Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homesteading skills to learn in 2011

Every year I like to ask what kind of new skills people are wanting to learn either to be more self-sufficient or to finally pick up that hobby they've been wanting to try.

Last year we didn't do as much canning and food gardening as we usually do, but we did get chickens! This year I'm looking into getting rabbits for fiber production and spinning, starting up a chicken poop composter (more on that later) and maybe I'll dust off that solar cooker.

Which of the following skills do you wish you knew more about or would like to learn?
  • Food gardening and food storage (canning, dehydrating, pickling, fermentation, etc.)
  • Seed saving and/or fruit tree grafting
  • Foraging for wild foods, mushrooms, etc.
  • Composting

  • Animal husbandry (rabbits, chickens, goats or larger)
  • Beekeeping
  • Animal skinning, processing
  • Sheep or other animal shearing
  • Spinning wool
  • Knitting
  • Sewing

  • Cooking, baking
  • Making own cheese and/or yogurt
  • Making beer and/or wine
  • Solar cooking

  • Alternative medicine and/or first aid
  • Making soap (cold process from oils and lye)
  • Making candles

  • Carpentry
  • Plumbing or electrical
  • Bike maintenance and repair
  • Appliance repair

What is the biggest thing preventing you from learning to do these things? Time, money? What would make it easier?

Related books:
The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden
The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills
City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-reyclers, and Local Food Producers
How to Brew: Everything You Need To Know To Brew Beer Right The First Time
Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses
The Soapmaker's Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How
My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method
Homegrown Whole Grains: Grow, Harvest, and Cook Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice, Corn and More

Note: There are affiliate links in this post.


meg- grow & resist said...

Hmm...Wine making so I can be like my grandpa. Ginger beer for my Moscow Mules. Bees for next year. Build a greenhouse. Get a better composting system. I get lazy with city food waste/yard waste and then put less in my own compost. It is really just chicken poop and bedding.

-Heidi said...

I'm already working on most of your list (except keeping sheep)... my husband has the bottom few covered. I blogged about our new vermiculture bin today and I plan to start making wine this summer! I can't wait!

Annie*s Granny said...

Being of an advanced age, I've already done much of what is listed, either from want or from need. Also, said advanced age would probably keep me from doing those things I have not yet done. Except for one thing.....I think it would be fun to try solar cooking! Living on the east side of WA state, we certainly have enough days of sunlight to make it doable nearly year round. What keeps me from doing it? I don't have a solar oven!

Hazel said...

Yep, all of those!

And country wine making. (Just watched a rerun of The Good Life and DD1 nearly fell off her chair laughing when they tried their 'Pea Pod Burgundy'! Think I may start with eldeflower or dandelion...)
And finally build my home smoker.

This year as part of my skills acquisition plan, I am volunteering at a local Tudor Living History Farm, where they will teach us basketry, cheese making, milking sheep and cows by hand, spinning, felting, cooking over wood fire, bread in a clay wood oven, making lye from wood ash, Tudor herb use/still room. I can't wait!

Bucky said...

I am wanting to learn food storage (canning and pickling) and knitting.

I have a great aunt who is never without her knitting bag. I've asked her to teach me. She does the most amazing knit work ... except she has the most appalling taste. Garish colors. Horrible. Beautiful quilt work as well with the most wretched polyester fabric. She's still using fabric from the 70s!

Kristy said...

Want to go back and pick up my quilting, would like to put up some food and get that urban garden back on track. Now only if I could have livestock :-)

Adrienne Audrey said...

This year it's chicken keeping and next year it's bee keeping!

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife said...

Soap making and solar cooking were both on my to-do list but I tried soap making for first time last week so now it's on my "to improve" list instead.

I'd love to keep bees but I'm not sure it's practical here - I could keep them but not be able to harvest any honey due to logistical difficulties. Ditto rabbits for both fluff and meat - we don't have any grass at all so it would be expensive to keep them. One day, one day!

Kate said...

I need to work on my solar cooking skills. The only things stopping me are our climate, which limits solar cooking to some days between late spring and early fall, and the fact that I haven't made it terribly convenient for myself to use our cooker. That's on the agenda for this year.

Also I'd like to know about starting a hedgerow and sourcing more animal feed from a tiny property. Working on these things this year too, but what's holding me back (slowing me down, really, not stopping me) is the unknown. I'm pretty much having to figure this stuff out on my own.

Fleecenik Farm said...

I have an ambitious list of goals this year. I am taking a wild herbal medicine class and a wild foods workshop. I have ordered a mushroom kit and I plant to learn how to make cheese. We are also growing Mangel-Wurzels beets for fodder this year. And we have plans to build a solar oven this year.

Robj98168 said...

I guess Foraging for wild foods, cause urban foraging is cool. I have made some baby steps in this

Rialian said...

===In regards to beekeeping, I highly recommend these folks

===Great resource, and his Top-Bar hive design is one of the best ones out there (and his mini-book on making one is a free download.)

===I have rather strong winds around me, so I will be making my new one with 2-inch thick rather than 1-inch thick wood. (I need to do more wind-breaks and place the hives differently. Both the Langs and the top-bar died this past winter, sadly.)

===If funds are the issue keeping someone from beekeeping, the Top-bar is what you are looking for, in my opinion.

Rialian said...

===In terms of wild food gardening:

Edible Wild Plants-Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by John Kallas,

The Foragers Harvest and Natures Garden, both by Samuel Thayer are at the top of my list, and the books I am basing a lot of my upcoming wild foods garden off of.

Able-Bodied Girl said...

cheese and alt-meds, methinks. maybe greenhouse/cold-frame sort of stuff too? we keep talking about it, but never do it...

and i'm always looking to get the hang of growing things and not killing them. maybe it's just my attention span and hatred of heat...

your word verifier keeps giving me a complex :) "pyrotyp" ... what shall i burn today?!?!

Jacky Hackett said...

Composting! Time and space are a huge drawback, but I intend to tackle this come Spring.

Unknown said...

Beekeeping, spinning, solar cooking, wine making, plumbing and electrical, appliance repair.

The biggest impediment is time. I already raise chickens, grow a lot of our food, cook everything from scratch, sew, and do regular maintenance stuff not to mention have a life off the homestead! So, it can be hard (especially in spring) to find time for something new.

Erica/Northwest Edible Life said...

All these things! :) I'm always up for learning!
But this year I'm definitely focusing on orcharding. We finalized our Raintree Order last night and I've been learning about grafting and fruit propagation. If the backyard orchard doesn't wear us out, we may tackle chickens this spring too. Otherwise that'll wait until 2012.

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

I suppose we do most of those things already except bees, shearing, spinning, and animal processing. We hope to be moving forward with those in the next few years while we finnish building our house.

I would love to learn how to spin before acquiring the animals. The hard part is getting a local spinner to set up a class.

CallieK said...

Chickens- but we're not allowed in the city yet. Might look into quails instead.

Bees- again city bylaws make this tricky ( must 30 m !! from nearest house)
Cheese- I have made cheese in the past but need to find somewhere local (and inexpensive) to obtain supplies

Rachel said...

We're getting bees, turkeys and ducks this year for the first time. We're also going to getting a crash course in goat kidding in the next week or two and then learn how to milk goats. :) With that I'm planning on learning how to make lots of different types of cheeses.

Oh, and I'm learning how to cure meat.

Josefine said...

Aaah, I've finally read through all of your blog posts! Found your blog through FPF a few weeks ago.

Definitely making soaps and foraging. For me, it's time that's stopping me. Time and energy. I wouldn't in my wildest dreams have imagined that university would be this energy draining. :(

rebecca said...

I'm taking baby steps in "homesteading". Just bought a compost bin, so I must put that together. I'm a little intimidated by this, so I hope it works. We live in row houses, so I cannot have chickens or a beehive, but I plan to find a local source of honey this summer. I also would love to improve our output in our small, small garden. Maybe plant a blueberry bush or two...

Lynda said...

I'm doing or have done everything on your lists...but I would like to grow and mixing my own livestock/chicken feeds...that would be a big help.

tawnya said...

Cheese making. I keep putting it off!

Danica said...

Ooh good list! I used to do so many of those things and then stopped nearly all of them when I had a baby two years ago and Life Happened. Now that she is getting more independent and things have mostly settled down, I look forward to bringing homesteading back into my life.

Sarah C said...

Moving in to a new house in the middle of the growing season, so I'll focused this year on just trying to gleam anything from the earth that I can in a short amount of time! Next Spring though, I'm going balls to the wall with chickens.

Sarah C said...

@Kate, Mother Earth News had a whole article on starting a hedgegrow in the previous issue.

Cathy said...

We already do a lot of gardening, but planning to transform entire backyard to food production. As it is now, hubby has a hard time mowing around the gardens. Would love to have chickens, but don't know if it is practical right now. Also have a friend who is going to teach me soon about soapmaking.

Michelle said...

I have just pitched to my local Adult Ed folks that I should teach a class on canning - three free-standing sessions, first on jam (strawberries ripen first around here), then pickles, then green beans in the dreaded/trusty pressure canner. I hope they go for it - canning might sound scary, but it's not, and I'd like to share that knowledge!

I started in 2008 with meat rabbits, then in 2009 added laying hens. I built a barn last summer, and am seriously considering raising some meat birds this year. All of the skills you mention are great - the more tools in our arsenals, the better!

Anonymous said...

a great list, some of which we already do. Others are on the list and have not moved to action due to lack of time (my day job takes soo much) and money (day job doesnt pay much). =) I hope to add meat rabbits to our menagerie this year...and perhaps bees.

Helgas Mom said...

Bee Keeping would be awesome, we have most of the other stuff covered but producing our own honey would surely offset the rising sugar prices. I could certainly improve on cheese making as well. So far, my only 'success' has been cottage cheese.

Green Bean said...

I want to learn beekeeping this year.

Nicole said...

Food preservation & successful yeast bread making, & vermi-composting. What's stopping me? Myself and my motivation to do something for about 2 months then moving on to another project. This year will be different! :)