When you’re working and living on a homestead, it seems like all sunshine and roses from far away, but once you get into it, you realize there is a lot more to it than daydreams. And as it turns out, there is also a lot more information you’ll need to know than just how to keep your house clean, animals fed, and vegetables watered.
So, I’ve compiled a list of some skills every homesteader should know how to do, or at least have a basic knowledge of. I’ve also included the authority books for each skill. These are some of my favorite books for each subject.
Also check out our new DIY practical homesteading skills article – it has 58 great skills you can learn today!
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Important Skills to Learn for Homesteaders
Learn How to Grow Food
When you are living on a farm or homestead and there is no store or market nearby, learning how to grow most or all of your own fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure a fairly reliable food source. You will also need to learn which foods will grow in your zone and soil type as well.
- 16 Vital Things You Must Know Before Starting a Garden
- How to Start a Vegetable Garden From Scratch
- Best Perennial Vegetables for Your Survival Garden
This is a fantastic book for getting started with your own veggies:
Want to homestead, but you don't have much real estate? Here is our favorite book from Carleen Madigan! It shows how to produce all the fresh fruits and veggies you need on just a quarter acre. You also get tutorials on pickling, canning, drying, raising eggs, chickens, and other animals.
Animals are a key part of most homesteads since they provide so much in the way of companionship and produce many different items in the form of eggs, meat, and hides.
Being able to breed and cull animals to select for healthy and desirable traits is key to maintaining a healthy herd and being able to provide meat and food for your family for years and possibly generations to come.
- Best animals for the homestead,
- Raising chickens 101, building the best coop
- Chickens vs ducks, which is better?
The Backyard Homestead series is a must-have on your book shelf. Each part focuses on a different aspect of backyard homesteading. This one focuses on animal husbandry:
How to Butcher and Process Animals
Along with being able to grow food and take care of the animals on the homestead, the time may come when you need to process farm animals for food. This is when knowing how to butcher multiple types of animals humanely and ethically will come in handy.
Adam Danforth’s books are kinda like your bible for butchering with images for each step. Below is his “butchering beef” book but he’s got other books on poultry, rabbits, lamb, goats, and more.
- Storey Publishing
Another good skill to learn for the farm or homestead is beekeeping. Bees are essential for the pollination of most crops, and are required for most plants to be able to produce their crops.
Some bees also produce honey, which is a great multipurpose item for the homestead. It can be used for anything from sweetening food and making money by selling the honey to using is as an antibacterial salve in a pinch. Beeswax is another versatile bee product, useful for skin care products, candles, and many other things.
- Stewart Tabori Chang
Learn to Hunt
Being able to hunt, especially on a homestead or farm, is a good way to be able to provide for your family or community. You may also need this skill to protect your homestead animals from predators.
This skill comes in handy if you need to provide meat while starting up your homestead, or if you are unable to raise certain types of livestock on your property due to space restrictions, adverse weather, or poor grazing conditions.
How to Identify Wild Plants & Foraging
There are many people who enjoy foraging for wild nuts, berries, and mushrooms among other things. Being able to correctly identify plants and tell them apart from non-edible look-alike plants is key to foraging properly, as well as being able to tell when plants are in season and keep from overusing what nature provides.
Get a good book with lots of pictures, like “A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants” by Samuel Thayer.
How to identify animals
Being able to identify different types of animals is a good skill for both hunting and animal husbandry. When hunting, you need to be able to identify different wild animals to make sure you are going after the correct animal and not taking something out of season or illegally.
When looking at raising animals, being able to tell the difference between different breeds of the same animal is a good skill to have. This will allow you to more easily pick an animal suitable to your environment, and also to be able to tell if the animals you’re picking up are otherwise healthy.
When you live on a homestead, chances are you don’t have neighbors close by, and there are many ways in which you can get hurt on a homestead. Learning at least basic first aid and CPR will give you the knowledge to treat minor cuts and burns, as well as how to prepare more serious injuries until medical help arrives.
Have a decent first aid kit ready to go and keep it somewhere handy. We’ve got 2 first aid kits, a “minor injuries” kit in our home and a full-size emergency kit in the car. This is the car that’s almost always with us wherever we go, so the kit is right there if we need it. It includes pain relief, suture equipment, many different bandages, and a snake bite kit. Make sure it has a tough bag to go with it, they tend to fall apart when you always carry them with you.
This is a great kit similar to the one I keep in the car:
- FULL KIT CONTENTS LISTED IN DESCRIPTION BELOW
- Includes four removable zippered pouches with transparent window
- Shoulder strap system designed to evenly dispurse weight and keeps backpack high on your...
- Hidden hydration port will accommodate any size or type of hydration bladder, including...
- MOLLE platform on front sides and rear for quick access to tools, adding modular pouches...
Having some knowledge of basic animal care and some veterinary knowledge will allow you to keep an eye on your animals’ health, similar to how knowing basic first aid will allow you greater leeway in keeping an eye on the health of the people on your homestead.
There will be some things that you’ll be able to treat or administer to your animals yourself and some things a veterinarian will need to do, and having this basic knowledge will empower you to take care of your animals better and call for help when you need it.
Read this book from cover to cover for starters:
Medicinal Plants and How to Use Them
Medicinal plants can come in handy on a homestead that may not be especially near a hospital or doctor’s office, or for basic first aid uses that wouldn’t otherwise warrant a trip to the doctor and a day away from necessary work.
There are many plants with medicinal uses, and most can be grown on a windowsill or tucked in a garden within all of the food plants. They can be made into tinctures, creams, balms, and put into food to help heal the body.
Gun Safety and Accuracy
Firearm safety is a key component of owning a gun, and will help prevent unnecessary injuries. This will also help you get more comfortable and more familiar with your firearm, should you choose to own one. Being able to shoot accurately is key to hunting efficiently, as well as defending your property efficiently as well.
A great guide to gun safety is Rick Sapp’s:
Self Defense/Home Security
Being able to defend yourself and your home from intruders, both the two-legged and four-legged kind, might come in handy on a homestead that is far from neighbors. This does not necessarily entail using a firearm, but could include other self-defense measures such as martial arts.
It is also helpful to be able to secure your home and other property, including livestock, from any animals that might try to harm them, and there are many dog breeds that are known to be protective of livestock.
Living on a homestead, you will most likely have quite a few vehicles at your command that are used almost daily. Being frugal might be a necessity when you’re on a homestead since some of the bigger equipment like tractors can get expensive.
Learning how to do some basic auto repair is a great way to be frugal and stay within a budget, as well as being able to keep things running for longer.
Woodworking is a good basic skill to have on a homestead. With so many wooden buildings like chicken coops, barns, sheds, and other buildings, knowing how to work with wood will help you gain the knowledge to enact basic repairs to all of these outbuildings.
Being able to build items out of wood can also be a good way to bring in some extra money for the homestead.
How to Budget
Even if you don’t live on a homestead, knowing how to budget for life’s messes is an essential skill that all should know how to do.
This skill will allow you to be able to plan for anything that may come up and cut out unnecessary expenses that would otherwise cause problems. For families, budgeting also allows everyone to be on the same page.
- Classic Edition
- Way to whip your finances into shape
- This product will be an excellent pick for you
Learning how to do basic home maintenance is a great skill to learn, whether it’s on or off the homestead.
Knowing how to do small jobs could save you a lot of money in the long run and also allow you to personalize your house, barn, or other building on your property. Keeping your house in good repair will help reduce any costs related to deferred maintenance since bigger repair jobs will lead to bigger costs.
You don’t have to have dreams of becoming a professional plumber to want to have some plumbing know-how.
Even if you’re not planning on running plumbing for an entire building, knowing how to fix basic issues in a current system can save a lot of time, money, and frustration, and it’s a good skill to barter with neighbors who have other valuable skills.
- Creative Homeowner
Welding is a skill that is not often thought about but can come in handy. Knowing how to work with metal is a good way to build tools and small buildings. If you are handy enough, it might even be possible to build and repair larger buildings, as well as fabricate smaller parts for vehicles such as tractors and trucks.
How to Use Basic Tools
To master many of the skills listed above, knowledge and mastery of basic tools is a must.
Knowing how to use a hammer, screwdriver, and saw is necessary for anyone living on a homestead, or even for anyone living in a home that may be in an urban or suburban area. These three tools are the basis for all of the electric tools that can be used in bigger jobs.
Read more: Our Tools Category
Learn How to Cook
When you’re living on a homestead, there might not be a grocery store around that you can pop into when you need an ingredient or two that you’ve run out of. This is why it’s important to be able to make substitutions with what’s on hand, and also to be able to put together a recipe with ingredients already around the house.
- Storey publishing
- Language: english
- Book - backyard homestead book of kitchen know-how: field-to-table cooking skills
How to Preserve Food
There are many ways to preserve food, from canning to dehydrating and fermenting. Learning how to preserve food for future use is a good way to enjoy the fruits of the summer and fall harvest during winter, when you otherwise would not be able to enjoy these foods.
Being able to preserve foods is also a good way to have extra stores in case of a bad or low harvest.
- Oxmoor House
How to sew
Knowing how to sew is the basis of clothing repair, quilt making, and making clothing. Learning to sew by hand is a vital skill that will allow you to be able to repair rips and tears in clothing and other fabric items.
Knowing how to use a sewing machine is a good step up from hand sewing, and is good for making clothing, curtains, and other decorative and wearable items.
How to Tan Hides
If you raise livestock on your homestead or are a hunter, knowing how to process and tan hides is a good skill to have to be able to use all parts of the animal.
Animal hides can be used in many ways around the homestead, from being used for clothes and bags to rugs and home décor.
- Tandy Leather Deerskins Into Buckskins Book 61967-01
Bushcraft & Survival Skills
Living on a homestead with some creature comforts, most people would not think about needing basic survival skills that our ancestors might have known. But being farther away from neighbors and in a lonely area, some basic survival skills such as knowing how to build a fire and how to build a temporary shelter might come in handy.
- Adams Media
How to Build a Community
Living on a homestead with so many jobs to do, you will eventually realize the need for help. Building a community of neighbors and supporters is a good thing because this way, you have people around you whom you can trade knowledge and services with, as well as the occasional food item and party thrown.
Did we miss an important skill you think you should have on a homestead? Let us know in the comments!