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So Far This Week

Not even halfway through, and already we’ve had our share of exciting times. Right here in the heart of Howard County.

Tonight, it was a blog party at Nottingham’s. When we lived in Columbia we used to enjoy going there and relaxing at their Tiki Bar.

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Even though they are located in an office complex, they hid the bar quite well so you don’t get the parking lot/storm water management pond views.

I like their pool tables, their Wii system, the laid back, kick you shoes off and enjoy yourself atmosphere. We were in the Event Room tonight. About 40-50 of us, talking, enjoying the Happy Hour and doing our networking thing that the local bloggers do.

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Thanks to Nottingham’s for the hospitality. It was a good “Hump Day-eve” event.

Earlier this week also saw me doing major time in the gardens, for the Conservancy auction basket collection, and the Food Bank harvesting. Still I had time to check out the bee interest in my garden.

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It does remind me however that I need to whack back the basil and get the pesto done for the winter. I spent time harvesting, cleaning and doing a little bit of planting. I put in arugula and lettuce. And pulled out the last of the peppers.

Next on my agenda is the removal of the spent tomato vines.

As for my other wanderings this week, I did food delivery to my better half who was ground crew for tower maintenance. He spent Monday at W3LPL’s helping him on one of the towers.

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For the record, he says he can see Dulles Airport from up there. We’ll take his word on it.

It’s only Tuesday and we’ve just scratched the surface of things going on around here. I still have naturalist training later this week at the Conservancy, and my husband has more antenna support work plus some tower procurement and a radio contest weekend.

Oh yeah, I’m helping my mom move in my “spare” time.

I need to go back to work. I could use the rest.

Field Day Wrap Up

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2014 is history. W1AW/3 aka W3AO is finishing their week as the Maryland holder of the national license, for the centennial celebration.

Maybe my husband will be home for a few days. He is off for the final day at one of the club member’s homes, operating those last hours.

As for Field Day, it was another one of those amazing weekends. I did miss a few things with my earlier posts. Like forgetting we had wires strung for more than two bands. And, that one of our operators was on RTTY with more than one transmitter and computer in front of him. Talk about multi-tasking.

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There’s even a diagram out there that shows how the set up achieves the necessary number of antennas for their operations within the 1000 ft. radius circle.

We had over 800 contacts on the GOTA station. Including some made by Courtney Watson, a county council member who is running for the position of county executive. Courtney can add to her resume that she was “W3AO” for a short time on Saturday.

The head of the Country Office of Emergency Management, Ryan Miller, came to visit, as well. The office really appreciates the assistance of the Columbia Amateur Radio Association (CARA) for emergency support, and always comes out to see our operations.

The CARA welcome team was leading people around the site all weekend. This weekend we had three times the number of visitors, and at one point, had a line waiting to operate the GOTA station. Actually, maybe more than one point, but one time I was in the tent and there were four people watching Rich, KE3Q, who was explaining what we do and how we do it.

I always come away from this weekend exhausted but exhilarated. We were there Sunday until about 6PM, doing the tear down and clean up.

Now, back to my garden and my canning and my cooking. Until next year when we get together for another one.

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Yes, OM, that’s Two Eight Alpha

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Only fellow hams will get the significance of the title. Fellow Field Day participants know it means twenty eight transmitters using auxiliary power. W3AO has done this a number of years and this year, operating “portable” as W1AW, continued the tradition of putting as many people on the air as there are ways to transmit.

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There were fourteen HF stations in the main tent, and the GetOnTheAir(GOTA) station, too. Two of the fourteen were RTTY. The rest, CW and phone on 10,15,20,40,80 and 160 meters.

The antennas.

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For HF, a mix of yagis and beams in two roughly parallel lines spanning the fields. Layout was made to eliminate interference. There were wire antennas for 80 and 160 meters.

VHF had their towers set up around their operating tent.

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As for those satellite guys.

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They contacted the Space Station early the first day. Rarer these days, since the current residents aren’t as active on the air as the former Canadian astronaut was.

We had lots of visitors both days, and lots of interest, including a remake for the ten year anniversary of the LAST BIG FIELD DAY, by ARVN.

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We also get quite a bit of interest in how well we feed our operators. After all, we enjoy spoiling them.

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One of the Saturday lunch platters.

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The sloppy joes.

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The fruit, cookies and brownies.

Many, many people contribute. Here’s a partial list.

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Yes, W3LPL brings two miles of coax. And, quite a few of his “spare” antennas.

KE3Q brings one dozen “rocket launchers” on a trailer. We have computers at every station. These guys are simply amazing. If you have a disaster in your area, you just need to call on them to help with communications. These two clubs can set up towers, crank up the generators, set up comm stations and be ready to assist.

And, we have lots of fun during field day. Even if they are all a bit competitive. Hi Hi.

More tomorrow. When KD4D gets enough sleep to give us the total contacts.

W1AW/3 aka W3AO

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It’s Field Day weekend. The weekend each year that my husband joins about 100 fellow club amateur radio operators, friends and family at a local school field to exercise their radio operating skills in remote, or portable, or emergency conditions. You all know the phrase, practice makes perfect. So, once a year the USA and Canada conduct this weekend event. Putting radio stations on the air all over the two countries.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). For Field Day the Columbia Amateur Radio Association and the Potomac Valley Radio Club get to use the national organization’s call sign W1AW portable 3. We in MD are in the “3” region of the country. The headquarters is located in New England, the “1” region. Since we are licensed to use their call sign for a week of the centennial, we will be using it for Field Day.

Instead of our usual club call sign. W3AO. I did a series last year on our Field Day. W3AO is extremely organized, competitive, yet one of the nicest groups of people you could ever meet.

Today about 30-40 of us were out there setting up the towers, antennas, laying coaxial cable, and getting ready for tomorrow.

A few fun pictures of set up day.

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Generator. Check. Air Conditioner. Check. Say What? Air conditioner? Yes, when you bring all the generators and have built them for us, you do get to bring your own portable unit to keep the VHF tent THE PLACE TO BE when it’s 90 plus degrees out there.

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Working on the power to the main tent.

Then there’s our solar unit, to get those points.

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We also have the satellite tent being set up with all their equipment right outside their tent flap.

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They were on the air late this afternoon using our club call to be sure everything was set up. The rest of the radios and computers will be set up tomorrow.

This was a really great group. All eleven bases of the AB-577s, the crank up towers, were in place in less than two hours.

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Being level is important.

Coaxial cable was all in place before six pm today. We spent less than 10 hours out there today. Tomorrow it’s just a few more hours of radios, computers, power up and check out, before beginning on the air at 2 pm local time.

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How many miles of cable do we use? Answer tomorrow.

As for all the planning, a small group does so much of it. This picture is one of my favorites from today.

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K3RA, Rol, who gets us all organized, with his XYL, Audrey, who is in charge of feeding us all. After all, we know an army marches on its stomach. Along with Jim, N3KTV, seen above unrolling cable, they keep us focused and busy getting prepared.

Time to shut this down and sleep before the fun begins. Come visit us at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School tomorrow. We may put you on the air, as W3AO. I think I will operate our Get On The Air (GOTA) station. After all, W3AO holds all sorts of records, and this year the GOTA station is using that call sign, while the rest of the club uses W1AW/3.

Really. Great. Pasta.

I have written before about finding Pappardelle’s pasta at Secolari, in Columbia Mall, and at Casual Gourmet, in Glenwood.

This pasta is such a delight to make and eat. The flavors just jump out at you. And, today, the aroma of cooking lemon ginger fettuccini. Amazing.

An interesting pairing tonight. I found a unique pasta sauce at Costco. A Tuscany pumpkin sauce. From Cucina Antica.

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This combination was light, but creamy. I added the leftovers from last night’s dinner. Country style ribs with Korean BBQ sauce.

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These ribs came from my Friends and Farms basket a few weeks back. Slow cooked in the oven, under foil with salt and pepper and in a bath of white wine. Finished with a glaze of Korean dipping sauce mixed with honey mustard.

Today the half we didn’t eat Saturday was shredded and added to the pumpkin sauce. A dash of cumin. A handful of scallions. Some garlic powder to taste.

Boil the pasta. Simmer the sauce. Eat a wonderful simple meal after my husband finished his radio contesting marathon.

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Then sit around and watch the Olympics while sipping a spritzer. A little white wine, some Limonata, and a few frozen cubes of strawberries, from our strawberry picking trip to Larriland last May. Love using those “ice cubes” in drinks.

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And, I did forget to take a picture of the pasta dish. What can I say?

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2013 In My Rear View Mirror

Getting the yearly statistics from WordPress is one of those little pleasures. How did the blog do? Did more people read it? What did they like? Who commented the most? Where did they come from?

Fun stuff. Trivial. But fun. This year my most read post (not counting how people come to the blog on the home page) was this one.

Replacing River Hill. With Turf Valley Towne Square. Why so popular? Simple. HOWCHOW linked to it.

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Last year, most people clicked here from hocoblogs and from howchow.

Except for the hundreds of people who came for number two in my list. The Tractor Supply Baby Chick people.

Oh, and next on the list. The hexbeam builders.

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Followed by a few of the amateur radio W3AO Field Day posts.

And, my reaction to losing Dennis Lane, our fellow blogger we lost tragically this past year.

It was interesting to see that my locavore posts weren’t the highest read. But, my pages on resources and farms got a fair amount of traffic.

As for comments, I have two very prolific commenters noted. Lora and Marcia. Marcia, Lora beat you out this year by just a few comments. I greatly enjoy what you add to the discussion.

A blog can be so many things to those who write it, and to those who read it. I still enjoy writing about my life in retirement. So, Happy New Year all! See you tomorrow.

With or without baby chicks.

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The Week Ahead

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Another busy week ahead. Not so much out of the area (or out of the house for that matter) but just enough to keep busy.

If you are looking for something meaningful and fun to do next weekend, consider coming out to the Conservancy for Come Get Dirty! Day
Here are some facts about it. 9 am until 1 pm on November 2nd.

— Conservancy patch for all scouts that participate
— Native plant seed giveaways
— Helps meet requirements of Soil and Water Conservation badge and Flowers and Gardens scout badges
— Come for some or all of the day
— Bring a picnic lunch and stay for the day

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I still have to complete my photographing and manipulating photos to create my husband’s QSL card. We are looking for really great fall foliage shots from the local area. Here is a sample card similar to what he wants me to design.

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I want to use the Dayton post office in his card. We have a few shots, but are looking for better light.

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I want to also get the trees in full color. We are close this week to having those conditions.

I also was considering running up to England Acres later this week to get a chicken for the crockpot. Their latest batch of fresh chickens will be ready after the 28th. They are usually open Friday through Sunday.

Add to that Halloween (we never get trick or treaters if I buy candy). I bought one bag, which guarantees no one will drive up our long dark driveway.

Plus, the last of the ripening yellow tomatoes need to be roasted and processed.

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I have ten of them sitting on the windowsill. The beets are done. The apples are done. I do have a boatload of broccoli, so I was considering breaking out the food saver and freezing some.

Who knows what our last week of the CSA will bring, on Thursday? I do hope we get a good sized cooking pumpkin as I want to make hummus.

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Sweatshirt Weather

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That’s what my husband calls it. The first frost of the season. Although it will warm up again, and today was lovely. It was cold overnight.

Today we headed out on errands, and a picture taking mission. I needed to get rid of some old pain meds at the county take back prescription drug program, at the site of our Saturday market. Unfortunately, TLV was out of eggs, but I knew if I was lucky I could get them at England Acres.

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My husband wanted farm scenery pictures to use for his postcard design that highlights living in farm country in Maryland. The “QSL” card is what is exchanged by radio amateurs to confirm contacts. He wants one that highlights farmland, so we have been taking pictures, like these.

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The fields that are part of the farm west of Mt. Airy. The farm where I love to get meat, dairy, eggs, and love to see the new animals.

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Like their guinea hens who were checking out their reflections in the hub caps of our truck. Interesting animals.

We came home to see our newly resident black squirrel checking out the bird bath. The heating element is in. Getting ready for winter.

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Finally, in the end of a busy day, I did manage to make a frittata using techniques learned from Marcella Hazan, to participate in a web based tribute, where bloggers and others cooked Marcella’s recipes and either tweeted or blogged about it.

Hashtag — #dinnerwithmarcella

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Spaghetti frittata with parm and pepper.

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Stretch Goals

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Making the most of our lives. Finding something new and exciting that continues to inspire us.

There has been quite a bit of discussion within the Howard County blogger community that reflects this. Posts about Comfort Zones by Julia. About volunteering by Tom. About connecting with neighbors by Bill. About community by Lisa.

It was Bill who proposed the #summerofneighbors and I wrote a post about being neighborly. It sparked some of this discussion.

For me, I found that pushing the comfort zone after I retired meant learning to use and understand the connective tissue known as social media. It also meant pushing my hobby to a higher level, by entering the county fair. Not being afraid to fail with my tomato entries. Learning and growing and every year doing better. Meeting and talking with the people who make this county fair so special.

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It meant taking responsibility for some large events at my volunteer location. Like bringing together farmers for a panel and an opportunity to connect.

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It also meant changing how we cooked, ate, shopped and traveled. Locavore, locapour, foodie. All those interests merging into a driving force that influences us.

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In other words, “Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night” (Dylan Thomas)

For both me and my husband, retirement was the entry point for doing those things we never had time to do. Things like his pursuit of DXCC (an amateur radio program that credits you for contacting each separate entity around the world).

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And, his desire to have the time to do home projects, and bird watch, and take trips, and just walk in the woods. The slow pace outside that commuter world. The time to read. Books, newspapers, magazines.

For me, it has been the hobbies and the volunteering. The cooking and the writing. The garden.

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We will probably spend four days at the fair this year. Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Talking to friends there. Watching the auction. Checking out the exhibits.

Tomorrow we will be learning more about county history at the fair. Later this month I will be volunteering to clean up the CAC garden. Next month leading family hikes at the Conservancy. In October taking the social media class offered by David Hobby.

After all, isn’t what makes life interesting is the constant challenge, the “stretch goals” that keep us active and involved? I have to admit. Howard County certainly has enough going on to keep us busy.

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Day Trippin’ Again

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Almost a ritual now. Hamfest followed by winery. Today in Clarke County.

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Berryville VA. One of our favorite “hamfests” to attend. Small town. Ruritan BBQ. Lots of radio tailgaters, selling everything and anything.

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We pair the visits. He gets to wander around the antique equipment aisles and I get to visit a winery later, for lunch.

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Today it was Doukenie, a new one for me.

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After all, you can’t beat the view. Doukenie is just east of Charles Town WV and south of Lovettsville, across the Potomac from Brunswick.

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We did a tasting, bought some sopressatta, smoked cheddar, a baguette and a couple of glasses of red wine, and watched the geese on the pond.

Took home a few bottles of their sauvignon blanc, which is nice, and some riesling and chardonnay. They have nice clean wines, and a beautiful site for picnics.

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Yes, it was 75 degrees, no humidity, perfect weather. Are you sure it is still summer?