Sunday, August 2, 2015

Preparing for the SteppIR Antenna Repair

NOTE:  I wrote first part of this post nearly TWO YEARS ago but did not publish it for some reason.  It's hard to believe that it's been that long that I have been "preparing" to take down and repair the SteppIR!

 ===== Previously unpublished info follows =====

Today (7 August 2013) was the day I began preparing to take down the SteppIR and repair/modify it.  I took a hike over the hill at 11:30 a.m.  The temperature was 79° and the humidity was 63% so it was not the most pleasant day for this work.  Still, we had not experienced any rain for a few days so things were dry.

Weed-eating to Clear the Work Area
After installing 18-feet of new trimmer line and filling the gas tank, I took my Stihl weed-eater and my electric leaf blower over the hill.  I also took a bottle of water, gloves, eye protection, etc.

The first thing I did was to trim around the tower and blow off the leaves and junk that had accumulated there.  I carefully pulled up the excess cables so I did not cut anything I did not want to cut.  Then it was just swinging the weed-eater back and forth.  Every so often the line would wrap around a bush and break and I had to shut off the weed-eater and fix the line.

End of Day No. 1
By the time I ran out of gas, I had run out of trimmer line on one hole and had about 1 foot left on the other.  I was more than glad to quit and climb back up the hill.

The picture at the upper left shows the work in progress.  You can see a stump that is tall enough to serve as a seat.  Basically the weeds were between 2 and 2-1/2 feet tall.  In the photo on the right, you can see how the tower area is now cleared.  The small bushes need to be taken out with some clippers and I may put the grandsons onto that project.

While I was there I noticed that a grapevine has grown up the upper guy line on to the North.  That guy will be dropped when the SteppIR comes down so that grapevine can be cleared then.  Next I need to measure the space I have cleared to see if it is enough to contain the SteppIR.  If not, I may have to take out some more bushes with a chainsaw to the NW of the tower.

Other items that need attention include pulling up the control line and RG-6 cable that run to the Beverage Hub so that they do not get damaged while the antenna work is being performed.  Also, the elevated radials for the 160-M Inverted-L need to be rolled up.  Installation of the top guy line to the NW needs to be completed.  The wires at the base of the tower need to be cleaned up so they do not get in the way.  Once that is done I can pull the 1/2-inch Heliax up to the top of the tower for measurement then cut it and install a connector on that end.  This will be the 6-M feedline and you can see it coiled up in the photo on the right.

Total time spent on the project today was just under 3 hours including the installation of trimmer line and cleanup of the tools and boots. Still, I'm pretty tired and need to rest before going over the hill again.

===== End of previously unpublished info =====

On a later date the grandsons DID go over the hill along with Evelyn and they removed the small bushes and finished the initial cleanup.  I think they also sprayed extensively with Roundup to prevent the undergrowth from returning.

Fast Forward to July 1, 2015, and the grandsons are back on the brush clearing project!  This time they are two years older and can run the weed eaters themselves.  They REALLY jumped into this job big-time and cleared the area around the tower in record time!

Owen Clearing the NE Guy Anchor
Grant Lopping Small Trees
On the left you can see a photo of Owen clearing things out toward the Northeast guy wire.  I did not clear the paths to the guy wires in 2013 and they had become quite overgrown.  On the right is a photo of Grant lopping off some trees that had been growing for quite some time.  We took a cooler with plenty of water and Gatorade because it was warm and humid that day.

I did not keep close track of the time but it seems like we only spent about two to two and a half hours and in that time the boys had completely cleared the area around the tower and cut a path to the Northeast and the South guy wires.  I had to go back up to the garage and bring back the chainsaw to complete the clearing of a path to the South guy wire.

We eventually ran one weedeater out of gas and the other one ran out of string and that was the point where we decided to call it quits for the day.  Back on the patio it was time to down another bottle of Gatorade and try to cool off before hitting the showers.  On the left you can see how Owen looked with weed litter all over him!  (Click on any photo to see a larger image.)

Owen Covered in Weed Litter
CLICK HERE to see a 48-second video of Owen weed eating around the Northeast guy anchor.  I shot this on my cell phone and it was difficult to see the screen but the video captured what the boys were both doing.

Bringing Home the BIG Heliax
A couple of weeks later the grandsons helped me retrieve a 190-foot length of Commscope-Andrew AVA7-50 (1-5/8" Heliax) from Ravenswood thanks to the generosity of Mike, N8WC.  We first picked up the 4-wheeler trailer from the grandsons house (they did all the hooking up!)  A little more than an hour later we were in Ravenswood and trying to run my minivan (miniature van as Grant calls it) up through Mike's field to the barn.  We made it but did pick up a load of grass in my front bumper!  Loading the nearly 200 pound roll of hardline was not difficult considering the great help I had!  The hardline is now sitting on my patio about to be pulled up the tower to serve as feedline for my new 6-M antenna.  In the first part of this Post you have read that I planned to use 1/2-inch Heliax as the feedline but thanks to N8WC, this 1-5/8-inch Heliax will drastically reduce the feedline loss.  Thanks, Mike!

 As the years progress for me, having these two grandsons to help with projects like this is FANTASTIC!  Thanks, guys!

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