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101 Basic Homesteading Skills

101 Basic Homesteading Skills

1. Learn how to safely use a chainsaw
2. Learn how to grow a vegetable plant
3. Learn how to sharpen any edge tool — knife, axe, hoe, chisel etc.
4. Learn basic firearm safety and gun proof your children and grandchildren
5. Learn how to dub a chicken
6. Learn how to read the weather
7. Learn how to spin wool, cotton or flax into thread or yarn on a spinning wheel or with a drop spindle
8. Learn how to use a garden shovel, spade or hoe without hurting your back
9. Learn how to light a fire indoors or outdoors
10. Learn how to go to a country auction and not get skinned
11. Learn how to crochet
12. Learn how to butcher small livestock like rabbits or chickens
13. Learn how to hang clothes on a clothesline
14. Learn basic tractor maintenance
15. Learn the differences between trees and the unique properties of various types of wood
16. Learn how to cook 10 basic meals from scratch
17. Learn how to pasteurize milk
18. Learn how to witch for water with a forked branch or a bent metal hanger
19. Learn how to distinguish healthy plants and animals from unhealthy plants or animals
20. Learn basic sewing skills
21. Learn how to set an ear tag or tattoo for animal identification
22. Learn how determine an animal’s age by its teeth
23. Learn how to cut and glaze glass
24. Learn how to drive a standard transmission vehicle
25. Learn how to thaw out frozen pipes without busting them
26. Learn how and when to use hybrid seeds
27. Learn how to hand thresh and winnow wheat or oats and other small grains
28. Learn how to train a working cattle or sheep dog
29. Learn how to read the moon and stars
30. Learn how to make soft or hard cheeses
31. Learn how to live within your financial means
32. Learn how to fillet and clean a fish
33. Learn how to use a wash tub, hand-wringer and washboard
34. Learn how to make soap from wood ashes and animal fat
35. Learn how to lay basic brick or build a stone wall
36. Learn basic home canning and food preservation
37. Learn how to save open pollinated seeds
38. Learn how to de-horn livestock
39. Learn how to use an awl and basic leather repair
40. Learn how to make long-term plans for the future – plan an orchard or a livestock breeding program
41. Learn the mental skills necessary to jury rig anything with duct tape, baling twine and whatever is on hand
42. Learn how to read an almanac
43. Learn how to euthanize large livestock
44. Learn how to cook on a cook stove
45. Learn how to entertain yourself and live without electronic media
46. Learn how to shear a sheep
47. Learn how to manage human urine and feces without plumbing
48. Learn how to swap, barter and network with like-minded people
49. Learn how to make a candle
50. Learn how to dig and properly use a shallow well
51. Learn how to refinish furniture
52. Learn how to drive a draft animal
53. Learn the mental and spiritual skills to realistically deal with life, death and failure
54. Learn how to use non-electric lighting
55. Learn how to caponize a chicken
56. Learn how to restrain large livestock
57. Learn how to use a treadle sewing machine
58. Learn how to give an injection
59. Learn how to properly use a handsaw, hammer & nails, screw driver, wire cutters, and measuring tape
60. Learn how to recognize your own physical and mental skill limits
61. Learn how and when to prune grapes and fruit trees
62. Learn how to hatch out chicken, duck or other poultry eggs
63. Learn how to use a scythe
64. Learn how to skin a furbearer and stretch the skin
65. Learn how to tell the time of day by the sun
66. Learn how to milk a goat, sheep or cow
67. Learn how to stomach tube a newborn animal
68. Learn how to break ground and plow
69. Learn how to use a wood stove and how to bank a fire
70. Learn how to make butter
71. Learn how to knit
72. Learn how to make and use a hot bed or cold frame
73. Learn how to deliver a foal, calf, lamb or kid
74. Learn how to know when winter is over
75. Learn how to plant a tree
76. Learn how to brood day-old chicks
77. Learn how to dye yarn or cloth from plants
78. Learn how to haggle like a horse trader
79. Learn how to bake bread
80. Learn how to use a pressure tank garden sprayer
81. Learn how to halter break a horse or cow
82. Learn how to graft baby animals onto a foster-mother
83. Learn how to weave cloth
84. Learn how to grow everyday kitchen herbs
85. Learn how to make sausage
86. Learn how to set and bait traps for unwanted vermin and predators
87. Learn how to grind wheat into flour
88. Learn how to make paper and ink
89. Learn when it is more economical to buy something ready-made or when to make it yourself
90. Learn how to castrate livestock
91. Learn how choose a location for a vegetable garden or orchard
92. Learn how to weave a basket
93. Learn how to use electric netting or fencing
94. Learn how to make fire starters from corn cobs or pinecones
95. Learn how to use a pressure cooker
96. Learn how to correctly attach 3 point hitch implements to a tractor
97. Learn how to trim the hooves of goats or sheep
98. Learn how to sew your own underwear
99. Learn how to make your own wine.
100. Learn basic plumbing and how to sweat copper pipes and joints
101. Learn how to reload ammunition

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Just another typical day at the Hard Fifty Farm: Get up at 5:30am after going to bed at 1am. Make Thad’s breakfast, pack his lunch. Work on Bart Schaneman’s manuscript. Wake up kids, make them breakfast. Get threatened with a ridiculous lawsuit by ex-business partner. Freak out. Pull it together. Keep working. Send a bazillion email re: website overhaul, press campaigns, author contracts. Get ready to go grocery shopping, go outside and find kids and Adam caked head to toe in mud. Shower the boys, go grocery shopping. Come home, scream hello to Thad from across the yard, start farm chores. Take care of wounded chicken. Feed 30 animals, lock ‘em up for the night. Eat a burrito. Start making 5 loaves (3 varieties) of bread from scratch for the Mother Earth News potluck. While the dough rises, go through the bedtime routine with the boys. Finish bread. Feed Jack a midnight snack. Clean kitchen. Put together Thad’s clothes for the morning, trying on too-big clothes to find the perfect “Casual Friday” outfit. Put Jack back to bed. Set alarm for 5:30 (3.5 hours from now). Heading to bed … #radicalhousewife #domesticnotsubmissive

Hover flies for Organic Aphid Control

April 15, 2015

When I grow ‘Red Frills’ mustard in the winter garden I often let it flower and go to seed. Or rather, it just happens with benign neglect in spring.

benign neglect                                                                                    
noun attitude or policy of noninterference or neglect of a situation, which may have a more beneficial effect than assuming responsibility.

And my benign neglect in allowing the mustard to flower has had a more beneficial effect than if I had tidied up.The mustard flowers draw scads of hover flies to my garden.

The larvae of hover flies prey on aphids.One larva may consume 400 aphids before pupating. Aphids usually take out my kale and other cabbage family crops in late spring, so I’m hopeful. The larvae also feed on cabbage worms, scale, mealy bugs and other insect pests that frequent my garden. 

Many of the 6000 species of hover flies are important pollinators.Some gardeners may know them as flower flies given their preference for annual flowers such as alyssum and bachelor buttons. One reference suggests they prefer white and yellow flowers. Another reason to grow flowers with your vegetables.

I welcome the hover flies to my garden and I’ll let the mustard linger longer. 

Attract Hoverflies for Organic Aphid Control, Barbara Pleasant in Mother Earth News

Hoverfly, Wikipedia has a decent, well-referenced entry

All About Hover Flies, Microscopy UK, a more technical look from the UK

Syrphid, Flower or Hover flies, University of California IPM


Hoverfly photo: Bonnie Plants

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Mother Earth News Explains Cob Building Basics

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Cob building gets its name from the Old English term for “lump,” which refers to the lumps of clay-rich soil that were mixed with straw and then stomped into place to create monolithic earthen walls.” – Mother Earth News

Read about Cob Building Basics: DIY House of Earth and Straw

Subscribe to Tiny House Design

I scanned this from an old issue of Mother Earth News.  I guess it makes sense at a time when a woodsplitter would have been too expensive for some.  But let me get this straight- I’m gonna jack up my truck, fire it up, put it in D or 1st gear, and then split a load of wood that I’m loading into the truck while it’s jacked up?

If the screw jams on a big tough piece of oak, won’t the diff compensate by engaging the other wheel and driving away?

I bet the PTO version works like a charm.  I like that it can’t cut or smash you.


Photos from last week’s experimenting with kamut flour breads for Thad to take to the Mother Earth News staff potluck. Thad ground the kamut using a bicycle-powered mill at the Ogden Publications office. The 100% kamut round was a success. Hearty and rustic. Very tasty. Also did a 50% kamut sandwich loaf and two back-up basic French loaves made with flax (because that’s what I always make and I was pretty confident I wouldn’t screw them up.) Thad said they were all a big hit!

Planting My Winter Garden: Celery

October 30, 2014

Last year’s celery planted next to ‘Bull’s Blood’ Beets.

Here is this year’s celery planted ten days ago from a six-pack. Last year I tried growing 'Ventura’ (Fedco) but later read that celery seeds are notoriously hard to germinate and grew transplants.They do reseed in the garden for me.

It’s wonderful to have fresh celery in the garden for cooking. I cut stalks as I need them–fresh, organic and no pesticide residues. I’ve grown them in pots too so a sunny balcony or patio will do. Read my post on growing a celery plant from the end of a bunch of celery. You can do that in a container too.

Wherever you grow it, celery will need abundant compost and moisture. Mulch helps and so does some liquid fish emulsion as it grows.

To learn more, read All About Growing Celery by Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News.

For centuries, aromatic celery has flavored soups and added crunch to salads. But today’s commercial, non-organic celery continuously ranks near the top of the list of vegetables known to carry chemical residues, with some samples tainted with more than 60 pesticides. Read more

65 Tips to Save Money Through Self-Reliance

Apply a do-it-yourself approach to personal finance to significantly reduce your living expenses. Follow these tips to save money from our community of readers and experts to start living on less today.

By Kale Roberts

Photo by iStockphoto/ivstiv

International Homesteading Education Month Is Just Around the Corner!

International Homesteading Education Month, presented by MOTHER EARTH NEWS and GRIT Magazine, promotes community self-reliance skills through the month of September. You can attend or host events, from organic garden tours and farm-to-table dinners to beekeeping and soap-making presentations, and more. Find out how you can get involved:

So this is a real thing and I’m pretty excited that it is.

Planting My Winter Garden: Beets

November 4, 2014

‘Baby Ball’ beets from last year’s winter garden.

I’ve planted my favorite variety of beet, 'Baby Ball’ again this year. It’s been reliable for many years. The Renee’s Garden catalog description of the Holland import is spot on:

Perfectly rounded, petite crimson beets with fine tips, mellow sweet taste and delicious healthful greens. Early to harvest. Pick at baby size or maturity.

Though I enjoyed the red leaves of the 'Bulls Blood’ beet last year, the beets were somewhat irregular. After a few seasons hiatus, the 'Golden’ beets return to my winter garden.

They are delicious roasted and beautiful served alongside the red beets or in salads. Read a description and see pictures here.

I’ve planted beets successfully using a grid for several years. Though planted close together the soil is rich and I pull smaller ones to make room for larger beets to grow.

Some years I soak the seed overnight. I forgot this year. You can see small depressions made with my finger in each rectangle. I drop in the seeds for a row, then cover with finely sifted compost and press down so the seed makes good contact with the soil.

A small depression remains and when I sprinkle the bed, water puddles there. Keeping the bed well-watered improves germination. (Note to self: we have Santa Ana conditions for the next few days).

To learn more, read an excellent article, All About Growing Beets by Barbara Pleasant in Mother Earth News 

A Solar Cabin in Two Weeks for $2,000

After finding himself without a home, LaMar Alexander moved onto inherited land and built a 400-square-foot cabin in two weeks for $2,000.

By LaMar Alexander