Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frontier House

I've been thinking a lot lately about a show that was aired on PBS several years ago called Frontier House.  Unlike a lot of commercial reality television, PBS didn't set up a situation where people competed against each other and no one was sent home at the end of each episode.  The general idea was to take modern families and see what happened when they lived like pioneers on the American prairie.  Experts rated their abilities to set up their homestead and determined if they would have survived the winter.  It was an incredible show. 

There was one segment that really affected me. One family had been raising a pig on their homestead. The kids had named the pig JoJo Pumpkin and he was smart and awesome.  He knew his name. But JoJo Pumpkin was not a pet and in one gut wrenching scene the father of the family walked out to the pig's pen and called his name. JoJo Pumpkin came running over to him and you just see the gun raised and aimed at the pig's head. They cut away at the sound of the gunshot and you know that JoJo Pumpkin is dead. Later, you see they have prepared the pig for a dinner celebration with the entire community.

And that is survival on the frontier. You raise a pig so can eat the pig. As a culture we have separated ourselves from the processes of living and eating that most of us don't think through the fact that the bacon in our pan was once living pig - one of the smartest animals who share the planet with us. I'll admit, watching JoJo Pumpkin get shot on public television was not enough to make me want to give up eating meat. But it was enough to make me think about how I connect to my food and to my life.  It may have been one of the things that got into my brain and made me think about changing everything about the way I live. 


I head read that one of the participants, Mark Glenn, had quit his job after Frontier House and moved to to the area in Montana where it had been filmed.  I don't find much about this on the Internet, but then I have to assume that was part of the point. I imagine that Glenn simply couldn't go back to living his old life. An experience like that can change you forever. 

I have no idea what is in store for us after we move to our mountain. Our lives will be simultaneously more simple and much more difficult and we've made this choice consciously. I'm ready to fundamentally change the way I live my life. 

In slightly related news, you can read an interview with me about simplifying our lives on Te-Erika Patterson's blog My Savvy Sisters. 

31 comments:

  1. I loved Frontier House. :) And I have been the person butchering, was present for the shot (not on the show, but at a friend's place down south). I ate the ribs the following night, celebrated with the community they were a part of. I've raised, killed and butchered my own chickens. I've shot and cleaned deer. I've cleaned other people's turkey and geese. I'm okay with it. Honestly, I think I'm better with eating wild caught food than with grocery store stuff. I always feel vaguely... disconnected... from the cellophane wrapped stuff.

    I heartily encourage everyone to participate in a slaughter at least once in your life. It sure isn't for everyone, but I strongly believe EVERYONE needs to know where their food comes from.

    If you raise chickens for meat, I have detailed instructions on my site on how to slaughter them. ;)

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  2. Love the interview, and Savvy Sisters is pretty cool, I'll go back to check it out again!

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  3. That was a great show! I had already decided that I had to raise and eat an animal someday as my way of honoring the life cycle, but that show was one of many small encouragements I needed to get to that point. Your interview was great too, and I liked Savvy Sisters.

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  4. Most farmers know - you name pets or animals that you get a product from but don't eat the animal (goat milk, a dairy cow, etc) but you NEVER name a food animal.

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    1. When I was boy my uncle always kept 3 turkeys (besides some other animals). He always named one "Thanksgiving" and one "Christmas" and the last one "In Case Of". One year when I was really little I asked why he named one "In Case Of". He replied in case something happens to one of the other turkeys. He always raised the tastiest turkeys.

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  5. I loved Frontier House.
    I recommend you watch a movie named "Food, Inc." The movie is well worth seeing. Your local public library might have it on dvd even. The movie links to a website:
    http://www.takepart.com/foodinc

    You might also wish to take a look at:
    http://www.eatwild.com for local sources of food.

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    Replies
    1. I've watched "Food Inc" a few times. Great documentary.

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    2. "Food Inc" is a great documentary.

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  6. I loved frontier house too. It kind of puts new perspective on this latest internet "Bacon" craze, which actually made me uncomfortable.

    Best of luck, Laura and Matt. We are are really going to miss you. It didn't seem, as we were walking away to our car tonight that anything was different. And I know that you will be as close as you have always been when you have "been away for the weekend up at Mt Matt", but it is different, and I am going to miss you guys being here. We'll see you soon, I hope, and we are so excited for you.



    -Bill

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  7. I loved frontier house too. kind of brings new, sober meaning to the latest "bacon" meme going around.

    I'm going to miss you guys, but best of luck to you. As we were walking out to our car after we left the party we talked and thought that nothing much seems to have changed, yet it has. But we are going to miss you, even though you spent so much time away up at Mt. Matt anyway. Can't wait to see you again, and Matt on Monday ;-)

    To the rest of you reading this, know that if you do this, you are pioneers, truly. You have our support in this wonderful quest.

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  8. Karen Glenn is a dear friend of mine. I think she would be honored to know that the Frontier House project has had such an influence!
    Best Wishes...

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  9. Wow,, this is Karen (no longer Glenn!) and I am so honored! Believe me, all the feedback has not been positive however, you all made my day!
    Thank you for reminding me~ "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day, thou can not then be false to any man."

    Peace and love~ Karen (btw- Anonymous is the Bomb-Diddley!!)

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    1. Thank you so much coming over and commenting. I am surprised that you had some bad feedback about the show since it was, you know, your real life and not an act! It was inspiration to me and I recommend it often. Thanks for doing what you did.

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    2. For what it's worth, Karen, the Frontier House DVDs have been a well-watched series in my house for the last 10+ years or so. They're a great motivator for those times/tasks that seem overwhelming; your experiences really put those things into perspective! Thanks.

      (Now I've gotta go work on painting my home with modern implements and thanking my lucky stars for things like heat and running water!) :)

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    3. Karen, darlin, you may not get this note at such a late date, but I want you to know that there is so very much I admire about how you handled the Frontier House project. I am a college teacher, and I show Frontier House to my classes--they LOVE it! I would love to know how the FH project changed you. It seems so strange to think that Erin and Logan are young adults now. I hope you are all very happy.
      Best,
      Carla Baku
      Eureka, California (NOT near Malibu. :) )

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  10. Hi Everyone! I can tell you that Nate and I are still together (phew!) and now we have 3 kids. I wish we could do the show again...we might need a bigger cabin though!
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brooks-Family/265067470260216?skip_nax_wizard=true

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    1. Haha! You guys were a joy to watch; thanks for that! And of course, congrats on the wee ones!

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    2. Kristen! At this very minute my college English class is watching FH...the wedding! Delighted to hear you and Nate are happy and well and have a family--they are lucky to have such sweet parents.

      Wishing you all the best, always!
      Carla Baku
      Eureka, CA

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    3. G'day Kristen this come all the way from Australia, I brought the complete dvd episodes of the frontier house with our version called "Outback house" we did one here in Australia. Glad to hear you are Nate are still together it is tough in our society to stay married, I'm about to celebrate our 20 year marriage. I think your show helped me to relocate to the bottom end of Australia called Tasmania to get back to basics and to a point it has worked. You guys show that you can live on less and still maintenance a simple but comfortable life which it seems Mark Glenn has discovered and good on him!! Hope and good fortune to you and your family . Regards Mark

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  11. Nate and I are still together and have 3 kids!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brooks-Family/265067470260216?skip_nax_wizard=true

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  12. I watched the series when it originally aired and just loved watching the different dynamics of each of the three families. Kristen--I'm so happy to hear that you and Nate are still together, and with children, too! It was such a joy to watch your first few months of marriage on the frontier. Karen, your rare moments of vulnerability were some of the most heart-wrenching moments of the show, for me at least. I know that things did not work for you and Mark (or Gordon and Adrienne for that matter), but life is what it is sometimes. I hope that all of you have found happiness in your lives and have come to remember your time on Frontier House with great fondness. I will forever be a fan of the show.

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  13. All the people were great onb that show and those children really were the ones that went through the most (IMHO) Kudos to all ofthem, I think all those children will be better and sronger from that experiance.

    I think Karen Glenn was the star of the show ( bet that show cost her the relationship). Karen was beatiful string and smart and she ran the world....she was a natural leader.....As I watched I said what a bitch so many times......but she would have been the one to survive. I bet she is a great friend and mom but boy she can be head strong.....problem is she was write more times than not but that did not make it easy on the rest.
    I love Karen but glad I didn't have to live with you.

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  14. I have re-watched Frontier House a few times because it demonstrates the capacity of modern Americans to overcome and adapt. All of the participants seem to be doing ok, with new marriages and new babies and new adventures. Glad you were chosen for the project, Glenns and Brookses. Congratulations Karen on your marriage and how well your kids turned out and having seen Kristin's Facebook-- those are some adorable Brooks babies

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  15. i Love this show! I think it is wonderful that Nate and Kristen are doing well. I liked Karen and Mark and loved, Karen's tough children.
    The Clunes divorced in 2004 -

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  16. I only caught a few episodes of the show back when it first aired. I saw a Tracy and Anie interview in seventeen magazine. I liked what they had to say since I was 16 and wanted to know what they were talking about. I wish I would have saved that magazine.

    Anyways, thank you Kristen and Karen for posting. I bought the boxset a few years back and was disappointed there wasn't bonus footage. I think it was an interesting experience and people weren't acting for the cameras. For six months of filming, I think there should have been more footage. Watching them all in one sitting allowed me to see the growth of all of them.

    I initially disliked the Clunes. However seeing that they did change, even if it wasn't as much as the others, made me happy. The change was more visible watching them all at once. I tear up every time I watch Erin say goodbye to the horse and when Rudy leaves.

    Also, I liked that for the wedding Kristen was excited about "the lift". I have dreampt of the lift and attempted to created it since I was a little kid. Finally, I liked how Kristen didn't complain a lot when she found out she was going to have to wear that burgundy dress. So much class was shown and the fact that her and Nate are still together; makes me extremely happy.

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  17. I have seen this wonderful series several times, and just watched it again with my two daughters for their first viewing of it. What is it about this group of people, this whole experience that just touches the soul? It takes you somewhere you never want to leave, and when it is over- you just can't accept it. I can't imagine finding that kind of magic, and then having to go back to real life- and the loss showed on all of their faces in the update at the end of the program. Well, with the possible exception of the delightful Nate and Kristen Brooks, who seemed to be happy in whatever situation they were in. So adorable! And Karen Glenn- we just love her. Smart and tough, but so soft with her kids. She seemed to be the real heart of the project. Thanks to all who worked on Frontier House for giving us a truly great tool that makes teaching history to our children such a pleasure.

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  18. They are replaying Frontier House on DIY network. I'm watching it as I write this. I loved this "reality " show more than any that I've seen.

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  19. They are replaying Frontier House on DIY network. I'm watching it as I write this. I loved this "reality " show more than any that I've seen.

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  20. FYI these families were carefully chosen for the show...much like jury duty...especially with millions of dollars invested.. they looked for certain personality types. Karen was the antagonist , not everyone's cup of tea but added tremendous dramatic impact to the production. It takes courage to be genuine . Also the participants are fed information in such a way as too glean reactions ....depending on certain personality types...you can hit dramatic "gold" which propably cannot be disclosed by any of the families because of enforceable confidentiality agreements...." you talk you pay". I had a major couple crush on Nate and Kristen and good Lord they have made some beautiful children, and quite the adventurous family I might add. I wish they all would blog more about they're thoughts about FH. Btw is Nate's brother single?

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  21. So happy to see that Kristen & Nate are still together & have 3 kiddos! I loved this show!! I watched it on PBS back then & I even own the box set. I'd love to know what the kids that are now grown ups think of it nowadays with our smart phones, facebook etc. I really wish PBS would do something similar to this again. Loved your little house tour (your kitty is the sweetest!).

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  22. I understand that Mark Glenn is spending most of his time on the largest island in Greece.

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