46 Pioneer Skills for the Modern Homesteader

Print Friendly

These days, most people define “homesteading” in terms of lifestyle.  This is especially true among preppers who seek self-sufficiency by embracing old-style, pioneer era skills to define their independence from traditional supply chains and government interference.  This does not necessarily mean we live off-grid in some far out location where there are no modern conveniences whatsoever.  Quite the contrary.

21st century homesteading is a mindset that can take place in the city core, an apartment, a planned community or suburbia.  And of course, the homesteading mindset prevails in rural communities, farmlands and other more traditional homestead-type locations.

46 Pioneer Skills for the Modern Homesteader - Backdoor Survival

Becoming a 21st century homesteader means downsizing, minimizing and living a healthier life.  Today I share 46 skills that most modern homesteaders will want to learn as they strive to live a better, yet simpler, life.

46 Pioneer Skills for the Modern 21st Century Homesteader

  1. Vegetable Gardening
  2. Cooking on an Open Fire
  3. Baking
  4. Herb Gardening
  5. Herbal Medicine
  6. First Aid and Emergency Medical Care
  7. Animal Husbandry
  8. Butchering
  9. Fire-starting and Fire Building
  10. Carpentry
  11. Masonry
  12. Plumbing
  13. Sewing
  14. Knitting and Crochet
  15. Weaving and Spinning
  16. Hunting
  17. Fishing
  18. Canning and Preserving
  19. Home Brewing
  20. Gunsmithing
  21. Soap Making
  22. Candle Making
  23. Power Generation (Solar and Wind)
  24. Vehicle Maintenance
  25. Mechanical Repair and Maintenance
  26. Equipment Operator
  27. Home Maintenance
  28. Welding
  29. Blacksmithing
  30. Leatherwork
  31. Well Building
  32. Foraging
  33. Knife Sharpening
  34. Bartering
  35. Milking
  36. Beekeeping
  37. Seed Harvesting
  38. Orchard Management
  39. Waste Management
  40. Pest Control
  41. Grinding Wheat and Other Grains
  42. Interpersonal Skills
  43. Leadership
  44. Patience
  45. Perseverance
  46. Faith

The Final Word

The homesteading mindset embraces using less energy, eating wholesome, locally sourced food, and making life choices relating to a rich and rewarding family life.  It means living comfortably yet within the bounds of doing as much as you can in a sustainable manner.

In addition to having pioneer skills, most 21st century homesteaders are good citizens and community minded.  They are also preppers of the highest order.

Can you think of some other useful pioneer skills for the modern, 21st century homesteader?

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Just released!  My new eBook, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage will provide you with everything you need to create an affordable food storage plan, including what to buy and how to store it. Nothing scary and nothing overwhelming – you really can do this!  Now available at Amazon.


Bargain Bin: Here are some items to consider in your quest to be a modern, 21st century homesteader.  Of course the rule of thumb is always this: first purchase what you need to get by and later, as budget allows, add the extra items that will enhance and add dimension and depth to your gear.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Dutch Oven with Dual Handles: While not huge, this 5 quart Dutch Oven is, in my opinion, the perfect size for use indoors and out.

Lodge Logic 12-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet: This purchase changed the way I cook. I use my cast iron cookware for everything from burgers, to bacon and eggs, to biscuits. Be sure to select the Value pack Skillet with Silicone Handle which is less money and a better deal.

US Forge 400 Welding Gloves Lined Leather: These well-priced gloves provide complete heat and burn protection. They are made of soft and supple top grain leather for comfort and pliability, plus they have an internal liner gives more comfort and durability. These will keep you hands and arms safe while cooking outdoors over an open fire.

Swedish Firesteel: Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions.

Bicycle Canasta Games Playing Cards:  This timeless classic will keep the entire family occupied when the power it out.  Playing cards or board games should be in everyone’s preparedness kit.

Ticket To Ride: The is my favorite board game, bare none.  Family friendly, you will spend hours in front of the fireplace playing Ticket to Ride with your favorite people.  This is worth the splurge.

Gerber Gator Combo Axe II: This Gerber axe and saw combo is useful around the yard (or the farm or the ranch) for all sorts or medium to light duty tasks.  The rigid part of the axe handle is glass-filled nylon for a rugged construction and light weight.

Rothco Type III Commercial Paracord: You can get 100 feet of  Getting Prepared Month 10: Practice Going Off Grid Backdoor SurvivalParacord for about $8. This is a real bargain but be aware that price can vary substantially depending on the color.

Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: Don’t let the $20 price lead you to think this wireless flood light is wimpy. I have two of these and feel that these lights are worth double the price.  Using D-cell batteries, the Dorcy floodlight will light up a dark room or a dark stairway in an instant.  I can not recommend these enough.

Quikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge: A must for any first aid or emergency kit, Quikclot Sport stops moderate to severe bleeding until further medical help is available.

Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression Bandage: This is another inexpensive, yet critical item for your first aid kit. Combat medics, trauma doctors, and emergency responders all recommend this Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD) for the treatment of gunshot wounds, puncture wounds, deep cuts, and other traumatic hemorrhagic injuries.


Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials:  The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.

Emergency Essentials Potty        The Perfect Homemade Biscuit Mix from Food Storage Backdoor Survival

Every family should have at least one Tote-able Toilet.  I have priced purchasing the bucket and toilet seat lid separately and found that it was more economical to pick up this kit.  I have filled my portable potty with sanitation supplies plus, of course, plenty of TP.

I also recommend the Mobile Washer. This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub. The best part is the price – only $14.95.


Need something from Amazon (and who doesn’t)? I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here. You still get great Amazon service and the price is the same, no matter what.

The Amazon Top Ten Most Wanted Survival and Outdoor Items
Emergency Preparedness Items from Amazon.com
Shop Amazon – Gift Cards with a Free Gift Box and Free One-Day Shipping

Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!


46 Pioneer Skills for the Modern Homesteader — 41 Comments

  1. i might add playing a musical instrument, singing or at least knowing a few good folk songs would come in very handy. one wouldn’t have to be carnegie hall-worthy, of course. when i was a child, my family spent a lot of time traveling by car, and i learned a lot of fun songs! we may not have sounded like pros, but we had a good time.

      • An awesome list regardless! My husband and I began our homestead 5 years ago, but we were raised on farms, so we had a bit of a headstart in our thinking, but we needed many more skills, like the ones you listed. I wouldn’t trade my life here on our homestead for all the tea in China!

        • Debra – You are in a perfect position to share your experience. Can you think of anything else that is missing (for your own experience, of course).

          Last night I thought of something else: composting.

          • Farrier, not the same as a blacksmith, which is iron work (fancy work as well as useful hardware) not associated with oxen and horse showing. A ferrier is a highly skilled iron forger of horse and oxen shoes. My grand father was a dairy farmer as well as a ferries.

  2. Vermiculture! Consider it a complement to beekeeping…knowing how to cultivate a small patch of ground to produce worms—good for the garden, fishing too.

  3. I agree totally with Kayhay. I would move #45 to to spot 2 and #44 to spot #3. Without those three, you might not accomplish all the others.

  4. I was going to say medical knowledge, but rechecked and saw you had it covered with #6. However, alternative medicine may need to be included.

  5. Interesting list. I hate to quibble but 44-46 are not skills. They are vital character traits but I would never categorize them as skills.

    • Actually those may be character traits but we aren’t born with them, we acquire them through out lifetimes. So because of this, I see them as belonging on the list. I’m still learning and working these too. 😉

  6. To add to the musical piece….storytelling. A good storyteller needs no light just an audience…be the stories fact or fiction, someone who can tell it well can make the difference on a cold winter’s night. 😉

  7. i would add…map reading & compass use( never know when that GPS battery will die)….knot tying and what knot to use for what u need it for…and depending where u live snow shoeing & skiing, boating, trapping, leather work & tanning….

  8. Fairly complete list for sure. One thing I would add is a means of communication with family members when away from home taking care of animals or whatever.

    I was thinking a couple of pairs of those FSR radios and a means of keeping them charged.

    Merry Christmas

  9. Granted that at my ancient age, my can-do went off and left me with only the know-how. 🙂

    But I grew up with learning many of the listed abilities, and picked up more through the years.

    One thing folks nowadays don’t find out: Yeah, you can learn how to harness a mule to a plow and then get to work–but the drawback is that the view never improves.

  10. It is impossible to have all, or even most, of the skills listed. By the 1860’s modern life was starting. Most people depended on manufactured/ready made goods.

    Having a large skill base, specifically being proficient at it rather than “getting by,” is a good thing. Unfortunately, each one of those skills take time. There are only twenty four hours in a day. They also take desire and drive to learn.

    I continue to be amazed how many people have no drive to make and create. While they may say that they want to learn, the reality is that they do not. Saying it is different than working at it. It is a lot of work to climb the steep incline of the learning curve. It is difficult with a teacher, but even more difficult when being a autodidact. Mistakes are frustrating, cost money, and more importantly, time. When being self sufficient, timing becomes even more important.

    The list is a good list, but learning any of these skills doesn’t happen over night.

    • #’s 29, 39 & 41 are the only 3 that I haven’t done. (My sister lives across the road from me & has the solar & wind power, so I AM familiar with it & how it works.) I’m a 61 yr. old grandma who loves life & loves learning new things. I was a girl scout for many years & also attended many boy scout events with my brothers, learning everything I could. It’s important to me to pass on as much info as I can to my children, grandkids & great grandkids.

  11. In response to Creativity on January 10, 2014 at 10:25 am I would point out that I’m sure Gaye wouldn’t think one would know all the skills. I am of the mindset that it is better to know and master a few skills rather than have a haphazard knowledge of many. Strenghten your strengths and surround yourself with others whose skill sets are comprised of those things you don’t do so well.

  12. Love the list of skills. I have skills in many of these, a little experience in some, and I’ll find someone to do the others for me. I would add quiltmaking as well as playing a musical instrument, singing, Dutch oven cooking, and sour dough/wild yeast baking.

  13. A little over 50 years ago ,just as I was beginning my apprenticeship as a Millwright, my journeyman gave to me a 10′ tape measure, with the epithet that ,”if you can use this tool there is nothing practical you can’t do”

  14. All of the additions listed are great. I especially like the music & storytelling additions. I had not thought of them. What I did think of were Butter & Cheese making and the other needlework crafts like cross-stich, embroidery & needlepoint on plastic canvas. These can be used to brighten a home & make toys for little ones. I also just thought of carving & woodworking, with these you can make useful household items & more toys for children. I have cared for & taught children all of my life so entertaining them is important to me. For more inspiration on how to be a homesteader read the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love those books.

  15. i didn’t read all the comments, so I’m sorry if this was mentioned already but pottery could be a very useful skill. Supposedly, there are many types of kilns which are easy to build and use. I have found directions for several, and have seriously considered it, but haven’t actually done it yet.

  16. While I feel that your list is a great one, we cannot anticipate all the skills we will need. The way I normally look at it is: When I need something, I deconstruct it in my mind and think of all the skills needed to make such an item, then I go about trying to learn how to do these things. Most times, the skills learned apply to other things and make learning new skills easier. For instance, I wanted a new scarf, and knew I had the skill to make it, but required purchasing yarn, which I knew I could make if I just learned how. I signed up for Spinning classes and four months later was able to make my own yarn and that new scarf. This however led to wanting to learn how to raise sheep, alpaca, goats, etc. to get the fibers needed to create the yarn to create the scarf. And the next skill required was shearing. We are always learning. While I don’t currently have a farm with animals, I feel confident that when I do, I have the skills to accomplish my goals. Learning these skills does not just afford me fiber but, milk, meat, companionship, etc.

  17. It only take about 20 hours to learn a new skill, and be good, not excellent with it, so for those that think that they can get by knowing only a couple, think again, yes if you have the support of a small town, there will be others that may also know a few, but what if just three or four are known by no one, see the point.
    You might be the one that is able to save the rest by knowing those skills, I am fairly good at most except bartering, but I figure that if I have skills that are valuable then I can get by.I am turning 75, and no one seems to want to learn what I could teach, so sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.