17 Lost Skills Worth Rediscovering

Our modern society is highly dependent upon the “system.” Not only do we rely upon utility services to bring us electricity, water and natural gas, but also on an incredibly complex supply chain which provides us with everything from food to computers. Without that supply chain, most of us wouldn’t know what to do.

This situation is actually becoming worse, rather than better. When I compare my generation (I’m in my 50s) to that of my children, I see some striking differences. In my generation it was normal for a boy to grow up learning how to do a wide variety of trade skills from his father, and seemingly everyone knew how to do basic carpentry and mechanic work. But that’s no longer normal.

If we extrapolate it back, we can see that my father’s generation knew even more – and my grandparent’s generation even more. Those older generations were much more closely tied to the roots of an agricultural society, where people were self-reliant. There are multiple skills they had which modern society no longer considers necessary.

But if we were to have a breakdown in society, those skills which we never bothered to learn would become essential. Those who don’t know these skills would either have to learn or die trying.

Here are 10 skills our grandparents knew that most of us have long forgotten:

1.) Learn how to make gunpowder it is not that difficult, but getting the raw materials gathered up and stored can be a problem. The ingredients are common knowledge, sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). The concept is simple you have two fuels (sulfur, charcoal) and an oxidizer (potassium nitrate). The rest will be left up to you however. Black powder is stable and it has a high flash point over 800° F, so it can be stored and transported safely if certain relatively simple precautions are taken.

If you know how to make it and can find the ingredients you have a marketable skill. Someone else may have a bench loader, spent brass, primers and so on so, but he or she cannot make black powder for their propellant, and so they may need your skill and materials and would be willing to barter.

2.) Learn how to distill grains and fruits to make alcohol. Alcohol will be in demand especially certain kinds of alcohol for first aid/medical applications. Again the process is not difficult to understand but it does require skill and materials. Copper tubing, yeasts, grains, fruits and so on but if you have the skill and certain materials you can come together with others that have a piece of this or a bushel of that. You cannot do it all on your own but collectively anything is possible during a crisis.

3.) Learn basic firearms repair (gunsmith) and start gathering parts for firearms that could be used. Parts for firearms will be a barter item, so do not discard anything, because someone may need the parts and would be willing to trade.

4.) Sewing skills will be in demand at some point and while it may not be a lucrative endeavor you may be able to use those skills to barter for small items. If you can make clothes then that is a more advanced skill that would be more marketable during a crisis.

5.) Knowing how to raise livestock and foods of course, will be needed if the crisis is an extended one. This takes knowledge and hands on experience. Simply gathering up the supplies is not enough. To be successful you would need practical experience behind you.

6) The Ability to Generate Electricity

Humans depend on electricity for almost everything in our lives, including cooking, heating and communication. Some people have the ability to create their own power by harnessing energy from the wind, water or sun. We don’t know what resources will be available after doomsday, so it is a good idea to have several ways to generate electricity available to you. Being able to create your own electrical generator and repair the generators of others is a very useful skill that will likely be highly coveted after doomsday.

7) The Ability to Hunt, Fish and Gather Food

It is essential for all preparers to have a large supply of canned food available to survive on, but the ability to obtain fresh food is an important skill. Whether you have the ability to hunt with a crossbow, catch large fish from the river or gather berries in the forest, food-gathering skills are essential to long-term survival. It is also important to know how to prepare the game you are able to catch. The animal hides can be used for clothing, shoes and other household items. Animal bones can be used as tools or weapons if you know how to fashion them. It is smart to practice your hunting and fishing skills before doomsday so that you will be ready to put these skills to the ultimate test.

It is also essential to be able to create meals out of whatever ingredients you have on hand. You may not always be able to eat the food you are in the mood for, but having the ability to improvise and properly season your food will mean that the food you eat will taste good and provide your body with adequate nutrition. It is very unlikely that restaurants and grocery stores will be available after doomsday, so eating will become a matter of survival instead of a matter of choice.

8) The Ability to Purify Water

The human body can only survive for a couple of days without water. Water filtration systems will be vitally important after doomsday because nobody will know whether the water is still safe to drink until they have the time and equipment to run extensive tests. A portable water filtration system made from charcoal is an easy and convenient way to treat water before you drink it. These systems are small and can be stored easily.

If you don’t have access to a water filtration system, boiling your water is an effective way to make it safe for drinking. The water should be heated to boiling for at least 20 minutes to kill microorganisms and bacteria. It is equally important to make sure the water doesn’t become contaminated after you have purified it. The best way to prevent contamination is to keep all drinking water in closed containers and make sure that the containers are stored at least 70 feet from any existing water source or dwelling.

9) The Ability to Create Shelter

Shelter protects your body from the elements and helps to keep your body warm. Being able to build a strong shelter is a skill that will be coveted by many after doomsday. It doesn’t matter if the shelter is made of wood, bricks, fabric or any other material. The important thing is that the shelter is sturdy enough to keep you and your family safe and dry. It is best to build your main shelter before the apocalypse, but it is also a good idea to have a tent or other portable shelter available because you have no way of knowing whether the shelter you have built will survive the apocalypse or whether moving often will be necessary. You will probably be able to trade your shelter-making skills for clothing, food and other items that are necessary for survival.

10) Gardening for Food

During World War II, there was a campaign for people to plant “Victory Gardens” at their homes. These vegetable gardens were needed to alleviate food shortages, because so much of the nation’s produce was being sent overseas to keep our troops and those of our allies fighting. With fewer men available to work the farms, there was less produce available.

This custom of having a vegetable garden in one’s backyard survived for many years Backyard-liberty-bookafter the war was over, but it gradually died out. Today, when many people think of gardening, they are thinking of a flower garden. While those are nice to look at, they don’t give you much to eat.

Starting and growing a vegetable garden can be harder than most people think. When I started gardening, it took me three years to get more than just herbs and a smattering of produce out of it. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I needed that garden for survival.

11) Animal Husbandry

Although the industrial revolution took place more than 100 years ago, many people continued to raise at least a small amount of their own livestock at home. This led to cities enacting ordinances limiting what animals people could keep within city limits.

Raising dogs and cats is much different than raising chickens and cows for their milk and cheese. A large part of being able to raise these animals is recognizing their needs and being able to diagnose their sicknesses. Farmers don’t depend upon the vet for most illnesses; they take care of it themselves.

12) Food Preservation

It’s rare to find people who preserve their own foods, but in our grandparent’s generation, it was common. Canning food, the process of taking tomatoes for example and storing them in a jar for later use, without them rotting away. Today, it’s rare to find people who know these methods of food preservation, let alone having the equipment needed. If we go back very far in American live, pretty much every middle class home had knowledge about various plants and vegetables, and how to dry them for the cold seasons ahead.

13) Blacksmithing

You might think that blacksmithing goes all the way back to the Old West, but in actuality it is a skill that stayed around much longer than that. My dad was a blacksmith in his later years, although most of the work he did was ornamental….

I remember traveling in Mexico about 20 years ago and having a spring on my car’s suspension break. A local blacksmith fashioned me a new spring, tempered and shaped exactly right for my vehicle. Blacksmiths can make or repair just about anything out of metal. Yet few today know this valuable skill.

Maybe we don’t need blacksmiths today, but if an EMP hit the country and we were without electrical power, the skills of a blacksmith would allow people to have their tools repaired — and new ones fashioned. Since the manufacturing plants presumably would be shut down, that ability would be essential for rebuilding America.

14) Basic Carpentry

Everyone should know how to make basic repairs to their home. Without the ability to repair damage from a natural disaster, it might not be possible to use the home as a survival shelter. Woodworking skills also allow one to make furniture and other items to help survive.  That might include the use of or making of a home sawmill to cut up wood.

15) Basic Mechanical Repair

Depending upon the type of disaster that hits, the family car may just end up being a large paperweight. But there are many survival scenarios where it would be useful to be able to fix your car, keeping it running for general use. As long as there is gasoline, that car would be useful.

The ability to diagnose and repair an engine is useful not only for keeping a car on the road, but also for fixing lawn mowers, chain saws and other power tools.

16) Herbal Medicine

The roots of medicine were herbal medicine. While doctors have existed for millennia, it hasn’t been until recent times that those doctors had such a wide range of pharmaceuticals to work with. Before that, doctors made their own medicines.

Many women also learned to use what nature provided for medicine. It was not uncommon a few generations back for mom to take care of her family’s medical needs, using recipes that she had learned from her mother. Today, that sort of medicine is called “old wives’ tales” but it works just as well as it always did.



17) Horseback Riding

This may not seem like much of a survival skill, but in the Old West, stealing a man’s horse was a hanging offense. That’s because being stranded without a horse was generally a death sentence. While horseback riding today is only done for sport, if the automobile becomes no longer usable, people will be looking for horses once again.

Riding a horse is actually more complicated than the movies make it appear. Breaking a horse is a skill that few know. Likewise, there are few today, outside of the drivers for the Budweiser Clydesdales, who know how to hitch and drive a team of horses. But in America’s past, our ancestors drove teams with as many as 40 horse or mules in them.(Source)

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