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Preparing to Homestead #2: The TOP 5 Skills Needed to Homestead (You Can Learn These While You Wait) With 50+ more as a bonus!

Greetings! So you want to homestead? Congratulations on the first step in deciding just that! Don’t worry there is still time to RUN if you want to change your mind. Where to begin, the TOP 5 Essential Skills Needed to Homestead. “LOL- Only 5,” that’s what thought, wasn’t it? Well, I did when I wrote it, but how can you choose one over another after the first 5, except based upon preference and the intent of the homestead. With all of these skills remember a mentor is best. Seriously, homesteaders and farmers love volunteers. We often wondered why friends wanted to come over if we were picking rock or splitting and throwing in wood that weekend, but the did. Especially as teens. If you want to learn, give out your number to the guy that just picked up 50 meat birds while you were in the store, offer to help on butchering day. We learned how to butcher a hog as a family and offered to help however possible. Needless to say, we also learned to make breakfast sausage, stuff sausage links, bratwursts and make smoked sausage. NUM! I went home and played around with the grinder and our harvest from meat birds and made chicken fajita brats. They were delicious. All that to say, ask around, offer to help, and if you cannot get hands on experience- we are living in the technology world. I’m going to say it- research it, google it, YouTube it, or just get some books and build up that library.

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Best to you as you learn these Precious and Helpful Skills!

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  1. Budgeting & Living Within Your Means- Although this applies to all homes; it really is essential for homesteading. Know what you have to work with each month and that initial investment. Learn what you can live without to free up more cash each month, but also know your limits. You may be fine with skimping on your choices of meals for awhile to cut back on the grocery hauls, but can you do that long term? What about connection? Depending on the type of homesteading you’re talking about, will there be neighbors or people to connect with? If you or anyone in your family desires this, how will you accommodate or make the transition easier? Almost everyone that begins a “homesteading” lifestyle realizes they’ve been wasteful in at least a few areas in their life. So, be easy on yourself and your family. It’s not always a smooth transition for everyone. If the transition is easy, new homesteaders must also be prepared for disaster. Even when we plan, prepare and act; sometimes mother-nature has a different plan. Whether crops do not generate what your expecting, everything goes wrong the first year, or even a major disaster occurs; give yourself grace and know your limits. Check out this post for How to Make Money on the Homestead- over 75 ways! (Besides just 75 products to make and sell.)
  2. Cooking From Scratch- Nothing is better than ‘home cooking’! Whether it’s biscuits, griddle fresh hot cakes, lefse, or hot cookies out of the oven; cooking from scratch tastes AMAZING! Not only is it amazing in taste, but nutritious and costs pennies compared to some prepared food prices.
  3. Meal Planning- Another frugal tip to help allocate money from your budget best is to meal plan. If you are able to, you can get nitty-gritty and shop weekly keeping nothing extra in the house OR, depending on your location and season, shop monthly. Whichever you prefer. Look at my monthly meal plans HERE. I do fill a monthly calendar for meal planning, but do not always follow the order. It’s more or less to cover 40 hot meals. (We do hot meals for dinner daily and for lunches on the weekend.) Once we make that meal, we just cross it out. To make things even more simple I use this same sheet per season- so 3 times, then transition to a shopping list/meal plan as the weather changes and our produce/ garden supply changes. Do what works for you and your family size. Simply make a list (better over than under) for your month, or week and shop. Then tweak it as you need to the following month. If you are running a budget and do not have a need that month for the leftover cash, as I explain in my savings series, this is where I will purchase necessary staples I would normally buy that are on-sale while I am at the store.
  4. Stocking a Pantry- Need I say more? With cooking from scratch, it’s easy to see that certain items will always be in demand. Depending on your family (special diets or your family size) this could vary on the definition of quantity. There are times we penny pinched and used the extra funds on more demanding needs. Other times if we saved a lot on a grocery haul, we would save that money for a good pantry sale. Watch the newspapers and online ads, there are patterns. Get a basic knowledge on food preservation and shop the farmers markets for fresh produce at great prices and preserve what you cannot use before it goes bad. Ask around, some areas have food shares you can purchase. I recently found a food share we can purchase for under $20.00 and you get a giant box of produce valued over $50. It’s 2nds or food that needs to be used up immediately, it’s a great way to eat fresh and stock the pantry too.
  5. Basic Gardening- Everyone can garden. Well is the optional term. Learn to grow something. A simple $.99 packet of seed of zucchini can easily produce 12-20 zucchini in a short growing season with proper soil. Now to some that isn’t great, to me our price of zucchini in cost last year for seed was $3.86 in seed, if we sold all of our produce at on-sale store price we would have received 3(.76)x 384= $875.52 This may sound like WHAT? Seriously we didn’t sell them, we ate, preserved and gave most away. BUT, this was our worst germination rate in the last 7 years for zucchini. Now you may not want to plant that much, BUT just figure one zucchini plant on average produces 6-12 lbs of fruit in an average season. With some hand pollinating and pruning the under leaves, and a fairly warm season you can aim for the 8-12lb mark. The best thing about zucchini is, anyone can grow it! Even in the worst soil conditions and people claiming to be poor gardeners, they easily get their money back that was invested in their seed. Yellow squash is another high yield to seed in comparison. Just gardening a couple plants and learning to cook with that fruit can be a HUGE step to your homestead journey; perhaps even get you started on your own produce stand at the homestead or market! Ready to garden, Check out all the places to purchase seed and get started! More of our gardening posts may be found HERE.
  6. Basic Food Preservation (Freezing & Water Bath Canning)- What good does it do to find or grow cheap food if you don’t know how to preserve it? Unless you have no trouble eating the same thing for every meal until you run out, learn basic food preservation.
  7. Hand-Washing Laundry
  8. Clothes-Line Drying Laundry
  9. Figure Out how you are going to Deal with Weeds- This sounds super simple, yet it can be complex. Are you looking to have absolutely no chemicals on your new homestead. If so, GREAT, but how will you deal with the weeds. There are many methods out there. However, to be 100% honest your location and the types of weeds you are dealing with play a part in the best method for dealing with them. So, do some research in your area. Also, some weeds are actually edible. We found a particular weed in our area that takes over everything, actually makes a great salve ingredient for cuts. Along with another weed that loves our garden, is actually quiet delicious and edible; therefore can be found in our summer salads.
  10. Learn to Fish OR Go More- If we are not home, we are fishing. Seriously! We love it and it is great for the family moral and freezer! Some of the best memories I have were summers filled with fishing and spooning scales off while the adults cleaned the inners. Delicious! Fresh clean fish tastes so good, is a healthy lean protein and it freezes well. (Pickles nicely too.)
  11. Foraging- I put this higher up because a great deal of money is available to some people and they don’t even know it. Wild onions, berries, cherries and asparagus are just a few edibles you could easily find on your homestead. Then learn to cook, can or preserve those treasures. Invest in a nice foraging book for your area as well.
  12. Create a Sourdough Starter- Feeding a starter that continually grows is beautiful. So simple. Delicious recipes. Healthy. Little to no work really. Check out Sour Dough Apple Pie Bread. NUM! NUM!
  13. Bread Making- Whether it’s to use your sourdough or making yeast breads, your family will love the smell of fresh bread. Warm, fresh bread with melted honey butter is a true weakness for all of us here! Learn to make delicious bread, it’s a valuable skill many will get to enjoy and be thankful you did. (If you get good at it, it is a great seller or “lost art” at local farmers markets as well.)
  14. Saving Herbs and Spices- With that from scratch cooking, you will appreciate all the herbs and spices. They also make great companions to your table menu. Herb-ed butters, spiced teas, and all homemade body products are a few extra embellishments for enjoying your herbs. (Within our region it is also the number two sought after thing that sells at the local markets, eggs being number one- many people pa-ruse, but these were rated top sales items sought after.)
  15. How to Cut Hair- Whether it’s basic shaving or trimming, it saves money. My hubby says with our household, we’ve saved over $21,000.00 if I averaged it at $12.00 a cut. (On our family alone.) Simply cutting hair. LOL. I enjoyed learning to style cut, but for years buzzed heads. Even the nephews, friends & neighbors; seriously, I don’t mind it one bit. But, anyone can run a razor. So, start saving now, learn to cut hair. If your loved ones are not particular, it’s a great money saver.
  16. How to Hatch and Incubate Eggs- Seriously, do you need a reason? Cuteness. Need I say more? They are addicting. Need to win over a spouse- EGGS! Eggs-A huge money saver and maker for us! I say that with a smile. Seriously, I do not want to discourage you, but to be 100% honest, eggs will not make a profit unless you have a good feed source that is cheaper than most areas. We really don’t make money on eggs. I do however, save money if I compared them to farm fresh eggs I would have to buy for my size family. BUT incubating changes that. If you sell a dozen eggs and have a good market and get $4.00/ dozen that’s good, some say they even get $4.75- but you probably only made a couple cents. Unfortunately the market for eggs over $3.00 here is slim. (Sorry-not sorry for being honest.) However, if you incubate a dozen eggs even on the lower poor hatch rate let’s say 4 hatch and survive. They easily sell for $3.00 a chick. So your dozen eggs now produced $12.00 in value. Whether you sell or add that to your flock is up to you. You get the picture. Hatch Chicks.
  17. Fermenting Foods- A great skill, so many delicious recipes to choose from and makes beautiful food jars! You’ll be happy to have the variety on the shelf in the food pantry. 😉
  18. Food Preservation (Pressure Canning)– Another whole dimension to your homestead opens up when you learn to pressure can your foods. Your garden produce can now supply you year round at the table. You can reduce your dry storage if you choose, hydrate beans for convenience, can meats you harvest or purchase in bulk. Last but not least, you can start canning your bulk meals; like soups, stews, and buckle mixes.
  19. Dehydrating Foods- Our dehydrator runs straight through the summer. Packed full of zucchini, squashes, leftover vegetables and loads of greens. A great way to tuck in those veggies to your soups and stews or finely powder in a food processor for thickening meals, smoothies and shakes. A great skill to know.
  20. Growing Herbs- A great skill to add flavor to the table and in your cooking. Learn what you like best and then learn how to grow that first. Check out this Herb Infused Oil
  21. Using Herbs & Natural Remedies- So many areas to dive into with herbs. Explore. If you have a great doctor that is open to natural remedies alongside their medicine, great, start asking questions. Find your local supplier of natural herbs and medicines. This is a per-person choice on the amount of herbs and natural remedies to incorporate in your families life, so seek wisdom from skilled herbalists. If you find it fascinating, there are even schools and courses available to take as well, check them out. **Remember this should not replace your physician.
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  1. Tapping Maple Trees (And other varieties for sap)- A great source of a natural sweetener and a super fun project to do as a family!!! A bit of work, with a sweet reward!
  2. Making Homemade Cleaning Products- Save $ and make your own. Plus, all the extra harsh chemicals are not always needed for the job!
  3. Making Homemade Laundry Detergent- It even cleans better than most. Save money, no extra chemicals or dyes, and safer for the environment.
  4. Basic Understanding of Animal Breeding- Self Explanatory. There are a lot of books out there. Start reading. If you plan on raising hogs, find books about raising and breeding hogs. So on.
  5. Learn to Smoke Meats- Although this is a hobby for many, some have never smoked meats. Or cheese. Smoke Queso, IT IS SO GOOD! However, smoking meats is not only delicious, but can be an acquired skill for your homestead. Many people can raise hogs, but don’t know a lick about curing and smoking meats. A skill that could be valuable to barter with for your first sow or piglet. Besides a mean smoked burger is sure to impress any lady or fella over for dinner!!! Don’t forget the Queso 😉
  6. Hunting- Even if it’s bow to start. (Many states have firearm classes you need, but not for a bow.) Check your laws and put some meat in the freezer. (Or pantry if you know how to pressure can.)
  7. Finding Wood- I put this separate than just cutting, splitting and stacking wood because this can be a huge $money$ saver. Depending on your location, there is often public land you can glean from. Some states have a small fee, others do not. But you have to recognize your good wood vs. punky woods. Wood is not only valuable for heat, but also for fencing and building. A few years back we were able to get some cedar posts from some downed trees, someone wanted moved. It was free to us. We were able to use those for posts on our chicken run. There were other logs, but not good choices for that project. Imagine if I used a box-elder tree for that, it wouldn’t have lasted long at all. So know your wood AND find/look for wood. Another idea is slab wood. If you have a lumber mill (large or home/family) nearby, they get rid of the slabs. (outsides of the tree in UN-uniform shaped) This works great for siding a lean to or shelter hut, cute wooden fencing or wooden craft signs and projects for market. Best of all, they can be obtained inexpensive or free by the truckload.
  8. Processing Birds- A great first meat to raise and harvest on the homestead. If chickens seem like a big feat, start with a few quail. They are delicious and can be done fast, even in your kitchen sink.
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  1. Basics of Raising Chickens- Easiest to raise and who doesn’t love eggs? And although (unless you have a good market) they make you little to know profit on the homestead, it brings people to your homestead stand or they look for you at the market. Ready to order chicks? Check out these hatcheries; they have chicks AND some have free newsletters you can subscribe to. Find More on Raising Chickens.
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  1. Making Your Own Chicken Feed Mixture- Honestly, you will get more eggs and healthier birds.
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  1. Building Your Own Chicken Coop- As your homestead or family grows, you may need a new coop. Why not make it a family project?
  2. Beekeeping- Unless you hand pollinate already, this will increase your garden yield and produce another valued product- liquid gold. AKA- honey!
  3. Soap Making- A hobby more than anything, but so much healthier for your family. I love making cute and scrumptious smelling soaps. Not only to be chemical free for our family, but to give beautiful gifts.
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  1. Basic Fencing- Animals in the future? What fencing will you need? How much? Will you rotate animals if you have small acreage or to be more efficient? There are books for ideas and stores to eyeball. 😉
  2. Basic Carpentry Skills- So handy to not have to hire out. To be honest I had basic skills, but my first chicken coop was functioning, but not well planned out. LOL. Building on the fly is not my strongest skill.
  3. Livestock Birthing Basics- So much is learned in experience, but if that is not an option, find books or search YouTube. 😉
  4. Making Feed Mixtures for the Farm (Organic Feeds)- Okay, so you may have been at this awhile and truly want to support your local farmers and have healthier critters overall. You cannot go wrong with local organic feeds. Perhaps the cost may change a bit, but often you make this up if you buy in bulk. As long as you have ample storage that critter free, it is a win-win for you, your critters, their production and your other local farmers/ organic feed supplier. (Remember to ease your critters onto new feed and give them time to adjust.)
  5. Newborn Livestock Care- A growing farm is a productive farm. Congratulations. To be prepared know what to expect before you get here. What kind of things to have on hand, emergency supplies, even local vet numbers, etc.
  6. Raising Goats- Know before you buy. They’re like used cars and won’t be taken back even if defective. 😉 Goats are addicting, be careful. Whether for pet, meat or dairy; they are a great addition to any homestead. Definitely a favorite to the younger children on ours.
  7. Tanning- A great skill for trade, creating some amazing products for home use or even for market. Surprisingly, my son and I have found a lot of videos on this subject as it is still pretty fresh to us. A great skill to add for homesteading!
  8. Cutting & Splitting Wood- A great source of heat for a fraction of the cost. (Depending on where you live.) If nothing else, everyone needs a good hot heated sauna!!!! 😉 If you have the blessing of a wood cook stove, a large supply of wood comes in handy as well. AND Check out flatbro making!
  9. Making Butter- One of the best or favorite homemade product from the fresh dairy- hands down! We love making herb or honey butter as well with store bought butter. Play around, find your favorite combinations with that fresh bread. Your loved ones are sure to enjoy the taste testing!
  10. Sewing Repair- Whether it’s patches for knees or rips, some hemming or a new button; those basic sewing repair know-how-to’s come in handy!
  11. Scrap Quilt or Rug Making- With hard work, comes ripped or worn clothing. Denim makes beautiful and heavy quilts for those cold days. A dear friends of mine makes the cutest rugs out of denim and fabric for market!!! A fairly simple, BUT great skill to have and know.
  12. Needlework- Why stop there? Needlework makes gorgeous gifts and marketable products.
  13. Caring for a Small Orchard- Learning to plant means learning to care and recognize diseases and problems. Understanding a small orchard can save a great deal of money should a problem occur. It also can make a difference on the amount of fruit the trees bear from season to season. Learn to care for a small orchard.
  14. Preparing Raw Milk- So you have milking creatures, no what? What will you do with the milk once it arrives? Learn to prepare and tend to raw milk and make raw milk products.
  15. Cheese Making- We do not make tons of cheese, but a favorite delicacy is flavored soft cheese with the raw milk. We would use the milk or make cheese, so this was a rare occasion to make a soft cheese with a flavored jam. (Similar to cream cheese spread for bagels.) So it was treasured. So many grocery stores and markets have fresh cheeses. Go. Try them and see what you like or dislike. Learn how that cheese is made.
  16. Making Stocks and Broths- Often the “scraps” of vegetables and cuttings can be turned into vegetable broths for soups or stews. Very delicious and cost effective.
  17. Candle Making- A lovely skill to learn. So many different scents and sizes to choose from, making great gifts, home décor and market items.
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  1. Learn to Make Yogurt- Sp easy and delicious. You can even make it with a gallon of milk from the store in your crockpot today! Check into it!
  2. Learn to Plant Trees- Perhaps you’ve already purchased a few for the homestead, but this is meant for saplings as well. One can save a great deal of $ if they started their own trees from seed or propagating. Learn. A local homesteader propagates 200 local “wild” fruit trees each spring and sells out within 2 weeks. (She sells them for $2.00 each) She states she does this not only for enjoyment, but to pay for her yearly gardening habits and additions. She sells other things, but her homestead became known to the community through her fruit tree sales. Learn to plant trees; it’s great to help the environment, add or start your orchard, saves money or could possibly be a market item.
  3. Learn to Propagate Cuttings- With a little time and effort, things can grow for free. 😉 Seriously, it’s a great skill to have.
  4. Learn About Garden Pests- If you know what to be aware of, you can learn to plant natural repelling plants together, take preventative measures, and have a heads up on what to look for on you crops.
  5. Identify Edible Flowers- Beautiful, delicious and very marketable.
  6. Identifying Poisonous Plants- Prevention is best. Safety first. Get rid of it- preferably before your kids or dog finds it and brings it into the house.
  7. Butchering- A great skill, saves a bucket load of $ and can be wonderful for bartering skills.
  8. Learn to Save Seed- As your homestead grows, perhaps your garden will. Learn to save seed right away. This not only helps you get great seed, but it is marketable as well.
  9. Learn About Soil Quality and Preparations- The better your soil, the better your yield. Know what plants need what, the quality of your soil and how to better it.
  10. Compost- A great way to add to your soil for low cost or free. It is packed full of amazing nutrients your plants will LOVE!
  11. Raise Worms- If for fishing, a great market item. (Check local laws though, some states have restrictions on live bait.) If for composting, make sure you have the right kind of worms and the more the merrier!
  12. Learn about Raising small Livestock- Don’t forget about the little guys. Ducks, Turkeys, Rabbits, and small livestock are great for the homestead. Depending on the size of your homestead and your intent for them, remember they can produce a great deal for you. Rabbit for example, if you don’t want those cute little guys for pets- also can produce amazing compost along with several pounds after harvest. A healthy quality litter breeding trio, at peak, can produce your homestead with 600 pounds of meat a year. Remember a steer is what, 400 pounds dressed. So, don’t forget about the “little guys-or gals” too. You could even begin this prior to reaching your homestead, if you have a garage or basement.
  13. Learn About Raising Dairy Livestock- So much value to your homestead if you do not mind the work. Milking isn’t for everyone, not because it’s hard, but it takes dedication and consistency- but the reward of fresh dairy is well worth the investment.
  14. Make Your Own Animal Food and Treats- Learn what your animals (you intend to keep) like. Animals are truly beautiful and can live a full, happy life; even if they are intended for harvest. Learning about foods they love or that are healthier for them is a bonus, but essential to improving your homestead!
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WOW! It was really hard to stop there. I do not want to bore you, but you get the picture. If you already know some areas you want to dive into, why wait? Start researching, build your library, find your tribe of people to learn from.

Most of all- Happy Homesteading!

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