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15 Pioneer Skills Guaranteed to Make You More Self-Sufficient



My husband and I joke about how spoiled our kids are by today’s living conditions. They have no concept of life before the internet – let alone life without electricity or indoor plumbing. That’s why we threaten to turn the lights off and teach them pioneer skills. 

While we joke about it, we know that the early pioneers deserve our respect. They entered new territories and built communities from scratch. 

Pioneer skills included knowing how to meet basic needs without stores or YouTube instructional videos.

They had to dig holes for toilets. They had to learn which berries they could and could not eat. They had to build shelter using only what they brought or found in the wilderness.

Could you do the same?

You will become more self-sufficient if you master the same types of pioneer skills. You will no longer rely on grocery stores or catalogs. You won’t rely on others for assistance.

Look through this list of 15 pioneer skills for self-sufficiency to see which ones you can master and teach your children in the new year. 

1. Raising Livestock

One of our foremost needs is food, which is why it isn’t a surprise that our first group of pioneer skills deals with food.

Let’s start with raising livestock.

Early pioneers had to raise their own livestock in order to eat. 

Learning how to raise chickens is a great start. You can raise chickens just for the eggs or for butchering. 

[Related Read: How to Make Your Own Livestock Feed]

2. Butchering

Butchering is one of the pioneering skills that gets lumped in with raising livestock.

However, it is a different skill.

For example, not everyone who raises livestock uses it as food.

However, for those who plan to raise livestock to be more self-sufficient, learning how to butcher an animal is critical.

The early pioneers understood the importance of butchering correctly in order to get the safest and best cuts of meat.

Moreover, they made a point not to let anything go to waste, which included carefully butchering to save parts, such as skin and bones, that could be used in other ways. 

Man chopping tomatoes on a wooden cutting board surrounded by other vegetables and ingredients.

3. Cooking from Scratch

The early pioneers had no choice but to cook all their meals from scratch. 

For most of us, this is a choice. 

However, if you want to be more self-sufficient, cooking from scratch is one of the pioneer skills you must master.

Learn how to bake bread and cook stews without anything pre-prepared. 

4. Starting a Fire

Many of the younger generations have no idea how to start a fire.

This is one of the pioneer skills that has been neglected but will prove lifesaving. Not only does fire provide heat, but it is necessary for cooking. 

The early pioneers had to know how to start a fire without a match or a lighter. They would rely on something like flint striking steel to produce a spark.

Once there was a spark, they would then have to build the fire using whatever tinder they could find and keep it going. 

5. Cooking over a Fire

The early pioneers relied on fires to cook all their meals, and they did much more cooking over their fires than roasting hot dogs and s’mores.

The pioneers had to start a fire and build it in a way that would allow them to cook over it, such as a teepee with a frame above to hang a pot. 

In addition to building it correctly, the pioneers also had to make sure to maintain the right temperature for the food to cook correctly.

Invest in a cast-iron skillet and practice cooking over an open flame on your next camping trip to develop this pioneer skill. 

6. Hunting and Fishing

Again, food was a priority for the early pioneers.

Since they were in new territory, they had to find food on their own, using their hunting and fishing skills.

Along with knowing how to hunt and fish, they also knew how to track animals, which made hunting easier. 

While hunting and fishing are often viewed as hobbies today, they really lend themselves to self-sufficiency. 

If you know how to hunt and fish, you can find food even in desperate situations. 

Mother and son working in a backyard vegetable garden.

7. Growing Your Own Food

We all know how important growing their own food was for early pioneers. The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of their first successful harvest.

Growing your own food is one of the most practical pioneer skills to learn.

Watch any zombie apocalypse movie, and you’ll see the survivors focused on their garden. While this is entertainment, the truth is that if SHTF, those who know how to grow their own food will be leaps and bounds ahead of those who don’t. 

8. Preserving Food

Food was precious and could not be wasted.

Therefore, the early pioneers used several different methods for preserving food to ensure they’d have enough to eat even during the winter months.

You can develop these same pioneer skills to keep your pantry full even when grocery store shelves are empty.

Take time to learn some of the following skills:

9. Making Dairy Products

Many pioneers had cows for milking; however, they weren’t milking the cows to only enjoy glasses of unpasteurized milk. That wouldn’t have been a safe choice, given their living conditions. 

They used the milk to make other dairy products, such as butter and cheeses.

Whether or not you have a cow, learn how to make dairy products at home to become more self-sufficient. 

10. Navigating without GPS

GPS is a great resource – especially if you find yourself lost.

However, there may be a time when you can’t rely on GPS. You may not have your phone with you, or there may not be a signal.

Would you know how to navigate the land using the sun or a compass? The early pioneers did. 

11. Finding and Building Shelter

Pioneers are those who settle in a new area, like the settlers on the Oregon Trail or the Mormons who settled in Utah.

When these pioneers arrived, they didn’t arrive to already-built homes. They had to find and build shelter.

They used whatever they found, including mud and logs, to build homes.

In a survival situation, shelter is of utmost importance.

Learning how to find or build shelter will keep you safe in this situation.

Moreover, imagine how self-sufficient one would need to be in order to build a home from the ground up. 

[Related Read: Make Your Own Bricks Like the Early Homesteaders]

A woman tailor works at a sewing machine sews reuses fabric from old denim clothes.

12. Sewing and Mending

Knowing how to sew, make, and mend one’s own clothes is one of the pioneer skills that continues to prove beneficial. 

With so many clothing stores available, it is easy to rely on someone else to make what you wear.

But you can save money and embrace your individuality by making your own clothes.

Additionally, knowing how to mend clothing extends the life of them. 

13. Treating Illnesses and Injuries 

Hospitals didn’t exist in new settlements, pioneers had to rely on their own first aid skills to treat injuries.

For instance, could you make a splint using a branch and fabric?

In addition, early pioneers learned different herbal remedies for treating illnesses. 

Do you have an aloe vera plant in your home that you can use to soothe burns? 

Take some time to learn basic first aid skills and simple herbal remedies. 

14. Cleaning Using DIY Products

One of the recorded pioneer skills many of the women practiced was soap making.

They used wood ashes, water, animal fat, and lye to make soap for cleaning. 

Many hobbyists and homesteaders make their own soaps today. 

But DIY cleaning products go far beyond soap. Knowing how to use what is in your pantry, such as vinegar and baking soda, to make cleaning products will lead to more self-sufficient living. 

15. Being a Jack-of-All-Trades

Ultimately, the pioneers had many skills, enabling them to live self-sufficiently.

Many pioneers knew the art of being a blacksmith so they could weld their own metal tools. It was also common for pioneers to do their own carpentry and wood carving. 

Similarly, think about the jobs a handyman or maintenance man performs – electricity, plumbing, etc.

Knowing how to build and repair things on your own makes you self-sufficient and more valuable to your community.

Source link: by Survival Jane at

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Building a Wind-Powered Water Pump for Efficient Irrigation



Embracing renewable energy on the homestead, particularly wind power, can revolutionize your irrigation system.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through designing a wind-powered water pump, a sustainable solution for your irrigation needs. By harnessing the wind, you can efficiently water your crops, reduce energy costs, and contribute to environmental conservation.

A young girl blowing on a colorful pinwheel.

The Basics of Wind-Powered Irrigation

Understanding how a wind-powered water pump works is the first step. Unlike electric pumps, these systems use the mechanical energy generated by wind turning the blades of a windmill. This motion drives a pump—usually a reciprocating piston pump—to draw water from a source like a well or pond and direct it to your irrigation system.

Choosing the Right Location:

  • Wind Assessment: Use an anemometer to measure wind speed over a period to ensure the location gets consistent wind.
  • Elevation: Higher elevations typically receive more wind. A clear, unobstructed area is crucial for maximum wind exposure.
  • Proximity: The closer your windmill is to the water source, the more efficient the water pumping will be.
  • Accessibility: Ensure the site is accessible for maintenance and repairs.

Related Read: 18 Energy-Saving Hacks for the Homestead

Selecting the Windmill:

  • Size Considerations: Larger windmills can pump more water, but require stronger winds. Assess your daily water needs for livestock, irrigation, and other tasks to determine the best size.
  • Type of Windmill: American-style, multi-blade windmills are ideal for low-to-moderate wind speeds. Plus, they are durable. For higher wind areas, consider a wind turbine-style windmill.
  • Material: Look for corrosion-resistant materials, especially if you live in a humid or salty environment.

Pump Selection:

  • Matching Pump to Windmill: The pump’s capacity should align with your windmill’s power output. A larger windmill can support a pump with a higher water output.
  • Pump Type: Reciprocating piston pumps are common and effective for various depths. For deeper wells, consider a deep-well piston pump.
  • Suction Capacity: Ensure the pump can effectively draw water from your source. The maximum suction lift for most surface pumps is about 25 feet.

Learn more about water management in our guide on Homestead Water Systems.

An old farmer connecting irrigation lines in a field.

Constructing the Wind-Powered Water Pump

Building the Tower:

  • Height: The tower should be tall enough to ensure the windmill clears nearby obstructions by at least 15 feet.
  • Materials: Use galvanized steel or treated wood for durability. The structure must be strong enough to support the windmill’s weight and withstand wind forces.
  • Foundation: A solid foundation is crucial. Concrete is commonly used to anchor the tower securely.

Installing the Windmill:

  • Assembly: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembling the windmill on the ground.
  • Hoisting: Use a crane or pulley system to lift the windmill onto the tower. This is often a two-person job.
  • Orientation: The windmill should freely rotate to face the wind. Check that all moving parts are well-lubricated and move smoothly.

Connecting the Pump:

  • Mechanical Connection: Connect the windmill to the pump using a rod or shaft. This transfers the rotational energy to the pump.
  • Piping: Install pipes from the pump to your water source and to the irrigation system. Use durable, weather-resistant piping.

Setting Up the Irrigation System:

  • System Type: Choose between drip irrigation, sprinklers, or soaker hoses based on your crop needs.
  • Layout: Design the irrigation layout for even water distribution. Consider the topography of your land.
  • Connection: Connect the output pipe from the pump to your irrigation system. Include a shut-off valve for control.
Large water storage tanks standing on a farm.

Maximizing Efficiency and Sustainability

Regular Maintenance:

  • Inspection Schedule: Conduct regular inspections of the windmill, tower, and pump. Look for rust, wear, and loose components.
  • Lubrication: Regularly lubricate all moving parts to ensure smooth operation.
  • Repairs: Address any issues immediately to prevent further damage.

Water Storage Solutions:

  • Storage Tank: Install a water storage tank to collect excess water. This ensures a continuous water supply during low wind periods.
  • Placement: Place the tank at a higher elevation, if possible, for gravity-fed irrigation.

Check out this guide on choosing water storage tanks.

Smart Irrigation Practices:

  • Water Conservation: Use mulching and soil moisture sensors to reduce water waste.
  • Timing: Irrigate during cooler parts of the day to minimize evaporation.
  • Monitoring: Regularly check the system for leaks or blockages.

Related Read: Gravity Fed Irrigation for Your Garden

Source link: by Survival Jack at

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Homestead Automation: Work Smarter – Survival Jack



Homesteading is a dream come true for many, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple or easy. 

For a homestead to succeed, you have to invest a lot of time and energy.

That’s why it is important to consider automating as much as possible!

When we discuss homestead automation, we’re talking about doing whatever you can to automate things that will make your life easier, cut your chore time in half, and aid you in remembering to do something.

Today, homestead automation tends to involve smart features or using the Internet of Things to control the homestead.

However, homestead automation can also mean building DIY gravity chicken feeders.

The key is building systems that help you do less, such as feeding your chickens.

But that’s not the only reason for homestead automation.

With homestead automation, you can do everything from feeding and watering your animals to irrigating your garden, controlling temperatures inside coops and greenhouses, and protecting your animals and family from predators.

Let’s look at some of the ways homestead automation can make your homestead more efficient.

Automated security spotlights turning on at the presence of a deer.

Automating Security

Security is paramount.

In addition to protecting your family and home from those who could do you harm, automated security features can also protect your animals and garden.

Here are some examples.

  • Chicken doors: An automated chicken door makes raising chickens easier. You can set a time for the door to open and close. This will make it even more difficult for predators to get to your coop during the evening hours. It will also save you time in the mornings.
  • Motion Sensors: Motion sensors around the homestead can also protect your flock from predators. In addition, you can set up automation that not only produces light but also turns on sounds (such as talk radio playing) to deter deer from eating the produce in your garden. 
  • Cameras: You can set up cameras along your homestead property to capture stills at certain times or if triggered by motion sensors. There are also some motion cameras that connect to your smartphone so you can livestream whatever has triggered the camera.
  • Timed Lights: A basic security feature every home should utilize is a timer for lights. These are extremely helpful when you travel to give off the look of someone being at home. 
Cows eating from a feed trough.

Food & Water Automation

There are many daily chores on a homestead.

Imagine if you could avoid some of these daily chores and save time with homestead automation…

One such daily chore that can be automated is feeding and watering your animals.

Rather than feeding your animals daily (or multiple times a day), you can use an automated feed and water system. 

Fortunately, there are numerous ways this can be accomplished.

For example, you can invest in a smart animal feeder that allows you to store several gallons of feed and set a digital timer to release the food at certain times.

Or you can build a DIY chicken feeder that is gravity-released. 

This doesn’t require batteries or a connection to the internet, but it still releases food as needed over the course of several days.

  • Automated Feeders: You can find high-tech app-controlled smart feeders or build your own gravity-released automated feeder. If the smart device is too much for your taste, you can build a feeder that operates with a timed release.
  • Automated Waterers: Animals must always have access to water. You can build an automated DIY chicken watering system or a gravity-released watering system. Typically, these hold several gallons of water so that you can go days without refilling.
  • Stock Tank Floats: Stock tank float valves are an old-fashioned way to automate water systems. The stock tank float controls the water level in stock tanks, troughs, and barrels. When water goes below the float, the valve opens, which allows more water to refill the trough. 

Automating Irrigation Systems

In addition to drinking water for their animals, homesteaders can automate irrigation systems to ensure their crops get the water they need. 

  • Timers for Watering Gardens:  A simple way to automate watering is to use controlled timers. Simply connect water sources/sprinklers to timers and your watering is automated.
  • Irrigation Systems: You can purchase or build an automated irrigation system for your outdoor gardens and your greenhouse, such as hose timers that work with drip irrigation. You can install a gravity-fed irrigation system. There are also smart sprinklers and smart irrigation systems available that allow you to control when you water, how much you water, and more. 
Someone using an app on their phone to turn on their lights.

Homestead Automation for Electricity

If you find yourself spending a lot of time simply turning things on and off around the homestead, you may want to consider automating some of these basic functions using smart plugs.

Smart plugs are power plugs connected to Wi-Fi that act like remote-controlled power switches

With a smart plug, you can control most basic functions using an app. For example, you can install a smart plug inside your chicken coop that allows you to turn on and off the lights as needed. 

Similarly, if you utilize plant lights indoors, you can use smart plugs to control these lights or schedule them to operate at different times. 

You can even use a smart plug to control the air or heat inside different homestead spaces (such as turning on a fan or turning on a brooder light).

Automate Temperature

Temperature is extremely important for homesteads in different areas.

A too-hot greenhouse will result in dead plants. A too-cold water dish will result in dehydration.

[Related Read: Stop Your Livestocks’ Water from Freezing]

Here are some ways you can use automation for temperature control. 

  • Coop Temperature: There are temperature sensors that you can use that will turn off heat lamps when they get too hot and turn lamps on when the temperature gets too cool.
  • Greenhouse Temperature: It is necessary to keep temperatures in greenhouses stable. With smart controls, you can receive notifications when greenhouse temperatures change. You can also automate temperature changes, such as heating up and cooling down when certain temperatures are sensed.
  • Water Dish Heater: You can automate a water heater to turn on when the outside temperature gets below freezing to ensure the water trough doesn’t ice over. 

[Related Read: 25+ Homestead Hacks That Will Make Life Easier]

Source link: by Survival Jack at

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Homestead Financial Planning for the New Year



Homesteading offers a more free way to live. You are more self-sufficient and less dependent. But, if you don’t do any homestead financial planning, you may not feel as free as you’d like.

If you aren’t careful, your homesteading dreams could lead you into debt instead of freeing you.

The best way to avoid debt and to better your situation is to do a little homestead financial planning at the start of the new year.

Homestead financial planning includes the following steps.

A watering can laying on its side in a dilapidated garden.

Review and Reflect

Before you start making any plans for how to save or spend money in the new year, take some time to pause and reflect.

Think about this past year on the homestead.

  • What worked well? 
  • What failed? 
  • What would you like to do differently? 
  • What was too much work for too little reward? 
  • What could you improve?

Your reflection should drive your goals for the new year.

Release the Joneses

Many homesteaders started homesteading because they wanted to live differently from their peers. 

They wanted to be more self-sufficient and less attached to modern conveniences.

However, even in the homesteading world, there is a heavy dose of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

If you find yourself comparing your homestead to someone else’s, ask yourself why.

While there are certainly times when it is smart to gather ideas from other homesteaders, if you are simply dreaming of bigger and better because of someone else, you’ve missed the mark.

Accept your homestead for what it is.

Stay humble. Live within your means. Buy what you can afford. Save up. 

A chalkboard with

Set Goals

Now that you’ve reflected on the past year and know where you are financially, it’s time to set some goals.

Think about what you’d like to do on the homestead this year. 

  • Do you need to pay down debt?
  • Is there a project on your to-do that is financially possible?
  • Will you add more animals?
  • Can you plant more or try something different in the garden? 

Create a Basic Budget

Once you have some basic goals in mind, it’s time to create a budget. This is a critical step in homestead financial planning you cannot afford to overlook.

Start with making note of what comes in each month. This is your monthly income.

Then, make a note of what comes out. This includes your necessary expenses, such as utilities.

Homesteaders tend to have a few additional necessary expenses, such as additional heating and cooling for the spaces where they keep their animals. 

Start with these:

  • Household expenses
  • Groceries
  • Gardening supplies
  • Feed for animals
  • Heating/cooling
  • Water
  • Livestock

Make a list of all your necessary expenses and estimate the average cost per month. 

Your monthly income should be more than your monthly expenses.

Make Space for Savings

As long as you are bringing more in than what you are spending, there should be some money you can save each month.

Saving money is important.

Prioritize saving for emergencies. They happen – especially on the homestead.

Set aside some money each month until you have a decent emergency fund.

A homesteader prepping wood for a new project.

Prioritize and Plan for Homesteading Projects

Consider your goals for the new year.

You likely have projects you hope to complete. And most projects cost money.

Make a general list like this one:

  • Repairing structures (i.e., mending fences)
  • Improving structures (i.e., adding an automated chicken feeder)
  • Building new structures (i.e., building a barn)

Figure out the estimated cost for each project.

Then, prioritize the list according to your homestead financial plan and needs.

Everyone’s list will look different, and depending on their homestead financial plan, they will decide how to prioritize these projects differently.

Do what makes the most financial sense for you. 

Set Aside Funds for an Annual Maintenance Fund

Speaking of prioritizing projects, whether homesteaders are fixing something that is broken or building something new, there is always money being spent on maintenance.

You’ll never meet a homesteader who isn’t working on a project.

Make prioritizing your project list easier in the future by saving money monthly for maintenance.

Once you have saved enough for an emergency fund, divert savings into an annual maintenance fund. 

Monitor Spending

Anyone can create a budget, but the hard part is sticking to the budget.

However, if you want to meet your goals and build up your savings, you must monitor your spending.

This is the best way to make sure you aren’t overspending.

There are many apps available that make it easy to track spending and follow a budget, such as FarmRaise

If you discover you are coming close to overspending in certain areas or struggling to save for emergencies or annual maintenance, it’s time to look for ways to reduce costs and increase income.

A homesteader selling homegrown produce at a farmer's market.

Identify Additional Income Sources

When you sat down to make your budget for the year, you may have discovered that you are living beyond your means.

This means you are spending more than you are bringing in.

If this is the case, you need to identify additional income sources.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can make extra money on the homestead, such as selling produce from your garden.

See 30 Homestead Side Hustles for more ideas.

Reduce Costs

Unfortunately, sometimes increasing income with a side hustle isn’t enough.

It is also wise to reduce costs.

Heck, it’s always wise to look for ways to cut costs – whether you have plenty or little!

Here are a few ways to cut costs on the homestead:

  • Buy used clothing and equipment.
  • Embrace DIY. Make your own cleaning products, chicken feed, and do your own repairs.
  • Build a bartering system.
  • Look for free building materials for projects. 
  • Borrow from other homesteaders. For example, ask a friend to borrow tools or equipment.
  • Preserve food. Don’t let any food go to waste.
  • Save seeds. If you learn how to save seeds, you won’t need to spend money every growing season on new seeds.
  • Cut extras. Say goodbye to cable or other entertainment services that aren’t necessary.

Review and Adjust the Financial Plan Regularly

Don’t make the mistake of coming up with a homestead financial plan in January and never revisiting it.

Life happens, and things don’t always go as planned.

You may need to readjust your budget. 

For example, if you set a grocery budget and costs skyrocket as they have in years past, you’ll need to make some adjustments.

Your new income stream may bring in more money than anticipated, which will allow you to save more or start working on a larger homesteading project. 

Most importantly, you want to look back over your budget regularly to make sure you are still on track with meeting your goals. 

Source link: by Survival Jack at

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