Getting Tanked

Acquiring water is perennial challenge on Thornleigh Farm. We don’t bore into Lord Howe Island’s water table, as it is already under substantial pressure. Rain is to infrequent and inconsistent to sustain the gardens on its own.

Our solution? Capture rainwater, store it, and distribute it using drip-irrigation. That means tanks. Lots of them. We just installed a new 60,000l TankWorks tank, taking our total storage capacity somewhere north of a quarter of a million litres.

The new tank sits off the old butcher shop, plumbed to the shop roof. Existing tanks are plumbed off the garage and farmhouse, which means we now draw water off most of the major structures on the farm.

 

Lightning Strikes Twice

Earlier this year, lightning knocked out our fancy-pants network. The response? Replace fried parts, increase electrostatic-disharge (ESD) protection. Problem solved? Not quite.

Last week a massive lightning storm hit the island. One strike was so big that everyone on the island thought it had landed outside their house: Every room across the settlement was filled with light.

On the mainland, my phone rang: ‘Hugh, it’s Brenden. She’s dead mate.’

Conduit running through palm forest

Clearly, we needed a new approach. The damage was severe. Our network is shaped like a tree: A trunk runs from our servers, east across the farm, out to Lagoon Beach, then north towards the Far Rocks. Along the way, branches poke out and serve delicious internets to customers.

Both lightning storms had cut the tree at the base of the trunk, where the connection is provided by point-to-point wireless radios. Every branch above the cut dies.

We took the opportunity to upgrade some of our servers. More cooling capacity and more oomph

We decided to go for the nuclear option: Replacing the wireless link with underground optical fibre. Fibre is great: It’s ultra-high bandwidth, immune to ESD, uses almost no power, and doesn’t corrode.

The link between the farm and our boatshed on Lagoon Beach is already fibre. This new link would mean that almost the entire network trunk would be underground fibre.

Dammit Brenden, that’s not where that goes!

Problem: Fibre is expensive and delicate. And unlike between house and boatshed, there was no underground conduit sitting idle ready to be filled with photons.

So we got to digging. And wrangling conduit. And crying a little when the cable tangled. In the end, we did it: The fibre is online and the old wireless link has been relegated to backup duties.

All that work for the tiny fibre in the lower right. Contrast with the (already thin) copper cables at left

Just in time for the summer peak season, our network has received a massive upgrade.