When the homestead bug first hit us we were already living on a couple of acres and could dive right in, but that’s not the case for so many who are feeling that pull to simple country living.
You may not realize it, but that is a great time to start building homestead skills- even if you’re in the middle of the city!
There are so many different homesteading, “self-sufficient” skills that I would love to learn but since learning takes time, something which is more precious than gold to me, I’m unable to gain, practice, and perfect that knowledge. Use this time when you don’t have farm chores or a bumper harvest to put up to slowly work toward gaining those skills that will be so beneficial to you when you do finally make it to your piece of land!
Here are 30 skills to build while you’re homestead dreaming:
1.) Freshly Mill Your Own Whole Grains
Depending on where you live, storage issues for large quantities of whole grains or freshly milled flours might be a challenge, there’s nothing that says you have to grind whole grains 50 pounds at a time. Even grinding grains a few pounds at a time and storing the extra in a gallon bag in the freezer will make the most nutritious, high-quality flour you can bake with.
• Getting Started with a Home Grain Mill
• Tips for Baking with Whole Wheat Flour
• The grain mill we use (I’ve ground everything from wheat, to barley, to corn, and more in this machine over the last 10 years.)
2.) Bake Your Daily Bread
Freshly baked bread is economical and frankly, it tastes better that store bought bread. The flavor and texture are so delicious. There is nothing like a warm fresh slice slathered thickly with butter.
3.) Capture Wild Yeast
Once you’ve learned to bake your own bread, it’s only a matter of time until you contemplate capturing wild yeast and creating homemade sourdough recipes with it. You’ll feel so self-sufficient!
A vital skill for any homesteader is what to do with your bounty once you have reaped it. With all of the gardening and animal husbandry skills you’ll be learning in the future, now is a great time to build a collection of recipes that your family will enjoy.
5.) Ferment Fresh, Seasonal Foods
Purchase local, fresh, seasonal foods and learn to ferment them while you someone else is doing the farming instead of when you also have all the garden tasks and harvesting that need attending to on top of preserving the harvest.
6.) Make Homemade Butter from Cream
You don’t need to wait until you have a Jersey cow to make homemade butter. All you need is a bit of cream to see the magic happen as the thick white liquid turns into a golden ball of butter.
7.) Prepare Simple, Soft Cheeses
Dabble in home cheesemaking by starting with some simple soft cheeses. They don’t require too many extra ingredients, lots of prep time, aging, or special equipment, but give you the experience and confidence you need to dig deeper in the future.
Homemade yogurt tastes better, has no artificial ingredients, and is a very frugal alternative to store-bought yogurt. Plus it’s not really too much trouble to make- mix it, warm it, culture it, and incubate it. That’s it!
9.) Grow Windowsill Herbs
Cultivate your green thumb, learn indoor seed starting techniques, and learn to cook with fresh herbs by growing a few pots of your favorite in a windowsill.
10.) Render Tallow & Lard
Traditional, less processed fats such as tallow and lard are among the most sustainable ones that we in America can use in that the dollar value of gasoline to get them into our homes in negligible compared to the other healthful, less processed oils shipped from the other side of the world and that otherwise they are a waste product. Plus, you’ve never had fried chicken till you’ve fried it in tallow.
Soap making is frugal and fun (after you get over the fear of working with lye. Once you’re set up you can make 10 bars of soap for the price of one. Not to mention it cleans better and you know exactly what is going into your soap that will end up on the largest organ of your body, your skin.
12.) Make Your Own Vanilla
I save so much money making my own vanilla! And it is so easy to the point of being ridiculous. Seriously, once you do it, you will never (ever) go back to buying it again.
13.) Scratch Cooking
Don’t wait until you get to the farm to hone scratch cooking skills. Meal disasters will create chaos in the home at mealtime and throw off the rest of the day. Learn to prepare the foods you plan to grow and raise now so it’s nearly effortless later. Go through your pantry one box at a time and learn to replace those packages with homemade food.
14.) Eat From Your Pantry
This is a stretch for so many of us (even who homestead already, believe it or not!) While you might not make it for several weeks, every now and then plan a week where you won’t buy any food from the grocery store for a week to practice being frugal and creative in the kitchen. After all, if you end up living in the country you’ll have to practice it more often than you might expect when you find something out of stock that you needed for dinner and the nearest store is a 40 minute (or more) round trip away.
15.) Use & Care for Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware is a farm wife’s favorite. But there is a bit of a learning curve when you first use it. After my early attempts, my first skillet sat in a cupboard for years. Once I learned the knack, I use cast daily. Proper care will make your pans a family heirloom.
•How & Why to Use Cast Iron
•How to Season Cast Iron
•How to Make Non-Stick Eggs in Cast Iron
•My favorite cast iron skillet (Ok. So that’s not entirely true. With a family of 10 I either have to use the wrist breaking 15″ one or make everything in 2 pans. If we were a “normal” sized family, this one would be my favorite.)
16.) Grow Your Own Salad All Year Long
Your read that right! If you have a window, you can grow your own salad in your own home any time of the year. Self-sufficient salads in an apartment downtown is a big chunk out of your grocery bill and is better than many homesteaders on several acres are doing. (I know I’ve never had year-round salads… yet.)
17.) Cut Up a Whole Chicken
After I began homesteading, I was surprised to learn just how many of the recipes in my cookbook called for “chicken breast.” What would I do with the rest of the bird? After you invested so much in raising your own meat, you’re certainly not going to waste a single bit! While most of my recipes now call for a whole chicken, there are some that still only call for breast meat. When there are only whole chickens in the freezer, you’ll need to learn how to cut them into pieces.
18.) Roast a Whole Chicken & Make Gravy
Roasting a whole chicken is a beautiful way to showcase homegrown poultry! There’s no need to wait to cultivate the skill. (And it’s not really that hard.)
19.) Make a Nourishing Bone Broth
Making your own bone broths not only taste wonderful, but are incredibly healthful, convenient, economical, and cultivate a mindful attitude of respecting the “whole beast.”
•Homemade Chicken Soup (This is my stock recipe except I thow it all in at the beginning. And I only chop everything enough to make it fit. )
•Homemade Beef Stock
•How to Make Pork Broth
20.) Reduce Your Waste
We live in a wasteful world. Be mindful of how much you consume and dispose of. It will help you live a more frugal, uncluttered life now, and when you get to your homestead, you will have created habits that will help you use your excess food to decrease your livestock feed bill or create soil with your compost pile.
21.) Basic Sewing Skills
Knowing simple sewing techniques, particularly handsewing, is incredibly useful for mending clothes, darning socks, replacing buttons, finishing knitting projects, etc…
Creating homemade medicine with herbs is often just as powerful and effective as modern medicine. More than that, it is empowering to take charge of your health with using herbs, roots, and flowers that the Lord has created with healing properties.
23.) Create Natural Beauty Products
It won’t be long after you start living a more natural lifestyle and making more conscientious decisions about your food that you’ll start contemplating the ingredients in your skincare products. (Hint: They’re loaded with harmful chemicals.) Learning to make homemade lotion, deodorants, makeup, and more is something you can do now instead of when you’re learning the ropes on your farm.
24.) Make Homemade Cleaning Products
Making your own homemade cleaning products saves you money in a big way! Compare a bottle of window cleaner at $4 to the homemade version that works just as well at $.04! You can find a plethora of excellent natural cleaning recipes to try including homemade laundry detergent.
25.) Dye Natural Fibers & Spin Them Into Yarn
If you plan on raising a fiber flock, learning to care for the sheep, manage breeding, managing lambing, etc.. is quite the curve. If you’ve already built the skills to turn their wool into usable fiber that you can dye and spin, you’re less likely to feel burnout. (Which is my wool from last year is still sitting unwashed in the basement.)
From socks, to scarves, to hats, blankets, quilts and more, having a basic grasp of these handicrafts is not on therapeutic and relaxing (in my opinion at least), but it allow you to create useful, attractive, and functional gifts for your family.
27.) Basket Making
Baskets have many uses on the homestead and most that you’ll find are decorative. Making your own is a great way to get functional products for your future farm. They’re fun to make and the children really enjoy helping learn the new skill.
28.) Learn How to Thrift Shop & Use Craigslist
What on earth does thrift shopping have to do with homesteading? Plenty. Not only does thrift shopping fit in with the frugal lifestyle that will help you achieve your homestead dream more quickly, but let’s face it, when you get to the farm, things don’t stay nice and clean long and that hit is a lot easier to take when you found a great deal. I’ve learned over the years that between the mud, manure, blood, grease, sweat, and rips, clothing on the homestead doesn’t last long. Sometimes not more than a season. You can still find attractive (even new!) clothes at a thrift store and it’s not so upsetting when you only parted with a few bucks for the shirt instead of $20 or more for a new one.
29.) Brew Your Own Alcohol
If you dream of making your own homemade brews, there is no need to wait until you have homegrown produce to learn the process. Learning homebrewing can be done anywhere and then when you get to the farm you can concentrate on the growing.
30.) Educate Yourself
We live in a culture that values education, yet many of us don’t ever really learn how to learn on our own. When we’re talking about skills that have been lost over the generations, there aren’t many teachers available for us to glean from. Thankfully, that is changing in many parts of the world, but for many, we’re stuck learning on our own. And thankfully, there are many who are sharing their knowledge, albeit not in person or a real classroom setting, but it’s knowledge we can avail ourselves of none the less.
After we study up and gain the head knowledge, it’s time to put what you’ve learned to practice.
For those who desirous to build our homesteading skill set, but lack the mentors to guide us in the right way, there will be days, weeks, sometimes months of trial and error until you finally bake that beautiful loaf of sourdough you’ve been dreaming of. One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to experience failure. And then stand right back up, brush yourself off, and get your hands dirty all over again. It’s probably one of the most vital skills you’ll need on your future homestead.
What homesteading skills are you working to build?