Happy Birthday to My Dad

Birthday

Yesterday we had a family get together to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday.  His birthday isn’t for a couple more weeks but we had to settle on a date where family members could get together from out of town. We had 19 people people there to visit and it was really fun.  We had others that were not in this picture but they opted not to be posted online.  Our day was very loud.  If you’ve ever been in a room with 19 people talking loudly at the same time, you can get a sense of how it was.  We had fun and hope everyone there enjoyed it as much as I did.  It was a warm 96 degrees when taking this picture so everyone was anxious to get back inside where the air conditioner was running.  We had family that came from as far as 100 miles away to visit.

I’ve always been close to my family and wanted to say happy birthday to the best dad in the world. I just wish my mom could have been there as well.

Lawn Improvement

We moved into this house in July 2015 and the lawn looked pretty good despite being pretty much all crab grass.  One of the reasons that it looked so good at the time was because it was the wettest year on record. In fact we received 18 inches of rain in the month of May alone.  In this first picture you can see the way the backyard looked before we moved in.  It didn’t look too bad at the time but was pretty much all weeds at the time.

The second picture was taken in August 2015 when our storm shelter was being installed. The lawn was torn up pretty bad with the use of a large back hoe digging the hole.  They piled this dirt and then left the  pile when they left so we had to decide how to move the dirt in a way that would  not be such a mess.

In the third picture  you can see how they left it. A huge dirt pile in the middle of the yard.  They didn’t even offer to take it away.  I was a little overwhelmed with how to deal with this pile of dirt.  It is much larger than the picture makes it look.  In fact it was about three feet tall and about 12 feet wide.

In the fourth picture you can see that I initially did a pretty bad job of dealing with the dirt pile. I got a dirt rake and I left the pile where they laid it and just spread it out.  It doesn’t look that bad in this picture but believe me, it was an absolute mess. Notice the concrete barrier around the fence is actually covered with dirt. This dirt is slimy clay when it is wet and hard as concrete when it is dry. Once it rained a few times this mound was a mess. I had no experience dealing with this sort of thing so it was  learning experience over many months.

This picture shows the next episode of destroying the lawn.  In April 2016 we had a concrete pad installed that took 5 1/2 yards of concrete. It was 6′ x 6′ and 4′ deep. This was the pad that would hold our ham radio tower.  I initially got a quote for the concrete to have it pumped to the site from the street. A couple days before showing up, they called and said they forgot to and the pump truck into the quote but said if we let them fill the bucket of a Bobcat dozer, carrying the load to the backyard, they could do it without extra cost. I soon found out what a mistake this was.  The night before they showed up, we had three inches of rain. It took them 15 trips from the street to the backyard to fill that hole.  In the picture below you can see what the lawn looked like when they were done.
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In the picture below you can see a partial repair of the lawn after the concrete pad was installed. My wife and I bought a roto-tiller and tried our best to level the ruts in the lawn. It was such a mess that I never thought it would be back to normal.  This picture shows that we did get it semi level but the grass was all gone.

In the picture below you can see in February 2016 we had a new fence installed.  This was just one more episode of destroying the lawn.  I can only imagine what the neighbors were thinking by this point.  We were in Tucson, Arizona on a work related trip while this installation was being done so we missed out on some of the work. My son took some pictures for us to show us how it looked.

Still later in April of 2016 we had the lawn torn up again!  We had a sprinkler system installed in the yard so that required some extensive trenching of the lawn.  I am sure by this point the neighbors were convince that we were credentialed lawn terrorists.  Despite the constant destruction of the lawn over and over again, there was an end game.  The overall goal was to have a nice lawn as some point.

The last picture was taken yesterday, July 15, 2017.  I just realized that yesterday we have lived in this house for two years.  While the lawn is not perfect, it has vastly improved on what it was.  It is our hope at some point that our neighbors realize that we are not intent on destroying the neighborhood.  We would like to be a good neighbor and keep the lawn looking presentable at some point.

I know this is not a comprehensive photo album, though we have taken several hundred pictures over the last couple of years.  Hopefully the lawn will continue to improve and then at some point we can start working on that flower garden in the front yard. 🙂

No Rain Again!!!

 

Somehow we missed getting any rain once again.  My phone was going off left and right over severe thunderstorm warnings, flood advisories and we didn’t even get a sprinkle.  We were going West on I-240 when I took this picture with my iPhone 7+.  We had family over and so we were taking the opportunity to go out as a family and have a good meal.  I just thought it was a great picture not to share.  Also this was a test to see how hard it would be to post pictures from my Google Photos account.

Tower Project

Disclaimer: I am fully aware of my jumping from “I” to “we”.  This tower is for my wife and I, so I like to refer to we, though when doing the labor, sometimes it was just me. She was also very instrumental in getting this done. I don’t want to imply that I did everything.

I’ve been working on setting up our ham radio tower for nearly two years. It has been very expensive and time consuming but we are almost done.  It all started on October 12, 2015 when I answered an ad on Craigslist. A gentleman was selling 14 sections of Rohn 55G tower for $150.00 per section.  I only needed five sections but they were so cheap, I called my dad and he wanted the other nine.  This picture shows all 14 sections sitting in our garage.

New Tower 10/12/2015

I knew that I wanted to install a tower at some point but this was too good of a deal to pass up.  I didn’t have much money so the sections of tower stayed locked up in our backyard for several months.  We used an old dog kennel to store them until we were ready to start working on the project. As you can see in this picture, we still had our old fence that was crumbling around us.  One project at a time.

New Tower 10/12/2015

I started doing some 3D images of what the tower might look like once installed using Google Earth.  I knew the tower was going to be 50 feet before any antennas went on but it was actually 52 feet.  This was just a dream at this point because we had so many other projects that needed to get done, like a storm cellar, new fence, a new sprinkler system, etc.

Our Tower Looking North
Since we had no money to get anything done for a long time, all we could do was make plans.  Here you can see where I painted the spot on the grass where the tower would go. This was February 7, 2016.  My wife and I pondered where it would go and settled on this spot near the cellar.  I first marked the spot as four feet by four feet.  Later after reading the specifications from Rohn, that was changed to six feet by six feet.  In this picture it was still marked for the smaller spot.  You can see in this picture that our storm cellar needed dirt around it so we took advantage of this dirt to pile around it.

Hole being marked

In the below picture you can see the Rohn specifications for installing as a self supporting tower.  This is the specifications that we used when installing the base. It was six feet wide by six feet wide  by four and a half feet deep.  The bottom six inches were gravel.

concrete instructions

In the picture below you can see the hole as I was digging it. Man!  That was a job that lasted several weeks, digging a little at a time. As you can see we used the dirt to pile around the cellar so that it would be fully covered.  At this point I was feeling like maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew.

Enlarging the original four foot hole to six feet

In this picture you can see the hold is almost done. We have the worst soil on the face of the earth.  I am convinced that it was shipped in from somewhere else for the construction of these houses. Here in Oklahoma we have red clay everywhere.  This is clay but is gray colored, differing from the natural soil.  Let me say, this dirt is absolutely nasty.  When it is dry, it is as hard as concrete and when it is wet, it is nothing but slime.  My wife has fallen to the ground twice due to slipping on it.

Hole being dug

At this point, I was thinking that our yard was never going to recover.  In the back of my mind, I was thinking that maybe I was damaging the lawn beyond repair.  I was concerned that at this point, we could not afford to get the concrete installed and if it started raining, the hole may collapse.  The picture above was taken March 15th, 2016.  We finally hired a company to install the concrete on April 21st, 2016.

3.83 inches of rain

The night before the concrete was supposed to be installed, we received 3.83 inches of rain. Despite covering the hole with tarps and sand bags, the hole filled up with water as you can see below.  At this point, my wife and I were panicking. This was just before sunset and the concrete company was supposed to be here first thing in the morning.
Rain filled the hole with water

In the picture above you can see the night before the concrete company arrived we were in a crisis situation.  We had to go to Home Depot and rent a sump pump to drain the water.  Since the hole had dirt at the bottom, we could not just sit the sump pump in the hole because we didn’t want to clog the pump with dirt.  We put a water hose through the handle and my wife stood on one side while I stood on the other, holding onto the water hose, suspending the pump over the hole.  Wow!  Our arms were killing us by the time we got to the bottom.

Removing water from hole

Since we could not get the pump all the way to the bottom because we didn’t want to risk getting mud stuck in the sump pump, we had to stop at some point and begin scooping the water out.  Since the hole was so deep, I fashioned this wonderful dipping device where I used a plastic cup taped to a garden hoe to reach down into the hole and scoop the rest of the water out of the hole.  The dirt around the hole was saturated and I worried that it would collapse.

lawn and shoes were a muddy mess

Again, this was the nastiest dirt in the history of the world.  My shoe could attest to just how bad it was.  My shoe weighed about eight pounds at this point.  If I’d had a brain in my head, I would have worn boots but I am not the smartest guy around. 🙂

Lawn Damage

When we got the estimate for the concrete installation, we requested to have the concrete pumped back to the tower spot because the truck could not reach this spot.  The night before they showed up, I receive a text from the concrete company saying they forgot to include the cost of the pump in their estimate and so they said they could used a Bobcat to bring the concrete back to the hole from the street for no extra charge.  What was I thinking when I told them okay?  Look at this picture above.  It took 15 trips from the street to the back yard to carry 5.5 yards of concrete to the hole, the day after getting nearly four inches of rain.  Oh man!  This picture does not give justice to how bad they tore up the lawn.

Lawn Damage

This picture helps to give a little perspective just how bad the lawn was destroyed.  Remember what I said earlier, this dirt is as hard as concrete when it dries and slimey as goo when it is wet. It was so hard after it dried that I could stand right on top of the trail and my weight could not even move it.  My wife was very angry at them tearing up the lawn and so they agreed to fix the front yard and we had to fix the back ourselves.  We had to buy a rototiller to fix it.  It took the entire summer of 2016 to salvage our lawn.

First section installed 6/5/2016

You can see in the above picture, we seeded the grass to try to get it to grow back.  At this point, the lawn was nothing but weeds anyway so we hired a company to begin treating the lawn six times a year.  Apply pre-emergent twice during the winter and fertilize it four times during the summer.  That pile of dirt in the far corner of the yard was some of the extra dirt that I tried moving around to low spots in the yard.  Man!  I slaved all summer trying to level the lawn.

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While this picture is not really relevant to the tower installation, I felt it was relevant in showing how much work was involved in leveling the lawn.  What you see in the picture above is the extra dirt left over from the storm cellar installation. The dirt pile was about three feet tall when they left. Initially I went the lazy route and just used a dirt rake and smoothed out the pile the best I could over an area of about 30 feet. The storm cellar was installed the previous August and this picture was taken in May.  The dirt had solidified but was not level.  It was causing the water flow to change direction so it had to be moved.  I had to break it loose, one shovel at a time.  I scooped it into our lawn mower trailer and moved it to various low places in the lawn, being careful not to disrupt the natural water flow during rain.  I literally moved tons of dirt during the summer of 2016.

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The installation of the tower began December 28th, 2016.  At this point, the tower is 22 feet with three remaining pieces on the ground.

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Here is the top section going on putting the tower at 52 feet tall.  It sat this way for several months while I saved to buy the RT Innovations Razor.
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The tower was finally up as of December 30th, 2016.   This project was a save and work with money that was on hand at the moment project.  We were careful not to use credit on this project and only did the work as we had the money.  There was a long pause as of this point because the Razor is quite expensive but well worth the money.

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This is the Razor on a table ready for assembly. This is much larger than it appears in this picture. The package was 88 pounds and was not that difficult to assemble.  He did a great job in hand crafting this device for the tower.  This device is designed to hold, lift and lower the antennas and rotor without having to climb the tower.

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In this picture you can see the razor installed on the tower before the rotor was installed.  You can see the wheels that are used to ride up the tower to the top.

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After getting the razor installed, I purchased this mast that is capable of holding the largest of beams (yagi).  It is a 24 foot 2″ Outside Diameter x .375″ wall x 1.25 ID 6061 Aluminum Round Tube.  This will go onto the razor installed in the newly purchased Yaesu G-1000 DXA antenna rotor.

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This antenna rotator is very nice and probably one of my most valued part of this whole installation.  I can’t wait to get it installed.

Rohn 55G tower with the RT Innovations Razor installed. Three inch PVC installed for cables.

On this picture you can see the Super-Winch that we had installed that will be used to lift the Razor tot the top.  You can also see the three inch PVC pipe that is going in that will house the antenna cables and rotator cable.

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I dug this trench and installed the PVC on July 3rd, 2017.  It was really humid while digging.  One thing that you can see in this picture is that now that we have the sprinkler installed and that we have been treating the lawn, the grass looks much better than in earlier pictures.  I really hated to dig this hole in the yard and mess up the grass but it had to be done to get the cables in the house and I feel that it can grow back easier now that we have the sprinkler system.
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In this picture you can see how the PVC goes over the top of the metal porch cover.  Ignore the coax running across the shingles. That is just temporary as the HF dipole is on the pole to the upper right of the picture.  That is an Alpha Delta DX-LB Plus multi-band dipole.

In this picture you can see the antenna rotator has been installed and the mast has been installed into it and the thrust bearing.

In this picture you can also see the mast and rotator installed but from a side view.  The project has been slow but it is coming along.  I am trying to do this project correctly and it takes a long time to do it without using credit.

As this project progresses, I will come back and edit this post.  Keep checking back.

Multicast Digital TV

Since American television stations made the conversion to digital back in 2009, there was the debate whether stations would opt to use their bandwidth for a high definition signal or use it for multicast broadcasting where a single channel will have multiple channels.  It appears that stations are able to do both to some degree.  Most major network channels broadcast at 1080i or at least 720p.  The secondary channels seem to be mostly lower resolution programming. There have been many new multicast networks that have appeared and gone away.  Here in Oklahoma City, we’ve had Antenna TV, MeTV, Get TV, Grit TV, Charge, Comet, EscapeLaff TV, Bounce, among others.  Recently with Sinclair TV stations creating their own networks, they have bumped a couple networks that we really enjoyed. We lost Grit TV and GetTV because they were on Sinclair stations.  So far we’ve managed find Get TV on another station in the local area. I really hope that we get Grit TV back.  We’ve also lost Laff TV and Bounce. I hope we get them back as well.

I do wish they would carry these stations on the satellite companies like Dish Network and DirecTV.  It is clear this is an ongoing evolution with networks becoming either growing market share or going out of business. As someone that has always been into this sort of thing, I am pulling for all of them to succeed.  I am hoping that we get even more of them.  Here in Oklahoma City, I have scanned 58 channels over the air.  That is another issue.  People need to remember to re-scan their TV’s frequently to capture these changes.  To be honest, I re-scan our TV at lease once a week.  I am constantly finding changes with new channels coming online and others going away. It is like a treat to find another channel.  If you haven’t re-scanned your TV with an over the air antenna, do it and you may be surprised.

New QSL Card

QSL Card

For the first time in years, I have ordered some QSL cards for my ham radio hobby.  I ordered them from a place called QSL Works.  I supplied the picture of Oklahoma City to be used as the front of the cards.  The text is on the back side for collecting information about the contact.  I figure since we are finally settled in a home with no intentions of moving anytime soon, that it was time to get some cards made.  I hope you like them.

Feeling a bit Sick this Morning

I had a rough night of throwing up that I am just zapped of energy.  I was laying in bed and will likely go back to bed, except that I keep getting awaken by phone calls of an exercise on base.  It keeps telling me that we have a 100% accountability check and that it wants me to check in.  I’ve unsuccessfully attempted so that I just sent an email to my wife and boss to check me in.  I still feel pretty bad and want to go lay back down.  I hate burning sick days but today I clearly do not feel good.

I will get this posted and make another attempt at going back to bed.

Sprinkler System Installation

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This past week we finally started a project that we’ve been saving for a long time.  We’ve talked about installing a sprinkler system for years but never got around to doing it.  On Thursday, April 13th we had Oklahoma Irrigation install our system for us.  They were over half way through when it began to rain.  They had to stop work until it was over and dried up a bit.  It was too wet to work on it the next day, yesterday.

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They were going to come back yesterday but it was too wet. It looks like tomorrow (Easter) it is scheduled to rain again so they may not even be back on Monday.  We’ll see how conditions are.  I will never complain about getting rain so to me, I am okay with the delay.  Yes, the lawn is torn up but this is the third year in a row so I think we can handle it.  The first year, we had a storm shelter installed, then it was the ham radio tower pad and finally, now it is the sprinkler system.  I guess this will force our hand on dealing with the non grass around the storm shelter (cellar).  We are going to have to place some sod around it to get it growing now so that we don’t have erosion.  We’ve been holding off for this very project to get completed.

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As you can see in these pictures, the lawn is a real mess.  We wanted to mow it and edge it last weekend but could not because the utility companies had to come out and mark the locations of their lines across the lawn.  They did this with paint and flags so I could not mow the flags over.  I can’t wait to get this project complete and the lawn begin to repair itself.  I’ll keep you posted with more pictures as it moves forward.

Finally Some Rain

After nearly two months of no rain, we finally manage to get a couple inches of rain on March 28th.  Then we got another quarter inch on April first.  We need much more than that but it is a good start.  This morning I got up and it was really foggy and there were many birds singing loudly.  It is hard to imagine a better morning.  Of course, waking up to a rainy day would be better but I am satisfied for now. 🙂

We’ve had a great weekend with family visiting from out of town.  Yesterday we mowed the lawn for the first time though it was the second time for my dad’s lawn.  The only reason we made it this long on our lawn was because we have no weeds and the Bermuda grass is slow to turn green.  We are very blessed to have a pretty lawn this year.  I just hope the rain continues so that we can end this horrible drought.  I am very thankful for the rain we received.

I will continue to post on this blog and try my best to avoid politics.  It is not worth the arguing that ensues. 🙂

Trip to Tucson

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The last week of February we took a trip to Tucson, Arizona for my wife’s work and I tagged along.  Tucson is where my wife and I had our first home together after we got married.  I was in the Air Force and was stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB.  We have lots of wonderful memories there and so I didn’t want to miss this trip.

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In this picture we were standing on the balcony of our hotel room at the Radisson Suite Hotel. We chose this hotel for a specific reason. My wife use to work at this hotel when we lived there but since we were young and low income at the time, we could never afford to stay there when we actually lived there.

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I had to take a picture of this billboard simply because anyone that has ever driven Interstate 10 (I-10) between El Paso, TX and Phoenix, AZ will remember these billboards. This is nothing more than a gas station and “The Mystery of the Desert”.  There are literally hundreds of these billboards on this stretch of freeway.

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In this picture you can see the white sand as we travel the road between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I’ve been past this spot many many times as my mom was born in Fair Acres, NM, just outside of Las Cruces. We’ve traveled to that part of the state so many times that I can’t count.

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In this picture you can see the New Mexico state line coming from Arizona on Interstate 10 (I-10).  The Land of Enchantment is a phrase that I’ve heard hundreds of times over my lifetime due to my mom being from there.  I have great love for my family that still lives there. That is a very beautiful state that feels like home to me.  I really miss my mom and being able to go see my family there, is one way that I can stay close to her.  We lost my mom in 2005 and as you can imagine, there is no amount of money that could amount to the value of spending another minute with my mom.  Going to New Mexico, the place that she always called home and loved so much sort of makes me feel close to her.

I hope to be able to go back and see my family as often as possible.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures. To see the entire album on Flickr, just click on any one of them and you’ll be taken to the unedited full resolution versions.