On today’s podcast, I will give a brief overview of many homesteading skills worth acquiring and I discuss how one would go about learning some of these skills. This is not a list of every skill a homesteader may desire to have but a good list of basics. Every person may not desire to acquire every one of these skills but they could if they wanted to.
I believe gardening in some form is probably the most essential skill a homesteader can develop. Many people consider themselves poor gardeners with a brown thumb but it is a skill that can be learned.
Large scale organic
- The Organic Farming Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running a Certified Organic Farm -by Ann Larkin Hansen
Small scale organic
- The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming -by Jean-Martin Fortier
- All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space 2nd Edition -by Mel Bartholomew
- The great thing about learning this skill is that it can be done anywhere. Whether you live on a hundred acres or a small apartment gardening in containers is a great way to utilize spaces to grow things that might otherwise be unusable.
- If you live in a place with a shorter growing season indoor gardening is a valuable skill to have. This is mostly about lighting, large south-facing windows are a great place to grow otherwise you have to use artificial lighting.
- A great resource for seed saving information – http://howtosaveseeds.com/
- A method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.
- A system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purifies the water.
I believe knowing how to compost is an important homestead skill because it makes the most of what you have including your waste products. Compost is an important addition to the vitality of your soil and the nutritional value of your plants.
- Combining two parts high-carbon materials (shredded, dry plant matter such as leaves, twigs, woody stems) with one part high-nitrogen green plant matter (green plant and vegetable refuse, grass clippings, weeds, trimmings, kitchen scraps) in a pile approximately four foot cube and be kept about as moist as a squeezed-out sponge. The pile will reach temperatures between 110 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit and will need to be turned at least once a week.
- This will use about the same materials but will not reach the high temperatures that will destroy seeds and will take a year or longer to decompose but it will not need to be turned.
- This is the process of using worms to break down organic material and turned into rich organic fertilizer called worm castings.
- This is a liquid solution that contains the nutrients and beneficial organisms of compost. It is made by soaking compost in the water while being oxygenated.
All aspects of raising and ethical care of animals from birth to maturity.
- Chickens, Rabbits, Quail, Goats
- Cattle, Pigs, Sheep
- Bluegill, Crappie, Catfish, and Tilapia are some of the more common farm-raised fish.
- The American Beekeeping Federation is an excellent resource for beginner beekeepers.
- Excellent article on the benefits of different hive types from Mother Earth News – Langstroth, Top-Bar or Warre?: Choose the Right Hive for You and Your Bees
Butchering your own livestock can be unpleasant work but a great skill to have if you desire to be self-sufficient.
Attend a workshop
- It can be worth the cost of a great workshop to learn this valuable skill.
- Volunteer to help someone with experience to butcher his animals.
- Free labor is hard to turn down and just watching how it’s done can be a great way to learn.
- Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game – by John J. Mettler
You worked so hard to grow it or raise it but you can only eat so much at once. Food preservation is a vital homesteading skill if you want to get the most out of what you have.
- Water bath – Pickling, high acid fruits and jams, and jellies.
Q & A Podcast “Is It Safe To Water Bath Can Vegetables?“
- Pressure canning – Necessary for canning vegetables and meats.
Q & A Podcast “How To Get Started With Fermenting Food”
- It’s Easy with an Excalibur Food Dehydrator.
- Build your own with these Solar Food Dehydrator Plans from Mother Earth News.
- This is one of the simplest ways to preserve food though with many vegetables blanching is important to maintain color and taste.
Curing / Smoking
- The Hunter’s Guide to Butchering, Smoking, and Curing Wild Game and Fish Flexibound – by Philip Hasheider
Preparing your homegrown and raised healthy food is an often-underestimated valuable skill. If you truly want to fall in love with the homesteading lifestyle then good eating is the way to the heart.
There are many great blogs, websites, and Youtube channels specifically focusing on cooking food right from your garden and meat that you have raised or hunted.
There simply is nothing more important than plentiful clean water and sometimes it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Water security is a skill every homesteader should develop.
Depending on your water table this may not be that difficult. There are many videos and online resources explaining how someone would go about doing this.
Capturing runoff is easy but it requires a little setup. Here is an article with a few ideas for setting up a DIY Rain Water Catchment System.
This could be anything from storing jugs of water in your home to putting in a large cistern for water storage. Either way, knowing how and setting up a way to store water is an important skill to have.
It’s not enough to just have water, you have to have clean water if it’s going to be used for consumption in any way. Purifying water is an excellent skill to have and a valuable one to have especially in certain situations. You should have a commercial water purification system in your home like a Berkey but it’s also important to know how to purify water in other more primitive ways using natural materials
This is a great skill to have and can provide hundreds of pounds of meat for your homestead, plus it can be a lot of fun.
- Squirrel and Rabbit are the most common for meat.
- Deer, Elk, Moose, and Bear are the most common in North America.
- Learn to Handle, Shoot, Clean, and Store
- Q & A Podcast “What’s The Best Gun For Hunting Small Game“
- Learn to Handle, Shoot, and Maintain
- Field Dressing Game: A Waterproof Folding Guide to What a Novice Needs to Know – by James Kavanagh
This is another great way to supply meat for the homestead and does require a little skill. It is something that can be learned though and will probably develop into a hobby you love.
- Fishing with lures is something that takes some practice but can yield a great abundance of fresh fish and can be a lot of fun. Many people even enjoy making their own lures.
- Using live bait to catch fish is easy if you figure out what they like to eat. Worms, minnows, bee larvae, and leeches are common live baits to use. You can also make baits from bread and cereal into dough balls which work great for certain fish like carp and catfish.
- Gutting, cleaning, and filleting fish are skills you are going to need to develop if you’re going to be a fisherman. It’s a little messy but when you put the fork to your mouth you will realize how worth the trouble it is.
This is a skill many people desire to have but are afraid to try because of the risk of eating something toxic. This is a legitimate fear but one that can be put aside with proper education and training.
- Youtube is an excellent resource for learning about wild edible weeds.
- There are few mushrooms that are fairly safe for foraging such as morel or chanterelle but many are dangerous so make sure you know what you’re picking. Find an experienced mushroom forager to show you the ropes.
- Raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are a few common berries for foraging and are very safe and easy to find.
- Apples, plums, and mulberry are common to find in the woods and make for a great day of foraging.
- Walnuts are one of my favorites and expensive to buy but there are plenty in the woods. There are many others you can forage for, look for what’s common in your area.
Other Bushcrafting Skills
There are hundreds of bushcrafting skills worth learning for the purpose of preparedness and for fun. Here are a few of the most useful ones.
Youtube and books are excellent resources for learning these skills.
- Shelter building
- Fire starting
- Open fire cooking
- Make your own belts, bags, sheathes, slings, holsters, crafts, etc. from the animals you raise or hunt, making full use of resources.
- Leathercraft Tool Set
- Make your own tools, equipment, parts, or crafts using metal.
- Take a welding class at a local vocational training center
- Online Resources – Training Courses, DVD’s, Youtube Video’s
- The art of blacksmithing – Paperback – 1969 – by Alex W. Bealer
- The (new) Edge of the Anvil – by Jack Andrews
Carpentry / Building
It seems like I always have a hammer or a cordless drill in my hands these days. Knowing how to build things is a very handy skill to develop on the homestead. For some this skill comes naturally I think but I also believe with practice it can be learned.
- Start with small, simple projects.
- Find someone with building skills to help you and show you the basics.
General Maintenance and Repair
If you want to keep your finely tuned homestead running without the huge expense of hiring people to do everything for you then you will need to learn general maintenance and repair skills.
- Lawnmowers, generators, tractors, and vehicles all have engines and they occasionally need to be serviced and repaired. Learning engine basics can save you a lot of money and go a long way to helping you be more self-sufficient.
- If you’re not comfortable messing around with electricity then this is the one thing worth paying someone else to do. But it’s also a learnable skill that when done correctly can be safe. This will require some training from someone with experience.
- For some reason, this can be one of the most expensive things to hire out and quite honestly I find it fairly simple. This can be a very valuable skill to learn for when a pipe bursts.
Sewing / Knitting
I have to admit this is not one I don’t know much about but I would like to. This can range from sewing on a button (which I can do) to making all your own clothes, blankets, etc. (which I can’t do). However, I do recognize this as an extremely valuable skill to have when it comes to homesteading.
- Sewing.about.com offers some great suggestions for Free and Simple Ways To Learn Sewing.
Make Household Products
Making your own household products is a valuable skill because it can save you a lot of money and provide you with healthier substitutes to the toxic commercial products.
- 10 All-Natural, DIY Cleaners to Scrub Every Inch of Your Home from RealSimple.com
- How to make Handmade All Natural Soap For Face & Body from diynatural.com.
- A recipe for a simple inexpensive Homemade Laundry Detergent.
This is the study and practice of the medicinal and therapeutic use of plants. A valuable skill to have when you grow your own herbs and medicinal plants.
- A great article providing many resources for the study of herbalism – http://www.herbgeek.com/herbalism-in-the-digital-age-free-online-resources/
This is one I hadn’t thought of until recently when it was mentioned as a skill a person was desiring to work on and develop. no doubt it is a valuable skill to have on the homestead.
- A great article about developing the skill of bartering – http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/money/saving/barter-anything