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Our Critical Homestead Skills spotlight this week is on something a little different. Rather than focusing on a skill that you need to learn, we’re going to talk about identifying your weak spots. Weak spots are areas where you need to build up your skills either through education or practice. Really, we probably should have led with this, but I simply didn’t think about it until now.
By learning your weak spots, you can more effectively tailor your time to learning and improving necessary skills. Then you can add new skills! You’ll be able to see where you will struggle on your homestead and in what ways you need to grow. Below we have a list of what we consider to be a basic list of ‘must-have’ homesteading skills.
Critical Homesteading Skills List
Cooking is one of the most important skills you’ll need on your homestead, but good news! What falls under ‘cooking’ is actually pretty broad and easy! You don’t need to be a 4 Star Chef. If you can make a good sandwich, or some mashed potatoes, then you can cook! Granted, the more advanced your skills, the greater the opportunity to create some really exceptional meals. Most of the time, however, your family is going to be happy with a good dinner. Meal planning will help to eliminate some of the struggles with cooking as well. You’ll be able to plan meals you know how to cook and choose when to stretch your skills.
Able to read and follow a recipe
Knowledge of basic cooking tools
Able to make things like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and simple soups (chicken noodle, etc.).
Able to cook more advanced meals and cooking methods like barbecue and smooth soups
Experimenting with non-traditional ingredients
Creating things from scratch rather than buying them already prepared (like beans)
Beginning to tackle basic canning recipes, most likely with a water bath canner
Able to create your own recipes
Tackling complex, multi-course meals, such as putting on the whole holiday dinner yourself
Able to competently make meals from scratch without needing pre-made goods
Exploring more complex canning recipes and adding in the more technically challenging pressure canner.
Baking is a Critical Homesteading Skill
Baking goes hand in hand with cooking but definitely deserves its own category. And it’s definitely a critical homesteading skill. It includes a weekly loaf of bread to baking a cake for a birthday party and everything in between. If you’ve never been a big baker, or you have special dietary needs, baking can be a challenge. This is an area where you may want to look at adding specialized tools. Tools, like a bread machine, can definitely help out. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with using tools to help you! It doesn’t make you less of a baker because you like to use a bread machine and cake mix.
Able to read and follow recipes
Baking cookies, cupcakes, and brownies from a recipe or from a box
Able to make biscuits
Able to use tools such as a bread machine to bake bread
Able to competently bake a cake
Beginning to experiment with box mixes to improve taste and quality
Baking desserts from scratch, adjusting recipes to taste
Able to handle no-knead bread recipes by hand
Able to make a loaf of bread, yeast rolls, biscuits, multi-layered cakes
Experimenting with recipes to improve taste and quality
Tackling difficult baking items like French-style pastries and desserts.
Budget Management Critical Homesteading Skill
A sustainable homestead requires good financial management skills. Knowing how to build a budget is a key piece of that process. For many people, part of moving out to a homestead is giving up a job ‘in the city’. Families need to have strong savings to live off of and a plan for how they will afford expenses. It’s just a fact of life that you will still have to pay taxes and insurance on your home. Money is going to have to come in from somewhere. So you’re going to need to know how to manage your budget properly.
Creates a basic budget and realistic savings goal.
Develops a more advanced budget
Has established savings
Beginning to look at investments.
Established full budget
Established savings accounts and goals
Investing regularly for retirement.
Time management is crucial in any household, even definitely a critical homesteading skill. You have to be able to take care of your farm, your family, your livestock, and yourself. You cannot let yourself lean too heavily on one area over another. If you do, inevitably something will fall behind and it will most likely be your health.
Creates a weekly schedule and sticks to it most of the time
Allows flexibility and changes in activities without negatively impacting time necessary for other activities
Routinely using a weekly and monthly schedule
Creating routines and workflows on the homestead that help to decrease time spent on regular activities
Exploring ways to adjust the schedule to either fit in more activities or remove activities.
Routinely using schedules and developing workflows to handle activities on the homestead
Able to evaluate activities and accurately slot it into appropriate places in the schedule.
Sewing & Mending
Sewing and mending are important but don’t worry, you don’t have to know how to make your own clothes. Don’t let me stop you if that’s something you want to learn, however! Basic mending skills are all you really need to get started.
Able to replace a lost button, mend a tear, or strengthen seams
Create beginner sewing projects like basic bags, and clothing such as a skirt.
Able to read clothing patterns
Successfully completing more complex clothing such as basic shirts, shorts, non-tailored pants, and other non-tailored clothing items
Able to read and understand a quilt pattern and complete a basic quilt
Exploring other related activities such as knitting, crochet, embroidery, and cross-stitch.
Able to properly complete tailored clothing
Adjust patterns to fit properly, and tackle complex quilt patterns
Regularly enjoying other related activities.
Animal Husbandry as a Critical Homesteading Skill
Animal husbandry is very important and everyone on the homestead should get some experience. You should always know when it’s time to call a vet, and when you can handle a problem. You should definitely know how not to mix the two. Remember, your livestock is your livelihood. A call to the professionals might cost money, but it will also be much more likely to save your animals. And, part of good stewardship is not causing your livestock and pets to suffer.
Beginner/ Intermediate Level:
Understand the basics of all animals on your homestead including the basics of mating and its potential aftermath
Determine whether or not the inclusion of un-altered males on your homestead is an appropriate risk
Pursue appropriate training to handle basic medical emergencies.
Intermediate/ Advanced Level:
Able to properly incubate and hatch eggs
Adequately assists in the birthing of livestock, and recognizes the need for professional assistance in a timely fashion
Able to handle basic medical issues and vaccinate livestock as appropriate
Being able to complete basic repairs around the house is something everyone should know how to do. Like sewing and mending, this is a basic survival skill! Of course, you can take these skills further and look at blacksmithing, woodworking, and metalworking. However, the ability to repair some basic things around the house is a great place to start.
Able to fix a frozen pipe, replace a faucet, re-seat a toilet, and replace toilet guts,
Can change a light switch and replace an electrical outlet
Basic painting skills
Able to follow plans to put together Ready-To-Assemble furniture.
Able to follow plans to build your own furniture
Established basic woodworking skills including sanding and painting
Able to lay basic flooring
Can handle minor plumbing jobs
Adequately repair drywall.
Able to lay tile and do proper grout work
Able to handle most DIY projects while following instructions.
Mechanic skills are great for anyone to have. Knowing how to change your own oil and your brakes on your car will save you money. However, if you have a tractor or other farm equipment these skills are a necessity. You need them so you can keep your equipment in the best condition for as long as possible. A basic understanding of mechanical skills starts here and you can accomplish quite a lot with it!
Able to change oil, top-up fluids
Able to change out most fluids
Able to replace breaks
Able to perform most regular maintenance