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Top 10 skills you need to know to be self-sufficient

Whether you want to live off the grid, start a homestead, or prepare for a long-term emergency, there are plenty of interesting and important skills that will help you be more independent. With all that is going on in the world right now people are increasingly feeling the need to be more prepared and in control.

Becoming more self-sufficient starts with knowledge. Let’s take a look at some of the essential life skills you need to know.

1. How to start a fire

Do you know how to start a fire?

This is one of those skills that could very easily save your life someday. Fire not only keeps you warm and allows you to cook food, but it can also help ward off dangerous animals and keep your spirits up if you’re lost. It’s something everyone should know how to do.

Starting a fire might sound relatively simple – until you go out and do it. For example, do you know how to find dry wood when it’s raining or snowing? How to start a fire if you don’t have a lighter? Which trees provide the hottest-burning firewood? What you should use as tinder?

You need to learn at least three different ways to start a fire and routinely practice those skills.

2. How to store water

When a disaster strikes, water service is one of the first necessities that’s interrupted. We can’t survive without water, which is why knowing how to treat and store water long-term is such an important skill.

Stop and think about how much drinking water you have in your home right now. If you suddenly lost your water supply, how long could your family last with your current stores? Chances are, not too long. While it’s important to have plenty of water put back for emergencies (on average, one gallon per person, per day for drinking and hygiene,) it’s even more important to have a plan for getting clean water if service goes out for an extended period of time.

Think about where you live. Is there a lake, creek, or stream nearby that could supply you with water in the event of an emergency? Do you have a rain barrel you could use to collect it?

You also need to think about how you would treat any water you collect during an emergency. Some commercial purifiers, such as the Alexapure system, will remove 99% of contaminants and pathogens. Simple methods like boiling and purifying with bleach are also effective if disaster strikes. If you’re short on space, consider purchasing some stackable water bricks. Each brick holds 3.5 gallons of water, and they are easy to slide under your bed or stack in the closet.

3. How to plant and grow a garden and orchard

Starting a home vegetable garden and orchard is one of the best ways to save money on groceries. It’s also a practical way to insulate yourself from rising food prices. After all, every bit of food you put on the table that you grew yourself is food you don’t have to buy from someone else.

A home garden and orchard gives you a reliable, independent food source. If you lose your job, you know you will have free, fresh fruit and vegetables until you get back on your feet. In addition, gardening is a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise.

It can feel a bit overwhelming to start a garden and orchard, especially if you’ve never grown your own food. The best way to begin is to start small. Consider starting a container garden, or tilling a small garden in your yard with just a few fruits and vegetables. As you become more comfortable planting and tending your garden, you can expand.

4. How to preserve food

Home canning has seen a resurgence in recent years as more people, especially young people, discover the joys of processing their own food. Home canning is one of the best ways to preserve fruits and vegetables from your garden. It also saves you quite a bit of money on groceries, with the added benefit of allowing you to eat healthy, home-grown food all year.

Home canning isn’t the only way to preserve the food from your garden, however. You can also learn how to dehydrate food, either with a commercial food dehydrator or by simply using your oven.

5. How to organize and store your pantry

Building a long-term food pantry can be expensive if you try to stock up on everything all at once. You’ll save money by going slowly, picking up items as they go on sale at the grocery store or bulk food warehouse. Only buy what your family eats. Buying something you aren’t used to eating will most likely mean it will expire before you ever touch it.

Besides buying what you already eat, you want to practice the “First In First Out” (FIFO) method. Be aware of expiration dates as you make your purchases (items on sale may already be close to their expiration date) and by practicing a good rotation system you will be assured that there will be no expired items in your pantry. Saving you time and money.

There are several ways to do this. With canned goods, including number #10 cans that are frequently used for freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, you can buy or build a can rotator that automatically rotates the food for you. There are versions designed to hang on a wall, free-standing versions an ones that can simply be placed on your shelves. So regardless of the space you have there is a way to organize your cans.

Home canned goods are a little harder to rotate, however home canned items are best when used with in 12-18 months. So you can make a habit of clearing out the previous years good whenever you can a new batch.

6. How to cook without electricity or gas

Power outages are not uncommon. However, there’s a chance that one day you could experience a power outage that lasts for days, weeks or even years. This is why it’s so important to prepare for a long-term power outage. If the power does go out, do you have alternate means to prepare a meal?

Your options for electricity-free meal-prep are going to depend on your living situation. For example, do you have a gas stove? That will work for a short term outage, but what if the gas lines are cut off or you can’t get a refill on your tank? Do you have a gas grill – or better yet a grill that works with more than one fuel type? A wood stove? A camp stove? A solar oven? Do you have a yard or open space where you could build an outdoor fire or a brick oven?

If you’re short on space, consider purchasing a rocket stove. These tiny stoves are fueled with small sticks and twigs, but their design allows them to reach very high temperatures. And, many rocket stoves are very affordable.  Some stoves like the Bio-Lite even produce a small amount of power – enough to charge a cell phone, tablet or a string of LED lights.

7. How to raise small animals or other livestock

It’s hard to think of homesteading or self-sufficiency without thinking of animals. Most homesteads in centuries past had at least a cow or dairy goats and some chickens for a reliable source of milk and eggs. Today, however, many people don’t have the space to have a full-fledged homestead with a barn full of animals. Or they don’t want to put in the time to learn about and animals. But if you have even a small, fenced-in yard, you might be able to raise chickens, keep rabbits, or start urban beekeeping. Plus some cities are even allowing a pair of small breed goats such as Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats if you have a big enough yard. However, unlike chickens who don’t need a rooster to produce, you will need to have a good relationship with someone outside the city to provide stud service.

There are many advantages to raising at least a few small animals at home. First, these animals can supply you with a ready source of food. Plus, you’ll know exactly where your food is coming from because you raised it yourself. It takes time and experience to gain the skills necessary to provide the best possible care.

8. How to provide first aid and use natural remedies

Learning how to help yourself and others with basic first aid, CPR and when and how to use natural remedies is an important skill to learn. You can usually find a first aid/CPR course locally and you can sometimes find courses on natural remedies as well.

I highly recommend The Ultimate Survival Medicine Guide by Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP. Their YouTube channel is also a great resource for learning more about both conventional and natural medicine.

9. How to forage for wild edibles

Foraging for wild edibles doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be as easy as stepping outside into your backyard.

Of course if you have access to woodlands close by there is a wider variety of items available to you and it is important to know what is and is not edible. This is another important skill that can take some time to learn, but can really pay off in keeping your healthy and well feed. And if you are raising any small live stock you might want to learn what you can forage for them as well to supplement their diets.

10. How to hunt and fish

Many people when asked what they would do in complete collapse of society respond by saying that they would just go off and “live off the land” by hunting and fishing. But reality is those are skills that need to be learned and practiced. Do you know how to clean and prepare meat? Clean a fish? Do you know know the habits of the game you seek, how to track?

Knowing when, where and how to hunt and fish, means that you can take advantage of those resources before they are wiped out. And as history has repeatedly shown, it doesn’t take long for game to quickly be wiped out from an area.

In addition to hunting to bring in food, learning to shoot well also allows you to protect yourself and your family in times of crisis.

Finally, one of the best things about learning to be more self-reliant is the confidence you gain. These skills give you the ability to take care of your family if unforeseen circumstances strike, which can be a great comfort in uncertain times. Many of these skills will also help you save money and live a more healthy and frugal lifestyle.

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