A visit with Mr. Verne Williams White Cloud’s Amateur Radio Operator Extraordinaire.
By Charles Chandler
Mr. Verne Williams grew up near the Diamond Lake Tavern and has been a resident of White Cloud for a while. Of some local notoriety, he is the only baby ever born on the Hospital steps at Gerber Memorial Hospital. In White Cloud as you travel east on Pine Hill and immediately alongside the Pere Marquette railroad track you will notice Mr. Vern William’s home. A most interesting place and probably a perfect metaphor for Mr. Williams. It is small, compact and tastefully decorated with wind chimes, whirligigs, solar panels, U of M signs, bird feeders, and bits and pieces of electronic hardware. If you are not sure what is going on at this location just glance upward and count the antennas. There are about 23 and most were designed and built by Mr. Williams from repurposed and salvaged materials. This structure is Mr. William’s home and his Amateur Radio Station. Mr. Williams or KC8FUV is the well-known “go-to technical guy in the Amateur (Ham) radio world.” Amateur or Ham is a term that is used to differentiate Amateur radio or not for profit radio from commercial or for-profit radio.
This front porch interview is about Verne and his views on the value of radio. For the technical folks, this is not going to be a TED talk. You can contact Verne and he will be happy to answer your technical questions about the science of Amateur Radio. I have had applied physics and understand radio at an academic level and spent some time in aircraft radio racks. However, I think that the phenomenon of speaking into a microphone and attaching that human voice to an energy wave and it is received and understood in Ludington, or London England by another Ham operator is pure and simple magic.
Verne “has always enjoyed communication and started his career and hobby at about eight years old with a tin can and a string set up. His parents soon bought him a walkie talkie set and “I was hooked on radio communication for probably the next 60 years.” He has worked in “public and business band communication servicing and installing communication systems. He did a tour in the Army as a Communication Specialist and then began service and repair work for the likes of the Muskegon County Fire Departments. “I have been the Emergency Services Coordinator for Amateur Radio for Newaygo. Head training coordinator for Emergency Service Amateur Radio Training for Newaygo, Muskegon, Osceola, Lake, and Mecosta counties.”
He has also been a member of the US Army MARS Program. It is the “Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) a United States Department of Defense-sponsored program, established as a separately managed and operated program by the United States Army, and the United States Air Force. The program is a civilian auxiliary consisting primarily of licensed amateur radio operators who are interested in assisting the military with communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to normal communications. MARS has a long history of providing worldwide auxiliary emergency communications during times of need.
“The range of Ham radio transmission is not known and no one knows how far these transmissions can travel. Some operators with the right kind of antenna systems can do a moon bounce. We can aim the antenna on a particular angel at the moon and then bounce a signal to a different place around the earth. It is like shining a flashlight at an angle on a mirror. The light will then reflect off at an angle to another spot in the room.”
Exposing the depth of my deficiency on the subject I asked Verne who and where was his audience?
“See those radios antennas on my vehicles and the house here? My audience is other Amateur radio operators wherever they may be and we discuss a variety of topics. Technical topics, hunting, autos, really most any appropriate topic. My favorite quote is from Walter Cronkite. He was a Ham operator and said ‘Amateur Radio Operators are all but Amateurs’. Radio is not only our hobby but becomes a big part of our lives. We do things to serve the public.”
According to Verne, the 9/11 disaster and other major disasters are the times with they provide assistance. During those tragic events, most communication links fail. They become overwhelmed, the 911 systems and most phone systems become overloaded and fail,. At this time those Armature Radio operators that have backup power, step up and provide limited communication services where other communication systems are failing.
This correspondent has experienced these failures on three different occasions. The first was during the Terrorist Attacks on the New York Trade Towers. I had been with friends on a mountaineering outing on Mt Saint Helens the day before the event. On September the 11th I was on an early morning American Airlines flight from Portland down to Dallas. After about 30 minutes we were diverted back to Portland. After we landed everything went quiet and I spent the next 5 days making my way back to Dallas. The other two times were during the Houston hurricanes. I tried for a couple of days to contact my kids to see if they had evacuated or were now on their rooftops. Very troubling times.
“We always welcome new people that want to get started in Ham radio. I am happy to answer questions about and mentor anyone wanting to get involved in Ham Radio. For who we are, “in the beginning, Ham radio operator were mostly men, not necessarily by design but by interest, I guess. But slowly and surely more and more women became HAM operators. Now we have a great number of women who are Ham Radio operators. Ham Radio is very democratic and is open to anybody that takes the time to study, pass the exam and get a license to go on the air. There are no color barriers. no gender barriers, no race barriers, no ethnicity barriers, no religious or even age barriers to becoming a Ham radio operator. There is family over in Howard City and the mother, father, and eight-year daughter are all Ham operators.
Verne mentioned that now you don’t need to know Morse Code to pass the exam. “The United States Federal Communications Commission phased out this requirement for all license classes on 23 February 2007.” It appears that you can get an entry-level Ham radio set for around $300.00. Verne suggested that you should build your antenna. He pointed to several rooftop examples that he had constructed from found items and old TV antennas.
Verne said that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He has soldiered through two rounds of treatment for esophagus, stomach and brain cancer. “Normally people with my type of cancer live three to seven months after treatment. I have stayed very upbeat about my situation and have not thrown in the towel and am still here. Each day I get up and try to find some way to contribute to Ham Radio. I build antennas, service radios, and microphones, design and build radio parts that you can’t get elsewhere. I have done this my whole life and will continue as long as I can.”
“Lately, I have been dedicating a lot of time writing a book to leave behind to the Ham radio community. My purpose is to compile and document my years of experience, and knowledge in hopes that is can be used by other Ham operators. Creating this book that will help dispel some myths about Ham Radio and give a lot of information that other beginners or operators can have for free. I don’t want to Copywrite the book because it is not about making money. My only request is that if someone gets a copy, they make another copy and then pass that one on to someone else. I just want to be a productive member of society.”
Well just shut the door. He didn’t state it specifically but it was obvious that Verne valued Amateur radio and felt strongly enough about its value that he is spending his precious time passing his technical and tribal knowledge along to other operators. Sitting on Verne’s front porch listening to his smooth radio voice and the occasional passing car bump over the railroad crossing was one of those rare moments that makes you pause and say thanks for the gift.
SideBar: “For additional information about becoming an Amateur Radio Operator click on this link https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-divisions/mobility-division/amateur-radio-service.
Many people start their involvement in amateur radio by finding a local club. Clubs often provide information about licensing, local operating practices, and technical advice. Newcomers also often study independently by purchasing books or other materials, sometimes with the help of a mentor, teacher, or friend. Amateur radio enthusiasts have significantly contributed to science, engineering, industry, and social services. Research by amateur operators has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives in times of emergency. Ham radio can also be used in the classroom to teach English, map skills, geography, math, science, and computer skills.”
The NCCA-Artsplace Fall Community Photography Contest is a free annual contest for all ages and all levels of skill. The 2019 contest 53 entries and award winners were selected by Jackie Danielson.
The first place award was given to Mark Andrews of Newaygo for his photograph “Chairs on a Dock”. Second place was awarded to Wyatt Wright of Newaygo for the entry “Autumn's Reflection” and Ashley Wittenberger of Newaygo was awarded third place for “Sun Bee”. Honorable Mention awards were given to Jonathon Soto of Newaygo for "Estrella", Tracy Hill of Cedar Springs for "Crossing", and Nan Pokerwinski of Newaygo for "Bounty".
All entries will be on display through October 26 in the corridor gallery at NCCA-Artsplace, 13 East Main Street in downtown Fremont.
By Terry Grabill
Fall is an interesting time to be a birder. To me, spring migration is so much easier to get excited about. The process of emerging from the blanket of winter in Michigan is a tremendous rush of fresh and new. Anxious to find what nature has brought north I’m happy to scour the marshes and woodlots in hopes of seeing old friends in their bright breeding plumage and singing all the way.
Fall migration is a real thing and brings the breeding birds and young south from their Canadian summer homes. Maybe it’s the lament of the passing summer that makes me less excited to get out in the field. Maybe it’s that these southern migrating warblers are just not the bright jewels dancing in the trees that they were a few short months ago on their journey north. Roger Tory Peterson, the father of modern birding, dedicated whole sections of his field guides to these “confusing fall warblers”. I’d like to think that I don’t value the spring versions more. Perhaps I’m just vain enough to feel better when I’m birding with friends in spring when I can identify most male warblers at a glance and while they’re singing. Fall warblers are often left as “some little warbler” in my notes. I don’t bird with people much in fall…it’s harder to show off!
Fall migration, if you can call it that, begins well before the celestial autumnal equinox. Shorebirds start moving south as early as late July. It boggles the mind that these tiny sandpipers and plovers should fly such a distance (often from Southern South America) only to reproduce, get their babies fledged, and turn around in mid-summer. August on the mudflats is a terrific place to see these incredible travelers. By the first of “fall” the shorebirds are well south. Around us, flocks of blackbirds make rivers of black over forests and fields. These are red-winged blackbirds, grackles, brown-headed cowbirds, and starlings. Their cloud-like flocks are often seen to flow in a phenomenon known as a murmuration.
Waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) also migrate south in fall. Their journey is much later than songbirds. Many only go as far south as is necessary to find open water to feed in. Several species of ducks from the far north winter on our Great Lakes. Winter is a great opportunity to see long-tailed ducks and scoters as well as an occasional eider. Canada geese and mute swans are common after the others have gone to warmer climes. Andrea and I are outside often on fall evenings and will sometimes catch a white cloud of migrating tundra swans barely visible against the dark gray night sky. They mark their passing with a constant whistling through their wings.
I’ve only recently paid attention to sounds in the sky at night in late summer and fall. I suppose I’ve never paid attention to it before because I find it an intimidating ID challenge. On quiet evenings in late September and into October, night-migrating songbirds are talking all the way! A few nights ago, while Ann and I were saying goodnight to nature on our porch, we heard a chorus of call notes and chips moving over us. Man, I wish I had any clue what species we were hearing! I just muttered, “Kenn (Kaufman), would be able to ID all those calls”. Kenn is a real-life birding legend that we’ve had the good fortune to bird with in the past.
Fall is a special time for birds. Along with Spring migration, it’s a time that reminds me that these little travelers are a group of animals that truly connects our world. They’re not bound by political or geographical boundaries. It’s humbling to watch these tiny creatures and imagine the things they’ve seen and the trials they’ve faced. I think I like fall birding more than I knew.
For BirdGoober.com, I’m Terry Grabill
Photo and story by Donna Iverson
It's the Great Pumpkin time of the year. Like he does every year, Linus will be out in a field somewhere awaiting its arrival. Hoping that 2019 will be the year that the Great Pumpkin appears on Halloween with presents for believing children. He's been waiting a long time. Since 1959 in fact, when the first Shultz cartoon appeared featuring the Great Pumpkin. Followed by a classic TV special in 1966 called "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown."
While he waits, smaller, lesser pumpkins are springing up all around us. ..in our gardens, in our stores, on our steps, and decorating our living spaces. We can't seem to get enough of the lesser pumpkins.
But this year, Michigan residents may find those local carvable pumpkins harder to find. Farmers and gardeners report our pumpkins are not turning orange but remaining greenish orange due to a wet summer. And prices may be higher.
Looking into the history of the pumpkin, it turns out to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables and is native to North America. Pumpkin seeds have been found as far back se 7000 BC in Mexico. Native Americans used it as a staple in their diet, as did the early colonists who cooked pumpkin stew, baked pumpkin bread and created pumpkin pie.
A member of the gourd family, along with cucumbers, cantaloupe, zucchini, and watermelon,
pumpkin is a good source of Vitamins A and B as well as potassium and iron. Planted in late May, it takes 120 days to fruit. And biologically, pumpkin is actually a fruit and not a vegetable.
It is grown on all seven continents, except Antarctica. And the way things are going, it may soon find a home there.
Several Midwestern states are the top pumpkin growers in the country, including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. ..all a zone warmer than Michigan.
As for size, the average pumpkin weighs about 7- 18 pounds. The record for the worlds' largest pumpkin is held by a Belgium man, with a Guinness World Record weight if 2,624 pounds. The US record is held by a New Hampshire man, with a pumpkin that weighed in last year at 2,528 pounds.
As for me, I will settle for a pumpkin latte, made at my favorite corner coffee shop.
Story and photos by Donna Iverson
Something about plants with purple flowers have always attracted me ...whether it's a wildflower, like purple trillium; a weed-like creeping bellflower or a spring-flowering bush, like lilac.
About this time in late summer, it's New England Aster that catches my eye as it has escaped to the wild and can be found in the most unlikely places. Of course, I love the cultivated variety of aster too, especially when it appears in my garden bed unexpectedly like the one pictured here. I imagine it's seeds blowing in the wind and steering their way to my community garden bed.
But my first love when it comes to asters, is the native New England Aster. This year, I found it flowering along the Lakeshore Bike Trail which follows an abandoned railroad track. New England aster signals that fall is near, along with goldenrod and the ubiquitous chrysanthemum.
Although it is a wild native plant, you can grow New England Aster in your garden. Like most native plants, it is drought resistant and can tolerate less than fertile soil. Plant it in full sun if possible. While you can start it from seed, it is probably best to buy small plants from your farmers market or plant nursery. Seeds can take up to three years to produce flowers. It would be at home in a wildflower garden, rock garden, border or even a formal garden as an accent plant.
Deer avoid it and it isn't toxic to horses or dogs, although it is poisonous to cats, so probably not the best plant to grow if you have felines.
As for pollinators, New England Aster is a winner in this category too. It attracts butterflies including the Monarch, bees and goldfinch who eat the seed. Often it is the last flowering plant of the growing season, providing much-needed nectar for pollinators and a burst of color before winter sets in.
Checking on its range, it turns out to be winter-hardy in lower Michigan and is found throughout New England, the Midwest and even the Southwest.
Foragers seek out New England Aster as it is leaves and flowers are edible, They can be added to salads or brewed into tea. And again, the Native Americans are ahead of us on this, harvesting New England Aster as a food crop hundreds of years ago.
Other cultivated plants in the aster family include marigolds, chrysanthemums, calendula, and zinnias. In fact, the aster family is the largest family of flowering plants in the northern latitudes.
In ancient times, it was considered an enchanted flower and it scent was believed to drive away evil serpents. Yes, serpents. Aster is also the talisman of love and symbol of patience. For those of you born in September, it is your birth flower.
Michigan POW Camps in World War II at Fremont Library
Live @ the Library, a series of events including author visits and writing workshops is welcoming Greg Sumner to the Fremont Area District Library to present an interactive slide show about his book Michigan POW Camps in World War II which will feature the camp in Fremont.
During World War II, six thousand German and Italian war prisoners came to Michigan. They picked fruit in Berrien County, harvested sugar beets in the Thumb, cut pulpwood in the Upper Peninsula and maintained parks in Detroit. While the work programs were not without their flaws, many of the prisoners established enduring friendships with their captors. Author and U-D Mercy history professor Gregory Sumner tells the story of these detainees and the ordinary Americans who embodied our highest ideals, even amid a global war. This free program will begin in the library’s Community Room on Tuesday, October 8th at 7:00
Story and photos by Donna Iverson
So what's new in gardening? Turns out, quite a few new trends are emerging.
For example: According to the National Gardening Association, gardening has reached an all-time high, according to their 2019 survey. Thirty-five percent of us have either home gardens or are members of community gardens ..that is 1 in 3 Americans.
Other facts and trends include:
1. There is a growing interest in potted succulents, like cacti and aloe, in cute pots. These succulents can be grown indoors or outdoors, are low maintenance needing little water and make attractive displays. You can find numerous vendors for these plants at any farmers market.
2. There is a rise in Millennials gardening compared to the Baby Boomers, with these younger gardeners being more interested in organic growing and sustainable practices. But the Baby Boomers are the biggest spenders averaging $500 a year on gardening plants, supplies and tools.
3. Urban farms now account for 15-20 percent of the world's food and urban farms a growing trend in all 50 states. This is really nothing new. During WWII, backyard gardeners produced 40 percent of this country's food in their Victory Gardens. There is also a growing interest in front-yard vegetable gardening, although I haven't seen evidence of it in this part of Michigan.
4. According to the Farmers Almanac, more of us are interested in Wild Gardening, letting a portion of our yard grow wild, to provide habitat for pollinators and native insects
5. There is also a growing interest in native plants, those plants that evolved in the local area. In Michigan, these include Black-eyed Susan, Columbine, Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Purple Coneflower, Primrose, Wild Rose (Rosa Rugosa), and Astilbe.
6. Technology is making gardening inroads including the use of smart watering irrigation systems, solar lightning, home weather stations, gardening apps of one kind or another, and robot lawn mowers and weed whackers.
7. People are gardening in even the smallest of spaces, like fire escapes (see photo ) and any nook and cranny they can find.
8. Interest in Moon-phase gardening, just won't quit. Moon-phase gardening is an ancient agriculture practice whereby you plant and harvest by moon phases. This also includes planting moon gardens with white or light-reflective plants or night-blooming plants like evening primrose.
9. The color most popular right now with gardeners is mint green. This explains the trend toward people buying more and more ferns as indoor house plants. And even the appearance of lots of mint in the garden, which can be used for cooking, drinks, as well as food for pollinators, repelling mosquitos, and reputed healing benefits.
10. The increasing popularity of farmers' markets, which are opening more and more days of the week in more and more towns and communities, and offering everything from locally grown fruits and vegetables to morel mushrooms (in season) and other foraged edibles.
Have some fun this fall and shoot away….with your camera! Newaygo County is prime country for that perfect fall photo. Take your best shots and enter the NCCA-Artsplace Fall Photography Contest. The contest is an annual community event that anyone can enter and showcases the fall beauty of our area. Entry deadline is Tuesday, October 1, by 5:30 p.m.
This free competition is for all ages and all levels of skill. All entries must have a fall or harvest theme. Participants may submit up to two entries. Each entry must be an 8”x10” unframed photograph.
All entries will be on display October 3 through October 26 in the corridor gallery at NCCA-Artsplace. First, second and third place ribbons will be awarded on Thursday, October 3 at 5:00 p.m. during Fremont’s Fall Harvest Festival.
Registration forms for the competition are available at NCCA-Artsplace, 13 East Main Street, downtown Fremont or call 231.924.4022. The guidelines and forms may also be printed from www.ncca-artsplace.org.
Story and photos by Donna Iverson
"Arugula persists in quiet superiority as the best tasting, most versatile and easiest to prepare salad green," writes Amanda Moll in the Atlantic magazine. I would have to agree with her.
I have been growing arugula for a number of years and enjoying it's tangy, peppery flavor in salads. And I always find myself nibbling on its tender leaves whenever tending the garden bed. Recently, I read it's good on pizza, and may try that very soon.
Although slightly bitter, it is high in nutrients like other wild salad greens including: endive, escarole, purslane, watercress, radicchio, mustard greens and Swiss chard. In fact, the more bitter a lettuce green, the more nutrients it has. These nutrients include something called phytonutrients,as well as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, and folate.
My first introduction to arugula was in a fancy restaurant, where it was served with a sweet dressing on a very expensive small plate. A few years ago, arugula seeds were not easy to find, but today they are sold in most seed catalogs and a few grocery stores.
A native of the Mediterranean, arugula is popular with Europeans, especially the Italians. And it is getting more and more popular in this country as gardeners find it easy to grow and enjoy it as a flavorful addition to salads or as a salad in its own right,
Like most lettuces, it prefers cooler temperatures, so plant it in the early spring and then again in early fall. The leaves can be harvested on a regular basis, although as they grow larger, they become too bitter for your tastes. Once the plant flowers, it is time to let it go to seed and let the pollinators enjoy it for the rest of the summer. Or pull it out, until the next planting season.
As for preparing it for eating, it is definitely easy ..just wash the leaves and add your favorite dressing. No "massaging" it like you have to do to kale to make it edible. And It doesn't get limp or soggy I see the heaviest dressing.
A member of the mustard family, your fall-planted arugula will survive a light frost. You will have edible leaves in about 6 weeks and the fall crop will be the most flavorful.
While arugula may be a "nontraditional green," you may find it a favorite both in your garden and on your plate.
By Donna Iverson
Photo by Mary Aten
If you're from Michigan, chances are you are familiar with dune grass planted along the Great Lake to stabilize the shifting sand dunes.
But what you may not be so familiar with is dune grass as a landscaping plant. Due to Michigan's sandy soil and increasingly warm temperatures, more and more ornamental grasses are finding their way into yards, around commercial buildings and in city parks. And some of it is our own dune grass, Ammophila breviligulata. This beach grass is native to North America and grows around the Great Lakes and on the Atlantic Coast.
Dune grass is a tall erect perennial with elongated flower spikes and long subsurface rhizomes, that can reach 20 feet deep into the sandy, shifting dune mounds. It also grows verticals rhizomes, thus stitching the dune in place.
In our area, dune grass is sold by the Muskegon Conservation District located in Twin Lake. It is sold in bundles of 100 plugs in the spring and fall, which are the best planting times, according to Chad Hipshier, assistant executive director of the organization. Right now is the time to order for fall planting. A bundle of 100 plugs cost $15 and pickup date is September 10. They are located at 4735 Holton Road and their telephone number is 231.828.5097.
While some people may consider dune grass as an accent plant, photographer Mary Aten on Muskegon is considering replacing her entire lawn with it. But you must have the right conditions to grow dune grass successfully, warns Hipshier. Dune grass needs lots of sunshine and sandy dry soil.
“And if you think you could just go dig some up on Lake Michigan to give it a try, that is illegal,” said Hipshier.
Also your neighbors might not appreciate it. A community gardener in Muskegon tried growing it in the terrace way between the road and the sidewalk. An unhappy neighbor called the city's building inspectors calling it a "weed" and she was forced to remove it.
While only a few Michiganders are growing dune grass as a landscape plant, increasing numbers of people are planting ornamental grasses, that look like beach grass. Ornamental grasses that remind you of dune grass are admired for their stark beauty and easy care. They are drought resistant needing little water and free of most pests and plant diseases. Maintenance is extremely low.
Ornamental grasses are being planted in parks, in the back of townhouses, around garbage bins, next to commercial establishments, and even around telephone poles. Trying to figure out what varieties of ornamental grasses these were, I contacted Barry's Nursery on Whitehall Road. I took some photos of these ornamental grasses and emailed them to Barry's asking for plant identification information. Dawn Barry replied the same day and said the most popular ornamental grass sold in the area is Cslamagrostis Karl Foerster. A dune-grass look alike, Karl Foerster is better suited to most people's soil unless you live near the beach, she said.
So if you want to give dune grass a place in your yard, now is planting time. Winter is a coming.
Note: Mary Aten's photographic prints of Lake Michigan dune grass are available for purchase on her website (atenphoto.com) and at the Muskegon Farmers Market.