Living Like These Happy Golden Years: Homesteading and Skills

by Merissa on February 23, 2012

in Living Like Little House

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"It's a bet, Pa says," Laura answered. "The government bets a man a quarter section of land, that he can't stay on it five years without starving to death."  - These Happy Golden Years p.119

I was thinking about this paragraph this morning while reading through These Happy Golden Years. I thought it was interesting what Pa thought of the whole idea of homesteading that the government had set up.

But more interesting than that was the next thought that popped into my head....how many people could actually homestead land like that? After doing a little research I discovered that 49% of the population in 1880 were considered farmers. In 1990 that number was 2.6% of the population.

So with that kind of a number I'm guessing that even though the going was very difficult, many more people were more able to handle homesteading in 1880 than they are now....makes sense right?

Over the last 100 years, not only have we lost much of the farming population, we've lost and forgotten the skills that went along with it. I know that Little House Living readers are awesome and smarter than the average American when it comes to homemaking skills but how many of your friends know how to make butter? How about make cheese? Or if we go another step further...how many would know how to make homemade cream cheese?

We are submersed in a culture that is forgetting how to do things for ourselves. Sure, there's nothing wrong with convenience (except when it contains chemicals and is expensive!) but what are we really losing each time we go to the store to buy butter?

Something to think about today....what skills are important to you? What skills do you want to learn? How do you think we can teach others in our community these skills?

Make sure you check out the entire Living Like Little House series!

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kit Cook February 23, 2012 at 10:33 am

Both are equally important. Creates healthy balance to living happy. Only way I’ve found to teach others is to show them. I learn from others by visiting them. Mostly the mennonite families in our community, but they’ve taughte me a lot and I have them as well.

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2 Sheri Taylor Finta February 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

As a city dweller most of my life, I do not have the farming skills some others may have. Basic skills I hope to pass on to my kids? Basic cooking from scratch, simple sewing, bascic gardening info, and above all – common sense, which seems to be lacking in many of the next generation.

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3 carol crittendon February 23, 2012 at 10:35 am

I LOVE THOUSE BOOKS

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4 marci357 February 23, 2012 at 10:37 am

The very basics are important to me… gardening, self-harvesting meats/seafood, prepping, cleaning and canning or saving the product in some way for future use, and using every morsel. Sewing, mending, firewood gathering… I am talking about the very basics. Food, shelter, clothing, warmth.

Share our skills with family, grandkids. The skills need to be passed on. Share with friends when they express and interest. Two older retired non-related gentlemen were actually kind enough to teach me my canning skills!!!

Yep – I can do butter, cheese, cottage cheese, but haven’t tried cream cheese… However, it’s in my book, should I need it ! lol !

Oh yes…have books. Paper books. Someday we might not have internet or it might be off in a disaster when we need to know these things!!!

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5 carol crittendon February 23, 2012 at 10:40 am

I LOVE THOUSE BOOKS
BY LURLA LNGALLS WILDER.

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6 Jana February 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

Almost 8 yrs ago we bought our home…secondary lake front. Now I long to live on a farm. We wanted to back then as well, but the prices were just too high. I am praying that one day we get our farm! With the way everything is going we NEED to grow our own food. Right now we have a tiny garden and 8 chickens. Love the fresh eggs :) So yes ALL of it is very important to me. Large family to feed… every little bit helps :)

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7 Gwen February 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

I would love to learn gardening…I keep trying :) So far we have failed for three years…but we will plant again this year!! We homeschool, so gardening, canning, baking…survival is a big part of our lesson plans. Hopefully our kids will always be able to buy food at the store, but what if they cannot? What if the truckers go on strike again? I know I worry too much!! LOL

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8 Maura February 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

Hmm…my mom taught me the basics of cooking, cleaning, sewing, etc. but I’m still learning the art of living simply. And, even though I live in a fairly small town, I only have 1/4 acre and rules about farm animals that we have to follow. Last year was the first year we had a garden. My husband and I learned a lot and have a plan for this year, including learning how to can any extras we don’t use. I’m now making all our baked goods (breads, rolls, biscuits, desserts, granola bars, etc) from scratch, but have no idea how to make butter or any kinds of cheese. I plan to learn though! I am enjoying learning all these new-to-me skills and I love teaching my kids as I go, and they love to learn it (I have 5!). It seems to me, in this day and age, unless you are “forced” to learn these skills most people are content with convenience, and its really too bad. I agree with Marci above, there may come a time where we don’t have the internet (or power for that matter) and many people I know would be in big trouble. It’s comforting to know that we, my husband and I, would still be able to provide for and feed our family. Thank you Merissa, for teaching me along the way, and helping my family and me get back to basics!!

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9 Alene Sholan Gamble February 23, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I agree both. I have always been blessed being raised by my mother and grandmother with all of there skills. I have been instilled to pass the skill on. I welcome anyone who want to learn. Last couple of yrs. have been putting a note book together. My daughters help with it. We pass the book onto friends that we know that have never learned how to cann beans, sew a quilt, or raise meat animals.

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10 Deanna Smith February 23, 2012 at 12:30 pm

We teach life skills here. We fully expect our children to have practical use, daily living skills and not just ‘book smarts’ or the like. They all live out daily ‘home ec’ stuff here…sewing, various handcrafts, cooking/baking, gardening, animal husbandry, herbal medicine, first aid skills, and more. We want them to know how to do things that will help provide for their families later. Having a degree is fine, and I’m not putting down those who pursue a higher education goal, but don’t discount the common everyday skills. A job isn’t always available and it’s helpful to know you can provide for your daily needs without being dependent on someone else.

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11 Elyse Barrier February 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Wow! Love the quote! from ‘Pa’ about the government! ;) Some things really don’t change, do they?

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12 Heather :) :) :) February 23, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I know how to make butter ;) :) I’m proud of that. I don’t know how to make the other things you mentioned…but I’m definitely teaching myself little by little. There’s a lot of joy in being able to make things for myself :) :) At some point, I’ll probably grab a friend and say “Hey, want to make some butter?” :) :) Otherwise, I’d try and find a class to learn some of those skills. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

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13 Alex November 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I know how to knit – which allows me to make blankets for my family, instead of purchasing them. I know how to cook and bake from scratch, which is a dying skill among young women in my area. I would like to learn how to can / preserve foods for long-term storage in the future.

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14 Patty April 21, 2013 at 9:57 am

I feel I’ve learned alot from my sweet Grandma but as I’m aging, there is so much more out there I can learn! I cook, bake, sew, quilt, garden…but I’m going to learn to make cheeses this year and I’m joining a spinning club, so I can spin my own yarn. (I can’t do ANYTHING with yarn!) Then I can learn to knit or crochet, or maybe I’ll just sell my yarns to supplement our income. Soap making is also something I’d like to learn.

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15 Merissa April 21, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Patty, here is a tutorial we have on making Homemade Hand Soap!

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