With the introduction of the Homestead Act of 1862, previously unsettled land in the western portions of the United States became an attractive option to thousands of people.
These pioneers were looking for a new way of life, but in order to attain it, they had to have certain skills.
Traveling in covered wagons, grouped together for defense and support, the early pioneers were a mix of nationalities and had a large array of skills.
Only the individuals who could master this huge list of skills were ultimately able to settle this uncharted terrain successfully. Unfortunately, many didn’t make it…
The skills developed by this brave, resourceful group of people are just as relevant in today’s modern homesteads. Only individuals who can master these essential skills can be successful in this challenging, rugged existence.
But are those skills relevant to homesteading as we know it today? Let’s take a look at the long list of skills that those first pioneers had – and determine their importance for the modern homesteader today.
1. Raising and Caring for Livestock
For anyone living in a remote location the ability to raise livestock is of vital importance. A journey of several days to reach the nearest store would not have been unusual for the pioneers, so it was important to have your own livestock to reduce your reliance on the store.
With enough space, it is possible to raise chickens and rabbits, in addition to larger animals such as cows, sheep, and goats. At face value, this may seem easy, but in reality each animal has specific needs that require careful planning and skills to make successful breeding a reality.
Therefore, raising and caring for livestock is just as much about feeding, watering, grooming, and providing veterinary care to these animals as it is about breeding, butchering, and preserving the meat. Each animal has unique requirements, with individual breeds within each species having even more unique qualifications.
Different animals require differing care regimes to allow them to grow and develop to become a viable food or work resource. Animals are no different today – the modern homesteader still requires the skill and knowledge to understand animal requirements.
The ability to hunt was a lifesaver for the pioneers during their journey and the initial stages of setting up the homestead. Without the ability to pasture in animals and feed them while on the move, knowing how to hunt on the go was essential.
Today, hunting is still a popular method of sustenance for many modern homesteaders. Not only is hunting necessary in order to sustain oneself while traveling, but it’s vital in areas where harsh winters make owning livestock a bit more logistically challenging.
As a homesteader, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with hunting skills (such as how to fire a firearm or bow, where to shoot, and how to skin a deer, for example) so that you, too, can provide meat for your family even in the bleakest environments.
Similar to hunting, many pioneers, especially the Europeans, already possessed extensive fishing skills before traveling to the New World.
There, they discovered that the lakes and rivers had abundant stocks of fish. With their existing skills, they were able to make good use of this fish stock to supplement their food supplies.
Many homesteaders that are fortunate enough to live near rivers or lakes still use these skills to help add variety to their diet. Fishing is also a very good method of relaxation.
As a modern homesteader, you may want to familiarize yourself with the fish species that are available in your area, as well as different fishing techniques like fly tying, casting methods, fish gutting and scaling, and more.
One important thing to note when it comes to hunting and fishing as homesteading skills – make sure you research the local laws and regulations in your area!
A difference between modern homesteaders and those of the past is that back then, there were no laws (or very few laws) governing the use of the forests and streams. Make sure you are in adherence with all laws in your area to avoid any unnecessary fines or penalties.
4. Starting a Fire
As you might expect, fires are important for providing warmth, and for cooking food. Although we still build fires today, the early pioneers were wholly dependent on fires, since they were constantly traveling and on the move.
While firebuilding may not sound complicated, it’s actually not that easy. It requires a great deal of practice and skill. In order to light a fire, you will not only need to know how to identify and acquire firewood and kindling, but you’ll also need to know how to light it.
5. Handling Firewood
A great deal of skill is required to cut and store wood effectively, so that you have fuel when it’s time to build the fire.
Wood must be cut to the correct size and stored for a sufficient length of time for it to become seasoned. Seasoned wood burns effectively, and produces the maximum heat. The early pioneers needed to understand what kinds of wood burned the best and were easiest to season, as do homesteaders today.
Although modern tools, such as chainsaws, are now available, the skills of selecting and preparing the wood correctly are still just as important.
Plus, homesteaders both today and in the past needed to know how to use, maintain, and care for woodcutting tools. Whether they are hand saws or chainsaws, knowing how to care for these tools is essential to pioneering success.
6. Cooking Over an Open Fire
Cooking over an open fire requires knowledge of how to build a hot enough fire that burns of sufficient intensity to cook food. Otherwise, the fire might burn too hot, causing the food not to cook or to become burned.
Skill is required in preparing a fire that is ready when it is required and maintaining it to provide the right level of heat for as long as is required.
Knowing how to cook over an open fire also requires the homesteader, both those from the past and from the modern setting, to know what kinds of dishes are best suited for cooking over an open fire, as well as how to cook on and maintain those dishes. Hint – cast iron is best!
7. Growing a Variety of Food
Hunting, fishing, and raising livestock were vitally important to the pioneers. However these activities only provided part of their food requirements. Meat was important, but the first pioneers also needed a way to get all the fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Growing food was the only way to establish an adequate food supply. With the correct weather and soil conditions (and a great deal of skill) it is possible to grow a large variety of crops.
The skills that the pioneers practiced and developed to grow crops are equally relevant to the homesteader. These skills allow any homesteader to be self-sufficient.
Today, the modern homesteader needs to know which plants grow best in a certain area and in various soil types. He also needs to understand methods of amending the soil to improve its fertility, as well as how to care for various types of plants.
These tasks might include things like weeding, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and propagating all kinds of plants. Starting seeds and harvesting a garden are two other skills that would be on a pioneer’s list to master before heading westward.
8. Seed Harvesting and Saving Skills
Growing food, as we have said, is vital to a pioneer or homesteader’s success. However, without seeds, it is impossible to grow anything. Back when the homesteaders first headed westward, they didn’t have seed catalogs from Gurney’s or Burpee’s to help them out.
While the pioneers were able to take seeds with them on their journey, these would need replacing to be able to continue growing. The most convenient, practical, and least expensive way to do this would be to harvest seeds and save them between growing seasons.
The skill of seed harvesting and saving became the way to replenish stocks of seeds to allow the following years’ planting. Any homesteader who wishes to maintain a constant supply of food over a number of years will also need to know to pick and save the right seeds.
Another benefit of knowing how to save and harvest seeds is that it will allow you to maintain a collection of heirloom seeds – you’ll know exactly what kinds of genetics and traits your plants will have each year.
9. Orchard Creation and Management
Fruit is an essential element to any balanced diet. Some pioneers took fruit tree cuttings with them to be able to develop orchards on their land. The skill of orchard management gave them the ability to grow and store fresh fruit.
Today, the homesteader can easily buy root stock, or even grow trees from seeds. As you might expect, the skills of creating and managing an orchard are just as relevant to the homesteader today.
10. Composting – Preparation and Use
Growing anything successfully over a number of seasons requires careful consideration to the conditions of the soil. Without soil improvement, the soil soon becomes nutrient starved, and will no longer be productive.
The pioneers used a combination of barnyard manure and composted vegetation to maintain the nutrients in their soil. There was no such thing, at the time, as synthetic fertilizers or Miracle-Gro. You had to make your own fertilizer!
Homesteaders today also need to know how to fertilize their soil to ensure the long term growth of abundant crops, and many of them do so without relying on store bought chemicals. The skill here truly lies in balancing the soil’s pH values while maintaining the correct levels of nutrients that different crops require.
As a modern homesteader, you’ll need to know how to build compost, as well as how to use it in your garden.
11. Weather Forecasting
Living a life that revolves around raising animals and growing crops makes the ability to forecast the weather an important skill. Bad weather can frighten animals, causing them to injure themselves.
Plus, animals need to be brought inside, or at least given some shelter during harsh weather. Crops that are not quite ready for harvest can be completely destroyed by bad weather.
The skill involved in reading natural signals to predict weather changes is still of great importance.
While many modern homesteaders rely on contemporary tools like forecasting software and television stations to help predict the weather patterns, knowing how to read the sky or a barometer are also vital skills for a modern homesteader – particularly for one who chooses to live off the grid.
12. Herbal Medicine
The pioneers had very limited access to medicine and medical services. Consequently, they developed natural remedies for many ailments, both minor and major. Herbs and other plants formed the basis of most of these remedies.
Herbal skills are enjoying a resurgence today, as many people are against synthetic medicine. Some homesteaders may still have limited medical resources that force them to make use of the valuable herbal skills practiced by the pioneers.
As a modern homesteader, you may find it worth your time to learn more about how to harvest and grow medicinal plants, how to process them into tinctures, and how to build and use a stockpile of natural remedies.
13. Using Charcoal
Charcoal is one of those simple products that has a multitude of uses that with skill could help to make the pioneers’ life easier. Burning charcoal creates a hotter heat than wood. Other uses include:
- Purify water
- Make cleaning products
- Improve soil
- Medicinal uses
- Make gunpowder
Homesteaders have, no doubt, added to the list of charcoal uses as new techniques have been discovered.
14. Make Homemade Cleaning Products
The pioneers were often some distance away from any store, and would therefore only have access to a limited range of cleaning products.
Today’s homestead requires a more extensive list of cleaning materials. However, just as with the pioneers, the skill of making natural homemade products is still popular and used by countless people.
Soaps and laundry detergents are the most common homemade cleaning products. Many people say that they work better than shop bought products. Therefore, it’s essential to know how to make and use your own cleaning products if you plan to live off the grid.
15. Food Preservation Techniques
The restrictions of most areas’ growing seasons only allow food to be grown at certain times of the year. Therefore, to enjoy a nutritious and varied diet throughout the year, you have to use certain food preservation techniques.
The pioneers used several skills to preserve food, some of which were inspired by the Native Americans. The most common being:
- Using honey
- Using salt
- Using fat
- Using vinegar
- Drying or dehydration
These skills are still used by many homesteaders, although today they have the advantage of using freezers, dehydrators, and more advanced and safe canning techniques (such as pressure canning).
16. Build a Root Cellar
Root cellars are an essential requirement for pioneering and homesteading. Root cellars make it possible to store foods for longer by providing a cold temperature (though not as cold as a refrigerator or freezer). There are skills involved in situating and constructing an effective cellar for maximum benefit.
Keep in mind this isn’t exactly a weekend DIY project – good planning and solid construction skills are necessary to make a root cellar. You’ll also need a fair bit of space to build a root cellar, so this task isn’t one that can be completed by just anybody.
17. Stocking Dried Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices have been used in cooking since ancient times. The pioneers will have used their skills for growing and preserving various herbs and spices.
Today, homesteaders use far more herbs as international cooking skills have become more widespread. However, the techniques for stocking and preserving them for the pantry are much the same as the pioneer would have used.
You too should be familiar with techniques for growing and harvesting herbs and spices, as well as ways you can preserve them (such as dehydrating them).
18. Grinding Wheat and Other Grains
The pioneers required the skill of grinding wheat and other grains to be able to cook a large number of foods.
While many people today simply rely on the grocery store for their cereal grains, knowing how to grow and grind your own wheat and other grains (like amaranth) is a valuable skill to have as a homesteader.
19. Cooking Food from Scratch
There were no stores or takeaways for the pioneers to buy prepared food – they needed to cook everything from scratch. This is a skill that many people who live in cities have forgotten. Fortunately, as a homesteader, it’s also one of the easiest to master.
You can learn how to cook a wide menu of options depending on your preferences and what you have on hand. For urban homesteaders, this is one of the easiest skills to master when you are first starting out.
20. Baking Bread
The skill of baking bread would have been something that the majority of early pioneers would have been familiar with. In those days, the majority of people baked bread as part of their daily or weekly routines.
The skill of baking bread, although not lost today, did lose its appeal for many as mass-produced bread became readily available. The skill of baking bread is enjoying a revival among many communities.
Homemade bread is not only less expensive and healthier, but it also offers a range of options as you can truly customize your homemade bread to your own preferences and what you might have in stock (for example, you can make homemade sourdough if you only have flour and water, or you can make delicious honey nut bread if you have some of those staples to use up).
21. Planning Meals According to Season
Pioneers – the original “meal-preppers.”
Planning meals is an essential skill that everyone requires to help them store and prepare enough supplies and food for the weeks and months ahead.
This skill also helps to ensure that waste is minimized. As a homesteader (or even someone trying to live a more frugal lifestyle), planning meals is a great way to save money as well as time.
But for the pioneers, this skill was a matter of life and death. They had to determine how much of their crops had to be conserved to provide enough food while out of season. While this skill for today’s homestead community is not a matter of life and death, it is still important.
Being able to plan your meals according to the season will ensure that you have enough food saved for the entire year. It will also save you money.
Plus, eating seasonally (whether the foods you grew and produced or those you purchased locally, like from a farmer’s market) is beneficial in that in-season foods tend to be much higher in nutrients.
22. Candle Making
Candles were one of the most important sources of light for the pioneers . Knowing how to make candles, particularly in the absence of electricity, was essential.
Today many people who live in homesteads still make candles, however the skill is mainly used for fun. Unless they’re completely off the grid, most modern homesteaders have electricity. The different types of candles that can be made are attractive and decorative.
Despite these being made for artistic reasons, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a practical purpose.
For many homesteads, the electricity supply can be temperamental and limited. Candles, therefore, are valuable for emergency lighting. Plus, candles make great holiday gifts!
Learn to make candles from tallow here – the old school way!
23. Home Brewing
People have been brewing for centuries, using skills that have been handed down from previous generations. The pioneers would, especially when they had established themselves on their land, have been keen to begin brewing all kinds of products.
Many homesteads, depending on their geographical location, have an abundance of products that are well-suited to brewing. Native Americans were also skilled at brewing, and influenced the pioneer’s techniques.
The most popular things that were brewed where:
- Wine (introduced by the Spanish who first took grape vines there)
With a recent revival in homebrewing, for the homesteaders, it is as relevant now as it was with the pioneers.
Brewing can turn water that is not fit to drink into an enjoyable, safe beverage that is also high in water content to prevent dehydration. Again, home brewing is viewed by most modern homesteaders as a hobby, but it is still a realistic skill to master.
24. Beekeeping Skills
For the pioneer, beekeeping was a very basic affair. Hives were typically basic boxes and shelters. The bees were able to nest in these shelters and attach their honeycombs.
The honey that they produced was a valuable asset for the pioneers’ pantries. Honey is one of nature’s finest sweeteners and has many medicinal benefits, although it does take some skill to be able to produce it. The bees were themselves a valuable asset, as they helped to fertilize crops, too.
Today’s homestead beekeepers use far more sophisticated hives that produce greater quantities of high quality honey.
However, the essential skills are very similar to those used by the pioneers. As a homesteader, you’ll need basic beekeeping skills like how to harvest honey, tend to a hive, harvest wax, and prepare a hive for winter.
25. Maximizing Milk Production
The pioneers kept animals, such as cows and goats for several reasons – the most important of which was for the milk that they produced.
There is a significant skill in preparing animals to produce milk – unfortunately, it doesn’t just happen. To raise milk animals, you will need to successfully breed the females, and then raise the young separately so the milk can be used on your homestead.
Milking an animal is also a skillful process that takes practice to get correct. Many homesteads still keep cows, goats and sheep for exactly the same reasons. Though slightly different in the management and technique, they all will be using similar skills.
26. Making Dairy Products
Keeping animals such as goats and cows also allowed the pioneers to produce a range of additional dairy products. Cheese and butter can be produced, of course, from the raw milk.
These are both important items for the kitchen, both then and now. With some planning and a few skills, it was possible for the pioneers to produce sufficient amounts to supply the kitchen year-round. Many kinds of hard cheese, like cheddar, can be stored without refrigeration.
Early pioneers raised pigs and chickens for food, with these two types of livestock serving as a main source of protein. Wild game like turkey, deer, and sometimes bears would also be killed and eaten.
Skill in butchering these animals was essential to obtain the maximum benefit from each animal. Pigs were popular since every part of the animal has a use – in fact, the pig, out of all livestock species, has one of the highest carcass yields.
Although a small number of homesteads follow vegetarian or vegan diets today, many are still eating meat they butchered themselves.
As a homesteader, you’ll need to know not only how to shoot, stick, and kill an animal, but also how to skin and gut it, and cut up the meat into usable cuts. You will also need to know how to hang and dress a carcass, and how to preserve the meat for later use. The early pioneers did it without refrigeration.
28. Tanning and Trapping Skills
Animal skins have been used for clothes way back into history. The pioneers found that there was an abundance of animals whose skins were suitable for tanning and clothes production.
Deerskin was the most commonly tanned, worn and used type of skin because of its durability, softness, and availability. Other animal skins were also tanned, buffalo, elk, moose, caribou, antelope, and bighorn sheep.
In many areas of the United States, these animals are not as abundant as they were, and are sometimes protected. Homesteaders, however, are still able to use these skills with the animals that they slaughter for meat if they are not able to hunt.
Not only do modern homesteaders rely on tanning to produce their clothing, but many also use trapping as a way to obtain furs. Knowing how to trap and skin certain fur bearing mammals – like beavers – is another great way to become more self-reliant. No more clothing stores!
It was not possible for the pioneers to clothe themselves purely in animal skin – other fabrics were required. Weaving is a skillful technique that produces high quality fabrics for clothes and other items such as blankets and bedding.
Many of today’s homesteaders no longer weave all the fabrics that they need; however, many still use these skills as an artistic occupation. Learning how to weave with homemade fabrics (like wool shorn from your own sheep) is a great pioneer skill to master.
30. Knitting and Crochetting Skills
Knitting and crochet skills were also important to the pioneers. These skills allowed them to produce warm clothing from natural products.
However, they took pride in these items that with great skill often became extremely intricate. These items were often used as gifts especially for the newborn babies of family and friends.
This skill and the pride associated with the items is as strong today and just as relevant among today’s homestead community.
31. Well Drilling
Water is essential to any household. For the pioneers, it was a key commodity for creating a successful homestead. Water in many parts of the United States can be hard to find, and is rarely on the surface.
Underground water has to be found by the process of switching, and a well has to be drilled and constructed to allow a constant supply of water. Well drilling sounds simple; however, that’s not exactly the case.
Today’s homesteads also require water and homesteaders are often compelled to drill a well. However, we now have access to a huge array of technology that eliminates some, although not all, of the skills required. In fact, many of today’s commercial well-drilling companies still rely on old-fashioned witching techniques to find water.
32. Dealing with Waste
People and animals produce large amounts of waste on a daily basis. Skill is required in using certain aspects of this waste to achieve maximum benefits. Animal waste is good for improving soil conditions, however, human waste isn’t normally used in this way and requires disposal.
Then, as now, human waste must be disposed of with extreme caution to prevent contracting and spreading life threatening disease.
For the homesteader, knowing how to handle waste inside buildings that have no functioning plumbing is an essential skill. This may involve digging trenches or building outhouses to help keep things sanitary.
33. Repurposing and Recycling Skills
Today, countless people have caught the bug of repurposing and recycling. We are constantly seeing pictures of pianos repurposed into tables, or pallets that have been changed into garden seating.
What is now fashion was then, for the pioneers, a valuable skill that was able to enhance their lifestyle, and make it possible for them to live on pennies a week.
As a modern homesteader, you can really get creative with this – we have all kinds of resources at our disposal (from thrift stores to yard sales) that make it easy to bring new life to old, worn-out objects.
34. Carpentry Techniques and Skills
The pioneers’ main building material was wood. They didn’t have composite materials, PVC, plastic, or any of the other synthetic building materials we use today.
There are many skills involved with the preparation, handling, cutting and joining of wood. It is not easy to make a safe, secure, and long-lasting product, whether it be a house, a barn or a fence.
A testament to these skills is that some pioneers’ early houses are still standing…
Wood is still an important material for construction in today’s homesteads. There are many power tools that help to make construction easier, however, basic carpentry skills are equally important. As a homesteader, you should work to acquaint yourself with things like cutting, sawing, measuring, drilling, nailing, and taping.
35. Masonry and Stone Construction Skills
There are plenty of places around the country that are fortunate enough to have an abundance of rock or stone. These materials are great for constructing houses and other buildings.
Although stone has been used in construction for centuries, it is certainly not an easy medium to use and does require substantial skill. Acquaint yourself with basic masonry skills and you’ll be able to build all kinds of structures, including fireplaces, chimneys, fences, buildings, and more.
The advantage that you possess as a modern homesteader is that you have access to all kinds of tools to make the heavy lifting easier, like heavy machinery (tractors and loaders).
36. Basic First Aid
The pioneer lifestyle, much like that on the homestead, is a very hands-on practical existence. When dealing with tools and animals, however, accidents can happen.
For many minor injuries, simple first aid skills are perfectly adequate to prevent things from going from bad to worse.
Knowing how to treat a cut or burn when it is first received is vital for preventing more serious infections. It’s also crucial to know what kinds of things might need to be included in a first aid kit so that you can treat an injury as soon as it appears.
Today, first aid skills can be used not only to deal with cuts, wounds and burns but to save the lives of those that are suffering from more serious problems, such as heart attacks. As a modern homesteader, teaching yourself basic first aid skills like how to make a tourniquet or perform CPR is essential.
37. Insect Repellents
Most places have insects (at least during the summer months) that can be annoying and, at times, dangerous, as some diseases are spread by insects The pioneers did not have access to a local pharmacy to buy insect repellents.
They would have needed to develop the skill of finding natural products that would fulfill this need instead. Typical insects that can cause problems are:
- Yellow Jackets
- Kissing Bugs
While homesteaders do have access to commercial products, preparing natural products is often a preferred option.
The homesteaders have refined and developed the skills required to enhance many of these products. You may need to familiarize yourself with natural methods o f insect control, like using herbs such as citronella or burning sage to keep pests away.
38. Handling Predators and Pests
The pioneers would have been aware that rodents and other pests would love to eat their growing crops and their stored foods. They would have found the skill of deterring pests to protect their hard-earned gains to be essential.
Not only that, but many pests (like rats) can spread disease, so knowing how to prevent pests would have been vital.
There were also a large number of predators and pests that would attack animals and decimate some crops the most common of which are:
- Mountain Lions
Acquainting yourself with basic predator prevention skills (like fence building, herbs, and other methods of exclusion) is vital. It’s also important to know how to identify scat and tracks so that you know what you’re dealing with.
39. Foraging Skills
Fortunately for the pioneers, many places have an abundant supply of wild growing plants that are easy to find and gather. The Native Americans were experts at foraging and identifying what was good, and more importantly, what was bad, to eat.
Although we have books and the internet to guide us, learning these skills is still important. We can still learn much from others who have the knowledge. As a homesteader, you may want to learn things like mushroom identification, berry identification, and other helpful tips. Even many common garden weeds are edible!
How to forage for…
While the typical pioneer would not have been making guns, it was essential for them to be able to maintain, and even repair them. Knowledge regarding how guns work and skills to fashion replacement parts would have been valuable.
Although guns today are much more sophisticated and reliable, it still remains an advantage for the homesteader to achieve certain skills in maintaining and caring for a gun.
Modern technology doesn’t stop things from breaking down or malfunctioning, though, so knowing how to clean and maintain a gun is crucial to preventing mishaps like misfires.
41. How to Handle Firearms Safely
As with the last tip, pioneers would have known how to handle firearms safely. After all, a firearm accident can prove to be deadly even in today’s most modern circumstances – if you happened to accidentally shoot yourself or someone else as a pioneer, chances are, you wouldn’t make it out of the situation alive.
Fortunately, today we have all kinds of resources to learn more about how to safely handle firearms, from online tutorials to more formal in-person hunter safety courses. Take advantage of these, and spend some time at a firing range so you know how to handle firearms in a safe, responsible way.
42. Basic Knife Skills
The first pioneers also would have known how to use various types of knives, as well as how to sharpen, clean, and maintain them. This is also something you should familiarize yourself with as a modern homesteader.
You don’t need to be a collector or a knife guru by any means, but you should invest in a good whetstone for knife sharpening kit, as well as several knives of different kinds (such as skinning, gutting, butchering, bread knives, dinner knives, etc).
43. Tool Sharpening Skills
The pioneers would have used many tools, such as saws and axes, that needed to be kept sharp. A blunt axe is not only not very efficient, but also dangerous to use as it can cause serious injury.
The pioneers would have embraced the necessary tool sharpening skills (and possessed the right equipment) to ensure that equipment was kept sharp and in good condition.
For many pioneers, use was the best method to prevent their tools from rusting. They would occasionally wipe them down with a natural oil, use them often, and then sharpen with a classic whetstone or smooth stone.
These are similar to the techniques used today, though have an array of modern equipment to keep tools sharp. However, many of the old-fashioned skills and techniques of the pioneers are still the most effective.
44. Tying Knots
The art of working with rope and cordage relies upon the skill of tying effective knots. Any pioneer worth their salt would have been capable of tying at least a few basic knots. They would have known which knot to use for every situation.
Knots are certainly not out of fashion despite many mechanical alternatives. As a modern homesteader, you should take the time to acquaint yourself with various types of knots. It’s not just a skill for the Boy Scouts, after all!
45. Bartering and Trading Skills
A pioneer would normally aim to be self-sufficient by growing and making everything that was required to live a good life. Many homesteaders today like to follow a similar lifestyle.
We can’t all be proficient at everything. Therefore, a successful pioneer would build a network of like-minded individuals with whom they could trade and barter.
46. Making Homemade Skincare Products
Personal care products were perhaps not high on the agenda for the early pioneers. However, as they became established, they discovered that many plants, both wild and cultivated, had positive effects on their skin.
Therefore, they discovered that they were able to fashion these plants into rudimentary personal care products. For example, calendula can be used to relieve redness, while lavender can be used as an aromatic in soaps.
47. Making Your Own Entertainment
Rest and relaxation were just as relevant to the pioneers as they are to the modern day homesteaders.
Everyone needs that down time period to recharge their physical and mental batteries. The ability and skill to make music (whether with the voice or with instruments), and other forms of entertainment was, and still is, a very important skill to learn.
Modern homesteaders, as with the pioneers of old, know how to entertain themselves, whether that’s with books, music, puzzles, hobbies, or good old fashioned conversation.
48. Organizational Skills
Although this skill is a bit more arbitrary and hard to develop than many of the “hard” skills listed above, being able to be organized (both physically and mentally) is vital for the average homesteader. You need to know how to organize your time and materials so that your life runs more smoothly.
After all, you can’t be running around like a chicken with its head cut off each morning when it comes time to do your chores…
You need to have a clear picture of what needs to be done each day. The modern homesteader also has a clear idea of where all the materials are on their property, from tools to foodstuffs to medical supplies.
49. Thinking Ahead
What if spring is late in arriving – is there enough food for eating and wood for heating to be able to survive?
“What if” is a question that everyone should ask as thinking ahead can help to visualize problems before they materialize.
Although pioneers didn’t always adopt pessimistic attitudes, they planned ahead and planned for the worst to make sure they were taken care of. As a homesteader, this is a similar attitude you should adopt. Good planning skills are crucial!
Yes, having the right mindset is a skill that needs to be practiced. Mindset, attitude and resilience go hand in hand, and these three soft skills form one large, overarching skill that allowed the pioneers to make things happen.
As much as one can plan and think ahead, things can and sometimes do go wrong. The skill is in picking yourself up, dealing with the situation, and moving on.
Some problems are small, while others are life changing. However, the right mindset can make the difference to surviving or not.
Being resilient and having a generally positive attitude is vital for today’s modern homesteaders too, particularly in the event of adversity or a one-time crisis.
Understanding that a hardship is simply a challenge to be overcome – and not a reason to give up – is vital toward being successful as a homesteader and a pioneer.
Are the Pioneers Skills Relevant to Homesteading?
Many of the pioneers who settled out in the western lands were able to create a good life for themselves. The success of these people was due to their ability to incorporate many skills. These people were also able to adapt and learn new skills that they required to survive and prosper.
Many skills that the pioneers possessed and developed are still essential for any homestead. Taking time to master the traditional skills of the pioneers will over the long term save money and create a more satisfying healthy existence.
Which of these skills have you mastered – or have yet to master? If you’re considering embarking on a more self-sufficient lifestyle, it might be time for you to start making your own list today.
Three years ago, I bought an off-grid Cortijo in a small valley in the Andalucian mountains. Although, perhaps the lifestyle is in my genes as my grandfather and his four brothers were Homesteaders in Alberta Canada in the 1900s.
The mountains of Spain are a difficult place to grow many of the flowers that I was used to in the UK. However, veggies grow well year-round. Peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, cucumber, melons and chard all fare well in the Mediterranean climate. Almond trees provide me with a cash crop of around 1 ton while still retaining some to make almond milk and flour.