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Skills for Self-Sufficiency
The definition of being self-sufficient is not relying on others for the things you need to survive. Exactly what level of self-sufficiency a homesteader chooses is up to them and their family. It also will depend greatly on the skills of each member of the homestead. When it comes to the women, many of the skills that would be helpful are the ones that have been around for a very long time. These are skills that are just as important today as they were 100 years ago. The difference between now and then is that we have some technology to help us out that make these tasks easier and sometimes more fun.
So why do I say these are skills that the ladies on a homestead should have? Because these are the types of tasks better suited to the demeanor and nature of women. When we talk about traditional living we are referring to the roles men and women had in the home and homestead before the 1960’s. This is not sexism, it is science. When I was in college I learned about something called “sexual dimorphism” in humans. What it means is men and women, for the most part, are physically different and therefore best suited for different types of work. I also base these tasks on the biblical roles women and men have in the traditional family. So without further adieu here are the top 6 skills every woman should have on a homestead.
Food Preservation & Storing
This is probably one of the MOST important skills, in my opinion, the lady of the homestead should have. And if you think about it one of the main motivating factors for having a homestead is to provide your family with food you are in control of. With that, you need to know how to keep that food from going bad and providing nutrition to your family throughout the year, not just at harvest time. Also, food preservation can be about extreme long-term storage for emergency preparedness. This set of skills is a huge key in the self-sufficiency of a homestead. That said, there are many ways to preserve and store food.
Preserving with any of these methods usually keeps food good for anywhere from 3 months to a year. You can extend the shelf life by sealing in jars or vacuum bags. Clicking on each method will give you the length of time the food will be safe to eat.
Medium to Long Term
There is some overlap with some of these preservation methods when it comes to shelf-life and honestly, it also depends on the type of food. But the links I provided give a huge amount of advice and tips on preserving.
Cooking & Baking
This seems like a no-brainer but definitely needs to be mentioned. It is well-known that my generation and younger have a higher likelihood of not knowing how to cook. If you consider the invention of convenience foods came about in the late 1950’s and gained popularity in the 60’s. And with the trend of many mothers going to work outside the home, there are two almost three generations of young women who were not taught how to cook. And cooking from scratch has become a dying art. Thank goodness cooking and baking from scratch is experiencing a comeback. So this is actually a skill that many young women need to learn. Self-sufficiency means being able to cook most of your foods from scratch instead of buying from the grocery store.
So why is it so important to be able to make your own food and baked goods at home? Control of your ingredients and ensuring balanced meals for your family has an immense effect on their health and wellness. It can also be a HUGE cost saver when it comes to the grocery budget. In my post, “Create a Family Food Strategy ~ Eat Healthy on a Budget” I go over this in detail.
Handcrafts have been around for all of human history and they can play a big role on the homestead. Although some of these crafts may have been utilized by men (crochet or knitting used for making nets), women have been the primary practitioners. If you can master a couple of these it will be a great blessing to the homestead and a huge step toward self-sufficiency. And you can be in control of the many types of chemicals your family is exposed to, especially when making your own soaps and cleansers.
- Crochet/Knitting: Besides being an enjoyable and relaxing hobby, your skills can be used to make blankets, hats, gloves, scarves, curtains, washcloths, and other great things vital to the homestead and your family.
- Sewing: Similar to crocheting and knitting you can create many things for the homestead by learning the skill of sewing. Making clothing for your family members, curtains, tablecloths, and other important items is not only self-sufficiency at it’s finest but is also extremely frugal.
- Weaving/Spinning: If you happen to have animals that provide fibers you can make your own yarn for crocheting and knitting. No more expensive trips to the yarn store. Weaving is also a great skill for making very useful items and art for the homestead.
- Candlemaking: A great craft to learn for providing emergency lighting if ever you lose power. But also can supplement current lighting if you are completely off-grid, and can be quite romantic for in-home date night.
- Soapmaking: This is a great skill to have for cost savings and to help reduce the chemicals your family is exposed to. Whether you choose cold-process or even melt and pour it is extremely useful and even fun to make soap. I also would like to add homemade cleansers like laundry soap, household cleaners, and homemade bath products to this part of the skills list. Using homemade household cleaners is a great way to cut costs, and some are even more effective then store bought.
What’s great about handcrafts is that not only can they be an asset when it comes to saving money and being self-sufficient, they can also be used as a second source of income. If you learn any of these skills and get good enough you can always sell your extra products online, in a shop, or at the local farmer’s market.
Growing your own herbs and having the knowledge of their uses can be beneficial on the homestead for many reasons. But I’d say one of the top reasons is that it can be an asset in taking care of your family’s health. I would never say herbalism should replace traditional western medicine, but I will say that it can reduce your dependence on doctor’s and over the counter medication if done properly and responsibly. There are many wonderful classes online that you can use to learn about the proper uses for herbs and how to integrate them into your daily life.
The other advantage to learning about herbs is growing them in your garden for culinary purposes. They also provide food for beneficial insects and critters not just for you. Imagine having fresh basil, oregano, or rosemary ready to go for your next Foccacia? Or having fresh mint growing on the window sill for tea whenever the mood strikes you?
Cleaning & Organizing
Yes cleaning and organizing are most definitely skills. They are two skills I struggle to master every day. The reason they are so important for the homestead is because they help everything and everyone run smoothly.
Cleaning is not only important for the appearance of the homestead but it also ensures the health of the family living there. I think we forget the importance of a clean home when it comes to the health of it’s occupants, because most of us just see it as a chore that needs done. Keeping the homestead clean can actually still be a matter of life or death. If the area in the homestead where food is prepared is not kept clean it can cause members of the household to get sick. Also if the homestead is not regularly deep cleaned things like black mold and pests can become an issue.
Organization is an important skill because a homestead usually is run very much like a business. And if things are not properly organized papers can be lost, schedules can be upset, journals need to be kept for animal husbandry and crop records. Organization of food preservation should be a high priority. Food must be properly labled and dated so as to make sure older foods are being used first. So you can see organization is not just for neat freaks.
You’re probably wondering what I mean by nurturing, and how that might be a skill. To me nurturing is one of the primary skills a lady of the homestead should have. To nurture is to care for. Mothers nurture their children, wives nurture their husbands, and women on the homestead nurture the animals and plants as well.
When Aaron brought home our baby chicks this year, a couple of them ended up with either pasty butt or poo stuck to their feet. He always brings them to me to nursemaid because according to him I have a gentler touch. Every time he has brought me a chick I have been able to nurse it back to health. I am also usually the one to get our seedlings started and get them ready for Aaron to plant in the garden. These are examples of what it means to nurture.
Even though I was never raised on a farm and didn’t have many pets, I always seem to know what to do when it comes to caring for the young around our homestead. And sometimes that means doing the research if I am at a loss for answers. That is why I feel nurturing is an important skill to learn if you are the lady of the homestead. We as women are natural caregivers and it is a skill we can always refine.
“I Got Skills”
There are many more skills a lady of the homestead can learn. But these 6 are absolutely indispensable if you want all the living things on your homestead to thrive. I try to learn one new thing every year to expand my knowledge and ensure that the Hudson homestead is always thriving and continues to be a physical testament to God. So, don’t ever be afraid to try new things! And if you find it’s just not something you’re good at, that’s ok. I really can’t knit that well, but I discovered that I can crochet like nobodies business! Whatever skills you choose to learn, know that they will definitely be a huge benefit to your family. And the skills we learn now can be passed down to future generations of homesteaders!