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Homesteading skills needed to be successful

 
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OK.
Here goes.

I am currently a wannabe homesteader. Have been for a long time. To me, homesteading means almost the same as a combination of living off-grid, off the land, survivalistic. In my mind, this thought train follows through to needing all manner of skills not needed by the Average Joe/Josephine living in cities or towns who buy their premade cleaning supplies, clothing, all manner of groceries, etc. I picture the pioneers of the country who had to make most of everything they needed, or did without those things! They bought a few necessary tools to take with them, and a few other supplies to get them through a few months until they could secure their own sources of these items. Like sugar and flour.

So, in MY mind, this Homesteading sort needs to have certain skills to survive, even if they are still pulling power, water, and waste management from the community at large! I will list a few that I have gained on my own, some that I have yet to learn, and maybe some that are still outside my ability. I hope to have a few chimes of things I've not thought of, or skills you have learned and how you came to learn them.

Basic needs are water, shelter, and sustenance, aka food!! If you are vegetarian then raising meat animals won't pertain to you, but I am a meat-o-saurus! So I must become conversant on the raising, butchering and preserving of flesh for food sources. This is perhaps the hardest part, because killing, even to survive, is a harsh thing. Most especially after you have nurtured the creature to a harvest-appropriate stage. My best advice is if you need to name the critter(s), give them food names... Breakfast, Thanksgiving, Porkchop, Steak, Bacon, .... you get the idea. Chopping off the head of a beloved creature makes the rest of the work and consuming very difficult. I myself still have a hard time with rabbit and here's the backstory.
As a young child my mother and her mother told me we were going to eat the Easter Bunny, and served up fried rabbit. My young and tender mind and heart couldn't come to grips with this and so I never ate the "chicken" that didn't have any wings! Years later, as I learned how to raise and process these animals for consumption, it wasn't the killing or dressing out the carcass that got to me. After stripping the body of it's guts and skin, I carried it indoors holding it just in front of it's back legs, and the thing continued to twitch in my hands. I rinsed the carcass and shoved it in the freezer for awhile. Until I thought I could eat it. I think I need to learn to properly cook rabbit as I still couldn't stomach it.

Larger animals require other methods to reduce the carcass to usable portions. And what will we do with the inedible parts? Tallow or lard rendered from the fats. Leather crafts from a well tanned hide and the bones can be fed to the dogs (LGD's?), or made into bone broth and then ground into a powder to use in the garden. Have I missed something!?

I've long been a gardener, and I really have no use for any plant, bush or tree that cannot provide something useful. Maybe the useful thing is simply the beauty of it, or the aroma given off by flowers or leaves. I prefer something edible or medicinal, but a pleasing aroma will do for a small portion of my garden. Many here know that there are these edible and medicinal uses for all sorts of plants, shrubs and trees! But go ahead and list some of the lesser known things! I know that a Birch tree will give sap the same way a sugar maple will, and can be reduced (from 110 gallons to just 1 gallon) for pancake syrup! Or you can get a glue from the same sort of process. Here is just one of many available videos on how to make glue from tree sap.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-FksxvtyiQ

I've given some thought on how I will clean my body, my clothes... and while I have not yet made a soap from lye and fat (the fat from the animals you've butchered and stuck in the freezer), I do have a book in my library to teach me once I get to that point in my preparations to become a homesteader. I have done the melt and pour soaps, but that was with a premade base. Not quite what I have in mind for a skill needed. I do know that you can get lye from wood ashes.

But how will I have clothes that need washing if I have no cloth!? I know that linen and cotton come from plant fibers. Making linen is a long process, as you must grow the flax, then process the long stems repeatedly until you have a soft fiber to spin into a thread or yarn, which must then be woven or otherwise manipulated into a usable product. I watched this to get an idea about linen...( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFuj7sXVnIU&ab_channel=MonreaghCentre )  I've never grown cotton, living in Southern California one cannot get the seed shipped here! Just like sweet potato slips. The seed companies can't send this stuff here. But as I have raised rabbits, and even had a goat for awhile, I feel confident that I could raise angora rabbits and goats for fibers to spin my own yarns, or just to make a felted fabric in which to cut a pattern for a shirt or pants. I have yet to learn the spinning techniques and other necessary steps to washing a fleece before I can spin. I DO know some basics about sewing clothing, and crocheting a garment. I feel adequate to that task.

Preserving methods for food supplies through a winter is another skill, or set of skills, to learn. I have done some canning and dehydrating of a few foods. My favorite dehydrated items are apples and jerkey!! But one can not live on apple chips and jerky alone! I've recently been gaining a bit of information about fermented foods being so very healthy for the body, and a great method for preserving. My mind goes to beer and wine when I think about fermenteds, but I'm learning that fermented veggies are suppose to be a special delicacy in many countries. Which leads me to not only lacto-fermentation, but also to pickles. Pickling often requires vinegar, and how to get vinegar is another skill. Apple cider vinegar is gaining traction in the health communities for all it's amazing powers of health. So we need apple trees for the juice to make the vinegar that pickles the cucumbers, onions, carrots, eggs, etc.

Vinegar making is easy. I've done a superb red wine vinegar from a mix of red wines in a very large glass jar (2 gallons large) with a spigot near the bottom, and a bit of Bragg's ACV (apple cider vinegar) WITH the "mother". The mother can look like a slimy, mushroomy thing (known as a SCOBY https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCOBY) that grows on the surface of the vinegar. It is what gets that wine working towards a good vinegar. It can be done without this addition, but takes much more time. But once you have a slimy "mother", you can keep things going for years. Much like having a sourdough bread yeast that you feed periodically. Here is a link to more info on the mother ( (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_of_vinegar )

Which brings me to the capture of wild yeast to make bread. Hopefully you LIKE sourdough bread, cuz the capture is simple. You know that whitish covering on grapes? It's a great source of wild yeast to capture for your bread products (if you like sourdough.) I've done this when I had a few grape vines some years ago. I don't use any poisons in my yard unless totally necessary, and even then I'm not happy about it. So my grapes were free of any kind of "cides" (pesti-cide, herbi-cide etc), and I dropped a small handful into the flour and water slurry for about a week. Made great sourdough. But one must keep a sourdough culture fed, like any other critter. And I neglected this after several months. But I've done it and know that I have the knowledge necessary to repeat the skill! That is the important part for me at this point in my game.

Another aspect of homesteading is being able to build shelter. For you, for your critters. Most of the time that means lumber. I've recently learned about coppicing and pollarding right here on Permies. Both of these management systems are of great use to a homesteader. I plan to plant black locust trees as they have wonderful smelling flowers, are a legume and so fix nitrogen in the soil, they are a very hard wood lasting decades, and they have fast growth habits. So I'll plant and let them grow a few years before the first coppicing, taking them down to nearly the ground, and allowing another several years of like a 6:1 growth, meaning for every 1 tree planted, after coppicing I should get 6 (or more) logs the next time I cut! I like those kind of increases!

But trees have so many uses on the homestead. Those same black locust trees can also feed my critters, along with some mulberry trees. The leaves are quite nutritious, and I am pretty sure I read somewhere that people can consume the leaves as well. It might be a famine food, but the nutrition is there!

I think any homesteader should also know the difference between good bugs and bad bugs as these have great effect on life in general. There are exponentially more bugs on the planet than people. Knowing the life cycles is useful, as well as the identification of these buggies, whether beneficial or detrimental. For years I thought that an underground bug we knew as an "earth child" was a bad bug. They look terrifying, but are actually a beneficial bug, eating bad bugs that live underground. They are more correctly known as a Jerusalem Cricket. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_cricket   They are really not a bug, or a cricket, or from Jerusalem.  And I have such a hard time with people who believe all bugs are bad and should be exterminated. How will we live without the bees!? But that's another post for another time!

Using tools appropriately and sometimes creatively is another skill to acquire. I drool over many power tools, and can use several. I own my own jigsaw, skilsaw, and sawzall or reciprocating saw, and power drill. I look forward to obtaining and using some new hand tools for peeling bark off trees that have been dropped/felled for building shelters for my fiber animals that will come after the basic needs have been met. (Their shelter, fencing, feed and water delivery systems all in place before purchasing!)

Knowing some basic medical skills is also paramount to homesteading. As mentioned above, there are many plants that can be used towards this skillset. Knowing what to use, in what sort of preparation and how to make that preparation... I have been teaching myself alternative and herbal based medicine for decades. Teas are my favorite as they tend to be easiest to make and use. I've designed an all herbal ointment for use on all skin parts, including up your nose or up "there". It relieves pain, swelling, itching, and I use it rather than any sort of triple antibiotic. With the advent of CoVid19 I have learned about some other remedies as both an encapsulated powdered herb (licorice root) and a syrup (elderberry). Filling those capsules is a booger of a job.

What else do you have to add to this list of skills to be successful out there? This is most certainly not a complete list of necessary skills, just a primer to get one thinking about the individual's needs. I think as a whole, many of us have lost the skills needed to survive outside our small circles. Have you met someone who believes their hamburgers come from the market, with no thought to what animal it comes from or how it goes from the live creature to the medium rare hamburger on the plate? I find this lack of general knowledge appalling. Kids who believe the offerings in the market just magically appear!!

OK. Your turn! Go!

 
gardener
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TL:DR - The short list of the above-noted skills for those who may have difficulty with larger posts before I start in on my own thoughts.
Raising livestock (for non-vegetarians)
Butchering said livestock, both big and small (same)
Recognizing and using the edible portions of the butchered carcass (same)
Rendering fats
Tanning and leather making
Gardening (edibles, medicinals, etc)
Gathering and reducing tree saps
Glue/pitch making
Soapmaking (especially from fat and lye)
Fiber Processing (felting, spinning and weaving)
Fiber Crafts (sewing, crochet, knitting, etc)
Food Preservation (canning, dehydrating, fermentation/pickling, etc)
Vinegar making
Sourdough
Nonchemical pest control
Coppicing and pollaring
Choosing the right trees
Recognizing good and bad bugs.
Proper tool use.
Basic medical skills, including herbal


I intend to revisit this when I have more free time, but wanted to at least comment so that I could easily find the list again later for further discussion.

For me, I have always believed the most vital skills for becoming a homesteader are the emergency survival skill. I say this because there's a million ways for things to go wrong in life, homesteading or otherwise. Having things go wrong can be so incredibly stressful when you don't have the security of knowing you can survive off of the land even if everything goes south. Knowing how to find and purify water, knowing how to set up a survival shelter, recognizing wild edibles in your area, and basics of lashing, etc can be a huge relief. If the garden fails, there are edibles. If your well breaks down, you know how to meet your water needs. I watched a show a while ago where the people's well was pulling high salinity water that couldn't be safely used. The issue was resolved by making a basic solar still. Had they known the basic survival skills, they might have readily worked around it themselves. With no way to know where everything could go sideways, the basic survival skills can fill in those gaps until you can overcome the difficulties. Anyway, I am about to head to work, but will revisit this as I mentioned before. I look forward to seeing other people's views on what they see as vital skills.
 
pollinator
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I’m sure I’m in a minority, but I love reading long, in-depth posts, thanks :)

Cindy Haskin wrote:I think as a whole, many of us have lost the skills needed to survive outside our small circles.


I know what you mean by this, but thought I'd add that People & communication skills are pretty important when talking about homesteading/farming. As your basic list shows, to learn and do everything required to have a somewhat comfortable living on a homestead takes a lot of time and effort. If I didn't cooperate with my neighbour for him to weld something for me, I'd have to go buy the equipment, find a place to store it, study how to use it, take the time to practice it, etc.

---

I'd add fire creation/heating in to being an essential element of a homestead, at least where I am it is a requirement. Along with the bi-products that come with it (wood ash, charcoal, etc), it allows you to process a lot of raw elements into other useful products. One of those products that is most important in my mind is processing clay into ceramics or bricks. In recent years I've been building firepits similar to the Dakota style ones, and they are a nice step-up from conventional backyard firepits. In my last fire there was still residual heat and smouldering 48 hours later, and it's a much cleaner burn.

Knowing how to coppice trees for firewood, as it saves a lot of energy from having to carry and chop large logs. I do that with a poplar I have in my yard.

The more "mechanical" parts of medicine are also helpful, such as how to care for a broken arm, or how to stitch yourself up after getting a gash. This applies equally to animal & livestock welfare.

Depending on the success one wants to have, a "modern" homesteader may have some niche skills for the few bits of tech/gadgets used on the homestead. Knowing how to solder, how sensors and circuit boards work, knowing how to care for lithium batteries, how to get access to the internet when you are so rural that no internet service provider will assist you (grumble, haha), etc.  

How to repair or create simple production tools like windmills for pumping water, meat-grinders, loom/sewing machine, a kiln, oil-presses, etc saves you a lot of time in labour cost. Ex. Processing hundreds of pounds of food for the winter during a harvest.

This is too big a topic for any one person to cover, so I'll pass the baton to someone else now :)



 
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I am having some trouble replying because I suspect our core premises differ as well as some of our definitions. I have been homesteading  since the early 80s. I see homesteading as a process.  When I think in terms of needed skills, I tend to think of an open mind and a willingness to learn.  If I had a list of skills I needed to homestead, I never would have started.  I can certainly think of many skills I have learned and more I would like to learn. But these are skills I did not need to begin to homestead. And, because I see homesteading as a process, I am comfortable knowing I will never be successful. There will always be new skill sets to acquire. Therefore, there is no finish line where I can identify that success has been achieved.
 
pollinator
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Cindy, I confess that your post leaves me breathless with your enthusiasm ... and the amount of work involved.

Although I am always intrigued by the notion of "rebuilding civilization after the apocalypse," in practice it's more than most humans can achieve on their own.

The John Ford "Wagons-Ho!" narrative is a lovely fiction. Humans thrive and survive as communities, farms and villages bound together, and have done so long before written history.

So, in answer to your question, I would add as a vitally essential skill: "The ability to build and foster community, a sense of common cause, support in the face of disaster, and honest trade in skills and goods, for the common good."
 
Cindy Haskin
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D Logan - thank you for the short version of my "list". I thought about doing it that way, but when I write, my fingers fly trying to keep up with my head! Though I have no clue what the TL-DR means! I look forward to your further comments.


Jarret Hynd - I guess I already have fire making skills, though not so much without matches or lighter. A good skill to have. As you can see, communication isn't much of a problem for me. I specifically didn't go into having others with differing skills nearby, as I will be joining my youngest daughter and her family. Her husband has many building skills, and can weld. The eldest son is just now getting into some interesting stuff. I expect he will also gain useful skills for the property!

John F Dean - how right you are about all of what you said. I might not start if I looked at all I'd need to know; it's quite an overwhelming list of things to learn. And learning something new every day is one of my mottos. As for the open mind and willingness to learn, the opposite of that is a closed minded lump of flesh that I have no tolerance for. I just can't deal with closed-minded people. I walk away. I don't measure success in terms of being good at everything there is to do. I think the finish line you refer to is a life lived well, and is achievable.

Douglas Alpenstock - I am glad that my enthusiasm came across. I am quite ready to get to the homestead property and get to work before these old bones give out on me. I know they will. Mostly this is my planning for my death, long before it is to happen. I had a hard swallow when I realized that small fact of this decision to move to wherever she landed, and be ON THE PROPERTY, living the life I've always dreamed of, with family to catch  me when I fall, literally and figuratively.

You have all added things I didn't even consider, which shows me where some of my blind spots lie. Thank you. I look forward to all other additions.
I think so many have lost the knowledge base that our ancestors even only 100 years ago knew as basic stuff. The world is moving so fast, all the new tech that begs our attention, we are leaving behind some very basic skills and awareness. It seems everyone is so reactionary, trying to outdo each other, and it's very sad to me. And so I hope to be able to pass on a few skills to those grandchildren when I get there.
 
master steward
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TL-DR = Too Long, Didn't Read. It's basically way of abbreviating the post for people who don't have a chance to read it all, or who like summaries.

I'm really liking the ideas here! And, I also agree that knowing how to foster a community--and having already done so--is vital to homesteading. The origin of the word "Stead" is similar to neighborhood. Your homestead is your neighborhood, all the people you work together with to create community, survive, and thrive together.

I'll also mention tool care and general household/machine maintenance. I think the hardest thing for many of us is knowing how to maintain and fix what we have. We're used to buying a new shovel or paying someone to dig for us, rather than knowing how to put a handle on a shovel and sharpen the shovel and oil the handle. Proper ways of darning and washing cloths to prevent wear & tear are important, too.
 
pollinator
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Cindy, that looks exciting!
About glue: do you know about wheatpaste? It's fairly easy to make and I use it for bookbinding, or making paper & cardboard boxes. My mother used to have it at school as a paper glue that kids used regularly back then.

A skill I would add to the list: asking for help and/or hiring help.
Currently, I imagine my future homesteading sitiuation as a single woman with goats and chickens, and a forest garden and workshop/art studio. That sounds unrealistically romantic, but I'm optimistic about it...
But such lifestyle is not only about making art, milking the goats and chasing the chickens. It's also a lot more heavy / construction work than I can handle, and like I wrote in the "Things every lady should know" topic, I'd rather hire a man to do these things, than marry one ;)

Whatever one chooses to do, for some it's surprisingly hard to simply ask for help. Maybe it's even easier for a woman than for a man who is supposed to be strong enough to do it all by himself.
 
pollinator
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I feel you are equating homesteading with survival. I don't believe there's more than a couple of people on this forum that do everything on your list. And very few people in the history of humanity have done it all. And there's no need at all to learn it all you'll never need all that information and even if you do end up using it it's not something you learn all at once.
I would say that to homestead in a modern world you need to be able to read, to use a library or google, be able to learn and you need patience.

Being slightly more specific, first aid, cooking, basic electrics, plumbing, building and sowing, basic animal husbandry. Gardening is trial and error for your area.

 
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Homesteading skills needed to be successful



...these few for starters
Willingness
Perseverance
Patience
Focus
Flexibility





 
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John F Dean
No one is perfect and no one knows everything! If they think they are, or think they do, they will never be a successful homesteader like you obviously are if you've been doing it since the 80's.
So, yes I agree with almost everything you said.
 
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Cindy, I love your enthusiasm, and you are so wise to begin thinking about this now and creating a knowledge base that will serve you well as you get started. You've already started working on some of these skills, which will be a huge plus. And, you've come to an excellent place to expand your knowledge base. Permies is my best and favorite resource any time I have a question!

The discussion of practical skills here is excellent. I'm not sure I can add to that, so I'll chip in by mentioning mental and emotional skills that might be useful. I think they are important because when we finally make a start with our homesteading adventure, it is overwhelming. It's overwhelming in the beginning, because there are so many things to be done. And it's overwhelming many years down the road because there are so many things to be done. Enthusiasm gives us a good start, but to stay the course requires planning and commitment. The biggest challenges to that are feelings of being overwhelmed, which can lead to discouragement, which can lead to homestead burnout. We need to develop skills to prevent that.

You've defined homesteading for yourself, so there's your start.
  • From there, create a list of goals. For example, I have one primary goal (mine is greater self-reliance), with all my secondary goals supporting that. Yours might be different, but that's okay.
  • Decide how to prioritize your goals (which will vary depending on season and your actual physical location.) For example, you may eventually want to grow your own cotton and make your own fabric, but you also might decide to save that one until you get a garden established and skills and equipment assembled.
  • Make a plan so you have specific needs to focus on. It's easy to get scattered, so it helps to have a well thought-out list. Many people start with shelter and water, but may be different for you.
  • Learn to recognize which goals actually support your primary goal, and which have the potential to be a distraction. That doesn't mean an idea is "bad," but you need to decide if it will help you reach your primary objective or become a rabbit trail.
  • Expect that things won't always work out as planned. (Kind of like a Murphy's law for homesteaders)
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes (new skills require practice!)
  • Pick one day of week to set work and projects aside. Use it for rest, relaxation, and recuperation. (This is hard to actually do, but important!)
  • Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to homesteading. What works for one person in one location, may not work for someone else. Or the idea may have to be adapted.
  • Periodically, review your goals and priorities. Don't be afraid to make changes to these!
  • Start to see homesteading as a journey rather than a checklist. There is always something to figure out or fix, always a new problem to research and solve, always exciting new ideas and projects to consider.

  • And, of course, if you have a question, this is the place to ask! No one of us has all the answers, but as a community, someone here will have some help. That's why we're here, to share information and encourage and help one another
     
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    D Logan: your summary of skills was spot on, except one point I strongly disagree on: reducing tree saps. Here’s why: trees that produce sugar sap take literally years to grow to a harvestable size. Add to that the fact that many regions of the world don’t have the right climate to grow trees that produce a significant amount of syrup. Finally, even if you were to buy a property with a large grove of syrup trees, or plant a large grove of syrup trees, they would take up a huge space that you could be devoting to more productive pasture or garden. I would, instead, encourage them to learn beekeeping, or even to grow sugar beets (or cane in some areas) over tree syrup.
     
    Andrea Hicks
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    I agree with both views: the need for a vast array of skills to homestead, and the need to start somewhere with the basics and continue learning. For my purposes, I started with putting in an orchard (low maintenance), a small garden (but storage seeds enough for a year’s supply, just in case) and a few chickens for eggs and meat. I’ve since branched off in many other directions, but that was a good, manageable start for me.
     
    John F Dean
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    Hi Eddy,

    Welcome to the Permie site. It is a great community.
     
    John F Dean
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    Hi Leigh,

    Focus is critical as well as its cousin commitment.  More than once ...as in many times ...I have hit a brick wall. I have had to reexamine my personal mission.  I have had to change my behavior. I have had to make compromises that I did not like making .... as in the sacrifice of a short term goal for the sake of a long term goal.  It is very easy to choose "a hill to die on" when the hill was not that important and death would only result in the loss of all goals.  I guess I am trying to say that while commitment is important, there needs to be a clear vision of what is being committed to. Sometimes the route taken has many turns, crossroads, hills, mountains,  and more than a few dead ends.
     
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    Given the large number of people here who use mechanical systems to amplify their abilities (think tractors and excavators), I would suggest that at least a basic knowledge of mechanical maintenance and repair is necessary. If you find yourself so inclined, the ability to take a bunch of junk and make a new machine is enormously helpful to not just yourself, but the larger community. welding, machining, hydraulics and electrical work are all a part of this type of skillset.
     
    John F Dean
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    Hi  Joshua,

    I have minimal mechanical  skills. I consider it to be a severe shortcoming.  I can change the oil and do some basic trouble shooting.  For anyone without the basic mechanical skills, I would suggest a community college class in small engine repair.
     
    D. Logan
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    Andrea Hicks wrote:D Logan: your summary of skills was spot on, except one point I strongly disagree on: reducing tree saps. Here’s why: trees that produce sugar sap take literally years to grow to a harvestable size. Add to that the fact that many regions of the world don’t have the right climate to grow trees that produce a significant amount of syrup. Finally, even if you were to buy a property with a large grove of syrup trees, or plant a large grove of syrup trees, they would take up a huge space that you could be devoting to more productive pasture or garden. I would, instead, encourage them to learn beekeeping, or even to grow sugar beets (or cane in some areas) over tree syrup.



    To be clear, I was restating her list there rather than giving my own. That was one of her goals to learn as I recall. I get you though.

    Onward to the main thought I had touched on before! So the reason I put so much emphasis on survival skills is partly because it is universally useful and partly because it allows you to fill emergency gaps as well as provides you a better understanding of your vital needs vs luxuries. As has already come up in this very post, each person's idea of what homesteading even is can vary greatly because what each of us wants out of it is different. It's sort of like a post I did long ago regarding self-sufficiency. Many people take that to mean doing everything yourself. I personally don't feel that's accurate. As has been said above, no one can do everything alone forever, let alone happily. No man is an island as they say. Each of us is drawing from the skills and abilities of others in some way. Self-sufficiency, at least to me, is about being able to handle whatever comes your way, even when you'd rather not.

    That brings me back to the survival stuff. An example is that of fire noted above. I buy matches and lighters. I'm human and inherently lazy. If there's an easy way to do something that isn't super destructive, I tend to take that route. That said, I have also learned how to start fires with a lens, 2 types of bow drill, Several hand methods, flint and steel, and fire tubes. So while I am almost always going to just pull out a match to light a fire, I know how to get around it otherwise if it comes to it. Moreover, I learned how to build effective fires and what it is about them that makes them effective. That knowledge can be scaled into working with a rocket mass heater down the road perhaps.

    Making twine and rope by hand seemed like something with no other real application when I learned it, but with my wife working on learning a bit about spinning and working regularly with yarns, I find that what I know is applicable there. I'm able to understand what makes the yarn better, how much twist can happen before it kinks instead of forming a yarn, etc. Those lashings and pioneering I mentioned before mean I can make a full outdoor kitchen area complete with work table, seating table with benches, etc out of junkpoles to get by with as I bring or make the higher quality things I would much rather have in the end. The survival skills are what will allow me to make due when the $#!7 hits the fan.

    Is that a long-winded way of saying my first vital skill is survival/bushcraft? Yep. Still, I hope it goes a bit into explaining why I see that as a core element.

    If I had to put something as number two on my skill list, it would be people skills. Of those skills, the ability to form bonds and the ability to negotiate are the big ones. Our modern world makes people living next door strangers. Most people don't know the name of the person across the hall, let alone down the road. When I reached adulthood, I decided to revive the old tradition of bringing food to neighbors. I would bake some bread or make some cookies and head over to say hello. In one case, I saw an older neighbor I hadn't met yet clearing their driveway and went over to help. It forged relationships that others around me didn't have. We'd thereafter greet one another by name. We'd keep an eye out for odd things that might affect the other person or warn of some issue coming up the other person might want to be aware of. By and large, I wasn't having any of them over for dinner, but we had a sense of community afterward. That's no small thing despite needing so little investment. Add to this an ability to negotiate and suddenly you can haggle for things you need. Trade via haggling is so much more valuable than money to me. When something is just money, it's easy for things to be one sided. When people haggle, each person walks away feeling that they got a good deal. Otherwise they wouldn't have agreed to a final number.

    I suppose that makes the people skill set number 2 and 3 technically, but I can't say which is more valuable than the other. For now I will leave it there, but be sure I will return with more skills I think are vital for my own view of where I want things to go with homesteading. Surely some of that will overlap, but perhaps some items will inspire new ideas in others as well.
     
    Joshua Rimmer
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    John F Dean wrote:Hi  Joshua,

    I have minimal mechanical  skills. I consider it to be a severe shortcoming.  I can change the oil and do some basic trouble shooting.  For anyone without the basic mechanical skills, I would suggest a community college class in small engine repair.



    John, these classes can be very helpful. I am a journeyman toolmaker (machinist), and my apprenticeship included many classes taught through the local community college. On the whole, I have actually acquired more skills and real-world knowledge by hanging out with the local "characters", who have the old-school skillsets, and are often eager to show them off for the new kids. This is how I learned to weld, and work on hydraulic systems.
     
    D. Logan
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    Here I said that was it for now, but the thought came to me and I don't want to forget it. Skill 4 for me:

    Learn to embrace failure. Not just accept it, but learn to treat failures as a different kind of success. Things are going to fail. Some of them spectacularly, some of them in minor ways. Some of them will frustrate you or eat huge amounts of resources and time. They'll hurt. They'll make you want to throw up your hands and walk away from it all... and maybe that's even acceptable. Failure can teach us many things. It shows us what doesn't work, making it that much easier to discover what does. It can point out that maybe our goal itself needs to change. Someone trying to go it all alone is going to fail often, so perhaps the lesson should then be that going it alone is more than one person should have to bear. Alternatively, failures can lead to amazing successes. I have a college degree that some people like to say I am 'wasting'. I saw the nature of my degree field and realized it wasn't where I wanted to be. Many would count that as a failure. Years of debt and no monetary gains. However, if I hadn't gone for that degree, I never would have met my wife. I never would have had my two beautiful children. I would have never learned so many things that have proven useful in my life, both book learning and human nature. That 'failure' that could have driven me into a depression instead shaped the course of my life in so many ways I can't count them. Other failures have forced me to become stronger and to apply my mind in ways I might not have bothered with had they not occurred. So yeah, embracing your failures is a huge skill that isn't easy to manage. I think if you can gain that skill however, it will be far easier to stay the course when things go wrong and paradoxically easier to step away when it becomes clear that the path forward isn't the one you honestly want. Even if that means walking away from years of effort instead of compounding it with more years. That failure isn't a loss, but just a step in the larger journey.
     
    John F Dean
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    Hi Joshua,

    No doubt, you are correct.  I was being more introspective.  For whatever reasons, while I have known many such characters, I have not picked up much in the way of mechanical skills from them.  Which I admit is odd, because certainly I have learned a great deal from them in other areas.  My present mechanical skills are self taught with more than one engine destroyed along the way.
     
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    Start with considering 5 essential categories:
    1. Water- how and where to get it; how to make it safe (assuming you have a source)
    2. Food: how and where to get it/produce it and store enough safely to last till the second growing season
    3. Stay warm- this is a wide topic
       Shelter; fire/heat production; clothing
    4. Morale/welfare/recreation- huge topic
    5. Transportation/communications

    You are writing as if you expect to be transported to some planet where no prior civilization exists. While that’s what happened here on earth multiple times, the likelihood of YOU being chosen for such a mission would seem somewhat remote. You aren’t heading out into the great unknown with only what you could carry in a covered wagon.

    Think ahead here. All of this stuff already exists and the information about how to do ALL of this currently exists. Much of it you may even own currently.

    ALWAYS USE WHAT YOU HAVE ON HAND FIRST BEFORE YOU GO LOOKING TO SPEND RESOURCES/MONEY TO GET SOMETHING.
    Start by:
    1.watching YouTube videos on the things you believe you need to learn.
    2. gathering
    A) books on how to do everything
    B) tools to do everything  (hand tools first that don’t need power) garden tools; carpentry tools; kitchen tools; etc.
    C) materials to be used ( or learn the process required to do things.

    3) get to the place where you are going to do this. Without a place, you will simply fill your current home with stuff and not be able to use it!

    “Start at the beginning, work to the end, and then stop!”

    Frankly, to be perfectly honest, if you haven’t got all this well on the way before NOVEMBER 3,2020 I would predict that the odds of this dream of yours are essentially zero because it means you have no idea about what the dark forces are planning and have set int motion.

    Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of “the wise and foolish virgins.” Well, from what things look like currently, the wedding guest is  here.

    I hate to think about this but unless The Carpenter of Nazareth comes back REALLY SOON, we’re in for a really bumpy ride.

    I would recommend you read:Revelation
    It will explain what I’m telling you about.
    I sincerely pray that you can get this all together immediately. You’ve waited too long already.

    I fervently pray that I am wrong, but that’s not the horse where I’d put my $2
    TMM
    TRIM sends
     
    master pollinator
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    Not too long, but I did not yet read all of this thread.
    I want to give my short reaction.
    Homesteading in the way you describe is not for me. I prefer living in (the outskirts of) a town or village. To be able to find everything (and everyone) I need within the distance I can ride my bicycle. Including a train station if I really need to go a larger distance. In my opinion I can do many of the 'homesteading skills' here too. To find out which skills are possible for me (some skills I already have, others I can try out and learn) I am doing the PEP program.
     
    John F Dean
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    Hi Inge,

    Indeed access to stores, hospitals, community, and cities were all factors when I selected my present location.   I want to be isolated, but only to a point. That said,  I do enjoy picking up skills along the way that enhance my independence.
     
    Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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    John F Dean wrote:Hi Inge,

    Indeed access to stores, hospitals, community, and cities were all factors when I selected my present location.   I want to be isolated, but only to a point. That said,  I do enjoy picking up skills along the way that enhance my independence.


    Hi John. I think for me it isn't good to be isolated. I am already an introvert, often I am here in or around the house doing things all on my own. But when I am working together with others and we communicate with eachother, I feel that is needed too. We have a community garden here, based on permaculture principles, I am one of the active volunteers there. It's my opinion projects like that are important in a neighbourhood. No 'independence', but together-dependence' ...
     
    John F Dean
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    Hi Inge,

    Pre Covid I held a part time job that required a high level of social skills. At the end of each word day I was exhaused... not from work per ce, but it was from having to be around people. For me, three truly is a crowd.

     
    pioneer
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    Cindy Haskin wrote:
    But how will I have clothes that need washing if I have no cloth!?



    I've been co-stewarding 100 acres for over a decade and get most of my clothes and lots of "material" from the Goodwill Outlets.  This way I can dive deep into each step from animal husbandry (sheep and angora rabbits) to the finished garment without the stress of needing a new sock now.  

    Goodwill Outlet Stores sell clothing and just about everything else by the pound with some bulky or heavy items being individually priced.  Items arrive from the retail stores and go into huge 4-ft x 8-ft bins for several hours to be picked through by eager customers looking for a cheap way to meet a need.

    In the past decade, more "Bins" stores have been opened and now there are over a dozen between Seattle and Olympia.  I enjoy perusing the offerings as I travel to visit family or for a supply run to Portland.  

    While we often look into  "closing the loop" at home this is an opportunity to tap into one of society's waste streams and gain salvage value.  
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Another interesting thing about cloth is that--if made well and sewed together well--will last generations. In the medieval/Tudor times, clothing was actually recorded in wills as to who got what clothing. This is a testament not just to how long-lasting even underclothes were, but also how much work goes into making cloth (hours and hours of tending the sheep/flax, carding, spinning, weaving/knitting, sewing).

    I think one thing we can do right now is invest in high quality fabrics/clothing and learn how to mend them effectively. Chances are, if things go waaay down hill, we won't have time to make much new cloth unless we specialize in it's production.  
     
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    Homesteading skills to be successful...
    With Permies.com, the internet and I looks like you have the will to do it, so just do it.
    (I admit I didn't read the entire post as it was way to long. Sorry)
     
    Cindy Haskin
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    Dennis Barrow wrote:Homesteading skills to be successful...
    With Permies.com, the internet and I looks like you have the will to do it, so just do it.
    (I admit I didn't read the entire post as it was way to long. Sorry)



    And the reason the post was so long is because there are so many things to know and do on a homestead,  but I didn't even cover half. And I've not even arrived on the property.

    Thank you everyone for valuable input.
     
    Joshua Rimmer
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    Nicole Alderman wrote:Another interesting thing about cloth is that--if made well and sewed together well--will last generations. In the medieval/Tudor times, clothing was actually recorded in wills as to who got what clothing. This is a testament not just to how long-lasting even underclothes were, but also how much work goes into making cloth (hours and hours of tending the sheep/flax, carding, spinning, weaving/knitting, sewing).

    I think one thing we can do right now is invest in high quality fabrics/clothing and learn how to mend them effectively. Chances are, if things go waaay down hill, we won't have time to make much new cloth unless we specialize in it's production.  



    From a survival/total self-sufficiency perspective, this is a really important point! So many things we rely on daily are incredibly labor intensive without the massive industrial systems we use now. Even something as simple as a steel beam, so very important for making machinery to lessen labor, require many many hours to make without the use of the giant ore field machinery, enormous transportation ships, and massive steel mills we have now. If building a system for your family to be totally independent of the outside world is your goal, better get moving now on acquiring large stocks of these types of materials, since they are unlikely to be something you amass the necessary manpower and space to do for yoursel;f.
     
    pollinator
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    Without having read the other replies, here is my list.

    Commitment.  Follow-through.  Finishing what you start.  This would probably be number one.

    Budgeting -- your money, your time.  And sticking to it.  

    Ability to learn -- inquisitiveness.  Networking.  Reading.  Watching tons of videos.  Being flexible.  Willing to work for someone as a tag-along volunteer for a while to pick up a skill.  

    Physical health and fitness.  Youth helps here.  Eat right.  Be careful -- avoid 'accidents' most of which are caused by foolhardiness or carelessness.  Don't ruin your back.  

    Prioritizing.  Determine what must come first, second, and so on.  

    Multi-tasking.  

    Getting along with others, especially those you are closest to.  An essential skill -- hard work and hardship break up many marriages and friendships.

    Knowing when to stop and think, or just take a break.  Often something that looks impossible late in the day when you are tired, will suddenly have a solution in the bright light of morning.

    Setting realistic goals and working towards them.

    Self-motivating -- don't need someone to kick you in the backside to get you up and working!

    Not the kind of skills you were looking for?  Well, the thing is that WITH all of these qualities, you can find out what you need to learn, and learn them, and accomplish them.  Without these skills, it doesn't matter how many of the other skills you may have, you aren't going to get very far!  It's fine to know how to build a fence, but if you get the materials, and drag them out to the field and drop them there and then get distracted and forget to finish the job, what good has it done?  And what good does it do to know how to take care of goats if you didn't prioritize and get their housing and fencing in place before you brought the goats home?  Or if you planted an orchard on the only spot where the county will allow you to put a drain field for your septic system, so now all the trees have to be moved?  Or if you end up alone out there because you drove off your loved ones with your grouchy temper when things didn't go quite right?  I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.  There are lots of things to learn in homesteading, and it's fun to learn those things, but learn and practice these things, too, and you will almost certainly succeed in your endeavors.
     
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    For me, the most necessary homesteading skill to be successful is being willing to _try something_.

    You might not be successful the first time, or the fifth time for that matter, but you can paralyze yourself looking for the ONE BEST way. I'm not saying you have to jump blindly, but do a reasonable amount of research/learning and then do something; take a step; make a start. Then look at what you did. Did it turn out the way you wanted? Great! Take another step. Didn't turn out? Okay. What could you change/do differently next time? Try that. Wash; rinse; repeat.
     
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    John F Dean wrote:I am having some trouble replying because I suspect our core premises differ as well as some of our definitions. I have been homesteading  since the early 80s. I see homesteading as a process.  When I think in terms of needed skills, I tend to think of an open mind and a willingness to learn.  If I had a list of skills I needed to homestead, I never would have started.  I can certainly think of many skills I have learned and more I would like to learn. But these are skills I did not need to begin to homestead. And, because I see homesteading as a process, I am comfortable knowing I will never be successful. There will always be new skill sets to acquire. Therefore, there is no finish line where I can identify that success has been achieved.



    I cant remember when the last time that I had ever read a more intelligent post
     
    pollinator
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    Embrace Iterative Design.  

    Creating something and then resigning as often as needed it to improve it is something you find yourself doing a lot of when homesteading.  Try to learn from your mistakes and embrace them to improve the next version of the project.  


    Food Related

    Cooking from scratch.  This should include the chemistry of and how foods work in different cooking methods.  This will go a long way to being able to cook with what is on hand or what you are harvesting at the moment.  

    Food Preservation. learn how before you plant your garden and fill your yard with animals.  Also acquire the  tools and supplies you will need to preserve all that food before it is ready to put up.  I am very glad I learned to water bath canning, pressure canning, and dehydrating before we started planted are first big garden.  I have added basic fermenting to my skill set in the last couple of years.  

    Pantry Management.  Storing your food in forms you will use and using it before it goes bad.  Having a good idea of how much your household consumes also allows to take advantage of great deals, bumper crops and other opportunities while reducing what gets wasted.

    Property Buying

    Start learning what zoning, permit requirements, easements, dead restrictions, HOAs, wetlands, water rights, mineral rights, and other restrictions really mean in the locations you are looking to buy in.  Here in the Northeast every town and city has slightly different meanings to all of these things. In parts of Virginia some of the HOA rules can be enforced by the town and not just the HOA.  Buying in the wrong location can mean not being able to do what you want to do with the land.  It is easier to buy in a less regulated locations than deal with trying to get a variance every time you want to do anything.






     
    Nicole Alderman
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    One thing I love about this thread is that we're not seeing the mind sets/etc that help with homesteading, but also the skills to learn and tasks we might need to do.

    I know when I was starting out, it was really hard for me to know WHAT to learn. Permaculture and homesteading are large fields. This thread--much like the PEP program--are great places to start to find out WHAT to learn. If you haven't grown up farming/homesteading/gardening, you might never know the sorts of things to even search about learning how to do, or what search terms to use
     
    Dennis Barrow
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    Cindy Haskin wrote:

    Dennis Barrow wrote:Homesteading skills to be successful...
    With Permies.com, the internet and I looks like you have the will to do it, so just do it.
    (I admit I didn't read the entire post as it was way to long. Sorry)



    And the reason the post was so long is because there are so many things to know and do on a homestead,  but I didn't even cover half. And I've not even arrived on the property.

    Thank you everyone for valuable input.



    Cindy, just don't get overwhelmed with it.  
    I used to build homes for a living and owners would get very overwhelmed thinking about what had to be done.
    Just start with the foundation and build up from there.  Same with homestead.
    Roof over your head, water, food, (garden, maybe small to start.  I am building my retirement home now and only planted about 30 sq ft of garden but it produced wonderfully!).

    Take it one project at a time.  Do it right the first time.  

    Research for that project so you are knowledgeable and can do it.   Try to learn to many things at once and you might miss some important items.

    Exciting that you have not arrived on the homestead yet!!  I am pushing 70 and have just started over with homesteading with a blank piece of land.  I spent a lot of time a year ago sitting on my land looking and thinking. ?Where to build the home, how to align it, best view, etc.  Where will garden go, chicken coop, out buildings.  How will they affect each other.  Main wind direction, (would prefer not to have some smells come into house daily. lol

    When you get there spend a few days at different times of the day just sitting with a cup of coffee or tea and observing.  Look at it from all angles before making big decisions on changes.

     
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    Perhaps I didn't read closely enough, and if you have an adequate amount of land, I'm surprised I haven't seen mention of hunting, in particular bowhunting, as a homesteading skill.

    If you dislike butchering your "pets," perhaps a dozen egg-laying chickens, a Jersey cow, and the occasional whitetail would provide plenty of animal products without the same sharpness to it that butchering animals that you raised has (although many to that method as well).

    In addition, you'd gain a much deeper familiarity with all the natural characteristics of your land and its cycles.
     
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