Five Pioneer Skills for the Aspiring Homesteader

by Charlotte Walker
Five Pioneer Skills for the Aspiring Homesteader

An experienced homesteader can turn their hands to almost anything.

Whether it’s building a shed, gutting an animal or planting a crop, a seasoned homesteader is a genuinely skilled individual. Their equipment hits the shop only for serious problems: oil changes and tune ups are done in house. Carpentry, basic plumbing, essential electrical work: these are also done in-house! You often can’t just “call someone” when you’re on a homestead, so the development of a suite of skills is time well spent.

Here are five pioneers skills that every aspiring homesteader should learn. They will serve you well.

Hand Carpentry

Learning how to build basic things, with simple tools, is a great skill. Instead of running to the store for a 2×6, you can drop a tree with an axe and use that instead. Incredible structures, and simple things like fences, can be built with little more than an axe and a few essential carpentry tools, none of which require power. Projects take longer when you do them by hand, but you are often rewarded with beauty and ruggedness. Many pre-made buildings are of poor quality, and fencing can be costly if you pay someone else to do it. A little carpentry knowledge can go a long way.

Free vintage ebooks about carpentry

Handwork in Wood by William Noyes

Wood-Block Printing by F. Morley Fletcher

A Course In Wood Turning by Archie Seldon Milton and Otto K. Wohlers

Wood-Carving: Design and Workmanship by George Jack

Mission Furniture: How to Make It, Part 1 by H. H. Windsor

Mission Furniture: How to Make It, Part 3 by H. H. Windsor

Carpentry for Boys by James Slough Zerbe

Woodwork Joints: How they are Set Out, How Made and Where Used. by William Fairham

Old World Food Preservation

Did you know you can store pork over the winter, using just salt? Did you know that you can dehydrate almost anything? Are you aware of how wonderful a smoker is, and what it can do for preservation and flavor? Did you know that salt plus cabbage equals sauerkraut?

Back in the day, our ancestors did not have access to canning supplies, refrigerators nor freezers. They used alternative techniques to preserve their food, and these techniques are no less valuable today than they were a hundred years ago. Take some time and learn how to preserve food in the absence of modern conveniences: you’ll make use of this knowledge on a homestead, that’s for sure!

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Folk remedies / self healing

The ability to care for yourself and your family is essential. Although it is not quite as critical as it was in the past, given our access to doctors, being able to heal yourself is a tremendous skill. Rather than having to run to the doctor or pharmacist, you can first try your home remedies. If you’re using the right ones, more than not, they’ll work! There are all kinds of cures, eastern and western, that stand head and shoulders above anything modern medicine can churn out. Why? Because we can grow the cure, or make the treatment ourselves.

It’s important to note that even a broad knowledge of alternative medicine is no replacement for modern medicine. In the event of traumatic injuries, we’d be to the hospital, no question. That said, both of us have watched people die, slowly, taking medication after medication, with steadily eroding quality of life. A holistic approach is much better, and if you can get away with yarrow and birch bark rather than going on an opiate, you’re probably much better off.

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Firecraft

Many homesteads heat with wood, and believe it or not; there is a real art to efficiently heating your home with this heating style. Firstly, you need to be able to start fires quickly and easily, even in wet conditions. Secondly, you need to understand how to build up a fire properly and maintain it throughout the day.

Dry wood burns differently than wet wood, but wet wood is not bad, per se, and in fact, is even preferred once you have a fire going. Wet wood burns longer, and less hot, meaning that you can keep a stable temperature over a more extended period if you are burning wetter wood. Dry wood, on the other hand, ignites beautifully, and it’s what you want for when you are starting a fire, or if you need a rager!

Oldtimers.. those that heated with wood their whole lives, and cooked on wood stoves, had this down to a science. For those of us who have not heated this way, there is a bit to learn. So learn it! We have been heating with wood for several years now, and every year, we get a little bit better.

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Gutting and cleaning animals

Perhaps you’re a hunter. Maybe your neighbor will need help cleaning an animal. Perhaps you’ll have to shoot a wounded animal. Regardless, the ability to handle this properly and clean and process the meat is one that will serve you well. Even if you don’t use this skill often, it is one that every homesteader should know.

Plenty of articles and videos exist on how to do this. You might want to check out The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game by Steven Rinella, this is a great resource.  If possible, try and get some hands-on experience. There is no replacement for a good teacher, no matter how good online resources are. Good hunters are often the type of people who like to share information and odds are, if you look, you’ll find someone that is more than willing to show you how it is done.

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Of course, all of this is just a start.

The number of skills that are useful on a homestead is innumerable. Homestead is about all aspects of living and self-sufficiency, so there are things you need to know in pretty much every area. After developing your skills, you’ll find the number of times you have to call in help will decrease dramatically. After you’ve rolled up your sleeves enough times, it becomes easier. And as it becomes easier, it becomes natural. Taking care of yourself becomes second nature.

Although you may be dreaming of homesteading at this point, rather than doing, learning the above skills will not only give you a taste of homesteading, it will prepare you for it.

 

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