I just binge-watched all 10 seasons of Homestead Rescue, a ‘reality show’ series on the Discovery+ channel, over the last month. If you haven’t watched it, a man of many talents, Marty Raney, and his two adult children travel to various homesteads around the United States and provide some support, guidance and major construction help to people trying to live ‘a homestead lifestyle’ which usually involves providing most, if not all, of their food, water, energy and security needs from the resources on their homestead property. I won’t drag you through the sad details, but usually these folks have tried their hardest to supply themselves with what they need to survive but have fallen short and need help to get into a better position. My dad didn’t make most of the errors that show up in the episodes of Homestead Rescue, and I never really appreciated how well he did.
My dad was a visionary who was a generation ahead of his time. He was NOT a back-to-the-land hippie, though he shared their interest in living off the land and organic food; he was part of The Greatest Generation and grew up in the city. Even though he was saddled with 11 kids to feed and clothe, he managed to spend some time and effort working on providing heat from wood grown on our property, put a whole lot of beef, chicken and pork in our freezers and grow a lot of organic produce. We built a new house from mostly used materials (bricks, doors, windows, flooring and wood from buildings that were being torn down in the 70’s) and we did that almost entirely without professional help. They had little to no mortgage when we moved into that house in 1974. Dad chose a spot to build the house on top of a large hill, which seems to have prevented so many problems that show up on Homestead Rescue, so we never had water drainage issues. He built a 6 bedroom, sturdy, well-insulated home that has withstood high winds and big storms for over 50 years now. We had big vegetable gardens that produced a lot of food, which we ate, froze or canned. We needed 2 big chest freezers for years to preserve the bounty. With no mentor or a Marty Raney to swoop in to help, we raised chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, goats, cows and a friendly but rather worthless dog. Pops just figured it out, somehow. He always wanted to get solar power, but could never afford it, and never learned about DIY solar thermal. Every episode of Homestead Rescue brought up some issue that Dad had avoided in advance, by good judgement. He bought land in an area with good rains, low predator presence, good roads and proximity to amenities like hospitals and jobs. He got a good deal on the land by buying a big farm with his in-laws, splitting the place into 3 parcels and building a house from used materials.
I highly recommend the Homestead Rescue series, but my dad was one homesteader who never needed them.