On Wednesday’s edition of Homestead Rescue on Discovery, we get to meet a really cool couple who have purchased a bit of land in Wisconsin, only to find out that a river runs through it, literally.
When it rains anyway, and apparently it is raining a ton in their neck of Viroqua, Wisconsin.
This patch of green is where Stacey Roou and Lou Shields have created their own off-the-grid world.
Except their world is rotting with mildew and disappearing under their floorboards.
It was time to get help, and thanks to the resourcefulness of Stacey, they connected with Team Raney. Marty, Misty and Matt whose show is devoted to people like them in over their heads, have agreed to help.
Lou Shields and Stacey Roou wanted out of the rat race. Lou is a touring musician and artist who also teaches while Stacey works in marketing and now is homesteading and gardening to offset food costs.
The two describe themselves as “driftless ramblers” on their socials and both share an appreciation of fine old things, art, music and being self-sufficient and fell in love with a parcel of land with a quaint cabin on it.
Little did they know, a culvert and hidden pipe sat above their home on a bluff that turned into a perfectly positioned blasting water cannon when it rained.
We find out in the episode that it rains all the time in their area, to the point people have lost their homes and businesses have shuttered. It’s bad.
Even their garden had rotted produce on the vine, a heart-breaker for a home gardener. But even worse is when the Raneys see how much damage is waiting on them in the undercarriage of their home. The support beams are ready to snap or fall over.
Discovery Channel presented Homestead Rescue with the Raney family as a show that helped people fix issues, as homesteading isn’t taught in school but something that is learned by trial and error.
And like the trades and crafts of yore, knowledge is precious and handed down, taught by those with experience. Patriarch Marty Raney did that for his children and now the grown Raney kids are sharing that intel with new homesteaders. From there, a television show was born.
It’s a growing movement. More people are curious about solar power, old fashioned tools, fixes and handmade crafts and repairs, along with animal raising, gardening, and breaking the cycles of consumerism. A look backward, if you will, of how to live life on a slower pace and less costly venture.
The Raneys help rookie homesteaders learn how to master their immediate surroundings, understand the wilderness and how to use it to their advantage and live simply off the land. In the episode, titled “Building a Trench” (Homestead Rescue 209), Stacey and Lou welcome the Raneys to their emotional (and structural) rescue. We spoke to them about the episode:
Monsters & Critics: When you purchased this piece of land with the cabin on it, was that culvert pipe ever disclosed to you?
Lou: No, we kind of found out about it afterward.
Stacey: Yes, it was buried in the woods, like you couldn’t see it.
Lou: It was covered in in trees and weeds and everything else you know, and we didn’t think of it being a threat or anything like that.
Stacey: Yes. But we’re good friends with the person that we bought the cabin from so… we told Marty [Raney] that we didn’t want anything [mentioned that was] negative towards him.
M&C: How did the previous owner manage this water flow though and did he give you a heads up about the rain issue?
Stacey: No, not really. I think the rain has gotten worse around here over the last four years since we’ve been here. There’s been terrible flooding but it’s just increased significantly since we’ve owned it.
I mean, there was clearly problems. Water just always finds its way and I think it just got worse as time went on.
M&C: Marty said in the show that you guys are getting 100-year storms constantly every year now…it doesn’t seem normal…
Lou: No. It could be something to do with some of the series around climate change … and feeling the effects of that.
Some people don’t believe in that, but it’s definitely happening all over the country and in other parts of the world.
I was just in Europe on tour and they’re talking about the same kind of thing where the weather has been too cold or it’s been too hot or the weather’s been so different the last couple of years and it’s all just really strange.
Stacey: We had cold weather up until the end of May and now we are in June and we’ve had some 80 degree days, but now it’s a 60-degree day and it’s raining today… so definitely that weather patterns have just seemed to change a lot.
M&C: How soon did you get your seedlings established in your new garden and the new terraces that Misty helped you build?
Stacey: Since the beginning of June, so we had frost and all of the farmers are even behind [in their crops] here, with frost and even snow in May, so that was unusual too.
M&C: How long is summer where you are?
Stacey: I would say it’s nice weather typically in the middle of April through the middle of October with 80 degree days and 90 degree days could be in there at any time but it just kind of just depends on the year… some years are hotter and some years are colder. About two years ago, in the end of September, it was 95 degrees out on our wedding day…
M&C: Are you both native to Wisconsin or was the area for homesteading purposes just perfect?
Stacey: I was born in Wisconsin but moved to New Jersey, and was raised in New Jersey most of my life and then I lived in Kansas City, Missouri until my teenage years… and then I moved back to Wisconsin… so my parents were born and raised in the northeast part of the state. Lou is from Illinois.
Lou: I was born a little south of Chicago and was raised there but he used to come to this area all the time as a kid. One of my aunts lived here and kind of fell in love twice I guess.
Stacey: Something that I discovered… probably about 15 years ago, and I hadn’t known about it. But it’s definitely unique and it’s not like the rest of Wisconsin at all. Wisconsin is flat and this place is unglaciated so it has bluffs and valleys.
M&C: One of the first things that Marty addressed was the wood rot and the structural undercarriage of your home. First of all, did you notice a big difference when you walked inside your home, like as far as how the floor reacted to your weight and the shifting and did you feel the difference after he had established that new corner beam and then did that long brace with the wood dowels?
Stacey: Yes, when we used to walk on our portion in our kitchen, our whole cabin used to shake and now it doesn’t do that anymore.
I don’t even notice any shaking. We need to replace a couple more posts down there, they said we have maybe a few years with them. They have some external rot but we should be good for a little while.
They replaced the one that was almost rotten completely through, and that I think really helped in holding the cabin up more.
M&C: The big ditch that Marty excavated around your home and filled with big boulders, is that working?
Stacey: Yes, it is. We’re standing right in front of it right now… and you can see the water is using that path which is great, so we had seeded and built up with dirt mounds and stuff in the other areas.
But you can see the water is even carving away areas in that new path …so even though we have 130 tons of rock… this water is still doing what it wants to do obviously because there’s a lot of pressure and there’s a lot of rain.
M&C: A lot of places like in California, Oregon or even Idaho that has seasonal drought… a lot of homesteaders would likely want to touch that water to use for their garden but you don’t really need to do that because you have such an abundant rainfall?
Lou: Misty Raney did install some water catchment off of the cabin and we are doing some of that too for a [drought] situation in case we do have some dry months.
So I am out trying to do some water catchment. But with the main drain, we’re just trying to get away from the cabin. We are trying to do a little bit of that as well because we get a lot of rain and it’s almost sufficient… probably for the garden… but you never know if you might have a dry out.
Stacey: About five years ago we had the whole month of August with no rain…yes, we definitely need to figure out a solution for the dry time.
But we have a lot more roof that we can add some more gutters and some with our cabin built up and help to want to put those big square water containment under the cabin and so we can catch it but then it can sale up those barrels so we have reserves.
M&C: What’s the best part about homesteading for you two?
Lou: I think a lot of it is is the feeling of disconnecting from the 21st century for a little while anyway… just having that sensibility of knowing where your water comes from or where your food comes from.
Having a little more connection to the land… that was something that I was greatly missing for a long time. It’s a very freeing thing and in some cases, it’s probably very illusory … in a way.
But at least we get to have that feeling and enjoy it because it is something that I was missing deeply, and I think a lot of people are these days. A little bit of that land connection here.
Stacey: Yes, and we also like history and old relics of the past, so when you have a lot of buildings, and outbuildings that Lou has built with old reclaimed wood and rusty tin and that kind of stuff … obviously, we couldn’t have that [rustic] esthetic in the city.
Lou can make art with his three-dimensional structures that he builds. He also draws, and he is amazing, like styled water pen and ink and they [his art] look a lot like the buildings on our property. So I think he’s able to use the homestead as a living breathing art installation and inspiration.
M&C: Are you able to have chickens?
Lou: Currently we don’t have chickens but we would like to, and if we did… we would have to do a lot to fortify an enclosure for them and keep them safe because there are a lot of predators out there that would go after the smaller animals.
Stacey: Yes, everyone has chickens around here, but you have to have an enclosure because of coyotes. They would be eaten in a couple weeks.
Lou: And the deer are destructive too. You have to fortify and protect the garden to keep it intact.
M&C: Lou, you were kind of queasy about killing a deer… Talk about that and if you really would rather just kind of have a tomato grilled cheese…
Lou: I think currently… if I’m not in a situation where I have to do it… but I wanted to prepare my mindset so that I do want to be able to know how to provide for food if I absolutely had to in that situation.
Matt [Raney] talked a lot about that as well, where he doesn’t get any joy out killing an animal. It’s more about the idea of trying to provide food for you and your family and other people. And knowing exactly where your food is coming from.
And in that respect, it is really important… getting back to that disconnect [in society] where today I think we have…everything is done with a flick of a light switch or an order through the drive-thru window…We have completely taken that out of our lives now and most people have no clue as to what that’s about.
Also, being a vegetarian for a long time, that would offer something for me to get over and think about. But even as a vegetarian, I was eating crap processed food… it just wasn’t processed meat.
It’s hard to escape that, it’s like a lot of things that I was getting into it in that sense of “how do you get into a situation where you know where your food came from?”
Or your water, or where your power comes from? For me, it just puts me at ease a little bit and makes me understand it better and appreciate it more.
Stacey: One thing that resonated for me is that we have a lot of really nice restaurants [nearby] that are farm-to-table restaurants and so you walk in and there’s a chalkboard of where the meat and cheese is from and where the vegetables were grown and it’ll be a farm just down the road.
Matt was saying when he was hunting that it was “field to table”, the same concept as being organic in knowing where your food is coming from and then eating food that is healthier than obviously commercially grown farmed foods.
Lou: And it’s been fantastic, a better taste, that’s for sure.
M&C: How did you catch the attention of the Raney family? How did you lobby them to come help you?
Stacey: There’s an Instagram page called Mountain Jewel, two people and my Instagram page was following them before their episode aired. Before I even knew, they were going to be on Homestead Rescue. Lou had been watching the show, streaming that show… addicted to it, wanting to learn more and more each time.
They posted that they were going to be on the show, which was interesting to me. We watched the episode and then after that they [said that they] can recommend any other homesteader friends that are interested for casting for the show… and that’s when they recommended us to the production company in L.A.
We spent nine months doing some B-roll then we began June or July and then wrapped filming in September.
Lou: I was binging it in the winter time when it was kind of hard to do any work outside you know and learned a lot from it and by that point, we were getting a little over our heads.
It was kind of a perfect time for them to come and help us, especially with the erosion problems because that kind of thing hit us and we had no preparation for that. Under the cabin, you could smell how damp it was.
Luckily we didn’t get a flood but because of that and the massive amount of rain constantly and the erosion happening, it was just as destructive in some cases.
Stacey: We’re at the top of the bluff but we’re at the lowest spot so our neighbors on either side their property and higher so everything that rains on the top of the bluff exits through the lowest part of our property.
There was significant flooding. I mean, there are people who lost their homes in our area so… restaurants, businesses, homes completely under water.
We are thankful that they came [to help us] but we also felt really bad for everybody else who lost their property… so it was just random that they came two weeks after that catastrophic flood and obviously we had been casting with them for a long time before that…But so we do feel a little bit guilty, but deeply thankful.
M&C: Lou, what is the name of your band and were you guys tour?
Lou: Sure, I go by my name Lou Shields. I am a folk musician, I have a website and Instagram.
— Lou Shields (@loushields) January 15, 2019
I just got back from a tour in Europe I just got back Monday actually, that was a lot of fun. I was actually playing off-grid at places that were kind of a squat and it was a community that was trying to live like that too.
They couldn’t believe that I had 15 acres because [where I was] in this particular place in Germany [where] you can’t buy outside of the cities anymore. They won’t let you unless you’re a billionaire.
These people lived in about 50 carriage houses in this little bitty space, living very much the way we were, they had their little gardens and solar panels, their water source and everything else… but it was really close together and quite a wild experience to see that too in another place far away and speak with the folks that are doing very similar things.
Stacey: I’ll plug for Lou too, so he plays guitar and banjo and he plays a 1931 National guitar …so you know, along that theme of having old things in our life and his instruments reflect that, and he is an amazing artist and musician.
M&C: Hey you got Marty Raney singing along with you, that was pretty cool.
Lou: Pretty cool, yeah!
Homestead Rescue airs Wednesday at 10/9c on Discovery Channel. Fans can also watch episodes early each Wednesday on Discovery GO, free with their paid TV subscription.