On a recent Discovery Channel special episode of “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” the episode was titled “Truth Be Told.” The Kilcher family lives a life of subsistence in and around their homestead off Kachemak Bay in southern Alaska. For over seventy-five years, the Kilcher family, that came from Switzerland to carve a new life for their family has done just that. With a six hundred and forty-acre homestead to tend to, working the land is a brutal task, but a task they love.
This episode shows the results of viewer’s favorite moments and even shows never-before-seen footage. In 1936, when Yule Kilcher came to Alaska, he was not seeking Shangri-La, but just a place to live his life and be happy. Today, the family is still there, and nobody seems to be complaining.
Otto was asked, If a stranger looked you in the eye and asked if you are crazy to live this way; how would you handle it? Otto replied, that yes, he was crazy and would not have it any other way. Otto’s wife Charlotte said they would have a legitimate case, and their son Eivin believes you have to be a little bit crazy for sure.
Firearms are the clear fan favorite when a close call is evident. When Jane was learning to shoot, the recoil of the barrel gave her a huge black eye. It was a tough lesson to learn, but one that never happened again. When she shot the gun, the power brought the barrel back to her face because she was too close when she fired.
When a young colt named Moondance was injured by a porcupine’s quills, Otto and Charlotte tried to help him by pulling them out. Unfortunately, the quills hurt more coming out as they do going in. They had to tie him down and remove them with needle-nose pliers.
When Atz and son Atz Lee were trying to move a bridge, they held one side with a pulley. As they were attempting to cross the bridge, the pulley snapped and nearly hit Atz Lee in the head, which could have been fatal.
One Kilcher fan favorite is a young bull known as 1308. Asked if cows can swim, Otto replied that they have lots of gas in their gut and can swim. Otto stated that he does not believe they like to swim. As Otto was crossing the river with 1308 in tow, it seemed that the little guy was not going to make it, but Otto went as quickly as he could to drag him across. Once on the other side, his mother rescued him and immediately let him know all was fine.
The unpredictable challenges are the worst of the worst. In each episode, there must be at least one incident that makes fans thankful they do not have ‘smell-vision.’’ As Eve and Jane were cleaning the chicken coop that contained the winter’s supply of chicken poop, it was just gross thinking about it. When 1308 was attacked by a bear, his wound became infected, and it swelled to a gigantic lump on his neck. Otto lanced it and the fetid stuff that came out of the bull was absolutely disgusting. Once it was relieved of its pus-filled lump, the wound healed pretty quickly. Charlotte said it stunk to the high heavens.
On the Kilcher homestead, the endless workload can push each member to the edge of insanity. However, a sense of humor and enjoyment of their chores keep them happy by mixing fun with work. Otto loves explosives and any chance he has to blow something up; he is ready. Charlotte got her chance to do some quick excavating with explosives when the idea of a skating rink was hatched. Charlotte put her foot down when the guys tried to take down trees that she deemed not ready for taking down and the trees are still there. Otto has been called a hoarder or packrat, but when a spare part is needed to keep the homestead operating; he usually will have that necessary part. Otto and Charlotte met when both assisted in the clean-up after the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound in 1989.
The Kilchers have used ingenuity to fix some problems. The time when their milk cow Lily had an utter problem; they fashioned a bra to protect her teats from an overanxious calf. Once they were covered, they healed in no time. When Atz Lee and Jane attempted to build a smokehouse, Jane was more of a bystander than a worker until they needed to put some vent holes in it. She got to practice her shooting by putting holes in the smokehouse with a rifle.
Atz was overhauling a four-wheel trailer but required Otto’s help with the welding and construction. It was Atz’s plan all along to get his brother to do the work. Atz and Atz Lee sang a song describing their lives on the homestead while playing their guitars.
The Kilchers know that at any moment, there is danger lurking. Be it a bear, an unruly horse, or a fall off a mountain. Atz Lee took a terrible fall last year and was in the hospital for quite some time. He tried to exercise and get better as quickly as possible. He has lots of metal inside of him and plans to be back ASAP. Bull 1308 or as fans have dubbed him Lucky Murphy, was borrowed to breed with a milk cow belonging to a friend Marsha. He had a romantic weekend and bred a young cow named Cinnamon that looks just like her daddy.
The Kilchers love having fans and receiving fan mail from them, but Otto does not feel that they deserve it because they are just living their lives and loving what they do, but are grateful for those who care about them. May the Kilcher story go on and on and give fans a chance to enjoy them for many years to come on “Alaska: The Last Frontier.”