uncivilize

A Homestead Built on Faith - Kip Smyth

The Smyth family of YouTube’s  1000’s of Roots  channel: Kip, Carrie, Caleb, Joshua, Nathan, Esther, Joseph, and Naomi Smyth. Photo credit:  1000’s of Roots .

The Smyth family of YouTube’s 1000’s of Roots channel: Kip, Carrie, Caleb, Joshua, Nathan, Esther, Joseph, and Naomi Smyth. Photo credit: 1000’s of Roots.

I was asking the question, Why am I alive? Because the decisions I had made and the things I had done, I should be dead. But I was still alive. And when I asked that question—Why am I still alive?—I had a picture in my mind: I saw myself walking down a desert path with a bright light shining on me, and I was wearing a white robe...
— Kip Smyth

Happy New Year! I’m coming back to you from winter hiatus later than anticipated, due to an extended illness and the now-historic teacher’s strike here in Los Angeles. During that time (which also saw LA pounded by torrential rains and floods), my daughters and I holed up at home and often lived vicariously through the videos of my guest today: homesteader Kip Smyth of the 1000’s of Roots YouTube channel. Via twice-weekly vlogs, Kip, his wife Carrie and their six children—ages 15 years to 19 months—document their permaculture-homesteading and homeschooling adventures living on a 500-square-foot off-grid home set on 20 acres in the Missouri Ozarks. 

The Smyth family’s stripped-down way of life is deeply rooted in their Christian faith; and yet, as Kip reveals in this interview, this was an existence he never could have imagined growing up as a self-described “jock” in a secular family in suburban Los Angeles. Here, we talk about consumerism overload, his calling to Christianity, homesteading from scratch, and so much more. 

Show notes:

  • Kip’s troublemaker childhood in Thousand Oaks, CA

  • From the party scene to finding himself on his family’s land in Alaska: “That’s when crazy stuff started happening to me”

  • Becoming a Christian, Simpson University as a 25-year-old freshman, and meeting Carrie

  • Arizona, the housing bubble and discovering Joel Salatin

  • Working at Home Depot: “If consumerism is the problem, then I need to become a producer”

  • Back to Alaska, and a brief foray into hunting and fishing 

  • Strategic Relocation and why the Smyths chose Missouri

  • Primitive skills and the problem with the prepper mindset

  • Learning to homestead from scratch, building debt-free, and the long-term vision for 1000’s of Roots

  • Faith, their lifestyle as a calling, and Kip’s advice for other wannabe homesteading families

All photos:  1000’s of Roots

All photos: 1000’s of Roots

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Watch the Smyth family’s journey on their YouTube channel: 1000’s of Roots. Read more about their life on the 1000’s of Roots blog. You can also support the family’s mission on Patreon.

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.

The Birth of an Explorer - Alegra Ally

Photo:  Alegra Ally ,  Wild Born Project . From “ Women at the End of the Land ” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

Photo: Alegra Ally, Wild Born Project. From “Women at the End of the Land” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

I would sit in a classroom and I would daydream about me just going and disappearing in a jungle and living with a tribe....These are the most memorable moments of my childhood.
— Alegra Ally

This week, I bring you this much anticipated conversation with ethnographer and award-winning photographer and explorer Alegra Ally. Via her Wild Born Project, Alegra has traveled to the far-flung corners of the globe to document the traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous motherhood—from pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding to rite-of-passage rituals for young girls.

This year, Alegra became a new mother herself. She spoke to me from her native Israel, where she and her husband (free diver and photographer Erez Beatus) were enjoying time with family before embarking with their baby son on their next adventure. For Alegra, the drive to explore seems inborn; here, she shares the remarkable story of her first solo expedition to Papua New Guinea at the age of 17, the near improbable logistics of photographing remote tribal birth, and the “superhuman” power she’s found in the wake of new motherhood.

Here’s the run-down:

  • Traveling to Tonga as a new mother

  • Alegra’s own experience of birth

  • Working as a diving instructor, early travels and how she met Erez

  • Her childhood in Israel, and “planning” her first expedition at age 11

  • Her first solo expedition to Papua New Guinea at age 17

  • The spiritual and intuitive search that led her to Wild Born

  • How she documents indigenous motherhood: the logistics

  • Her forthcoming book, her new nonprofit, and what’s next for Alegra and Wild Born

Photo:  Alegra Ally

Learn more about Alegra (and see her amazing photographs) on her personal and Wild Born Project websites. And don’t miss her must-follow Instagram accounts: @alegraally and @wildbornproject.

Photo:  Alegra Ally ,  Wild Born Project . From “ Women at the End of the Land ” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

Photo: Alegra Ally, Wild Born Project. From “Women at the End of the Land” expedition to the Yamal Peninsula.

Photo:  Alegra Ally ,  Wild Born Project . From “ Walking with the Himba ” expedition to Namibia.

Photo: Alegra Ally, Wild Born Project. From “Walking with the Himba” expedition to Namibia.

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.

The Woman and the Little Cabin That Could - Ayana Young

Photo: Ayana Young,  For the Wild

Photo: Ayana Young, For the Wild

If there’s nowhere to hide, then it allowed me to stand where I love, and fight like hell for that place. For me, the temperate rainforest was what called me…This whole ecosystem called me back and said: ‘Now that you’re over your own little life, you will work for us.’ And I said, ‘OK, put me to work. What do you need me to do?’
— Ayana Young

In her mid-20s and a few years past her ecology studies at Columbia University, Ayana Young’s life had the makings of an off-the-grid fantasy. She lived with her partner in a cabin on an organic farm on an Oregon mountaintop. She studied herbalism. Then, Fukashima happened. The two, no longer feeling safe, set off on a journey to find “the promised land”—that untainted wilderness where they could live out their days sheltered from the toxic threats of industrialized civilization. Instead, Ayana found herself awakened to the harsh reality of her anarcho-survivalist quest: that it had clouded her true calling of working in service of something greater than herself.

This week, I speak with Ayana about that remarkable journey and the “something greater” that resulted: her creation of the trailblazing For the Wild collective—which now encompasses the 1 Million Redwoods reforestation project, For the Wild podcast, and a new spinoff series birthed from a preservation campaign around the Tongass National Forest. (She helms this all from yes, her handbuilt cabin in the coastal redwood mountain range of Northern California.)

some of what we talk about:

  • The making of “the little cabin that could”

  • “So lost and damn naïve when I started this endeavor”

  • Ayana’s upbringing in suburban Southern California

  • Living in an 1800s farmhouse in Pennsylvania and the birth of the For the Wild podcast (then Unlearn and Rewild)

  • The cedar cabin in Oregon, the journey to New Zealand and the awakening to the Anthropocene

  • The inevitable consumerist existence of cities

  • Human supremacy

  • The Bill McKibben question and “What are we really trying to save here?”

  • The 1 Million Redwoods Project, biomimetic reforestation and learning how to have a reciprocal relationship with nature

  • The off-the-grid fantasy versus Ayana’s life now

  • “We don’t have the time to be arguing about small things anymore”

Follow Ayana and her mission at For the Wild, where you can learn about the 1 Million Redwoods Project, subscribe to the For the Wild podcast, learn about her new spinoff series, sign up for her newsletter and make a nonprofit donation. She’s also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.

Extreme Simplicity - Christopher Nyerges

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Some people think I’m teaching for the apocalypse...how to get by. You probably could, if you take these classes. But I’m hoping we won’t have an apocalypse. If we change our behavior, and [learn how to] use less and work together better, we won’t have apocalypses.
— Christopher Nyerges

This week, I step away from my Skype interview setup to head out into the urban wild with Los Angeles-based survivalist (and National Geographic Doomsday Preppers alum) Christopher Nyerges, who has taught wild food foraging, wilderness skills, and ecology awareness to nature-starved urbanites for the past five decades. Christopher was the editor of the former Wilderness Way magazine, and is also a prolific writer, having authored thousands of articles and more than 20 books on the skills of self-reliance, including How to Survive Anywhere, Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants, Foraging California, and Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City.

In many ways, that latter title could serve as the theme of his life's work, as I learned in this forthright conversation with Christopher about our societal obsession with money, his School of Self-Reliance, and what’s driven him to live a (some might say, though I wouldn’t) radically spartan, even off-grid existence in a city where materialism seems to know no bounds. I also got a literal taste of Christopher’s vast wild food knowledge, thanks to the accompanying edible plant walk he took me on in Pasadena’s Hahamongna Watershed Park

Here’s the breakdown of the show:

  • My edible wild plant walk with Christopher, and how to avoid poisonous plants

  • His experience being homeless and living as a squatter in LA

  • Christopher’s wilderness/survival classes

  • “Food was sacred”: Growing up not wasting anything in a family of six kids

  • Why Christopher chose the path of minimalism

  • Writing Extreme Simplicity and living off-grid for 20 years in the Highland Park neighborhood of LA

  • Modern-world clutter versus owning things that have purpose

  • Christopher’s thoughts on the apocalypse

  • Bukowski and death: “[My] focus on death isn’t about death; it’s about life”

  • The four illusions of money

  • What we can learn from tribal peoples about functioning as a communal society

  • Christopher’s thoughts on the future of cities

You can learn more about Christopher’s classes, special events and writings on The School of Self-Reliance website as well as on Facebook. See links to a few of his most popular books, below!

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan. Want to chime in on this episode or have an idea for a future show? Connect with me via my Instagram page, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

A few of Christopher's books: