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Hi Nils and thanks for the response,
I have found cotton in radios. They used to wind cotton around the wires as insulation. Many times, mice found it too.
My antenna underground is just for development work. If my thoughts about the Q are correct, what surprises me is that the Q is high enough to be a problem. I usually use another antenna, also below ground, and the audio is just great with it. The only difference is that the problem antenna uses a 1/2 inch copper pipe and the working antenna uses #24 wire. Same coil and matching for both. Maybe the R of the thin wire lowers the Q?
Why underground? I only want to cover my modest 1/2 acre estate and the underground ants. do it nicely. I also don’t worry about lightning, corrosion, heat, cold, powering the transmitter remotely, etc.
As for amateur radio, I have never run QRP but I did a lot of CW operating and you are correct. CW can’t be beat for busting through noise. When I took the code test, the FCC had set up in a motel meeting room. Just as they started the code tape, a band began rehearsing behind the partition. Since I had learned CW by copying off the air, I was used to QRM so I and about 2 others passed. The rest complained but the examiners said they had to follow rules…no retest for thirty days.
I got my introduction to RF burns when I built my own transmatch. It worked great, but I never got around to putting it in a box. I touched the tuning cap while operating 280 WPEP on SSB. The louder I screamed into the microphone, the worse it got. RF burns take forever to heal don’t they. Haven’t had that problem with 100 mW. part 15.