Homesteading Skills

Long before we came here to homestead, both Farmer Hick and I were learning skills that would really help us in our homesteading adventure.

Farmer Hick worked as a machinist, he had mechanical, millwright and engine repair experience as well. In addition to that he’d helped numerous neighbors and friends take care of their pigs, chickens and cows during his teenage years. He’d helped his dad with the garden and learned to cut, split and pile most the necessary firewood, and more. Can you see the great variety of skills Farmer Hick had even before we started homesteading. I’m not saying it’s necessary to have all these skills in order to homestead….but it helps! The more skills you obtain before you make your move the easier your transition will be. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll learn plenty of hard lessons no matter how well prepared you are.

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building and wood cutting skills

My skill sets were completely different. I worked in a dental office for 12 years, the first couple of years as an assistant, then as a hygienist. I loved my job, was always interested in health related subjects. I enjoyed the contact with people and was good at what I did. Many patients would ask for me to be the one to look after their teeth and that made me feel good. As much as I enjoyed my work and the patients, I loved my home, and the things I did there, more! Cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating, sewing and knitting, organizing and hosting parties. I felt happy just hanging clean laundry on the line in the fresh air and sunshine. I loved to read and  had a real curiosity and willingness to learn new things. It was a natural progression I guess to first start freezing extra fruits and vegetables for winter use and then try my hand at canning. It was all very satisfying and I was encouraged to keep learning more. Next came dehydrating foods, growing herbs, composting, gardening, building a wood fire, cooking on a wood stove, and much more. All this while we were still miles away from being on our homestead.

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part of our pantry

Talking from a skill-set point of view it seemed like Farmer Hick and I were well prepared to start homesteading. To be honest…without Farmer Hick I would have been so lost on the homestead. I would have never made it. I’d like to say that we made a good team, we still do. We are very traditional in our approach to making a living on the homestead. He’s always done the ‘man’ thing while I kept busy doing the ‘woman’ thing. After we had children, he continued to go work, I stayed home, looking after the children, making all meals from scratch, cleaning, doing laundry, gardening, canning and more, saving as much money as I could (for that future homestead you see). I never stopped learning how to do things for myself. I am still learning new things and will probably continue to do so.

Skill sets are the most important things to consider and learn when embracing a homesteading lifestyle, but what often doesn’t get addressed is the emotional side of things. You have to be extremely focused and keep a positive attitude no matter what. I guarantee it, something will go wrong when there is no help…what are you going to do? In the early years before we had solar panels, it was often the generator that wouldn’t start for me. I’d have all the beds stripped of their sheets, the sheets already in the washer filled with laundry soap and water and I’d go and turn the generator on…………..nothing, no power!!! Often I’d have to let it sit until Farmer Hick came home. Sometimes it was a simple matter of changing the fuel filter, which I did learn to do (a simple fix, even for someone without a single automotive gene). The reason the generator’s fuel filter would often plug up is the simple fact that Farmer Hick runs bio-diesel to power it, which has a thicker viscosity than diesel. The solar panels have made my life SO much easier, I’m certainly grateful for them. But back to the skills…what I’m trying to say is, whenever you can, make sure you have a back up plan, it makes those difficult moments easier to handle. When things move along smoothly it’s easier to stay focused. Wet bed sheets are no problem if you make sure you have extra sets. Running out of food and having an empty pantry is a bigger problem when you’re miles away from town, but worse can happen!!! Be prepared, get to know your neighbors and have at least one good friend who could come help out anytime you really need help.

If you’re moving to a homestead that’s many miles away from everything and everyone you know, be prepared for some loneliness in the beginning. Yes, you’ll be happy and exited to have achieved your starting goal of homesteading, but it takes time to build a new circle of friends and acquaintances. The first winter here was probably the hardest on me, we didn’t know anyone, there was no gardening work to keep me busy outdoors, the constant falling snow depressed me back then, yes, that first winter was hard, I did almost lose sight of the goal. For Farmer Hick the first two weeks of being here on the land was extremely difficult. He’d quit his job, left his family and friends, we had no internet connection or access at that time, he was miserable for several weeks, but all that changed when he started building our house. Plan on some transitioning time, it’s normal. Keep your eyes on the goal.

It’s a good idea to surround yourself with some “homesteading skill” books, not that the books will make you efficient at skills, but it helps to be able to read and take advice from experts, it gives courage and confidence that, “yes, I can do this!”

The following books and magazines were most helpful to me before we made our move and even during the first few years of being on the land.

  • Carla Emery’s Country Encyclopedia
  • Storey’s Basic Country Skills
  • Country Living Magazine, (especially the older issues)

Today, due to the increased interest in homesteading there are many more good books that cover the subject, just visit your local tractor supply store. There are also numerous websites, blogs and youtube videos that cover any homesteading topic or skill in great detail. Just look for them.

Being new to homesteading and moving to an off-grid homestead at the same time made our adventure twice as challenging, twice as many things to learn, double the learning curve. I’m sure glad we had a whole summer of weekends on the land before we moved here permanently, it gave us a chance to try the off-grid living and also to implement ideas that would help make the final move smoother.

So, from one homesteader to another…never stop learning skills and always keep a positive attitude and outlook on life!

 

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