my father showed up around 2pm. i showed him the spots where i tested out the antenna last night. we figured out i could use a tripod and a selfie stick to make an antenna tower in my living roof. i'd give it a try later in the evening. in the meantime, we took the 2m ground plane antenna along with the feed cable so we could test it back in belmont.
using a short 50cm UHF cable, i was able to test the ground plane antenna nearly directly attached to my baofeng radio. it was able to hear the chatter on the waltham hill repeater, something i couldn't do with the same ground plane back at home, but i was able to get reception using the stock antenna. in the end my father discovered that the problem had to do with the old feed cable. one end had a newly soldered UHF plug, the other end was the old original plug that had oxidized over the decades and was no longer fully conductive. the fix was just to abrade the connector with some sand paper. once we did that, the 2m ground plane attached to the feed line was able to pick up waltham hill repeater reception again.
there was a lot of chatter on the waltham hill repeater this late afternoon; normally it's silent until 5pm, when the supposed owner of the repeater (i'm assuming he's the owner since he's always on) comes on. we used the chatter to test our various antenna reception.
we discovered that our outdoor 2m ground plane antenna mounted 20 feet up in the air on a bamboo pole can pick up NOAA weather forecast from WX7PA6
(bascom lodge 125W at 162.525MHz), which broadcasts from mount greylock in adams, the highest mountain in massachusetts at just 3489 feet (but a distance of nearly 104 miles) (WNG575 300W at 162.525MHz), which broadcasts from pack monadnock in new hampshire (2290 feet at a distance of almost 50 miles away). to a lesser extent the 2m dipole could pick up this forecast as well, just with more static. and the baofeng with the stock antenna can also receive WX7PA6, but it's intermittent, and most often it comes in as a sudden burst of static. but using the 2m outdoor antenna the signal comes in nice and strong, even better than WX3PA4 broadcasting (KHB35 1000W at 162.475MHz) from great blue hill (just 12 miles away). the 2m also picked up faint signal from NWR stations in essex (WNG574 gloucester marine 300W at 162.425MHz) and egrement (southwestern massachusetts 300W at 162.450MHz) deerfield, NH (300W at 162.450MHz 53 miles away).
i contacted lucas from united solar, asking for a schedule update. when i talked to him last back in october, he said mid-november would probably be the time they'd come to do the solar installation. he wrote me back, said they were booked all this week, but that next week (thanksgiving week) looks like a good time. lucas told me he'd know definitely by the end of this week. the thing i'm afraid of is united solar suddenly going out of business, it's happened before to many bigger solar companies. but i'm happy to hear they're still around.
what was supposed to be a quiet afternoon and evening turned out to be quite the disaster when the kitchen sink stopped working. it was slow draining yesterday, then my father used some drain clogger on it overnight. instead of unclogging the drain, it made it worse, because it must've loosened the greasy deposits, which ended up blocking the drain completely. no amount of plunging would unclog the drain, and if anything, it brought up this dirty black grease water from the deep dark recesses of the kitchen plumbing. it didn't smell bad fortunately, but it did have a very strong distinctive odor, like a seaweed-covered beach. i scooped out the water from the sink then we drained what water remained in the cabinet plumbing by releasing the trap. then my father used a plumbing snake to try and dislodge the obstruction, but it couldn't go any further than the junction that connected the pipe to the main sewage drain. we then went down to the basement to remove the cast iron cleanout cap. this was something i was dreading because it meant a big leaking mess but i didn't have to worry about that because we couldn't release the cleanout cap no matter what we tried, even using a length of pipe around the pipe wrench handle to increase our torque, with both my father and i pulling down on it.
after dinner we close the trap underneath the sink and tried to melt the obstruction away with pots of boiling hot water. that ended up not working either, and left us with hot water in the pipe that we couldn't drain until it cooled. when my father went down to the basement to feel the pipe, the hot water wasn't even reaching the cleanout cap, meaning the obstruction was much farther up in the plumbing. we finally gave up, my father tasking me with the job of finding a plumber tomorrow morning. it's an easy fix if we can only remove the cleanout cap.
it was still raining by evening when got a ride back to cambridge. to think i was going to bike to belmont! i would've never made it back.
i set up the 2m ground plane antenna station in my living room by the window elevated on the tripod + selfie stick. neither my father nor i could hear each other, zero transmission and zero reception. i tried bending the radials downwards (it was perpendicular to the main antenna before) based on my father's direction but that didn't do anything. i then removed the antenna from the tripod and attached it to the baofeng using the short length of UHF cable. i couldn't transmit anything either, but i was able to receive loud static on 70cm (UHF) if i had the antenna pointed 45° out the window. i then went outside with the antenna and was finally able to hear my father at 70cm by standing on the sidewalk. reception was good if i pointed the antenna to the clear sky but also if i just held it straight up. i was also able to speak to him standing on my front porch with the antenna vertical. at 2m (VHF) i was able to hear intermittent voice with high static if i pointed the antenna 90° counterclockwise to where i was pointing it before, due west. so the good news is we know the antenna works and we can operate on simplex; bad news is reception is heavily dependent on location, and the best location so far seems to be in front of my house where i have the best view of the sky.