Late in realizing the hit on their hands the Discovery Channel rolled out the third season of “Alaska The Last Frontier“ Sunday night following a very broken up but well rated season two. The mid-season hiatus was so long, in fact, that when DSC came back with only four new episodes many of the shows devoted fans assumed the show was cancelled and posted their outcries to the Discovery Channel and on social media.
The ratings growth, however, had already been noticed and the show’s popularity slowly grew (coincidentally the old fashioned way) via word-of-mouth. “Alaska: The Last Frontier” is now a running favorite among those who practice sustainable living, self-reliance and homesteading (a notably tough market to reach by electronic media).
“Alaska: The Last Frontier“ is a reality show that follows a family of pioneering homesteaders in Alaska. The Kilcher family lives on a 600-acre homestead on Kachemak Bay in the southern part of the state. Four, going on five generations of Kilchers have lived off the land in a subsistence lifestyle, growing their own food and preserving it via traditional methods and supplementing that with hunting, trading and raising cattle. It is for this reason the show and it’s self-reliant cast are appealing to homesteaders and preppers alike. Many of us strive for the kind of sustainability and cohesiveness as a family that Kilcher’s live day in and day out. Simply put, “Alaska: The Last Frontier” is Alaska’s answer to Duck Dynasty.
A little history behind the show from music star, Jewel and her father Atz Kilcher
Season three starts off with the Kilchers on the tail end of another long, dark, frigid Alaskan winter; as in previous seasons they now must take full advantage of the spring and summer weather to immediately start restocking the food supply for themselves and their livestock while tackling necessary projects that will ensure their survival in the cold winter weather. This frequently means using every bit of available sunlight — up to 22 hours a day in the summer to get everything done (or as done as possible) before winter hits again.
The show’s new episodes are scheduled to air on Sunday Nights all times 9PM ET/PT – with reruns of last week’s episode immediately preceding the new episode ,and for now, reruns of Season Two starting four hours prior to that giving fans the chance to get caught up. Reruns of season two could show up any day of the week on the Discovery Channel but today (Oct, 9th) it will be two hours in a row all times 5PM and 6PM ET/PT if you want to try to catch it.
Review of Episode One, Season Three: Cabin Fever
WARNING: Almost all reviews contain spoilers – this one is no different. Also it is widely known and accepted that most “reality” shows are scripted to some extent. How much? We will most likely never know. I don’t watch TV to see reality (I can see that out my backdoor) I watch TV for entertainment and to maybe learn something, therefore, a small amount of scripting does not bother me.
Cabin Fever started off with the theme of the Kilchers getting restless from the long Alaskan winter and covered what the individual families did to cure their own level of restlessness. The Kilcher tradition of balancing humor with the seriousness of their lifestyle was once again on display as some dressed up in party outfits to do chores, while others went hunting or cross-country skiing. My favorite phrase of the episode came from Charlotte (after pulling a martini out of her purse, of course) sitting in an excavator exclaiming “Hey, there’s no cup holder in here!”
I was particularly surprised and impressed with the show’s depiction of two things, the Kilcher men out hunting and the death of Otto’s old cow, not because of the ‘shock factor’ as I have already seen people accusing DSC of, but because of the reality of it. The camera did not, as it has in the past, cut away at the last moment to spare the audience from the harshness of the situation. The quick deaths of the animals were plainly seen.
This is a real part of the Kilcher’s pioneer and homesteading lifestyle and it was not hidden. Being a ‘reality show’ it’s my opinion that death should not glossed over for the sake of entertainment or ratings. It requires a certain strength of character to be able kill an animal you have cared for – it’s not easy, it’s not romantic, it’s harsh and most of the time that part of the pioneer lifestyle is not shown. Living a self-reliant lifestyle myself, I also feel that skipping over an animal’s death robs it of the utmost respect and honesty that it deserves, so I respect their the decision to show it.
The other segments worth noting were the Kilcher men getting caught out late during their hunting trip and the Kilcher women cleaning out a chicken coop. I commend the men’s wise decision to shelter in place rather than head home in the dark and risk getting lost. Even though they were not ideally prepared they demonstrated several clever survival techniques including fire starting in the snow, and shelter building. I also enjoyed seeing the combined effort of the two women to clean the chicken coop. This also seemed like a lightly masked attempt by Eve to teach Jane about chicken keeping, I guess we’ll see if she rubs off on Jane in the coming season.
At first glance it seemed that Eve was using a “deep litter” system for her coop (an old fashioned way of keeping a chicken coop that does not require the monthly replacement of bedding). Since I use this method myself, judging by how the girls had to cover their noses, it seems to have not worked the way it usually does. The end result should be a tolerable smell and chicken litter that has composted through the winter – it should come out of the coop ready to add to the garden. If the fumes are that strong – further composting with the addition of more “carbon” (brown material, like shavings) will be required before it can be applied to a garden as the mixture is too hot. Perhaps she needed more layers of fresh bedding, I can’t be sure from what was shown on TV. Eve is a smart lady though, and I would bet the problem is nonexistent next year.
Otto also shared another cow adventure, trying to get a stubborn cow to accept a new calf well after the calf had been born (the longer you wait the more difficult it can be to get a cow to accept a new calf and the calf to accept a new mother). Again I was glad to see this process portrayed in real time. Raising cattle can be a trying and difficult business/hobby; judging from this first episode, it seems that the producers are brining more of the reality into the mix and a little less of the romanticized version of homesteading they have leaned on in the past. However there was no shortage of stunning Alaska views and the payoffs of such a simple lifestyle were still plainly obvious.
Stay tuned for the next episode!