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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Kilcher Family


Dale Matson

The third season of the Discovery Channel series “Alaska The Last Frontier” has just concluded with the final episode culminating in the birth of Eivin and Eve’s son Findlay. Findlay will be the fourth generation of Kilchers living on a 600 plus acre homestead near Homer Alaska. My wife and I record the program for viewing at an earlier time on the following day and have watched all three seasons of the program.

As with any reality series, I suppose there are things staged to heighten the drama like the fact that they seem to be eternally behind with their chores and preparation for winter. Otto seems to be the one who lacks a sense of urgency about the importance of timing. This sometimes creates tension between Otto and his son Eivin like when the tide came in and they had to stay overnight where they were until the tide went out, simply because they got a late start once again. One could also question the extent that they need lay up enough food for the winter or they will ‘starve’. Much of the series has to do with gardening, hunting and fishing to provide the necessary food for the extended family.

Although their setting is primitive and isolated, they do have a considerable amount of heavy equipment to help them expand and improve their compound. This includes bulldozers, backhoes and a barge. There is often a sense of work as play for Otto who spent much of one episode attempting to blow a stump out of the ground in a land-clearing project. I sometimes hold my breath as I watch Otto climb trees with chainsaws or walk along on top of the scaffolding of his new shed or nearly get kicked while removing porcupine needles from a horse’s mouth. Otto’s wife Charlotte is a great friend and helpmate to Otto. All the Kilchers are resourceful and creative in the way they tackle problems that arise. It seems like they can always find something lying around the property to improvise a solution like when Eivin used an old bicycle as a means to spin honey out of a hive.

Even though they have the acreage, much of their episodes take place 20 miles away where the cattle graze in the summer and out in the ocean for fishing or on distant islands for hunting.

I think there are plenty of family members for the audience to identify with and each family member has his or her own personality. Atz is the oldest Kilcher, married to Bonnie. He is the family anchor and reminds me of my own father. He spends much of the summer alone protecting the cattle herd from wolves and bears. His son Atz Lee is more laid back than his cousin Eivin who was charmed into building a round outhouse for Eve. Eve is a self styled hippie and Jane is continually earning her spurs as she works with her husband Atz Lee. I am reminded of the episode he left her alone in bear country after teaching her to shoot a big bore pistol. Both the young wives are determined and sturdy.

And why do we watch this saga played out in slippery snow, sticky mud and cold rain? We watch it because it is above all a human saga. It is a story of a family who respect and help one another, each doing their part and each sharing the load. It is a family who are good neighbors to their far-flung neighbors, who lend a hand when a hand is needed. Sometimes it is the gift of a musk ox.

They are also thoughtful and pensively reflect on the necessary loss of life for animals that are a food source for them and the natural but sad death of livestock that have become pets too. Nothing goes to waste. They are often caught in the act of being themselves like when Otto yelled at Charlotte to shut up during a tense work situation.

We like watching them. The family life cycles are linked to the seasons. It is by no means an ideal life but it is how they react to these harsh situations and the kindness they show in relating to one another that keeps us looking forward to every episode. 

    

  

24 comments:

  1. Has anyone noticed that they seem to not be bleeping out the cursing as much this year? Especially Otto. It is distracting.

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  2. There is a new 8 part series called "The Last Alaskans". It is about the last families allowed to live in the ANWR in Alaska who have been grandparented in. I think it is the best done of all the Alaska reality series shows.

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  3. The new Kilcher season begins October 4th on the Discovery Channel.

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  4. I am enjoying season 5 of the Kilchers but when you compare those on "The Last Alaskans" to the Kilchers, the Kilchers have lots of stuff and the others.....not so much.

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  5. The most recent "New" episode was really a montage of old episodes. They do this too often.

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  6. I wonder where the Kilchers get all their heavy equipment. It seems they always have what they need. And that huge Constructor barge Otto pilots..... where is it kept, do they own it?

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  7. I believe there is a road out of Homer AK that (combined with their road) connects them with Homer about 11 miles away. Their heavy equipment probably came to the homestead via the land route. Their homestead at Kachemak Bay would probably provide a sheltered area for the barge to be anchored. I sometimes wonder about a few of their hunting and fishing expeditions far away from the homestead that require a sea plane. How cost effective would they really be? I guess they would justify these lengthy and costly trips by saying that they are not getting their food at a store.

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  8. Here is the latest I have on a fall by Atz Lee Kilcher.
    http://www.inquisitr.com/2482824/atz-lee-kilcher-of-alaska-the-last-frontier-gives-a-health-update-to-fans/

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  9. When I am in the wilderness, I carry a Satphone. Atz Lee and his friend had a Satellite phone and he is alive today because of this. As someone involved in search and rescue, having another person(s) along is sometimes not enough. When a person is in immediate need of medical attention others can go for help but sometimes this requires too much time. A Satphone not only is instant communication with those who can help, my phone gives the exact coordinates that can be relayed to those who would come to your aid. I have phone numbers of agencies like the forest service, family and park service programmed into the phone memory so I can easily call up a number. I also have instructions printed on my phone in case I was rendered unconscious so someone else could call for help.

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  10. I watched the latest episode of the new season and it was merely a collection of parts from past episodes. It seems like this is done frequently. Additionally, the series doesn't have the same appeal as it once did. After watching two seasons of "The Last Alaskans", I much prefer the reality, simplicity and people of that series.

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  11. New episodes begin Sunday October 16th 2016

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  12. Two thoughts on the first new episode of the season. Otto can be quite reckless and endanger others. I don't understand why Atz Lee is so stubbornly going ahead with a new cabin when it could wait until he and Jane are on the same page. If he needs the therapy of doing something, he could fix up his existing place.

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  13. In Sunday's episode I noticed that Eivin was crawling around the rafters in a huge barn I have never seen before. The trusses looked to me to be manufactured off site. He is very skilled and clever with solutions to problems.
    There remains a continuing struggle about where Atz Lee and Jane will live with her wanting to remain at the original homestead site. It seems she is being dragged into the new project with Atz Sr. being critical of her a little too often. Using the establishment of a new homestead as a rehabilitation project for Atz Lee seems a bit dubious since he could use the activities/chores at the old homestead to do the same thing.
    Too much preview of new episodes and review of old episodes.
    Finally, the idea that they will "starve" if they don't get hay for their cattle seems a bit of a stretch. It seems like I am being increasingly critical of the Kilchers but the homesteads established in the "Last Alaskans" appeal to me more. As critical as I have become however, the program beats most of what is on TV these days.

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  14. Otto and his hernia are starting to wear a little thin. Nice to see Atz Lee is continuing to recover from his nearly fatal fall. I wonder if Shawn and his wife are going to make it as homesteaders.

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  15. This past Sunday was a two hour event including the daughter of Atz Sr. Jewel the singer visiting with her son. It so often seems that they are working at a feverish pace to beat the incoming tide or an oncoming storm. Eivin, as usual, seems to understand best what needs to be done and when.

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  16. This past Sunday we saw high tech used once again as a helicopter moved sections of a greenhouse. Jane and Atz Lee continue to be at odds about his new cabin. The 'Last Frontier' is looking less like subsistence living and more like an updated and mechanized version of the Ponderosa from Bonanza.

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  17. Eivin built a car from scrap parts for his brother August. Otto ignored his son August and beached the boat with a loss of 8 hours. August told his dad to shut up which was earned by Otto.

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  18. I think this was a good episode Sunday past. Eivin has gone from building a custom outhouse to building a magnificent aluminum fishing boat for his family. I said early on that the new wilderness cabin Atz Lee was building would remain an ongoing issue between him and his wife Jane. What would happen with their children if they moved to the distant new cabin? He said that he was moving there whether Jane came or not. Good father son hunting trip with Atz Sr. Would this be Bonnie's son? He is a newer addition. I worry about Shane and his wife with her M.S. and finishing a cabin. Hope things improve for them.

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  19. The final episode of the season left a couple of things unresolved. I suspect Shane and his wife will abandon the cabin idea b/c of her M.S. and possible immediate need of medical attention that they would not have access to on the homestead. Jane and Atz Lee remain at odds about where they will live and it remains to be seen if a solution can be found without a split. Finally it seems as if the Kilcher men other than than Eivin are pretty hard on their wives.

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  20. There was a retrospective on Sunday last. It included family members answering questions emailed by viewers and some new footage. I found it interesting and believe Eivin summed it best saying that many Kilcher hands were helpful but not Kilcher mouths.

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  21. I just saw season 7 episode 1. Everyone looks older and more stressed than ever. I think all of them are asking the question, "Are we here to maintain the property or maintain the legacy? There comes a time that people "age out" of wilderness living. My wife and I just sold our cabin.

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  22. I thought the most recent episode was well done. It was impressive to see Atz Lee and his father carry a new window for the hunter's cabin two miles. The Women did a great job on their cattle drive too. Eivin and his father worked well as a team to fix the propeller shaft on their "barge" under time pressure from a rising tide. All in all there was great teamwork with no squabbling.

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  23. After watching "The Last Alaskans" for a few seasons, I have become disappointed with the other 'Alaska Shows'. I stopped watching "The Alaskan Bush People." I Think this will be my final episode of "Alaska The Last Frontier"

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  24. OK so I watched the last episode of the season. I find myself second guessing the decisions and priorities of the Kilchers. The last episode had Otto wanting to move the historic octagon bldg. on to a new foundation and replace the roof. The "Legacy" is the driving force in determining priorities in Otto's mind. At the same time Shawn, (the son of Atz Sr.) is trying to close in his house before the bad weather hits and needs as much manpower as possible. It seems like Otto could have had his crew help with that task first. And that is my problem. I have tired of trying to preserve the legacy at all costs. So, not wanting to be critical, I have decided to stop commenting.

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