Disclaimer: The information in this post is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional or medical advice. Seek professional guidance before consuming wild foods. And always ask a medical professional before using natural medicines.

Homesteading skills encompass a wide range of activities, from gardening and animal husbandry to food preservation and even construction. 

These skills are not only practical but also empowering! They allow individuals to take control of their own lives and reduce their dependence on external systems.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced homesteader, there is always something new to learn and explore. It’s one of the things I love about homesteading.

We are all constantly learning and adding to our “toolbox” of homestead skills.

Homesteading Skills: Where to Start?

If you’re just starting out, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I know I was!

Take a deep breath and relax. It doesn’t have to be complicated!

The trick is to look at where you are in your homesteading journey right now. Where do you want to be?

Homesteading Skills

The next step is whatever moves you a little closer to your goal.

Let’s take a look at the basics and maybe a little beyond, so you can decide where you want to start filling out your own “homesteading skills toolbox.” Use this list of homesteading skills as a menu of options.

Choose what you want to work on, and give yourself permission to ignore the rest until you’re ready.

Homestead Cooking and Baking

Cooking and baking should really be an essential skill for anyone! On the homestead it involves using fresh ingredients from your garden or farm to create delicious, healthy meals for you and your family.

Basic Cooking Skills

One of the first skills to learn on the homestead is cooking the food. Very few of us want to eat a raw diet!

If you’ve never cooked from scratch before, or don’t consider yourself very skilled, don’t despair! 

Cooking skills can be built over time. And many of the best dishes are simple.

Here are a few types of dishes you can adapt with different proteins and veggies to make use of what is in season throughout the year:

  • Pastas
  • Frittatas & Quiches
  • Soups

And you can always cook a main protein and accompany it with simple side dishes for a delicious and filling meal!

Outdoor Cooking

Outdoor cooking is a fun and practical way to prepare meals on the homestead. Whether you’re grilling, smoking, or using a Dutch oven, outdoor cooking allows you to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery while you cook. Some popular outdoor cooking methods include:

  • Grilling over a fire pit or barbecue
  • Smoking meats and fish
  • Using a Dutch oven to cook stews, soups, and casseroles

Eating In Season

Whether you’re cooking your own harvest, or picking it up at the farmers’ market, eating seasonally is a core part of homestead cooking.

Eating seasonally will save you money even at a grocery store, as produce is usually at its cheapest price when it’s in season.

If it’s summer, try going to your farmers’ market and planning a menu based on what is available fresh there!

If it’s winter, try planning a menu that uses canned or frozen veggies. It’s a great way to practice using the preserved harvest!

Bread Baking

Bread baking is a staple of homestead cooking. There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven, and homemade bread is healthier, more filling, and tastier than store-bought bread. Some popular types of bread to bake on the homestead include:

  • Sourdough
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Quick breads like biscuits and cornbread

Homestead cooking and baking is a rewarding and practical skill that can help you live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. By learning these skills, you can enjoy delicious meals made from fresh, wholesome ingredients while also reducing your reliance on store-bought foods.

Gardening

Gardening is one of the most important skills for homesteaders. It provides fresh produce for your family and can potentially be a source of income. Some essential gardening skills include:

Things to Do To Grow Food Infograhic. Test your soil! Whats your pH & NPK? Know when to direct so and when to start indoors. Plant your vegetables at the proper time. Mulch well and weed often. Amend your soil with compost. Water regularly and consider an irrigation system. Check regularly for pests and disease.

Soil testing and amending

Soil health has a huge impact on the success of your garden! One of the biggest mistakes a gardener can make is not testing and amending their soil.

Buy a test kit or send a sample to your local extension office. Make sure the test results include:

  • Soil pH levels
  • Nitrogen levels
  • Phosphorus levels
  • Potassium levels

Seed selection

We all love drooling over a good seed catalog, but there’s one thing it most likely can’t tell you: how well each variety does in your particular climate. For that, ask online groups specific to your area, or the farmers at your local farmers’ market.

Your local extension office may also have information on what varieties do well in your area.

I tried Arkansas Traveler tomatoes last year. I loved the name! But central Oklahoma simply doesn’t have the same climate, and so they didn’t perform well. This year, I’m trying varieties the locals have recommended. I’m particularly looking forward to tasting a Dr. Whyche’s yellow tomato!

Planting

Knowing what seeds you can direct sow in your garden and which ones need to be started indoors can save you a lot of headache! Over the years, I’ve developed my own personal opinions, but start with the general recommendations.

Vegetables that should be started indoors include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Celery

Vegetables that should be direct sown in your garden include:

  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Spinach

Read the back of each seed package for details on how to plant, and when to plant your seeds.

Some vegetables, such as spinach, only produce in cooler weather, hot weather makes them go to seed, or “bolt.” Some only thrive in hot weather, like okra.

Understanding when to plant which vegetables helps you plan your garden. You might even find you can get more produce by planting a spring, summer, and fall garden!

Watering

Let me tell you right now that hand watering with a watering can is only fun for the first 5 minutes. I’ve done it.

There are many ways to set up a watering system. The simplest, fastest method, would be a simple garden hose, although I recommend using a wand attachment to help disperse the spray and keep you dry.

Many plants benefit from deep watering, so I strongly suggest looking into a system that runs a low amount of water for a few hours. I like to use a soaker hose run through my garden that I set on a timer.

Planning how you will water your garden can help save a lot of frustration when the summer gets hot and dry.

Weed Control

Ignore the stray grass and dandelions in your garden at your own peril. There’s a reason we say a child is “growing like a weed!”

Herbicides should be used very cautiously. You don’t want to kill what you want growing by accident!

Many small farmers use weed fabric as a barrier to limit weeds growing around their vegetables.

For me currently, a good layer of mulch helps keep weeds in check, but I still have to go out and physically remove what manages to come up regularly.

Composting

I procrastinated about composting for so long! I read books, I watched videos, but it always seemed so complicated!

Then I tried a “lazy” compost pile just as an experiment. It worked! It just takes longer.

The main thing you want to know is what you should and shouldn’t put in your compost pile.

Everything else–like green and brown ratios, turning and watering your compost–is more about making all that organic matter turn into lovely compost quicker!

Pest and disease control

Learn to recognize, diagnose, and treat a problem in the garden. Each crop will have its own challenges.

Tomatoes have tomato horn worms, it’s not just cabbages that attract cabbage worms (broccoli, cauliflower, and all the other Brassica vegetables do, too!) and sometimes it feels like there’s aphids everywhere!

Be prepared to make some mistakes. I didn’t recognize a squash vine borer when I saw it. It lived to kill my pumpkin vines.

Keep your garden watered and weeded to keep your plants healthy. Stressed plants succumb to pest and disease faster.

Companion planting can also be an effective prevention measure. Planting marigolds with tomatoes isn’t just for aesthetics–the marigolds help deter pests from the tomatoes!

Homestead Livestock Management

Raising livestock is another important aspect of homesteading. It provides your family with meat, dairy, eggs, and other products.

Chickens are often the animal people start with on a small homestead. Even those of us living in urban areas can often keep a small flock of backyard chickens.

Buff Orpington Chickens, Woman milking a cow, Baby chicks in brooder

You could also consider rabbits, quail, or honey bees if you live in an area where cows, goats, and other large animals aren’t an option.

Each animal has its own requirements. Some areas to build skills in animal husbandry include:

  • Feeding and nutrition
  • Housing and shelter
  • Breeding and reproduction
  • Healthcare and disease prevention
  • Butchering and processing

Food Preservation

Preserving food is important for homesteaders to ensure a year-round food supply.

There are many different methods of food preservation. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the best method for you will depend on the type of food you’re preserving and your personal preferences.

Canning is a great option for preserving fruits, vegetables, and meats. Dehydrating is ideal for making jerky or dried fruits and vegetables.

Fermenting is a great way to preserve foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles. Freezing is a good option for preserving meat, and fruits and vegetables quickly.

Some food preservation skills you can work on include:

  • Refrigeration and Freezing
  • Canning and Pickling
  • Fermentation and Culturing
  • Dehydrating and Freeze-Drying
  • Curing and Smoking
  • Root Cellaring

Homestead Crafts and DIY

Homesteading involves a lot of DIY projects and crafting. These skills can help you be more self-sufficient and save money. Here are a few homestead crafts and DIY projects that you can try.

Soap Making and Candle Making

Learn how to make your own soaps and candles and other personal care products. It can be fun and easy, if a little intimidating at first.

Here are a few projects that you can start with:

  • Soap
  • Beeswax Candles
  • Lip Balm

Sewing and Textile Arts

Sewing and textile arts are also skills for homesteaders. You can learn to make your own clothes, blankets, and other items.

Here are a few sewing and textile arts projects that you can try:

  • Knitting & Crochet
  • Sewing
  • Weaving

Repairing your clothing is also an important skill. Learn to mend a tear, patch a hole, or even darn your own socks!

Woodworking and Carpentry

Woodworking is an essential skill for homesteaders. You can use it to build shelters for your animals, fences, and other structures. Carpentry is also important for repairing and maintaining your homestead.

Here are a few woodworking and carpentry projects that you can try:

  • Building a chicken coop
  • Constructing a raised garden bed
  • Making a bench for your porch

The more you can do yourself, the less you will pay for building and maintaining your homestead’s infrastructure.

Foraging

Edible plants are all around us! Sometimes you just need to know where to look. And what you’re looking at!

Foraging is gaining in popularity and can be really fun! Look for videos online or a good identification book at the library.

Your first foraging forays should be for plants that don’t have poisonous look-alikes. You want food, not something that will make you sick–or worse. You can check out my post about learning to make acorn flour here.

Try looking for:

  • Dandelions – add the leaves to a salad, use the blossoms for dandelion tea, or chop and roast the root for a coffee substitute
  • Purple Dead Nettle – use as you would spinach or any other leafy green
  • Nut Trees – look for pecan, walnut, or hickory trees or oak trees if you feel like learning to process acorns

Homestead Health and First Aid

Living on a homestead requires a certain level of self-sufficiency, especially if you’re living in a rural area. That includes taking care of your own health and well-being.

Herbal Medicine

Many homesteaders use herbal medicine as a natural and effective way to treat common ailments. You may find that you enjoy growing and foraging for the herbs to make teas, tinctures, and salves.

Herbalism is complex and requires research. Please do your due diligence when you start exploring using herbs as natural medicine.

Some popular herbs for homestead health include:

  • Echinacea – boosts the immune system and can help prevent colds and flu when taken properly
  • Elderberry – boosts the immune system, and personally it has helped ease my seasonal allergy symptoms
  • Calendula – soothes skin irritations and can be used in salves and ointments

It’s important to note that while herbal medicine can be effective, it’s not a substitute for professional medical advice and care. Always consult with a healthcare provider before using herbal remedies. Take special care before using herbal remedies for children.

Basic First Aid

Accidents can happen on the homestead, so it’s important to have some basic first aid skills. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep a well-stocked first aid kit on hand, including bandages, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
  • Learn how to perform CPR and basic wound care.
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and take steps to prevent them during hot weather.

By being prepared and knowing what to do in an emergency, you can help keep yourself and your family safe on the homestead.

Conclusion

I hope you have found some inspiration from this menu of homesteading skills. Learning new skills can bring an immense sense of fulfillment!

Working to master these skills will help ensure a successful and sustainable homestead. By growing your own food, raising your own animals, and preserving your own harvest, you can become more self-sufficient and reduce your reliance on outside sources.

Pick something from the list that interests you, and give it a try! Let me know in the comments what you want to learn next!

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