Learning traditional skills helps us save money, live a more natural life, and connect with our past in meaningful ways.
As I strive towards more homestead living, I find myself thinking about how fast life moves; we no longer live a simple life. Everything is technology-based, and while progress is amazing, losing traditional skills is something I find that is less than progress.
It’s a shame and continues to set us back, especially for our future generations who may want these skills.
Who will teach our kids the fine art of preserving food at home unless we learn it now? Who will show the next generation how to cultivate the land and grow food in their backyard?
We have to step up and take the time to learn these homesteading, traditional skills right now before they’re lost forever.
Think I’m joking?
When was the last time you darned a sock or mended clothing? Do you know how to tie clove hitch knots?
If you’re lost, do you know how to read a map or a compass?
Traditional skills saved the lives of our ancestors, and they allowed them to live – really live. These skills kept people alive and society running for centuries, and it’s also one way that people lived without a ton of money. Many of these skills have been replaced and lost because convenience gives us our time back and we no longer have to do them in exchange for money.
Would you rather mend a pair of jeans or buy a new pair on sale at Walmart? Is it easier to bake a loaf of bread or add it to your grocery pick-up list?
Yes, we should be thankful for these modern conveniences but not at the price of losing all of our homesteading skills. So, let’s dive into some old-fashioned skills we need to take back before they’re lost forever.
Why Do We Need to Learn Traditional Skills?
In a world full of technology and electronics, connecting with the past and learning traditional skills seems like a waste of time.
Why should we devote our time to this?
Several reasons make these skills beneficial, even in today’s world.
Traditional skills help you save money, and in today’s world, everything seems to keep getting more expensive. Living on a single income is getting harder, so the more skills you learn, the less you have to depend on the store or other people.
Convenience costs money, and as our society rolls towards finding the ultimate convenience for everything, the cost of living continues to increase.
More than saving money, traditional skills connect us to our past and allow us to find hobbies and passions.
Gardening is more than growing food for me; it’s a hobby that I truly enjoy. Not only does it grow food for my family and provide me with a way to make money on my homestead, but I also enjoy getting my hands dirty. I love finding new things to grow, different gardening methods, and learning more every year.
Working on traditional skills gives you a sense of satisfaction and contentment unlike anything else.
Holding a loaf of homemade bread and cutting a slice of warm bread that you baked by yourself is amazing. You will feel so proud of yourself, and that bread will taste like heaven.
25 Traditional Skills to Start Learning Today
Gardening is one of the ultimate traditional skills, and it breaks your dependency on our delicate food supply system. Food in the grocery store is often shipped from over 2,000 miles away; a chink in the chain causes problems everywhere.
We saw that in 2020.
Learning how to garden takes time, and it often is a great hobby for families to enjoy together. When you grow food in your backyard, you take your food into your own hands.
Can you imagine our ancestors without a garden?
Having a garden centuries ago was as common as having a car nowadays. Everyone had a plot of land near their homes where they grew food, and they often traded what they grew for things that they didn’t raise on their land.
For many people, I think gardening is the gateway to learning other traditional skills.
Here are my favorite gardening books to help you get started.
- Organic Gardening for Beginners by Lisa Lombardo
- First-Time Gardener: Growing Vegetables by Jessica Sowards
- Modern Homestead Garden: Growing Self-Sufficiency in Any Size Backyard by Gary Pilarchik
- The Family Garden Plan: Grow a Year’s Worth of Sustainable and Healthy Food by Melissa K. Norris
2. Starting a Fire
Starting fires is what brought humans out of caves and separated us from beasts. Thousands of years later, starting a fire is still a valuable traditional skill that everyone needs to know.
Call me crazy, but if a disaster strikes, you need to know how to start a fire, even if you don’t have a lighter or matches. Having fire-starting skills is a vital survival skill that you need to learn.
Best of all, this skill is something that you can work on with your kids. Children love to learn how to start fires, and kids need to have these survival skills as much as adults.
3. Cooking From Scratch
Are you thinking that cooking from scratch isn’t a traditional skill?
You’d be wrong.
We live in a world full of convenience. Grabbing a box of pasta off the shelf and a jar of spaghetti sauce isn’t cooking from scratch; that’s convenience cooking.
Now, don’t get me wrong; using these conveniences isn’t a bad thing, but one of the traditional skills lacking today is the ability to take pantry staples and turn them into homemade meals.
Can you bake a cake without a box? Do you know how to make homemade pasta? Can you turn chicken broth into homemade gravy?
If the answer is no, you have some cooking skills to develop. You might find that cooking is more interesting than you imagine.
It all started with strawberry jam.
I wanted to try making homemade jam, and my addiction hasn’t stopped since then.
If you haven’t started canning yet, now is the time to get started. Grab some canning supplies and a few canning books; you won’t regret giving it a try.
Here are some of my favorite canning books.
- The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning by Diane Devereaux
- All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving by Ball Home Canning Test Kitchen
- The Homestead Canning Cookbook by Georgia Varozza
- The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables by Angi Schneider
Another one of the traditional skills that seem to be making a comeback is fermentation. It was lost for years, but as people learn the health benefits of fermenting their foods, it’s coming back.
Fermentation has several benefits.
It requires a lot less prep time than canning, and it offers amazing probiotics for your gut health. Storage is easy; it needs to be kept cold. A refrigerator works, but if you have a root cellar, that works even better.
You might be surprised, as you learn about fermenting, that you can ferment so many different foods! It’s a great way to preserve things you grow and raise in your backyard.
If you’re interested in fermentation, take a look at my guide to getting started with fermenting, then grab some supplies you need.
6. How to Bake Bread
My great-grandmother told me stories of walking into the kitchen every morning as a child, seeing her mother shaping and baking bread for the day.
Baking bread was a common years ago as making macaroni and cheese is nowadays. It’s a lost art; bread making is truly an art. No one can convince me otherwise!
You don’t even have to try sourdough; baking a regular loaf of bread feels amazing.
I often take a shortcut and use a bread maker, but sometimes, I feel like getting my hands into the dough and making a loaf of bread without the use of a machine. Kneading bread is a great time to think and ponder life, or you might plan what you have to do next.
Don’t feel intimidated. Baking bread isn’t as scary as you think!
7. How to Raise Chickens
Raising chickens is definitely a traditional skill that’s making a comeback.
Two decades ago, backyard chicken keepers weren’t as common as it is nowadays. Now, having chickens in the middle of many cities isn’t a big deal.
We are connecting with our past!
If you live in the city, don’t worry; many chickens are happy to live in small backyards. Chickens also give you a way to raise meat for your family without a large farm or homestead. All you need is a plot of a backyard to move a chicken tractor around; raising Cornish Cross chickens is a great way to get homegrown meat.
8. Raise Rabbits
Rabbits are adorable, but they also are a skill. My great-great-grandparents raised rabbits in their backyard, and they lived downtown in our little city. My grandma tells stories about running in the backyard, playing with rabbits, and then they’d be dinner that night.
Rabbit meat is delicious.
Beyond raising rabbits for meat, they are a source of income because you can sell the kits. Rabbits breed like… well, rabbits, so a breeding trio produces dozens of kits a year. Sell the kits for a small income.
Rabbit manure is one of the few manures that don’t need to be composted before adding to your garden. It’s an excellent source of nitrogen for your garden!
9. Raise Goats
Ready to dive into a larger animal? Try raising goats!
Admittedly, goats are one animal that I have yet to raise on our homestead, but it’s an upcoming goal that I plan to conquer.
Until that time, I’m reading books about raising goats and talking to mentors in my area.
10. Make Cheese
Despite what you might think, you don’t need a cow or a goat to make homemade cheese at home, but that sure does make it easier.
It’s possible to make cheese from pasteurized milk at the store if you add cultures, or try sourcing raw milk in your area. It’s often easier than you think, and you get to connect to local farmers in your area.
Our family LOVES cheese, so learning how to make cheese was one of the traditional skills that I knew I needed to figure out. I grabbed a few books, talked to a friend who makes cheese, and watched YouTube videos.
I found this cheese-making course that I want to dive into because it looks amazing.
Grab some of these awesome cheese-making books.
- Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell
- The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher
- Mastering Basic Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell
11. Rendering Cooking Fats
Our ancestors didn’t run out to the store and buy gallons of canola oil or coconut oil. They had to learn how to render cooking fats from the animals that they butchered.
Rendering lard and tallow are skills that will benefit you, even if you don’t raise livestock on your homestead. Many butchers sell these products at a steep discount because few want them anymore. Take advantage of that price and make the best cooking fats possible for your family.
12. Start Hunting and Trapping
Not everyone has the ability to raise pigs, cows, and other large livestock on your property, but everyone has the ability to start hunting. All states have wild games that you may hunt for a small fee of a hunting license each year. It’s worth the $30 for a hunting licensee when you consider how many pounds of meat you can harvest.
Feel squeamish about hunting?
Whether you take the life of a cow you own or a deer in the woods, providing meat for your family is one skill you need to learn, even if it makes you uncomfortable at times. I could talk about this for ages, but eating meat SHOULD come with the weight of knowing a life ended to support yours.
Don’t let those styrofoam containers at the store fool you; those were lives as well.
13. Animal Tracking
Learning how to track animals is a skill that goes hand in hand with hunting and trapping, but it’s also a skill that helps you stay safe.
Kids love to learn animals tracks!
Tracking will help you follow the game, and it also helps you identify the game that might prowl around your homestead at night while you’re sleeping.
14. Go Fishing
Have you ever considered that you can supply your family with meat by fishing?
Most people think of seafood like shrimp, crab, cod, and lobster, but the catfish you catch in the river are edible as well. All states allow their residents to fish and keep what they catch to eat. Check out your Department of Natural Resource website for your state to see the common fish in your region.
Subsistence fishing is a real thing that many cultures practice to this day, and while you might not plan for your fishing trips to feed your family all year, it’s a great way to add meat to your freezer.
15. Forage Locally
Do you know what grows in your area that is edible or medicinal? If you don’t, it’s time to get a few foraging books and explore the areas around your home.
Years ago, people knew what they could eat in their backyard. Not only could this skill save your life, but it also might become one of your favorite hobbies. I have several friends who forage regularly and come back with a treasure trove of wild edibles to enjoy with their families.
The Earth provides!
Start by finding a foraging book for your area of the country, then try one of my favorite foraging books.
16. Tap Maple Trees
Tapping maple trees isn’t as hard as you might think, and it’s a fun hobby to embark on with your kids. Our kids love to collect the buckets of sap, and when everything is boiled down, they love to enjoy some maple syrup on snow.
It’s such a yummy snack.
Maple syrup is expensive in the stores, which is reason enough for me to try to make it at home. Years ago, everyone tapped the trees on their property. Buying maple syrup would seem crazy to our ancestors when it’s available for free in our backyards.
17. Learn Herbal Remedies
Our ancestors knew that herbs held serious medicinal properties that cure ailments as well as pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, as people began to turn to medications more than herbal remedies, it slowly became a lost art.
Chances are your grandmother or great-grandmother had some strange thing she swore that worked, and it usually did. My husband’s grandmother swore by garlic for everything, and I later explained to him that garlic has antibacterial properties.
He had no idea.
Let’s take back the knowledge we should have about herbal remedies.
If you want to learn more about herbalism, I suggest taking one of the courses by The Herbal Academy. They have introduction courses with payment plans – I love that – and they often offer specialized courses for deep-dives into different topics.
Yes, I consider handwriting one of the best traditional skills but one that is being lost to the ages.
Centuries ago, no one had phones to text and call friends and family; they wrote letters, and it took forever for letters to arrive. When I have more time on my hands (funny, right?), I want to practice my handwriting and write letters more often.
Penmanship is truly an art form!
Here’s another art form that you rarely see done anymore – basketry.
This year, we are using a homeschool program called Alveary, and I’m excited because the first handicraft we are working on is basketry. I’m ready to make a few homemade baskets for Christmas gifts this year.
You can learn how to make baskets too!
20. Try Crocheting
I started crocheting when I was eight years old; I start with my grandmother and learned beside her. Now, I know how to crochet nearly anything that you can imagine.
Crocheting is a skill that I love to have. Not only can I make beautiful gifts and useful objects around the house, but I also crochet hats, scarves, blankets, and other things that my family needs.
It’s a way for me to meet the needs of my family while being creative.
21. Start Knitting
I recently learned how to knit; it takes time when you spent over a decade crocheting! Knitting is quickly becoming one of my favorite hobbies, and I see why it’s so beloved by millions.
Knitting is a great way to make clothes for your family; I suggest knitting sweaters rather than crocheting because crochet requires more yarn than knitting.
Working with yarn is a great hobby. Find someone that you know locally who knits and ask them to show you the basics. It’s easier to learn from someone in person, but YouTube has amazing videos to help you with any stumbling blocks.
22. Try Sewing
Sewing is one of the skills that all of our ancestors knew. Tossing our clothes wasn’t possible, so if something ended up with a hole or needed to fit better, they had to use their sewing skills to mend it.
Start by learning how to mend holes and sew pillows closed. You don’t have to sew by hand, even though cross-stitching is a fun hobby. A basic sewing machine will work well for small projects, but you’ll feel empowered when you’re able to fix clothes that need to be altered or stitch a blanket that ripped.
I may never forget how sewing supplies disappeared in 2020 when everyone sewed masks and found new skills to learn.
23. Make Soap
Do you think our ancestors used to grab soap from the store?
No way! They knew how to make soap from what they had available. Homemade soap is customizable based on what your family needs; you can make soap that has medicinal properties as well.
Soapmaking is a fun, homesteading hobby that lets you make gifts for friends and a practical item that your family uses on a regular basis.
My favorite resource for learning how to make soap at home is the Natural Soapmaking ebook from The Nerdy Farmwife. This book is full of everything you need to know to make soap naturally at home and how to infuse it with herbs as well.
24. Make Candles
Do you love candles?
Stop buying the candles from stores like Yankee Candle that are full of chemicals you don’t want in your home, and learn how to make candles for yourself. It’s not as hard as you might think, and homemade candles make amazing gifts.
How cool would a gift basket with homemade candles soaps, and something knitted (in a homemade basket) be for your family members?
25. Use a Clothesline
Honestly, I love using a clothesline. Throughout the spring and summer, I primarily use a clothesline that my husband stretched between our porch and our shed. It has wheels that let me stand in one place to load and unload the clothesline.
If you’ve never used a clothesline, now is the time to start. Hanging a clothesline is simple and costs less than $50, but you’ll save that much by hanging your clothes to dry anyway.
Did you know that it costs, on average, $.40 per load to dry your clothes in an electric dryer? Our family of six washes around 10 loads of laundry per week including towels and some sheets.
That comes out to $208 per year.
Imagine how much you could save if you always used a clothesline!
When you decide you want to start learning traditional skills, start small, learning one at a time. Don’t dive into the whole list, or you will quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated. Try growing a garden in the spring and summer, and learning how to knit and make soap in the fall and winter.
Gradually, you’ll know more homesteading skills than you imagined possible.