Happy Easter

It’s a busy weekend…but not for radio unfortunately!!

Family comes first..followed closely by Easter egg hunts and chocolate eating!! :p

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By vk3fqso

Mt Gambier trip – VK5/SE-019

I haven’t updated my blog in a long time which is quite telling really, as it shows that I haven’t done much activating at all! However, I have still been chasing activators from parks and peaks and the biggest acheivement being in SOTA as I finally managed to get to the magical 10,000 chaser points, making me the 8th Super Shack Sloth in VK! I have also managed to get a few more certificates through both the SANPCA and WWFF/VKFF award schemes so I have some great new wallpaper for the shack wall. πŸ™‚

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Mid January saw the family and I taking a mini-holiday to Mt Gambier and staying with Greg (VK5ZGY) and his XYL Gabi at their home for 4 days. They are very proud of their town and chauffeured us around in their 4×4 taking us to both the touristy places and also the known-only-to-locals spots. They made the trip a thoroughly enjoyable experience and next time we come back it will be for a much longer time as our 4 days was pretty jam-packed jumping from here to there to make sure that we were able to fit in as much as possible in our short time with Greg and Gabi. I wasn’t able to fit in much radio, and to be honest, it was a little sad each time we went to a conservation park knowing that I wouldn’t have time to jump on air, but I will be back at some stage with the intention of activating each of the parks that we visited. I did, however, manage to get quite a few geocaches while we were in Mt Gambier. I even managed to score a discarded CD alongside the road walking back from a geocache…it was a One Hit Wonders compilation that had possibly fallen out of someone’s car window as they had swerved around the corner. Finders Keepers! πŸ™‚

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On the 15th of January, Greg’s radio club had a tour organised at Mt Burr to get a walk-through of the radio communications facilities that are located there and I casually made mention of it being a SOTA summit on the Thursday night when Col (VK5HCF) was over visiting for a BBQ dinner with us all. He hopped on his mobile and within 5 minutes had it all organised for me, with gates being left open prior to the tour so we could have access to the summit before everyone else arrived. Greg had said that Col was the one to get things done and he wasn’t joking! Thanks Col! πŸ™‚ I didn’t actually get a picture of my activation as I was running a little late in getting everything organised, but I set up on the right hand side of the road, close to the communications area with the squid pole held against the gate post with occy straps, and the arms of the antenna strung along the fence. I sat on a rock and had the radio/battery set up on another rock. It was a VERY quick activation and I was on air for about 15 minutes before the cars of all the club members started arriving for the tour. Bob and I dismantled the station and had everything packed up in time to get inside ready for the tour. It was also wonderful putting faces to some of the callsigns that appear regularly in my logs such as Tom (VK5EE) and also Tom (VK5NFT, formerly VK5FTRG) although I probably recognised them more when they spoke as you do get used to hearing people’s voices on air. The tour was very interesting for us, but the kids had had enough after about an hour and a half and so when the tour had unofficially ended about 9:15pm, they didn’t need much convincing to jump back in the car and head for home, so we were sorry that we couldn’t stay for more of a chat with everyone.

On the 16th of January, we were booked into a coastal food tour with Greg and Gabi and met at the Mt Gambier library to get on a bus for a trip to Port MacDonnell. It was very interesting with a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide on native foods available in the area and the bus was completely full so it was a popular choice obviously and we were lucky that Greg and Gabi had booked us in! Halfway through the tour, with the sounds of the ocean so close, Bob and the kids wandered away from the group and headed to play on the beach instead and tried their hand at some rock climbing and collecting seashells until the tour was over. The next morning, Greg and Gabi took me out for a half-hour of geocaching, picking up a few caches that were located within about 10kms of their home QTH whilst Bob loaded up the car ready for the trip home which was a great way to end the trip. I wouldn’t be surprised if Greg and Gabi take up geocaching themselves!

When we arrived home, a trip down to our newly established garden had us all so excited. Bob had installed a tap-timer before we left to ensure the plants were kept watered while were away and it was a happy sight to see our first produce ready to pick!! Since then we have had plenty of tomatoes and zucchinis and just today we had our first capsicums! Everything has been grown from seed, so it makes it that little bit more special to me when I pick our vegetables.

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Anyway, today is my middle daughter’s 10th birthday so I will leave you with a pic of her cake we made..which I am off to eat now! πŸ™‚

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By vk3fqso

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

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May this holiday season
leave you with precious memories:

A Christmas filled with love and light,
perfect gifts, delicious foods,
love and joy all around.
A New Year with continuing blessingsβ€”
friends, family, good work, great fun,
and delightful surprises.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

By vk3fqso

VKFF parks activation weekend – 28/11/2015

Saturday the 28/11/2015 I took part in the inaugural VKFF activation weekend. A tremendous amount of time and effort has been put into making the Australian WWFF program as big as it is by Paul, VK5PAS and it was terrific to see the amount of radio amateurs participating by heading out to set up portably in so many parks over the weekend.

The closest parks to me are Kooyoora State Park, VKFF-0759 and Kara Kara National Park, VKFF-0629. After my lack of contacts from Kara-Kara for the KRMNPA activation weekend, I was determined to try again as I only needed about 2 more contacts to qualify Kara-Kara with 44 contacts for the WWFF program.

The kids had already decided that they weren’t interested in coming along. My husband had to work later on that night, but said he was happy to stay home to babysit while I headed out for the day but I had to be home by 4pm at the latest. So, it was with some trepidation that I took off earlish Saturday morning on my own, being my very first solo activation ever! This may seem like a trivial thing to most seasoned activators, but for me it was a big deal. I am so used to having Bob along to set up everything for me, then I get the fun part of using the PTT button and scribbling down contacts, and then I watch him pack it all away and we head home. So, for me having to do it all my own, with no assistance was a big step for me! My navigational neuron is about the size of a pin-head and is notorious for disconnecting at the most in-opportune times, but I knew where I was heading so wasn’t particularly worried about the travelling or getting lost but the setting up part was slightly terrifying me, and I hoped that it would all go smoothly.

The plan was to do Kara-Kara first, then head to Kooyoora on the way home, doing both activations in one go. I drove to St Arnaud, then continued out along B220 to Stuart Mill, turning right at the Teddington Road sign, then following that road all the way into Kara-Kara NP. There is a great camping area near the reservoirs and there was only one couple with their caravan when I arrived. I drove to one of the picnic tables a little ways from them so as not to disturb them too much and set up in a shady little spot. I used the picnic bench as the support for the squid pole and strung the arms of the dipole out around some high branches conveniently placed nearby. I plugged everything in, connected the 7Ah battery and turned on the X1M, made myself a butterscotch latte and had a listen to the activity on 40m. Set-up complete! I hadn’t managed to break anything and everything looked like it should so I was very pleased with myself. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, but in saying that I had loads of space where I was, so putting up the inverted V dipole was a breeze. I brought along my tablet so I could have the parksnpeaks website at hand. I am yet to use the tablet with a logging program, as I find it easier and faster to scribble down info and then use the Fast Log Entry program when I get home but that could change.

I was using only 5W and most of the contacts I made were park-to-park which was terrific. Have now qualified this park for WWFF, although it took 3 separate trips!

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Contacts made were:

VK2HRX/P – VK2/CT-019
VK4FFAB/P – VKFF-0683
VK1DI/P – VKFF-0855
VK5PAS/P – VKFF-0916
VK5FANA/P – VKFF-0871
VK5NIG/P – VKFF-0933
VK5KLV/P – VKFF-0808
VK5FUZZ
VK5HSX/P – VKFF-0372
VK5GJ/P – VKFF-0826
VK3PF
VK1AT/P
VK4AAC/5 – VKFF-0904
VK2VW
VK5PL/P – VKFF-0941
VK2XXM
VK7CW
VK3ANL – VKFF-0979

I packed up around lunchtime, headed back into St Arnaud for petrol and lunch, then headed for Kooyoora State Park. I turned right onto the Wehla-Wedderburn Rd which then turns into Dunolly-Wedderburn Rd, and then left into Mount View Rd, pulling up just past the Kara-Kara NP signage. There is a cleared area, and a very convenient post marker to use as the squid pole support. This is the same area we used on a previous activation as it is the fastest way for us to get into the park from home. I forgot to pack the picnic rug, so after a quick rustle through the back of the car, I found some shopping bags, which saved me from sitting on the ground. The ants were out in force, but luckily they didn’t seem too interested in me. There was very little shade and things started to heat up after a while, so I pulled the pin and headed for home, getting back just before 4pm.

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Contacts made from VKFF-0759 were:

VK5PAS/P – VKFF-0934
VK1DI/P – VKFF-0841
VK3VTH/P – VKFF-0961
VK3TKK
VK3PF
VK3DAC
VK2IO/P – VKFF-0473
VK3HRA/P – VKFF-0968
VK2YW
VK3PMG/P – VKFF-0740
VK5EE/P – VKFF-0802
VK5AV
VK2NP/P – VKFF-0606
VK7CW

I am still 8 contacts short of the 44 needed for qualifying Kooyoora State Park for WWFF, so next time I go to activate this park, I will head to the Melville Caves picnic area to set up, as there is ample shade and tables to set up on. Plus there are a few geocaches that I am yet to find at Melville Caves.

Thanks to all the activators and chasers over the weekend, I had a great time! Let’s see how big next year’s event will be! πŸ™‚

By vk3fqso

St Arnaud Meet and Greet geocaching event – 18/10/2015

My neighbours Bob and Brian first introduced me to geocaching just after we moved here almost 3 years ago. I had never heard of it and didn’t get actively involved until about a year later when they invited me along on a geocaching day with them and from then on, I was hooked. πŸ™‚ For the last couple of years, there is an annual Meet and Greet held in St Arnaud, which is about 45kms from Wedderburn and I hitch a ride with Bob and Brian which is great as the family isn’t really into all-day geocaching. The day usually involves searching for the new caches put out specifically for the event; a meet-up for lunch with BBQ and competitions and raffles; out for more geocaching in the afternoon; a meet-up for dinner at a local restaurant with more raffles and then most people head out en masse to do the night cache. This year was no exception.

You don’t really have much to work with regarding cache placement in a bush environment…a cairn of rocks here, a tree stump there, a fallen down log hole here but you can make the cache containers interesting which is exactly what happened this year. They were very cleverly crafted with most made of metal and weighing a ton!Β  A lot of time and effort was put into them which makes it a pleasure to find! I have a feeling that quite a few of the St Arnaud Bush Meander series will be nominated for “Cache of the Year” when January rolls around.

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It’s always nice to catch up with everyone, some of which I usually only see twice a year at the St Arnaud and Wedderburn annual events, and I was especially surprised when Daff came up to me and said she had a gift for me. She knows of my butterfly obsession and had bought me a lovely pink metal butterfly pendant. She also put a chain on it for me to wear as a necklace. I intend on wearing it to geocaching events and to make it a trackable so people can log it. So many cachers had trackable hats, shirts, vehicles, jewellery etc. so I think that I will join in on the fun too. Daff had also gifted me a smaller butterfly brooch which is just so cute which will be put on my geocaching bag. I was really quite touched that she had thought of me and goes to show what a great bunch of folks geocachers are. πŸ™‚

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My pink butterfly necklace from Daff

It was a long, tiring, but fun day and I look forward to seeing what Simon, Flo and Wayne have for us next year!

By vk3fqso

Geocaching Day

Today I was given a “kitchen pass” and took the opportunity to go geocaching by myself for a few hours. There were a few newish caches that were relatively close to home in the Mount Gower scenic reserve. I planned on getting all 8 caches, and 1 earthcache in the reserve and had earmarked two other caches that were on the way to the reserve.

I took off a little about 10am and got to the first cache at about 10:30am. This one was a multi and required me to answer some questions with the answers coming from a plaque placed at the site commemorating the Yeungroon School which first opened in 1877. We, as a family, had originally tried to get this one some time ago, but didn’t manage it. Today was a different story, and I managed to imput the correct coords into my GPS and took off for a quick stroll down the road and found the cache. One down, 10 to go!

Yeungroon School plaque

Yeungroon School plaque

Back in the car, a few more kms up the road was the next cache. This particular cache is named “Ingenious fencing – a rock and a hard place” and is very appropriate! πŸ™‚ My GPS was jumping all over the place here, so I did a walk around and eventually found the sneaky little cache in the last place that I looked. Great, one more crossed off, things were going well!

Ingenious fencing

Ingenious fencing

I then started my way towards the Mount Gower reserve and was following my map well, until I got to a part of the road where I should have been able to turn left and continue onwards, but instead a farmer had decided to commandeer the road for himself and had a makeshift fence and closed gate running across the road! So this is where I ran into my first headache. My GPS was not working as it should and my phone navigation said was I was somewhere totally different to where I was! I fluked my way onto a road that I recognised and after a bit of extra driving out of my way, managed to make it to the reserve.

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Initially, I had planned to park the car at the entrance to the reserve and walk to all the caches but the road actually looked quite good so I continued to drive all the way to the top. I confess that my 4wd skills aren’t as honed as my husband’s and I did have a moment (or two) where I wondered if I should have walked as planned but with careful driving, I made it to the top and what a view! The summit has both a traditional cache, and an earthcache. An earthcache usually involves you having to answer questions relating to where you are, which can range from points of interest, to geology of the area etc. You then send your answers to the cache owner who will let you know if you are correct, and then you can log it as a found cache. In this particular instance, most of the questions relate to the weathered rock features here, the main one of which most people have referred to as looking like an eagle with its beak open. I tend to think it resembles a dragon instead especially with the rocks jutting out of what would be its neck. You can be the judge! πŸ™‚

Eagle?

Eagle?

Dragon?

Dragon?

The traditional cache was a relatively easy find not far from the main dragon rock. The grass around here is sort of long, and if I was a snake, I would like to hang around up here…lots of rocks to sun myself and even a water feature for me to drink from! So, I carefully took off on foot following the track to the next cache which was about 200m away. This cache had me walking in circles and still I got nowhere. Being a micro does make it a little more difficult to locate and in the end, I decided to give in and look for it on my way back.

The next cache was another 150m away, through more snakey-looking grass and my GPS went crazy again. No matter how many times I triangulated my position, it was pointing in the same direction which was scrambling up rocks dodging twisted tree bits as I went. After about 40 minutes of searching (yes, you read that right!) I had reached my limit. I was hot, completely frustrated, and had managed to bruise my hip pretty nicely on a large rock so I threw in the towel. Back to the car I stomped, completely annoyed! I didn’t even bother to look for the micro on the way back as planned. I will, of course, come back to find them another day..it’s just that today was not to be that day!

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Oh, and thanks to the losers that decided to take the road name signs from their posts on the proposed way back home…it made my navigating slightly more interesting and scenic!!

Next time, I will pack the portable gear and play radio instead!

By vk3fqso

New Family Member!

My blog has been neglected of late but I couldn’t help making a post about our newest family member: a 3 year old, Mini Foxy x Jack Russell named Jack!

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Jack

We had talked on and off about getting a family pet for a few months, weighing up all the pros and cons of doing so and with the children eagerly adding in their suggestions for ponies, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits etc. the decision was made and I started an online search for a dog. The family had agreed that we “needed” a Jack Russell but we wanted a long-wire or broken-coat breed, and it had to be around 3-7 years old. Simple enough! Yes, but every other person in Victoria wanted to adopt one as well it would seem, because as soon as we found a match, we would ring up and find it had already been taken..so what started off as an every other day search became a twice daily search, morning and night on various animal adoption websites so we would be sure to have a chance of finding a match as soon as they appeared online.

I confess that I became a little obsessed and then after yet another let down, my husband jokingly said “Why don’t you search Gumtree instead?”…so I did, and low and behold, there was a gorgeous little guy in Goulburn, NSW! He was everything we were looking for but was over 8 hours away!! We rang up and yes, he was still available after two other parties had not shown up to collect him. We ummed and aahed, but we had all fallen in love with the dog, so my husband jumped in his car and drove away to collect him and we haven’t regretted that decision since they arrived home the next day. Jack is such a charming little fellow…so playful and full of energy, yet happy and independent enough to have time on his own when he feels like it; is very obedient; sleeps all through the night; loves car rides and walks; comes to us when called by his new name (that took a little over a week for him to master)….and we love him! He has been with us for almost a month now and he is such a perfect fit for our family. πŸ™‚

Snuggle time

Snuggle time

Belly-rub time!

Belly-rub time!

By vk3fqso

My new Pathtag has finally arrived!

Well, it has been a long 3 months since I made the decision to get a new pathtag! But today they finally arrived! Just as well, as I have about 15 outstanding trades that have been patiently waiting for me to have the pathtags in hand for over a month. Mostly, they are going to the USA to trade with other geocaching ham operators but it will be interesting to see where they end up in the world.

Over the next few months, I will be arranging some changes to my first pathtag, namely getting rid of the glitter and adding a translucent darker blue instead, and will go ahead and get a refill made. The bonus of refills is that the base quantity you receive is 100 tags, whereas when you order yourΒ  first starter kit you only get 50 tags.

This was the blueprint of the pathtag sent for production:

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and this is the finished pathtag (about the size of a 10c coin):

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By vk3fqso

Antenna Winders

Don’t you just love when parcels arrive? Especially when they contain stuff for playing radio! I have been on a search for some winders to store my antenna wire when I go portable. I love the design of the SotaBeams winders, however the cost when postage was included didn’t make them so attractive especially when I usually pay extra for trackable mail when it comes from overseas. Yes, I am quite stingy, and love a bargain so I decided to do some internet searching for some winders.

My first stop is always Ebay, and even better Ebay international however Ebay turned out to be a fail. So next stop was Mr Google and whilst he did give me plenty of websites to search, I stumbled upon a site called Kitepower and low and behold, I found what I was looking for. In the picture they were plain black (with other colours available but you don’t get a choice), in small or large sizes, no bells and whistles and only $4.00 each. Postage wasΒ  $9.45 so I purchased 3 and for $4.00 extra, I also added in 2 small hand winders with 45m of lightweight string already rolled on each one. Plus, I couldn’t help but buy from a company when they have a great sense of humour which is so uncommon these days. Check out this listing on their site for a laugh: http://www.kitepower.com.au/cardboard-line-winder.html

So fast forward a couple of days and guess what? They are candy-coloured girly ones and even came with the elastic, which I thought I would have to add myself. I got the large ones which are 18cm wide, 7cm from top to bottom and are about 5mm thick and they weigh about 45g each so not too bad. I’m pretty happy with them and they will last for a while I think as they feel quite robust, but time will of course tell. So today I will be measuring, cutting, splitting and winding! πŸ™‚

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By vk3fqso

Kooyoora State Park – VKFF 759 – 23/05/15

On the 23/05/15 after chatting to Joe and Julie who were mobile on their way to St Leonard with the chance of activating the summit nearby, I bribed the kids with $5 each if they would let us go and activate very briefly, Kooyoora State Park which is VKFF-759 for the WWFF program. It is the nearest park to us, within 35 mins drive of home, and so with a quick scramble of equipment, we took off.

***Info from WIKI: Kooyoora State Park is a state park in Victoria, Australia located 220 kilometres (140 mi) northwest of Melbourne, and 12 km west of Inglewood. It is a 11,350-hectare (28,000-acre) reserve comprising box-ironbark forest and rocky granite outcrops, including the Melville Caves. Facilities include walking tracks, lookouts, a campground, and a picnic ground with a shelter and toilets.Kooyoora State Park was proclaimed in 1985. The original inhabitants of the area were the Jaara people who used the rock caves and shelters for protection from the weather. European settlers moved into the area in the 1840s and gold mining commenced in the late 1850s. The bushranger, Captain Melville is believed to have used the area as a hideout.The native grasslands provide a food source for kangaroos and wallabies. Key tree species include Blakely’s Red Gum, Yellow and Grey Box and Red Ironbark.***

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We drove to the park via the Wedderburn-Dunolly Rd and then turned left into Mt View Rd pulling up about 50m or so into a clearing with a convenient post to strap the squid pole to. The kids took off exploring and climbing and the “shack” was up and going by 4:00PM local time. I used the TS-120V and had the usual inverted V setup.

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I had no means with which to spot myself (Optus) and neither did Bob (Telstra) so I started calling on 7.105 and figured eventually someone would spot me. Contacts were pretty steady and there were plenty of new park chasers which was great, it shows that the parks programs are becoming more and more popular! I managed 2 park to park contacts thanks to Andrew (VK1NAM) and Adam (VK2YK) who let me know that Ian, VK1DI was in VKFF-853 and Paul, VK5PAS was in VKFF-782. Adam also put up a spot for me after I had made contact with Paul up on 7.141 but with the mozzies coming out to feast, and the temperature dropping along with the light fading, we packed up after I made a further 3 contacts bringing my total QSOs for the park to 22, exactly half the amount needed to qualify the park for WWFF, although easily qualifying for the VKFF so very pleased. I will need to make another trip to the park to get the rest of the contacts needed, and I will be making a bit of day out of the trip to get in some geocaching as well. πŸ™‚

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When we got home, I could hear the chasers working Julie (VK3FOWL) on her summit, but unfortunately the 40m band was going long and she was just too hard of a copy and if I can’t give someone at least a 33, I don’t bother making the contact. So we both missed working each other, but there is always another day! πŸ™‚

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By vk3fqso