The Secret to Lowband Radial Installation

A good lawnmower and chicken wire!

I have an electric lawnmower that has a great adjustable height mechanism – that is easy to use, and fast to change. I cut the grass close, then lay down the wire, then put down chicken wire as a lazy mans way to set the radials in place.

I used to staple (I used sprinkler drip irrigation staples) each and every wire to the ground in several places along the wire, then I figured out a much easier and faster way. Lay the wires down – with maybe ONE staple at the end of the run. Then roll chicken wire on top of all of the wires. you can even bend some of the chicken wire fence to hold the wires in place on the ground. Now you need far fewer staples – to hold the chicken wire down.

The chicken wire is not electrically connected to anything, but it holds the wire down and does act as a metal screen. In time, chicken wire will rot away anyway . . .

I use all kinds of wire – because my grass is actually natural grass and this time of the year it grows like crazy. It will turn completely brown (er “gold”) by May or so, so now is the time to lay this down. Even RG8X coax hides easily in the grass and you never know its there in just weeks. The grass “thatch” covers all wires completely – as well as the chicken wire!

It just so happens to be perfect timing to get this done before the Spiderbeam Fiberglass 18M poles get here. I cut the grass today, and will start laying down the radials next weekend. I have one vertical set of radials done – now the second set goes in – and will be bonded to the first set.

160M From the West Coast

My earlier dreams of settling in on 160M at the end of my DXCC pursuit has hit a snag. It was very hard work getting to 100 on Top Band, and then “IT” happened. I listened to what the East Coast could hear on my friends remote station in Tennessee, and OMG – it was night and day. In fact, so much so it has got me thinking a lot about DXCC and location, location, location!

First of all, unlike some others whom I have seen post about how DXCC is dead due to remotes and now – how FT8 is the end of (something), I don’t think so. I have seen these comments on the ON4KST Chat quite a bit.

The real problem for me is neither of these things. Its variety.

There simply is not enough DX on 160M on the West Coast. I have gone several months with Zero new one’s on 160M (many many times over the past 6 or 7 years) that I am now giving up on any notion that Top Band is all that. DX and 160M Contests are now so boring to me – in fact I curse them because when they happen 160M is useless – sure there is more activity – if you like working the same contest stations – and all in the US and maybe a few in the Caribbean.

Another wider thought popped out of this 160M on the East and West coast issue. If you really look at this, just living on the East Coast gives you a big advantage for DXCC Challenge and 10BDXC. And I mean a Yuge Bigly advantage. So much for “level playing field”, and this is also why DXCC can never be a contest. But I digress.

I got so bored with 160M, I went up one band and found to my great surprise 80M humming, and this has happened a lot lately. The other thing that is important is that I have such little space in my yard for antennas, I have to pick and choose carefully. I have barely enough room for 3 antennas and I’m already crowding in more than that as it is.

We are sliding fast down the cycle, and I am betting that 80M with my phased vertical array (DX Engineering DV-80-P) will be a “new” band for me – that along with 40M will dominate my activity at the very bottom few years of the cycle.

Hail, Hail!

A nice hailstorm made Orinda look like Winter for a short while.

We are getting much needed rain and snow in Northern California.

Spring Antenna Fun!

Photo by Spiderbeam

It looks like timing wise, in a couple of weeks, work will start on several projects as KY6R. The first will be the DX Engineering DV-80-P phased 80M Vertical Array. That will only take a weekend since beforehand I will have the radial and wiring in place just waiting to telescope up the two verticals and then plug in the phasing boxes. I will already have the in shack stuff done as well.

As soon as the US Towers ALM-31 is on its way, I’ll complete the SteppIR UrbanBeam, and sometime in April, the tower and UrbanBeam will be up and operational.

Spring will be a fun time at the KY6R Radio Ranchette!

Bouvet and the Race to the Bottom (again . . . )

2018, 19 and 20 look like 2008, 2009 and 2010

Looking at the coming of 2+ years at the bottom of Cycle 24 going into 25, and thoughts of Bouvet pop in my mind. Its a mini cliff hanger: “Who will activate Bouvet before (even) 20M closes down?”

FT5GA activated Glorioso in Sept / October 2009, when even 20M was dead. Their team completely missed West Coast openings on 40 and 30M – unlike T04E and other French teams who gave everyone an ATNO on 40 and 30M from that part of the world, FT5GA just didn’t seem to get it. TO4E won the DXpedition of the Year award, and FT5GA did not. I do remember being one of a handful on the West Coast to implore the TO4E guys to try 40 and 30M Long Path, and when they did, their signal pounded in and you could easily work them with a single vertical. FT5GA NEVER bothered. Both made about the same number of QSO’s – about 35,000, which isn’t that great, but is enough to give anyone who needed it for an ATNO at least one band mode ATNO. And that’s all that matters.

I will have the UrbanBeam, DV-40-P and DV-80-P up when Bouvet activates (rumor has it this coming December). I will “only” have 500 watts, but I only had 200 watts when I worked TO4E on 30M and 20M way back in 2003.

Between 2008 and 2010 there were “easy” ATNO’s (Ducie, Desecheo, Wallis, Willis, Clipperton), but these as far as distance go were small potatoes. ZS8M in September 2010 was the “gate” where we went from dead bands and short DX to long DX. HOWEVER, the only band that I did not work ANY DX on during those years was 10 Meters. I even have a few 12M band fills for mega DXpeditions in those years. But the lions share of the DX was 160 – 17M, and 40 – 20M being where all the best action was at.

I fully expect that 40 – 20M will be what keeps up going at this bottom of the cycle, but distance could be an issue. In 2009 I worked a C9 – Mozambique on 80M SSB on the evening Grey Line – Short Path – which is really pretty excellent, actually. I worked a ZS on 30M in 2010 on the morning Long Path – on the Grey Line, and worked Marion on the 40M Short Path – on the same path that I work ZS6CCY every night.

What all this means is that Bouvet and Glorioso ARE do-able even at the bottom of the Cycle – but it will take any team activating to really pay attention to propagation for the West Coast. And the evening and mornings on 40, 30 and 20M are the obvious bands, but 80M could be a band I’ve totally neglected as a distance band, and for no real good reason. C91 and ZS8 are the two real standouts, and they happen to be 80 and 40M. Now I am especially excited about trading 160M for phased verticals on 80M. 80M has a much higher probability at the bottom of the cycle being a serious ATNO band than 160M does. Once I get that 9BDXCC endorsement, I will hang up my 160M hat and get on with 80M.

Glorioso is now way down to #14 in the Most Wanted, so I doubt there will be any big push to activate it. As always, I tweak my antenna farm to jive with band conditions and the probability of working that next ATNO.

There hasn’t been any news from 3Y0Z or 3Y0I since 3Y0I invited 3Y0Z to join forces and K4UEE saying that “3Y0Z has other plans”.

The Bouvet plot thickens!


SteppIR UrbanBeam Assembly – Boom

One really fun thing about building the UrbanBeam is that I now have serious experience with Stepper Motors, specifically, NEMA-17 and NEMA-23. When I assembled and wired the boom with the two EHU’s I could see exactly what they did and what their Stepper Motors look like.

I’m now in a holding pattern – it makes no sense to build the rest of the antenna until I can get the US Towers ALM-31 up – or at least the weekend before I receive the tower. The tower will require some custom brackets tht I will build myself since the ones they sell are not suitable for my needs – and their brackets are as expensive as the tower itself!

With President Shyster McNumb Nuts starting tariffs (and the inevitble trade wars that will follow) – what is already ridiculously expensive tower and antenna wise (steel and aluminum) will get that much more expensive, and soon. I’m glad I ordered and paid for these things already.

The Sure Fire Cycle 25 Prediction!

I have read several predictions for Cycle 25:

  • It will be weaker than Cycle 24
  • It will be the same as Cycle 24
  • It will be similar to Cycle 23

I remember how many predictions there were at this time before Cycle 24. There were so many – it was hard to take any seriously – but each of us believed what we wanted to believe.

The one thing I can say with certainty, is that from now until we really know what Cycle 25 will be like (and it takes almost being half way through the cycle to know), getting your low band antennas up and humming is a sure bet.

I expect the high bands will be devoid of much good DX starting at the end of this year, and that like the bottom of Cycle 23, 40M especially was the “new 20 meters”. But don’t overlook 160M and 80M – if you wanted to earn DXCC on those bands – you are already in for a treat as I have seen a dramatic improvement just since the end of 2017.

Get those low band antennas up!