Country Lore: April/May 2018

Readers’ tips on developing homesteading skills, giving to back to the community, save time and money by buying in bulk, utilizing minimal resources, and more!

| April/May 2018

  • build potting shed
    Rather than just reading a book on a project, read it while building your new potting shed, garden greenhouse, or animal shelter.
    Photo by Tasha Greer
  •  small rugs recycled denim
    Making small rugs is a great way to put old jeans and towels to good use.
    Karen Dawson
  • compost bin worms
    My worms eat leaves, shredded paper, kitchen scraps, and more. I use the casting tea from the bin when I transplant vegetables and as a treat for my fruit trees.
    Photo by Laura Johnson
  • asparagus steamer basket make preserves
    This asparagus steamer basket accommodates one jar of preserves.
    Photo by Tracy Chaleff
  • share vegetables food bank
    We share most of our vegetables through a local church youth group and a food bank. We also bring flowers to the local hospital, library, and wellness center.
    Photo by Dennis Johnson
  • purchase in bulk save money
    When purchasing in bulk, use smaller storage tubs in the kitchen, for daily use.
    Photo by Eric Reuter
  • Tromboncino is an Italian squash
    Tromboncino is an Italian squash, light yellow-green, mild but tasty, and firmer than a zucchini.
    Photo by Risa Goldberg
  • easy-to-read labels spice pantry
    These easy-to-read labels are a great addition to any spice pantry.
    Photo by Deborah Calderwood
  • earth insulated water warmer
    To make this earth insulated water warmer, you’ll need a metal bucket and stainless steel bowl, as well as a woodstove or outdoor grill for producing ash and heating any coals or firebricks. Kim Oberhammer Spruce Pine, North Carolina
    Photo by Kim Oberhammer

  • build potting shed
  •  small rugs recycled denim
  • compost bin worms
  • asparagus steamer basket make preserves
  • share vegetables food bank
  • purchase in bulk save money
  • Tromboncino is an Italian squash
  • easy-to-read labels spice pantry
  • earth insulated water warmer

Discover New Homesteading Skills

Something I discovered as a trainer is that learning by doing is easier. For most homesteading skills, on-the-job training works best and allows you to complete projects as you learn. Several essential projects which are important to learn as a homesteader, include sourcing alternative energies, greenhouse building, and gardening. Here are some of my suggestions for readers on how to skill up cheaply and efficiently on the homestead.

Book learning. Books are the cheapest and most efficient way to study new skills. Rather than just reading a book on a project, read it while building your new potting shed, garden greenhouse (mine is pictured at right), or animal shelter. Apply the techniques as you go. If you mess up or get stuck on a detail, take time to do web research or pick up a different book for an alternate perspective until you feel comfortable with new concepts. Book learning works great for skills that can be learned over time, such as building and gardening.

Community college courses. Most community colleges offer personal enrichment classes, such as cabinetmaking, winemaking or beer brewing, high-tunnel building, welding, and more. Classes often cost less than $200 and include a hands-on component. They also include workshop access so you can complete projects and make sure you enjoy using a skill before you invest in your own equipment.

Apprenticeships. For most of human history, higher education was for the well-to-do elite. The rest of us mere mortals learned by working with others. This is still a great way to build practical homesteading skills. Many small businesses would be thrilled to give you skills training in exchange for free or cheap labor. However, being an apprentice means sticking to your commitment so the experience is beneficial to both parties. For shorter commitments, consider doing seasonal work and projects, such as pruning, harvesting and processing fruits and nuts, one-time building projects, event preparation, spring shearing, honey harvesting, and winter hive preparation.

Workshops. Traveling to workshops isn’t practical for me because I keep livestock. Instead, I like to hold workshops on my homestead. Last year, we hosted meat expert and award-winning author of The Ethical Meat Handbook (and Mother Earth News Fair presenter) Meredith Leigh to help with our pig slaughter and guide us through butchering, sausage making, and meat curing. It was cheaper to have her come to our homestead than for us to travel to a similar workshop and hire someone to take care of our homestead. In addition, we were able to share the workshop with our friends and family.

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