The homesteading life is one that is admired by most and desired by many. The healthy lifestyle, living out in the country on your own piece of land, and providing for yourself the things that you need sounds wonderful. But there are many questions and worries that arise when people consider that dream, such as: Where can I get land for a homestead? How will I pay for the homestead start-up costs? How do I prepare for homesteading? How can I start homesteading today? While growing up surrounded by this lifestyle or being gifted a piece of land to start your homesteading journey would be amazing, that’s not the reality for most of us. For most of us, we are starting from scratch and there will be a period, sometimes long, as we gather our resources and search for that perfect place to make ours.
But this period of waiting need not—and should—not be a dead period. Anybody wanting to go into homesteading should know that the lifestyle, while hugely rewarding, requires significant work, and accordingly, calls for a decent amount of preparation. This for the most part involves learning the skills that you will be using on a regular basis when you are on a place of your own. And you can learn them right where you are now, whether you are on a suburban block, in an apartment, or even living in an RV! These skills are often easier learned in this period of so-called “urban homesteading”, as you are spared the craziness of trying to get used to a new location, learn new skills, and maintain and care for your new animals and/or land all at the same time.
What are the Best Homesteading Skills to Learn to Start Homesteading Today?
While almost all homesteading skills can be practiced and learned in some way during this preparation time, the actual skills that you pick to work on will most likely be directed by the resources and opportunities that you have available to you and the type of homestead you intend on having when you actually have a piece of land. To get you started, here is a checklist of 10 homesteading skills that can be learned right now, no matter where you are on your journey.
- Preserving Food
- Selection, Use, and Maintenance of Specialised Tools
- Animal Care
- Health and Wellbeing
- Repairs and DIY
- Organization and Record-Keeping
- Attitude and Way of Thinking
I am of the personal belief that cooking is one of, if not the foundational homesteading skill one needs to start homesteading today. A huge part of the work that goes into running a homestead has to do with the production of food, whether it be growing fruits and vegetables in the garden, raising and caring for animals, or processing the ensuing by-products such as meat, milk, honey, and eggs. All of this hard work comes to a sad end if you are not able to take these wonderful ingredients and turn them into meals that you can put on your table. Fortunately, cooking is a fairly easy skill that you can learn anywhere and is as individual as the person doing the cooking. If the kitchen is not a place that you normally spend much time, then you will probably want to start with learning the basics, like taking basic ingredients like meat, fruit and vegetables, eggs, milk, butter, flour, and spices and using them to make simple meals such as soups, stews, pasta, chili, and simple salads. While you are doing this you can start learning to eat with the seasons in preparation for the ebbs and flows that come with the harvest cycle of a homestead. From there you can expand into specialized areas of culinary skill such as making dairy products, meat products, and homemade bread. You might also want to start experimenting with using substitutions in your cooking, as this is a really useful skill to have in the homestead kitchen.
2. Preserving Food
With all that being said about eating seasonally, there are many times when your homestead will produce more of a given food than you can consume at that time. This gives you the perfect time to put some of that produce away for a time of year when that item is not so plentiful. There are many ways to preserve your hard-earned produce including canning, drying, freezing, fermenting, pickling, smoking, salting, cold storage, and more. Many of these methods can be learned and practiced right in the kitchen of your city home.
3. Selection, Use, and Maintenance of Specialised Tools
If you are going to be living the homesteading lifestyle and doing things for yourself, certain items soon become worth their weight in gold. Some examples include good kitchen knives, cast iron cookware, a pasta maker, an apple corer, canning jars, metal mixing bowls, a heavy-duty kitchen mixer, hand and power tools, and, if you plan on grinding your flour for homemade bread, then a wheat mill is a great addition. Each of these items takes an investment not only of money but also in time researching to ensure you end up with an item that serves you well. Once you have these items, it is important to learn the skills of how to use and take care of these items so that they work well for you and last as long as possible. Some particularly useful skills to start homesteading today are how to care for knives and how to use and care for cast iron cookware.
Gardening is one of the first things that comes to people’s minds when they think of homesteading, and for good reason. Much of the food produced on a homestead comes from the garden. While you may not currently have the space to plant a large garden, there are many things you can do right now to get started with your gardening skills. Some things to look into include growing sprouts and micro-greens, both of which are super nutritious and can be done even if you have no outside space whatsoever, as they can grow right on your windowsill. If you have even a balcony or a sunny window, you can try container gardening, growing plants in pots. Two other skills that are related to gardening are composting (that can be done on a small scale even in an apartment) and seed saving which is a great habit to get into anytime you grow something with seeds in it.
5. Animal Care
Many people spend a lot of time researching different kinds of animals and their maintenance needs long before they get a homestead. That’s a great idea, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go beyond research and start caring for your own animals right where you are. Of course, there are local laws that come into play, but nearly no matter where you live, there are ways that you can have some animals. If you have some backyard space, chickens are the most common option, but if you are willing to step aside from tradition, even those with extremely limited space can work something out to start homesteading today. Some less commonly kept animals that work well with small spaces are quail (that can be happy in a courtyard) and rabbits, which can even be kept inside if need be. And don’t forget about worms, which can also double as a composting system.
6. Health and Wellbeing
Homesteading requires a lot of physical effort, something most of us are not accustomed to. Increasing your physical endurance and general fitness not only helps you in your current situation but will help to prepare you for when you are on your farm and will need to be on your feet working hard all day. Start small and work your way up. This can also be a great time to start trying to incorporate more fresh and healthy foods into your lifestyle, giving yourself extra energy to work on all these homesteading skills. Fortunately, good nutrition ties hand in hand with cooking for yourself, gardening, and eating seasonally.
One skill that is constantly in use on a homestead is resource management. The ability to access what you have and put it to the best use, allows you to make the most of the resources you have on your homestead. Right now, you can start looking for ways to make smarter purchases and get the most life out of items. With a bit of creativity, many things can be repurposed or used in place of something else that you would normally have to purchase. The homesteading life is a cycle of production, creating many byproducts such as whey, manure, vegetable scraps, bones, sawdust, and excess or old plants. By finding ways to use these items and close the cycle, you make your hard-earned resources go further and help to turn your homesteading dream into a reality.
8. Repairs and DIY
On a homestead, there is always something somewhere that you are working on, whether it be a new project or maintaining your existing ones. Having the skills to work with your hands and general knowledge of how things work and go together is invaluable. While you may not be in a position to go build a house or fix a broken tractor, there are things you can be doing right now to give yourself a head start. Start looking around to see what items you have that need repair that you would normally throw out or get someone else in to fix. Take a few moments to see if it is something that you could repair yourself, given a little bit of patience and learning. A quick search on the internet will provide you with instructions on how to fix just about anything. Bit by bit, you can increase both your hands-on experience and all-round knowledge of how things work.
9. Organization and Record-Keeping
The homesteading life has so much going on at any one time that it can soon turn to chaos without some good organization and record keeping. These skills go hand in hand. There are many things that you need to keep a record of on a working homestead, including animals and their production, garden planning and produce, food preservation, homestead projects, and bookkeeping. Keeping good records of these things allows you to maintain a good knowledge of how your homestead is doing and whether or not each area is performing the way that you planned or expected. It lets you see areas for improvement and make changes as needed before things become an issue. Organization, on the other hand, is more about keeping your sanity and finding ways to set things up so that they run more smoothly. Both of these skills can be learned and practiced right where you are. Begin looking around for things that you do every day that could be improved by a better system. Think about the things that get wasted or the opportunities that are missed because you forgot about them or didn’t have a plan. See if you can find simple ways to help you keep track of things and stay on top of things. As a bonus, by writing things down, you let the paper do the remembering and free your mind up for all the other fun things in life.
10. Attitude and Way of Thinking
All of these skills are important and great to have, but personally, I think that the biggest thing that you can do to start living the homesteading life is to take a look at your attitude and way of thinking. Like most things, achieving the homesteading dream takes work, it requires change, and it takes a deep-rooted knowledge of what you want and why you are doing it all. What does the homesteading life look like to you and what are you hoping to get out of it? What is important to you and what are you prepared to give up in order to get it? When you have your “why”, your journey starts today, no matter where you are, and all the ups and downs as you learn, figure things out, and make the changes, become part of the ride. There will always be something new to learn or get better at, that’s what makes it so interesting. The homesteading life is a learning life, so get ready for the fun.
Which one of these homesteading skills are you going to start working on today?