Homesteading Skills You Need to Master

Look virtually anywhere on the internet and you will find tons of exhaustive lists of recommended homesteading and off-grid skills that you must have or must learn. It seems each author finds different skills important.

a small DIY greenhouse made from pallets and lumber
a small DIY greenhouse made from pallets and lumber

Part of the confusion results from quite a bit of overlap and more than a little ambiguity about the differences between homesteading, and off-grid living.

The terms mean different things to different people. The result is those skill lists can often be confusing and overwhelming. You may finish an article wondering the following:

  • Where do I start?
  • Which skills are more important?
  • What skills should learn first?
  • Am I completely doomed if until I learn them all?

The reality is that no one could possibly write an article that would give each person one definitive list as to where to start and where to focus because every single person differs in their knowledge and skill levels, current situation and their plan for the future.

This article will categorize the skills with a brief description of why they are needed. It’s designed to help you create your custom learning plan.

How to Go About It

1. Evaluate your current living situation and think about your future goals:

  • What knowledge and skills do you have already?
  • How do you want your living style to be different in a year?
  • What about five, or even ten years from now?

2. On a piece of paper or in a blank computer document, create five columns and label them as 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years.

It may help to have a goal for each time period written at the top. For example, in 3 months I want to be more prepared for emergencies. Or 6 months from now I want to have my own garden.

3. Skim our major categories first. Based on your preferences and goals, there may be some entire categories you can skip or read later. If you have an aversion to killing animals yourself for example, you can skip over the list of skills under animal processing.

If you want to live off-grid and have a garden but have no interest in having or raising animals, you can skip the animal care and animal processing sections.

4. Look at each category and prioritize the skills you feel you will need to learn in the next 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc. based on your current knowledge and future goals.

Write them in the appropriate column. If you’re not sure whether to include a skill, try to related it to your goals or just list it last in that section. You can always decide later whether to actually pursue it or not.

5. When you finish, you’ll have a customized learning plan to get where you want to go. Focus on learning the skills you listed under the 3-month column first and when you’ve mastered those, move on to the next column.

Ready to get started?

Fire Making

How to Build and Manage a Fire

Let’s be honest: do you really know how to build a fire?

Sure, you probably know how to pile some wood haphazardly in one place, pour a little bit of accelerant over it and then put a match to it while hoping you get away with your eyebrows, but there was a lot more to it than that.

Knowing how to properly build and manage a fire is an essential homestead or skill.

You want to be able to control the intensity of the fire and its height while staying safe, and you’ll want to be able to let the fire get low only to bring it back up again when you need it later.

There’s more to it than you think!

Learn How to Select, Size and Split Firewood

Assuming you aren’t going to be burning trash or tires, you’ll need wood if you want to build a worthy fire for any purpose.

Of course, you won’t have a fire without fuel, and that means you need to know how to select, size and split firewood for seasoning.

split plum tree wood logs
split plum tree wood logs

Understanding the characteristics of various woods as well as how best to process them can make a grueling job easy and ensure that your next cookout, bonfire or anything else is a big success.

Know How to Extinguish a Fire

Knowing how to properly put out a fire is just as important as knowing how to build and tend to one.

Many fires that are seemingly put out come back to life when you aren’t around or aren’t paying attention, and can lead to devastating property damage, death or even monumentally destructive wildfires.

When you learn how to properly extinguish a fire, you can walk away content with the certainty that it isn’t going to spark back to life or spread.

Learn to Cook Outdoors

You might be all right in the kitchen, but cooking outdoors is an entirely different experience and requires a different set of skills.

Whether you are cooking over a pit, over a cook fire or just with your backyard grill, managing all the variables and keeping the whole affair under control takes work.

peach cobbler cooking in cast iron Dutch oven over outdoor fire
peach cobbler cooking in cast iron Dutch oven over outdoor fire

Considering there might be times where you have to cook outdoors for one reason or another, it makes sense that you should learn how to do it easily and efficiently on your homestead.

Build a Fire in Your Fireplace or Woodstove

You won’t always be building a fire outdoors.

If you rely on wood heat for primary or supplemental heating during cold weather, you’ll need to know how to manage a fireplace, a wood stove or both in your home.

Many of the fundamental principles are the same, but both of these appliances have their own quirks and perks that you must be aware of if you want to stay toasty warm without wasting fuel, and most importantly while staying safe.

Make and Store Char Cloth

Char cloth is a homesteader’s best friend when it comes to accelerants. Instead of using risky lighter fluid or some other liquid that can easily spill, splash and get out of control, you can place and light up a small strip of char cloth that will burn quickly, brightly and safely.

The best part is you can make this stuff yourself anytime you already have a fire going. It always pays to have a box of this stuff around when you need it, so learn how to make it now and you’ll never run out.

Collect, Filter, Purify, and Store Water

The average person can survive only 3 days without water. Normal water sources may be unavailable or become tainted in a power outage, natural disaster, or SHTF scenario.

The ability to collect, filter, purify and store water for drinking and cooking is a vital survival skill. The ability to develop and maintain a reliable long-term source of water is important for both homesteading and off-grid living.

Learn to Collect Rainwater

Probably the single most important Water Management skill for a homesteader is learning how to effectively collect rainwater.

Literal tons of water will fall out of the sky even during a passing shower, and if you have your property set up to make use of it you can make water bills a thing of the past or have a huge reserve on hand even if you don’t have power or your well is compromised.

five large rainwater tanks
five large rainwater tanks

You can set up a simple rainwater collection system using a diverter for your own gutters and a couple of rain barrels, or a much larger system using freestanding catchment platforms.

Know How to Site, Dig and Maintain a Well

For the vast majority of homesteaders, you’ll be way too far out to make use of city water. That means that well water is going to be your go-to for on-demand water. 

I think it is in every homesteader’s best interest to know how to site, dig, and maintain their own well.

Even if you aren’t actually digging it yourself, knowing your way around the process will help you from getting ripped off by installers, and it is a system that requires routine maintenance if you want to be able to depend on it anyway.

Many a homestead has collapsed because the well became contaminated or otherwise compromised!

Locate a Spring

Another smart thing you should do is learn if there are any springs on your property, and if there aren’t, learn how to read geological surveys where you can potentially locate one.

In some cases, a natural spring can be a supplementary or backup source of water, but if you are very lucky it could even be a primary source of water.

More than that, a spring will always make your property more valuable and that could come in handy down the road if you ever want to sell. Understanding springs is part and parcel of knowing your water rights!

Build a Working Water Filter

Having all this natural water to draw from is great, but you can’t do much with it for cooking or drinking unless it is purified first.

Water purification is serious business, because unpurified water contains all sorts of bacterial and viral nastiness that can make you and your animals terribly sick.

Water filters can run the gamut from improvised units designed for personal use to large scale ones that can filter dozens or hundreds of gallons of water at a time.

The health of your homestead is quite literally dependent on the quality of your water, so understanding how to construct, operate and implement water filtration is an essential homesteading skill.

Renewable Power

The term off-grid typically refers to a lifestyle that allows the homeowner to be disconnected from the traditional public utility grid. In many cases, power is provided, partially or completely via a renewable power source.

This can be in the form of a gas powered generator for some, but many off-grid and even homesteaders prefer to get all power from renewable sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, or even hydro power.

Learn How to Setup a Solar Power System

Never before has solar power offered so much in terms of off-grid capability for homesteaders.

Modern solar systems are more affordable, compact and powerful than ever before, and though they aren’t quite ready for prime time when it comes to supplying entire societies with power, they can be just the ticket we’re adding two or replacing your usual electrical service.

Believe it or not, the installation of these systems is entirely within the reach of a savvy DIYer, and you should definitely look into it if you want to reduce your electrical consumption while reducing your electrical dependency.

In some cases, you might even be able to sell surplus power back to the power company.

Know How to Make Wind Turbines Work for You

Much like solar power, wind turbines don’t scale up to the voracious demands of society but they can work just fine as an off-grid, self-contained option on your homestead.

It’s poetic in a way, because so many farms and homesteads of yesteryear had a windmill for various purposes, and yours can too.

Learn how to cite, select and install wind turbines to reduce your dependency on a single type of power generation.

Estimate Your Electrical Demands in Various Seasons

The most commonly overlooked factor of generating and managing your own electricity on the homestead is really getting down to brass tacks on how much electricity you need at various parts of the year. 

Only by understanding your electrical demands can you begin to satisfy the supply of it. With just a little bit of homework and diligent data gathering, you can create a surprisingly accurate picture of your power usage throughout the year.

Install a Whole-House Battery Bank System

My very favorite off-grid power system is my whole house battery bank. A big stack of deep cycle batteries, this system is charged off of solar cells and our usual electrical service.

In the case either or both of those systems go down, the battery bank can supply our electrical needs entirely with the flip of a switch near our breaker box.

Although it might seem intimidating, installing such a system is actually pretty simple and quite safe so long as you follow correct procedure.

A big part of homesteading is minimizing waste, and if you don’t have a battery bank system you are wasting any electricity you generate that isn’t used at once.

Foraging and Wildcrafting

These are important skills to have in any situation where you may have to survive temporarily or even long-term by “living off the land”. Learn these skills to gather supplies, food, and medicine that you can use to reduce what you have to buy.

Not everyone will take the time, but if you do, you can barter what you collect or make to gain other items you need but don’t have.

Learn to Identify and Forage for Edible Plants

All around and near your property there will be a dizzying variety of plants growing. Many of these plants are not only harmless, but also helpful, being edible and nutritious.

You can further reduce your dependency on society and connect even more closely with your land by making use of these edible plants. As toppings or the basis of a salad, all sorts of wild edible plants have a place in your kitchen and at your dinner table.

Know what Plants Have Medicinal Properties

Beyond good eating and good nutrition, many plants have genuine medicinal properties.

This isn’t some hippie-dippy sentiment about mother earth, either…

Pharmaceutical companies derive or create synthetic versions of these medicinal compounds for the pill bottles they produce in the billions every year, so you know there is good stuff in these plants.

Learning to identify and cultivate these medicinal plants will go a long way towards ensuring your homestead pharmacy always stays stocked with the things that can alleviate pain, help deal with sickness and improve overall well-being for you and your family.

Know Which Mushrooms are Edible and Which are Poisonous 

Last but certainly not least, it pays to do some research and learn what mushrooms in your area are edible and which are poisonous. There are two reasons this is a good idea for homesteaders.

The first is that your animals will often eat mushrooms that they find growing. Being able to identify these at an instant will let you know if you need to panic and immediately call your vet or if you can relax.

Second, and not for nothing, wild, safe mushrooms are incredibly delicious and highly nutritious and are another way to increase food availability for your family, especially when times are tough.

Communication Skills

In today’s society we have become so used to technology that many of us will be at a complete loss as to what to do in an emergency when computers and cell phone towers go down.

The normal way we receive weather and information updates may be gone. Your family will need you to take the lead and know what to do. Your neighbors may look to you to help them protect their families.

Unless you have an alternate means of communication, there will be no way to call for help or get updates on the danger so you can act wisely to protect your family.

In a home invasion situation, you may need to communicate with your family without attracting attention. You could be trapped beneath a house or building that caved in during an earthquake and unable to call out loudly.

  • How to use a ham radio
  • How to become a licensed ham operator
  • Use Morse code for signaling
  • How to communicate silently using hand signals or sign language
  • How to use secondary and tertiary languages
  • How to be a leader for your family and community
  • How to work together with neighbors to get more done

Cooking Skills

Cooking skills for survival, homesteading, or off-grid living situations should not be underestimated. Our modern kitchens are equipped with temperature controlled stoves and ovens and timers.

Knowing how to cook tasty and delicious food can boost morale during a SHTF scenario or even after a hard day of working the homestead. Feel free to add to and customize our examples to suit your family.

Learn How to Cook

It should go without saying, but you need to learn how to cook if you don’t already. First, most homesteads are a good minute from a civilization which means you won’t be able to get takeout.

Second, learning to cook well for every meal will save you a ton of money compared to prepackaged food of any kind.

Lastly, home cooked meals are the glue that can hold a family together. Breaking bread around the dinner table, sharing good times and bad, will only strengthen your relationships.

Make Your Own Flour from Wheat

It might seem like a contrivance since store-bought flour is so plentiful and still dirt cheap, but things might not always be that way. 

Every homesteader should know how to make their own flour from wheat or other grains, even if they don’t grow those grains themselves.

Chances are your neighbors or someone else in your area does, and you should make it a point to stay on their good side so you can always get the raw materials needed to make flour.

Make Bone Broth

Bone broth is a chronically underutilized culinary ingredient, and one that is highly nutritious. It is bone broth that can make a great homemade soup so fortifying and it also stores well.

Furthermore, you have an obligation to use every part of a slaughtered animal that you can in order to honor that animal’s sacrifice. Making use of the bones is just one part of this ethic.

Learning to make this stuff yourself is not particularly difficult but it is a fairly involved process. 

Learn to Brew

Brewing is a skill that the average homeowner, say nothing of the average homesteader, lacks entirely. And I’m not just talking about brewing up a cup of coffee here!

Real brewing skills will let you make beer which is reason enough for most people to take up the call, but it can also let you craft a variety of infusions and other healthy, medicinal concoctions.

Brewing is a skill that has been practiced for countless millennia, and it is high time that self-sufficient people bring it back into style.

Make Sausages Yourself

You know the old saying: even if you like it, you don’t want to see how it’s made.

Well, it is time to put that to the test, because if you want to maximize the return on your meat and also make some of it that is suitable for long-term storage you need to know how to make sausage yourself at home.

Honestly, done on a homestead setting as compared to a soulless factory farm, it isn’t that bad and I can promise you the results taste so good they will vanquish any concerns you might have.

Know How to Make Dairy Foods

Plenty of homesteaders like the idea of having cows or other dairy animals, but prior to starting their life on that same homestead they give little thought on what they will actually do with the milk once they get it.

Sure, you can drink the milk as is, but you can do so much more with it including making butter, yogurt, ice cream and more. Flex your farm to table muscles if you have dairy animals and learn how to make the most of the milk they give you.

Learn to Season Cast Iron Pans

Cast iron cookware needs no introduction, but if we are being honest there is just something that is fundamentally right about using cast iron on a homestead. It is adaptable, durable, iconic and completely reliable – just like your average homesteader!

cast iron and wooden spoon
cast iron and wooden spoon

And just like your homestead itself, cast iron cookware requires ongoing care in the form of seasoning.

Learning how to properly season your cast iron pans ensures they will always maintain that wonderful, gloss black non-stick surface, and ensures they will last so you can pass them down to your kids.

Make Vinegar

If we are all being honest, vinegar is one of those things that everyone has in their pantry and that everyone uses, but nobody really knows where it comes from. You just buy it at the store and then buy more when you run out.

It’s kind of curious when you stop and think about it, isn’t it?

Well, if you want to keep making use of vinegar for the foreseeable future without any dependence on supply chains, you need to learn to culture it yourself. It isn’t as hard as you might think, and it is actually a pretty fun little experiment.

Know How to Render and Use Lard

One of the single worst things ever perpetrated on an unassuming public by the crooked, corrupt and incompetent government is the demonization of lard in everyday cooking.

Lard is no worse than most of the adulterated oils that get sold in stores, and a whole hell of a lot better than a lot of fake, synthetic crap like margarine.

You should definitely learn how to collect, render, and store lard so you can always have it on hand for tastier, more wholesome cooking.

Learn to Use a Dutch Oven

As far as I’m concerned you can’t call yourself a homesteader until you learn how to use a Dutch oven.

Out of all the cookware that you might own, nothing is as versatile, portable and reliable as a Dutch oven. On the stove top, in the oven or outside on a fire, this is a legacy piece of cookware that does it all.

You want to make a juicy roast? Covered. How about a big batch of biscuits? Covered. How about a delicious mixed berry cobbler? Covered.

If you don’t own one, and you don’t know how to use one, you are just plain wrong. Get one, learn it, love it.

Cook on a Wood Stove

I already mentioned a wood stove up above as an important link in your home heating chain. But did you know you can also cook on a wood stove, or at least on most of them?

It’s true, and it’s probably how your great-grandparents did it at some point.

You can do the same thing on a vintage wood stove or on a modern one that has a cooktop. Just another way to give yourself redundant capability in case of trouble.

Cook Outside with a Solar Oven

We have already covered cooking outside, but there is one specialized piece of outdoor cookware that no homesteader should ever go without: a solar oven.

A solar oven is surprisingly efficient, and is little more than an enclosed box with a transparent top that is aligned on all sides with highly reflective mirrors.

By capturing and reflecting the sun’s rays, it can cook just about anything and in a surprisingly short period of time. Bread and whole cuts of meat are no problem on a bright, clear day.

If you have no power, no gas and no wood, you can still have a hot dinner with a solar oven.

Animal Care

Having animals on your homestead or in your off-grid living situation can pay big dividends by providing food to supplement your garden and stockpiles.

Animals can also help with farm labor, and help to manage pasture and dense growth. But animals require careful attention and very hard work. Experts recommend you add animals a few at a time and master their care before adding others.

Learn to Raise and Hatch Chickens

When it comes to learning, everyone has to start somewhere, and when it comes to raising livestock there is hardly a better place to begin than raising chickens.

Chickens can provide eggs and meat aplenty for a minimal investment of money and time. Plus, you can raise chickens in a relatively small space compared to all other animals.

And if you were going to raise chickens you might as well learn how to hatch chicks yourself to increase the size of your flock. You’ll need to follow procedures to the letter when using an incubator and brooder, but it isn’t that hard.

Manage a Broody Hen

Sometimes, a laying hen will become intent on hatching the eggs that she lays, whether or not you would want her to. In this state she is known as broody, and a broody hen can seriously disrupt both the harmony of your coop and the production of more eggs.

Learning how to manage these broody hens is imperative if you want to maintain the cohesion of your flock and get the eggs flowing again out of the hen in question.

Learn Some Veterinary Skills

No matter what kind of livestock you are raising, you need to know upfront it isn’t like raising a pet. The vast majority of pet owners will rush their precious fur baby to the vet the moment there is an errant sniffle or limp.

Not only will you not have that luxury as a homesteader but you might not even have access to the specialized care livestock animals need.

You should endeavor to seriously brush up on basic veterinary care and procedure for whatever species is on your homestead so that you might better take care of them.

Ride and Care for a Horse

Horses are among the most useful and majestic of domestic animals, and they’ve got plenty of fans who love them for their own sake.

two toddlers feeding a mini horse
two toddlers feeding a mini horse

But whether you want to raise horses or you just want a horse or two around as a working resource on your homestead, you’ve got to learn how to both ride and care for them if you want to get any use out of them.

This is a serious skill unto itself, and one that people spend years mastering. That being said, the basics of saddling, riding and looking after a horse are something that anyone can do.

Learn How to Break a Horse

If you want to take your equestrian skills to the next level, you should learn how to break an unruly horse. Breaking a horse involves taming it so that it will accept instruction and a human rider. This is much easier said than done sometimes!

Sure, you can hire a professional to take care of this for you but you’re trying to be more self-sufficient, remember?

That being said, it is difficult to learn how to do this on the fly so you should enlist someone that can teach you.

Learn the Basics of Animal Breeding

Any homesteader who is raising livestock, and any numbers, needs to know about the basics of breeding their animals.

For the health of your animals and for maintaining or expanding the size of your flock or herd, good breeding practices prevent mishaps and ensure that your stock remains strong.

Letting your animals reproduce willy-nilly is guaranteed to invite disaster, so knowing when you should cut or cull, and when to time your efforts according to both breeding seasons and your schedule is crucial for good results.

Be warned, this is often nasty, messy work you’ll be getting more intimate with your critters than you ever thought!

Know How to Assist with Birthing Animals 

The culmination of your education when it comes to breeding your animals is learning how to assist with birthing them when and where required.

Larger animals like cows and horses in particular often benefit from human assistance to reduce injury and trauma for mother and young alike.

I understand if you think you just aren’t up to the task, but keep in mind people have been doing this pretty much forever, and your animals depend on you for absolutely everything that they might require.

Learn to Properly Milk an Animal

If you were raising any dairy animals, and want to partake of their milk, you have to know how to get it. Milking is a straightforward process to be sure, but one that is surprisingly nuanced.

You can use various mechanical apparatuses or do it the old fashioned way by hand, but in both cases you need to know what you are doing to maximize production and for the health of your animal.

Make Your Own Animal Feed

Only on the smallest homesteads with the richest pasturage can you expect your animals to roam and graze and get all of the nutrition that they need. This is the rare exception, not the rule.

The rest of the time, you’ll need to prepare their food for them.

This means you must become intimately connected with what nutrition your animals require, how much and how often they need it and with foods that they should avoid so there aren’t any unintended consequences.

Raise Bees and Harvest Honey

Becoming a beekeeper and tending to your own hives is a great way to ensure that all of the many plants on and around your property get sufficiently pollinated throughout the year. Is also the only way for you to reliably harvest delicious, golden honey!

Although learning to manage these swarming and intimidating insects, however beneficial they might be, seems like an impossible task if you aren’t already drawn towards it, it is relatively simple.

With a little bit of study, you’ll soon be ready to install your own hives and import your own bees to take care of.

Basic Farm Management

Regardless of your garden size and whether or not you have animals, there are always going to be some basic farm management skills you need to master.

In fact, managing your farm with proper recordkeeping and planning can be key to its success.

Learn to drive a Manual Transmission 

Throughout the United States and the rest of North America, you are more likely to come across a vehicle with a manual transmission on a farm or homestead than virtually anywhere else.

This is because by design or by sheer economics, many such vehicles wind up on farms and homesteads.

Is therefore in your best interest to learn how to drive a stick now while you can so you don’t have to struggle to learn it on the job! 

Learn to Operate a Tractor

Nearly every working homestead can benefit from having a tractor. Of course we all think of tractors when it is time to plow a field or perform other agricultural tasks, but they can do a lot more besides.

a 1937 Ford tractor
a 1937 Ford tractor

Only tractors have the torque and the power needed to hold the heaviest loads or operate attachments that will take care of various tasks and chores on your property.

A good tractor, well taken care of, can last a lifetime. You got plenty of use out of it, so don’t wait, learn to drive one.

Backup a Trailer like a Pro

Any working homestead virtually necessitates the use of vehicles that can tow trailers. Moving huge loads of feed and raw materials, transporting animals, and much more.

But if you were pulling a trailer, that means you’re going to have calls to back them up from time to time and this is where the trouble starts.

For those who haven’t been doing it their whole life, backing up a trailer is a maddening affair. It’ll take plenty of practice, but if you apply yourself you’ll be backing one up like a pro in no time.

Keep Good Records

Believe it or not, most homesteaders are at least part-time bookkeepers. There’s a lot of data that needs to be recorded, data that you will reference and refer to in the future.

Everything from the parentage of your animals to what you’ve been growing on cropland and what animals were allowed to graze, and for how long, throughout the year.

All of this data is important, and guessing at it or playing close enough might, over time, lead to disaster. Keeping an operational log book of important information on your homestead is just another thing you’ll have to take care of every day.

Manage Your Pasture and Your Land

Only the uninitiated believe that you can plant whatever you want, where you want, and when you want and then expect a good harvest.

Different crops and other plants have different nutritional requirements, and they use these nutrients at different rates.

Accordingly, you must know how best to manage your land if you want to ensure a good return year after year and avoid burning the soil out.

These are skills that are handed down generationally on farms, but if you didn’t benefit from this education you’ll need to learn how to do it to manage your own homestead.

Know How to Deal with Pests

Pests and homesteads go hand in hand. From stinging hives of wasps or hornets to various fleas, mites, lice and ticks that will infest and enrage your livestock. You’ll even have to contend with termites going after your very own home.

There’s nothing for it except to learn how to be your own exterminator.

Identifying, locating and eliminating insect pests is pretty easy with just a little bit of book learning but you’ll need to stay aware and be diligent if you want to keep them from becoming a recurring problem.

Learn to Get Rid of Predators

Predators are a far more serious problem than pests if you have animals. Hawks, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, snakes and more will all try to make a meal out of various animals given half a chance. Much of the time, they can be very sneaky or very persistent.

You’ve got to be careful when dealing with predators. Some of them are protected by law, and others are just clever or even dangerous.

You can resort to various methods for protecting your animals from predators, including decoys and potentially even lethal force. In all cases, though, your animals are counting on you to protect them.

Bale Hay

Baling hay is a fundamental part of living on a homestead that has animals. Whether you use it for food or even as bedding, or for any other purposes, knowing how to harvest it and bail it or bail it yourself if you buy it loose is something you’ll need to do.

It looks really easy watching a machine do it as a tractor rolls by, but as you might expect there is a lot that can go wrong.

Basic Repair & Maintenance

One of the things about homesteading and even off-grid living that many people overlook is the amount of daily work and upkeep that can be needed to create and maintain the lifestyle you want.

In a survival, homestead, farm, or off-grid living situation, things are going to wear out, break down, or need maintained. Here are some of the more common skills you may need to learn before you need them.

Build and Fix Fences

If you got a homestead, that means you’ll need fences, and if you’ve got fences they’re going to need repair. Chances are you won’t have some tiny parcel that a fencing company can throw up a privacy fence around in an afternoon. 

Whatever kind of fencing you need and for whatever purpose, chances are pretty good you’ll be doing it yourself or with the help of your family and your neighbors.

Learning how isn’t too hard, but the actual doing will be quite an undertaking!

Know How to Cut Down a Tree

Living farther out from society, it is easy to take for granted the trouble that trees can cause. It will seem like every other month one will be falling down to block roads, block your driveway or damage your buildings.

Preemptively dealing with a tree before it takes a tumble in a storm or due to old age will save you a lot of grief, and periodically you’ll need to perhaps chop down a tree for firewood, too.

Doing it safely, with whatever tools you choose, is a skill that you’ll need to learn as a homesteader.

Change a Tire 

This is a skill that needs no introduction, and further one that all adults should already know how to do.

If you don’t, rectify that pronto because you won’t necessarily be able to get AAA out to where you are, and they probably don’t make house calls for changing out a tractor tire.

Change Your Own Oil 

Same thing as with changing a tire above. This is a skill that all self-sufficient people should know how to do, only now you’ll need to know how to change the oil on a variety of machines, not just your personally owned vehicle.

Learn Some Basic Plumbing Skills

Unless you live in the most rudimentary structure available, your home and other buildings on your homestead will probably make use of plumbing. And if they have plumbing, that means that things can go wrong with it.

From fixing a busted faucet or a leaky drain to insulating pipes against an oncoming and brutal winter, basic plumbing skills can prevent disaster and save you a small fortune.

Fix and Maintain Your Roof and Gutters

Your home is still the nexus of your homestead, and if something goes wrong with your home the other important work you have to take care of will grind to a halt.

One of the best things you can do to keep your home in tip top shape inside and out is take care of the roof and gutters.

Learning how to fix leaks and drafts and properly hang and drain gutters to keep water away from your foundation is definitely something you should learn.

Have some Basic Carpentry Skills

There are countless other fixes, upgrades and projects that will need doing in and out of your home and elsewhere on your property.

The vast majority of these projects will involve wood. Learning how to work with wood and make it work for you will make for light work and also allow you the freedom to fix things that break and make the things you need.

Make Basic Furniture

You don’t have to be a genuine Craftsman or carpenter to make useful things out of wood.

From saw horses to basic tables, stools, cabinets and the like, a fundamental working knowledge of joinery will allow you to make sturdy if rustic furniture that will serve you and your family well for years, and save you a boatload of money in the making.

Clear Brush and Brambles

One of the most annoying chores on the homestead, at least for me, is the necessity of clearing off brush and brambles.

Once a plot of land gets too overgrown, you can’t do one single thing with it. You can’t raise animals there, you can’t build there, and you can’t plant there.

Learning how to effectively, quickly and efficiently clear out this unused wasteland of brush and brambles to turn it into good, safe passage or for any other purpose is one mundane homesteading skill you should not neglect.

Maintain Your Buildings’ Electrical Systems

Like all of the other services and utilities that make modern life possible and pleasant, chances are good at your home and other structures will be wired to accept electricity on your homestead.

Hiring a professional electrician will take time and cost a small fortune, so it’s in your best interest to know how to service, repair, install and upgrade electrical lines, receptacles and switches yourself.

Have Some Basic Metalworking Skills

When things break on your homestead, it’s always in your best interest, and better for your bottom line, if you can get them working again as quickly as possible.

This is a metal component on a vehicle, machine, tool or structure, it isn’t necessarily beyond your capability to fix if you have some basic metal working skill.

Knowing how to run a welding kit, bend, shape and fashion metal can let you get back in gear or at the very least prevent further damage until a proper repair or replacement can be obtained.

Know How to Tie Useful Knots

I’m telling you right now; the single most useful skill you can learn in life and especially on a homestead is a working knowledge of practical knots.

anatomy of a knot
the anatomy of a knot

Knots are the best way to make rope and other cordage do work, and there is no shortage of tasks on your homestead for which rope is ideally suited to.

From dragging timber and tying up animals to hoisting heavy loads into your barn, knowing which not is which and when to employ them is priceless in each instance.


Skills with tools, weapons, and security are crucial in any environment. Nothing is more crucial than knowing your family and home are secure.

Even if you aren’t ready to make your own tools or weapons, you need to know how to properly use, maintain, and store them. Knowing how to make your own tools and weapons is crucial in any situation where new tools are not readily available.

Sharpen an Axe or Knife 

Mankind’s most fundamental tools that have accompanied us into the modern era are bladed implements. Knives and axes are foremost among them, and each still gets tons of use to this very day.

How sad it is then that most people struggle to use a dulled edge or just throw it away entirely because they don’t know how to sharpen it.

Abraham Lincoln said it best, and I am paraphrasing: if you gave him a few hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend the first couple just sharpening his axe.

Maintain Your Tools

You’re probably sensing a theme by now. Take care of your tools and they will take care of you. easier said than done when your list of chores and critical tasks only ever gets longer, but spending just a couple of minutes to maintain your tools when you’re done with them we’ll go a long, long way to making them last and keeping them safe in operation.

Learn How to Handle, Shoot, and Clean a Gun

However you might feel about them, a gun is just another tool on a homestead, one you’ll probably have occasion to use.

From dispatching a predator that is hassling your animals to euthanizing a large animal that has become critically injured, you’ll need a good gun at your side.

Also consider that you might have cause to use a gun in self-defense. In all cases, you should know how to shoot one and you should know how to clean it and to maintain it so that it is ready and functional when you must call on it.

Know How to Make and Reload Ammunition

For those who want to be a little more self-sufficient on their homestead, knowing how to make your own ammunition is just another way to reduce dependency on the outside world.

This might come as a surprise to some readers, but modern cartridge ammunition can be crafted easily enough at home using a few specialized tools and plenty of care and attention when assembling.

Spending an hour or two at the reloading bench every month can turn out a modest supply of cartridges for an average gun owner.


Being so far removed from the mass of society means you must be prepared to secure your property and protect your family and possessions yourself: you won’t be able to count on police showing up to save the day in time.

Know How to Fight

One of the best things about being a homesteader is that typically you are out well and far away from the hustle, bustle, noise and tangle of civilization. Unfortunately, that is also a downside.

Being isolated means you are inherently more vulnerable to violence, and when there is no cavalry coming in the form of police, or at least no cavalry coming in time, you have to know how to handle yourself in a fight, be it with fists or guns.

Learn to Secure Your Property

Remember, you are the one that is pretty much responsible for your own well-being at this point, and your well-being is closely tied with your property so you need to know how to secure it.

This can be gates across driveways and other paths leading on to your property, strong fences, sensors or video surveillance and more. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to security, way more than we can talk about here, but we have lots of articles to get you started on Survival Sullivan.

Deal with Disasters

Disasters are just a part of life. And I’m not talking about social disasters, like spilling that glass of red wine all over your brand new white sofa, I’m talking about real disasters, natural or otherwise.

Tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, blizzards and more will all pose a substantial and present danger to your homestead and your life.

Man-made calamities in the form of chemical spills and things of that nature can do the same. It is definitely in your best interest if you have a response plan in place for mitigating the damage associated with disasters.

Identify Venomous Snakes

Believe me when I say you’ll never see as many snakes as you will when you live on a homestead.

Most snakes, wherever they are, typically avoid human habitation and so we don’t see very many moving around in cities or in suburbia. You’re going to see plenty of them on your homestead.

Some of them are pests, most of them are harmless, and some of them are damned dangerous. You should endeavor to learn how to identify on-site every venomous snake that is endemic to your area so that you know how to deal with them accordingly.

Food Preservation and Storage

One of the most important skills in any scenario is food preservation and storage. There are many, many ways to preserve your food for long-term storage.

Which skills you learn and how you store your food will depend largely on your personal preferences. How prepared do you want to be to feed your family over the long-term if grocery store food is not available?

Home (pressure) canned and dehydrated long term pantry meals and sides.
Home (pressure) canned and dehydrated long term pantry meals and sides.

Dehydrate Fruits and Veggies

Maximizing your harvest and minimizing waste is part and parcel of homesteading. One of the best ways to preserve produce for long-term storage while keeping it ready to eat or ready to use in a recipe is to dehydrate it.

You can use traditional techniques for dehydration, or make use of countertop dehydrators, it doesn’t matter.

Learn to Can Food Safely

Canning. Your great-grandparents did it, your grandparents did it, maybe even mom and dad did it. You need to know how to do it too.

Building up a pantry of food that is preserved for the long term and ready to eat is imperative if you want to be prepared for lean times.

Despite how simple it is to open and prepare canned food, making it is an altogether different story. It’s not hard, per se, but it is an exacting process.

Save Seeds for Future Planting

Whatever you grow on your homestead, fruits, vegetables or other, you should make it a point to build up a seed bank for future plantings and as a hedge against blight or crop failure. You do this by saving seeds from whatever it is you harvested.

Storing seeds yourself so they remain viable for years is not difficult, but once again you have to know what you are doing and you have to have a plan. Learn how so this is just another step in your harvesting process.

Ferment Food to Preserve It

Fermenting food is another time-honored process of preservation. Aside from being effective with absolutely no refrigeration, it can also produce a variety of tasty dishes, like sauerkraut.

Fermentation is simple enough that anyone can do it, and it requires very little real work aside from properly prepping your food and having all the materials on hand.

Make Jam, Jelly and Preserves

The making of jams, jellies, preserves and the like goes hand in hand with canning. It is hard to imagine having toast or a peanut butter sandwich without one of these delicious toppings, but they are more than a delicacy.

The sugaring and canning of jams and jellies is one of the very best ways to preserve fruits at room temperature.

More than most of your other produce you might harvest, fruits tend to go bad the quickest, so mastering at home production of preserves, jams and jellies is essential if you are growing a lot of fruit.

Learn to Use a Pressure Cooker

One of the best kitchen appliances of yesteryear, and today one of the most underutilized, pressure cookers are similar to slow cookers and that you can set them and forget them, opening them up later to a delicious, home cooked meal.

But compared to slow cookers, they work much faster.

When you already have 101 things to do, you can leverage a pressure cooker to help you out in the kitchen.

As you might expect, you must pay attention to proper safety procedures when using one, so you had better brush up on operation before you dive in.

Learn to Run a Smoker

Running your backyard charcoal or gas grill might be your first step to mastery of outdoor cooking, but learning how to properly run a smoker is a genuine rite of passage.

pork inside a functioning smoker
pork inside a functioning smoker

You can think of smoking your food as similar to grilling, only with the difficulty turned way up.

It is slower, more meticulous and there is a lot more that can go wrong, but the finished product is not only incredibly delectable but it can serve as a form of preservation all unto itself.

Dig and Install a Root Cellar

Way back in the day, before there was refrigeration and even before there was easy and economical availability of ice, the only way people had to refrigerate their food was outside or underground.

Even in temperate environments, digging a root cellar would provide low or at least lower temperature storage for produce and other goods.

I’m happy to report that root sellers are making a comeback, especially among homesteaders.

Even better, installing a root cellar as part of a new build or for an existing build is quite simple with a little planning. You should install one now, while you can, to have backup food storage capability.

Pasteurize Your Own Dairy Products

Pasteurization is a process that virtually all modern dairy products go through in order to kill off bacteria and other microorganisms, preventing early spoilage and also improving safety. Believe it or not, you can pasteurize your own dairy with a modest investment in equipment.

Although raw milk and other dairy products are all the rage among people who want to live as naturally as possible, the consequences of dairy-borne food poisoning can be quite severe.

You can prevent this unhappy occurrence by learning how to pasteurize your own.

Store Dry Goods Properly

Since mankind first implemented agriculture, we have been fighting a never-ending war against grain and dry goods pests. Weevils, beetles, mites and more can infest your grains, beans, flour and other dry goods, ruining them utterly.

Believe me when I say there’s hardly anything nastier than opening up a stored package of wheat only to see it moving and shifting due to the presence of unseen bugs.

Proper storage of food like this will keep pests out and your food fresh. Temperature controlled storage, airtight containers and regular inspection is the key.

Learn to Collect Eggs from Chickens and Ducks

Everyone knows that if you raise chickens or ducks on your homestead you will pretty soon have a good supply of eggs coming.

And while collecting eggs might be easy enough, learning how to collect them efficiently without disturbing your birds and without breaking your back is just as important.

Setting up a schedule, positioning nesting boxes and providing access to those nesting boxes for yourself and others will make egg collection duty easy. You’ll still have to do it every day, but it will be less of a chore.


Gardening skills have great benefits for any living situation. First and foremost, growing your own food enables you to eat foods that are more naturally grown if you want to do so.

You know what’s in your food because you grew it, picked it, washed and cooked it yourself. It can help you cut grocery expenses.

It’s very relaxing for most and can be a source of pride and accomplishment. Most importantly, you will have food readily available to you and your family in case of a SHTF scenario.

Learn How to Plan a Garden

One of the most fundamental homesteading skills is gardening, and before you can start planting and eventually harvesting you’ll need to know how to plan your garden for ease of access, plant health and successful harvesting.

rows of cabbage in veggie garden
rows of cabbage in veggie garden

Understanding garden layout, space requirements, which types of plants do better as neighbors, and much more is important if you want a bumper crop. Before you start tilling, start planning.

Learn to How to Prune and Graft Trees and Bushes

Another underutilized skill among gardeners, pruning and grafting allows you to keep your plants healthy and direct their growth, and can even allow you to duplicate or preserve a plant that is failing.

By removing unwanted growth, and learning how to attach live parts of one plant to another you’ll become a sort of plant “doctor” and be well on your way to establishing yourself as a genuine green thumb.

Break Ground

Establishing a healthy and productive garden from square one is not just a matter of digging a hole and tossing a seed into it before hoping for the best.

Knowing how to break the ground of your garden prior to planting, according to what you are planting, will give your plants the very best chances of growing quickly and healthily.

This is further influenced by the type of soil you have, so understanding all the factors at play will better inform how deeply you should break ground and how much. Don’t neglect this basic but critical step!

Understand Your Growing Zone and Seasons

One fundamental aspect of gardening that you must respect is learning how your climate, growing zone and seasons will affect what you can grow, along with when you can grow it.

Let’s face it, not every plant grows equally well all around the world and at all times.

If you have a plan that is just unsuited for your area or the season you will at best be working extra hard or at worst defeated time and time again. Understand the nuances of your growing zone so you can time your efforts accordingly.

Start Seeds

Out in the wild, or even out in your garden, seeds face many challenges. They are eaten by every kind of bug and animal, and they are so incredibly delicate that the vast majority will never be able to sprout and take root, growing into mature plants.

Instead of following the law of the jungle, you should learn to start your seeds indoors or in a greenhouse.

Starting seeds means that you let them sprout and start growing for a little while prior to transplanting them to their final destination. This gives your plans, and you, the best chance of success.

Grow Your Own Herbs

Maybe you have grand ambitions of being a gardener, but just don’t know where to begin. If the whole process sounds a little intimidating, or you are worried about wasting your time, you should start by growing your own herbs.

Most common herbs that we use in the kitchen grow easily and quickly, and you should be able to grow them right on your own countertop or a convenient window sill in small containers.

Aside from providing delicious, fresh ingredients for your meals, you’ll be mastering essential gardening skills on a small scale.

Build a Greenhouse

When gardening, we aren’t always held in sway by the conditions of our region or just the season. It is possible to create ideal conditions for particular plants by constructing a greenhouse.

This way you’ll be sure that certain plants can remain in the warmer, more humid environment that they need in order to thrive, or just survive through the winter.

A greenhouse can be as simple as a plastic, tent like structure setup with a collapsible frame or a more intricate permanent structure complete with glass walls and ceiling. In either case, they’re just what warm weather plants need to thrive.

Farm Fish and Bugs

The raising of livestock is not just limited to the usual birds and mammals we are all familiar with. Some people farm fish and bugs!

Whether you are raising them to sell or raising them for your own purposes, fish and insects both have advantages and that they are logistically quite a bit simpler and cheaper to raise than larger animals.

If you have a convenient pond or lake on your property or have a shed that is going unused, you might consider learning to raise fish or insects.

Know How to Test Soil pH

The pH balance of your soil is fundamental to the success of your ecosystem on your farm or homestead, whatever you are doing.

Proper pH balance means that animals and plants will thrive, whereas a pH balance that is poor will lead to the collapse of plants and deprive animals of pasture. 

Regularly testing your soil pH is critical for knowing what moves you need to make and when in regards to planting, fertilization, pasturing and more. It is not particularly difficult, but you’ll need the right supplies and a little bit of know-how to interpret the data.

Start a Compost Pile

One of the single best things you can do for the health of your garden for crops and for reducing waste at the same time is starting a compost pile.

A compost pile is basically creating the same type of decomposition that occurs on the forest floor in miniature, either in a bin or freestanding.

free-ranging chickens on compost heap
free-ranging chickens on compost heap

By adding food scraps, yard waste, wood, grass clippings, manure and more you will allow various insect life and microorganisms to break down this debris into nutrient-rich soil that is perfect for supercharging your plantings.

Learn Permaculture

Permaculture is a portmanteau of the words permanent and agriculture, and as expected is a system of developing your property so that it serves as a sustainable and bountiful ecosystem for the foreseeable future. 

It turns out that when all of the animals, insects and other life forms are taken care of, your plans will usually be taken care of too.

By taking only what you need from your plantings while allowing for nature to take its place, it is possible to have a homestead that can provide you with everything you need with minimal work from you required.

The concepts are easy to understand, but implementation is difficult, so you’ll need to study and practice!

Tap Trees

If you live in an area with maple trees or any other tree that provides useful syrup or sap, the only way to get it while maintaining the health of the tree is learning how to tap the tree.

This is another skill that is typically handed down from generation to generation, but it is possible to learn it yourself and implement it so long as you have the right equipment and an understanding of the life cycle of trees.

Learn Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a system of growing plants in a nutrient-rich liquid. The roots of the plant directly touch or remain immersed in this liquid and draw their food as usual.

Although somewhat complicated to set up, aquaponics can be both very space efficient and highly productive, with correct implementation easily producing bumper crops in controlled conditions.

For growing specialty produce or giving yourself maximum control over fussy plants, aquaponics can be a great solution.

Start a Mushroom Garden

Most homesteaders never think about growing their own mushrooms, but many edible species are very easy to grow and require little care compared to actual plants.

A mushroom garden can be as basic as a large box on your countertop, or as intricate as an entire room or shed dedicated to the purpose.

The best part about growing your own mushrooms is, with the right controls in place, you don’t have to worry about accidentally running into a toxic and potentially deadly mushroom like you would with wild picked varieties.

Medical Skills and Techniques

Basic first-aid and CPR skills are basic survival skills for everyone. The further you are from a hospital, the more important it is to know more advanced medical skills.

For those living in remote areas or in a SHTF situation, where medicines are not readily available, alternative medicines such as medicinal herbs and plants will be more crucial.

Learn CPR

The most fundamental first aid skill that anyone can learn is CPR. For providing basic life support immediately, CPR can be done by yourself and with literally nothing else, although having the right equipment and other supplies can help.

Whatever you might think about CPR from watching TV and movies, you are not prepared for administering the real thing and less you are trained.

Most of the time and in most places, this training is readily available and best of all free, so you have no excuse for not getting your certification.

Know Basic First-Aid and Trauma Care

Beyond CPR, you’ll probably eventually have cause to call upon your first aid skills on your homestead, one way or the other. This is why it is so important to understand basic first aid and trauma care since help will likely be a long way away when you need it.

Learning how to deal with cuts, scrapes, punctures, burns, lacerations, sprains, strains and more will just be a part of your daily life.

But, in case of a really serious accident or misadventure, you’ll need to know how to patch up a serious injury to stabilize someone, or yourself, until you can reach professional help.

Assemble a First-Aid Kit

To support your efforts at administering first aid in a timely fashion, it is extremely beneficial to have a first-aid kit containing needed supplies.

Bandages, antiseptic, tourniquets, burn cream, ace wrap and more all have a place in a well-equipped kit. It is a great idea to have a kit in your home, in your primary vehicle and in your barn, workshop or other structure that you frequent.

Keep in mind, a first aid kit does not do very much good at all if you don’t have the skills to make use of the supplies. So, like we have mentioned several times now, make sure you get training! Your life or the life of a loved one might depend on it!

Get some Midwifery Skills

In the centuries past, most babies were born at home, not at a hospital. It sounds unbelievable to our modern sensibilities, but midwifery was a time-honor tradition that was handed down over countless generations and with good reason. 

Sometimes, when a baby is on the way there might not be any time to reach a hospital or else there might not be time to summon help.

You and yours are going to have to deliver the newborn into the world, and if that fateful day ever arrives you had better hope you know what you are doing.

Even if it is not your baby on the way, knowing how to potentially support a mom who is ready to deliver could make the difference in a good or bad outcome.

Know How to Identify and Treat Dehydration

One of the most constant threats that you’ll run into on any hard-working homestead, whatever it is you do and wherever you are located, is dehydration. Particularly in conjunction with heat stress, dehydration can quickly incapacitate, cripple and kill.

Knowing how to spot the onset of dehydration, and how to deal with it effectively up to and including the administration of intravenous fluids, can make the difference between going down for the count and losing a precious work day and getting back to business with some pep in your step.

Learn to Identify and Deal with Disease

It rarely fails that all of us will have to deal with sick and semi-sick days. Vague fevers, upset stomach, coughing, sneezing, sniffling and so forth.

But, understanding when you are a little under the weather versus truly ill and in need of supportive care is important.

Accordingly, it is a great idea for all homesteaders to brush up on their knowledge of diseases.

Understanding when you or someone else in your family or on your team is truly sick versus just dealing with a little bit of local crud can help you make an informed and intelligent decision on whether they can keep going or if they should really knock off.

Make Infusions, Salves, Extracts, Tinctures, and Poultices

Although commonly divided as the practice of mystics and hippies these days, there is much to recommend the making of medicinal infusions, tinctures and other concoctions at home using naturally sourced and completely safe plants and other extractives.

Long ago, these homebrewed medications were just called medicine, and only in the era of sterile, shiny pre-packaged pill bottles have they taken on something of a sinister air.

You can learn to make these medicinal concoctions as a supplement or a backup for modern medicine; and you should, considering you can grow many of the needed plants yourself easily.

Treat a Snake Bite

If snakes are a constant threat on most homesteads, it stands to reason you should learn how to treat a snake bite.

Now, I’ll tell you right up front you should forget entirely all recommendations of sucking out the venom or lancing the site of the bite to drain the venom. That is likely to make matters worse.

But positively identifying the offending snake, keeping the victim calm and potentially applying a gentle ligature might help to slow the spread of the venom. Minutes matter when responding to the bite of a venomous snake, so you cannot afford to make things worse!

Animal Butchering and Processing

While most homesteaders and those living off-grid understand the reasoning behind killing and eating animals for food, some people prefer not to kill and process themselves.

If you are interested and able to butcher and process your own animals for food however, you can supplement your food supply and gain valuable components (hides, wool, gelatin, bones, sinew) to use for all kinds of things you need.

Know How to Humanely Kill an Animal

For some timid souls, they don’t really know or comprehend where their food comes from. But for those of us who want to live a little closer to our world, to include the raising of our own food, we know very good and well where it comes from.

When an animal is going to give up its life to nourish our own family, it is our utmost responsibility to dispatch the creature instantly with as little pain as possible. Learning how to humanely kill livestock is mandatory if you’re raising any animal for food.

Learn to Clean a Carcass

Once the killing is done you’ll need to prepare the body of the animal for butchering. But to do that, horns, hooves, organs and more should be removed. Missing this part up means you might taint or even spoil the meat.

This is a gruesome business to learn yourself, so it is in your best interest to enlist a neighbor, relative or someone else who is skilled at the process to teach you.

Butcher Properly

Once the carcass is cleaned, it is time to harvest the meat you have worked so hard to raise. Hacking at the meat of the animal with no rhyme or reason is a great way to waste it or produce cuts of suboptimal quality.

However, skilled butchering maximizes your yield and produces cuts that are ready to be used in a variety of dishes.

There is a unique approach for every animal that you would butcher, and with a little bit of knowledge, plenty of practice and insight into what kinds of cuts are needed for yourself or for your customer, you’ll be butchering a carcass in no time.

Tan Hides

For most of us, the meat we take from a butchered animal is usually the prize, but there is much more that can be utilized from their sacrifice.

One of the best and most ancient items that can be gleaned from animal hide is leather, but to get leather you’ll have to learn how to tan the hide of the animal.

I’ll be honest with you. Tanning is disgusting, stinky work, but the final product makes all the suffering worth it.

Again, not for nothing we have an ethical responsibility to minimize waste whenever we butcher an animal, and learning how to tan a hide is another facet of that ethic.

Shear a Sheep

Getting animal products from our livestock doesn’t always involve death and destruction. Take sheep, for instance.

The wool of sheep is used in countless textiles, and without us to share them we will never harvest that wool and the sheep will only be increasingly burdened by it.

But like any other process, knowing how to do it quickly, correctly and safely is going to make light work of an otherwise difficult chore.

Trust me; it isn’t as easy as running a set of clippers over your own head, so you’ll need to learn how to handle this delicate process!

Learn to Craft from Bones

The last material we can harvest from a butchered animal is its very bones. Although it might seem macabre to some, bone has long been utilized around the world for practical and decorative items.

As a beautiful inlay, as scales or handles on knives and tools, or even suitable for crafting into tools itself, bone has many uses.

Getting to the bones is easy enough, but properly cleaning them for easy, safe storage and then learning how to work with them takes a considerable amount of investment. Don’t be too scared to learn how to craft with bones yourself.

Get Gelatin from Animal Hooves

Gelatin is a useful ingredient in all sorts of recipes, and also as a component for creating medicines, cosmetics and other items.

Gelatin is derived by breaking down and reducing animal hooves, and, like tanning, though it is a smelly and somewhat gross process it is something that is totally within reach of the average homesteader.

Learning how to make your own gelatin at home is yet another way to minimize waste and further honor the animal that has given up its life so that we may prosper.


There are so many things you will need on a homestead or in an off-grid situation that the more you know how to make yourself, the better protected you will be.

Definitely learn how to make rope from alternative materials, to make your own candles, and to do simple repairs to clothing as those are basic survival skills. Other skills you learn in this area will depend on your situation and interests.

Mend Damaged Clothing

Like our grandparents used to say, make do or do without. Living and working on a homestead will be a severe test of all of your possessions, but especially your clothing.

Whereas once you might have decided to throw out clothing that was worn or had a hole in it, it is time to learn how to patch that clothing to extend its useful life or return it to service.

A good sewing kit and a working knowledge of various stitches is all you need to know, but learning how to work a sewing machine will help.

Learn How to Make a Quilt

Quilting is a quaint pastime to many, but for homesteaders, it is an entirely practical skill that can produce useful, warm blankets that double as family heirlooms. Quilting is a great way to reduce waste by utilizing scraps of fabric or parts of clothing and other items that still have some life left in them.

Learn How to Weave

Weaving is a skill that is truly in danger of extinction in North America, practiced by fewer and fewer people every year. That is a real shame because weaving allows you to take a variety of plant matter and turn it into durable, useful and long-lasting hard and soft goods.

From hats to buckets, baskets and even furniture, weaving is a meticulous and time-consuming process but it produces goods that are truly one of a kind and surprisingly useful.

If someone in your family needs a new hobby, one that can produce amazing things, encourage them to take up weaving or take it up yourself.

Make Natural Dyes

If you’re going to start working with your own fabric and even producing your own clothing and other soft goods, you might find it worthwhile to produce natural dyes in order to color them to your taste.

Guys can be made from all kinds of things, usually fruits and vegetables but also various woods and other materials. By heating, boiling and concentrating the elements that give these materials their color, you can make surprisingly potent dyes right at home.

Know How to Craft Beeswax or Tallow Candles

Well before the Advent of the light bulb, it was candles that allowed mankind a portable and controllable source of light. Today, candles are no longer quite as important but they are still very popular and no less useful.

You can make your own candles at home with a little bit of ingenuity, the right supplies and most importantly a quantity of beeswax or tallow, two things you should be able to produce in abundance on your own homestead.

You can sell these candles for extra income or stockpile them as a just in case item.

Money Management

Money management skills will benefit just about everyone, regardless of their lifestyle. Homesteading requires significant investments in seed, equipment, animals, etc. and may never become “profitable”.

Off-grid living using alternative power methods such as solar, wind, or hydro will also require equipment. Start off as close to debt free as you can and to know how to barter for anything you may not be able to afford.

Learn to Barter

Bartering is the most fundamental and foundational element to any economy, and one that is still alive and well in many rural parts of the nation and all around the world.

Bartering is nothing more than two parties ensuring that each gets what they want.

You can barter goods for goods or goods for services, but in any case you can often come out much better off than you would simply plunking down cash on the barrelhead.

Know How to Haggle for a Good Deal

Although it might seem distasteful, learning how to haggle is important if you want to maximize your savings and financial solvency. Why should you have to pay full price for anything? Take it from me, everything, and I do mean everything, is negotiable.

Although it might not be possible when shopping at a big box retailer, a lot of the time it is if you know who to talk to, and not only is it possible but it is also expected when at a swap meet, flea market, farmers market or other venue.

Getting a good deal or a deep discount means your dollars go further!

Know How to Budget for Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly Expenses

It’s boring, it’s time consuming and for some of us it is soul crushing, but learning how to budget is absolutely critical for the health and well-being of our homesteading operation, to say nothing of keeping a roof over our heads!

Learning how to budget your money on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis while anticipating increases in and unexpected expenses will keep your bank account in the black and your stress level at a minimum.

Personal Hygiene and Sanitation

Sanitation is crucial in any living situation. Poor sanitation practices can lead to infection, other illnesses and can attract rodents.

For homesteaders and those living off-grid, the desire is often for more natural ways that use less chemicals or less non-renewable resources (fossil fuel based electricity).

Make Your Own Soap

You ever wonder where soap comes from? Who was the first person to invent and use soap? The answer might surprise you, and it might surprise you even more to learn that for ages people made their own soap, if they wanted it.

You can make your own soap at home, and depending on the kind of soap you want along with the materials you have at hand, it might be a lengthy process.

At any rate, chances are it will only use materials you already have in abundance on your homestead, and with a little patience you might assume me producing artisanal soap that can rival anything you can buy at a retailer.

Create Natural Alternatives to Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning supplies are growing increasingly fantastic these days, not only due to their cost but also to the never-ending list of highly questionable chemicals that make up said products.

A far better solution, financially and health-wise, is to make your own cleaning products from commonly available things like citrus oil and vinegar.

Learning what simple combinations work best on which surfaces is easily done and you might find that these concoctions not only work better at cleaning but smell 10 times better than the antiseptic sludge coming out of a plastic spray bottle.

Know How to Do Laundry the Old Fashioned Way

Modern washers and dryers sure do make our lives more convenient, but they are also huge investments financially and in the amount of water and electricity they use.

Also, they are extremely hard on your clothing; they are why your clothes wear out so much quicker.

Time to go retro once again. Hand washing clothing does not take too much longer overall compared to throwing a load in the washing machine, and hanging them up to line dry ensures they will not only be extremely fresh smelling, but they will also dry gently, extending their life while saving you a boatload of cash.

Maintain Good Sanitation for Your Home and Your Animals

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, but it is also imperative for good health. Letting your property, barn and home stay filthy is going to reduce morale but also invite disease which can rip through your animals or your family with equal ease.

It doesn’t have to be that way if you will just take the time to keep the place clean.

Yes, it might be easier said than done when you have so much to do…

But, spending just a few extra minutes at the end of every task to tidy up, along with weekly, monthly or quarterly deep cleanings will keep disease at bay and keep everyone on your homestead happy.

Make Use of Gray Water

Gray water is household wastewater that has not been contaminated by urine or feces.

Functionally, this is any wastewater that comes out of a sink, shower or bathtub prior to it hitting the main sewer drain. Gray water is still good for many things, including cleaning outside.

Setting up your home to capture and store gray water is a wonderful way to reduce waste overall but I can also save you a considerable amount of money.

Considering how much water that your average homestead will use compared to a residential home in the city or the suburbs, you should plan on using gray water from the beginning.

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1 thought on “Homesteading Skills You Need to Master”

  1. Thank you for providing a coherent view of skills development. I’ve pulled off a lot of articles but this is one of the better ones. This article is fully actionable and my son and I will be working through this and tailoring to our circumstances and objectives. An additional thought for someone with a group is to be able to assign primary responsibility for tasks or groups of tasks so no single person is overloaded and so that the team can build real expertise in the assigned domain.

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