Whether you’re already on a homestead or dreaming of being a homesteader, homesteading skills are invaluable – and lots of fun! They give you a real sense of accomplishment, you save money, and you’re becoming more self-reliant in the process.
Jump right in with the homesteading skills on this list. I’ve mainly included practical homesteading ideas – projects you can sink your teeth in today. One warning… Once you get started, you won’t be able to stop – homesteading is addictive!
Homesteading Skills and Ideas
I hope this list serves you as a source of inspiration for new homesteading skills, going back to a more simple life. Start by doing just one, pick a skill that sounds like fun (fun things are so much easier to learn!). Enjoy!
1. Germinate a Fruit Tree From Seed
You may have been told that you need to grow grafted fruit trees for a successful harvest. This isn’t true. You can grow resilient, fast-growing fruit trees by growing them from seed. And you can harvest the seed for free, from the fruit you buy!
Seed-grown fruit trees take a bit longer to fruit, that’s true. But, you’re getting a tree that is more adaptable and stronger. They’re much less likely to fall over in a storm, for example. You can grow almost any fruit tree from seed, from avocados to mandarins.
2. Start a Worm Farm
Worm farms are a great way to recycle your kitchen scraps. They don’t smell and they’re small enough to fit anywhere, from a balcony to the backyard.
I have to be honest here. If you have a few animals, you probably won’t have enough scraps for a worm farm. My dogs, chickens, horses, and cattle clean me out of any scraps that come out of the kitchen.
That’s why I’ve installed a few in-ground worm farms. They’re super easy to DIY and the best thing is that they don’t need any TLC. This worm farm is totally self-sufficient because the worms are earthworms, not compost worms. When you have scraps leftover, you can feed them. When you don’t, the worm tube looks after itself.
3. Plant Perennial Plants for Food Security
Perennial plants are plants you don’t have to replant every season. Once you’ve planted them, you’ll reap the benefits for many years afterward. The more perennials you grow, the less work you have to do and the more your garden looks after itself.
We work hard to become more self-reliant, and this is a way to get your garden to look after itself too.
4. Build a Greenhouse to Extend Your Growing Season
Greenhouses come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny vertical ones for your patio to giant hoop-style houses for large homesteads. Learning how to build a greenhouse is a useful homesteading skill to learn, particularly in cooler climates.
You can start propagating your vegetables a few weeks earlier and really extend your growing season. If you build a large greenhouse you can even grow vegetables inside and grow different varieties for your climate.
In hot climates, you may need to look at building a shade house rather than a greenhouse. Find out if you need shade for your vegetable garden here: Does Your Vegetable Garden Need Shade?
5. Plant Pollination Species
Fact is, without pollination you have no food. Learn about plants that attract pollinators in your area and plant them around your gardens. Plant lots of flowers, particularly native varieties. The aim is to have something flowering at all times.
Learn this homesteading skill:
- Farming on the Wild Side – Gardening for People, Pollinators, and Birds
- Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden
- Guide on attracting pollinators from the US Department of Agriculture
6. Grow Tea and Coffee Plants
Imagine the number of grumpy people worldwide if we run out of coffee (or tea if that’s your thing)!
It’s incredibly satisfying to grow your own beverage. There’s nothing like drinking a cup of organic, homegrown tea in the morning, or the smell of your homegrown coffee beans roasting!
7. Grow Toilet Paper
“File:Lisbon botanical garden 10-Dombeya burgessiae-flowers.JPG” by Salix is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
It would’ve seemed impossible that supermarkets would run out of toilet paper – until recently. Sure, you can use cotton strips to wipe and then wash them to reuse. I’d rather use a lovely soft Dombeya leaf (aptly named “the toilet paper plant”) or Mullein, both sustainable sources of toilet paper.
I can see other uses for these big-leafed plants too – face wipes, wound bandages, etc. A very useful homesteading skill to have!
8. Build an Arbor and Plant Grapes
Grapes are productive for 100s of years. The best time to plant a grape really was 100 years ago but, as the saying goes, the second-best time is now. Grow a few different varieties and make sure you build a very, very sturdy arbor or trellis for them.
There are some examples of very old grapevines in my article on sturdy DIY grape arbors – they’ll show you how big and productive these plants can get.
9. Plant an Olive Tree for Olive Oil
Olives love a Mediterranean climate so if your climate is similar, grow olives! Olives are incredibly hardy and barely need any water. That makes them great for that bare hill where nothing else will grow.
Olives grow for years and years. They’re an amazing self-sufficiency plant. You can preserve the olives and press them for olive oil, which you can drizzle on your homegrown salad!
10. Seed Saving
Seed saving is the key to growing fruit and vegetables for free. You can keep this going indefinitely. Save every seed from produce you buy from the shop, including fruit.
Seed saving is incredibly easy and it works for nearly every plant. Lettuce, tomato, herbs, fruit trees – save them all!
- Seed saving – The Secret to Survival of Your Vegetable Garden
- Saving Pumpkin Seeds for Planting Next Year
11. Grow a Bamboo Plantation
Bamboo is one of the fastest plants you can grow for timber production. A big bamboo such as Gigantochlea pseudoarundinacea (my favorite) reaches its full height in 2-3 years and you can start harvesting timber a few years after that.
Choose the right variety of bamboo for your climate. There’s a bamboo variety to suit every garden, from frost-prone to humid climates. Grow small-culm varieties for garden stakes and big-culm varieties for timber. Grow some for eating, too, or choose a timber variety that is edible.
Bamboo timber is a valuable resource and excellent for building your own furniture.
Learn more: Bamboo Farming for a Homestead Income
12. Grow Vegetables From Seeds
This is the cheapest way to grow your own vegetables. Either buy packets of seeds or save all the seeds from the vegetables you buy.
You can save the seeds from many vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, and lettuce. The cucumber plant in the picture above is finished for the season, so I’m planting lettuce and basil seeds underneath. As the cucumber breaks down, it adds organic matter to the soil.
Homestead Cooking Skills
13. Build a Smoker
Building a smoker is a great family project, easily completed in a day or two. We built one for about $5 – it won’t last forever but it works perfectly. Some of our best family memories are built around the smoker circle!
14. Build a Traditional Stone Oven
After building a smoker, why not build a traditional stone oven too? There are a few different methods to build one, from a trench oven to a hillside oven. Some of them last for a few weeks while others are a permanent setup.
15. Make Your Own Cheese
I love making cheese. There’s nothing quite as satisfying, or as tasty, as homemade cheese.
Learn from my mistakes and don’t start with blue cheese. Start with some simple DIY cheeses like ricotta, creme fraiche, cream cheese, and cottage cheese. Ease your way into feta and some of the harder cheeses.
16. Learn to Make Bread
Making your own bread sounds easier than it actually is, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t look back. The smell of bread baking in the oven is incredible and seriously, nothing beats fresh-baked sourdough, right?
Ideally, you’ll learn how to make bread with and without yeast, in case the shops run out of yeast. You can store yeast for years in the freezer but for true self-sufficiency, baking bread without yeast is an indispensable homesteading skill.
17. Make Traditional Hand-Cranked Ice Cream
Work your muscles and turn cream, milk, eggs, and sugar into delicious, traditional ice cream. This is a great job to do with the kids, you’ll end up having “cranking” competitions every Saturday afternoon.
Not just that – you know exactly what goes into the food you eat!
18. Learn How to Store Meat Without Electricity
This is a useful homesteading skill to learn whether you’re off the grid or not. If the power system fails, you’ve got the skills to back yourself up. I’ve listed 11 ways of storing meat without power in a previous article, including pemmican, confit, potted meat, and terrines.
19. Discover New Recipes for Odd Cuts of Meat
When you’re raising animals for meat, you will end up with bulk lots. This is where your creativity comes in. At the moment, I have 50 pounds of corned beef to use up, for example. This is the last of the meat left. Research all the different ways in which you can use these cuts of meat, you’ll be amazed at what you can cook.
Learn how to use the offal as well so you don’t waste a single part of the animal. Steak and kidney pie, liverwurst, rendering the tallow – the more you learn, the more parts you’ll use.
20. Make Jerky
Whether you learn to make jerky in a dehydrator or in a smoker, this is a great homesteading skill to have. Jerky can be stored without refrigeration, and you can make it from pretty much any meat. You can make it in the DIY smoker you built, too!
Learn this homesteading skill:
21. Make Your Own Yoghurt
Homemade yogurt is one of my favorite things to make. It costs about a dollar per liter, it’s delicious, and it gives me a real sense of achievement. You’ll know exactly what goes into it and you can add extra probiotics to raise its nutritional value even more.
You can whip up a batch of yogurt in 10 minutes or less, so this is a great homesteading skill to learn!
22. Learn to Dehydrate Fruit and Vegetables
Once you start growing your own food, you’ll quickly realize that you end up with an excess of one thing or another.
Learn to dehydrate your excess produce so you can make long-lasting snacks like fruit leather, crispy sauerkraut – even dog snacks! (P.s. – The dog snacks use up offal cuts too!)
23. Learn How to Use and Store Bacon Grease
It’s a real waste to throw all your used grease out, learn how to use left-over bacon grease (and other cooking greases) and how to store it so you can use it later.
Homesteading Skills for Health & Personal Care
24. Learn How to Deal With a Medical Emergency
This is a useful homesteading skill to have, whether you live minutes from the hospital or hours.
If you’re hours away, you need to know what to do in an emergency. It could be a long time before help arrives, if any. Even if you’re near a hospital, you can’t rely on their help during a serious emergency. They may be overwhelmed with patients or not available at all.
Staying calm is the most important thing in an emergency and the more you learn, the more in control you’ll feel.
25. Grow Your Own Apothecary
Medicinal herbs are the perfect accompaniment for your emergency skills. Herbs are fantastic for dealing with minor injuries, preventing illnesses, and treating certain conditions. They are, however, inadequate when your patient has a big cut that needs suturing or a dislocated shoulder that needs to be put back into place.
26. Render Tallow or Lard
Whether you raise your own livestock or not, rending tallow or lard is a useful homesteading skill to have. Tallow is a fat that’s very close to our skin’s makeup, which makes it excellent for use in skincare products.
Properly rendered tallow and lard can be kept at room temperature, so you won’t need electricity to keep it good.
27. Make Your Own Soap
Once you’ve rendered your tallow, making soap is the next homestead skill to learn. You can make a basic soap in as little as 30 minutes, which is all I do. You can, of course, create amazingly beautiful soaps as well, by adding colors, herbs, swirls, etc. These make a lovely gift or a homestead income.
I make my soap in huge batches. When we kill a cow, I render all the tallow at once in a big brewing vat outdoors (to avoid the whole house smelling bad while it’s rendering). I save some of the tallow for cooking and making skincare products, and the rest gets turned into plain, functional soap. One cook-up lasts us a year!
28. Make Your Own Skin Products
This is one of the most rewarding homesteading skills. You can craft your own products to suit your skin and hair. Most creams and lotions contain at least 80% water – and they’re expensive too!
The best thing about making your own products is that you can add specific ingredients that suit you. You can add nourishing ingredients for dry skin, anti-acne ingredients, special ingredients for sun-damaged skin – you’re in control.
29. Make Your Own Haircare Products
Shampoo and conditioner are easy to make at home. You can craft them to suit your hair type. If you have kids at school, the lice-away spray below is a good one to start with!
Skills for Raising Animals
30. Build a Chicken Coop
Chickens are one of the best homesteading animals to start with. They’re small, easy to care for, resilient, and very useful. Whether you’re raising chickens for eggs or meat, they’ll appreciate a good coop!
31. Build a Chicken Tunnel
Build a simple chicken tunnel and put your chickens to work for you. This tunnel goes right through the food forest. The chickens fertilize and weed the area for me.
Once they have finished in one area, you can move the tunnel to another area.
32. Make and Grow Your Own Animal Food
For true self-sufficiency and sustainable living, it’s important to learn how to feed your animals without buying food from the shop. You’ll save a lot of money too!
If you raise chickens, grow lots of plants that feed chickens. The chickens could then feed your guard dogs with their meat or their eggs. This homesteading skill depends on which animals you have. Think about what they eat and learn what they need to stay healthy.
33. Raise a Duck or Two
Ducks are another easy-to-raise homesteading animal. They’re similar to chickens in their care, but they do need a pond. Your duck pond is a great source of fertilizer for your garden, which makes ducks such a useful homestead animal.
You can eat your ducks, eat their eggs, use them as lawnmowers – they’re versatile and resilient.
34. Learn to Become a Backyard Beekeeper
A productive hive is a valuable source of food, pollination, and other byproducts. Harvest honey for cooking, beeswax for candles and skincare, propolis for medicinal purposes, whilst your bees are busy pollinating the garden!
Fixing and Building Skills
35. Learn How to Change Your Oil
You should change the oil in your car every 3000 miles or so. A tractor’s oil every 6 months. A lawnmower every 50 hours. That’s a lot of oil changes to pay someone else to do for you, considering this is one of the easiest maintenance tasks to learn.
The more farm equipment you acquire (and farm equipment seems to multiply!), the more oil you’ll need to change. The good thing is, once you know how to do one, you can do them all and save yourself 1000s of dollars.
36. Learn How to Diagnose a Flat Battery (and Fix it!)
OK, your car or tractor won’t start. That really, truly sucks. Especially when your tractor is stuck in a paddock somewhere. A flat battery is one of the most common causes of something not starting.
Learning how to recognize a flat battery is a useful skill to have and it’s one of the easiest to fix. You will still need to diagnose what caused the flat battery in the first place but it’s a good start to get your gear going again. We’ve installed isolator switches on most of our farm equipment to avoid things like power draw from unknown sources. These have nearly eliminated the dreaded flat battery.
37. Build a Shower Without Power
Build an outdoor off-grid shower and eliminate muddy boots and dirt inside the house. This is one of the best things we’ve built on our homestead – the more we shower outside, the less I have the clean the shower – a win-win situation.
There’s something very calming and peaceful about an outdoor shower too, especially if you grow a lush garden around it. Add a bamboo screen for privacy and you’ll feel like you’re on a tropical holiday.
38. Learn Basic Knots
This sounds like a pretty boring homesteading skill until you’re outdoors fixing stuff – knot-knowledge is incredibly useful! Learn the basics for quick-releasing animals and gates, securing items for transport, and hoisting things up.
Promise – once you start using these knots you’ll see what I mean!
39. Basic Carpentry Skills
Carpentry skills will you serve you well on a homestead. Whether you need to fix something on the house, build a nesting box, or build furniture – there’s always something that needs your attention.
Additional Homesteading Skills
There are many, many more homesteading skills. You never truly stop learning on a homestead!
Other things to enhance your skillset:
- 40. Plumbing skills
- 41. Welding skills
- 42. Foraging and recognizing wild edibles
- 43. Start a food forest and learn about the forest food web
- 44. Fencing
- 45. Propagation
- 46. Animal medical care
- 47. Farrier skills (this really saves a lot of money if you have horses!)
- 48. Maple tapping
- 49. Homebrewing
- 50. Knitting & sewing
- 51. Make sauerkraut, kombucha, and other probiotic foods
- 52. Start a compost pile
- 53. Plant a banana or coconut circle as per permaculture principles
- 54. Mending clothes
- 55. Milking animals
- 56. Butchering skills
- 57. Growing microgreens and sprouting
- 58. Learn about soil and how to improve it
You’ve all been incredibly helpful in the past with your suggestions – don’t hold back now! Do you have skills to add, suggestions, comments? Please add them in the comments below or shoot me an email 🙂