With so much uncertainty in this world, from hackers shutting down gas pipelines and major meat producers, to global conflicts and domestic civil unrest, many find themselves yearning for a sense of security. I always encourage having three months of food (rice, beans, coffee, peanut butter, more coffee, canned goods, sugar, salt, flour and more coffee) stored in a cool, dry place. This makes sense for a short-term crisis.
But having a set of developed skills is vital. Here is a list of basic skills we should all know or be willing to learn in the coming days, if for no other reason than to have a sense of peace and preparation.
This one is at the beginning of the list for a reason: Growing your own food for the first time is amazing. Whatever you grow, it is one of the most important homesteading skills you can learn.
After you harvest your garden’s yield, you’re going to need to cook healthy meals from it. Learn to cook from scratch on a stove and over a fire.
3. Building a fire
Come on, folks. This is a basic skill that provides heat and the ability to cook. The most primitive skill of all will make a huge difference in your sense of preparedness.
4. Baking bread
Hardtack, biscuits, sourdough bread—baking is an amazing skill to have.
5. Preserving food
Smoking or salt-curing meat, canning vegetables, making preserves, cold-storing pumpkins and squash and root veggies—these are vital skills.
6. Finding, cutting and splitting firewood (using an ax)
See “building a fire” and “cooking.”
Gardening is great, but for practicing omnivores, there is a lot of protein to be collected in the local animal population. Learn proper hunting techniques for your preferred weapon (bow, rifle, shotgun, blowgun) and learn how to gut, clean and butcher that critter.
If you like the idea of the woods providing food, but taking the life of an animal is too much for you, nature is an amazing source of edible items. Of course, proper identification is key, so take classes, find guidebooks and go plant hunting.
9. Using herbs for healing
While you are out foraging food, learn to identify plants with healing properties. Open wound or bug bite? Use plantain. Toothache? The toothache plant (also known as “electric daisy”). Poison ivy? Find some jewelweed. If you are a natural healer who can identify plants and make remedies, you will be crazy valuable to the homestead.
10. Chicken keeping
We call chickens the gateway livestock to homesteading. You’ll need to provide shelter and find ways to deliver food and water. And there’s some upkeep in terms of cleaning up manure and bedding, but overall, chickens are a fun and easy addition to most homesteads.
11. Processing a chicken
This may not be the most appealing of homesteading skills, but when a hen stops laying eggs or a rooster becomes overly aggressive, it’s time to change their names to … “delicious.” Once you have this skill down, you can then process turkeys, ducks and geese. Processing a chicken, as a physical act, is fairly easy—though the killing part is emotionally challenging for some. After that, it’s a matter of plucking, gutting, rinsing and cooling it in time for safe storage (or you can just pop it in the oven).
12. Building fences and animal shelters
Whether you need to keep animals in or people out, you’ll need to be able to build a secure fence that’s up to the task at hand. And there are so many ways to approach this task: post and rail, chain link, electrical wire, pallet. Learn this skill, and you will find yourself a great asset to the homestead.
As I considered this list of skills, I realized 10 years ago I knew none of them. Today, I have mastered most of these skills and have a working knowledge of the rest. Books, YouTube tutorials and just doing it made the difference. The one skill I need to work on the most? Be a good neighbor.
Preppers isolate. Homesteaders congregate. As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbors. I get so busy in our homesteading efforts, I forget this command. People ask to come see our operation, and I hesitate because I don’t think our place is good enough.
So, I am making a commitment to be in a position to invite people to our place, to learn, to eat delicious food and maybe sing worship songs around a campfire.
To God be the glory!