There's a few reality television shows that focus around improvement such as "Bar Rescue" or "Kitchen Nightmares," but there's only one of those that took place in the San Luis Valley: Discovery's "Homestead Rescue."
The show follows homesteader expert Marty Raney and his children Misty and Matt as they assist families to live properly off the grid. Picture other HGTV renovation shows but much more outdoorsy. Tonight, the season finale takes them to the Sangre de Cristo ranches outside of Fort Garland.
Don and Lorinda Garcia, originally from Eagle County, have been living in Fort Garland for five-and-a-half years. Don works in IT and Lorinda makes jewelry.
"We always had a dream to have some land and a place to stay in the mountains," said Lorinda. "We thought it was a great spot for us."
Last winter the Raneys appeared on their 14.5 acres to lend a hand. The Garcias’ home was off the grid before the Raneys’ arrival. However, they found ways to refine the Garcias’ lifestyle.
The homestead was equipped with state-of-the-art solar panels, but Marty said that they didn't produce enough electricity, especially to power Don's CPAP machine that treats his sleep apnea.
"There were issues with the solar panels because they were all pointing different directions," Marty said. By using resources available on the property, Marty was able to come up with a solution on the first day.
Marty is glad that the television program gave him the opportunity to help them. "This is why the show is amazing. You never meet the people and then you find out that maybe there's things that they're lacking in their lifestyle that is affecting their literal health. What can we do in the shortest amount of time to impact these people the most?"
Not only do they need their own water and power supply, but Marty believes that homesteaders need to live off the land. That's why he constructed a greenhouse capable of producing fruit and vegetables during the short growing season.
Once a source of food is available, it's important to protect it. Viewers can expect at least one scene of the episode to focus on the dangers of nearby predators.
"When you have hundreds of deer around your house," Marty said, "you'll have cougars, coyotes and bears as well. It blew my mind how close multiple predators were lurking around their front door."
Marty stresses the authenticity of the program and said that it's unfortunate that people won't believe the threat of wildlife.
"I have never met the homesteaders in advance," Marty said. "When the viewers see me meet them for the first time I'm meeting them for the first time."
Raney also said how there is no pre-production. "In other shows a team of people, engineers, architects, and designers do the work and construction all in advance, but not on this show. It's done organically in the field, by our hands and our backs."
Marty doesn't get involved even after leaving the homestead. Preferring to watch it in real-time as the audience does, he never views an episode beforehand and tries to stay out of the editing process as much as possible.
A hard worker, Raney only focuses on the task at hand. Working from sunrise to after sundown, the Raneys rarely took a lunch break and stayed on site after the production crew went back to town. The entire season took 100 days to shoot, roughly 10 of which were spent in Fort Garland.
"The work load was staggering. I'm very proud of what we did."
Time wasn't on the Raneys’ side, and neither was the weather.
"It snowed eight inches on day one, then it melted, then it snowed again, then it melted, then it snowed again and then it melted," Marty said.
Wind was also an issue. Twice Marty was almost knocked off a 10-foot structure he was constructing. "It never quit blowing."
While the Colorado climate gave the production process some trouble, Marty adored his time there. Having not left Alaska in 42 years, he is grateful for the show allowing him to travel.
"Everywhere I went there was something I heard about or read about that I've never seen before in person."
When not starring in television shows, Marty is a guide for Denali. Each time he leads a party, the climbers need to fill out a questionnaire that acts as a resume of their climbing qualifications. Many Coloradoans put down the state's numerous fourteeners as proof that they can handle Denali.
"Little did I know that I would be in Colorado in the shadow one of those fourteeners. I've guided many a person who've climbed Blanca."
The mountainous landscape reminded Raney of home and he was glad to have spent time in such a scenic area.
"The production company, Raw Television, called me a couple days ago and said the footage on this episode eclipses all of them. And it should, because it's Colorado."
The Garcias are grateful for the Raneys’ aid. "I had a great time," said Don. "It was a fantastic experience and I encourage everyone to watch it whether you live off grid or not. There's a lot of good information and advice there."
Tune into the "Homestead Rescue" season one finale tonight on Discovery Channel.
This interview was originally published in the July 29, 2016 edition of the Valley Courier.