How can it be that we’re already 3 months into 2019?! On one hand it feels like it was just yesterday that we were celebrating the holidays, and on the other hand, this feels like the winter that never ends.
We are experiencing a record-breaking cold snap here in Alberta right now, both in temperature and duration. In my 27 years, I don’t remember it ever staying this cold for this long. It’s really getting people down (myself included) so I wanted to take some time today to chat about the homesteading skills I am planning to build in 2019.
2018 was a very productive year. I dove head-first into expanding the garden, I learned how to water bath can and dehydrate tons of garden produce, I began learning about basic herbal medicine, my future sister-in-law taught me how to fly fish, and I took up sewing – which I promptly gave up on because damn – it was hard! Maybe I’ll try it again some day, but for the time being, I have put my needles and bobbins to rest.
In 2019, we will be beginning the search for our first acreage. We will be taking the first realistic steps towards realizing our homesteading dream, and moving from suburbia to the country. In the mean time, here are the 5 Homesteading skills I will be working on.
5 Homesteading Skills To Build This Year
1, Seed Saving
Seed saving is an essential gardening skill for so many reasons. It breeds desirable traits into your plants, it saves money, and it creates further self-reliance.
The amount I have spent on seeds this year is laughable. I’m not sure if it’s the cabin fever or what, but I’ve ordered more varieties than I could ever possibly have room for in my little space. And while I’m probably never going to be able to resist those gorgeous, glossy seed catalogues at the start of each year, I would like to begin saving seeds from our favourite and most-used varieties.
I purchased the recently released book “The Seed Garden” from Seed Savers Exchange, and while I am finding it quite scientific and overwhelming at times for the total newbie, the information contained is invaluable and easy enough to understand with the odd google here and there to further break it down.
2. Accurate Record Keeping
This may seem like a frivolous skill, but hear me out. If you want to become more self sufficient, you need to know what, where, when, and how much to plant, harvest, and preserve to feed your family.
I purchased the very helpful Complete Garden Planner from Jill McSheehy at The Beginner’s Garden, printed off as many sheets as I needed for each category, and I plan to keep track of all kinds of things; what I planted, when I did things like fertilize, transplant, thin and harvest, issues I had with pests and diseases, successes and failures with yields of different varieties, how much I harvested by weight, the weather, and how much I was able to preserve.
Jill’s super helpful garden planter can be purchased and downloaded here for only $9.50 USD. Also, be sure to check out her podcast, The Beginner’s Garden. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, I’m sure you’ll learn something.
When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time with my Grandma, and she loved to knit and crochet. She taught me the fundamentals of knitting when I was 6 years old, and I’ve toyed with it on and off for most of my life. This year, however, I want to commit to expanding and refining my knitting skills, explore new stitches and patterns, and learn to knit something other than a scarf or a dish cloth.
There are plenty of resources out there for learning new crafting skills. There may be in-person classes offered in your area, or you can check out sites like Craftsy and Udemy for reasonably priced online courses. And, of course, there are always library books and YouTube!
At a first thought, budgeting may not exactly seem like a “homesteading skill”, but it is going to be essential in our journey towards further self-reliance. Learning to live below your means, using what you have, sticking to a spending plan and – often times the hardest thing of all – buying only what you need and less of what you want, will all help you along as you move closer to realizing your dreams of freedom.
At the beginning of the year, I set a realistic (realistic is the key here – I am human, after all!) budget in an app called EveryDollar. The app makes it easy to track all of my expenses day by day right at my fingertips, see where my money is going, and remind me to stay on track. There are several different tools out there. Whether you use a fancy paid app or just a basic excel spreadsheet, figure out what works for you.
5. Making Natural Personal Care Products
2019 is going to be the year that I slowly phase out the majority of my store-bought lotions and potions and begin crafting my own. I plan to start with simple things like face lotion, lip balm, and herbal salves. If that goes well, I may move into soap and shampoo, bath bombs, deodorants and more – but we will see! I’m a recovering sephora addict, so I need to be gentle with myself along the way. 😉
Every change you make and every skill you learn, no matter how simple or how small, is just another step towards realizing your own idea of self-sufficiency and self-reliance. At the end of the day, we need to focus on the things that are important to us and the things that will have the largest impact on our families. Whether it’s planting your first pot of herbs on your apartment windowsill, baking your first loaf of homemade bread, or purchasing your first flock of backyard chickens – I challenge you to learn even just one new skill this year.