The pioneers brought very little with them when they came to settle the wild frontier of North America. Most had basic knowledge or experience from the professions they had left behind. Others were forced to learn new everyday skills in order to survive the wilderness. Much of this valuable knowledge is in danger of being lost.
Here are 13 pioneer skills we can’t afford to lose:
The art of bartering is a skill that can be mastered by anyone. It is essentially trading what you have or what you can do for something from someone else. You might trade your skills as a seamstress with your neighbor who is adept at plumbing. Swap your excess eggs for a gallon of milk from your neighbor’s cow and everyone is happy.
#2. Horseback Riding
While it may sound like a luxury item, learning to ride a horse or mule is actually a skill that can be valuable in a survival situation. Horses, mules, and oxen are all alternative means of transportation as well as beasts of burden. They can be used in pulling carts, plows, and wagons as well as carrying people for long distances.
Contrary to most modern perceptions, blacksmiths do much more than just put shoes on horses. There are many specialties stemming from blacksmithing. A horseshoer (called a farrier) is just one. Working with the anvil, forge, and iron is a skill used in creating many different products. This includes wagon wheels, armor and weapons, blades, cookware, farm implements, fencing, and just about anything else requiring the manipulation of metal. Blacksmiths have always been an integral part of any community because of this wide range.
Knowing how to work with leather can be a sought-after skill. There are many levels to it from skinning and tanning the hides down to creating the final product. Being able to make straps, belts, harnesses, and reins can help around the homestead as well as produce income.
#5. Construction and Maintenance
The ability to build shelter and other structures is important, especially if you are being forced to start from scratch. On the same note, skills such as plumbing, carpentry, and masonry can help you improve and maintain your buildings and property. These are also ways to create an income or barter for things you need.
#6. Animal Husbandry
Keeping livestock to feed your family is one thing. Learning to breed and grow your flocks and herds with the future in mind is another. Educate yourself on animal health as well as the traits that are desirable for your animals and their offspring.
This might include large carcasses, heavy milk or egg production, and hardiness. Weaker or lower quality animals are not ones you would want to breed and keep in the gene pool.
Related: Mini-Farming on 1 Acre
Raising livestock and hunting or fishing for your dinner are always desirable skills. But if you don’t know how to butcher the animal or process and store the meat, it won’t do you much good. Find out which techniques and tools are needed to do it properly to maximize your yield and produce little waste.
#8. Gardening (for things other than food)
Growing as much of your own food is an obvious and necessary skill to have. But did you know that you can also grow your own medicine, fiber materials for clothing and building supplies, and ingredients for household goods such as dyes, soaps, and candles? Add some hops and grapes to your garden and you can also make your own alcohol and homebrews.
#9. Foraging and Wildcrafting
Wildcrafting is the act of foraging for food in its natural habitat or where it grows wild. The key to this skill is knowing what foods are edible and where to find them. Many people will also “cultivate” and protect areas where these foods are growing on their own. Herbs, berries, and mushrooms are examples of popular wild foods.
#10. Seed Harvesting and Saving
With any type of farming or gardening endeavor, there is one thing that is always needed in order to grow a plant – a seed. Pioneers brought many saved seeds with them when they made the trek across the plains, some even came from Europe. During harvest, certain amounts of seeds from each crop or type of garden plant are held back. These seeds are carefully dried and stored away to become the next year’s new crop. They may also be traded with other growers in order to add new varieties to the garden or farm.
#11. Navigation and Orientation
Knowing how to find your way around without the use of GPS, maps, and compasses is something everyone should become familiar with. Learn to pay attention to your surroundings, the position of the sun/moon/stars, and other geographical clues to find your way.
#12. Tracking & Trapping
The art of tracking is all about observation, similar to that of navigation and orientation. Being able to see and interpret the signs of animals – both two and four-legged, can help with providing food and ensuring safety. Following trails in all types of terrain and varying weather conditions is a skill that takes patience and practice.
Having the skills to create simple snares and set traps can be the difference between hunger and a full belly. It can also help ensure safety when you employ more elaborate set-ups such as nets, pits, and trip-lines.
As you can see, many of these forgotten skills go hand-in-hand. They build on each other to help you ensure the safety and survival of your own pioneering family. What would you add to our list of 13 skills of the pioneers we can’t afford to lose?
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