121+ Skills for the Modern Homestead

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Preserving food? Check. Driving a tractor? Check. Milking a goat? Check.

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of modern-homesteading is learning new skills. When I first moved to Wyoming at the tender age of 18, I had an entire mental checklist of all the things I wanted learn and do.

And as I’ve morphed into a modern-day homesteader, that list has grown along with me.

There is something so empowering about learning how to do something new with your hands. Or mastering a skill that, at an earlier point in your lie, would have seemed completely foreign.

It’s actually quite addictive, really… Since we are at the start of a brand new year, I figure there’s no better time than to start making homestead plans.

So without further ado, may I present to you:

101 Skills for the Modern Homestead

(Keep in mind that no one person will likely master all of these skills. And some just aren’t applicable to certain situations. (I sadly won’t ever be harvesting maple syrup from my homestead… I know that.) But hopefully you can pick and choose some ideas to inspire you!)

1. Milk a goat, cow, or sheep.

2. Compost both kitchen scraps and animal manure.

3. Make the perfect pie crust.

4. Learn how to cook a whole chicken.

5. Grow a vegetable garden in your climate.

6. Know how to properly prune and graft a fruit tree.

7. Learn first-aid and CPR.

8. Know how to dehydrate foods to preserve for later use.

9. Give an animal an injection (the muscle, in the vein, or under the skin)

10. Assist with foaling, kidding, lambing, and/or calving.

11. Know how to assist an animal with a difficult birth.

12. Grow a windowsill herb garden.

13. Learn how to safely cut down a tree.

14. Make perfect sausage gravy from scratch.

15. Know how to drive a manual transmission and/or tractor.

16. Learn basic metal working skills and welding.

17. Master basic mechanic skills so you can fix your tractors and vehicles.

18. Change a tire and change oil.

19. Learn how to hunt wild game–both large and small.

20. Know how to properly handle, shoot, and clean a gun.

21. Learn the laws and regulations regarding hunting wild game in your area through a Hunter’s Safety course.

22. Learn how to humanely kill, gut, and clean an animal.

23. Know how to butcher an animal and the proper cuts of meat.

24. Learn how to kill and pluck a chicken.

25. Use a smoker to smoke cheeses, meat, bacon, hams, etc.

26. Learn how to fish.

27. Learn how to clean, fillet, and cook fish.

28. Learn how to tell if your chickens are molting.

29. Know how to tell if you can doctor an animal at home, or if it needs to be taken to the vet.

30. Dry laundry using a drying rack or clothesline.

31. Make your own laundry detergent.

32. Know how to build a fire.

33. Cook over an open fire or on a wood cookstove.

34. Make cheese–master simple soft cheeses and hard cheeses too.

35. Learn how to make yogurt.

36. Make sourdough bread and maintain your own starter.

37. Keep bees and harvest honey.

38. Make basic yeast dough which can be turned into loaves, rolls, buns, pretzels, etc.

39. Incubate fertilized eggs and hatch your own chicks.

40. Learn how to identify and manage a broody hen.

41. Learn how to cut, bale, and stack hay.

42. Make your own jellies and jams.

43. Master the art of intensive grazing so you can better manage your pastures.

44. Make your own soap.

45. Make your own candles.

46. Learn how to darn a sock.

47. Mend damaged clothes so they don’t have to be thrown away.

48. Sew clothing and fabric items from scratch.

49. Knit, quilt, or crochet

50. Learn the art of no-till gardening.

51. Learn how to candle eggs so you can tell if they are fertilized.

52. Cook outside with a dutch oven.

53. Heat your home with wood or other sustainable sources.

54. Trim the feet of your goats and sheep.

55. Learn how to build and fix fence.

56. Master basic carpentry skills so you can repair outbuildings or even build basic furniture pieces.

57. Learn how to tan a hide.

58. Learn how to save seeds.

59. Use a water bath canner to preserve foods.

60. Learn how to use lacto-fermentation to preserve foods.

61. Learn how to use a pressure canner and/or cooker.

62. Make your own sauerkraut.

63. Forage for wild edibles in your area.

64. Learn how to identify the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms.

65. Learn how to identify the difference between harmless and venomous snakes in your area.

66. Grind your own wheat for baking.

67. Repurpose everyday items to save them from the landfill.

68. Learn how to sharpen a knife or ax.

69. Learn how to prepare for a blizzard.

70. Learn how to prepare for a wildfire.

71. Understand the basics of animal breeding.

72. Learn how to work together with your neighbors to accomplish more and foster a sense of community.

73. Know how to halter-break and train an animal.

74. Learn how to harvest, split, and stack firewood.

75. Learn how to make butter.

76. Learn how to use essential oils properly and safely.

77. Build/use a greenhouse or cold frame to extend your growing season.

78. Learn how to start seeds indoors.

79. Store food in a root cellar or in a cool basement.

80. Make your own vinegar.

81. Make your own skincare items.

82. Make your own cleaning supplies.

83. Learn how to make herbal extracts, infusions, poultices, and tinctures.

84. Learn how to render lard or tallow.

85. Learn how to chop ice.

86. Learn how to make and apply whitewash.

87. Tap trees for maple syrup.

88. Learn how to repair a roof.

89. Know how to humanely euthanize an animal.

90. Understand how to identify the weeds in your yard/pastures and figure out which ones are edible.

91. Learn how to back up a trailer.

92. Know how to purify water.

93. Learn how to make bone broth.

94. Know how to use non-electric lighting.

95. Put together a 72-hour kit for emergencies.

96. Learn how to cook eggs in a cast iron skillet without a sticky mess.

97. Put food scraps like eggshells, coffee grounds, apple peels, and whey to good use.

98. Make your own bacon and cured hams.

99. Know how to protect your livestock from predators.

100. Learn how to make your own chicken feed.

101. Live within your means and get out of debt.

And the list keeps growing! The following are from my lovely readers:

102. Learn about aquaponics or fish farming.

103. Make your own ammunition, or reload ammunition.

104. Shear a sheep and process the wool.

105. Learn how to spin wool.

106. Know basic plumbing skills (like unclogging a toilet!)

107. Learn how to install/use a composting toilet

108. Make your own paper.

109. Learn how to use vermiculture (composting with worms) to create nutrient-rich food for your garden.

110. Make your own fishing lures or spears.

111. Use alternative energy sources like solar or wind to power your homestead.

112. Implement natural pest control measures.

113. Learn how to tie a variety of basic knots.

114. Learn how to make and set traps.

115. Know how to clean, dress, stitch/staple a wound in the event of an emergency.

116. Learn how to weave.

117. Learn how to make natural dyes.

118. Understand how to propagate plants through root cuttings.

119. Learn how to clear pasture and brush.

120. Master the art of home brewing.

121. Learn how to make baskets.

Source:  http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/01/modern-homesteading-skills.html


How-To Harvest Rainwater

There’s money falling from the skies every time it rains. Here’s how you can harvest your share. Creating a rainwater collecting and storage system is simple. (We’ll show you where to buy barrels and how to build your own.) And every time you use it to replace expensive, chemically treated city water in your garden, you’re saving money. Best of all, this collection system is right over your head. The three elements of any rainwater harvester are the collection area, the transportation system and the storage facility. Click the three areas on the illustration to the right see how to use these three elements to your garden’s advantage.

Collection area

Collection AreaAnywhere falling rain doesn’t soak in to the ground, the runoff can be collected. So if you have a roof, you have a collection area. Determining how much water your roof collects can involve lots of complex calculations. But all you really need to do is figure how much water your garden will need and if your roof can collect that much. The gardener who’s going to irrigate a large vegetable patch in the desert Southwest will need a lot more water than the one dousing a few container plants on a patio in the Midwest. The rule of thumb is the average 25 foot by 40 foot home roof sheds about 600 gallons of water in an hour of moderate rainfall, around 1 inch. If you have two downspouts, they’ll each divert about 300 gallons of water toward the barrel under them. The more barrels you have, the more of this water you can collect.

Transportation system

Transportation System

The gutters and downspouts along the edges of your roof are the water transportation system of your rainwater harvester.

Material — Gutters and downspouts can be made from aluminum or plastic. It’s the size, not the material that’s important.

Size — Gutters and downspouts have to be large enough to carry the water running off the roof. Most home gutters come 5 or 6 inches wide. 3-inch-diameter downspouts attach to the 5-inch gutters; 4-inch downspouts go on 6-inch gutters.

Forroof collection areas up to 1000 square feet, a 5-inch gutter and 3-inch downspout are large enough to carry the water. Larger roofs’ collection areas should have the larger size gutters and downspouts.

Filters — Be sure there are some kind of screens, such as the one in the illustration, to keep leaves and other debris from clogging the downspouts. In areas where mosquitos are a problem, use a fine-mesh, aluminum window screen to keep the insects away from the standing water in the barrel.

Storage Facility

Storage Facility

Now we come to the heart of he rainwater harvesting system: Storing the rainwater you collect for use in dry times.

Barrels — There are several great water storage barrels available from specialty garden online catalogs, or you can build your own using Garden Gate‘s plan for constructing a rain barrel.

Placement — Whether you make barrels or buy them, they need to be placed properly.

Locate barrels under a downspout that’s also close to the thirstiest parts of your garden.

Dig out a 4-inch-deep area the length and width of the cinder block base. Fill the area with 1/4-inch pea gravel. This makes a base to help you level the cinder blocks and drain away water to keep your foundation dry.

The higher you can raise the barrels, the better the water pressure will be. Raising the barrels up also gets the spigot higher off the ground so you can get a watering can under it.

Capacity — Of course, you can only store the total gallons of water your rain barrels hold times the number of them you have.

Still, the system in the illustration, using three, standard 55-gallon drums, has 165 gallons of water ready and waiting to give the garden a drink when other supplies might not be available.

The more water you can store, the better. Short lengths of hose can be attached to individual barrels to link them together and boost the capacity of your system. And they can be added over time as you see how much water your garden needs.

Overflow — During heavy rains, there may be some overflow from the barrels. The 4-inch layer of gravel under the cinder blocks, as in the illustration, will divert this water away from your foundation. Or you can install an overflow port near the top of the barrel and attach a hose to divert excess water out to the garden.

Make a Rain Barrel

If you have gutters and downspouts on your house or garage, you have a fantastic system for harvesting soft, clear rainwater for the garden. The only missing piece is a collection reservoir, otherwise known as a rain barrel. To find one, check with companies that buy food ingredients in bulk. Some of their supplies come in large, seamless, plastic containers.


  • 1 clean 30- to 55-gallon barrel or garbage can
  • 1 “S”-shaped aluminum downspout elbow
  • 4 concrete blocks
  • 1 piece of aluminum window screen
  • 1 standard 1-inch hose spigot with ¾-in. pipe threads
  • 1 ¾-in. x ¾-in. coupling
  • 1 ¾-in. x ¾-in. bushing
  • 1 ¾-in. pipe thread with a 1-in. hose adapter
  • 1 ¾-in. lock nut
  • 4 metal washers
  • 1 roll Teflon thread tape
  • 1 tube silicon caulk


  • hacksaw
  • screwdriver
  • pop rivet gun with rivets
  • drill
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • spade
  • level
  • adjustable open end wrench

Scrub the inside of your container thoroughly with soap and water to remove any residues. Because they’re so hard to clean out, barrels that contained motor oil or fuel products don’t make good rain barrels. If you can’t find these barrels, you can substitute a large, plastic trash can.

Level the area for your barrel with a spade, set the concrete blocks in place and level them. To measure where the downspout elbow will come out from the side of the house and direct water into the barrel, put the barrel on the blocks. Hold the new elbow just above the top of the barrel and mark where the elbow will join the downspout — about an inch or so above the barrel is best.

Set the barrel and elbow aside and measure down 2 inches from the mark in the downspout. This will allow the downspout to fit into the elbow with a good, solid connection. Use the hacksaw to cut the downspout, then fit the elbow on and fasten it with sheet metal screws or pop rivets.

Drill a 3/4-inch hole in the wall of the barrel. Make it high enough to put a bucket underneath. Squeeze caulk around the hole on both sides. Next, refer to the illustration at right to build the spigot assembly. Connect the spigot and coupling, and wrap Teflon tape on each of the threaded ends for a tight seal. Slip on a washer and insert the threaded end of the coupling through the hole from the outside. On the inside, put a washer over the pipe and fasten everything together with the bushing.

A couple of inches down from the top of the barrel, drill another 3/4-inch hole. Then build the overflow assembly according to the illustration at right. Squeeze caulk around the hole inside and out and place a washer on the hose adapter. Push this assembly through the hole. Slip a washer and Teflon tape on the inside threads and tighten everything together with a nut. When you connect a length of garden hose to this overflow valve, you can direct some of the overflow into the garden after a heavy rain.

If your barrel has a lid, cut a hole where the new downspout elbow will direct water into it. Cover the hole with a piece of screen to keep mosquitoes out.

Finally, set the barrel back on the concrete blocks, make sure the downspout will direct water into it properly, and wait for the rain.

Source: http://www.gardengatemagazine.com/52droughttolerant/

5 Critical Questions Before You Build That Homestead

 homestead -- first steps


The land rush is on! People across the country are once again seeking comfort in the rural landscapes of this beautiful country. Many have already realized their dreams and are living on their own homestead while others are still dreaming and planning for that day. Make no mistake though; identifying the right piece of real estate to call home is not a task to take lightly.

There are several steps prospective homesteaders should take long before they make any offer to purchase land. The first step in establishing a new homestead is to assemble a plan. There are many ways to prepare such a plan, but there are essentials to put in place to ensure any land purchase will meet the requirements. Just as in or near the city, “location, location, location” is a crucial aspect of the successful homestead. In order to determine the best location, here are some of the basic essentials to incorporate into an effective plan:

1. Will the new home be on or off the power grid?

Homes that will be connected to electric utilities are best located on land that has a readily available connection to the grid. A beautiful piece of property located dozens of miles from the nearest electric line can become cost-prohibitive if the owner is responsible for bringing power to the property. On the other hand, an off-grid home can theoretically be located just about anywhere. There are specifics to understand in the off-grid scenario however, so it is best to become educated on the use of solar, wind, water and geothermal sources of power. This information can further narrow the search for appropriate land.

2. What are your water and sewage plans?

Perhaps the most essential aspect of the homestead life is access to clean, safe, potable water. Similar to electricity, if the plan is to connect to a local water utility, it is important to understand the cost and availability of this resource.

New Relocation Manual Helps Average Americans Get Out Of Harms Way Before The Coming Crisis

Rivers, streams and wells have been among the greatest resources for homesteaders over the years. Be careful, though, not to assume that a river or stream, or even an existing well, contains water that is safe for consumption. Also, do not make any assumption that property that does not have an existing well can have one dug. Because of years of drought in many areas, groundwater is becoming more difficult to reach with simple drilling methods. The best route to take is to determine which water solution is applicable and then begin to research prospective areas for that resource.

toilet homestead

Sewage is also an essential component to health and safety on the homestead, not only for the homesteaders, but also for their neighbors and livestock or wildlife. Most homesteads are not located near sewage treatment facilities, thus the most common solution is a septic system. There are various types of these systems with their own advantages, disadvantages and associated costs. Proper research is necessary to determine which septic system to use if that is the desired solution.

Some homesteaders practice a method of human waste composting called “humanure.” If the prospect of carrying buckets of waste and processing it properly is unappealing, perhaps this is not the best solution. On the other hand, some people find this a valuable tool for their land, but again, research is crucial. Many areas with deed restrictions prohibit such activities so it is best to understand the restrictions in the area planned for.

3. What about farming activities?

Living on a homestead without some degree of food production almost seems to be an oxymoron, but it does happen. The majority of homesteaders do grow their own food to varying degrees. Some have smaller, simple gardens to supplement store-bought produce while others are full-out farming operations that recognize profits from the sale of their fruits and vegetables. Self-sustaining crops are also popular, but whatever the case may be, soil (aside from water) is the most crucial element to productive food harvests. Poor soils can sometimes be rehabilitated with essential nutrients for farming, but such solutions can take years. If immediate food production is the plan, soil testing on prospective properties is a must.

In similar fashion, geography places a large role in food production. A plan to grow water thirsty plants in an arid area will meet with almost certain disaster. Planning for food crops that favor certain geological areas takes a certain degree of research, but is not too difficult. See what others are growing in an area and follow the example of successful operations.

4. Will you have livestock?

chickens homesteadNot all farming homesteaders want to be ranchers, too, but most find it necessary (or helpful) to maintain some beneficial livestock on their property. Whether it only is a milking animal such as a cow, goat or sheep, livestock all have certain requirements of their own. Buying feed for animals is no cheap endeavor, but providing grazing for them can increase demand for larger property.

Any plan that includes livestock must be properly planned for their comfort and survival. A one acre homestead is not going to provide enough food for a cow that is not also receiving supplemental feed. However, a 20-acre property for one cow is acceptable, but not necessary.

Items to consider for healthy livestock vary from animal to animal, but each requires certain soils, forage/pasture and minerals. Sick animals can be devastating to a homestead so if the homesteader is not knowledgeable in veterinary science, local access to veterinarians is important. Reading up on desired livestock is vital, but just as important is contacting local agricultural extension agents and other farming or ranching professionals familiar with the animal(s) in question.

5. Are there deed restrictions?

Perhaps one of the most often overlooked aspects of a land purchase is the existence or lack of deed restrictions. Simply put, deed restrictions regulate certain activities that can or cannot take place on a given property. Because of this, land that isn’t covered by deed restrictions can be highly prized by many homesteaders because it gives them the freedom to do whatever they wish with the land they own.

On the other hand, some potential landowners may find aspects of deed restrictions to be appealing. Not all landowners are comfortable living next to junk yards or waste dumps. Deed restrictions can be a valuable tool to help ensure the beauty and safety of the homesteader’s land and that of their neighbors.

There is no uniform rule for deed restrictions and they can vary from area to area. It is best to know if there are restrictions in an area and if so, whether the prospective buyer is comfortable living under those rules.

Together, these components don’t constitute a complete list for a successful homestead plan, but each of them is crucial to any endeavor to purchase land for a homestead. Undesirable surprises in any of these areas after a land purchase can be difficult or impossible to overcome. A thorough plan and time invested in proper research can increase the chances of a much greater experience and a happy homestead.

Source: http://www.offthegridnews.com/2014/04/28/5-critical-questions-before-you-build-that-homestead/

7 Ways to Have Happier Kids on the Homestead


A peaceful home. One with happy parents and happy kids. No yelling, no begging for chores to get done. Everyone respects each other and there is no fighting. It is what we all want but achieving this homesteading utopia is a tall order. In fact, I am not sure it is entirely possible. Having a farm or a homestead is hard work. There are always a million things to do and there a lot of things that have to be done everyday whether you feel like it or not. So, how do you take kids from today’s fast food society and help them thrive in a home environment that is dedicated to self-sustainability? There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer but here are some tips to make the kids on your homestead happier:

1. Make a plan.

This is the parent’s responsibility. Figure out what a good day looks like. What has to happen? What chores have to be done everyday? Make a schedule and establish a homestead vision. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you living this lifestyle because it is closer to your values? If so, make sure your children know that.
Explain the importance of growing your own food and caring for animals. Instill a work ethic that is healthy and will benefit them later in life. Show them the fruit of their labor. It is important to communicate with your children on what you expect. Children are not mind readers and you have to be very specific when outlining their duties.

2. Assign Responsibilities.

Once you have made a plan it is time to divide and conquer. Show them everything that has to be done to make the operation work. For example, we sat down with each child and asked what they enjoyed most. Was it working with the animals? Working in the garden? Do they prefer working inside or outside? Once we got feedback from each kid (all eight of them) we made job descriptions and assigned each one a specific job. Then we sat down with them again and explained each chore they are responsible for and the consequences for not completing it in a timely manner. The most effective consequences in our experience is taking away electronic privileges. No access to computers or portable electronics if they don’t complete their chores. It starts with one day and then is increased another day with each additional infraction.

3. Hold Family Meetings.

We hold a mandatory monthly family meeting. I must admit that my experience in corporate America really helped me with this task. I prepare a power point presentation, hook my computer up to my television and go through each slide. In our last family meeting we had twenty slides. Each one was full of information about planting, animal care, chore lists, home renovation plans and anything and everything that is affecting the homestead. Communication is vital to ensuring that everyone is on the same page and understands the vital role they play in the homestead’s success.

4. Reward a Job Well Done.
Positive feedback for a job well done is essential for keeping attitudes positive. We use a chart with stickers. When someone goes above and beyond the call of duty they get a sticker. With stickers they earn special treats or privileges. I firmly believe in saying “Thank You.” When I encounter positive behavior that is motivated by the child, I make a point to say: “Thank you for doing such a great job. No one asked you to do that but you knew it had to be done and did it!” This encourages self-motivated kids and it makes everyone feel good about the contributions they are making.

5. Don’t Expect Perfection.
It may be necessary to remind yourself that these future adults you are raising are still, in fact, kids. I find myself having to do just that several times a day. Constant supervision is imperative until you know that they are performing their chore to the best of the abilities. This is especially essential when dealing with the care of animals. A child might not understand the dire consequences of not giving fresh water to the animals every day. Supervising and accompanying the children when they perform their chores is a must do on my to do list. It is also a great opportunity to spend important parent/child time.

6. Be a Good Example.

Your children will mimic your behavior. If you are a yeller, they will yell. If you are quick to anger, they will be quick to anger. On the other hand, if you are patient, they will be patient. If you are calm, they will be calm. Really evaluate your own behavior. Are you as a parent/role model doing the absolute best you can? Start listening to yourself. Instead of yelling try taking a deep breath and communicating in a calm but firm manner. Envision the family life you want and work hard to obtain it. It won’t be perfect, it might not even be half perfect but the effort you apply will have its rewards. And you will be a calmer/saner person because of it.

7. Have Fun!

On our homestead Saturday night is Family Fun Night. Last month we played charades, watched a movie, played a board game, and had a marshmallow roast.
These family fun nights need not be expensive. The only requirement is everyone having fun together. Make it a regular routine. Invest in everyone having a good time. It is so important to laugh hand have fun together and create lasting memories that everyone can look back on and smile. Raising kids on a homestead is such a rewarding experience. Homesteaders give their children a gift – A childhood full of memories and experiences that enrich their lives.
Make sure to take a moment and be proud of the home you have created and the family that you share it with.