Basic Skills For The Homesteader

Use it up

I read a list the other day of all the skills that homesteaders should have or develop.  I had thought about compiling one, but had not gotten around to it and this one seems rather comprehensive.  Redundant in places, but I enjoyed knowing that in the years that I have been farming I have done almost everything on that list or have a good reason not to.  So I will not recreate something that has already been done.  Go here to see Jill’s comprehensive list at The Prairie Homestead.

Something that I have wanted to try for a long time is learning to spin wool.  I have not done the work to lead up to that… in raising, shearing, and preparing the wool, but I can now spin.  And I have made things out of what I have spun.


The other thing from that list that is going on with me now is that I have just been given the opportunity to learn how to work with honeybees.  I have been around them before and love fresh honey.   But now I have two hives on the property that will soon have bees in them and the friend that owns them will let me help work with them.  Another long time desire come true.


But there are things missing on that list that should be there.  And I think they are basic for anyone considering farming.

To start with, we have to learn to live on limited income.  If there is a partnership, probably only one person will be working off the farm so pinching pennies will be a skill that is going to come in very handy.  Jill’s list included living within our budget and reusing things.  But I think it is one of the foundation skills that was lost in her list. I have lived below the poverty level since I started farming in 1986.  I love my life; I don’t love the financial strangulation. I traded it in for a “better” life, but within a couple of years nothing that came with the finances was worth the money.  So learning to live without a lot of things that most people consider “normal” is something that I consider important to point out to prospective farmers.

Learn the art of self-motivation.  We won’t have a boss telling us what to do, where, and when.  And there are days that we won’t “feel” like doing anything.  Well that just won’t work on a farm.  There is always way too much to do to take time off.  That is one of the hardest things…….to keep going when we don’t feel like it.  On the farm, there is always a way to find something that matches the “mood”……but we cannot stop.  Is it nasty outside?  Then that is the time to do research, clean the house, do inside repairs, etc.  Is it nice?  Then would sitting in the sun and weeding the garden work to match the mood?  Just learn to match the work to the mood, and never quit.

Become an expert on the use of hangers, duct tape, baling twine, and making do.  I have made tools, latches, repairs, and more using hangers.  I don’t know what I would do without them.  I rescue hangers from second hand stores just to have a constant supply.  I do not ever want to be without. And duct tape and baling twine are used for more things than I can recall.  Twine is very strong and if it is braided it makes a very adequate rope or lead line.  Living without the possibility of buying new every time I need something causes me to think creatively……and creative I am! Check out the latch for the door that was given to me.  It did not come with a handle.


I don’t know about you, but I had to learn to be social.  I hid away on my farm for 12 years.  My marriage was a wreck.  I had no friends.  I went nowhere; except church…..where nothing happened so I quit going there.  Did nothing; except homeschool my kids and farm.  I became suicidal.  So with the divorce I finally went back to the activity that I loved in my 20s…..square dancing.  That is where I feel the most accepted and we get together just to have fun.  So get off the farm and go have some social time. It will refresh your life like nothing else.  This is something that I had to learn.  I love farming and thought this would be enough but there are days that I have to remember that social time for me is important for the farm.

One more thing…..learn to play an instrument.  If it is spoons, or a washtub, or a piano, or anything in between, learn to play and teach the kids.  Nothing is more homestead-like than making our own music.  And we don’t have to play it well.  This is just for our enjoyment and the companionship after the work is done.  I used to have a piano and that brought lots of joy.  Now I am working on learning the banjo.  I really wish that I had people to play with after dinner each night.  That would speed up the learning process, but soon I will be making music again.  And there is nothing like it.


Now go read Jill’s list and add some of those things a little at a time.

About Janolyn

I am a mother of 5 wonderful children, 4 boys and 1 girl. During the years that my children were growing up, we grew most of our own food with a vegetable garden, many fruit trees and berry patches. I grew flowers for joy. We milked goats and raised our own meats and eggs. I learned to make my own cheeses, butter, canned foods, sourdough, and fermented foods. I made our own health products like soap, hand creams, lip balm, and herbal tinctures. We live off the power grid and have learned to do without conveniences that most Americans consider essential. The land clearing and building has been mostly accomplished with hand tools; some of them even the right tool for the job. After a couple of miscarriages between #2 and #3 due to “standard medical procedures”, I consulted a midwife and my last 3 children were born safely at home. That was when I was first alerted to the fact that doctors did not know everything nor would they have the time to share it with their patients if they did. As I learned the basic principles of heath-through-nutrition from my midwife, I learned alternative gardening practices from her husband. That introduction started a lifelong love of learning the practical life of our ancestors. I want to share what I have been learning with you and learn from those who are also living a sustainable life.

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