Renewing Old-World Skills with a Modern-Day Twist

Reader Contribution by Shane Floyd and Floyd Family Homestead
article image

The revitalization of the “Back-to-Basics” movement has brought with it the old-world skills that the pioneers once used to survive, but with a modern-day twist. While no longer essential to survival, these skills are now being used by modern homesteaders to gain their freedom from dependence.


Skills such as preserving food, gardening, and raising animals were essential to the pioneers after they ventured westward in 1843. Fast forward hundreds of years and we now see another modern-day expansion; while not heading westward on the Oregon Trail but rather from cities to the country.


These skills once meant life and death for the pioneers, but today it is not as life-threatening as it once was. Rather, relearning traditional skills has become an asset to counter the rise of food prices and the addition of added chemicals, additives and preservatives to what we consume.


Food Preservation

The preserving of food has been around throughout history from the days of using the sun and wind to dehydrate food up to the invention of sealed tin cans by Peter Durand in 1810.


Most modern homesteaders are re-learning the old-world skills of preserving food using such methods as water bath or pressure canning, dehydration, and curing for the sole purpose of eliminating their need to buy commercial products — and the satisfaction of knowing where their food is coming from and exactly what was used in growing it.


Nowadays, many homesteaders can tell you about the metallic “pop” that is heard after successfully preserving food. The “pop” is like music in its own right.


Home Gardening

The number of gardeners has fluctuated over the years, the way we garden has. As technology grew throughout the years commercial farmers and the home gardeners began to use chemicals to resist drought and increase the yield of their crop production; however, the modern homesteader has become leery of utilizing those chemicals and have chosen to go back to the earlier methods of the pioneers.


Having never had access to these kinds of chemicals the pioneers had to learn how to use what the Earth could provide, such as manure, crop rotation and companion planting; a perfect example is that of the Native Americans using the 3 sisters planting method which is a form of growing three different plants together so that are beneficial to each other.


In reverting back, the modern homesteader has developed many different kinds of beneficial methods based off of pioneer mentality, such as the “Back to Eden” method which is a no-till gardening method.


Utilizing the old-world skills of gardening has begun to revitalize the homestead gardens into producing great results with less chemically infused food being consumed.


Raising Livestock

Pioneers had no choice but to raise their livestock on their own, barter or trade with their community for their meat. Sure, they had the opportunity for some wild game but the chances are that they had to rely more on their own animals than that of wild game to feed their families and to get a variety of meats.


Raising animals in my opinion is one of the harder old-world skills, simply because they are a living, breathing things with their own temperaments, attitudes and personalities; because of this, there is so many things that you have to learn on how to care for, feed, and treat that when you have multiple animals on a homestead the knowledge gets to be quite extensive.


More and more cities are now beginning to allow the raising of some small livestock such as chickens, to be raised within the city limits. These changes have become a great advantage to the modern homesteader wishing to raise, consume and even sell byproducts of or the animals themselves.


“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” — Maimonides


This wonderful quote by Maimonides (courtesy of Goodreads) rings all too true to the modern-day homesteader. Anyone can buy food from a grocery store and feed themselves for a day, but learn these old-world skills and you will feed yourself for a lifetime.


While we only touched on the surface of some of the old-world skills, these are some of the most common that have found their way from the days of the pioneers to modern homesteads across the country.


I would really love to hear your opinion on what old-world skills you have learned, so please take a moment and let us know by leaving us a comment.


Shane Floydhas been passionate about homesteading and sustainable living for more than 40 years. Now located in Oklahoma, he is using his experiences and passion to create his own sustainable homestead on 7 acres of land, using the same principles and ideals of his ancestors with a modern-day twist. Read about his adventures on theFloyd Family Homestead website, and connect with Shane on  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, InstagramandYoutube, Amazon.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.