Being a homesteader isn’t like a thing that you can wake up and one day decide that you are. It isn’t something you become after you move to the country, or even after you buy a pair of overalls. To me, being a homesteader is a state of mind, backed by skill sets. These skill sets are learned over time, through sweat, and adversity. It is a constant way of life that I continue to add new skills along the way. I’m still not sure if I am a true homesteader. After all, the goal of self sufficiency is still so far away. We are still quite dependent on the grocery store an don’t even get me started on the feed store. That remains our biggest challenge. How can we grow THAT much food for the chickens, turkeys, goats, pheasants, quail, geese, hogs (at least the cows are grass fed) and whoever else I might be forgetting? A problem for another day…. Anyway, on to the skills.
- LEARN TO GARDEN. Seems simple. It is not. Gardening is in in-depth learning experience that takes time to learn. You must figure out what to plant, when to plant, how far away to plant, when to water, how much to water, how to weed, how to deal with pests, when to harvest, and how to store your harvest. Then when you get all that figured out, their is still soil amending, plant rotation, and seed storage. But DONT GET DISCOURAGED just because it might not work the first year, doesn’t mean it won’t work the next. Ask an old timer for advice, or join a Facebook group, people generally are pretty awesome about sharing knowledge.
- LEARN TO STORE FOOD. Food storage can be attained in a number of ways. Freezing, dehydrating, canning and the root cellar are the way we handle it around here. But, there are many other ways as well. Learning to pressure can and hot water bath are essential for our food storage systems and I highly recommend learning. There is nothing better on a cold winter day, than being greeted by a plethora of jewel toned jars in your pantry. It is much easier for me to open a jar than it is deal with frozen bricks of food. However with that being said, I do freeze corn, spinach, and all my meats. Potatoes, onions, and winter squash go to the root cellar. Make sure to store potatoes away from onions, or they will greatly shorten your shelf life.
- LEARN TO CARE OF YOUR CRITTERS. Unfortunately taking care of livestock is more than just keeping them fed and watered. Although that is definitely the most time consuming of chores, there are other skills to be learning along the way. How to keep chicks at the correct temperature, how to administer medication, tattoo ears, and clip hooves are skill sets learned along the way. These are nuggets of information that can be passed along from year to year, and hopefully, generation to generation.
- LEARN TO USE A FIREARM. Guns are used more than just for personal self protection. Guns on the homestead are another part of keeping things running smoothly. Although they are not used often, guns are used to protect livestock, cull old or sick animals, and aide in the butchering process of large animals. THIS IS NOT A MAN SKILL. Ladies I know it is easier to have hubby go out a cull old Ms Waddles, ( and lets be real, my husband does this job ) at least know how to use a gun if you HAD to. As in, raccoon in the henhouse type situation. I think a shot in the air is better than nothing.
- THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL IS TO LEARN TIMING. What do I mean, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you! The timing of seasons on a homestead are critical in making it work effectively. You must know when to plant specific crops in order for them to survive. Some plants like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, Brussels sprouts and kale, like the colder climates. You can plant these early in the spring and again for a fall harvest. They don’t do well in the heat and will not produce like they should. Everything equal except timing, the same plant cared for identically only in different months will either succeed or fail. Chicks, as another example, you also must keep on a close timing schedule. If you order your meat chicks too early in spring you will be doing constant battle with the cold, and may end up losing them due to uneven temperature. If you wait too long into the spring, before ordering meat chicks, then when it is butcher time you will be battling the heat and flies. TIMING IS CRUCIAL we order meat birds early, and have them delivered may 1, that way we can raise them until the first of July. Then we can have them in the freezer forth of July weekend. Keeping a calendar of crucial plant dates, harvest times, breeding seasons ect. will keep your farm running efficiently. Otherwise you may forget you need to breed back your cows, or when to get a hen of a nest of unviable eggs. Not that it has happened to me or anything….