I overcomplicate things all the time. And sometimes it drives people crazy, most of all–myself. So, it’s no surprise that I overcomplicated homesteading and maybe you did too.
You see, you don’t need a ton of space or even a certain climate to start homesteading. Homesteading is all about seeing what you can improve in your current environment.
It’s easy to think, “Well, first, I’m going to need a big savings and land out in the country and learn to live off-grid”, but this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. Just like training for a marathon, all you need to do is take it a mile at a time, and somehow, you find yourself on mile 26.
So, let’s take it slow. Start by choosing a handful of these skills that personally speak to you. From there, do your best to learn the basics so you can apply them on your homestead.
I’m not going to explain why cooking is a useful homesteading skill because it’s pretty obvious. Instead, I’m going to say that cooking is an art.
Now, before you think, “Yeah, yeah, that’s so cliché”, hear me out.
Let’s consider other art-forms for a moment.
When you see a drawing, painting, or sculpture, it mainly satisfies one out of our 5 senses, our visual.
When you listen to music, it is appealing to your ears. Again, one sense.
So which one of the five senses do you use when cooking? Answer: all of them.
Cooking is one of the few art-forms which you can experience with multiple senses.
Think about it. You can see the food, smell the food, taste the food, and, depending on what you’re cooking, hear the sizzle.
And if you want to experience food with ALL 5 senses, simply eat with your hands. When your girlfriend and family give you a disgusted look during Thanksgiving dinner because you’re using your hands for the mashed potatoes, just tell them you’re experiencing art.
Seriously though, when you’re out on a homestead, chances are you’re going be at home a lot and you might not make it to museums, concerts, or that nude painting class as often as before. This is where cooking can function as an essential creative outlet. One that you can experience with every one of your senses.
And if you’re not comfortable cooking, you can always default to your partner. But let me tell you–once you stop treating cooking as a chore and more as an experience, things begin to change.
2. Preserving food
If you live in a zone that’s frost-free, congratulations! You can grow food year-round.
But if you’re like many people, and get some level of frost during the winter, it might be a good idea to learn how to preserve food.
Storing food has been an essential skill for thousands of years as food supplies and winters can be unpredictable. If you have long winters or live in the country-side, then you have a lot to benefit from learning this skill.
Now, other than for survival, preserving excess food can be a great way to barter with your homesteading neighbors. You give them a few jars of your strawberry jam, and they give you a handmade stick-man named Taco (don’t look at me, you’re the one who made the trade).
Preserving doesn’t just include jams and jellies. You can pickle, cure, dry, can, and much more. Making bone broths and drying my garden herbs are my favorites, but the options are endless.
Gardening is a great compliment to homesteading, and I’ve always been interested in permaculture. Something about a self-sufficient and sustainable ecosystem just calls to me.
But while permaculture can take a lot of skill and practice to start, gardening is a core skill that you can start now.
Keeping a plant alive takes much more than just water. And the best way to find out what a plant needs is to experiment.
You might find more sun, less water, and less soil-nitrogen works for one plant, but less sun, more water, and more nitrogen works for another. Or maybe the reason why your spinach is so flat is because your neighbor’s cat is using it to nap.
Let me tell you–you will lose some plants. But if you press forward and observe everything with curiosity, you’ll find out that all your plants needed was for you to stop staring at them every hour and yelling “GROW!” (I might have experience with this).
As with anything on this list, start small!
There’s no need to spend $456 on a garden with all of your favorite vegetables only to find out they died because they don’t like your climate (mom, I’m looking at you).
But seriously, try your hand at one variety at a time. Find out which plants you like to grow AND which plants grow well in your climate.
Cold composting, hot composting, vermicomposting, there’s more than one way to compost. If you have any sort of garden, this is a great skill to develop.
Composting is one of the best investments in any garden as it helps replenish nutrients in the soil. Better nutrients mean bigger, better, and more fruitful plants. Which means more delicious homegrown food for you.
I helped my parents set up a cold composting bin (just a trash can). They dump food scraps like tea bags, coffee grinds, and eggshells in there and apply it to their garden after a couple of months.
Composting isn’t that expensive, but it can be if you’re applying it on a large piece of land. Making your compost can not only save you money but also help reduce trash (yay environment) and fertilize your garden at the same time. If you’re thinking about gardening, or already have a garden, and haven’t started to learn about composting, there’s no better time than now.
Learning about livestock isn’t a necessary skill on a homestead, but it sure has its benefits.
Take chickens for example. Not only will they lay eggs and provide a source of meat, but they will till and fertilize your land by scratching and pooping on the ground. The nutrients will spread throughout the soil, and amend it for a better crop the following season.
Chickens are a popular starting choice for livestock on a homestead, but many also get pigs, cows, goats, and sheep.
However, if you’re a beginner, it can be harder to take care of larger animals. So, if you are just starting, and you’re not fond of getting chickens, there are some alternatives.
Rabbits are a great choice for those new to homesteading. And they have many benefits over raising chickens.
- Great manure
- Cheap feed
- Quick breeders
First off, rabbits poop makes for AMAZING fertilizer. And I’m not exaggerating.
Not only does rabbit poop have four times the nutrients compared with cow and horse manure, but it’s also a cold manure, which means it can be applied straight to the garden.
Hot manure from chickens, cows, and horses, need to be composted first before using it as fertilizer. Otherwise, it will chemically burn the plants. For these reasons, rabbit manure is GOLD for many homesteaders. There’s a reason why they call it “bunny honey“.
On top of that, rabbit food, or fodder, can be easily grown. Fodder is any plant that’s grown for animal consumption and commonly include alfalfa, clover, and ryegrass. These fast-growing plants can offset the cost of rabbit feed, and help make raising rabbits very cost-efficient.
Let’s move onto the meat. Yes, this one is optional, but rabbit meat has been a staple in many countries.
Everyone knows that rabbits are quick breeders, but exactly how fast are we talking?
It turns out, one buck and two does will provide you with at least 48 rabbits per year. When considering other farm animals, the comparison isn’t even close.
But what’s the best advantage rabbits have over chickens? They’re QUIET.
Most places in the U.S. allow raising chickens, but the constant clucking can get old. Rabbits barely make a peep. And many places don’t require a permit to keep rabbits.
For all of these reasons, rabbits can provide you with a livestock that’s low maintenance and sustainable for your homestead.
For more about rabbits on a homestead, check out this video by Better Life Together.
I know, I know, budgeting isn’t exactly sexy, but this has to be one of the most valuable skills for any homestead.
A big reason why many go into homesteading is to become more self-sufficient, and this includes cash flow.
Mainly, budgeting will help you with:
- Spending within your means
- Not taking on too much (if any) debt
- Emergency purchases
On a homestead, you will run into the occasional problem, some of which will cost a bit of cash.
Fences need to be repaired, water leaks need to be fixed, and that replacing that old tractor isn’t cheap.
But because everyone has a different income and lifestyle, there isn’t a one-budget fits all here.
When it comes to finances, my girlfriend and I try our best to stick to a monthly budget, and then we log it into a spreadsheet at the end of the month. It’s become almost a game, and we look forward to seeing how much we’ve saved and how much closer we are to buying our dream property.
Learning the basics of setting and sticking to a budget will help you achieve all of the other homesteading skills on your list.
I don’t know anything about carpentry. Other than Jesus was one (I think).
What I do know is that the majority of materials on a homestead are made from wood. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples:
- Chicken coops
- Raised beds
- Barn repairs
And not to mention everything made of wood in your home might need to be repaired at some time. Cabinets, desks, tables, chairs, railings, drawers, you get the point.
I may not know about carpentry (yet), but because I know how useful it can be on a homestead, it’s one of the skills I have on my list to learn soon.
As a guy, I’m not familiar with sewing, but I’m willing to change that. I grew up threading and tying fishing knots, how different can it be?
Becoming more sustainable on a homestead means reusing or repairing what we can.
That pair of jeans that embarrassingly ripped down the middle? Yeah, I’m planning on fixing that.
Sewing can be a calming and money-saving homestead skill and all it takes is a needle, some thread, and a little patience. No sewing machine is required, but it can help.
9. Making soaps and cleaners
I don’t know about you, but when I use store-bought soaps, my hands usually get drier. Which means I need lotion. Which means I need more soap to wipe off the lotion (I don’t like slippery hands). It’s a vicious cycle, I know.
But when I use homemade soap made with simple ingredients, my hands stay moisturized and not slippery (there’s a fine difference).
Soap only takes 1 to 2 hours to make, so it’s not that involved of a skill. All you need is a fat (either animal or vegetable fat), and a handful of soap-making tools.
Moving onto a homestead-friendly cleaner. I have one word: vinegar.
Not only do I use vinegar for pickling and salad dressing, but I use it in a spray bottle to clean almost everything around the house (including my hair). Here’s a list:
- Coffee machines
- Kitchen drains
- Pet urine
- Wine stains
- Clothes rinse
- Hair rinse (I use apple cider vinegar)
- Decalcify everything
Vinegar is a cheap, environmentally-friendly cleaner that still does a great job at cleaning. All these reasons check off a lot of the boxes when it comes to a homestead.
After all, isn’t it an affordable, environmentally-friendly lifestyle that we’re after?
10. Find a mentor and community
Finding someone who has more experience with homesteading, or even with one of these skills is a huge plus. Not only will they help save you from the mistakes they’ve made, but sharing ideas is extremely beneficial to both sides.
As for communities, it’s never been easier to find one. Of course, try starting with your neighbors, but there are all kinds of online groups across Facebook, Quora, Reddit, and other social media platforms.
I occasionally participate in the homesteading and gardening subreddits and I can say that I learn A LOT. These subreddits are a cornucopia of homesteading projects and lessons. After finding a useful or inspiring post, I try my best to give some knowledge back and share what I can.
You could learn plenty of information by only reading books or articles, but sometimes ideas just click after talking it over with someone who’s gone through something similar.
While there are plenty of skills that complement a homesteading lifestyle, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. There’s no need to go from 0 to 100. Simply start with a handful of basic homesteading skills and learn them piece by piece to gradually build your homesteading ability.
From composting to livestock to carpentry, we’ve covered several beginner homesteading skills. I’m currently building my knowledge with gardening and budgeting and I hope to move to rabbits and carpentry soon. Feel free to send me a message and let me know which homesteading skills you’re currently learning!