The Alaskan Bush People aren't in Alaska anymore, and stars Billy and Ami Brown are opening up about their family’s relocation from the Alaskan tundra to the wilderness of Washington.
After abandoning their 9 to 5 jobs and planting their roots in “Browntown,” where they raised their children — sons Matt, 36, Bam, 34, Bear, 31, Gabe, 29, and Noah, 26, and daughters Bird, 24, and Rain, 16 — the Brown family is still adjusting to life in the continental U.S. and finding themselves falling more in love with their 435-acre property in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State, which they have christened North Star Ranch.
“Every week there’d be more revealed” Billy told PEOPLE of the shifting seasons and the melting snow. “We’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s ours.’ We started realizing just what God really gave us. There’s still pieces [of North Star] that, on purpose, we haven’t gone and seen yet so we can explore it later when Ami feels better.”
The couple, who wed in 1979 and lived in their native Texas, “fell in love” with Washington State and first contemplated a move to the state following the birth of their first child, Matt. It wasn’t until Ami was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and given just a 3 percent chance of survival that the Browns decided to finally make the move.
“It was very scary,” Ami said of her cancer diagnosis. “But I never gave up hope.”
While her cancer is now in remission, the crisis required the family to leave Alaska for Southern California so that Ami could be treated at UCLA Medical Center. The family decided to officially make a permanent move closer to civilization, relocating to Washington, due to Ami’s continued medical needs, which require her to fly back to Los Angeles every three months for checkups.
Now, the family lives scattered across their Washington property, Ami and Billy’s children sleeping in tepees during the warmer weather and trailers when the weather gets too cold. The living situation is ideal for the Brown family matriarch and patriarch, who have come to realize that they aren’t “spring chickens anymore” and accept the help of their children in doing the hard labor of developing their land.
“This is what we always wanted but just couldn’t have up north,” Billy said.
Alaskan Bush People Season 9 premieres Sunday, March 3 at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery.