me!

Here are some pictures of us in the 10/15/20 meter tent where we spent most of our time on the air.  Thanks to Bob Pratt for providing these pictures.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 1

This station had an excellent setup. The radio (Elecraft K3) and computer were connected which made logging even easier. We’re operating on a beam antenna so you see a rotator control box as well.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 2

That’s a rather serious look on my face.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 3

Looking through the window of the old Edison club tent.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 4

A better view of the N1MM logging software. All of the stations on the site were linked together via Wifi so we could see the contacts the other stations made.

SLAARC Field Day - From Bob Pratt 5

A beautiful sunset in the background while we keep on operating.

SLAARC Field Day - Phone 1

Kieran took this picture with my iPhone. I’m really glad he did. That’s Bob, WD8AQX, at the radio while I log. We had some disintegrating headphones and you can see the remnants all over my neck.

SLAARC Field Day 22

Here’s Gary, WA8TJA, operating and logging.

Now for some picture I took of the site.

SLAARC Field Day 6

The club banner that welcomes the public to the site.

SLAARC Field Day 23

You can almost see the entire Field Day operation in this picture.  That little tent closest to the camera on the right is where Kieran and I spent a few hours sleeping overnight.

SLAARC Field Day 1

On the left is the 40 meter dual inverted-V antenna. On the right is the 10/15/20 meter beam that Kieran and I spent most of our time on.

SLAARC Field Day 2

The blue tent is the 40 meter station.  The other tent is the one Gary brought.  It was originally owned by the ERAA and used at Field Day by that club when it existed.  The generators are behind the trailer on the right.

SLAARC Field Day 3

The vertical antenna that wouldn’t tune is in the middle.  The white canopy is the grub tent.  The red tent is the 80 meter station.  The blue canopy is the public information area.

SLAARC Field Day 4

The antenna on the left is an 80 meter dual inverted-V.  Beams for 6 and 2 meters are on the tower to the right.  There are two off-center fed dipoles extending from that tower as well.  You can see the baluns if you look closely.

SLAARC Field Day 13

The generators under their rain protection. The trailer on the left kept the engine noise from disturbing the radio operators.

SLAARC Field Day 15

Here’s a better view of the 80 meter tent.  The blue tent on the left is the 6/2 meter station.  The blue tent to the right is the GOTA tent.  That’s short for Get On The Air.  This station is for unlicensed or inactive people to give things a try.

SLAARC Field Day 16

The food area and Wifi network hub. None of the people at Field Day went hungry. The food was quite good all weekend.

Kieran and I had a great time with the SLAARC members at Field Day.  We hope to do it again next year.  Our thanks to the members of the SLAARC who made Field Day possible!

Jul 01

When these boys get together…

Goofy Brothers 1 Goofy Brothers 2

Strange things often happen…

Goofy Brothers 3Goofy Brothers 4

Goofy Brothers 5Goofy Brothers 6

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Jun 30

Earlier this month Linda and I had a weekend away to celebrate her birthday.  (Thanks, Beth!)  We went to the little town of Saugatuck, Michigan.  It’s the first time we have even been there.

We spent two nights at the Twin Gables Inn.  The room was very nice and the people were friendly.  It’s a bed and breakfast inn and the breakfast was good both days.  We didn’t start our days hungry.

Saugatuck is known for it’s art.  It’s a small town, but the amount of art is large.  We checked out a lot of it.  There were galleries dedicated to single artists, art co-ops with their local members work on display, larger stores with art from different areas of the country, and one that we decided was of the “starving artist” variety.

Downtown is meant for tourists.  In addition to the art galleries there is an eclectic collection of shops.  We had a look at a lot of them.  Some of it was practical, some of it was not.  Taking it all in made for a fun weekend together.

Do you know what a chain ferry is?  I didn’t.  According to the information we saw in town, the only operating chain ferry in the country is in Saugatuck.  There’s a chain stretched across the Kalamazoo river in downtown.  When the ferry is at either side, the chain is laying on the bottom of the river so boats can pass over it.  When somebody turns the crank on the ferry, it is pulled long that chain to the other side of the river.  We didn’t ride it, but it’s fun to watch.  Especially when they are cranking fast and furious to try and get out of the way of busy river traffic.

We took our bikes along with us.  Saturday morning we wanted to put them to use.  So we rode around the lake and over the river to Mount Baldhead.  Since this is Michigan, it isn’t really a mountain.  It’s 282 wooden steps that you can climb to a very scenic spot overlooking town.  The chain ferry would have gotten us their quicker, but we had bikes so we rode.  Once you get to the top you can go down the sand dunes on the other side and arrive at Oval Beach on Lake Michigan.  We didn’t want to do that because it would have involved going back up those dunes.  They’re pretty steep.  However, we found a hiking trail along the top and headed out along it.  It ends at a very nice overlook on Oval Beach and the big lake.  The lake breeze is always great.

Here are some pictures from our mountain adventure.

Steps Going Up

This is the 282 steps of Mt. Baldhead from the bottom.

On The Trail

Heading out along the hiking trail


See the snake we encountered along the trail?

Oval Beach Overlook

After about a half-mile we came to the end of the trail and a beautiful view of Lake Michigan.

Linda On The Trail


Brian On The Trail

This strange tree was along the trail.

Linda With Saugatuck in the Background

Linda with Saugatuck behind her.

Stairs From The Top

This is the view looking down the stairs. It’s a long way down.

Mt. Baldhead From Town

This is what Mt. Baldhead looks like from across the river in town.

If you get the chance to visit Saugatuck, I’d recommend it.  It’s perfect for a weekend trip.

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Jun 29

Declan and Owen went to their first Cub Scout Fun Day last month.  This is a day when Camp Munhacke is open to the Cubs and their families.  There are lots of things for them to do.  The usual shooting sports stations are open as well as crafts, sports, and Minute To Win It games!

Walking Down the Back Road

The boys walking down the back road. Still early and a little chilly.

Obstacle Course Hurdle

Owen’s already over and Declan is about to clear the hurdle on the obstacle course

Obstacle Course Hoops

They had to put their whole body through the hoops.

Obstacle Course Wall

Climb the wall, and try to not fall down the other side!

On Their Way To Another Adventure

They’re on their way to the next adventure. Can Dad keep up?


Their first try at archery using real bows and arrows. Neither of them were that impressed this time.

Owen At BB Guns

Owen enjoyed the BB Guns. He hit the pie plate target a couple of times!

Declan At BB Guns

Declan also hit the target a couple of times. A very successful first attempt!

Stick the Landing Game

Kieran and the other Boy Scouts from Troop 240 were running the Minute To Win It game station during fun day. We finally got there by mid-day. Stick the Landing involves tossing a half full plastic water bottle and trying to get it to land upright on the table.

Apple Stacking

This Minute To Win It game involved stacking five apples on top of each other. All in one minute. Without them falling.

Declan's Wrist Rocket

Declan’s favorite station of the day was the wrist rockets. He shot a whole lot of dog food!

Owen's Wrist Rocket

Owen is really pulling that slingshot back.

It was a very fun day.  My compliments to the volunteers who made Cub Scout Fun Day happen.  My boys and I really appreciate how much effort you put into making our day memorable.

Mar 26

Today was Declan and Owen’s first Pinewood Derby.  It’s their first year as Cub Scouts and the Derby is one of the highlights of the year.  They picked out their car designs from a book mom brought home from the library.  It wasn’t much of a plan, just a shape.  So we improvised the rest.

The cars from all the dens were raced in various heats.  When it was all said and done only the scouts from a particular den competed against each other.  There are eight other boys in the Tiger Den with Declan and Owen.  In the end Owen took first place and Declan took second place!  They were both incredibly excited.

Here are the boys and their cars and their winners trophies. They had to take a serious picture first.


After the serious picture it was time to get goofy!

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Mar 12

Life goes by so very fast and leaves no time to blog.  However, I wanted to share these pictures that the boys created for the Original Works program that their school is offering again this year.

Owen made a family portrait for his original work. Even the cats are included.

Declan's outer space scene. He's very proud of the alien turtle on the red planet.

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Oct 24

Owen has a stuffed kitty named Candy Corn.  He decided one day that it was soon to be Candy Corn’s birthday.  When he mentioned that he needed a birthday present Linda suggested they could make some treats.

Out came the playdough!  I think the results were very impressive.  Owen was thrilled with the results as well as the time with mom.

Candy Corn's Birthday Treats

Candy corn, and fishies for a kitty's treats. Plus a bowl to put them in.

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Oct 24

The date was June 6, 2011.  We went to the Lincoln Middle School Honors Assembly to watch as Kieran received recognition!  Way to go, Kieran!

Kieran's 6th Grade Honor Assembly

Kieran with his academic honors.

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Aug 09

Linda returned home on July 15th and noticed this turtle walking on our driveway.  So the whole family had to check it out.  After we all had a look we put him in a box and walked him over to the pond across the street.  When we released him there he scurried into the water pretty quickly.

Baby Turtle in our Driveway 1

When most of us saw him he was partway under the car in the driveway.

Baby Turtle in our Driveway 2

He looks a little disgusted doesn't he?

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May 28

Linda and I used to live fairly close to Lower Huron Metropark. We had picnics in the park. What I didn’t know was that it has a pretty nice group camping area. It’s specially for youth groups so the Boy Scouts fit right in. On the weekend of May 14-16 Troop 240 headed over there for a tent campout. We used the Troop’s tents. These are the tents from last year’s National Jamboree. We have 10 of them that we bought after Jambo was over.

We got to the campsite by about 6:00 on Friday evening. We got our camp setup and cooked dinner. The three patrols rotated cooking and cleaning duty. Kieran’s patrol had cooking duty for Friday dinner. They did a good job on the soft tacos. The evening was cut short by rain. The guys were ready to stop fighting the weather and retired to their tents early.

Around the Table

Kieran, Kyle, Jason, and Matthew paused for a picture

Saturday we got up at 7:00 am. French toast and scrambled eggs were prepared for breakfast. After the cleanup there was some scout skill sessions that helped our newer guys learn some of what they need to advance to higher ranks.

Fire Starting

One of the Scout Skills stations was fire starting

Fire Starting 2

Kieran and Christian are really getting into their fire starting

We had intended to roast hotdogs for our lunchtime chili dogs over the fire. However, it was raining again so we resorted to the camp stoves for lunch. We did get a fire going later and had some really good pork chops grilled over the fire for dinner.

Tents In A Row

Our tents were all lined up along the tree line. Gear and grub areas down there at the end.

Artists and Chops

Kieran and Jason are in the background going over anime art techniques while pork chops cook over the fire for dinner.

Leaders Waiting For Dinner

Here are the Scoutmasters waiting for those chops to be done

Discussion Drain

This drain was a popular place for this gang to hang out

We had a nice time around the campfire Saturday night. Lots of conversation and the cracker-barrel. Since Friday’s cracker-barrel was rained out we doubled it up on Saturday. We had crackers and a cheeseball plus s’mores.

Unfortunately, the rain came back during the night while we were sleeping. It didn’t let up at all Sunday morning. We prepared breakfast. We had perogi, beef sticks, and fruit cups. The group that was using the pavillion was nice enough to let us cook and eat breakfast under it. That made it much easier with the rain. After breakfast was cleaned up it was time to break camp. We had to put everything away wet. So the tents and other Troop gear went home with the various leaders to get setup and dried out over the next couple of days.

Everybody said they had a good time on this campout. I know Kieran and I did!

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