A few days ago as I was scrolling through our cable channel listing I happened upon a show I had never heard of, called Homestead Rescue.
Since I was feeling adventurous and had a bit of time to kill, I clicked on it.
I liked it immediately. We watched the full episode and part of another, and then I watched a couple more the next day, and the day after that.
It’s pretty unique. A family of born-and-raised homesteaders — father Marty Raney and his two adult children Matt and Misty — helps families in trouble who have tried to make homesteading work for them but failing in some key way that threatens their physical and emotional health related to crops or livestock, a reliable energy source, drinking water, predator or wildfire problems, etc.
Homesteading means living off the grid and eating only what you kill and grow. Every essential safety and survival skill is provided by you and your family.
That means that bears and wildfires are serious business, existential immediate threats rather than distant theoretical threats as seen by pampered city dwellers who depend on others for every survival need.
In the wild, you actually need firearms and chainsaws and knives to survive.
From the show’s website:
In the last decade, two million Americans have attempted to leave behind civilization in favor of life off-the-grid - but most have failed. For the hundreds of families who decide to become homesteaders, the learning curve is a steep one. On Homestead Rescue, struggling homesteaders across the country are turning expert homesteader Marty Raney - along with his daughter Misty Raney, a farmer, and son Matt Raney, a hunter and fisherman - to teach them the necessary skills to survive the wilderness. The stakes are high, but the Raney family is determined to prepare these families for nature's worst and set them up for success. Each family faces the ultimate decision: will they tough out their first year or pack up and return to civilization?
So the basic premise of the show, obviously, is teaching these people basic survival skills — hunting, farming, power generation, water for drinking and irrigation, keeping your family safe while surrounded by threats 24x7 — thus enabling them to survive and ultimately thrive.
But as I watched it something else became clear — growth as people and within families, and committment to the lifestyle are essential parts of the puzzle, too. Buried emotional family drama is frequently uncovered when — as in one episode in season 2 — a dad decides to move the family from an urban setting to a remote wilderness when kids are young, and those kids may harbor resentment over living someone else’s dream, but they also feel needed and don’t want to let dad down, so they are conflicted and therefore not fully committed to the lifestyle.
Then by learning new skills which permits them to feel more comfortable with the lifestyle, they can let go of the resentment. The more skills you acquire, the better prepared you are to help others, not just with practical life skills, but with emotional support too.
And the problem-solver inside me loves the different ways they hack together water-delivery systems, greenhouses that trap heat during the day and release it at night even in cold climates, and all kinds of other clever things.
I’m not sure if I’m cut out to live that lifestyle because I like my R&R too much, but it’s fascinating to get a glimpse of modern-day people living an 1880s lifestyle and not just making it work, but thriving.