While off-grid homesteading isn’t terribly different from any other type of homesteading, every task on the land may need to be done just a little differently when not relying on traditional utilities. Before you launch into an off-grid homesteading lifestyle, consider the basic skills you’ll use on a regular basis.
1. Collecting Potable Water
The number one essential skill for homesteading or any survival situation is knowing how to collect, purify, and store water. You’ll need more than you think, especially when feeding animals and crops. You’ll use it for drinking, but also for flushing the toilets (unless you use compostable), washing dishes, cleaning, doing laundry, and showers or baths.
You’ll need to know how to effectively collect rainwater from home, garden shed, and greenhouse roofs. You’ll also have to implement a filtration system, complete with testing, to ensure the water is safe to drink.
In addition or alternatively, you may need to identify a spring or other water source and know-how and where to dig an efficient well, perhaps designing your own pumps and filters.
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2. Building and Maintaining Power Systems
Whether it’s to keep the lights on, provide heat for the livestock, or to keep the pumps working, power is essential to the homestead. Since you’re off-grid, you’ll need to set up the systems to source that power yourself. Know your area and take advantage of wind, water, or geothermal as the land allows. Most commonly, off-grid homesteaders rely on solar power.
You need to understand how the system works and what equipment you need, whether it’s solar, wind turbines, or hydroelectric. Each system will require planning in order to layout a power plan that provides the amount of energy you need. To make appliance and other system repairs, you’ll need to have an understanding of alternating current and direct current. You’ll also need to understand back-up or alternative power options, such as how to use a generator.
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3. Growing and Gathering Food
Part of the joy of homesteading is the reward of growing and raising your own food. In the garden, you’ll need to understand what plants grow best in your region during each season. Know how to prep the soil, plant seeds or plants, and propagate them to keep a constant supply. Plan your garden for year-round food production, if possible. In addition to vegetables, study up on care for fruit trees including how to plant, prune, graft, and harvest.
To feed the garden that feeds you, you’ll need to know how to build and maintain a compost too.
Your homestead may also require you to know how to plan and build a greenhouse, complete with the proper circulation. In other areas, hydroponic and even aquaponic farming might be useful.
Also know how to can and preserve food for winter and long-term storage. While you may have a propane-powered or other off-grid option for a freezer, you’ll likely need to rely more on non-refrigerated storage options.
In addition to those foods you grow, you’ll need to accumulate knowledge about foraging in your area. Understand what parts of plants are edible, gather berries in season, and collect mushrooms safely. You may even be able to tap maple syrup directly from the tree.
4. Animal Care
Unless you live vegan or vegetarian, it’s likely you’ll also be caring for animals so it’s essential you know how to build a chicken coop, deal with personality conflicts in the henhouse, and collect and store eggs. You’ll need to become an expert on what to feed all your livestock, how to milk goats, cows, and sheep, as well as be able to trim feet and fur, give injections, provide basic medical care, and herd. Plus, you may need to castrate, breed, train, birth, and butcher animals. You may also want to make your own food for domestic pets like dogs, grow hay for livestock, and take on the role of beekeeper.
5. Farming Skills
Homesteading is not easy and in addition to harvesting crops and caring for animals, you’ll need a plethora of other farming-related skills. For example, you’ll need to know how to drive tractors and mowers, hook and unhook accessories, and build fencing. You’ll also need to manage the business aspect of things with an understanding of inventory, record keeping, budget, expenses, etc.
When managing pastures, protecting livestock from predators, and dealing with pest control, you’ll need to create a plan for dealing with the needs of the homestead while staying within the boundaries set by your off-grid lifestyle. That might mean adding a solar panel to melt ice for the animals water tub or adding to your power grid to provide lights in the far barn.
Repairs and upkeep on equipment and buildings will require other essential skills. These include knowing how to use a chainsaw, cut down a tree, and frame in a shed. You’ll need basic plumbing, electrical, metal-working, welding, and carpentry skills. Inside the home, you’ll need to be well-versed in cooking, baking, and efficiently using all foods so little goes to waste.
The list of skills continues to include making and using weapons, maintaining tools, self-defense from wild animals, and building an emergency plan for any situation. But the main thing to keep in mind is that processes look a little different when you’re off-grid so keep the plan realistic and take things one category at a time, beginning with the most important: securing reliable water and power sources.
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