Living Off The Grid as a CTO
Let me first introduce myself. I am Jim Olsen, and have recently been living off the grid full time, working as the chief technology officer for a high tech startup, ModelOp. We develop software for managing your AI models and business, and are on the forefront of the recently identified ModelOp space.
Many of us work remote from home, given our talent pool that is from all over the country. We hire the best of the best!
Despite working from home, I always needed to be near a major airport, as I traveled often to meet with customers and to attend events. This meant I could not be full time at my cabin, as it is quite a ways from a sizeable airport.
Then in March, the world changed. Travel was no longer a thing, grocery stores were out of food, and my county went into a full lockdown restricting travel to only essential needs. My wife and I talked, and it was time to move to the cabin where there was more fresh air, 14 acres of space, and a simpler way of living.
This blog is to talk about the challenges you will encounter working from truly remote, and how I have overcome them. We will talk through equipment I have used (both high tech computing, and low tech tools to make living easier), projects I have built, and how you can do it all while working under the demands of being a CTO.
In this first post I will introduce you to our background story before we dive into detailed posts about how you can live off the grid and work in the high tech space.
Moving Up to the Cabin
The cabin is at 10,200 feet, and in March the road is closed for approximately six miles. In the summer it melts out, but at this time of the year there is over six feet of snow on the ground. Fortunately, we had just purchased tracks for our UTV the previous fall, and were ready to go and head up there. We loaded as much supplies as we could get in the truck, put the cats into their carriers, and loaded up the UTV on the trailer. We were ready to head on in.
When we left our house, there was a fresh coating of snow, that was of course, not in the forecast. We wanted to start early to give ourselves plenty of time to make the journey on the snow. So at 4am, we were brushing snow off of the truck, loading cats into the back seat, and getting ready to say goodbye to our home, at the time, for a few weeks or so…
Fortunately as we headed down the road and got away from the mountains, the sun came up, things warmed up, and the travel became smooth. We planned our only stops to be for gas, and to minimize contact where possible, as nobody new really how far it had spread. We were in a world we knew nothing about, and were being cautious. The truck was heavy between towing the UTV/trailer, and the fully loaded truck bed of supplies. Progress was slow, but steady.
Once we arrived at the trailhead, where the road was closed for the winter, we unloaded the UTV off, loaded the back up with as much as we could carry in one load, put the cats into the heated cab up front, and begin our trek up the mountain in fresh snow with no tracks.
Over the River and Through the Woods
The trail was covered with fresh snow, which provides the challenge of knowing exactly where the road lies. If you get off of the packed surface, you can end up in deep snow and can very easily get stuck. When hauling so much weight, you don’t want to be trying to winch yourself out of a snow drift. So the first trip up was with some white knuckles as we slowly progressed along the six miles.
We arrived at the cabin safely with the first load. When you have been gone for a couple of months, the entrance is buried in snow. So with my wife and cats tucked away in the warm cab, I dug out the entrance to the cabin, burst inside, and started the wood stove to begin the long thawing process. We both unloaded all of the cargo, and I turned around to go get another load, while my wife unpacked and prepared the cabin for our first night alone in the wilderness.
Well we arrived on a Friday, so the rest of the weekend was spent digging out, and settling in. The cats did not move from the woodstove for the first day or so, as it takes a long time to heat up the structure of the cabin and have it truly feel warm.
The roof had quite a few feet of snow on it, as you can see above, and that takes some real effort to remove safely. Fortunately, when the snow is that deep, you don’t even need a ladder as you just walk up onto the roof from the snow!
The deck had a similar amount of snow on it as well, which all had to be removed by hand. So my back was kind of sore after the first day of activity. We were now set to spend the few weeks we figured we would be staying in comfort.
The next day was spent pumping up water from the river to our storage tank, so that we would have water in the cabin. We have a gravity feed system in the summer, but at this time of year it is frozen up, so we use a gas powered water pump from the more major river below us to fill the storage tank. Plus we always keep a big pot of snow on the woodstove to provide us warm water. Things were again feeling comfortable. We were separated from the chaos of what was going on in the world, and our nearest neighbor was 12 miles away, given no other cabins up here were occupied. It was quiet, and there was somewhat a sense of relief and a guilty pleasure in it all.
Settling in for a Few Weeks
Well we were all set to stay for a month and just let things pass. We figured it would be a great time to concentrate on work, with no distractions, no trips out, and just the beauty and quiet of the woods. It seemed the best way to take advantage of a bad situation.
Sure enough, a few weeks past, things were worse, travel restrictions now prevented us from leaving, and we decided to stay a bit longer. We figured out some things we needed, started to make adjustments of how we do our day to day jobs, and really started to get it figured out how this would all work in the ‘new normal’.
There were heavy restrictions in the local towns, and we did not even leave for groceries for the first six weeks. Our only trips out were an occasional trip to the local post office to grab our mail from the po box, and to pick up some gas at the local trading post along with a few treats. We were now in this for the long haul, and figuring it all out together as a couple, and working in my role as a CTO.
So here we are now, and it is July 21st. Things have eased up quite a bit, but there are still many challenges out there. I have been operating as CTO up here meeting with clients, staff, and many others since the middle of March. All has gone pretty smoothly up here, but there were definitely hiccups along the way.
It is some of these hiccups and how I dealt with them, along with tips and tricks that I wish to share with you. I have had many people reach out to me asking about how it is all done, so I thought I would share with everyone my lessons learned. I hope you will enjoy sitting in with me on these stories.
Now that we have the background story, next time we are going to get a bit more technical and go into my first challenge. Working on a laptop when you are building enterprise software can be done, but it is challenging. So I sought out how to build a high memory, low powered, desktop type machine and built it up here. We will do a breakdown on what I chose, how we power it, and how it performed. The results were actually amazing!
In the mean time, feel free to get more background information by reading my About Me section of my website to see how all the basics work.