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Everyone should know household and housekeeping basics – how to make basic food, create a budget, and mend their clothes. But homesteaders have a few extra ‘must-knows’ they should add to their educational arsenal.
Gardening is a key component to successful homesteading and a valuable vintage skill that everyone should work at learning. There are so many different ways to try it – from aquaponics to permaculture – that there is inevitably a method that will suit your preferences. Combining methods, such as pairing square foot gardening with raised bed or straw bale gardening, can increase your vegetable yield while decreasing the amount of time you spend in the garden.
You want to learn not just how to plant vegetable seeds and get vegetables but how to create a thriving ecosystem. Gardening for the homestead is about self-sufficiency. You need to bring in pollinators, fight off pests, and develop the right system for you. There is too much to do on a homestead to be caught stuck in the garden for weeks and hours on end.
Hand in hand with learning to garden is learning how to preserve and store all that bountiful food you’ve grown. There are several different preservation methods out there, and canning is just one. You’ll want to learn water-bath canning at least. It’s the cheapest and easiest canning method. Once you’re a little more comfortable, or when you’re ready to do a bit more than make jams, jellies, and relishes, you can invest in the equipment to do pressure canning. This lets you expand into soups, stews, meats, and vegetables without putting them into sauces.
Dehydration is another hugely popular food preservation method and is great for making everything from dried fruits to jerky. I use mine to make pumpkin seeds. Some people even make fruit leather, powdered eggs, and dried milk!
Recycle, Reduce, Reuse
Learn how to use the three R’s to save yourself time and energy. You’ll never be more earth-friendly than you are when you’re homesteading. When you have to haul your own garbage to the landfill every week, suddenly, you go from a life filled with disposable containers and throw-away items to finding uses for everything you possibly can. You’ll find ways to reuse single-use plastic for seed starting. Some paper products are great for burning as kindling. Then finally, when all options are exhausted, you’ll start tossing it in the garbage can.
Bartering is a vintage skill that has long passed from everyone’s minds but it’s still a great way to make exchanges. Chances are your homestead will have a period where something doesn’t quite go right. A predator will find a weakness in your defenses and wipe out your flock of chickens. The weather won’t cooperate, and your garden will get wiped out. Learning the skill of bartering will help you save money and make connections with other homesteaders and small businesses. It’ll help you overcome a deficiency in your stores and stockpile while helping someone meet a need in theirs.
On the homestead, you’ll be out of the big city and out in the country. The exchange for this life of freedom and solitude is living away from big city and suburban amenities – like access to emergency services. Yes, if you dial 911, they will be able to make it to you, but how long will it take. Where we currently are in the PNW, we are only 8.5 miles from the nearest emergency room. But it has never taken emergency services less than 30 minutes to get to our house because the twists and turns of our road and our house’s location off a smaller dirt road keep large vehicles from being able to drive quickly. Knowing basic CPR and first aid could save a life.
Basic Car Maintenance and Home Repair
Knowing how to do things like replace your car battery, change your oil, and do basic household things like replacing a broken outlet or your garbage disposal will save you money and time. Plus, you’ll be encouraged to tackle other things like small repairs on your barn or chicken coop or doing maintenance on your tractor or rider-mower.