Local ‘Homestead Rescue’ couple talks about roles in Discovery Channel show

Ozark County residents Ini, left, and Wren, were approached by a casting crew for the Discovery Channel’s hit TV show “Homestead Rescue” in early spring through Instagram, where Wren frequently shares photos and snippets of their homesteading journey. The pair, who do not have a TV and had not heard of the show, went through an interview process and were ultimately chosen to be featured in an episode that aired Dec. 13. The Raney family was able to use the yurt’s original floor, made of reclaimed poplar barnwood.

After hearing that Ozark County homesteaders Wren and Ini were struggling with a serious mold issue inside the canvas-sided yurt they were living in here, the Raney family of Discovery Channel’s hit TV show “Homestead Rescue” decided their top priority for the Ozark County episode was to provide the young couple with a different structure for their home. This octagonal log-cabin, built from cedar logs, was erected in place of the yurt.

A wood stove heats the small structure so the couple stays cozy and warm, even in the frigid temperatures this past weekend. Wren, an avid book lover, says they are happy to snuggle up inside the cabin on days when it’s too cold to work outside.

Wren and Ini provided several follow-up video clips to the Discovery Channel to be used at the end of the episode to give a perspective of how the couple was doing after the Raneys left. This shot of Ini preparing freshly caught trout for smoking in the primitive smokehouse Matt Raney set up for the couple was sent but wasn’t used in the episode. The crew filmed hundreds of hours of video, but with less than 45 minutes available for airing, many clips had to be trimmed away.

Wren and Ini, an Ozark County homesteading couple who have chosen not to use their last names for privacy concerns, were featured in a Dec. 13 episode of Discovery Channel’s hit TV show, “Homestead Rescue.” The show pairs homesteaders in need of help with Marty, Matt and Misty Raney, a father, son and daughter team who have extensive experience in homesteading and primitive living. The Ozark County episode was filmed here in late April, coinciding with the area’s historic flood of April 29-30. After watching the show, we caught up with Wren and Ini to talk about what the experience was like for them. 


What was it like being on “Homestead Rescue”?

It was never either of our goals to be on TV, so we were really hesitant to do it, but in the end we’re completely thrilled with how the experience turned out. It was stressful at times and taxing on many levels, but we’re left with the taste of gratitude. We love the log cabin and appreciate the well pump. It was challenging having a TV show with an agenda in mind and 20 extra people, on average, on our little homestead. The speed at which everything had to move to complete it all in 10 days was overwhelming, but it’s one of those things that, after a little rest and recoup, it is in the past and we have some really cool stuff to show for it and a great story! 


How did you find out about the show, and what was the process like as you went through it?

We found out about the show through Instagram. A casting call-out arrived in the messages, and we laughed about it. I (Wren) researched like crazy to see if it could be the real deal, and if there were any other stories of people who had been on the show, if it was a good experience for them. We don’t have WIFI so we had to go through the two Skype interviews at the West Plains library (in the children’s room!), so that was pretty funny. We treated it all like a joke, honestly, but all along Ini said we’d be chosen. This all happened in the span of a month, and when we heard we were chosen we had a phone call with the crew in London (while we were at the Gainesville laundromat), and they asked if it was OK if they sent scouts out in two weeks! Five weeks after that, the Raneys came! It all happened very quickly and altered the course of our year in major ways. 


After you found out you were chosen, what happened next? Was your first time meeting the Raneys what we saw on camera, or did you meet them prior to filming that scene?

The first people on the land were the director and the site manager, who both flew in from London. They met with locals and scoped out our homestead and the general area. Five weeks after that, a crew of 20 people arrived! They had an RV set up on the property as the base of operations, and they also had a port-o-potty. 

The first time we met the Raneys was on camera, actually. They had been on the land all morning, and we were told to stay in our yurt. They set up their base camp down by our creek. (It ultimately got destroyed in the flood, which is why you don’t see it on screen.) They did their preliminary filming while we waited it out. We milled around until we were called to meet them on camera. The 20 other people on set were cameramen, a camera cleaner (this was one person’s main job!), tech, logistics, managers, directors and builders, when the time came. The Raneys did a lot of building and have incredible work ethic, but the cabin was mainly built by a Missouri log building company, Sticks and Stones: Real Log Homes (which also didn’t make the cut, but they were great people who worked very hard!).


Talk to us a little bit about the mold issue you were experiencing inside the yurt that the Raneys took on as the main project in the episode. 

We returned from traveling last fall and came back to some moldy leather surfaces in the yurt. We had heard about leather molding in summer in Missouri, so at first we didn’t think much of it. Soon thereafter, we realized the problem was bigger than just moldy items. We had difficulty breathing, experienced shortness of breath and coughing and irritated eyes. I don’t believe the yurt would have gotten moldy if we hadn’t left it for a couple of months that fall (the most mold-prone time and without any ventilation in the yurt), so I don’t want to give yurts a bad rep! Also, the “mold” they showed in the show was actually not mold but soot from the stove pipe - just to clear that up! 

Mold is so tricky because it is usually an invisible killer that can cause serious problems for the immune and respiratory systems and even the neurological system.  Once we realized the mold issue was a huge deal, we tried cleaning everything in the yurt with vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, essential oils, bleach and even white-washing the wood with lime and salt. That didn’t work, so we had started a building that February with the potential for housing and storage. When we got the message about the casting call, we realized the biggest issue we were dealing with was an unsafe living situation and that perhaps they could help us with that. Our plan was to take the yurt down once it got warmer out (we left it up so we could store all of our stuff in it until we had something else), but ultimately it became the focal point of the show with the Raneys. 

It was a big event to take it down, but we were planning to do so anyway. The part that was stressful was that we didn’t know what was coming next, and all of this was happening in extremely rainy weather, and we were worried about all of our stuff getting wet. The filmed conversation we had with the Raneys [about the yurt coming down] was super intense and was four hours long! Due to TV suspense, at first they didn’t tell us what they were going to put up in its place, so that was the main reason we resisted so long. We had seen other shows they’d done with particle-board buildings, and we were hesitant to let them take down the yurt if that’s what they were going to put up in its place. Once we heard about the log cabin, we were all in and pretty excited! Misty Raney and Wren cleaned the yurt with bleach in the rain, and Ini cleaned the canvas. We built a new foundation for it this summer, and the yurt is now serving as a guest bedroom and library! 


What were the Raneys really like? Did their off-screen personalities match their on-screen personalities?

The Raneys are definitely genuine people, although there is, of course, a little hype and drama on screen. Marty is for sure an intense dude and very kind and caring. They all truly came to help and are big-hearted, hard-working, real people. What impressed me most about Marty was that often when the cameras weren’t rolling, he would be out there working, bare chested and sweaty. It was hard to get him to stop working sometimes, and it was really fun working next to him! Matt is a down-to-earth dude with a lot of hunting experience and a genuine interest in our lifestyle. He was really kind, funny and a hard worker as well. Misty was also an incredibly hard worker! Wren and Misty had a lot of fun building together and having great conversation. She knows how to build and get stuff done!


Was the bowfishing experience held around here, and were any local guides involved? What was eating the carp like?

The bowfishing took place at Lake Taneycomo. We were taken out by two guides from Last Call Bowfishing, and they were totally awesome guys. They provided all the expertise, guidance and equipment. It was a really fun expedition, and the way Matt smoked the carp turned out really well. Everyone on set was amazed it tasted so good. He smoked it all day with cherry wood after brining it overnight. 


The show mentioned the “local homesteading community” helping out several times. Who was that, and were any local businesses involved with the project?

The “local homesteading community” was the log cabin builders from Stick and Stones we mentioned earlier. They came down from northern Missouri; Tim, the owner, is also a pastor. Many of the people who came and worked very hard were from his church. We couldn’t have done it without them! His sons also built a lot of it. Warren’s Mill [owned by Sam and Brenda Warren in Gainesville] provided the cedar roof decking, which is absolutely beautiful, and Jim Woodman milled much of the wood used on the log cabin, as well as other projects after they left. Harold Cooper of Cooper Well Drilling, who didn’t make the cut [in the final aired episode] and who originally drilled our well, came out and installed the solar pump. It didn’t get a lot of air time, but it is a huge blessing to us. The scene of us lifting the aquaduct was actually a few local friends of ours, including Jessi Dreckman, Amelia Lamair, Eric Tumminia,  Miriam Schrippe and others. Of course, other neighbors were very generous, loaning us the propane heater and other odds and ends during the flood (we legitimately got landlocked on our property). They were all-around, good-natured about having this high-traffic load in our neck of the woods. The show really brought in a lot of the local community, and I think the Ozarkians showed these people from London and California, etc., true hospitality and generosity! Many people were really impressed with our area for this reason and of course for the natural beauty. 


It looked like the Raneys had to leave before the project was done due to the weather conditions involved with the historic flood April 29-30. Were you able to finish the cabin and other projects?

The flood did indeed keep the Raneys away on the last day of filming. The projects were mostly finished, but the ones that weren’t were taken care of by the production crew. Everyone had to fly to the next shoot, so they couldn’t stay any longer, but we were taken care of. We had to finish some chinking on the [cabin] building, wire some details for the solar pump and install the solar panel ourselves. We’re super stoked about how everything is working out! We are sitting in the cabin right now with the wood stove roaring and couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. We have abundant gratitude for the Raneys and the entire crew, Sticks and Stones, and everyone who was involved. It is fantastic to have a solar-powered pump and the two cisterns. We also finalized the irrigation system as the year progressed, and it’s benefited us greatly.


Wren, is your mom’s maiden name really Raney? Do you think there could be a family connection to the Raney family on the show?

My mom’s maiden name really is Raney, which we thought was pretty hilarious. None of us had watched the show before we knew we were going to be on it, and we thought that was a pretty funny coincidence. My Uncle Brad loved the show, however, and he is also the family historian. We got Marty’s grandfathers’ names and he looked into it. He thinks there’s a connection!


Was there any part of the show that you felt was inaccurately portrayed, or is there anything that you’d like to clarify to the local community?

As always with reality TV, there is an immense amount of film (days’ worth) cut down to a 40-minute show. There’s so much left unsaid and edited out. We were not using canola oil to fuel the chainsaw but rather as a bar-and-chain oil. As a side note, this isn’t too far out there, as Europe has outlawed the use of petroleum-based bar-and-chain oil. The log situation was actually far from truth as well because the logs had already been acquired pre-filming, but we do manage our forest with great intention. All in all, there are little details here and there, but it’s a TV show in the end. We were really nervous before we watched the show as to how we would be portrayed, and we were really relieved at the end result. Like we said, little details here and there, but on the whole we’re pleased with our representation and had fun watching it! What a memory of the early days on our homestead and of the historic flood! The drone shots are super cool, too.


What was it like to hunker down in the incomplete cabin during the massive storm? Did you stay dry and safe?

It was pretty crazy that the storm hit just as we had the roof on. The rains really did drive the Raneys off quickly, and it was good they made it out when they did as the road access was blocked due to rapid flooding. The cabin’s cupola was actually tarped and unfinished so we had buckets in the house catching rain that came in and a tarp over the entrance as the door wasn’t put on yet! That was a really uncomfortable evening and couple of days as we had to wait awhile to have that finished. We actually couldn’t leave for a day or so after that night as the low-water bridges were covered with deep water, but we had enough food and didn’t suffer anywhere near what some people did. Like I said, it would’ve all been much more uncomfortable if not for our neighbor who loaned us the propane heater.  


What was your reaction when you watched the episode?

We were expecting the worst before we watched the episode, and we felt pure relief the night we watched it. We went over to a friend’s house and viewed it with friends and had a good laugh. We all thought they might portray us poorly as they have made some homesteaders look pretty underprepared and ill equipped in the past, but I think they did as good a job as could be expected for a realty TV with a storyline of rescuing people. We’ve since watched it a couple more times and are happy to have the memories. Painless! 


How are things now on the homestead? Have you made progress since the show was filmed? 

They really gave us a boost with the things they set up for us here. We are happily living in the beautiful finished log cabin with a wood stove. After they left, we finished the building we had started in the winter. Some of the cedar milled by Jim Woodman was live edge [leaving the natural edge of the wood], so the building turned out beautifully, and having him mill the boards sped up our process a lot! We had a solar system that was a hair away from being set up right before the Raneys came, so after the whirlwind, we were also able to do that. We’ve since put away a lot of garden produce in the freezer, got chickens and goats and got some wild game, so we’re having a much more restful, relaxing and enjoyable winter. We also planted over 200 fruit, nut and medicinal trees and shrubs this fall; having a solar-powered well pump and cisterns made this possible and, dare I say, easier.

Ozark County Times

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