Wednesday, October 8, 2008

a good way to spend a rainy weekend

Frontier House

I’m going to make a recommendation, and if you have a library card you can make it happen this weekend. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Reality Television but PBS did something above and beyond.

In 2001, 5,000 families applied to go back in time to 1863. Three were chosen. A young couple from Boston, a rich family from Malibu, and a scrappy family from outside Nashville. For five months of their lives they would live as the original pioneers and homesteaders in the wilderness of Montana. PBS called it “The Frontier House Project” and the rules were simple:Give up everything from the 21st century and live as authentically as possible for five months to prepare for a Montana Winter.

They would have access to a small general store ten miles away to buy supplies. But besides that they would have to live off of their gardens, animals, and short order supplies. The project wanted to see if modern day families could deal with it. It’s an amazing summer to witness. The entire project is only six hour-long episodes. Starting with their lives in their respected modern cities and following them to a pioneer training school. With historians and experts on site they learn everything from making furniture to cast iron cooking to basic horsemanship. It’s kinda cute watching a Southern California debutant bake her first ever loaf of woodstove bread with a smile, but then start crying when they tell her she can’t wear eyeliner.

Soon they take off on a small wagon train that will lead them to an Indian reservation removed from any modern roads or power lines. Only one family has a cabin to move into, the others have to build them from what they can find around. So imagine being dropped in the wilderness, and living in a tent until you cut down enough trees to build a house only to move into the house to try to feed yourself for four more months. But they do, and they learn more about themeslves, their values, and their families than you could imagine.

Anyway, go pick it up from your library and watch it. I promise by the end of the first episode you'll be hooked.


Blogger Darx said...

That was an excellent show. I love the "It's like we're walking in the shoes of our ancestors..." line by one of the Malibu kids, I think. Worth watching for the end of that sentence alone. Did you see the other one set in the Texas Ranch either around the same time in history? *That* was really something.

October 8, 2008 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

You know the Texas one was my least favorite of them all. My favorites are Colonial House and this one!

October 8, 2008 at 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved watching those shows!

October 8, 2008 at 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a very good show. But my favorite show was called Pioneer Quest. This was done up in Canada. They took 2 couple and let them live like the pioneers for a year up in Manitoba. It had aired on PBS but you can only get it from Canada. If you can find this series I HIGHLY recommend it. You can Google it and find some info on it.

October 8, 2008 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Carrie and Justin said...

I had never heard of these - thanks for the recommendation. I can't wait to wander down to the library and look for them!

October 8, 2008 at 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jenna, I recently started following your blog, and really enjoy it. Thanks. As Scott said previously, Pioneer Quest was a Canadian reality program featuring two couples living as pioneers for one year. This involved building their own log cabins. It was quite interesting. One of the couples now owns the Pioneer Quest domain, and the VHS version of the show is available through them.

October 8, 2008 at 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved Pioneer House, but didn't think Colonial House worked because the culture was too different for the reenactors. Victorian House was good. Does anyone remember the name of the British show that took 20+ people and put them on an island off the Scottish coast? I would appreciate it if anyone remembers. Mark

October 8, 2008 at 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jenna I had completely forgot about that series on PBS. Thank you so much for reminding me. I think my girls will love watching it & really get some info. from it esp. since we started canning this year.

October 10, 2008 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Chicken Mama said...

The Canadian History Channel did another one, too, called - if memory serves (I have it upstairs) - Voyageur Quest. That came after Pioneer Quest.

While the PBS ones are great, the Canadian ones are MUCH more authentic and true-to-form. I REALLY wish they'd do more!!!

Of the PBS serieses (?!), I particularly loved 'The Manor House' and '1940s House' . . . besides, of course, 'Pioneer House'. 'Colonial House' and 'Texas Ranch House' were the most disappointing, I thought.

At the end of PBS's 'Pioneer House', I felt SUCH empathy for Mark Glenn (one of the pioneers who REALLY "got it") that I did some e-mailing and located a snail mail address for him. Turns out that he'd left behind his teaching job and much of his modern life and took a job working for the rancher on whose land the series had been filmed . . . and was living in one of the cabins! I never did write to him, and I wonder what's become of him . . . .

Anyway, it's all great stuff that the rest of us can live vicariously through. I watch those video tapes (particularly 'Pioneer Quest' and then 'Pioneer House') over and over!

(My husband and I live, off-grid, 700 yards from the Canadian border; 13 driving miles from our nearest neighbor; and 1 hour from the nearest town. Do we qualify as "pioneers"? I dunno. Maybe by modern standards?)

P.S. You wanna-be pioneers out there should also look up Richard Proenneke and his life in Alaska. There's a great video/DVD out there called 'Alone in the Wilderness'. It's from his own 8 MM movies of his first year in 1968 up in the Alaskan bush. The narration is taken straight from the journals he kept.

October 14, 2008 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger cherylt said...

Another show along the same lines is "Tales from the Green Valley" from the BBC... this goes back a bit further... 1620's England! I think there are only 6/8 episodes, but it is amazing... and so informative. (and they have sheep, Jenna!)

July 5, 2009 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I love this show. My wife thinks I'm crazy but I watch it at least 2x a year. It always helps me get in the mood for self-reliance/gardening/homesteading when I feel a little down because I'm having to balance my computer programming job with homesteading.


February 4, 2010 at 1:37 PM  

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