Homesteading is a journey back to the roots, where self-sufficiency and a deep connection with the land reign supreme. And it’s the dream for many people around the world. However, diving into homesteading without a robust skill set can turn an idyllic dream into a daunting challenge. While this post touches on essential skills for homesteading, not every skill listed here is a must-have for every family. Your unique homesteading path—whether you’re buying an established farm or building from the ground up—will dictate which skills are most vital for you.
The following lists are meant to be a starting point. In no way are they meant to overwhelm you. As stated above, some skills may not be suitable for your family, location, or goals. Identify which skills you’re lacking and which skills you will need before you officially start your homesteading adventure.
Regardless of whether you live in an apartment or live on a 500 acre ranch, if you’re looking to improve your gardening skills the starting point will be gaining knowledge. Reading gardening books and blogs is an excellent step to being prepared for managing your own garden. If your goal is to just supplement healthy food for your family, stick to books that are specific to just gardening. If your goal is to become fully self-sufficient, without requiring the use of a grocery store, read gardening books and blogs but go a step further. Books that are specifically geared to self-sufficiency can get you closer to reaching your goals.
- Soil Testing and Amendment: Understand soil types and how to improve soil health.
- Composting: Learn the process of turning organic waste into nutrient-rich soil.
- Crop Rotation: Practice rotating crops to maintain soil health and reduce pests.
- Seed Starting: Master the art of growing plants from seeds.
- Pest Control: Identify and manage common garden pests organically.
- Irrigation Techniques: Efficiently water your plants using various methods.
- Greenhouse Management: Learn to extend your growing season with a greenhouse.
- Herb Gardening: Cultivate a variety of herbs for culinary and medicinal uses.
- Permaculture Principles: Apply sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural practices.
- Weed Management: Control weeds effectively without harming your crops.
- Vertical Gardening: Maximize space with vertical growing techniques.
- Seasonal Planting: Understand what and when to plant in each season.
- Companion Planting: Learn which plants grow well together.
- Organic Fertilization: Use natural fertilizers to enrich your soil.
- Harvesting Techniques: Harvest your crops at the peak of freshness and nutrition.
- Garden Planning: Plan your garden layout for efficiency and aesthetics.
- Mulching: Use mulch to conserve moisture and improve soil health.
- Container Gardening: Grow plants in containers for space efficiency.
- Plant Propagation: Learn to propagate plants to expand your garden.
- Cold Frame Gardening: Use cold frames to protect plants in cooler temperatures.
Animal Husbandry Skills
These skills can also be learned by reading books and niche blogs, at least at a beginner level. Though, I want to challenge you to go a step further. Reach out to local owners of livestock and volunteer your time helping with the animals. This could mean mucking out stalls, building fences, brushing horses, feeding/milking goats, cleaning out chicken/duck/goose coops, building coops, milking cows, gathering or incubating eggs, butchering, and more. Hands on experience with livestock is very important before deciding to raise your own.
- Basic Veterinary Skills: Learn basic animal healthcare, including wound care.
- Breeding: Understand the fundamentals of breeding livestock.
- Pasture Management: Efficiently utilize and maintain pasture land.
- Fencing: Install and maintain fences suitable for different animals.
- Nutrition Management: Provide balanced diets for various types of livestock.
- Milking Techniques: Learn to milk cows, goats, or sheep efficiently.
- Egg Incubation: Master the process of hatching eggs artificially.
- Shearing: Develop skills for shearing sheep or other fiber animals.
- Hoof Care: Learn to trim and care for the hooves of livestock.
- Poultry Keeping: Manage chickens, ducks, and other poultry.
- Animal Grooming: Maintain the hygiene and appearance of your animals.
- Livestock Birthing: Assist in the birthing process of livestock.
- Disease Prevention: Recognize and prevent common livestock diseases.
- Butchering Skills: If you eat meat, learn humane butchering practices.
- Apiary Management: Manage beehives and produce honey.
- Rabbit Rearing: Raise rabbits for meat, fur, or as pets.
- Aquaculture: Explore raising fish for food in ponds or tanks.
- Livestock Marketing: Learn to market and sell your livestock products.
- Animal Training: Train animals for specific tasks or behaviors.
- Waste Management: Effectively manage animal waste to maintain hygiene.
Cooking from Scratch Skills
This is a skill that can be learned anywhere, so long as there’s a kitchen. Consider your homesteading goals. Do you want to raise milk goats or cows? What produce do you want to grow? Do you want to raise bees? How about your own herbs? Do you want chickens for meat and/or eggs? Learning how to cook from scratch using the exact ingredients you want to be growing/raising on your homestead is one major step to reaching your homesteading dream.
- Bread Making: Master various types of bread from basic to artisanal.
- Canning and Preserving: Safely can and preserve fruits, vegetables, and meats.
- Foraging: Identify and use wild plants and mushrooms in cooking.
- Fermentation: Create fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt.
- Cheese Making: Learn to make a variety of cheeses at home.
- Butchery: Understand how to break down whole poultry, fish, and meat.
- Home Brewing: Brew your own beer, wine, or cider.
- Cooking with Whole Foods: Create meals using unprocessed ingredients. Check out this recipe for Healthy Portobello Pizza!
- Herbal Infusions: Make teas, tinctures, and oils from herbs.
- Meat Curing and Smoking: Preserve meat through curing and smoking.
- Grain Milling: Mill your own grains for flour and meal.
- Making Jams and Jellies: Preserve fruits in the form of jams and jellies.
- Dehydrating Foods: Dry foods for storage and concentrated flavor.
- Soup Making: Craft nourishing soups from scratch.
- Stock and Broth Making: Create stocks and broths as bases for various dishes.
- Pasta Making: Hand-make pasta in different shapes and flavors.
- Cake and Pastry Baking: Develop skills in baking and pastry arts.
- Oil Pressing: Extract oils from seeds and nuts for cooking and other uses.
- Charcuterie: Prepare various types of charcuterie like sausages and pâtés.
- Cooking with Seasonal Ingredients: Adapt cooking methods based on seasonal availability.
This is another skill that you can learn at a very basic/beginner level by reading. I recommend going way further than that before you start your homesteading adventure. Thankfully, Marc came into our relationship with these skills, because I had almost none of them. Trying to build coops, out buildings, stalls, gardens, etc. is incredibly difficult if you don’t have any of these skills to help you do it. There’s always the option to hire someone, but part of homesteading is keeping costs low. So the more that you can DIY your home projects, the better.
Again, to gain these skills before you start homesteading volunteer. Reach out to friends, family, local non-profit organizations, ranchers, etc. Watching YouTube videos is also helpful. And try to do small projects where you’re at. Build a book shelf, fix a leaky faucet, paint your bathroom, etc. There is always something that you can do and learn, regardless of where you’re currently at. Even those that live in an apartment can learn how to use an impact driver or wrench.
- Basic Carpentry: Handle essential woodworking tasks and simple furniture making.
- Plumbing Basics: Learn to fix leaks, unclog drains, and install fixtures.
- Electrical Fundamentals: Understand how to safely do basic wiring and repairs.
- Masonry Work: Acquire skills in bricklaying and constructing stone walls.
- Roofing and Insulation: Learn to repair roofs and insulate buildings effectively.
- Painting and Finishing: Master the art of painting and finishing surfaces smoothly.
- Fence Building: Construct sturdy fences for privacy and animal protection.
- Tool Maintenance: Keep your tools in top condition for longevity and safety.
- Renovation Skills: Update and refurbish old structures on your homestead.
- Energy Systems: Understand the basics of solar, wind, or hydro power systems.
Time Management Skills
Time management is crucial in homesteading. There’s always something that needs to be done. Always a to-do list. Just because it’s a simple life, doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. And if your time management skills aren’t up to par, you’re going to become incredibly overwhelmed. So start working on those time management skills NOW.
- Prioritization: Identify and focus on tasks that offer the most significant benefit.
- Seasonal Planning: Adjust your activities to align with the changing seasons.
- Daily Routines: Establish structured routines to enhance efficiency.
- Goal Setting: Set clear, achievable goals for both short-term and long-term.
- Task Delegation: Learn when and how to delegate tasks effectively.
- Time Tracking: Keep track of how you spend your time to identify areas for improvement.
- Stress Management: Develop strategies to manage stress and avoid burnout.
- Efficient Workflow: Create systems and processes for regular tasks to save time.
- Balancing Work and Life: Find a harmonious balance between homesteading and personal life.
- Continuous Learning: Allocate time regularly for learning and improving skills.
Skills That Can Create an Income
I’m not sure if I know one homesteader that doesn’t strive to make an income off of their land. So, it makes sense to add these skills to your list. No business can start without having a product or service. Make it a high-quality product or service to increase the chances of it being a success. Check out the following skills you can learn now so that you’re prepared to start building your homestead legacy. Read books. Watch YouTube channels. Take classes, either online or in person. Get as much hands on experience as possible.
- Crafting and Selling Homemade Goods: Turn crafts like pottery, woodworking, or knitting into products for sale.
- Beekeeping for Honey Production: Produce and sell honey, beeswax, and related products.
- Agritourism: Host farm stays, tours, or workshops on your homestead.
- Market Gardening: Grow and sell produce at local markets or to restaurants.
- Online Sales: Leverage online platforms to sell products or services.
- Workshops and Teaching: Teach skills you’ve mastered, like canning or carpentry.
- Freelance Writing: Write about your homesteading experiences for blogs or magazines.
- Value-Added Products: Create and sell products like jams, cheeses, or cured meats.
- Rental Spaces: Rent out cabins, rooms, or camp spaces on your property.
- Art and Photography: Sell your art or offer photography services.
- Herb Gardening and Sales: Grow and sell culinary or medicinal herbs.
- Livestock Products: Sell products like wool, eggs, or milk from your animals.
- Handmade Soaps and Beauty Products: Create and sell natural beauty products.
- Online Courses or eBooks: Develop digital products sharing your expertise.
- Seed Saving and Sales: Grow, save, and sell heirloom seeds.
- Custom Building Projects: Offer your building skills for custom projects.
- Landscaping Services: Provide landscaping or gardening services to others.
- Catering or Baking: Offer catering services or sell baked goods.
- Repair and Maintenance Services: Offer repair services for tools, equipment, or buildings.
- Consulting Services: Provide advice and consulting for new homesteaders.
Bonus Skills for Homesteading
In addition to the 100 skills for homesteading listed above, here are five bonus skills that can significantly enhance your self-sufficiency and overall homesteading experience:
1. Budgeting and Financial Planning: Essential for managing your resources effectively. Learn to create and stick to a budget, plan for large expenses (like livestock or building projects), and manage day-to-day finances to ensure your homestead remains financially sustainable.
2. Weather Prediction: Understanding local weather patterns and learning to predict weather changes can be a significant asset. This skill helps in planning agricultural activities, protecting livestock, and preparing for extreme weather conditions, thus safeguarding your homestead.
3. Natural Medicine: Develop knowledge in using herbs and natural remedies for basic healthcare. This includes growing medicinal plants, preparing herbal remedies, and understanding their appropriate uses and limitations.
4. Sustainable Energy Solutions: Explore the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, or hydro power. Learn the basics of installing and maintaining small-scale renewable energy systems, which can reduce your dependence on external power sources and lower energy costs.
5. Homestead Planning and Design: This involves mapping out your homestead for optimal efficiency and sustainability. Learn how to design your space, considering factors like sun exposure, wind patterns, water sources, and workflow efficiency. A well-planned homestead can significantly reduce labor and increase productivity.
Homesteading is a diverse and fulfilling endeavor that requires a wide range of skills. While not every skill is necessary for every homesteader, having a broad knowledge base allows for greater self-sufficiency and a deeper connection with your homestead. As you continue dreaming and planning, remember that each skill learned is a step closer to a sustainable and fulfilling way of life.