Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

By Jill Winger - January 31, 2023 at 11:22AM

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over the Winter

Homesteading doesn’t stop because the garden is full of snow or the hens have decided to go on an egg-laying hiatus during the winter.

This time of year doesn’t mean that there aren’t any outdoor homesteading chores to do: the animals still need to be fed, ice needs to be chopped out of the livestock water tanks, and the snow needs to be shoveled. But the winter months seem to be a bit slower without the hustle and bustle of gardening and other homesteading tasks to tend to.

I used to despise winter. I would feel bored and restless and stuck in the house for most of the day. However, over the last few years, I’ve actually learned to love the winter season. I’ve been learning how to respect the seasons and fit seasonal themes into my homesteading lifestyle.

Spring and summer are high-energy times of the year and we do plenty of things outside on our homestead. Fall season is all about preserving food and stocking up for the upcoming winter months. And winter is about looking inward (like writing old-fashioned blog articles again) and doing indoor things that still help with developing homestead skills.

Seriously, winter months are the perfect time to both practice old skills and develop new ones. There are still a number of homesteading skills that can be developed while you are indoors over the winter months. That is why I have created this list of homesteading skills and tasks that you can work to develop this winter. I hope they inspire you to think more positively about the winter season (and let me know if I missed any big ideas in the comments below!).

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

Garden Skills to Focus On Over The Winter

During the winter, your garden has been put to bed, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work that can be done. There are many different ways you can work on your gardening skills indoors while you wait to get your hands in the dirt once more.

1. Plan Your Garden

The winter months are the perfect time to reflect on the previous year’s garden and figure out where you would like to make changes. You can decide what vegetables you would like to plant (and how many vegetables to plant per person), figure out if you would like to expand your garden, and map out the garden for next year. 

2. Order Your Seeds (& Organize Them!)

Seed catalogs usually get mailed out in the first part of December, this is the time that I like to take inventory of all the seeds that I still have and determine what I will need to purchase for the next gardening season. 

From the very beginning, I have planted heirloom seeds (find out why here), and over the past few years, I have been ordering seeds as soon as possible. My go-to for ordering seeds is True Leaf Market, and they always have the seeds and garden supplies that I need. 

Winter is seriously a great time to organize your seeds and do a thorough inventory of what you already have and what you need to order for your upcoming gardening season. I’m by no means perfect and my seed stash can easily get out of control. Watch my video (below) if you want to see how I organize my seeds.

3. Start Seeds Indoors

Another homestead skill that will help develop your green thumb this winter is by trying to start seeds indoors rather than buying seedlings this spring. Buying plants is SO much more expensive in the long run than growing your own from seed. You will want to start your seeds indoors approx. 4-8 weeks before your last frost date depending on what variety you are starting. 

If you are new to seed starting, here are a few resources that will help you develop this homesteading skill.

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

Old-Fashioned Homesteading Skills

When it comes to DIY homesteading projects, there really are so many options. I love constantly learning new old-fashioned skills. It’s a great way to stop cabin fever from setting in and it’s good for our mental health to learn new things. I love the challenge as well.

Plus, the nice bonus thing about developing these homestead skills is that they can possibly be turned into a way to help fund your homesteading efforts. 

4. Learn How to Make Soap

Original homesteaders didn’t buy soap from the store, they used lard or tallow and a homemade version of lye to make their own soap. Learning the soap-making process is a great way to guarantee an all-natural product while saving you a bit of money. 

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

5. Make DIY Candles

Candles are easy to make and don’t require a lot of different ingredients. You can make these natural tallow candles, beeswax candles, or these slow cooker soy candles. They can be great DIY Christmas gifts, and they are also good to have on hand in case of an emergency power outage (and they are fun to burn on long winter nights).  

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

6. Make Homemade Skincare Products

Winter in ‘windy Wyoming’ has a tendency to leave me with super dry skin, so I always try to have a jar of homemade body butter and also homemade lip balm made up for the winter months.

The skincare products that you find in the store are starting to contain more and more chemicals. Fortunately, there are many different natural DIY products that can be used to fix almost anything that might be bothering you. 

Start making DIY Products with these recipes:

If you are not ready to start making your own DIY products but are interested in something completely natural, then I recommend checking out Toups & Co. They have a great selection of all-natural skin products to choose from. I am quite a big fan of their tallow products.

7. Add Sewing to Your Homesteading Skills

Sewing can be an excellent skill to learn how to add buttons to shirts, fix holey jeans, or sew an entire wardrobe. This is a skill that you learn the basics for everyday use or practice and create some beautiful advanced projects by hand or with a machine. I haven’t gotten into sewing yet, but it is a valuable skill for a homestead, especially if you have kids that wear through their clothes quickly!

8. Learn to Knit or Crochet

Knitting and Crocheting can come in handy for some warm winter hats, scarves, mittens, and blankets. Again, this skill is something that you can use for basic household needs or more advanced projects that may help fund your homesteading.

9. Try DIY Herbal Remedies 

Learn about herbs with healing properties that you can grow or buy to make your own healing salves, tinctures, or teas.  There are many different kinds of herbs that possess healing abilities here is a list of the Top 10 Healing Herbs to Grow. This can be a very helpful homesteading skill to learn for your entire family.

Additional Healing Herb Resources:

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

Cleaning & Organization Homesteading Skills

Honestly, during the spring, summer, and fall seasons, the housework tends to be pushed to the back burner. As I mentioned before, I would much rather be tending to outdoor tasks when the weather is nice. Cleaning both more efficiently and more sustainably can be a practiced and valuable homesteading skill to learn. 

10. Make DIY Cleaning Products

Homemade cleaning products are natural chemical-free ways that you can save money and a trip to the store. This is also another one of the Easy Ways to Start Living a More Sustainable Zero-Waste Lifestyle. Many of the ingredients that are used for homemade cleaners can be found in your kitchen already.

If you are interested in making your own cleaning products here are a few places to start:

11. Work on Time Management Homesteading Skills 

Time management is definitely a practiced skill around the homestead. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by all the things that have to be done. During the winter months, start by planning your projects, appointments, and homesteading tasks. There are many different ways that you can sort your life and days but I wouldn’t be very efficient with my time if I didn’t have a planner to keep everything straight.

A planner has helped me through many years with a homestead and multiple businesses but I never could find the right one to fit everything in one place. So I created The Old Fashioned on Purpose Planner to help others like me organize their homesteads and everyday life.

Learn more about time management in these resources:

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

Kitchen Homesteading Skills 

12. Cook Meals From-Scratch

Cooking meals from-scratch can sound like an overwhelming task that will keep you in the kitchen all day. But that simply isn’t the case. With some practice and great recipes, you could be feeding your family entire meals from scratch using a few standard pantry staples.  

Start with these resources to learn to cook homemade meals:

If you would like to learn how to cook from-scratch with step-by-step videos and instructions, then my Heritage Cooking Crash Course might be the perfect fit for you. 

13. Try the Homesteading Skill of Baking Bread

Homemade bread is a staple in our home and there is just something about the smell of freshly baked bread that never gets old. For some, the idea of baking homemade bread may seem like a daunting task but basic sourdough bread is very beginner friendly and not all that time-consuming. You can also check out my versatile dough recipe that is easy to make and can be used to make bread, cinnamon rolls, pizza, and more.

If you are not ready to learn to bake fancy breads yet, then try no-yeast breads (aka quick bread) like this Healthier Chocolate Zucchini Bread or Honey Maple Pumpkin Bread.

14. Develop Your Sourdough Homesteading Skills

When it comes to sourdough, it does take some time and practice to get really good at it. But don’t let that stop you! The first thing to learn is How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter and also read through this article of troubleshooting the sourdough starter problems that can arise. Once your sourdough starter has been active for a while, you can then use the discard to make yummy treats like these 5  favorites of mine. The final skill is putting that sourdough start to work making this Beginner Sourdough Bread Recipe.

Sourdough does have a learning curve, but once you master the art of it, baking becomes so much more interesting, delicious, and healthy. 

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

15. Practice Food Preservation Methods

  • Canning – Fill your pantry with jars full of veggies from the garden or farmer’s market and jams from u-pick farms. This form of preserving food can seem intimidating and scary even, but with the right instructions, it can be a great and safe way to fill your pantry. TIP: I love freezing my garden tomatoes until late-fall or winter and then I pull them out of the freezer and make sure to can our family-favorite tomato sauce. Waiting until winter to can our garden produce lets us take advantage of the seasons to the best of our ability.
  • DehydratingThis form of food preservation isn’t a difficult one to learn.  A dehydrator is the easiest way to dry your food, but an oven can also be used at lower temperatures. This preservation method is a great space saver and the options are almost limitless when choosing what to dehydrate. One of my favorite ways to use dehydrated vegetables is by making Dehydrated Vegetable Powders.
  • Fermenting – This is when you preserve vegetables in a salt brine for a period of time. This salty environment doesn’t let bad bacteria survive but allows good bacteria to thrive. The result is a preserved product that has many health benefits. Some of my favorite ferments are pickles, green beans, and, of course sauerkraut

16. Develop Your Cheesemaking Skills

Anyone that has been reading my articles or listening to my Old-Fashioned on Purpose Podcast knows that I love having a dairy cow on our homestead. I love making homemade dairy products like homemade butter, yogurt, ice cream, and cheese. 

There are many different varieties of cheeses that you can make at home. You can start with a simple mozzarella or ricotta and then move on to hard cheese making. The good news is you don’t need a milk cow on the homestead to try cheesemaking. You can also find milk from local food sources

There are kits and specific places where you can find the things that you need for cheesemaking online and one of my favorite resources for any home cheese maker is a book called The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher.

17. Make Your Own Milk Kefir

Milk kefir is a very old version of drinkable yogurt. It is made when kefir grains are mixed with milk and allowed to ferment overnight. The fermentation process allows good bacteria and probiotics to thrive, making this a very healthy for your-gut dairy option.  

All you need to get started is a package of milk kefir grains (not water kefir) a mason jar and some milk. Check out my tutorial on how to make milk kefir for more details.

18. Try Fermenting Kombucha

You can find kombucha at the grocery store but they can be pretty pricey, so why not try fermenting your own kombucha this winter? Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that thrives off of good bacteria from the air around it and creates an acidic environment that bad bacteria can’t survive in. 

With a little practice, you can learn How to Bottle Kombucha at Home and start mixing your own originally flavored, gut-healthy probiotic drink in no time. 

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

What Homesteading Skills Are You Developing Over Winter?

Another favorite thing for me to do in the winter is to simply slow down by curling up by our woodstove with a good book and some tea. Reading is always a wonderful way for me to find new inspiration for my own writing and entrepreneur activities. I absolutely love reading during the winter. If you’re curious what types of books I like to read, check out my podcast episode about What I’m Reading This Winter to get a good glimpse on what I read and what I like to learn from my chosen books (and feel free to send me book recommendations!).

There are still everyday chores to be done during the winter, but it tends to slow down on the homestead. So use this time in the winter season to develop homesteading skills that there isn’t much time for during other seasons. Practice old skills and develop new skills, but also remember that the winter months are also a time for rest, relaxation, and reflection. As homesteaders, we are not really wired to remain idle for long, but after gardening, harvesting, and preserving it is necessary to recharge. And that’s okay, too.

More Winter Tips & Thoughts:

Homesteading Skills to Develop Over Winter

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