So, you want to be a homesteader? If it's your dream to someday buy land and start a homestead of any size these are the 7+ homesteading skills to learn right now.
Don't wait for someday. Just because you can't have it all right now doesn't mean there's no preparing to do. There are skills you should definitely start learning right now because they will take a while to master. And I can't imagine starting a homestead with little to no knowledge or first-hand experience.
Let's talk about the 7+ Homesteading skills you can learn immediately to start a homesteading journey wherever you're at in life right now.
Watch the 7+ Tips on YouTube
#1 How To Grow Food
There are two main ways you can start growing food of your own, from seeds or from starts. Both have their own benefits and both come with their downfalls. Here's a little look into both so you can decide which one will work best for you!
The Advantages and Disadvantages to Growing Food with Seeds
A few advantages of starting plants from seeds are
- It's affordable, a packet of seeds runs anywhere from $1-5 for 50-100 of seeds vs. $3-$4 per plant. My favorite seed company is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
- It's extremely rewarding to watch little seed babies turn into full grown plants
- If you have children the educational rewards are many
- It can be a fairly simple process
- You have 100% control over the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals in fertilizers
- You can start growing indoors and much earlier in the year
- The variety of what you can grow increases greatly! Therefore you have many more choices in seed than in starts in a typical local nursery
- You can also grow plants that are Native and 100% beneficial to your local pollinators which in turn benefits your entire garden production and ecosystem
- Plants grown from seeds are usually the strongest and get higher yield, therefore growing more food easily
A few disadvantages of starting from seeds are
- There is a learning curve with planting from seed
- You do need to do research into variety and choose plants that will grow best in your gardening zone
- Some seedlings are special needs plants while they're young and will require extra care
- Seeds are less flexible about when to plant them for optimal growth and health, so timing is important
- In colder climates you may need grow lights. And seed starting can mean significant investment in time, space, and materials. With the need for Grow lights, Mats, etc.
- Not all plants can be grown from seeds, for example Hybrid plants that are bred specifically to be disease resistent can't be grown from seeds.
The Advantages and Disadvantages to Growing Food with Starts
Starts can come as seedling plugs or starter plants.
A few advantages of starting plants from starts are
- They have already been started for you
- They save time and space if you lack one or the other for seed starting
- They’re a fast and economical way to get plants into your garden, especially if you have a late start to the season.
- Ideal for instant impact in the garden and cut down on the time needed to raise seedlings, since you're getting the benefit of the time the grower spent
- Perfect for beginning gardeners who would like to skip the part that includes vulnerable, infant plants
- You don't need to worry about hardening off your seedlings or the possibility of a late freeze killing off your newly planted seedlings
For more great information on the Pros & Cons of Seeds vs Starts
A few disadvantages of starting plants from starts are
- Starts are the most expensive way to plant a garden.
- Your variety choices are limited to the plants sitting in the nursery or garden center
- You don’t necessarily know what sorts of pesticides or fertilizers the grower may have used.
- Some veggies, like beans, peas, cucumbers, and carrots, don’t transplant well.
Growing Food By Seed Or Starts | The Steps To Take
No matter the size of the garden you plan on starting there are a few things you need to consider before breaking ground.
- Location Place your garden where you'll remember to take care of it. So, watch where you get direct sun and shade through out the day. Place your beds near to a water source for ease of keeping it watered.
- Soil Good rich soil is one of the most important elements to a successful garden. A simple soil test is extremely helpful. Most areas have a local extension office that can do soil tests and tell you what alterations your soil may need. Or you could start in a raised garden bed or in containers.
- Plants Which plants you'll want to grow? Simple things to consider are, 1. What you Eat and like, 2. What is already cheap to buy in stores, 3. Plants that aren't available locally. Then grow some plants simply for joy, like flowers! Also, choose plants in your zone, that are native and do well in your soil without having to amend it. Buy your seeds or starts.
- Frost Dates After your last frost it's safe to plant. Research your frost dates then count backwards on a calendar to know when you should start your seeds.
- Mulch Apply a layer of a mulch that's 2 to 3 inches deep around each plant. This will help reduce weeds and reduce moisture loss, so you have to water less.
- Feed & Water Amazing soil & plant food will ensure your garden's success. A month after planting, begin feeding your garden with plant food. Remember to water regularly and extra on special hot days. Avoid watering in the evening as the excess moisture may not soak in and could cause root rot and mildew issues.
#2 Food Preservation
There are several ways you can preserve food, but the 5 I'm going to focus on are drying, pickling, fermentation, canning, and Freezing.
Food Preservation | Drying Food
Here are the 6 most common methods for drying food used today.
Sun drying, Air drying, Solar drying, Oven drying, Electric dehydrating, and Dehydrating in a microwave or oven.A Beginner's Guide to Dehydrating Food
So, which drying method is best?
All modern, reputable home food preservation sources recommend that almost all home food drying be done with a dedicated, purpose-made electric dehydrator.The recommendation is for overall quality reasons, rather than safety.Food Drying Methods, Healthy Canning
Food Preservation | Pickling & Fermentation
Pickling is preserving vegetables and fruit in brine or vinegar. The process by which they preserve is called anaerobic fermentation, which can preserve perishable ingredients for weeks and months.
There are essentially two types of pickling, each offering various methods by which to pickle.The two kinds of pickles are pickles preserved with vinegar and pickles preserved with salt.Beginner's Guide to Pickling, Gran Tourismo Travels
So, whether you're preserving with vinegar or salt both are great options for food preservation as well as health benefits. There are similarities to each process, like storage conditions, preserving of nutrients, change in flavor and texture, as well as the presence of carbon dioxide.
However, raw fermented food contains live probiotics, which are essential in restoring gut bio balance, thus giving fermented food more health benefits.
For more information visit Growyourpantry.com
Food Preservation | Canning
Canning is the process of applying heat to food that’s sealed in a jar in order to destroy any microorganisms that can cause food spoilage. Proper canning techniques stop this spoilage by heating the food for a specific period of time and killing these unwanted microorganisms. During the canning process, air is driven from the jar and a vacuum is formed as the jar cools and seals.Food Preservation Methods, Dummies.com
Water Bath Canning
*Water bath canning is a faster, lower temperature preserving process for canning high-acid foods. The acidity of the food is essential for water bath canning. It kills the bacteria that will lead to spoilage and botulism, a rare, but fatal disease spread by bacteria.
Canning with a Pressure Canner
For low acid foods like meats and seafood, you would use a *pressure canner. The reason is that you want to efficiently eliminate the risk of foodborne bacteria by heating the contents of a jar to 240° F. This then thoroughly destroys the environment bacteria need to thrive in by using a pressure canner.
Food Preservation | Freezing
Freezing is an easy beginner’s food preservation method. The two things it does require is electricity and freezer space. You can toss most fruits and some vegetables require in the freezer with no special preparation. I’m all about no prep, so these are the things I pop in our freezer during the growing season: Peppers, Herbs, Fruit, Stone fruits, and Leftovers.Food Preservation for Total Beginners, Healthy Green Saavy
The one essential tip every article I read referred to when speaking of rules for freezing is to set your freezer to 0° ahead of time and purchase a *freezer thermometer to ensure it reaches 0° before starting your preservation efforts.
You can read more about freezing foods in this article by Tasteforhome.
#3 Growing Medicinal & Native Plants, & Foraging
Medicinal Plants | What Kind of Plants Do You Need to Grow?
Think about the things you need on a consistent basis. For us, it's remedies for the cold and flu, stuffy and congested noses, sore throats, earaches, and headaches.These are the basic common cold/flu symptoms that everyone usually deals with at least once a year.How to Plant a Medicinal Herb Garden, Melissa K Norris
A few Medicinal plants (which most are herbs consequently) are Sage, Echinacea, Lemon Balm, Feverfew, Elderberry, Roses, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Oregano and Garlic.
There are also medicinal plants that crossover into the foraging aspect because they may grow naturally locally for you. Two that grow locally everywhere in my area are Mullein and Plantain. Check out a local FB Group for Native Plants in your area and see what you can find. There may also be books specific to your state that help with identification.
Native Plants | Find them in Local Nurseries, Forage For Them, Grow them from Seed
Since native plants are accustomed to their habitat, they are able to hold water better than non-native plants, withstand the environment better than non-native plants, withstand harsh weather, and grow back the following year. Because they are adapted to the specific climate of the region, native plants can defend themselves against indigenous insects, fungi, and disease.6 Benefits of Landscaping with Native Plants, Greener Horizon
You may not think that foraging is a homesteading skill, but as I see it Homesteading is all about self-sustainability and re-learning heritage skills that were once prevalent in our cultures.
Foraging | Not Just a Mushroom Thing
Foraging is not just a mushroom thing. As I mentioned above about medicinal plants, there is any number of wild-grown plants that are not only edible but truly beneficial to include in our everyday lives.
If you want to forage for mushrooms I would recommend not trying to identify them yourself, but to seeking professional guidance as there are several varieties that can be fatally poisonous.
There are two main ways as I see it to create beneficial compost for your gardens, a compost pile, and a worm farm.
Creating and Maintaining a Compost Pile
Making compost is the single best thing you can do for your garden because it adds organic matter to the soil. Without compost, soil would be dirt, the stuff you drag into your house when you forget to take off your shoes. Soil, on the other hand, is our life support system. It anchors plant roots, creates habitat for millions of critters, filters water and holds nutrients. Life without healthy soil would be nearly impossible.How to Start Composting by Stone Pier Press
To get started composting
- Choose a Bin. You can make a compost bin out of practically anything. Make your own bin or buy one from your local garden store.
- Learn What to Compost. Almost anything goes, except for oils, bones, meat, and dairy products, which can attract large pests to your outdoor pile.
- Pick A Location. You want a place that’s out of the way but still convenient enough to get to easily.
- Layer On Your Organic Waste. More info here.
Vermicomposting, or worm farming, is a natural, sustainable, and incredibly effective way to create nutrient-dense compost for gardening. Worm composting takes advantage of the natural process of worm digestion. Happy, full, and pooping worms provide you with a virtually limitless supply of high-quality fertilizer for your garden!Get Started Worm Farming: A Beginner's Guide by The Squirm Firm
What is Worm Farming & How Do You Do It?
One of the best and most cost-effective ways to generate nutrient-dense compost is to start a worm farm. This compost is ideal for home gardens while being far easier to attain and less expensive than other composting methods.
Worm farming is essentially just creating a worm habitat, an 18-gallon tub or two stacked on top of each other with holes drilled all over, which creates the perfect environment for worms to eat, create compost (worm castings, ie. poop), and multiply.
Build the Farm
- Build or Find a Container. The first step is to find a container (typically wood or plastic) to hold the farm itself.
- Fill the Container with Appropriate Bedding. Before adding the worms, you’ll want to line the container with wet newspaper (or another appropriate bedding), then add some simple soil, either that you purchased or some that you already have in your backyard.
- Populate the Farm with Red Wigglers. This part is fairly simple: simply add the worms to your container. You don't have to worry about putting in too many or too few, they will self populate over time.
- Provide the Compostable Material. Compostable material can be everything from food waste to the remnants of lawn mowing. The simple rule here is: if it decomposes naturally, it can go in the farm.
- Maintain and Harvest the Farm. It is important not to overfeed your worms, but they do like to eat a lot. In fact, Red Wigglers eat about half their weight every 24 hours, which means you can add new food for your worms every day (this is a great job for kids!).
To go read more check out the page The Squirm Firm.
#5 First Aid
Being a homesteader means being self-sufficient, not just in everyday tasks but in every aspect of your life. It includes learning how to deal with accidents and emergency situations, especially first aid and CPR. You never know when an accident will befall you or a family member so it’s always good to know what to do in case of an emergency.A Basic Guide to First Aid & CPR by Homesteading.com
Things to Consider When Planning How to Be Prepared for First Aid in Homesteading
As a homesteader, you may find yourself secluded and away from local hospitals, maybe even a long drive for an ambulance to get to you, so being prepared is critically important.
- Keep a First Aid Kit Handy. Visit my post about How to Build the Best First Aid Kit For Your Home & Download my Free Basic First Aid Kit Resource + Checklist.
- Create A DRSABCD Action Plan. Danger, Response, Send for Help, Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillation. Download Here.
- How To Do CPR or Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation. Download CPR & Choking Guide
A few other injuries to be prepared for are Choking, Poisoning, Bleeding Wounds, Broken Bones, Heatstroke, Bug Bites & Insect Stings, Snake Bites, Sprains & Strains, and even Nose bleeds.
#6 Caring for Chickens
There’s a lot to like about raising chickens in your backyard. The eggs are a real temptation—tastier and fresher than any store-bought eggs, and better for baking, too. The shells, along with the chicken poop, can be tossed right into the compost pile. Much of the day, the birds entertain themselves, picking at grass, worms, beetles, and all of the good things that go into making those yummy farm eggs. Plus, with their keen eye for insect pests, chickens make for great gardening companions. Remember, though: Nothing good comes easy!Raising Chickens 101: How to Get Started by Almanac.com
10 Things to know Before Getting Chickens
- Check the laws. Ensure before you invest that you are legally allowed to raise backyard chickens in your area.
- You dont need a rooster. Hens will lay eggs without a rooster.
- Get the right size coop. Your chickens will need a safe coop to sleep in and lay their eggs.
- Hens only lay for a few years. After that, her production will drop by about 20% a year until she stops altogether.
- Hens don't lay year round. Once the days get shorter in the fall, they will start “molting,” which means dropping their feathers and growing in new ones for winter. Most hens stop laying during the molt. Their bodies need a natural break, also.
- You don't need to wash fresh eggs. Eggs from your own flock don’t need to be – and shouldn’t be – washed until just before you use them.
- Eggs don't need to be refrigerated. As long as you haven’t washed your eggs, they don’t need to be refrigerated. So, don't wash them until right before you eat them.
- Everything wants to eat a chicken. Chickens can’t fly, so they are extremely vulnerable. To ensure their safety, chickens should have a secure enclosed pen for daytime or a dedicated guardian animal if you plan on letting them roam freely.
- Chickens make great family pets. Once you start your flock, you will probably be surprised at how intelligent, affectionate and friendly chickens are.
Read more at Lehmans.com
If you're enjoying this post check out my other post, Homestead when You're Limited.
If you can't own chickens at least research them
You may be in the same position that I am in that you are currently living in an area that will not allow even a few backyard chickens. But that's ok, we're in a great position to start our research now. A few ways to research could be reading books, watching youtube videos, and some great researched blog posts on the care that keeping chickens requires. Therefore, we don't need to be in the perfect position to get ahead.
#7 Heritage Skills | From Scratch Meals & Baking
Food - its cultivation, preparation and communal consumption - has long been considered a form of cultural heritage. A dynamic, living product, food creates social bonds as it simultaneously marks off and maintains cultural difference.Edible Identities: Food as Cultural Heritage - Routledge
Cooking from scratch is a lost art | Let's be artists
Real food tastes better, costs less, and usually doesn't take any longer to make. Discover what you've been missing by cooking virtually everything your family eats from scratchHow to Cook Everything from Scratch by The Spruce Eats
- Make Your Own Baked Goods. Keeping staples like flour, sugar, and yeast stocked in your pantry you ensure scratch baking will be an ease.
- Whip Up Your Own Dairy Products. Because cheese, Yogurt, and even Sour Cream are not too difficult to make.
- Dry Your Own Foods. It's a great way to preserve summer fruits and vegetables as well as make your own spices.
- Prep Your Own Meats. Because it's expensive to buy your meats already cut up and prepared. Prepackaged comes at a premium, so save money!
- Get Into Canning. Invest in some canning jars, and start making your own jams, pickles, and salsas. You can fill your pantry in no time.
- Sip on a Homemade Beverage. Creating drinks from scratch is easier than you probably think.
- Treat Yourself to a Scratch Made Desert. Forget about frozen pies and packaged cookies.
- Chew on Homemade Snack Foods. To name two, potato chips and pretzels.
- Make Your Own Condiments & Spices. I can attest to the real addicting taste of homemade ranch in the very least.
For more tips on Cooking from scratch read this.
A Few Great Additional Resources For Your Homesteading Plans
I hope I have given you plenty of great skills to think about mastering in the coming year and even down the road until you are able to get that dream homestead.
Thanks for stopping by!