Reality TV and Homesteading


Let’s talk about homesteading shows on TV and YouTube. Now, I rarely watch the latter, because I don’t have a lot of patience with boring or amateurish productions; reminds me of when I was a little girl just learning to jump rope and I kept telling the grown-ups to “wait,” while I continued my attempts. Family joke now, but wow, I imagine they were all rolling their eyes at the performance!

I do, however, catch a few homesteading shows, usually the Raneys from up in Alaska. I love a good rescue scenario, like Bar Rescue, and I’ll admit sometimes I do make fun of the subjects. A lot of stuff seems pretty obvious to me, like don’t build your house next to a drainage ditch in a low area.

And every one of them has to have someone who cries on cue. I mean, come on, homesteaders are supposed to be pretty tough. Even if you do cry a lot, pride would keep you from doing that on television, right?

Remember when Doomsday Preppers started airing? It made preppers look like a bunch of crazy people, running around in their ghillie suits and burying food and ammo all over the place. Yes, there are people like that—I have this cousin…well, enough said. But, yes, he did that. He also lived in his basement.

But the majority of us are just that—prepared. I hate to give out my address, but in this day and age anyone can find you, so that’s not really something I can prevent. We have four security systems, lines of sight, detailed plans, and supplies for six months or longer. We do a lot of DIY, even medical and dental.

Note: we do not bury things and we do not own ghillie suits. Although it might be fun to scare the neighbors…

So back to these homesteading shows. The best ones keep you entertained while they’re educating you. Many people like to have someone tell and show them how to do things; me, I prefer to read the directions, or at least make the attempt and then read those directions. Sometimes I’ll hit on a better way to do something. Mostly, I learn by doing and failing and then making improvements.

A lot of homesteaders have their own YouTube channels, where they record and post about building their homesteads, various projects, and so forth. We don’t do that, because when we’re working, we’re working. We don’t have the time (or inclination) to record everything we do, and I know for myself, at least, I’d be too self-conscious about the camera or my voice to focus on the job.

There are a lot of jobs on a homestead, whether you’re building or maintaining, and I can’t quite grasp how one can film the process and still do the job right. Plus, some things are just boring. I mean, if you don’t realize that livestock need to be fed twice a day, homesteading might not be for you.

On a typical day, since we’re in the maintenance phase, I’ll feed the animals, hang out some laundry, cook dinner, water the garden and greenhouse, fill up the wood box—who wants to watch me do that?

While we were in the building phase (okay, we still do projects, just not the imperative ones like food, water, shelter, etc.) I guess you could have seen us remodeling the house, laying tile, breaking sod in the garden area. Again, boring stuff.

Side note: Tile is what makes me cry.

Side note two: Bob Vila is a liar and I DID watch a tiling video. It WAS boring, and Bob Vila is full of it.

I have watched a few YouTubers on homesteading. There’s a guy who’s quite personable, speaks well, and gets on with it, so to speak, who introduced his cows. He knows what he’s doing, and seems competent, and I watched for about five minutes or so. Made me want to run out and buy a cow. But then, lots of things make me want to do that. (Honey, are you paying attention?)

I have two basic issues with amateur homesteading videos: the majority are folks just learning, and they make mistakes or just don’t know how to keep my attention. The other part is probably generational. I just don’t feel the need to record my every move, or, for instance, take pictures of my food before I eat it.

Homestead Rescue is very entertaining, and I just love Marty Raney. That man is fearless, along with being very charismatic. He’s a hard worker and he’ll get the job done.

At the same time, it’s reality TV and we all know that isn’t very real at all. Maybe this show is different; I like to think it is. I’d like it better if he visited more homesteaders to give advice and maybe some assistance with particular projects, but it wouldn’t have the drama and entertainment value.

Not everyone on this show is a complete basket case, but there are plenty of them even so. A single mom with two teens, one of whom wants the homesteading life, and one who doesn’t; a disabled couple with a married daughter and a couple of small children; a young couple from the city who’s completely new to living in the country.

It’s true, anyone can homestead. But “anyone” can’t homestead successfully. There. I said it.

Homesteading has been heavily romanticized in the last decade or so. The whole back-to-the-prairie imagery, living in the mountains completely alone, carving a home out of nothing with no help. Pardon me, but all that is bullshit.

When we bought our property in 2015, it had a house, a well, electricity, and a shop. And a lot of junk and layers upon layers of dead leaves all over the place. It took three of us four days to clean out all the junk in the house, and actually clean it, before we knew what we had to work with. It took two full days and eight people to clean up the yard, driveway, and shop. And ever since, we’re still doing maintenance on the house, the woods, and all the improvements.

Funny story, when we bought the place, my stepson was surprised we were using power tools. See—romanticized. He thought homesteading was using Gramps’ tools and a horse-drawn plow. Don’t get me wrong here, when SHTF, we’ll be able to do those things. But right now, and then, we don’t have to do that. Sure, it’d have been fun to try, but it would have taken at least ten times as long. At least.

But back to Homestead Rescue…

If you can’t do physical labor, you’ll need someone who can, whether you pay them, feed them and toss out a few beers, or have Marty Raney stop by. The first two are most likely, so you’re going to need some money. If you don’t have any money, you’re going to have to 1) have marketable skills and 2) find people who need those skills to trade for whatever you need, or for money.

Stop and think about this a minute. If you are disabled, and can’t work, it’s most likely—but not always—a physical thing. So, let’s say you get $1000 a month from the government. That’s not going to go very far until you’re established. It’s not enough to build a homestead. You’ll most likely need to pay a mortgage of some sort, and build a house or make repairs, and feed your family, and pay for gas and a generator or pay the electric company. You might need the internet and a phone.

The Raneys spend a fair amount of time helping people find and utilize a source of income, but this is not the kind of income that magically appears just because you know how to, say, build beehives. You have to advertise, you have to market, you have to work at this just like a regular job. Most people aren’t going to do this, because they don’t realize or they can’t or won’t. Sure, every dollar helps, but you have to manage your time too. Your homestead will be slow going until that source pays off—just like having a garden or greenhouse isn’t going to make vegetables magically appear. Planting and growing vegetables takes at least two months to maturity, often twice that.

Some people swear by foraging, and you often see pictures of a pickup bed full of walnuts or buckets of mushrooms. You can’t live off either one, and you can’t sell that amount once a year and have it pay for much of anything.

This is not the 1800s, no matter how much you want it to be.

Even simple things, like building a livestock shelter out of pallets, is going to cost you time and probably money. You have to locate the pallets, pick them up, maybe repair them, and attach them. Yes, it’s cheaper than building a traditional shelter out of lumber and metal, or paying someone to do it or purchasing one, but it still takes time and money and effort.

I watched a Homestead Rescue episode the other day where they build a greenhouse for someone. I can tell you straight up that that greenhouse is not going to produce in the winter without a heat source. And of course, the shows are a brief glimpse into a homestead, and so they don’t cover all the details. But I often wonder how some of these folks are faring months or a year later—and sometimes, yes, they do show a homestead after a period of time, but I’m willing to bet those are the ones who still have something to show.

Remember that show where Ty Whatshisname would “move that bus?” A lot of those folks lost their homes after the show because they couldn’t pay their taxes or utilities. Same goes for homesteading. If you can’t work, you have no money, you will likely fail—and those are just the basic reasons, there are many, many others. In spite of the Raneys.

Homesteading is hard work, all the time while you’re getting established. But it doesn’t stop after that either. It’s a lifestyle, not a TV show or a YouTube video that can be helpful, but still isn’t reality.

Cuties


With all the hullaballoo about this movie, 90% of it from people who are condemning it without having seen it and who are simply repeating what someone else said (who likely didn’t see it, either) I decided to watch it.

I’ll start with a summary:

The movie is 90 minutes long; 30 minutes in, I was bored, although it did pick up a bit. It takes place in a city in France, and it’s about a young girl, age 11, who has recently moved from Senegal with her family. She becomes fascinated with a group of girls at her school, also age 11, who call their dance group The Cuties. They don’t seem like very nice kids, probably kids I wouldn’t want mine to hang out with, but Amy, our main girl, becomes closest with Angelica. At one point, Angelica tells Amy that her parents are hardly ever around, pay little attention to her, and often refer to her as a failure. Amy is dealing with her father taking a second wife and her mother’s depression over it.

Note: four of the five main actresses are 14 years old; one of them is 12.

Amy swipes a phone from who I believe is her cousin, and uses it to watch dance videos and learn how to move—and she’s not watching other 11-year-olds, but older girls and adult women. Since she has the phone, the other girls urge her to follow a cute guy into the bathroom and take a picture. Amy clearly doesn’t want to, but she wants to be accepted. The movie shows nothing, and the picture only shows Amy’s finger mostly over the lens and the bathroom floor.

Amy becomes a part of The Cuties, and they’re preparing for a dance competition. There’s a group of older girls whose video they watch—at one point, one of those older girls raises her shirt for a very brief second. That is the only nudity shown in the entire movie, and if you weren’t paying close attention you’d have missed it. It’s only shown on a tiny phone screen while the girls are watching the video.

Amy has not only learned the dance that The Cuties do, but she teaches them some new things she’s learned from those videos. The very short dance scene does show some questionable moves for kids—you know, the ones that any kids can watch, and probably do, online.

At one point, the girls are in the park and a group of teenage boys approach and ask how old they are. Amy says “eleven” and the other girls say “fourteen.” The boys heard that “eleven” and take off. Another time, the girls walk into a laser tag place and are just messing around, pretending to shoot each other with finger guns—I dare say that are some who are pitching a fit over this. They get busted by two employees and threaten to call the girls’ parents and the police. Amy starts dancing provocatively; yes, one guy is kind of staring, but the other one grabs him, says, “What’s wrong with you?” and yells at the girls to stop immediately.

Having learned that guys like to see skimpily dressed girls, when her cousin confronts her about his phone, she takes off her hoodie—she’s wearing a crop top—and starts to undo her shorts. He immediately asks her what she’s doing and yells at her, then tries to get his phone back. She runs into the bathroom with it, takes a picture of herself with her pants down and posts it online. Nothing is shown.

Meanwhile, her friends are horrified at that picture and the comments, and the girls all ditch her, temporarily. A boy in her class smacks her on the butt and calls her a slut because of that picture, so she stabs him in the hand with a compass.

Her mother raises holy hell when she finds out about all this. She and Grandma perform some sort of ritual with water, at which point Amy starts shaking and shimmying. Then they called in an exorcist, who said there was no evil spirit.

On the day of the wedding, Amy comes to the competition. One of the girls hasn’t shown up—because Amy shoved her into a canal on the way; our girl does have a temper—so The Cuties relent and allow Amy to dance with them.

The dance competition starts with, well, dancing. As the girls’ number progresses, however, the judges begin to look concerned, the audience is flabbergasted—and not in a good way—and at least one mother covers her daughter’s eyes. Yes, it was highly sexualized and completely inappropriate.

Amy realizes, near the end, that this is not who she is, not what her family expects, and she begins to cry and runs from the stage. The movie ends with Amy jumping rope with all the kids who attended her father’s wedding, happy and much more childlike.

So. This movie is absolutely no worse than any of today’s music videos that anyone can access—say, for instance, during a Super Bowl halftime show. And there are many, many things online, on TV, and in the movies, that you wouldn’t want your kids to see or hear; many things you don’t want them doing or learning or listening to.

They shouldn’t, but I bet they do. Even if your children are perfect.

Back in my day, kids didn’t reach this particular maturity level until probably 14 or 15; a generation, or even a half-generation before that, maybe 16-17. We tend to think of kids as being, well, kids, until they are at least 15—heck, some people refer to anyone under the age of 18 as a “child” and not even as a “teenager.” Some folks still call their adult children, in their 20s, “kidults.” Which, sorry if you do, is stupid.

I think what gripes me most about all the complaints is that they seem to come from people who haven’t seen the movie and merely repeat what others have said—and some of those people haven’t seen the movie either.

And I see way too many Christians who do this and, not having first-hand knowledge, condemn something and convict those involved. I believe that falls under “false witness.”

Many folks seemed to be carrying on about how this movie starred children, “not even older teens,” as if that somehow made a difference. At one point in the movie, Amy’s grandmother says she’s “a woman now” and that at her age, she was engaged and married shortly thereafter.

Kids emulate their elders, whether those elders are a few years ahead of them or ten years older. Eleven-year-olds are certainly capable of entering adolescence and being curious about sexuality. Most, I daresay, don’t choose this type of dancing to satisfy their turbulent emotions, but many do, whether or not people want to admit it.

Yes, the dancing was horrendous for young girls to engage in; yes, there were some questionable camera angles during some of it. Maybe three minutes out of the entire hour and a half.

The basic premise was NOT “come hither, pedophiles,” as pedophiles can get their jollies pretty much anywhere. The story was about a young girl who was starting over and made friends with some questionable kids, totally rebelled against her family and her culture, and in the end realizes that she is, indeed, a child.

But it’s a movie. Not glorifying anything. Has no one bashing this movie ever seen Blue Lagoon or Pretty Baby?