Living Off-grid

Table of Contents

Infrastructure is fascinating, atleast to me. Recently I have been reading up about the infrastructure required for research at The South Pole. A lot of the things which we take for granted while we carry out our daily lives are not readily available there. The average annual temperature is around -49°C which means that water in liquid form is not available. What they have to do instead is pump heated water to a structure which is called Rodwell which forms an underground lake of water, heated water is continuously pumped to this through insulated pipes to ensure that it does not freeze. The water is heated using the “waste heat” from the power plant which runs using a special type of fuel which is designed so that it is still combustible at these temperatures.

Internet access is also an issue, most people are unaware but the internet runs using a huge network of submarine fiber optic cables which keep us all connected.

As of now, Antartica is the only continent which remains unconnected via fiber optic cables due to various technical and economical challenges. Instead it is dependent on satellite radio links which have limited bandwidth and very high latency.

But surely that’s quite an extreme example of the infrastructure we take for granted right?

Off-grid life

Anything that’s off-grid has always fascinated me, I don’t know why that is but there’s a certain thrill about the idea. Maybe it’s because I have read too much Famous Five during my childhood, the series has 21 books and I think I have read all of them atleast thrice!

This fascination about off-grid things is the reason I want to get an HAM radio license. Communicating with people all around the world with your low powered radio all because there’s an atmospheric layer in the sky called Ionosphere which gets ionised by solar radiation which can cause HF radio waves to reflect back to Earth which in turn enables long range radio propagation is quite cool right??

Having an HAM Radio license gives you freedom, freedom to experiment. When I was a child, I stumbled upon this project called “fm_transmitter” which used a raspberry pi’s general clock output to produce frequency modulation which allowed one to transmit on licensed FM bands, it was very low power so it was fine to experiment with. I remember walking down the street with my father, carrying a handheld radio in my hands and testing how long my raspberry pi can transmit FM Radio.

But this thrill is somewhat minimised by the city environment.

Away from the civilisation in a lovely farmland? Now we are talking!

Picture taken at the farm we had

There’s one problem for us geeks though, internet access wouldn’t be the same as a city.

The picture you see is of the farm we owned. The nearest village has BBNL fiber and it wouldn’t have costed more than 10K INR to bring it to the farm, Another option is cellular data. The farm has decent reception and it can be even better with a directional antenna and a modem. As for electricity, farmlands don’t get 24x7 electricity here, there is a certain time slot when it’s available but you can always do a solar setup with some batteries.

But.. you might have noticed the usage of past tense there in the word “owned” We had to sell our farm.

I visited it the last time, riding on my father’s 22 year old Hero Honda Passion which holds even more memories than the farm we sold. 90% of the way there’s metaled road, but nobody complains about the part where there’s isn’t because as the unmetalled road starts there’s a beautiful lake on one side and greenery on the other. The good thing about this spot is that nobody knows about it apart from nearby villagers or it’d have been ruined by tourists.

The weather was cloudy and I was riding on the trusty bike steadily while there was a mild breeze around, it can’t get better than this :) image_2024-06-13T18-54-29Z.png Ridding a bike offroad is not easy, but still quite enjoyable.

I said goodbye to all the plants I had planted there, some were smaller than my fingers when I planted them and now are more than twice my height.

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Perhaps I’ll buy a new farm someday. And build a house there to experience this thrill everyday. I say this, but I am aware that the thrill will probably die when I get used to it.

Anyway thanks for reading the random things I write about.

~ Shrirang Kahale


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