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Homesteading is a lifestyle of hard work, planning, and building a better life. Some homestead skills come naturally to some people and some skills are only acquired by learning. Each person’s skill set is different in ability and degree of the ability of others. When we talk about homesteading, just as in any job, career, or lifestyle, certain skills are necessary. It doesn’t matter where you homestead or even how you homestead, as these skills pertain to everyone. This list is simple and includes the most important homesteading skills that I feel will benefit you most during your homesteading journey. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Homestead Skill #1: Learn to Budget Money
The biggest factor almost every homesteader has in common is that they save money every chance they get. Learning to budget your money is a skill that we all need to learn. It means knowing where to cut your expenses, how to use your money wisely, and how to start saving. It can help us save for that extra fencing we need to buy, or that veterinary bill we didn’t expect, or even how to cut an expense in one area to provide a means to another. Figuring a budget is fairly easy.
How to start a budget
A great way to start a budget is to first list everything you spend money on. This includes; rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, gas, food, entertainment, and all miscellaneous amounts you put out on other things. If you are not sure what you spend, make a chart for yourself, list everything you spend for a month. You might be surprised what you actually spend each month. Now look at that list and highlight all of the things that are necessary one color and the things that are unnecessary another color. Can you cut the things that aren’t necessary? That could save you tons of money.
Now take the necessary items you highlighted, first of all, decide if you can lessen these amounts. Can you refinance a loan or mortgage? Are you able to limit how much gas, electric, or water you use? Can you pay off that credit card? If you can reduce any area of spending, do it now. Now you have the remaining debt that you must pay each month. Take the totals and subtract it from your total income for the month. How much is left? The remaining amount is what you have to work with toward making a budget. Now you can simply figure out what expense you need to budget for and add them where you have some room. For a more detailed look at how to make a budget, check out J and J Acres. They have a spreadsheet that you can download for free that I absolutely love!
Homestead Skill #2: Learn Simple Gardening
Everyone is getting into the “go green” and “healthy living” lifestyle these days with all the additives and preservatives and other useless junk that goes into our food today. Gardening at home is the “in” thing! However, not everyone has room for a 100-foot garden bed and lush fields of wheat and vegetables. That’s okay. Gardening is so versatile, it can be done just about anywhere. People are planting roof-top gardens, patio gardens, and even vertical gardens are popping up on the sides of commercial buildings. Vegetables and even fruit are being grown in containers on patios and porches. No matter what type of garden you decide to grow, you need some simple skills to be successful.
Learn about composting, whether small-scale in a container you keep on your countertop, or large-scale as in a compost bin or bins in the yard. Learning how to make your own compost saves you money from buying good soil and additives for your garden. It’s also great recycling for scraps! Learn about organic fertilizers to use when gardening, this keeps your garden “natural” and helps you avoid putting toxic things into your food. Learn about seeds and how they grow and the requirements they need to sprout. Find out what companion plants are and how they are beneficial to each other.
- For complete and detailed information about composting, check out Pioneer Settler.
- Learn everything about seed starting at Our Tiny Homestead.
- A comprehensive site with extensive information on gardening can be found at The Homestead Garden.
Homestead Skill #3: Collecting and Storing Water
Water is necessary for all living things. We simply can’t live without it. Learning how to collect rainwater will provide your homestead with water for your gardens and even animals if needed. With the proper procedures, you can even purify rainwater to make it drinkable for humans. Collecting rainwater usually involves a food-grade 55-gallon barrel, some PVC odds and ends, and a hose. The rain that hits your roof will normally run toward a gutter and eventually onto or into the ground below. This water is wasted. By placing a rain barrel at the bottom of that run, the water can be saved for use later.
Resources for making rain barrels
YouTube has many videos for making and installing rain barrels. Pinterest is another great place to find pins about rain barrels. You can see my rain barrel board here. A wonderful post on rain barrels with directions on how to make one and pictures showing examples is found at Common Sense Home.
Homestead Skill #4: Reuse Reduce and Recycle
These are three words that nearly every homesteader uses and regularly. When you are homesteading you will find yourself reusing everything you may have once thrown away. Table scraps, egg shells and weeds go to the compost bin or the animals, cans get turned into emergency candles, old socks become cleaning rags, and wood once used in a building becomes a new structure or fence. Homesteaders find a way to reuse anything they can to cut down on expenses. Reusing and recycling go hand in hand with homesteaders. I make fire starters from the empty toilet paper tubes by filling them with the lint and dryer sheets that my mom throws away after doing laundry.
Reducing the amount of water you use at home is another homestead skill you should learn. Most noteworthy, is the rain barrel, for example. Reducing electricity being used is another common practice. Many homesteaders revert to solar power to save energy and cut costs on utility bills. Others will use oil lamps to replace an electric lamp in the evening. Some homesteaders use hand washers to do laundry and hang their clothes on a clothesline to save on electric. Anything you can reduce the use of is a skill you should learn to use. It saves our environment, our health, and our planet, and every bit helps. Not to mention, you never know if and when you may have to be able to survive without running water or electricity, so you may as well learn and prepare now.
Resources for reusing, reducing and recycling
The Pioneer Settler has an awesome post called “Repurposing Everyday Items” that pretty much rounds up every aspect on reusing, reducing and recycling.
Mother Earth News also has a great informative post on reusing common materials.
Homestead Skill #5: Preserving Your Harvest
Everyone loves fresh fruit and vegetables or the wonderful taste of fresh herbs straight from the garden. But what happens when you have an abundant harvest and it is more than your family can consume before it goes bad? This is where preserving by canning, freezing, drying and dehydrating become an important homestead skill to learn. Because most homesteaders try and prep in some way for emergency situations, most preserve food in one of these ways.
Canning is a wonderful skill to learn. You can preserve almost all foods by canning, in addition, you are building a nice backup for an emergency situation. Canning does require the purchase of some equipment, but it should be a minor expense. There are many articles and videos available to teach you how to can.
Other means of preserving
In addition to canning, you can also preserve food by dehydrating your food. This is done by place food in a dehydrator, or more simply in your oven. You can dehydrate onions and garlic, and consequently make onion powder and garlic powder for your spice cabinet, thus, saving money. Another benefit of dehydrating is that the food if kept in an air-tight container, will keep much longer than canned food. As a result, you don’t have to dehydrate as often. By simply adding the dehydrated food to a hot liquid of some sort, whether it be sauce or broth, the food takes shape and flavor as before.
Resources for canning and dehydrating
Ball, the well-known canning jars, has an extensive “How to Can” post. It is filled with videos, instructions, and simple explanations. Check out their site!
Pick Your Own is a great and informative site that I use frequently. They have a lot of information about preserving your harvest, not just dehydrating.
There are many, many homestead skills you can and should learn. The 5 skills above should give you a good start on your homesteading journey. What other homestead skills do you think may be necessary on your homestead? Can you share some links you use to accomplish the skills talked about above?