Backyard Wildlife Certification in progress!

My wife, Holly, and I have been aware of the Backyard Wildlife Certification for some years now. Because we’ve always kept a quite hectic performing schedule, we’ve not been home much over the past few years. With COVID-19, we are finding ourselves with more time on our hands, and decided to start getting our yard ready for certification.

Administered by the National Wildlife Federation, your yard has to meet 5 criteria for certification….food, water, cover, places to raise young, and you have to practice sustainable practices—recycling, composting, etc.

We’ve always been avid bird and wildlife watchers/feeders, so we were off to a head start in the certification process.

Food We try to provide both human assisted (bird feeders) and natural food sources for the animals. Here are a couple of pictures of our back and front yard feeding stations, for human assisted food. In addition we have natural flowering plants and also clover, which provides natural feeding sources.

In addition, we have flowering plants that provide natural food.

Water We have container water gardens in both the front and back yard. These provide water sources for the birds and animals, and we’re finding them used much more for bathing than I anticipated!

Cover/Places to raise young We have a number of shrubs, mature trees, and more that provide natural cover and places to raise their young.

Sustainable practices We both recycle and compost. We have been using the natural compost as food for flower beds, etc.

Well, there you have it, a quick tour of our yard ready for certification. It’s really a pretty simple process, and if you look around your yard, you might well find that you’ve already got some elements in place. If you’re interested in getting your yard certified, you can follow this link to start the process.

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of what we’ve spotted in our yard!

POTA Activation, and Hiking, Mounds State Park 7/13/2020

Mounds State Park is Indiana’s smallest state park. Located in Anderson, Indiana, about 45 minutes North of Indy, it’s a lovely park with some great hiking opportunities.

On this day, we were visiting for two reasons—to hike trails 1 and 2 (which form a loop), and to activate the park for the ham radio Parks on the Air program.

It was an unseasonably pleasant day for mid July–temps in the low 80’s and low humidity, so back in the woods it was a quite pleasant day for hiking.

The trail starts near the Bronnenburg House, which has been maintained as is part of park property.

The trail then winds through a meadow before entering some pretty deep woods. We made a new friend as we were approaching the woods.

That’s a Black Rat Snake, and he was a beauty indeed! We was suspicious of us, but not unfriendly.

Off to the deep woods we went. It’s surprising how quickly these woods get thick, and this is pretty typical Indiana forest.

After 3/4 of a mile or so, and a pretty steep incline down to the river, the trail meanders beside the river for 1/2 mile or so. This is the White river, popular for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.

After meandering along the river, it intersects with trail 2, which leads up a quite steep incline, and back up near the Bronnenburg house.

After a brief visit to the nature center/restrooms, we found a shady place to set up for our POTA activation.

For gear, I was running a Yaesu FT100, running 25 watts, into a hamstick mounted on top of the car. It take 10 contacts to consider a park activated, and we made 10 in 5 minutes, one right after another. We were working on 50 meters, and worked stations in Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois. After the required 10 contacts, we made a few more and then decided to switch over to 20 meters. 20 meter conditions weren’t very good, so we didn’t snag any contacts over there. sadly.

All in all, though, a great day. We got to go hiking and play ham radio in spectacular weather.

Row to Hoe–an original song about my father

My father was an interesting character. Started his life by losing his mother when he was 9, went to work in the coal mines of East Tennessee as a young teenager, off to WWII at 18 (barely), back to the coal mines.

At some point, he’d had enough. Enough of 14-18 hour work days in the dirty mine, being paid in scrip that was only good at the company store, and he saw no way out.

He heard about this magical town in Indiana called Muncie, where union factory jobs were plentiful. Muncie had factories owned by Borg Warner, Chevrolet, Delco Battery, and several more. So he packed up, headed north and never looked back.

He spent the rest of his working life in the Borg Warner factory, and at times I wonder if he regretted leaving those beautiful hills of East Tennessee.

To make a long story short, it took me a LONG time to write this song. My father and I had a relationship that was more than a little rocky, and I’ve often heard that the hardest songs to write are about the ones closest to you, and that was certainly the case here.

My father’s life didn’t have a happy ending. He worked hard all his life, retired, found out he had terminal cancer a week after that, and was gone a few short weeks after.

This song was so difficult to write because I didn’t want it to have an unhappy ending. After having worked on it for months, I called on my good friend and fellow songwriter Grant McClintock, and he helped me finish it.

You know, we never really know which was our road might go, so I hope his ultimately led him to sitting on a peaceful hilltop in whatever the heavenly version of Tennessee is.

So, there you have it. And, if you’re interested, here’s the song.

What’s the future of the music business?

Some of you know that for the last 40+ years I’ve been a professional musician. I’ve played festivals, state fairs, Irish pubs, concert halls, theaters, and just about every type of venue you might imagine.

Covid-19 has just about ended that way of life for folks like me—non superstars, who play 150-200 dates a year, stay plenty busy but no one has heard of. A fellow musician, Deren Nay, has put some thoughts together and I think they’re worth a read.

In the words of Deren Ney about Live Nations plan for the future of Live Shows

This is what people don’t get about trying to force concerts to start before Covid-19 is contained:

Rushing in before there’s a market is going to end a lot of your favorite bands, and be maddening for the ones who survive.

I can’t speak to how other industries will function in this new reality, but when the music industry shifted all profits from the sale of albums away from artists and toward streaming companies (eliminating one of the biggest sources of revenue for a band in the process), the response was, “Now you have got to make your money with your live show.” All eggs were placed in that basket.

Now that basket has been violently kicked and is sailing headlong into a grease fire in a fireworks plant.

Making it work for most bands was already nearly impossible. The time, the energy, and trying to budget it was an incredible strain that put most mid-level bands on the edge of financial ruin. And there’s no alternative to it — the road was the only option, so we just had to make it work. And now to have shows, many venues will be having people forcibly social distsnced, meaning far fewer people holding tickets or buying alcohol (alcohol sales are largely how clubs make their money). The only possible outcome of that is less money.

So now that the pie is even smaller, who’s going to absorb the cost?

Hotels aren’t going to take that hit for us. Gas stations aren’t gonna take the hit for us. Liquor companies aren’t gonna take the hit for us. Ticket prices will increase, so the consumer will take some hit, which is equally unfair.

But as wealthier people realize they can buy a more exclusive concert experience (a la all those VIP sections full of people not dancing in the front of giant festivals), paying more for a show where there’s less people in attendance will become a feature, not a bug.

So who is left to balance the impossible budget for this return to music?

Artists. Because they’re the only ones in the equation who’d do it for free.

Like prostitutes who are also sexaholics, they know artists would do it whether they make money or not, and they exploit that. Live Nation, a company which does quite literally nothing except take a giant cut of the money for tickets to see other people’s art, like a Colonel Tom Parker with the entire music industry as a client, is going to force that into existence with an early opening.

And a cooped-up general public will be eager to see shows again and probably even think the sooner they buy tickets, the better it is for the artists. It’s not. Buy their merch, support their live streams.

Until there’s a therapeutic or vaccine for Covid-19 that can slow the spread without social distancing limiting the ticket sales, or until Live Nation decides to stop being greedy motherless fuckfaces, there won’t be enough tickets sold consistently enough to sustain it in a way that doesn’t kill artists.

Rather than storing up their massive take of the money for difficult times to create some sort of protective system for the art they leech off of, Live Nation is a pimp coming to our house when we’re sick and telling us to get back on the street to make more money for them.

Their greed — and a public being unwittingly complicit by calling early for concerts — will result in performers and clubs being forced to make this new economic situation work by making already unimaginable financial strain unimaginably worse.

Or, far more likely, force those artists to cease to exist.

What’s next? Bands branding their clothes like NASCAR racers?

I wish I was joking.

Covid’s existence won’t end the music industry, but rushing back into things too early will end a lot of bands. Trying to have shows too early is not only going to — and I think this is somewhat important — KILL A LOT OF HUMAN BEINGS, it is also going to force yet another drastic shakeup of the economic relationship between clubs, promoters, and artists which the artists have to figure out a way to pay for, with either their blood or treasure.

There are no easy answers in any of this. But I hope people stop thinking getting back to how things used to be is just a matter of will or resolve. Until we figure out some way to address the halving of live music crowds, and the correlating budgets of bands, rushing to start shows again is just another way to screw over artists, whether they realize it yet or not.

POTA Activation: Whitewater Canal State Historic Site

There are so many facets to Ham Radio, and that’s one reason I love this hobby so much. You can chase DX, storm spot, work digital modes, contest, the list goes on and on. Like me, you can have more than your fair share of ADD (which I am NOT making light of—it’s true, I do) and still find enough in the hobby to keep your interest for years and years.

Recently, I became aware of a program called Parks on the Air, and I’m hooked. It’s pretty simple, you can earn points and awards by both chasing parks (talking to folks operating from parks, from your home or car), or earn points by going to a park, setting up and activating within the boundaries of the park.

For those who know us, you already know that The Whitewater Canal is one of our favorite spots anywhere.

Located in Southeast Indiana, the Canal was the main route for transporting goods before the railroad came through. It’s now operated as a state historic site, and in season, you can ride the canal on a horse drawn canal boat, and explore the historic town of Metamora, which has kind of become a 2nd home for us.

The grist mill is still in operation (and is scheduled to reopen early July) and you can get fresh ground cornmeal there!

The Gordon House is the oldest house in Metamora, 1860, and is one of our favorites.


Here’s the horse barn, where the draft horses that pull the canal boat are kept.

We did our set up next to the canal, and my wife, Holly, KC9SPT took on logging duties. Equipment used for this activation was a Yaesu FT100, on battery power, and I ran 50 watts, into a hamstick antenna mounted on our Kia Soul.

In the span of our short operation, we worked (ham speak for communicated with) station in Ontario, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alabama, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, and others.

In order to get credit for an activation, you need to complete 10 contacts, and we blew through that in just a very few minutes. We had quite the pileup going for a while!

This was my first time doing a portable operation in quite a while, and I had SO much fun. Can’t wait to do it again!


If you want more information about Parks on the Air, you can visit https://parksontheair.com/ If you’d like to find out about the Whitewater Canal, you can visit https://www.indianamuseum.org/whitewater-canal-state-historic-site

Thanks for reading! This is my first blog post, so I certainly welcome any comments or suggestions.

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