Saturday, May 2, 2015

Worked a Special Event Station, Other News.

Friday ended a very long week for me. I was a substitute teacher by Day Tuesday - Friday, and a Publix Data Monkey at night Monday - Thursday.

Fortunately, it ended on a high note. I got to make a fire with my kids, and we toasted smores, it's the standard big fun event at our house, and it was big fun. Somewhere in there, I actually got to do a lil ham radio too.

It's true what they say, you're never too busy for what you want to do. I've wanted to make sure I work radio at least twice a week, and while last week, I only got to do it once, did it I did, and it was a good station at that!

On May 7th, 1915 it happened, by April 2017, "REMEMBER THE LUSITANIA!" enlistment posters were up in America. Without getting too political, it's the ship the Germans sunk that Churchill (as First Lord of the Admiralty) thought would hasten US involvement in "The Great War". It took the US some more time than that to get involved directly, but it is a matter of historical record that we had bullets to give the British on that ship.

To commemorate the sinking, GB100MFA is operating out of Liverpool, England, the home port of the Lusitania, and so far I've managed to work them once on 20m CW. OP was good, but my CW was rusty, like as in there was some corrosion on the contacts for the key I had to clean off, and I had a hard time understanding him beyond the normal RST exchange.

Maybe I'll try to work him again later! Supposed to be a "SSB" station out there too.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Back to Bromeliads, Making Sense of Knowing Your Place

Recently, I posted about three species of bromeliads:


all three Tillandsias covered by my blog are somewhere in this picture

They are all common in Florida, especially in the Lakeland area where I live. Bet you can find some in your neighborhood.
Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)
Ball Moss (Tillandsia recurvata)
Southern Needle Leaf (Tillandsia setacea)

Struck by their beauty, and in awe of how they lived, I listened for a deeper message. Sometimes, when you read God's word, you don't remember what you've read, until God shows you something He needs you to see, and then you will remember what you have heard or read.
These plants are not like other plants. They have a different place, and different food. Some plants live on the ground, roots deep in the soil. They have a job to do there. These plants live in trees, and their job is to be in that tree. When an air plant hits the ground, it soon begins to die. They have to stay above. People are like that, especially redeemed people.


Colossians Chapter 3 starts off like this:
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
We're called to set our minds on things above. We can't be down below. Just like air plants, we have to be in a different state of existence than the people who still live without Christ. To continue to exist as terrestrial plants means death for our Tillandsia, and so to, we have died in Christ and must live as something else.


Doing this isn't easy. It requires constantly pruning off that which wants to keep us down:


Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice,slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Notice that when we "put off" the old self, something new, by necessity, takes it place. Once we were rooted in the world, but when we take up the old, we must be anchored to something else. Let's remember that our anchor is to Jesus, and that we are 'being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator'.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Turtle Power!

The pureists will remind me we're talking tortoises here, and there are some important distinctions.

I do however, want to take time to remember ol' Cutshell, whom I haven't seen in a few years, but sometimes he(she) goes a few years without being seen. It would go from somewhere in our backyard to somewhere cross the street this time of year, had a cut on its carapace that looked like battle damage from a lawn mower. Cutshell was/is a survivor. Hope there are baby Cutshells running around.

Springtime Shell-ebration!It’s spring, which means gopher tortoises are out and about! After a winter of relative...
Posted by MyFWC on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ramble On!

Fly in week at Lakeland Linder Airport. Many folks coming in for that. I'll have to research the history of fly in week. There's going to be airshows, lots of personally own/flown aircraft, and my cousin is coming into town! She's a pilot and airframe maintenance mechanic to boot.

Lots of metal birds to look at, and not just the feathered ones for a change.

Speaking of birds, migration is at its peak in FL. Reports are filtering in from all over the state of moving warblers, tanagers, buntings, and other feathered beasts. I haven't seen a lot yet, but I went birding Saturday morning with the oldest at Circle B Bar, still working on that post. The peak was probably a week ago, but there's still a lot out there to see. Plus, breeding for the locals has begun!

Discovered a wide area repeater network in FL:
SARNet.
Seems interesting, I can hit the local repeater with my $30 Radio Shack clearance (from 10 years ago) UHF special radio using a rubber duck. If you live near an interstate in FL, chances are you are already in a coverage area for one of these linked repeaters. Find out a local one, and give out a call. I've been trying to call every now and again, but haven't heard any activity on them yet.

FL has at lease one other repeater network, the NI4CE network, and I think there's some linked repeaters in south Florida too. It's important for an old hat like me to remember that repeaters are where a lot of the most important activities occur for ham radio, and repeaters introduce most new hams to the hobby. Be kind, be courteous, and always follow good amateur radio practices when using repeaters.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Attack of the Bromeliads Part 3, Revenge of the Needle!

This beauty is what really got me thinking about bromeliads:

Tillandsia setacea: Southern Needleleaf
This is Tillandsia setacea: Southern Needleleaf, and it has some of the most striking flowers out of something related to Spanish Moss I've ever seen.



T. setacea, showing seeding flowers
And this isn't when it's even all that pretty!
When it's in full flower, the flower is purple, I'll keep an eye out, supposedly this is the time when they bloom. Unfortunately, they've never been reported north of Georgia, and according to the USF Plant Atlas of Vascular Plants, has only been "vouchered" in Florida in counties south of and including I-4. There have been collections made in a few counties around Tampa, north of I-4.

Crimsoned triad breaks
Sending seeds into the wind
Planting in the air


From the underside
Of the Live Oak branch it grows
Needing only air.

I haven't found any information about commercial uses of this plant, nor have I found any folk medicinal uses. Mostly, it is pretty to look at, and scrubs the humid air under live oaks. That's not a bad lot in life.

There are a lot more different types of Tillandsias and there's even more different genera. In all there are sixteen native to Florida species, and there's two hybrids that occur naturally. One of the biggest dangers that they face is from an imported insect, the Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, Metamasius callizona. First reported in FL in the mid 1990's, the weevil quickly discovered that Florida's bromeliads are tasty. Many of the plants they feast upon have become uncommon or endangered as a result of their depredation. Fortunately for T. usneoides, T. recurvata, and T. setacea the weevil does not for now, find them tasty. The link above that describes the weevil problem also details a program started in 2007 to control the weevil population using a parasitic fly.

I've written these three articles on these common plants because I learned something while looking at them. Next time I'll share some interesting realizations I had while seeking flowers along the branches of a live oak tree.


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Bromeliads are Upon Us! The Sequel.

Spanish Moss drapes and envelopes the trees. It's distinctly southern. However, many times, even in the same tree, there exists another bromeliad, Tillandsia recurvata known as Ball Moss, hiding among the limbs.

The plant is compact
Sending out tendrils and seeds
Sprouting from flower

Tillandsia recurvata

In the picture above, we see that Ball Moss is a compact plant, similar and color to Spanish Moss, and like Spanish Moss, is stringy. The plant itself, however, grows differently. Instead of resembling a chain from a barrel of monkeys, T. recurvata grows in a more "normal" plant like fashion. There is a central place where the plant attaches to a limb. You can also see how the seed stalk is long and curves out. This is a key indicator for know when you have Ball Moss and Spanish Moss growing together, if you are trying to judge from a distance. I gave a picture of a seedpod dispersing seeds from a T. usneoides in the last post. Notice in that picture, that the seedpod is very close to the plant.

Another note about the seedpod of this plant: The seeds often germinate right on the end of the stalk, so the plant looks like it's "walking" ie, sending out a tendril and cloning itself. Nope, it's sprouting from the seeds, straight out of the nest!


T. usneoides  and T. recurvata growing together
To the right, we see Spanish and Ball Moss growing together, and this is how I first discovered it, even though at the time, I didn't know what I was seeing. I made the error of thinking that the Ball Moss was a baby Spanish moss plant. Now I know better.

Top, bottom, left, right
Surrounded, the plant juts out
Sending seeds on stalk




There's a chance Ball Moss is good for something other than looking pretty too! A study in 2012 revealed that it could help in the fight against prostate cancer. Green Deane reports that it and Spanish Moss can be nibbled.

 On the left, I'm holding a Live oak leaf behind a seedpod so I could take a better picture of the wispy, feather like seeds.

And there's a seed head, fully visible. Now that I know what they look like, Tillandsia seeds are easy to find, I've found them on trees, my windshield, in bushes, and all sorts of places. One long range photography project I have is to track a seed as it grows.

The seed, over time
Becomes a whole new plant
Making seeds itself

Part three involves a new-to-me Tillandsia that has very showy flowers.

Friday, April 10, 2015

It's the Bromeliads! They're Everywhere! pt 1.

Hide your wife!
Hide your kids!
This post is about air plants!

I want to highlight three plant species, all members of the same genus, Tillandsia. You find them on live oaks and bald cypress especially, but they also reside on many other tree species. They don't (usually) hurt the trees (we'll talk about the worst case scenario), but instead they simply live on the bark of the trees they inhabit. These plants need a "perch" not dirt, and it just so happens that live oaks and cypress trees serve as the perfect perch because they excrete certain minerals the Tillandsias sp. need to survive.

All three species shown in this post are common species. You can find them all over Florida, and I found them all in the same live oak. We'll handle them in the order that I discovered them in my area. Each plant deserves its own post.

First up:
Tillandsia usneoides: Spanish Moss.


Tillandsia usneoides
This plant surprises most people by being a bromeliad. Pineapples (Ananas comosus) are bromeliads too! True story, Spanish Moss is a cousin of the Pineapple. It's also the most widespread Tillandsia in the USA. The latin name refers to the superficial appearance it has with a lichen genus, Usnea. to tell them apart, understand that Usnea lichens have a solid white inner core, if you try to pull a strand apart, the white core is visible. In Spanish Moss, the core is black. They are both stringy, but with Spanish Moss, I always think of monkeys in a barrel, the plant is a long chain. With Usnea, it's more like a tree trunk with branches sprouting out. There's always one main trunk. When you have both in the hand, the differences are very apparent. When you look at them across the street, they start to look similar. Lichens don't have flowers though, and bromeliads do. While the flower of T. usneoides is nothing particularly spectacular, it's one of those flowers that grows on you  and leaves you saying "so that's what that flower looks like!"
T. usneoides flower

T. usneoides flower



 A green glint on grey
Catching bright morning sunshine
Glowing small flower






Not big nor showy
They open along the chain
Hoping for pollen




T. usneoides seeds







Ripened flower's seeds
Cast forth on the wind seeking
A new place to grow






 Early in Florida's history, Spanish Moss found its way into the mattress of many pioneers. While people, for the most part, no longer use it as bedding, the Seminole bat (Lasiurus seminolus) among other bats uses it as a daytime roost. When I see Spanish Moss, I instinctively know I'm supposed to be there. It's a sign that the air is clean, free from pollution (especially the pollution that causes acid rain), and that the weather doesn't get too cold. The way it hangs on trees suggests a wise elder, and I've spent many moments pondering the wisdom the grey adorned wood has to offer.


 In doing research on the Tillandsias common to the neighborhood, I came across some useful links that I've posted at the bottom, I hope you enjoy learning about them as much as I did.
Also feel free to share a haiku about the Spanish Moss in your neck of the woods.



LINKS:
Florida's native bromeliads: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw205
How to know when you've got Usnea: http://www.eattheweeds.com/usnea-food-and-pharmacy-lichen/
A list of Tillandsias: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Tillandsia_species