Skills To Survive Without Modern Conveniences – 9 Forgotten Pioneer Skills To Learn

Discussion in 'General Q&A' started by Preppersgab, Nov 21, 2017.

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  1. Preppersgab

    Preppersgab Active Member

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    Living without power, mini-marts, cars, electronics or running water may seem like a nightmare scenario but to pioneers it was just the way life was. Having the skills to survive without modern conveniences is not only smart in case SHTF, it’s also great for the environment. We’ve compiled a list of homesteading skills to learn from pioneers to help you along your way.


    This is the first skill that you’re going to need. You need to stop thinking about running to the store to buy exactly what you need. Think instead about how you can make what you need from what you have, or how you can find a way to simplify the process so that you don’t need anything that you can’t make or trade for. Think self-sufficient and basic – it doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to work!

    Consider the Structure of Your Land before Building

    Carefully consider where your water sources are. You don’t want to build your house too far away from water and you’re not going to want to build your chicken house, barn or outhouse too close to it. Also, build close to running water. It’s less likely to house disease, it’s the last water source to freeze and the easiest to knock a hole in when you need water.

    Also, consider trees and terrain. Is that huge old oak going to fall on your house in a storm? Is there a particular area so rocky that you’re going to have a hard time planting a garden or digging footers in it? Is everything easily accessible from the house in the winter? Is it going to catch the morning sun or be protected from strong wind somehow? Follow the “measure twice, cut once” principle when planning your homestead.

    Think Ahead and Be Prepared

    You may have enough fire wood to get you through the winter, but what if spring is late coming? What if you break your leg next spring and can’t get enough wood in for next winter? The same thing goes for food. There is no grocery store to run to if you have a rainy year and can’t get your garden to produce next year. Always consider the “what-ifs” and be ready for them.

    Build a Root Cellar

    Just about any old homestead that you come upon is going to have a root cellar, and there’s a good reason for that – you need one! Canned goods and root vegetables (thus the name) keep much better at the cool (but not cold) temperatures that a root cellar maintains. Also, you don’t have to worry about vermin such as mice coming into the house in search of those potatoes if they’re stored in the root cellar.

    You save a ton of space in the house or basement that would otherwise be taken up with food storage. Finally, and probably most importantly, if the house burns down or is destroyed by an act of nature, you still have food to eat. You can start over because all is not lost.

    Have Backup Heating and Cooking Sources

    If you’re still depending on electric, even if it’s of your own making, there’s still a chance that something will break or go wrong. Have a backup source of cooking and heating. You’ll notice in most old (preserved) homesteads, there a cooking stove and a heating stove. If one breaks, the other will serve the purpose of both.

    Plant Perennial Edibles

    Berries, including strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, are packed with nutrient, dry well, freeze well and make delicious, nutritious jams, jellies, pie fillings and syrups. Rhubarb has laxative effects in addition to being delicious and will come back every year long after you stop coming back! Fruit trees are definite additions too, for obvious reasons.

    Perhaps the best part about perennials is that you don’t have to do much to them in order to gain the fruit. A little trimming and pruning a couple of times a year and you’re golden.

    Learn about Herbs and Doctoring

    The knowledge of how the human body works is perhaps the greatest advantage that we have over our early brothers and sisters. We know about germs and we know what causes many illnesses and diseases. We also know what herbs work to treat those conditions, so gain knowledge that will keep you and your family healthy, then grow as much of what you need as you can so that you don’t have to depend upon external sources.

    Become a Jack of Most Trades and Learn to Barter

    Competence will serve you well. You don’t necessarily have to be a master at everything but having enough knowledge to get by with as little help as possible will give you a tremendous advantage.

    For instance, know what types of soil your garden will grow best in and then learn how to tell what kind of soil you have so that you can correct it if necessary. Know how to build a fence, work on your equipment, set a broken bone, shoot a gun and milk a cow. You don’t have to be a pro, but it will pay to be proficient in as many areas as possible!

    For those skills that you just don’t have, learn how to trade for that good or service. Know the value of your skill or your product and know how to barter with them in a manner that’s fair for everybody.

    Live a Life of Gratitude

    The life of a pioneer wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. They buried children and went cold and hungry. They dealt with bad weather, failed crops and hostile travelers. They didn’t leave behind everything to live sustainably or to go “off the grid”. They took a huge gamble that they would be able to build a better life for themselves than the one that they were leaving behind.

    Because of where they came from, every win mattered. A finished fence, a functional barn, blooming plants – all were reasons to be grateful, because they were one step better than they were the day before. When you learn to think like that, to focus on the positives, the negatives don’t seem so huge and life is beautiful. That may be the best homesteading skill to learn from pioneers of all!
  2. Tom Williams

    Tom Williams Moderator Staff Member

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    Great post have you been tresspassing on my place ? LOL1
    The Innkeeper likes this.
  3. TexDanm

    TexDanm Shadow Dancer

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    There are just some skills that you will have to have ahead of time. You will have to cut, chop and split wood. Don't wait until you HAVE to do it to learn how. You will then have to take that wood and use it to heat your home, cook your food and also make all sorts of things from it. All this takes tools and knowledge. The food isn't going to come to you. You need to know how to go out and get it in the hunt, fish, gather and grow senses. You also need to learn several ways to make this food last longer and how to get the most out of it when you cook it.

    Once again these are things that you need to explore and learn about now. Shelter is something that will need to be done according to where you are at. Those that live in the colder northern climates will have to do a lot more than I will have to deal with and should plan accordingly. I work in leather already and so making shoes and clothes won't be new for me. If you don't sew you need to learn. Then Leather is the next step down that road. Water is a must so you need to know where to find it and how to make sure that you can drink it without making yourself sick.

    I especially agree with the mindset thing. Mindset has to do with expectations and what you believe that you NEED. Today most people don't understand or know the difference between need and want and how much of what they think is need is actually a cultural thing.

    When my daughter was born almost 40 years ago we decided that we didn't want someone else taking care of our baby. When we told everyone that my wife was going to quit working nearly everyone told us that it wouldn't work and that it takes two people to make a living if you are middle to lower middle class.

    My parents and my wife's parents had both raised their kids on one income. That was the way it used to be done. We couldn't see why it was any different now. It wasn't but I learned that we were different from the norm in a way that we had never realized. Our mindset and attitude was different. We understood and were comfortable with the way that our parents had done it and that we would do it the same way.

    It was simple and easy. In the late 70s through the early 80s we lives pretty much just as they had lived. That meant that my wife cooked and we didn't eat out much. The clothes were hung if the sun shined rather than using the dryer and we lived in a small house that we loved but it was way below our means. When we bought it the loan people did everything they could to talk us out of it. They said that we should buy a house that was two and a half times our annual combined income. Instead our little house cost about 80% of my annual income. We had two older vehicls that I maintained and worked on. We were probably the last people in America that got a color TV.

    Our mindset was that we didn't need more or bigger or newer stuff to be happy. We played cards and picnicked a lot and spent most of our time with family, friends and at church. I fished and hunted and that provided some inexpensive meals. To tell you the truth we were very happy and didn't care that our stuff was not fancy. Our family was TIGHT and we pulled together.

    The mid to late 80s were tough. Everyplace that I had ever worked for went out of business as the oil industry died. Our government let the Arabs sell us oil for less than we could produce it for ourselves and where I lived unemployment hit the mid 30% area. All of my friends that had bought the houses that were two and a half times their combines annual income lost their big homes. I knew people that ended up living in a road side park in their cars with their family.

    We adapted. I was technically unemployed for over a year. BUT during that time I worked a lot. I painted a school, roofed a couple of houses, leveled and repaired a guys slab and built a house for a friend along with doing lots of mechanic work and mowed some yards. We survived both financially and as a family. Actually we were still pretty happy.

    You know, most of my friends that had thought I was dumb to live in that little house and not buy new cars ever in the end they didn't make it. They lost everything and their families broke up. That is what happens I think when you place too much emphasis on THINGS instead of relationships and people. I remember having a conversation with my wife and we decided that if it came to it we could be happy in a tent as long as we were together and had enough to eat and feed our kiddo. It never came to that but I have no doubt that we would have survived.

    So many people seem to use their THINGS as a measurement of whether they are happy and successful. If things crash their entire world is going to go down with it.

    Learn NOW how to be happy. THIS comes from within and is a skill. Always take the time to play and make time for the people in your life that matter. If you lose that connection you may live but you won't survive.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  4. Tom Williams

    Tom Williams Moderator Staff Member

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    I drive a 67 jeep pickup i paid 75 bucks for it in 75 in calif the kids gave it a name of THE TANK. Fix and mantance it runsbetter now than when i got it it had a bad head gasket but a few hours work it was fine
    The Innkeeper likes this.
  5. Old Geezer

    Old Geezer Legendary Survivalist

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    "Pioneer skills" is the operative phrase, isn't it. What they did, we'll have to copy. We are lucky to be able to begin with better metallurgy and possessing non-electric tools developed in the latter 1800s and the early 1900s. I'm so thankful that I was raised by people born in these time periods. I found a bunch of links to survival skills and have listed them below. The Foxfire series I like due to its Southern Appalachian origins.

    Backdoor Survival series:
    Each topic area is composed of several pages (page bottom lists pages 1 through however many pages) and each article is lengthy (accessed by its "Read more ..." button). Links to more info, books, and useful product ads are also provided. In sum this series is VERY lengthy.

    Food storage articles:


    Survival Gear:

    Do it yourself:

    From Foxfire

    Here is another listing of skills needed:
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  6. watcherchris

    watcherchris Legendary Survivalist

    Blog Posts:
    There is an interesting tourist place up the road from me in Williamsburg, Virginia.

    This place was the Colonial Capital of this area under the English King and before the United States was founded.

    What is of interest to me is that they still have people there who can make barrels...pails....etc out of wood. Wooden Wagon Wheels etc etc.

    Blacksmith skills.

    Clothes and materials spun in the olde ways.

    They can also make black powder firearms of the period if you are willing to pay for them.

    Silversmiths too.

    Historians as well.

    Across the peninsula from Colonial Williamsburg is the remnants of the olde Jamestown Colony ...still undergoing occasional archeology as funds come available. There is in Jamestown a glass factory capable of making glass in the olde hand. It is a very interesting presentation to watch.

    It is too touristy for me ..but interesting from a historical standpoint if one is interested in these kinds of details.


    Post Script...

    I taught myself to pick locks..even to shim locks....and if needed I can fabricate my own tools for the same.

    Would that be a survival skill???

    The olde timers at this shipyard taught me to sharpen a knife...even to sharpen a set of scissors....even drill bits by hand.

    While I should not be astonished times I am the number of people out here who cannot sharpen a knife.

    Seems to me that in a tool box...a screw driver and or a knife are two of the most misused and abused tools out there....and I mean seriously misused and abused.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2017
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  7. watcherchris

    watcherchris Legendary Survivalist

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    I too never owned a new car. I made do with used cars and a truck.

    Don't like to get rid of a car which has been good to me...same thing with an olde jacket etc.

    Nice post you made about "Mindset."

    Agree with your premise...particularly here...and tried to make this point in another post here in these boards...about being a good consumer...

    Thanks for your post,
    The Innkeeper likes this.
  8. TexDanm

    TexDanm Shadow Dancer

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    I used to do a lot of work in rental properties and a set of lockpicks and tension springs was just part of my tool kit. I am astounded by the number of me n these days that can't sharpen a knife. Hell most don't even carry one and I feel totally naked without one. I used to carry a Lanskey letter opener when I flew. Never had a problem with it. I also had a piece of piano wire in my hat band.

    My current truck has 277,000 miles on it. The motor is almost new with about 20,000 miles on it. I refuse to buy much that isn't broke in and I have less car trouble than anyone I know. Everything I own has well over 100,000 miles on it. Part of that is that people in Texas drive a lot and things aren't always close. I've driven 90 miles EACH way every day to work and my wife drove 46 miles each way for years. Highway miles are pretty easy on motors. It's a 30 to 40 mile round trip for me to go to a real grocery store.

    When you live off the beaten track you tend to be more self sufficient. Before cell phones if you broke down it could be a LOOOOOONG walk to find a phone to call for help. No cops if someone is trying to break into your house. You get so you just don't depend on other people for much. Honestly if the power goes off tomorrow I won't miss it much. We will have a tough year and then be fine when our first garden comes in. I have, over the years, gathered a nice set of non-powered hand tools for nearly all the crafts.
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  9. watcherchris

    watcherchris Legendary Survivalist

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    You got me to thinking about a Texan...a minister..for whom I listened to one of his sermons on cassette tape while working in my garage years ago.

    He spoke of his youth wherein his grandmother lived in the house behind his parents ranch/farm. He would often cut wood for both his house as well as his grandmother.

    The power out in the country would often go out for long periods of time..even days. No one panicked....they just carried on.

    When he brought his children to his parents house for a week...his children noted that he did not seem to be bothered by the power going out for such lengthy periods of time.

    He explained that he was raised there in that manner and it was normal to him...nothing about which to be concerned.

    I found this difference in the generations to be very telling.

    The Innkeeper likes this.
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