Homesteading Skills to Learn Now - BEFORE you head to the farm

Do you dream of living out in the country where you can "properly" homestead? Me, too. But until that time, there's a lot we can do NOW to improve our level of self sufficiency, eat healthier and more sustainably, and gather the skills we'll need once we do have more land. Here are what I consider the most practical skills to learn when you are still living in the suburbs (or maybe even the city).

Photo by L.Kenzel.
* Get chickens. They don't take much room, so anyone in a suburban area should get them. If your city doesn't allow them, appeal to your city.

* Garden. As much as you can. If you can't have a big garden, have a small one. If you can't have a traditional garden bed, think outside the box and plant in containers, or use edible gardening - planting edibles among your pretty ornamental plants. Gardening is a skill that takes years to develop.

* Learn how to start seeds.

* Plant bushes and trees that provide food. If you think you'll be moving in a few years, plant bushes and patio trees in large pots. Otherwise, choose bushes that are a couple of years old, as well as patio or dwarf trees, which produce at a younger age than full-sized trees. You'll likely get at least some food for your effort - and you'll be doing a good deed for future owners of the property.

* Learn to preserve food by canning, dehydrating, and freezing. The first two are the best, since they don't require energy once the initial preserving is complete.

* Get rabbits. They are easily the best source of meat for the suburban homesteader.

* Learn to forage for wild foods.

* Learn to cook from scratch. I don't recommend doing this all at once, or you'll burn out. But little by little, learn to replace processed foods with homemade ones.

* Learn to make your own dairy products, including butter and cheese. For now, you may have to do it with store bought milk, but you'll be learning dairy skills, nonetheless.

* Learn to butcher animals, whether backyard hens and rabbits, or wild animals.

* Learn how to light a fire. Practice makes perfect! If possible (and you have a source for wood), switch to wood heat.

* Start saving seeds.

* Learn how to hunt and fish - and how to prepare and cook wild game.

* Get out of debt - and stay there.

* Learn to make soap and candles.

* Learn to compost.

* Keep bees. This is a real skill that takes years to get good at.

* Incubate and hatch chicken eggs. You can purchase fertilized eggs from a local farm store.

* Raise other poultry, like turkeys.

* Learn to mend clothes.

* Read, read, and read some more. There are some homesteading skills you just won't be able to practice in the suburbs or city. But you can read about them. Read everything you can get your hands on about modern homesteading!

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