A TV survivor offers his guide to living self-sufficiency

“Homestead Survival: An Insider’s Guide to Your Great Escape”

Written by Marty Raney TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House, 2022; 187 pages $20.

Followers of Discovery Channel’s reality TV show “Homestead Rescue” will know that Marty Raney, along with two of his sons, star in the show, which depicts them traveling the country to help solve problems faced by the “homeowners.” The series, which ran for nine seasons, has been transformed into a newer series, “Ranny Ranch,” which follows his family’s life near Hatcher Pass in Alaska.

Rani, who has also appeared on other TV shows, including National Geographic’s Ultimate Survival Alaska, and has worked as a recorder, mountain guide, and contractor, has compiled a guide for those who share his dream of leaving urban life behind to build what he calls “a simpler, better life than self-sufficiency.” .” As he states in his author’s note, “At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, a mass exodus from cities began. Tens of millions of people began fleeing crowded and restless cities in search of a less stressful and healthier life in the country.” His claim to flee “tens of millions” may be exaggerated, but it is certain that the romantic idea of ​​living in the country has long been a staple of American life. Whether it is a simpler, better, or less stressful life can be called into question.

The term “homeowners” in the context of the book refers to anyone who pursued down-to-earth lifestyles. “Out-of-the-network” and “survivors” are considered dwellers, as are those who want to breed or hunt and gather what they eat. The people Rani describes are often in family groups, isolated by choice rather than in a community.

The televised Rani has proven to be charismatic, and the same character is shown in his book. “Homestead Survival” is gossip and informal, and presents its author as eager to share his life experiences and a desire to help others understand how they too can find that “simpler” life. The practical advice he gives is embedded in his personal life stories and examples of others who, with his help, have solved their home problems.

Raney begins by describing his response to the 2018 Alaska earthquake and his acute awareness of how unprepared most Americans are for disasters of any kind. He expands on the parts of his life that gave him the skills to “travel anywhere to help anyone with anything”. All the while, he falls for specific tales: the time in fire-prone Idaho when he promoted defensible spaces and metal roofs, the time he spent in Tennessee when he set up a tent with underfloor heating, and the time he spent in Montana when he got three landowners together to build a pool to share scarce water. He claims to have helped more than 60 homes in 30 states.

The guide is organized into 15 chapters to facilitate reading and locating specific information. Chapters cover “the mindset of the dwelling”, “how to finance your dwelling”, “First, find your land”, drinking water, fire and flood hazard, building a house, tools, power, gardens, livestock, etc., and end with “When it goes bad” everything.” This last chapter chronicles the burning of his house, regarding frozen water pipes and a very hot stove fire which led to a chimney fire.

Much of the book’s content will be familiar to most Alaskans, who likely already know the joys of sitting on a piece of insulating board in an outhouse. They probably don’t need to be told that chain saws are essential tools in the home and that an excavator can be very useful for clearing land and building roads but that they should be driven with caution. Or that insulating a house is better than “cutting wood from dawn to dusk.” Homeschoolers who have never seen a chain saw or thought about what it takes to raise goats or whether, even in town, they might want to invest in a generator or solar panels, they can get a good start here.

Some examples of Rani’s ingenuity are less common and are at least fun to read about if not emulated. Rani is passionate about shipping containers, noting that homes made from them “are not only affordable…they are strong, durable and look good too.” He dedicates several pages to their virtues, advice on turning them into homes, and his example of turning one in Nevada into a tiny home as its residents rode a violent dust storm. Elsewhere, he’s involved in plans to build a “rocket stove sink,” an outdoor bathtub heated by wood fire that sends heat through a stove tube under the tub.

Apparently Rani sincerely believes that home life is perfect for everyone. It’s clear, though, that very few people actually want to do the hard work involved, no matter how much fun you might dream up. It is much more comfortable to watch, from a chair in a warm house, TV viewers pull logs and dig trenches. Even in Alaska, not all of us can fish, fish, and garden to meet all of our nutritional needs. In his hunting class, Rani encouraged his followers to adopt a “subsistence hunting lifestyle.” He argues that the more people do this, the more likely the land will be preserved, animal herds will be managed and culled responsibly, and hunting will be a “positive thing” supported and promoted by local communities. This is an argument that can be argued, even in Alaska.

When reading Rani’s manual, another qualification becomes clear. In many episodes of Rescue From Home, sellers offered free or heavily discounted items, most likely for publicity associated with the show. This was true of Tennessee and concrete for its foundation and flooring, among other projects. These benefits do not usually come to the average person trying to build a normal, self-sufficient life.

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