There are a number of different perspectives people have when looking at prepping and survival. It almost seems like people pass through these different perspectives as steps in their "growth." Most start with the basic idea of stockpiling food and move from there to expanding on what they are stockpiling. Before long they are working on their home, making it more workable as a survival retreat or build a retreat they can but out to.
But the ultimate step for most people is one of learning skills. Actually, the idea of learning skills starts much earlier than that, but it also goes through stages. Early skills include things like starting fires and purifying water. From there, they go on to learning a variety of wilderness survival skills, some paying more attention to these skills and others who don't have as much interest. A lot of this depends on their personal survival plans and how much of a chance they think they will be that they will have to use those skills.
But there is another category of survival skills that most people end up studying if they are involved in prepping or survival for any time; those are homesteading skills. More than any other category of skills, these skills will help people survive a long-term disaster, such as an EMP. They are the skills we will all need if the country every faces a major disaster, destroying society or especially destroying the electrical power grid.
If you think about it, the one group of people who are most likely to be prepared to survive such a disaster are good old-fashioned farmers. I'm not talking about the farmers who work on the big corporate farms, but rather those who have smaller family farms. If there is anyone in this country who understands the skills necessary for self-sufficiency, it is these farmers.
The average farmer knows a wide range of skills, not just planting and harvesting. They are mechanics, veterinarians,, carpenters, plumbers, welders and a host of other trades, all wrapped up in one. That's because they don't have anyone else to do it for them, so they do it themselves.
In the aftermath of a major crisis, there's a good chance that we'll all need those skills. We don't know who will survive and we don't know what skills they will have. So, depending on them could leave us in the lurch, even if they are members of our survival team.
Actually, any necessary skill in a survival team should be learned by at least two team members. Something could always happen to one team member, leaving the team without that skill. But if two people know it, there's less of a chance of losing that skill from the team. In addition, each of those team members should have a young person that they are mentoring as an intern, passing their skills on to them.
Basically, homesteading is nothing more than farming on a small scale. People who decide to homestead basically have a five to ten acre farm. That's not big enough for them to grow produce for sale, but it is big enough for them to grow enough for their own family. Actually, it takes about 2-1/2 acres to be able to grow enough food to feed a family. For a family of vegetarians, that can be done in about 1/2 acre.
These skills will help your family or survival team to survive; but they can go far beyond that. The right skills can be bartered with others, trading work for items that your family or survival team needs. In a situation where society needs to rebuild, some skills can be critical for the community, helping to put lives and services back together.
Food Related Skills
If there's any group of skills we should all start out with, it's the ability to produce our own food. No matter how much food you have stockpiled, it will eventually run out. Before that happens, you'll need to have reached a point where you are producing enough food for your family to eat. Waiting until the food starts running out is dangerous, as it takes time to get any means of food production working properly.
The number one source of food for most people will most likely be a vegetable garden. While this sounds pretty easy, growing a garden isn't automatic. You can't just throw seeds on the ground and expect to harvest a salad. To start with, it takes at least a year to get your soil in good enough a condition as to grow things well. So it always takes time to get a garden going.
I am not a natural gardener. In fact, where some people have a green thumb, I have a brown one. So, I have had to work at learning gardening; just so that I could have it as a survival skill. But I have worked on it, as it can help keep my family fed.
If you're going to have a garden, then you should compost. Fertilizers are necessary to feed your garden, providing it with the necessary nutrients. But during a crisis you won't be able to go to the local garden center or feed store to buy fertilizers. Instead, you'll need to create your own. That's what composting does for you.
If you want to eat something other than vegetables, you'll probably need to raise animals. That means knowing how to care for them. This includes knowing what they need to eat and being able to find or grow that feed. More than that, it will mean recognizing signs of sickness or injury and knowing what to do to take care of the animals. To go along with that, you should have the necessary veterinary medicines to use with those animals.
One of the many scary things going on in our country today is the dying off of massive quantities of bees. Studies have been done, linking them to Roundup, a chemical herbicide that is used hand-in-hand with GMO produce. Apparently, one of the main purposes behind GMOs is to make it possible to use large amount of Roundup, without killing the plants. But it's killing off bees by the millions.
As bees are the prime pollinator of plants, they are essential for our vegetable gardens. So, a thriving bee colony is something that you need somewhere near your home or homestead. If there isn't one, becoming a bee keeper yourself and starting a hive is a great way of ensuring your garden's harvest is plentiful. If the populations continue to drop, your hive might mean that you are one of the few people who have food to eat.
Many people talk about hunting as a means of providing food for their family, augmenting their food stocks, in the case of a disaster. But hunting is more than just going out in the woods and seeing what you can find. If all you can do is shoot animals who have been baited in by feed corn, you aren't a true hunter. You need to understand the animals' habits and habitat to be a successful hunter. You also need to know something of tracking, so that you can find where the animals are hiding.
Keep in mind that while hunting is a valuable skill, many other people will be hunting for food as well. So you may not be able to get as much meat that way as you expect. A major disaster could cause a depletion of the wild animal population, as people try to feed their families.
Don't forget snares to catch small game either. All through the colonial period and the westward expansion small game was a normal part of people's diets. While a squirrel or two may not sound as appetizing as a nice venison steak, it can be made into a passable stew, and the squirrels will reproduce faster than deer do.
Butchering & Preserving Meat
Most hunters today take their catch to a butcher who does "game processing." There's nothing wrong with that, but what if that butcher doesn't survive the crisis? You may have to do it yourself. Learning the proper way to butcher and preserve meat will ensure that you get the most out of your kills, whether from hunting or animals you raise yourself.
Tanning Hides & Boot Making
Leather is a valuable material for making shoes, boots, harnesses and other items. Every year, countless tons of animal hides are tanned, preparing them to be turned into these products. Leather is even used for much the same purposes in primitive societies, although without our sophisticated automated processing.
A good pair of boots may last a year in a post-disaster world. Then what will you do? If you can't tan hides and convert the resulting leather into shoes or boots, you're going to have a lot of problem walking. I suppose you could grow some industrial-strength calluses instead, but being able to make boots seems like a better idea to me.
Survival fishing isn't the same as a lazy day at your favorite fishing hole. You're going to have to catch something rapidly, so that you have time for all your other survival tasks. That probably means using either traps or nets for your fishing. You'll want something that can be left alone, until it is time to come back and gather up your catch.
While commercial traps are available, being able to make your own is an invaluable skill, especially when you consider that you might end up in a survival situation where you have to live by your wits and your knowledge. A few fish traps, made of sticks and grass, could be the only thing keeping you from starvation.
Health Related Skills
Most of us are accustomed to going to the doctor or the hospital's emergency room when we are sick or injured. Few people today know more about dealing with injuries than putting on a band-aid. But in a post-disaster world, injuries are much more likely to occur. The ability to take care of sickness and disease could be critical to your family, friends and neighbors.
That's why most survival teams try to have at least one person who is a trained medic. But those are actually few and far between. There just aren't enough people with the right skills and training to go around; and many who are trained will be trying to man our hospitals and clinics. Knowing a few basics will be able to go a long way in such a time.
There is no reason why most people can't learn at least some basic first-aid. If you can't treat a gunshot wound or bind up a broken bone, then I'd have to say that you don't know enough. Since more people get injured in a post-crisis world and medical services are more limited, these skills could become lifesavers.
You can actually learn the basics of first-aid, up to and including dealing with those major injuries, quite easily. The Red Cross offers classes, as well as a number of websites. If nothing else, you can learn about them by watching YouTube videos. There are some absolutely excellent ones online, done by people with the right training and qualifications.
Recognizing and Treating Illness
Learning how to recognize illness and what to do about it is harder than learning how to treat injuries and wounds. One has to be extremely careful, as many diseases look the same and present nearly identical symptoms. Without a medical laboratory to run tests and isolate the cause, determining what disease a person has can become a matter of much guesswork.
Even so, this is a highly necessary skill. With it, you can stop the spread of disease and hopefully help people back to full recovery. Without it, all you can do is watch them die and wonder if you are next. Just a few basic medicines, especially antibiotics can make a world of difference, if you have them and know how to use them correctly.
From time immemorial, women have helped other women give birth to the next generation. Long before doctors, some women became specialists in this field, becoming the first midwives. As such, they were some of the first to develop effective medical techniques to help people through the struggles in life.
Today we depend on doctors, most of whom are in hospitals. The day of the family doctor making house-calls is long behind us, a faint memory from my and perhaps your childhood. But in a crisis situation, hospitals become overloaded. Even if yours isn't, getting to the hospital may be difficult.
Traditionally, midwives were in the community, not the hospital. So they were available to mothers giving birth, going to their homes to help. We'll need this again, in a post-collapse world. Sadly, few will have those skills, but rather have to learn them in the crucible of fire, as they help their first patients through the struggles of childbirth.
Waste disposal is something that most of us take for granted. We flush the toilet and the waste goes away, either into a septic tank or a sewage system. That's great, as long as it works. But if the power is out, the sewage treatment plants won't work. When that happens, it will result in the sewage lines backing up.
People with septic systems will be a little better off, able to continue using their systems until the tanks fill with solids, but once that happens, they will encounter the same problem, and there probably won't be anyone with a working truck to pump the tanks out.
Waste disposal will then become a big issue for everyone in the case of a major disaster. One of the best solutions is to turn that human waste back into fertilizer, using what is known as humanure composting. This is actually a very natural way of dealing with human waste, one that some societies have used for centuries. While it may sound gross, composted human waste, just like animal waste, is a great fertilizer; and composting it eliminates the disease risk that human waste can cause.
Repair Related Skills
Some of the most valued members of society, in a post-disaster world, will be people who can make and repair things. If we assume that the power is out and the infrastructure is down, then the only manufactured goods will be those which are made locally. This will cause people to turn to other options in many cases. One of those options will be repairing things that we currently throw away and replace.
Anything new that people need will either have to come from local stocks or be manufactured by hand. This will require the rebirth of many skills which have long been lost. While I can't list them all, here are a few critical skills to consider.
Mechanics & Mechanical Repair
I'm not just talking about auto mechanics here, although that is an essential part of this category. The ability to repair cars, as well as small engines, will mean that people will be able to continue using gas-powered power tools, vehicles and other necessary pieces of equipment, assuming they have a source of fuel to use.
Then there are the countless other mechanical devices we use or will need to use as the replacement for electric appliances which will no longer work. Someone with the right mechanical skills can build a wide variety of different things, working with whatever they have available.
Carpentry & General Woodworking
Many types of disasters can cause damage to our homes, sometimes severe damage. Should a nationwide attack on the grid be coupled with a major natural disaster, there will be countless families who need repairs on their homes. Without those repairs, they could end up essentially homeless or living in shacks.
Besides that, there will always be a need for furniture and other things to be made. General woodworking skills will be useful for everything from raising a barn to making a cradle. Those who have them will not only be an asset to their survival team, but to their community.
Before modern mechanics and modern factories, there were the blacksmiths. Every community had one, who would make tools for tradesmen, hinges for doors, shoe horses and even make andirons for people's fireplaces. While this trade has gone the way of the dinosaur, it is one of the most useful trades to know. A good blacksmith can make almost anything out of metal.
My father was a blacksmith, who apprenticed under a man who was a true artist in metal. He also went to school to learn "hot shoeing" the way that blacksmiths of old would shoe horses (not with premade shoes). These skills are uncommon ones today, but will once again become priceless, in a world without electricity.
Electronics & Electronic Repair
If there is any hope of rebuilding America, after an attack on our grid, it will be through the restoration of electrical power and the ability to start using electronic devices once again. We depend on electricity for so many essential services, many of which are essential for survival in our modern society. Restoring electricity will be a nationwide priority, with people working at every level to rebuild the system.
Clothing Related Skills
Few people think about the mundane, when they start thinking about urban survival and prepping. While things like stockpiling food and toilet paper are easy to think of, few actually think of the clothes they wear. Worse, they don't think about what they will wear, when the clothes they currently use wear out or no longer fit.
Granted, we can't all stock a warehouse full of clothes, thinking of every eventuality and the weight we will lose when food is scarce. We can't even stock up enough clothes for our kids, at least not enough for more than a couple of years. But if the country collapses and we are sent back to a pre-industrialized society, the ability to make clothing will be the very first industry which will need to be established. That includes the ability to make the fabric which goes into that clothing.
Spinning Yarn and Thread
We are all accustomed to seeing a spinning wheel as a normal part of a pioneer era home. But how many really understand how to use it? Can you shear sheep and spin their wool into yarn or thread? Do you know what carding wool is and how to do it? Is that an important part of making thread or is it something you can ignore.
If you can't make thread, then you can't make fabric; and if you can't make fabric, what are you going to make clothes out of? So the first of these skills has to be the ability to spin fibers into thread, so that something can then be done with that thread.
But thread isn't enough. Much of that thread has to be woven into fabric. The looms of our ancestors were complicated machines, which allowed a fair degree of efficiency and even of complexity, for weaving fabrics by hand. Yet who today remembers the skills necessary to build one? To me, this is actually a greater problem than knowing how to use the loom, once it is built.
Of course, using the loom is important as well. Being able to set it up so that fabric can be woven is a skill in and of itself. The whole process, including being able to make patterns in the fabric or make dyes out of natural substances, to shade the fabric, is something that is largely lost today.
Finally, there is the art of sewing. A generation ago, pretty much all girls grew up knowing how to sew. Few reached adulthood without having a sewing machine before they were married. Even those who seldom sew knew how to repair and even make their own clothing.
Yet today the sewing machine is something that is relegated to a dusty corner of a closet, if a woman owns one at all. Of course, since those sewing machines are run by electricity, they won't be working if the grid goes down. Even fewer people have an idea of how to turn an electric sewing machine back into a treadle-operated one.
While clothing can be sewn by hand, it is much more efficient to sew it on a machine. Nevertheless, whether one has a machine or not, they also need the knowledge of clothing design, sizing and how to make it. Yet, without these skills, the best we can do with fabric is wrap it around ourselves like a toga.