By Barbara Toy
So far, 2006 doesn’t seem to be giving us any better skies for viewing than 2005 – at least as of mid-March, as I’m writing this. By the time this reaches you, the rains of February and March will undoubtedly have caused a population explosion among the weeds at our Anza site – so this is a good time to remind folks that it’s
Weed Clearance Time at Anza!
Two years ago we learned first-hand what happens when we get careless about controlling the weeds at our Anza site. The greatest damage we had from the fire that burned over a good chunk of our property was in areas where weeds hadn’t been cut back around various pads – fortunately, the fire didn’t reach the observatory level or Anza House, and, though it came close, it missed the club observatory and Star Cruiser. There were a number of sheds and storage containers that the firefighters had to work hard to protect (including, I’m sorry to say, the rather decrepit trailer that used to provide housing for people operating the club observatory). Their job would have been a lot easier if we’d kept the shrubs and other growth cut back from the structures, and if we’d cleared the grass and weeds from around all of the pads and buildings before the fire.
Although pad and observatory holders have always had the obligation to keep the areas around their pads and observatories clear, the Board clarified the policy after the fire and set May 31 of each year as the firm deadline for weed clearance around the pads and observatories to be completed. Our fire was in early June, so clearing the weeds and other growth by the end of May in some years could be cutting it close. The end of May tends to coincide with RTMC, which is held Memorial Day weekend – a lot of the Anza regulars spend that time out near Big Bear instead of Anza, which cuts into the time that might otherwise be available for weed-cutting, so it’s important to plan ahead and get the weeds and shrubs cut back before that final weekend in May. That’s particularly so this year, as the May Anza star party is the Saturday of RTMC weekend (May 27, to be precise).
Of course, the areas around the pads and observatories are only part of the story. We also have weeds growing in the roadways around the site, and around Anza House, the Football Field, the club observatory, and other general use areas, and we need volunteers to help cut them back. Many of the pad and observatory holders go out of their way each year to clear areas beyond what they are required to do, and we generally have had other people volunteer to help with the clearance, as well. If you are one of these generous licensees or other volunteers, we definitely thank you! There are always more weeds than volunteers to cut them back, though – so please plan to join the ranks of Anza weed-clearing volunteers, and help us protect the club’s most valuable asset!
Weed Clearing Equipment
The club actually owns two gas-powered weed-eaters, one that is hand-held and one that looks a bit like a power lawnmower, but, as of the time I’m writing this, neither is in operating condition. The hand-held weed-eater has two fuel lines that need to be replaced, and the other one needs some mechanical work (including cleaning, changing the spark plug and similar maintenance). If you can help us get these two pieces of equipment back into service, it would be deeply appreciated – please send me an email at email@example.com or call me at 714/606-1825 if you can help with either of these.
When they are operating, these weed-eaters are available to any club member to use at the Anza site. In addition, Bruce Waddington is generously allowing members to use his electric weed whacker, which is stored in the same structure as the club weed-eaters – the container across from the club observatory. If you use these or any other equipment available to club members, please be sure to leave it in at least as good a condition as you found it!
Anza Clean-Up Day on April 29
To help get the weeds taken care of before the deadline and to do some general spring cleaning, the second Anza star party in April will be an official Anza Clean-Up Day – if you’re one of the regulars who is planning to be out at Anza anyway, please come out early that day to help out. If you’re one of the members who come out to Anza mainly during the summer months – kick the observing season into gear by coming out and helping to get the site in good condition for your summer enjoyment (the temperatures make working out there in the spring a whole lot more enjoyable than in the summer!). If you don’t generally come out to Anza, this would be a great opportunity to get familiar with the site and get to know some of the regulars better – there’s nothing like working together in a good cause to help build friendships!
What should you bring to help with the work? A weed-whacker, if you have one (even if all of them are working, there are a lot more areas that need clearing than the three the club has access to could handle at one time), pruners, clippers, maybe a chainsaw for heavy growth, and maybe a shovel to help fill in holes in the walkways and roadways. Heavy work gloves can help save your hands from stickers, splinters, thorns and other unpleasantnesses of clean-up work. Large trash bags to hold material to be taken away. And, if anyone has access to a truck that could be used to take waste to local Transfer Station (we don’t actually have a dump out there) – that would be very helpful, indeed!
You can pitch in whenever you get out there, but the earlier you arrive the better. To have enough time to do a decent amount of clearing and cleanup and also have time to set up for your evening activites, it’s best to get there by around noon – if you get there in the morning, there’s the added advantage that it’s usually cooler, which is generally desirable even in the spring.
'Tis a Great Season to Donate…
As we get into Spring Cleaning season, many of you probably are finding that you have a lot of things taking up space in your home, garage, etc., that you no longer need and would really, in your heart of hearts, like to get rid of. Well, it just so happens that, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Larry McManus, we still have our eBay donation program going. You can give the club all those things that have built up over the years, such as sporting and exercise equipment, computers and related equipment, tools, pictures, any kind of collectible – in fact, anything that might possibly have some value to it, including astronomical equipment – and Larry will handle selling it for us on eBay. You get a tax deduction and the chance to clear out some unwanted items, and the club gets some money for such needed projects as the new moving roof for the club observatory and the perimeter fence for our Anza site. Since Larry set it up, this has truly proven to be a “win-win” program that has brought over $3000 to the club already. This is a good start toward paying for the new roof, but we’ve still got a long way to go, so please bring in whatever donations you can!
Larry is usually at the general meetings and you can give him items you want to donate at the meetings. You can also contact him directly and make arrangements to deliver them to him outside of the meetings or (especially for bigger items or if you have a lot to turn over to him) to have him arrange to pick them up. You can reach him at 714/731-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org; for questions about the program, please contact Wendy Adams at email@example.com and put “OCA eBay” in the subject line.
In a related area, if you have books – any books – that you want to get rid of, please turn them over to Karen Schnabel, our club librarian, to be sold to benefit the club library. If the books you donate happen to relate to astronomy in any way, she will definitely consider whether they should be added directly to the library, but any that are duplicates or that otherwise wouldn’t quite work with the current collection (we have limited space, so she can’t include everything she might like to include in the library) are particularly valuable additions to our sales inventory. People who have visited the club library over the last year or so may have noticed that Karen generally has a sales table running during the meetings, and some of the donated books are sold there (especially those that aren’t related to astronomy), but she is also putting together a good inventory of books that would be particularly attractive to the folks who attend RTMC for our annual sales effort there on Memorial Day weekend. The RTMC sale usually gives our library budget its biggest cash infusion, so she is definitely looking for promising items to sell there!
A Couple Things About Our Website…
Thanks to some innovations that Liam Kennedy incorporated into the website when he was our club Webmaster, it is very easy for members to upload pictures and articles to the website on their own, without the need to go through anyone else. Please keep our primary purpose in view when you’re adding something to the website, though – anything you upload to the site should have something to do with astronomy (our definition is broad enough to includes astrophysics, the space program and the full range of astronomical equipment) and/or the club. If you have any doubts about whether something would be appropriate to post, please run it by Hassi Norlen, our Web Editor.
Another feature of our website that a lot of people seem to overlook these days is the member publications portion – you can get to it by going to the drop-down menu for “E-zine” and clicking on “Published Members.” This gets you to a page that shows all of the members who have posted information about the various articles, pictures, etc., they have had published, including where and when. There was a flurry of activity in that area of the site after Liam got it working, but that died down over time and there aren’t very many recent postings. If you’ve had anything published that’s related to astronomy, please remember to post the information in this section so fellow club members and others will be able to learn about it.
To add information about your publications, you need to sign into the site as a member, then go to the “Published Members” page. Click where it says “Add your own publication details,” and you should get a pop-up window that asks you for the information for your entry. Fill in the requested information, then click the button at the bottom when you’re done to have it added to the website database. Please include information on articles you have published in the Sirius Astronomer as well as any other publications (which can include online publications as well as traditional printed media). You can put in past publications as well as current ones – in fact, we’d like you to post the information about everything you have ever had published that is related to astronomy. So, check through your archives for any past publications, and be sure to remember to post the information about any new publications you may have!
AstroImage 2006 Conference – Get Your Registration In Early!
It’s been a lot more complicated to get everything to the point that we could actually start taking registrations for our upcoming AstroImage 2006 conference than I ever expected when we started the planning process, but the registration page is finally in place, complete with the ability to pre-order your AstroImage 2006 polo shirts, tee shirts and/or hats (this way, you can order the sizes and colors you want, and your selection won’t be limited to what we have on hand at the time of the conference itself). By the time you see this, there should be a button on the homepage of our website that will allow you to go directly to the AstroImage 2006 webpage, or you can go through the dropdown menu under “About OCA” on the homepage (just click on “AstroImage Conference”), or you can go directly to the conference webpage at www.OCAstronomers.org / astroimage/ 2006 / . One link on the conference page goes to the registration page and another to the “Astro-Wear” page for the shirts and hats.
Dave Kodama and Jim Windlinger deserve special thanks for their efforts to get this up and running before they took off to see the solar eclipse (Jim to Turkey, Dave to Libya). Jim has been making the arrangements for the shirts and hats, and Dave has been responsible for getting the webpages themselves working and linking them to the club’s website – and, without the hard work they put into this, we’d still be a long way from being able to get people registered.
So, please take advantage of what their work has produced, and get your early registration for the conference in along with your order for your shirts and hats – the conference logo will be embroidered on them (not just printed), and they will truly be good (and useful) additions to your wardrobe!
Well, as usual, we have a lot going on in the club – I’ve only mentioned a few things here, and you can find a lot more on the calendar on the club’s website and in such places as the website announcements. With the weather warming up, I look forward to seeing more of you out at the star parties and other club events!
© Barbara Toy, March 2006