As a preparedness advisor, it’s my life’s calling to talk to people about preparedness and self-reliance. When I talk to folks like you, I’m often curious about where you got your start with preparedness. The answer I get most often? It all started with parents or grandparents. These are the types of things I hear:

‘Dad hunted and trapped most of our meat, the rest we bartered with ranchers and farmers for.’

‘My grandmother grew up in the Great Depression. She got upset whenever we threw anything away that could be re-used in some way.’

‘Mom knew exactly how long our food would last us come November, when the frosts would come.’

Above are just a few examples. These snippets are parts of great stories, but they also contain lessons that we need to ensure we are living up to today.

I think many of us turn to the preparedness and self-reliance lifestyle because we are shocked at how far we’ve gotten away from these traditions. If you feel this way, then you’ve found the right community.

Many of us practice many “lost arts” that keep us free, healthy and self-reliant that the general population thinks are unnecessary, even insane. They will never get it. That’s why these skills are in decline in the first place. No need to speculate on why or lament them. We need only keep them in our hearts and carry them through our actions into the future.

However, the point of this article is not to toot our own horns. It’s to look inward and rediscover the skills that were once practiced by our ancestors. I will list some ideas in a moment.

The point of this exercise is to challenge ourselves. You may already have 6 months of emergency food stored up for every member of your family… but, how’s your garden coming? You may know how to sew a wound…how about a sweater? You get the point. Be honest with yourself.

You want to set a goal. To learn a new skill that has been forgotten, but practiced by your ancestors. Having a personal tie helps motivate you. If you don’t have a personal tie to something in particular, pick the skill you’re most passionate about learning.

Here are some ideas for skills to learn, broken down into a few categories:

Lost Cooking Arts

  • “Making” yeast for bread
  • Making flour from grown or foraged grains like acorns and corn
  • Turning cream into butter without electric tools
  • Cheesemaking
  • Fresh and cured sausage making
  • Cooking over open fires, with dutch ovens, and wood-fired stoves

 Acquiring Food Like All Did 3 Generations Ago

  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Fishing – (if you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 of our series on fishing, you can click the links to do so.)
  • Foraging
  • Raising food (animal husbandry)
  • Beekeeping
  • Gardening

Preserving Food (without modern appliances)

  • Canning
  • Drying
  • Fermenting
  • Smoking
  • Salting/curing
  • Root cellaring

Building Things with Bare Hands (and Hand Tools) – try not to cheat and bring power tools to the game, especially if you’re handy with them. If the stuff hits the you know what, you better not be a power tool-only handyman, or you won’t handy at all.

  • Timber framing
  • Fence construction
  • Building furniture
  • How to lay bricks
  • How to make cement

Dealing with Things We Just Flush Away – imagine no municipal plumbing, no weekly trash pickup. This was the reality for our ancestors. It could be the reality in a major crisis.

  • Build an outhouse
  • Transform your waste into humanure (yes, our ancestors did this)
  • Reduce food waste. Make vegetable stock. Compost.
  • Try to live without single-use items. Paper towels, toilet paper, plastic cups, etc.

Taking Care of Household Tasks

  • Using a washboard, basin and clothesline for laundry
  • Using a broom, mop and hands and knees to get the floors clean
  • Making cleaning supplies like soap

Notice that I’ve tried to phrase these skills as “activities” rather than goals. The reason? It’s easier to turn activities into habits, building a practice that we can perfect over time. Goals are great, but stating them doesn’t give us a clear path to achieving them. Doing does.

Many of these skills involve tasks that are made much easier by modern technology and conveniences. At first, it may seem like a drudgery to learn and practice these forgotten skills. Do not let that deter you; let it comfort you. We know preparedness and self-reliance are not easy paths, but the benefits far outweigh any drudgery or struggle.

Think of it this way: if a major crisis caused “society” as we know it to collapse, knowing these skills means that we return to “normal” much faster. Obviously, we know this picture will not be pretty, but our learned skills will serve us well – it is the best-case scenario.

So I urge you to take on learning one of these forgotten skills as part of your preparedness and self-reliance lifestyle. Which of these skills are you most interested in learning? Let us know in the comments section below and we might develop your idea into a full Survival Scout series.

Have a great weekend, folks! Stay alert out there.

In Liberty,

Grant Miller

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply

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  • Great article. It made me think of the skills of my ancestors and those of my husband, and what skills they used to live. Great advice in acquiring some of these skills.

    Phyllis Kimpel on
  • I recommend the Foxfire book series to everyone in this community. Over a decade ago my mom led me to these books because of my keen interest to go for a walk for weeks at a time growing up 22 miles outside of town. Today at 27, my wife and I still hold the lifestyle of the Appalachian dearly, she born in Huntington, WV, and I good ol Fort Knox, KY. Our vision include alot acquired in these books. A quick Google search will fill the details

    Zachary Willett on
  • My preparedness starting when the Rodney King riots we’re in LA not being from California I had stashed a Earth Quake kit in our garage with formula and diapers and some things for meals for my husband, daughter and myself nothing of any quantity but it was there. Since we lived so closed to the riots once we we’re all together my husband and also my boss from work decided we should stay put and I was given a couple of days off from work but much to my happiness I had everything my family needed!! Now I am back home in Kansas and a single mother of two young adults my preparedness has grown to a nice stash to keep us all OK!! But preparedness is something you never complete!!

    Tammy Schinstock-Castaneda on
  • Bless yawls bottoms :).
    You must MUST learn and apply hardcore tracking skills , another thing that will develop for you is your sense of smell ;). Promise ;).
    You will no about where and how much with the first wafting breeze .
    Smell is critical ,the game you hunt and what hunts you ;).Keep aware of the wind direction and when in doubt . Step off the trail ,look,listen and smell ;).
    You feel uneasy . You should find the reason of before continuing your hunt .
    to feral hogs ,cougars and coyotes you could be their hunt ;). Even dogs gone wild packs .
    A very faint odor of the laundry would be acceptable to me ,but them city folks ;).
    I mean think on this . How you going to convince a woman ,that Spanish moss makes a good ko-tex,in a pinch ;)?
    Oh,and i heard rabbit hides make some decent moc’s . Hair in ;).
    You should practice going in your back yard . Track it ,take notes and prepare a campsite and shelter . Stay a night minimum . One month later do twice as long with half the gear ,so on each month untill you feel confident you can go into your backyard in your undies and shoes and stay a night or two .
    Then you will be ready for the basics ;).
    Luck to you all,
    Just keep the faith ,that is it :). Promise .

    pearler on
  • When I was growing up my grandparents were older than many and had a small place out of town where they lived as they always had. That
    meant an outhouse and chamber pots under the bed at night (if you did not want to make that long walk in the dark and cold if in winter etc),
    a sink with a pump handle in the kitchen until I was about 5 or so when the men changed it out for a running faucet one Christmas…with cold
    water however still, that grandma heated in a kettle on the double large black wood stove in the kitchen. That kettle was always on the stove
    and it’s always companion was a blue speckled coffee pot. She let me take the handle to the metal burner and move it to stoke the fire with
    wood…loved doing that! Grandma made her own soap, bread, and had a peddle sewing machine. She made the quilt-blankets on the beds
    and the heat in the house was a pop belly black wood stove in ‘sitting room’ by grandpas big wooden rocker and her little matching one. She
    tried to teach me to play the high backed piano that she played beautifully, but I had no musical talent at all! She would also have me come
    out to help make the fresh bread and make the butter in the turn handle jar!! What a wonderful smell and so so good too! Grandpa would ask
    if I wanted to go to the wood shed…yep but it did not mean what it did in those days- (to get a spanking) …it was to help with him with chopping
    the wood and carrying it into the house! I loved to do those things with them when I was out at their place or visiting from out of town. There was
    a huge garden of every kind of veggie and fruit trees. On the back half acre there were potatoes or strawberries rotated each year grandpa worked
    with a great love of doing so! There were all sorts of old tools in his shop, that today would be new fanged things for him or grandma
    either…ringer washer, wash tub with hand wash board! She canned and preserved all the veggies from the garden, everything she baked or cooked
    was on the wood stove….the smell of wood, bacon, eggs and coffee to this day take me right back to my grandparents place; the warmth, comforting
    feelings of those experiences and their love are with me to this day too! Oh one thing grandpa did try; false teeth, but he did not like them and would
    take them out placing them in a big mug—smiling at us. The flowers of every kind all around the house and areas where the veggie garden was not,
    were so pretty-loved the blue hydrangeas the best! and I loved walking around identifying the others too, as well as hiding in the garden- eating rasp-
    berries from the little patch that the tall corn row hide from view (lucky for me)….or apples and plums off the trees at the back of the property!! Home
    made and simple, but so good and fun were those times that made super memories to carry in life now. We could learn a lot from people who lived
    in past times.

    Ruth on

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