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Winter, in my opinion, is the absolute perfect time to work on a few new homesteading skills. The garden lies in waiting, more time is spent indoors, and while we should definitely take a break and sit back to relax, I’m one of those people who loves to learn and winter affords me much more time to do that.
Whether I’m just picking up a book gleaning knowledge from another homesteader, or actually working on learning or brushing up on a homesteading skill, I do a lot of learning and re-learning in the winter months.
It not only helps keep me occupied (which I thrive on), but it helps the cold, wet, and dreary days more tolerable. It also allows me to not only learn the skills myself, but help my girls learn right along with me.
This list is perfect for skills to learn and brush up on in the winter, any time really. But, none of them make you get outside. So, even if you find yourself tied down to living in an urban area, you can also learn a lot of these skills this winter season.
Homesteading Skills to Learn This Winter
1. How to Make Soap
Soapmaking is probably one of my favorite things to do, especially in the winter. I really enjoy making our own soap. I know exactly what’s in it. I know that it’s all completely natural, cleansing, and not drying.
To me, it’s a skill everyone should have. It’s not difficult, you just have to be careful with the lye. My children even help me (as long as they’re protected). It’s fun to use fats we were able to render right here on our own homestead and saponify them. Add some essential oils for scent and let it cure. The girls really love helping me cut the loaf of soap into bars once it’s cured in a couple of days.
2. How to Crochet, Knit, or Sew
I learned to sew with a machine many years ago, and while I can mend by hand, I’m not very good at hand sewing. I’m currently in the process of brushing up on those skills. Sewing with a machine is great, but I like to learn to do things by hand as well.
I taught myself to crochet a few years back and I’m so glad I did. I enjoy taking natural fibers and crocheting them into hats, scarves, and blankets. Knitting is the next handicraft I plan to learn this year and I’m excited to get started so I can make the girls a pair of knitted mittens.
These handicrafts are becoming lost, sadly. I’d love to get our own fiber sheep or dual purpose sheep, learn how to sheer and process and spin our own wool into thread in good time. Spinning is another great skill to learn!
3. How to Make Yeast Bread
Nothing, I mean nothing beats the smell of a fresh loaf of bread baking in the oven. I absolutely love making homemade bread. While we do make it year round, I avoid it when I can in the summer. Warming up the oven when it’s already a gazillion degrees outside just isn’t very fun. But the winter time? Bring on all the bread.
I’m currently perfecting my dutch oven loaves of crusty, artisan bread. The girls really enjoy helping me bake bread. I like to do the entire process by hand from the mixing to the kneading to forming the loaves. I enjoy the movement and the feel of the dough in my hands.
If you don’t know how to make yeast bread, rolls, pretzels, yeast dough at all. This time of year is a great time to start. I’m planning to start working more with einkorn and see what we can do with that. But, for now, a good bag of organic white wheat does wonders.
4. How to Make Wine (or other ferments)
Wine takes a while to make and while a lot of wine making ferments aren’t readily available fresh in the cold winter months, you can find organic options at the store to help you learn for the coming harvest season.
If you have frozen fruits in your freezer, they can be thawed and utilized to make wine. You can also learn how to make other ferments, like fermented ketchup, sauerkraut, or even kefir.
5. How to Make Candles
Candle making is fun. Our homeschool project this week is to make taper candles. We’ve made beeswax candles in jars in the past, but I like to put tapers in candleholders. I think they’re pretty and old-school. They’re more primitive than jar candles I guess. I don’t know, I just think they’re cool and enjoy burning them and they’re nice to have for emergencies because you can just pick up the candleholder and light the way.
Candles are a great thing to have in abundance for emergencies. Such as when the power goes out on one of these dark, cold winter days. So, make up a bunch, they don’t take long, and keep them for a day when the electric is out, or just use them in place of all those lights.
6. How to Tan a Hide
This is on the top of our list of new skills this year. We’ve both wanted to learn how to tan for a long while, but this year is the year. We have a deer hide that we want to tan and it’s just a skill we want to learn. I don’t like to waste things, and this helps us learn how to utilize the skins of the animals we harvest so that no part goes to waste.
7. How to Make and Can Bone Broth
All those soups and stews you make in the winter can inspire this skillset. Bone broth, made right in your own home from the meat you harvest or that of organic, locally, pasture raised meat makes the best, most nutritious bone broth there is.
You have to pressure can it, but it’s totally worth the effort. Canning bone broth is easy, and just another way to eat homemade (and use up those animals).
8. How to Make Cheese
I really want to try my hand at making cheese. Not only does it sound fun, we love cheese and I don’t like to buy cheese at the store. So, we spend quite a bit of money finding locally made cheese. Since it’s something we eat a decent amount of, I’d like to learn to make it ourselves. This is on the list before winter is up, but not until we can get a more abundant surplus of milk to work with.
9. How to Make Lotion
I think I was more scared to make lotion the first time than soap. Why? I have no clue, but the whole idea of it kind of scared me. I guess I thought it wouldn’t turn out and I would be wasting all of those ingredients. Thankfully, it’s not actually that difficult and it turns out well for me.
I really like to make goats milk lotion (and soaps) because of the moisturizing properties in goats milk. It’s simple to make and it doesn’t last long in this house. I’m working on adding different essential oils to it to not only change the scent, but change the aromatherapy it provides.
10. Herbal Remedies
Winter is a great time to learn more about herbal remedies. Learn how to make your own tinctures, salves, tonics and more using herbs that were grown on your own homestead or find organic, dried herbs online or at a local health food store.
Herbs are a great way to help support a more self-sufficient lifestyle and learning their safe uses never hurts. This book is a great resource for beginners and experts alike.
11. Grow Microgreens or a Windowsill Herb Gardens
Whether you’re just craving some dirt therapy or you’re tight on space to begin with. Microgreens and indoor herb gardening can be a great way to not only get your hands in the dirt, but grow some food and remedies year round, no matter where you live.
Microgreens and herbs alike are really easy to grow indoors and don’t require a ton of specialty equipment to get going. Fresh food and herbs in the cold, dark winter? Count me in.
12. How to Sharpen a Knife or Axe
Keeping your tools in top shape and sharp is important. No one wants to use a dull axe to split wood or a dull knife to field dress a deer. So, learn how to keep them sharp so they’re ready for work any time.
13. How to Make Homemade Household Cleaners
You don’t have to clean your house with a bunch of chemicals. You can easily make natural household cleaners from laundry detergent to scouring scrub for your home. It’s usually cheaper, much less damaging to the environment, and less harsh to you and your home.
14. How to Vermicompost
While most people don’t think of composting in the winter as a new skill, it’s a great time to get some practice. Vermicomposting is easy and doesn’t require a lot of space, plus you don’t have to go outside to toss your scraps in the compost pile. The bin can stay right in your kitchen under the sink if you want. Composting gives your garden some nice, beautiful nutrition come spring, and it’s never too late to learn how, get started, and get into the habit of composting.
15. How to Relax
Yes, I think some of us, definitely myself, need to learn how to relax. A lot of us are constantly on the go and while we should always be learning and adapting, sometimes it’s time to just relax a little bit.
That isn’t to say you can’t still be learning. Pick a skill you want to learn more about and grab a book on the subject. Sit back in the evening, cuddle up with a nice cup of homemade hot cocoa and read about it. This year my pick is permaculture. With our small amount of land I find learning more about this will be the most beneficial thing I can learn. So, just grab a book and relax a little. Spring will be here before we know it.