101 Homesteading Skills to Learn
A natural part of homesteading is always learning. Although I know some of these skills, different events throughout my life have made me consider which skills I still hope to master or at least try. What I find most reassuring and inspiring is how many people are on so many different stages of their homesteading journey. This is a list to help you learn new ones.
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1. Change the oil in your vehicle
For many people who did not grow up in the age of doing your own car maintenance and have cars with so many computers on board it is difficult to troubleshoot anything, learning something basic like changing your own oil is a pretty simple task and most people can do it without a lot of knowledge or practice. If you are homesteading this can be a good way to pinch pennies needed for feed and bedding or when the mechanic is over an hour away.
If you have not already changed a tire, you probably will someday. And unfortunately it will be when you’re kids are in the car and its pouring rain. While you can call AAA, you can also find some internal grit and give it a go. I practiced changing a tired before it was needed and found the hole process to be pretty simple.
3. Jump a car battery
Similar to the tire, if you have not done this already you will likely someday. Even if it is not you that has your battery in your car die, it might be a friend/coworker/neighbor. Also, pretty easy to do. Check out how here.
4. Basic car mechanics
I have personally struggled with this one. One of the money saving techniques we have used is not having a car payment. Do to this, we have older used cars, but they need work. In fact there is sometimes a tipping point to getting a new car when it costs more in repairs and lost income to have the car be out of use that a car note. You can find more basics here.
5. WD-40 uses
This stuff is so useful. It is essentially compressed oil for all sorts of mechanical uses, including the door closed alarm, in case you ever it need it for that.
6. Manual transmission driving
There really aren’t many manual transmissions left. I bought my 2008 Honda Fit with manual transmission and love the pep and control but they are a dying breed. However, having been familiar with this style of driving, I did much better with learning how to drive a tractor which does have gears you need to shift into.
7. Sanitary practices when handling milk
Because you are dealing with the natural secretions of another animal and you may not be pasteurizing your milk, regardless of goat or cow, you need to be very careful when handling the milk. Here is a good resource on how to do this well and the steps to take.
8. Clean bedding and shelter for animals
As the steward for the animals in your care, it is important to provide food, shelter and water. Different livestock require different types of bedding. Some need none at all. For chickens, they may have bedding in their coop but also have bedding in their nest boxes. According to a UMass article (here) there are five characteristics: comfort, moisture content, cleanliness, inert and particle size. Generally, it is a good idea to sanitize the main location of where the animals spend over 50% of their time every 2 weeks.
9. Clean food and water for animals
Similar to bedding, the food should be clean, fresh (no mold, etc.) and readily available.
10. Appropriate animal handling practices
There are a variety of ways to hold and handle livestock. For example, rabbits need to be held with their rear legs supported in order to prevent them from kicking out injuring their backs. Chickens have wings that are held down to prevent them from panicking.
11. Space requirements for animals
This varies wildly and depends a great deal on set up. The Animal Welfare Act, USDA and Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are all involved in the minimum requirements for different species of animals in human care.
12. Winter/summer considerations for animals
Depending on what area of the country you live in you may experience extreme temperatures on the high or low end (or both!) and will need to consider your animals during these times. For many animal caretakers, the extreme cold of winter requires special considerations to keep the water from freezing or providing protection from snow or high winds. In the summer, the heat can reach levels in which chickens will cease laying and even eat less. Special considerations are needed for the animals to cool down or warm up on their own is important for any livestock, especially those dealing with babies during these seasons.
13. Learn to fish
If you are like me and grew up very urban, you may not have much experience with hunting and fishing. One of the better survival skills, learning how to fish can be very helpful. Here’s a pretty good video on how to get started.
14. Dress a fish
While you may not fish for your own fish, you can purchase a whole one, and learning how to dress one is important to be able to eat it! You can see more on how to gut and descale a fish here.
15. Groom animals
Many livestock animals, especially the animals, may need help with keeping their fur or hair groomed. The act of grooming is also a strong bonding experience for all primates (including people!) and one good way to check on the overall condition of your horse, cow or goat and to get them familiar with you is through brushing, but here is a certain way to do it with each kind of animal.
16. Sheer sheep
Many homesteaders invest in fiber animals like sheep or rabbits for spinning their own yarn. The first step in doing this is to get the hair from them in the right way. Here are some excellent videos on sheering sheep and rabbits.
17. Basic butchering
Part of homesteading is learning how to raise your own food, including the meat. Most people start with chickens as they are relatively easy to raise. Especially meat breeds of chickens, they are ready for processing at just 7 to 10 weeks old. A basic butchering kit has a restraining cone, lung remover and boning knife. Others from Amazon have a few other things, including a plucker.
18. Troubleshooting dystocia (difficult birth)
In the spring, many animals have their babies. During this time, issues with birthing (calving, lambing, kidding, etc.) can arise. Dystocia is a “difficult birth” and can be brought on by a myriad of issues including the baby animal being in the wrong position (in humans this can be feet first), the mother can be in distress such as labored breathing and lethargy but any of these issues can usually be troubleshooted. This is a good article about what should and what can happen during birthing season.
19. Learn to keep rabbits
If you are an urban homesteader, you may be very limited on space and what livestock you are allowed to keep. One idea would be to raise rabbits for meat. Imperfectly Happy has a great post about 10 meat breeds of rabbit. They are pretty easy to care for and you can use their manure in the garden immediately for compost without burning your plants.
20. Meat hoovestock
This includes goat, lambs, pigs, and bovine. You will generally need a lot more space for these animals to have enough room to graze but many homesteaders keep their own meat animals.
21. Culling/humane ending of life
Understanding the swiftest, most painless way to end a life, whether you are going to consume it or not, is very important. While some cultures lean towards letting their animals pass away on their own despite some distress, others do not and it is definitely a personal call. Either way, if you are going to end a life, either to end suffering or for consumption or for personal safety, there are definitely ways to do this. Most people use a gun, even on small animals, but some, as with meat chicken butchering, use a very very sharp knife. A Farmish Kind of Life has a good post on tips for butchering at home.
22. Tanning hides
This video is on how to tan rabbit hides, which you may be able to do in an urban setting. Other hides include cow and other vertebrates, but most people think of tanning deer hides, which many hunters are familiar with.
23. Learn to hunt
Learning to hunt can be an important survival skill as well as a way to feed your family regularly. Many hunters get a deer and then have it processed or process it themselves, package and put into a deep freezer to be used throughout the year. YouTube has several good videos that can help you get started if you are like me and have basically no hunting skills. However, most people agree that having a mentor is key to success. Someone who can go with you and show you the ropes.
This is not one I hear of a lot. It is common in animal behavior and zoo settings but is less well known generally. This essentially is using positive interactions (food, friendly voice, clicker, etc.) to train your animals to do the things you need them to do. For example, having a goat trained to enter a milking stand and be milked. Prairie Homestead has a good post on tips for training a goat on a milk stand.
25. Put together a raised bed
This is pretty simple. You just need some wood (untreated), a drill and some wood screws. Or even a hammer and long nails. I use 2X4s and wood screws. Generally, I will buy three 2X4X8ft and have one cut in half. Those become the narrow ends and the longer pieces are in between. Then just nail or screw them together. Pro tip: if using good hard woods, be sure to drill in a small hole for the screw to have a place to go. Check out this video!
26. Hammer a nail
This is straightfoward. Grab a hammer and some nails and some wood, hold the nail as close to the wood as possible and then start with a light tap to get the nail to stay in. After that, be wary of your fingers, you can use more force until the nail is in more and then you no longer need to hold the nail.
27. Cut produce
28. Use hand saw
While you may have a chainsaw, you may need a regular hand saw, particularly when pruning. This Old House has a good post on this.
29. Use drill
Chances are if you do any home repairs or building of anything, you will need to become familiar with a drill. Cordless lithium ion drills are pretty powerful these days and easy to use. Many great videos are online to help you get started.
30. Use a level
Recently realized the need for this. I have been doing more around the home, building raised beds and the chicken coop. A level will definitely be needed for putting wood together, hanging a picture and so many other uses. Some even have lasers to help you see the level across a wall.
31. Grow herbs
Most people add herbs all over their regular annual vegetable garden. If you are limited on space, many herbs are plenty happy in containers and can be picked fresh for immediate use in the kitchen. Grow a Good Life has a nice post on how growing herbs indoors.
32. Grow annual vegetables
Most of the vegetables and some of the fruits (melons) people are used to are annuals, meaning that they needed to be planted from seed each year. One of the best ways to learn how to start a vegetable garden is through seed catalogs, which often provide some great information about the seeds as well as where to grow and what to grow them in.
33. Grow perrenials
There are some great perrenials to grow such as asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke and rhubarb. Mother Earth News has a good post on this. It is a relatively easy way to get food year after year without a lot of work. Morning Chores takes you through some great perrenials to keep you harvesting for years to come!
34. Care for fruit trees
Fruit trees are an important addition to a homestead. Very few things taste better than fresh picked, sun warmed fruit. This includes apples, oranges, pears, cherries and other. You can read here about fruit trees that are less common but can be a great addition to your homestead.
35. Composting kitchen scraps and manure
I have a pretty large open top compost bed and a tumbler for processing all the many kitchen scraps and now for the chicken manure, which needs some time to age in order to not burn the plants. Small Footprint Family has a good post on what not to put in compost.
36. Erecting fencing
Good fencing is critical to crop and farm animal management. Especially if you have escape artists like goats. The Free Range Life has a good article on how to pick your fencing.
37. Driving a post
In order to build a sturdy fence, you will need posts that have been well place and often cemented into the ground. You can do it by hand with a T-post pounder. This video is pretty good.
38. Wield a chainsaw
While you may need to use a regular hand saw, you can make quick work by using a chainsaw. However, like many power tools, this can be dangerous if you do not have any experience. You can find out the basics of using a chainsaw here.
39. Cut down a tree
We found out pretty quickly that we needed to take down some trees on our property that were overhanging power lines and above the roof. We eventually hired people to do this job pretty quickly but before we did that we took down some of the smaller easier to deal with trees. Here is a article on doing this for the first time.
40. Permaculture concepts
This is one of my favorite topics because I am just getting starting on implementing them here on our urban homestead. The best series of articles on doing this in an urban setting come from one of my favorite writers at Tenth Acre Farm.
41. Install a swale
I plan to instal a swale in the front yard, similar to this one. The front yard, like much of the property, was neglected and the area pools in a way that we can’t use the water. I hope to fix this soon.
42. Find direction using sun
Find out which way your property is oriented is important for figuring out where you should plant a garden. The best orientation is a sunny south side. Although, if you are like me and deal with over 95 and even 100 degree days, you might want east facing. North facing will be most difficult to plant in, but certainly not impossible.
I tried this method first as a way to intensively garden in small space. I even built my own custom spacer for the different kinds of plants. It was mostly successful, but the cats liked the fluffy soil as a litter box. Learn here about how to deal with pets in the garden.
44. Garden layout planning
Definitely plan out your garden, even if you change it ten times. I keep mine in a bullet journal. I sketched a layout of my area and went from there, determining companion plants and succession planting.
45. Succession planting
Family Food Garden has a great post on this subject. I struggle with efficiency in this department but am always trying to learn and improve.
46. Seed saving
Like many homesteaders, I am trying to be more self sufficient which includes saving my seeds rather than purchasing them each year. You can learn more here. But if you do choose to purchase seeds, these are some of my favorites.
Each kind of food is harvested a little differently and at different times throughout the growing season. Depending on where you live, you can continually harvest food the whole year, like with many herbs.
48. Bee keeping
There are many resources for a beginning beekeeper but the best one will be your local agriculture extension office or local beekeeping association as they will have the most information on keeping bees in your area. This is a pretty good article on how to get started.
Keeping red worms for composting is a good way to compost in a small area like an apartment and the casings produced by the worms are very good for you garden. They can even be applied directly without the need to age like with chicken poop. You can learn more about vermicomposting here, from Attainable Sustainable, for only $5!
Around the house
50. Basic plumbing
Knowing which pipes do what and where the shut off valves are important in any home. If ever a pipe bursts, you will know how to stop it from flooding into your house. There is a PDF you can get here.
51. Sew a button
You can use a sewing machine to sew a button but I generally hand sew them on. It is easier in some ways. Particularly because of the variety of of sizes and styles of buttons and usually it is not an entire outfit. You can find a good YouTube video on the basics.
52. Repair a hole in clothes
Learning to sew in general is a good idea and includes patching clothes, fixes tears, separating seams, etc. I have made a few simple outfits. Key to this is a good sewing machine.
53. Line dry
Want to reduce your household expenses? Line dry your clothes, you can even do this in the house if its raining, etc. Here is some good information on this.
54. Hand washing clothes
Morning Chores is a good resource of information has a nice post on washing and drying without electricity.
55. Purge unnecessary possessions
56. Make an emergency mint tin
57. Learn to budget
This is critical and something I personally struggle with daily. If you have big dreams and large goals, you need to budget in order to save enough to not go into debt in order to do the things you want to do. Many espouse the Dave Ramsey method.
58. Learn to save
Maybe you are not great at specifically budgeting month-to-month. Me neither. But you can at least start a savings account and try to put away a little at a time. Even just $5 a month can add up. While it may take longer to reach a goal, it is still possible.
59. DIY cleaning supplies
I have been experimenting with DIY laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent and all purpose cleaner. I use vinegar for many different cleaning activities.
60. DIY natural body care
61. Reduce plastics
It is really hard to eliminate plastics in your life, especially the awful single use kind! One way I do this is with glasswares, especially for food storage. Another seemingly small way, I make my own unpaper towels which of course will not come wrapped in plastic.
62. Reuse everything
Part of the ethos of homesteading is waste not, want not. I try very hard to reuse many items in my home. Extra cardboard from an amazon shipment? Put it as a base to a lasagna garden.
63. Basic herbal remedies
The Wellness Mama has a good post on how to make a natural first aid kit.
64. Sharpen a knife
Part of reusing everything is to fix or make better the things that have aged. Like with knives, they become dull. Here is a good video from Tasty on how to sharpen a knife.
65. Time management
Many times things do not get done because I did not manage my time well, become overwhelmed and stop altogether. A better way is to build in self care time, specific project time and regular daily activities.
66. Household management
There are so many aspects to managing a home and if you are like me and work more than full time outside of the home, this can be a daunting task. What I have done is break my day into chunks and include activities such as a “Day of Nothing” where I do not do anything except the absolute basics, like feed myself, children and we all get a nap. Then there are Saturdays where I skip nap to mop and clean clothes so we can go to the park or build a chicken tractor. Definitely saves time to plan it out ahead.
67. Reduce waste
Similar to reducing plastic and reusing, you can reduce waste. One way I have been doing this lately is to have mixes for things like brownies pre-mixed so all I have to add is egg, oil and water, like the store bought mixes. Check this one out.
I read 10% Happier and was super excited to find a method that spoke to me. I have enjoyed trying to learn how to meditate and the joy of clearing my mind.
69. Bake bread
I regularly bake white amish bread now. It is simple, the only hard part is letting it rise. I make mine in a Kitchen Aide Mixer (r).
70. Dehydrate food
A great to preserve is to dehydrate your goodies. I personally have made fruit leathers using applesauce and beef jerky. So much better because they lack the unnatural preservatives.
71. Blanch and freeze appropriately
It is a little bit of an art to blanching and freezing. However, the general rule of thumb for most vegetables is to wash, process, boil 2-3 minutes, ice bath 2-3 minutes, then freeze in bags.
72. Water bath canning
Most people start with this method as it does not involve pressurizing your pot which can lead to certain issues. It is pretty simple, you just need water, a deep pot, a rack, lid and canning jars with lids and rings. Frugal Living NW has a good post on how.
73. Pressure canning
Joybilee Farm has an article about getting starting with pressure canning. While it does seem intimidating, I used it to can chicken stock and found it to be relatively easy.
74. Smoke meats
We do not have a smoker yet, but I am planning on getting my husband one for Father’s Day. This infographic is very helpful. This is just another method of preservation.
75. Cure meats
I love cured meats, particularly proscuitto. Learn how to do it yourself here from Homestead Honey.
76. Home brew
77. Ferment vegetables
78. Make wine
Some of the most fun wines to make come from ingredients you can find in your backyard. Check out this post from Common Sense Home for dandelion wine,
79. Make sourdough starter
This is very simple to start and make but tricky to get just right. All you need is flour, water, glass container with breathable cover.
80. Soap making
Simple Life Mom has a wealth of information on soap making and DIY natural care. Definitely check out her site.
81. Bake a pie
Learning to bake a pie is a little tricky for me. I really had some trouble with pie crusts in particular. Here is a simple blueberry pie recipe.
82. Shell nuts
I have two enormous, old pecan trees and am able to get nuts from black walnut trees. Both of them require some skill in cracking open the nuts and getting to the meat.
83. Open fire cooking
There is an art to open fire cooking without burning the food. Learn how here.
84. Grind your own flour
Melissa K. Norris has a great series of information on grinding your own flour to use in baking.
85. Make butter
With a kitchen aide mixer, this is pretty simple. Just need heavy cream. Ruth Soukup has a good tutorial.
86. Make yogurt
The Prairie Homestead taking you through the steps of making your own yogurt.
87. Make jam
88. Seasonal meal planning
One of the best ways to be more self sufficient is to plan out your meals with the seasonal produce. This is why you see pumpkin pie in the fall and asparagus in the spring.
89. Make bone broth
Making and canning bone broth or chicken/vegetable/beef stock is a good way to use up the bones leftover from the meta animal and can be pressure canned for easy use. This is a pretty good recipe.
90. Slow cooker/Pressure cooking
THE most popular new kitchen item in the homesteading community is the InstaPot. So many wonderful recipes.
91. Cool off without a fan/AC
If you live in the South, like me, you may find yourself in a situation (no power) where you may need to cool down. Of course you may need shade, particularly near trees, who breathe. In addition light but full coverage clothes, if you are in the sun. Water is your friend. Read here about some methods.
92. Sun and bug skin protection
Here in Louisiana, we deal with a lot of sun and a lot of bugs, especially mosquitoes. I hope to make these sunscreen lotion bars this year. 104 Homestead has great information on keeping the mosquitoes away.
93. Splint a break
In a pinch, you might need to splint a break. Here is a video on how to splint an arm.
94. Dress a wound
Part of emergency response, real serious wounds can occur in even in seemingly harmless situations. Dressing a wound can be a good way to press pause on a situation while you seek medical assistance.
I was a lifeguard in high school and have never forgotten my training in CPR. Its changed slightly since then but the basics are the same.
96. Forage identifiers
One way to supplement your gardening for food, is to forage for food. Practical Self Reliance has a good list of edibles.
97. Start a fire
Survival skills like learning to start a fire can be very helpful if you are ever stranded.
98. Basic trapping skills for food
Squirrels, wild rabbits, etc. can all be eaten. While you may need to make sure you cook them well, learning to trap can be very important if stranded.
99. Make yarn
I really hope I can do this someday. I would love to start with fiber rabbits and spin my own yarn.
100. Make a bug out bag
In the news, stories of local natural catastrophes is a regular occurrence. You never know if your area is the next million acre wildfire, Katrina hurricane, tornado, flood, etc. Having a grab and go bag, especially one in the car, can be essential.
101. Dealing with children in an emergency
While one hopes you never have to deal with babies and children in an emergency, being prepared is critical. SHTF Preparedness has an excellent post on this. There are so many wonderful videos and posts that I did not include but would love to find in the comments. Thanks so much! See other great posts at the Simple Life Mom Hop.