Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Doomsday Preppers: David Nash

Our other Tennessee prepper this episode is David Nash, who is also concerned about the likelihood of a modern New Madrid earthquake.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentDavid explains how he and his wife Genny have “chosen careers that fulfill us but don’t necessarily leave us with much in the bank”, ergo he is DIY all the way! Which is great—less is more! I like it!
He starts off by showing Genny his homemade ‘saline converter’ to turn saltwater to bleach, which he could then add to contaminated water to make potable.
I’m not totally sold on the chemistry(NaCl+H2O -> NaOH + Cl ->bleach?), but if it checks out, that’s not a bad little system!
And because David thinks ahead, he DIY’s himself a stringtrimmer motor/wood-burning steam engine contraption to charge the battery he’ll use to run his bleach-maker. I’m not sure how all that comes together—I have little mechanical knowledge of anything more complex than a forge-bellows, but if he can indeed charge a battery by burning sticks and small wood, that’s a winner.

After that, David reveals his build project: a geodesic dome shelter to resist the shaking expected in an earthquake.
He cuts the aluminum pipe framework pieces in his shop, assembles them with his dad’s help in the woods, and then drapes it with a big heavy-duty piece of signage tarp. The dome gets draped in three kinds of wire mesh (probably could have gotten by without the chickenwire), and is coated by sprayed concrete and then given a camouflage paintjob. It looks solid, if a bit melty organic, but to make sure they give us another requisite DP tannerite explosion test, with dad inside! (the shelter appears to survive).

I had a friend in the UP who built a shack along similar lines some years back—except he used steel cattle panels and reclaimed plastic sheeting and old carpeting, all bermed with soil, to make a sort of ‘longhouse’. Apparently it was pretty much invisible once the woods grew up around it.

Oh, and for lighting inside his dome, David installs a two-liter ‘light bottle’—a really genius DIY lighting system—and some DIY gutters for water catchment.

Anyway, geodesic domes (yay, Buckminster Fuller!) are always awesome, and I love the use of the reclaimed billboard tarp. For a non-mobile DIY bugout shelter in the woods, the sprayed concrete shell is probably pretty hard to beat (I wonder if their concrete sprayer would be compatible with any of the alternative ’cretes—something with more solar mass for passive heating/cooling?)

After watching this episode and about the same time coming across this art exhibit, I got to thinking about the utility of combining modern materials like David’s tarp (which already exist in great numbers) with traditional indigenous building shapes and materials. I can pretty easily imagine a band of neotribal folks walking or riding (horses—no Ancient Sunlight Juice for these sustainables) across the post-Long Emergency landscape (or even the Right Now landscape, if you can imagine such a thing!), towing their travois loaded with a couple of these waterproof billboards (emblazoned with images of golden arches or sports mascots or other similar logos that must have once held great significance to the old ‘uns of the Fourth World, but are now no more than mysterious runes) and a bundle of tentpoles, all ready to set up camp at the next watering hole.
Just something to think about, it’s always fun to combine ‘new’ and ‘old’ and imagine different ways of doing thing. After all, there is no One Right Way to Live!

Advertisements

Doomsday Preppers: ‘Dr. Dave’

This not-terrible episode wraps up with a look at Dr. Dave Jensen of Colorado, who has supposed fears of an EMP.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
‘Dr. Dave’ (as the show insists on calling him) is a big proponent of holistic medicine, which really is only logical for a survival-minded person, because as he explains, our modern (read: unsustainable, Petrol Age) approach to dealing with sickness is “based on technology and prescription drugs”.
And so, the good doctor runs a clinic founded on ‘natural and alternative healthcare’ practices…or as it was known in the pre-petrol world, healthcare. Think acupuncture, herbal remedies, ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ and—because this is Colorado!—prescription cannabis.

Of those, the only one I have a problem with is the Chinese junk, mostly because of its obsession with body parts of critically-endangered animal species, but also because I think it’s a whole lotta placebo-effect bullshit. For example, if I was feeling crummy and someone reputable gave me an exotic-sounding tea made from fire-berries that are only found in the mountains of the Sun (or albino rhinoceros pancreas, or something), then I’d think it must be really special stuff!, and I’ll probably start to feel better.
Seriously, when one or two hundred species a day are going extinct, there’s really no good reason why this junk medicine should still be perpetuated—well, except for the one billion Chinamen claiming “it’s tradition!” Yeah, so is patriarchy; doesn’t make it worthwhile.

Because there’s not really too much else to discuss in this segment, here are some thoughts on medicine in a post-collapse/disaster world.
Let’s say hypothetically—even though I don’t believe in isolated scenarios, they make for good thought-experiments—some out-of-the-blue, Hollywood-style disaster (planetwide solar flare or something) goes down offscreen, knocking the civilized world down the ladder of technological progress a few rungs. With electronics now shiny doorstops, things are looking very similar to the early 19th century (instead of consuming Apple products, people are consuming actual apples again!)
Now, assuming that 1) pre-disaster, a sufficient number of people were well-versed in pre-modern medicine (I’m thinking plants with proven medicinal qualities—pennyroyal and willow, likesay, not Chinese powdered lily stamens or whatever), and 2) people remember how to pass on information without electronic intermediaries, what’s to say a happy balance couldn’t be struck between the advances of our current model and the healthcare approach of the recent past?
You know, when something is broken, it is acceptable to pick out and save the things that work and dispose of the rest. What’s worth saving in modern medicine? Antibiotics and sterile theory. What was good about medicine a few hundred years ago? How to heal folks with what Nature provides, without reliance on petroleum or complex technology.
Think of that wistful “I wish I knew then what I know now” sentiment, but applied to medicine.
Penicillin is easy to culture. At the minimum, how difficult is it to throw your medical instruments into boiling water? Ethanol is ridiculously easy to make. Honey is antibacterial…
Meh, as usual, I’m sick of the prevailing, Progress-based belief that if the Grid goes down, folks will immediately revert to trepanning each other with stone tools (which, of course, would require a functioning means of passing on information about both lithic industries and brain surgery!).
But, I digress.

This segment following Dr. Dave really felt more like the pre-Season Three iterations of DP, because there isn’t really a Big Dramatic Build-Project with him. He already has a greenhouse (thumbs-up!), a ’69 Airstream trailer (extra points for retro style!), and a pre-’78 truck and motorbike (no computers=EMP-proof, in theory).
We do see him add a solar panel to the top of his Airstream, to power his growlights and hydroponics setup.

And just for fun—because he’s all about pre-modern medicine—he takes the nuclear family foraging for leeches! Not to nitpick, Mr. Narrator, but is it foraging if the leeches aren’t going to be eaten? Whatever; semantics aside, you can’t go wrong with Mother Nature’s all-natural bloodsuckers. They’re certainly better than going all medieval and just sticking somebody with a sharp piece of iron to bleed them.
And old-time style points if you keep them in one of these jars:

The experts tell Dave he’s done a good job and his trailer project is commendable. Dave accepts graciously and says he’s happy with their assessment, because “it boils down to being sustainable”. Damn right, doc. Are you taking notes, would-be capital-p Preppers?

Doomsday Preppers: Dan Rojas

The other half of ‘Total Destruction!’ takes a look at Dan Rojas, of Tampa, Florida, which the show claims is the ‘lightning capital’ of the US&A. Yikes. So…just another reason to stay out of the Sunshine State?
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Since he lives in the lightning capital, Dan’s prepping fear is for a Mega-Lightning Storm, one that could knock out the grid for an inconveniently long time. Hey, I’ll say this—that’s much more reasonable than an EMP doing the same thing, and given the intensification we’re seeing in changing climatic patterns, probably more likely.
A bit later in the segment, Dan says he believes such a megastorm could “create a modern-day Dark Age.” Unfortunately for us, that term is firmly rooted in our culture’s Myth of Progress, and it’s pretty fallacious. Recognize that the term ‘Dark Age’ only arose during the Renaissance, essentially cooked up by the PR spin-doctors of the day to convince the people into believing they were living through an extraordinary time of cultural rebirth and innovation, totally worlds away from those dirty, backwards ‘Dark Ages’. I think Michael Crichton said it best:

“If a benighted medieval world has proven a durable misconception, it may be because it confirms a cherished contemporary belief—that our species always moves forward to ever better and more enlightened ways of life. This belief is utter fantasy, but it dies hard. It is especially difficult for modern people to conceive that our modern, scientific age might not be an improvement over the prescientific period.”

Anyway, to prepare for an eventual grid-down scenario, Dan is making some solid choices to give his family a major step up on most folks. Although it’s given barely more than a mention, it looks like their entire backyard has been converted to a massive aquaponics system. Additionally, Dan and Denise have incorporated exercise routines into their day-to-day work—which is something that seems to be sorely lacking in most Preppers’ plans.

Because it’s not enough to spend more time showing the audience helpful innovations, instead the producers inject a bit of DRAMA and have the family do a lightning storm ‘bug-in’ drill—this amounts to running around, locking animals in cages, and—quite literally—trying to herd a cat. Whatever, it’s all for ratings.

Thankfully, we get down to the meat of the segment fairly quickly, and get to watch Dan put together a totally awesome The-Sun-Provides-For-Everything ‘survival station’. They start out with a visit to the local pawn shop to track down a pre-flatscreen television, containing a precious giant fresnel lens. Back at home, Dan (genius backyard scientist that he is) bolts together a frame to hold the lens, adds sun-tracking capability (solar-powered, of course), and right off the bat, starts a fire in second.

From here, they pretty much just go nuts, using the abundant, free energy from our nearest star to make potable water (boiling pond water), cook chicken (using a parabolic mirror and cast-iron skillet, instead of the fresnel’s direct beam death-ray), and even melt zinc metal to cast a shiny, intimidating hunting knife. Basically, there’s nothing you can’t do with solar.
Just don’t call it ‘cool’. *rimshot*

I’ve poked around through Dan’s youtube channel, and he’s doing some pretty wild stuff; definitely worth checking out. It’s nice to see folks putting this how-to/diy kind of info out there, so that everyday people will see what’s possible in off-grid tech. I’m just waiting for the day when Dan’s niche isn’t considered ‘alternative tech’, but just ‘tech’.

Doomsday Preppers: Kevin Barber

Like I said, ‘We Are the Marauders’ thankfully only referred to the previous numbskull. The other half of the episode consists of an update from a previous family profiled at the end of Season Two. And even better, this is a family that’s doing great things!
That’s right, Kevin Barber is back!

and, might I say, rocking a sweet suntan!

Last time we saw them, the Barbers had just packed up their suburban Kansas lives into a shipping container and moved to Costa Rica, where they set up a chicken coop and proceeded to eat a dozen kinds of fruit right off the trees.

They’re still required to have a single-issue preparedness motivator, so Kevin’s is still US&A Economic Collapse, but unlike pretty much every other person who talks into the camera on this show, Kevin doesn’t sound scared, paranoid, or like he’s spoiling for a fight, post-collapse. Instead, there’s just calm, levelheaded, healthy confidence. I wonder why that is? Could it be—just maybe—that Kevin seems to have peace of mind because his family’s survival plan takes a form that actually addresses his feared disaster? He’s not focused on hoarding guns, bullets, and purchased foodbuckets, or buttoning up in a concrete bunker—the Type I strategy held up by most would-be preppers as the one-size-fits-all ‘solution’ to every collapse contingency; such thinking is painfully inside-the-Box and as such only serves to play into the hand of the capitalist/consumerist system that bred the collapse in the first place. I have to believe the aura of fear that most preppers fairly radiate can only result from the realization that deep down, they know these ‘solutions’ are only temporary stop-gap measures: kicking the can, if you will, another six months or so further down the road (hmm, much like the US&A’s current infuriating pattern of debt-ceiling limit raising).
On the other hand we have Kevin Barber – who, instead of stumbling forward blind and unthinking, has hit the brakes on his suburban American daydream life long enough to take a good look at it, see what needs fixing, and make concrete changes to his way of life.

Down on their tropical homestead, we see Kevin and his wife setting up rain barrels for water storage, showing off their chicken coop, and compost system. In an extension of their last appearance, they’re now butchering their own chicken by themselves, AND they say some nice words for it before they dispatch it! Awesome.

However, the majority of the segment follows the family as they set up an aquaponics system, which unfortunately is chopped into five-minute snippets and spliced with said previous ‘marauder’ asshat. Blerg, I swear, the decision this season to intercut between segments has resulted in a whittling down of actual material by about half…which means the other half is spent recapping what we’ve just seen five minutes before. Ultimately I’m afraid it’s a chicken-or-egg quandary—is this kind of programming a cause of shorter attention spans, or simply appealing to them?

While they’re working on getting set up, a caption suggests that aquaponics may date back to the Aztec use of floating gardens (the chinampa system), which is a pretty cool idea; I’d never thought of it like that before, but it’s totally valid!
When the time comes for Kevin to dig the pits to put his various fish ponds and algae tanks in, he doesn’t foolishly attempt to do it single-handedly (as you might expect of a deluded, gung-ho, lone-wolf prepper)—he gets the neighbors involved! AND he speaks Spanish while working with them! Imagine that! Building community by coming to together to build a system that can contribute to a local, resilient economy! In other words, Kevin has taken a gigantic step towards true survival, a notion that terrifies Amerikans—he has ‘gone native’. How’s that for progress?!

In the end, this family is too cool. Major thumbs-up. Their ducks look to be all in a row, and they have the groundwork laid for a great life off the grid…now if people in this country would only realize that they could do the same thing, without moving to Costa Rica.

Doomsday Preppers: Chad Hudspeth

Season three continues with episode two, ‘The Fight Ahead’.

As before, we cut between two families undertaking television-friendly stunts that really have little to do with true survival, much less addressing the root causes that necessitate the need (in their minds) for such measures.
First off is Chad Hudspeth, from Phoenix, Arizona.
© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment
Oh, where to begin?
Well, how about Arizona? What’s wrong with Arizona, you ask? Well, there’s nothing wrong with the area itself, just with Our culture’s approach to living there, which is—as usual—a one-size-fits-all solution: dig a concrete foundation (oriented to an arbitrary direction, because self-regulating, south-facing, passive-solar houses are for hippies), erect some stick-framing and drywall, call it a house, and then hook it up to The Grid. Unfortunately for the people living there, the truth is if it weren’t for that grid infrastructure, cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix simply Would. Not. Exist.:

“…the region has exceeded its natural carrying capacity so such an extreme degree that even mild to moderate disruptions in the energy supply will be disastrous. Transportation, air conditioning, and water distribution will become critically problematic in the years ahead. As oil- and gas-based agriculture fails, and it becomes necessary to grow more food locally, places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque,  and Los Angeles will painfully rediscover that they exist in deserts.”

Built to conform to our culture’s prevailing ostrich-like attitude (which denies the possibility that the grid could ever fail), such cities are completely reliant on Hoover Dam electricity for air conditioning (because it’s hot in the desert and our culture insists on building aboveground), petrol juice (for commuting to and from the sprawl), food, and water (from underwater aquifers which are being depleted faster than they are being replenished, because it’s the desert). What’s the answer? Probably first recognize the inherent weaknesses of the system as Kunstler and I have just broken it down (and then get out), but if you’re going to continue to stay in this environment, you might want to study the strategies—both successful and unsuccessful—of the indigenous locals.

With that out of the way, right off the bat, I pick up on a certain amount of, shall we say…off-ness in Chad’s obligatory talk-at-the-camera moments. He seems like someone who might know just enough to be dangerous, but he got his details from the wrong sources. For starters, he opens by explaining how “the Founding Fathers thought government was a terrible evil”.
Ohhh-kaayyy… I’m pretty sure that as Male, White, Western property-holders (aka the elites of their society – those with the most to gain from a formal, civilized, capital-g Government), they all thought top-down governing was pretty fine. True, there may have been some quibbles about the specifics of said governing (see Hamilton’s Federalism versus Jefferson’s more liberal model), and while the Framers did try to work in some more pure-Democratic, Anglo-Saxon and Iroquois influences (all that “by/of/for the People stuff”), the American system still came out pretty damn centralized. The pyramid might have three checked-and-balanced branches at the top, but it’s still a pyramid.

Chad seems to believe that the Powers That Be are “in control of policies coming down the pipe that are evil, something something not for the good of the people.” Is he a Tea Partier trying to make a veiled reference to the Affordable Care Act, or is this some conspiracy-theory stuff about how the guvvmint is controlling our minds with chemtrails and HAARP antennas in Alaska?
Either way, he believes that “As the man, it’s my responsibility and duty to protect my family.” Y’know, because women can’t be counted upon to protect themselves without a man around? A little later, his wife explains how her favorite survival tactic is Prayer, and she believes the scripture that says she’s supposed to defer and be submissive to her husband who knows best. Because hey, six thousand years of Patriarchy can’t be wrong! You know what a better, real survival tactic is? Re-empowering women. Seriously, FUCK THIS SHIT.

Oh, did I mention that Chad’s supposed fear is of a “nuclear strike by the US government, resulting in a genocidal siege”? … Again: ooookay. Hey, look on the bright side: at least it’s not economic collapse.

So, the positives:
Chad has a nice little aquaponics system in his backyard greenhouse. I think I saw some Swiss chard growing in it. He explains how “it’s far superior to traditional agriculture”: yeah, that’s because everything is far superior to traditional agriculture.
There’s about 30 seconds of his neighbor showing Chad how he can make biodiesel from the algae in his pond, but that’s all we get.
While the segment could have given the ignorant public a detailed breakdown of what the aqua system consists of and how it was put together, instead we get some tinfoil-hat fearmongering and a half-hour of digging holes with heavy equipment, because his plan is “to survive a genocidal siege by building a tunnel that will lead [his] family to safety”.

Like, I’m grateful that he’s not all Type I, gung-ho, ex-military, guns, gear, and-tacticrap (that’s the other half of this episode), but he could very easily go the other way and have a really solid footing to survive lots of disaster scenarios if he just focused his efforts on more sustainable food production—convert the whole backyard to aquaponics, or raised beds, or anything, really. Unfortunately, he’s really completely mainstream in his thinking, believing true survival can be attained through deft use of the all-powerful checkbook and credit card. As a caption informs us, “The first thing Chad did in his prepping was to take his funds out of the bank and invest in goods he thinks will flourish during martial law”. From the folks I’ve seen on this show, the most misguided ones are those who ‘turn Prepper’ overnight and take the same approach to being ‘prepared’ that we do to everything else in this culture—throw money at it! (Conversely, the best off are those who have already been living innovative, self-reliant, frugal lives, often as part of a community of like-minded folks.)
It’s as if Chad one day decided he was going to become a prepper, googled ‘prepping supplies’, and got roped into some fringe-y websites that told him he needed to bury a shipping container and build an escape tunnel through his backyard.

Unfortunately, Chad wraps up his segment saying: “I am an American. I have the American spirit. My advice to others would be to do the same things that I’ve done.” So, in other words, drop a lot of money on bullshit ‘solutions’ you mistakenly believe will somehow help you?

And then he says something about how “the men with the power have been swayed by demonic or satanic powers.” Wait, what??! Huh? Is he suggesting the Koch brothers are black-magick-wielding occultists? I have absolutely no idea what to make of that statement; like I said, the things he talks at the camera are just a bit off.

And as always, the experts tell him good job. And as always, final segment ‘The Odds’ functions as our dominant Mother Culture mouthpiece, once again reassuring us that we have “checks and balances to protect our personal freedoms and prevent any one group from taking power”, so go back to sleep.
Except for, y’know…corporations?

Doomsday Preppers: Rodney Dial

I had really hoped Doomsday Preppers had jumped the shark after their mini-season, but alas.
And so…they’re back. Can we really be surprised this show—loathsome parade of swagger and dick-measuring that it is—got picked up for a third season? When ratings (=profit$) are involved, of course not!
Because I really do have better things to do, until I see someone on this show doing really good things (y’know, demonstrating positive, life-affirming attitudes, progressive thinking, and real solutions—in other words, the polar opposite of what I think we’re in for this season), I’m gonna try and keep these commentaries short.
S03E01(‘Take Back the Country!’) opens with Rodney Dial of Ketchikan, Alaska.
© NatGeo/Sharp EntertainmentHe’s worried about “a major earthquake in the Alaska area”, which would likely result in a large tsunami. This is not entirely irrational, seeing how he’s right on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

As we’ve come to expect by this point, Rodney couches his fears using the same worn-out Survivalist mantra of ‘after three days without groceries, people go crazy!’. But don’t worry, because he also believes that “after a tsunami, only those who know how to live off the land would survive”.
Of course this sequence is intercut with a bunch of stock footage of rioting crowds in urban centers, which really clashes when juxtaposed against Ketchikan’s “quiet fishing village”. Seriously, with the right pre-disaster attitude, a small-ish town (Ketchikan is only about 8,000 people) stands a way better chance (compared to a major metropolis) of actually becoming a real community and coming together for mutual support in the event of a disaster!

Rodney apparently has “20 years of military experience”, so you know what that means—he’s all about black tactical crap, big talk, and showing off! Oh, and he runs a tattoo parlor.
Apparently, he’s dropped $100k on his wholly misguided ‘preps’—these include a 5,000-gallon grain-bin-as-rain-barrel (cool idea, but how watertight would that be?) and only six months’ worth of food storage (for a family of three), but don’t worry, he has a tank! (clearly used as mobile advertising for his tattoo shop):

© NatGeo/Sharp Entertainment

boys and their toys…*eyeroll*

Our narrator points out Rodney’s battlewagon is designed “to establish authority”—in other words, let folks know you’re the one holding power over their lives. This, of course, has been the policy of every Younger Culture military from Uruk up to Amerika: flaunt all the life-destroying goodies you’ve made, to keep the citizenry in line and make sure they know who’s in charge.
Rodney’s teenage daughter thinks dad’s tank is “kind of embarrassing”, and I have to agree—seriously, couldn’t he have just bought a red convertible like all the other mid-life crisis dads?

There’s a bit where Rodney goes scubadiving for sea cucumbers for the family to eat. “They’re everywhere here!” he says, which I’m pretty sure is exactly what they said about Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna, and the American bison. Thankfully, as soon as Rodney says that, a caption pops up, mirroring my thoughts—letting us know that overharvesting of sea cucumbers is strictly regulated. Of course, such in-system sanctions do nothing to combat the deeper, more insidious implications: this Man helps himself to these organisms because he has been taught by his culture that he is superior to them, and so he can continue to exploit them, giving nothing back, until they are gone. This is the pattern of our civilization.

About half of Rodney’s segment is wrapped up with his delusion of making underwater supply tube-caches to keep goodies out of the hands of his lawless neighbors. There’s some drama resulting from forcing a typical teenage girl to do something she doesn’t want to (she gets a piece of metal in her eye; she gets better), meh. They weld up these steel tubes and drop them out in the ocean (hope they don’t rust in the saltwater!), because if they can’t have supplies, nobody can! (or…something). Apparently, while they don’t want to rely on a boat (which could be lost in our hypothetical tsunami) to retrieve their caches, they do want to rely on terrestrial landmarks like trees? I got news for ya, dude—if your tsunami does go down, the landscape’s gonna look pretty different.
At least he has a cool improvised tank-free diving setup, using an innertube, compressor and battery.

Oh, and of course: to keep us watching, it looks like they’re cutting each show’s segments together, so unlike in previous seasons, we don’t just get a 15-minute block of JoeBob, then a block of BobbyJoe. This of course gives the producers more opportunities for dramatic cutaways. Ugh.

Aaannnd…it also looks like they’ve done away with season two’s ‘expert assessment’ scores? We still have an ‘assessment’ section, but it’s not quantitative: it’s mostly just the narrator telling our subjects ‘good job on buying enough stuff to make you feel ‘prepared’; now think about how you’re going to refill those foodbuckets’.

Doomsday Preppers: Mike and Grayson

The episode’s final ‘preppers’ (and we’re using that term lightly here) are Mike Umberger and Grayson Smith of Maryland.

I guess they were hoping to get some publicity for skateboarding?

Mike is apparently a former Navy MP and Grayson is a…former Zen-Buddhist monk? There’s a lot of focus on how the guys seem like ‘polar opposites’, but that’s really just the angle the producers are spinning for drama. Ignore it.
Really, just be glad we’re seeing Young People with Little Money on the show for once, instead of the usual Middle-Aged-Guys With More Money Than Sense.

The show tries to pass them off as ‘slackers’–although that really hasn’t been a valid label since about 1995.
Their supposed fear is of a Third World War, which they describe by getting creative and actually giving specifics!: they predict that “by 2017, the Chinese will have cemented their place as the world’s superpower, and will quickly blockade the US&A”—something to do with too much of our food being imported instead of grown at home? At least it’s a novel idea!

And if you’re worried about blockading Chinese cutting off your foodstuffs, the smart thing to do isn’t to drop a couple grand on one-time-only foodbuckets *coughWiseCompanycough*, but to set yourself up to grow as much of your food as possible. And that’s exactly what these guys are starting to do: one of their fathers owns 100 acres, and so they’ve moved out of the city (which is a good move in itself) and started to farm it in their own way.

Right off the bat, Grayson and Mikelet us know that they’re “not looking to be traditional farmers”. Now, normally when people say they’re into ‘traditional’ things, that’s usually code for ‘old-timey’—which often happen to translate well into self-reliance (think blacksmithing, spinning, basketweaving, butter-churning, &c.
Here, the opposite is meant: when the guys say they don’t want to be traditional farmers, what they’re really saying is that they don’t want to keep Our Culture’s oldest tradition, totalitarian agriculture!
Hmm, what a novel idea! Says the average viewer: “But why would these bright young men not want to associate themselves with the most productive agricultural paradigm ever devised?”
I dunno, maybe because that approach has never been sustainable?, and because its current iteration amounts to little more than throwing petroleum and ‘natural gas’ (which, by the way, is a bullshit greenwashed term anyway—it’s fucking methane!) onto our fields to grow three main monocrops, all resulting in everything from topsoil loss and soil compaction, to eutrophication, loss of fertility, and greatly-reduced biodiversity? All of these translate to fundamental unsustainability. Especially given the fact that global petroleum production has likely already peaked, why we continue to operate under this model is beyond me. Well, it’s not really beyond me—I know exactly why we continue to do it, but the root causes are about eight thousand years old, and most folks these days seem to have trouble comprehending anything past about 50 years ago.

The dudes admit they’re different from most farmers another way: they don’t want to be part of the grid. There they go, using their brains again! Says the average viewer, “But why would they want to remove themselves from the most glorious organization of shelter, heating, cooling, electricity, water, and sanitation, again, ever devised?”
Perhaps because such wonders of the modern age are again, completely reliant on unsustainable nonrenewable resources (coal, petrol, propane, natural gas methane) and painfully indicative of Our culture’s belief in the One Right Way to Live? If you don’t believe me, why else do we build living structures that are identical (and identically connected to the Grid) whether in Arizona or Alaska? When did we exchange regional diversity for cheap two-by-four stickframing, drywall, and vinyl siding? (answer: probably around 1492, when White people showed up on the scene and set about replicating their beloved England/Spain/France, which required extirpating all the indigs and their pesky regional adapted-to-specific-environments lifestyles).

So yeah, Grayson and Mike intend to turn the traditional farm into a self-sufficient one. Exactly!, because sustainable/self-reliant living is real preparedness! Unfortunately, we’re seeing their self-sufficient farm project in its infancy, so they’re still taking baby steps. But hey, baby steps are better than none!:

To start out, we actually get to see them put together a COLDFRAME!
For you non-green-thumb’ed folks, a coldframe is basically a mini-greenhouse—a sun-warmed, glass-topped container that usually translates into about an extra month of growing time before and after the main season. They’re handy as hell.
Better yet, Grayson declares his bias when gathering building materials—“free is better!” WORD. A society that believes everything must be ‘new’ is one destined for failure (oh hey look, here we are!).
I also like the water-filled wine bottles—for thermal mass/solar radiators—that they stick in the ground inside the coldframe. That’s a good trick; I might have to steal that idea and implement it into my coldframe.

And it just keeps getting better, because HOLY SHIT, not only did the narrator actually say PERMACULTURE, but they even got a captioned definition!! This might just be a miracle—one of the most unenlightening shows on what has become a channel of regrettable, sensationalist programming actually gave its average viewers a like, 30-second glimpse of something actually worth learning about! I just wish they’d done it sooner on an earlier episode, because folks watching this might get confused and think that permaculture-in-action looks like gray, unproductive farmland.

It doesn’t.

But that land won’t be unproductive for long, because it just keeps getting even better, when they wheel out the CHICKEN TRACTOR!!! Grayson explains the genius of these moveable coops, which allow the birds to eat bugs (pest control/less feed to buy), scratch up (aerate) soil, and defecate (fertilize!) everywhere! If you move the tractor every day, pretty soon you wind up with light, fertile, bug-free soil, which is exactly what you want if you’re looking to grow all your own food.

Unfortunately, the producers apparently weren’t content with educating average visitors with three fantastic items of self-reliant living, and felt the need to remind us that we’re watching Doomsday Preppers. And so, for the mandatory producer-enforced stunt, the guys head into the woods to set up spikey booby traps to catch watermelons!

Yeah. It’s especially sad when you think about what they could have filled that time with—maybe the guys could have shown off their properly-carbon/nitrogen-balanced compost pile, or waterless humanure setup, or root cellar—who knows??

Being new transplants (gardening pun?) to the area, the guys throw a barn party, to meet their neighbors (building community is a huge part of offgrid living that we rarely hear about) and I guess maybe recruit folks, because let’s fact it—with 100 acres, these guys have all the ingredients for a kickass intentional community. There’s a Jack White-looking guy in a fur coat and derby hat at the gig, so I guess the producers told attendees to dress as outlandishly as possible?, because hey, let’s make sure nobody takes millennials seriously.

The experts give them just 51 points for five months’ initial survival. Ugh, experts: first off, these dudes aren’t even real ‘preppers’;
therefore, the form their ‘preparedness’ takes results from their operating on a completely different paradigm from the one the scoring system is designed to evaluate;
And finally: everyone has to start somewhere. If NatGeo sends a film crew back to their homestead in two or three years, I bet we’ll see some serious off-grid organic horticultural goodness. Best of luck, dudes!