After all the chaos of last year, 2021 seems like the perfect year to get back to basics and master new self-reliance skills. This year, I’m going to put out new beginners’ guides each week, with everything you’d need to know to get started with a new skill.
Have you always wanted to learn how to preserve food, bake bread, forage wild food or heal with herbs? You’re in the right place!
What do you want to learn in 2021?
I’m hoping to write a series of beginner’s guides, with the goal of putting out one a week. With 500 specific posts on Practical Self Reliance, I’ve realized that most skip over the basics and jump right to the heart of the issue.
Detailed canning tutorials, but I’ve never explained how to run a canner. Cheesemaking recipes, but I’ve never explained the fundamentals of cheesemaking. You get the idea…
I’ve come up with a list of potential topics, but the real question is, what do you want to know? What am I missing?
Here’s what I’m planning to cover, one a week every Friday until I run out of ideas. You can help by adding to the list. Leave a comment below and let me know what you’d like to learn this year!
(I’ll be posting links to each post below as they’re completed, so bookmark this page and check back in throughout the year. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any, you can subscribe by email here, or follow along on facebook or Instagram.)
- Freezing Vegetables: A to Z Guide
- Beginners Guide to Cheesemaking
- How to set up a cheese cave (cheesemaking in warmer climates)
- Beginners Guide to Charcuterie
- How to make Ham and Bacon
- How to Make Sausage at Home
- Beginners Guide to Root Cellaring
- Simple, Low-Cost Root Cellar Design
- DIY Apple Storage Rack
- Beginners Guide to Dehydrating Food
- Understanding Botulism in for Food Preservation
- Lacto-Fermentation for Beginners
- How to Make Sauerkraut in a Crock
- How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar
- How to Make Fermented Hot Sauce
- Mesophilic Yogurt: Making Yogurt at Room Temperature
Brewing & Winemaking
- How to Make Beer at Home
- How to Make Mead (Honey Wine)
- How to Make Hard Cider
- How to Make Country Wine (Fruit Wine)
- How to Make Wine from Grapes
- 50+ Mead Recipes
- Beginners Guide to Pressure Canning
- Beginners Guide to Water Bath Canning
- How to Make Jam
- How to Make Jelly
- Making Jam and Jelly without Added Pectin
- Canning without Sugar
- Canning Beef
- Canning Meat
- Canning Soup
- Meal in a Jar Canning recipes
- Retort Canning (Make your own MREs)
- How to Make Bread
- How to Make Butter
- How to Make Yogurt
- How to Render Tallow
- How to Make Leaf Lard
- How to use a Bread Machine
- How to Cook On Cast Iron
- Homemade Meals in a Jar (Dehydrated, Canned & pressure canned)
- How to Grow Sprouts
- Cooking with Organ Meats
- Cooking with Animal Fats
- Gardening in Raised Beds
- Season Extension in Raised Beds ~ Row Covers, Shade Cloths, Cold Frames, and Cloches
- Grafting Fruit Trees for Beginners
- How to Plant a Fruit Tree
- Basics of Seed Saving
- Beginners Guide to Seed Starting
- Beginners Guide to Composting
- Companion Planting for Beginners
- Permaculture for Beginners
- How to Build a Raised Bed Garden
- How to Grow Mushrooms
- Humanure for Beginners
- How to Prune Fruit Trees
- Small Space Gardening or Small Space Raised Beds
- Cold Frame Construction and Use
- Homemade pesticides & herbicides (organic/plant-based)
- How to Make and Use Biochar
- Growing Plants from Cuttings
Herbalism & Natural Health
- How to Make a Herbal Salve
- How to Make a Herbal-Infused Oil
- 100+ Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them
- How to Make A Herbal Tincture
- How to Make a Herbal-Infused Honey
- How to Make a Herbal Oxymel
- Herbal Medicine For Beginners
- How to dry and preserve herbs
- How to Make Lotion
- How to Make Lotion Bars
- Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herb Gardening (Herbs to Plant for Medicine)
- Types of Herbal Preparations
- Medicinal Broths
Foraging & Wild Food
- How to Make Maple Syrup
- How to Make Birch Syrup
- Poisonous Berries and Fruits to Avoid
- Beginners Guide to Mushroom Foraging
- 13 Easy-to-Identify Edible Mushrooms for Beginners
- How to Eat A Tree (Edible Trees)
- 20+ Edible Wild Roots, Tubers & Bulbs
- 20+ Edible Weeds in Your Garden
- 50+ Edible Weeds in Your Lawn
- 100+ Edible Wild Plants ~ A foragers Bucket List
DIY & Crafts
- 3D Printing for Beginners
- Beginners Guide to Candlemaking
- How to Make Beeswax Candles
- How to Use a Drop Spindle
- Working with Natural Fibers ~ Milkweed, Nettle, Linen, etc.
- Beginners Guide to Natural Dyes
Homesteading & Animal Husbandry
- Beginners Guide to Beekeeping
- Beginners Guide to Raising Chickens (for eggs and meat)
- How to Butcher a Chicken (Start to Finish)
- Beginners Guide to Chainsaws
- How to Season Firewood
- How to Care for Cast Iron
- How to Restore Cast Iron
- How to Restore Knives
- How to Sharpen Knives, Axes, and Tools (whetstone)
- How to Repair and Refurbish Garden Tools
How to use basic tools (Saw, Drill, etc.)
Natural, Zero Waste & Frugal Living
- What to buy well and once
- X Things You Should Stop Buying and Start Making
- Homemade Natural Cleaners
- How to live without a refrigerator and freezer
- How to Make a Solar Oven
- Solar Backup for Well Pumps (and Off-Grid Water Pump Options)
- How to Cook on a Wood Stove
- How to Build a Bread Oven
- How to Build a Smokehouse
Hunting, Fishing & Survival Skills
- How to Butcher a Deer
- How to tie a fishing hook to a line
- How to clean a fish
- Salmon Skin Leather
- How to Make Lye From Wood Ash (and Wood Ash Soap)
- Basic tanning for beginners
- Pine needle basket weaving
- Weaving Natural Baskets (Willow, Grape Vine, Ash Tree, etc)
- How to Distill Water
- Canning Water for Emergencies
- Emergency Water Storage and Filtration
- How to Stitch a Wound
- How to Reload Ammunition
- How to Choose a Firearm for You
- Planning an Emergency Food Supply for Your Family
- Beginners Guide to Food Storage
- Basic Knot Tying
- Water sourcing, storage, purity, usability
- Intro to Buying Gold and Silver
Other Reskilling Topics
- Computing Programming for Non Programmers
- How to Make Charcoal (and Activated Charcoal)
That’s my list…but when I posted this to facebook I got a literal outpouring of support and suggestions. Over 300 comments in under 24 hours…
Y’all are incredibly creative, and I’ve added all the specific suggestions to the list. The ideas below are excellent as well, I’m just not quite sure how to fit them into a concise topic yet…
Still, saving them for later, and we’ll see how I can work them in:
- Most of us have forgotten or never known how to simply store food for use through the seasons .
- House cleaning with natural supplies
- Practical self reliance…city life edition
- Soil building and How to Improve Your Soil
- Using yard debris (post hurricane, I have a ton of debris. Branches, stumps, downed trees, overgrowth now)
- The fine art of fertilizer (what manures can be added direct, reading fertilizer bag, anti-nutrients,etc
- How to Meal Plan with Garden Produce
- Shelf Stable Dehydrated meals (Instant Meals from a Food Dehydrator)
- More Foraged Food Recipes ~ Pine Bark, Acorn Flour, etc.
- Pine bark pop tarts and bacon
- Seed Organizer Ideas
- How long do seeds last?
- Plant Based Soaps and Salves (vegan)
- Plant Based Cheeses (vegan cheese)
Growing food for chickens
natural chicken medicine
herbs for chickens
Growing and harvesting dried beans
Pros and Cons of No Till Gardening
How to Make Your Own Shoes
How to prune Tomato Plants for greater fruit production
How to Make Pepperoni
How to preserve meats by Cold Smoking
Ways to Use Bacon Grease
Month-by-month homesteading calendar– I was wondering if you could organize your “How to…” guides according to the time you would do those things/ activities, maybe with some forewarning, if possible. I also would be interested in a whole-year outline of activities that happen on a sustainable/ self-reliant farm, like yours. I’m sure you have way more experience with that than my idea of “canning in the summer…”:)
- I’d like to know more about the basics of foraging, harvesting, and persevering rhizomes of various types. Cattail root flour for instance. I also wonder about fermenting foraged roots similar to ginger or root beer.
- X Ways to Use Fresh herbs – I would like resource/guidance on how to use culinary herbs in cooking, with recipes and methods for the most common and some uncommon herbs. Other than pesto, I am often at a loss on how to use up my fresh herbs and they often end up lying fallow. It’s just my husband and myself in a small space so I don’t have any room to dry, store or freeze herbs. It feels wonderful enjoying them in my garden and they entice so many bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, yet also wasteful. So we need to find ways to eat them more!
- Gardening Season Extenders – I would also (I see it on the list above) love to see something about the realistic use of season extenders in the garden (from someone who actually lives in a cold climate!) If you have any experience with a hot bed, that would be very helpful too. Thank you so much for sharing your site. Your experience is so appreciated!
- How about making our own low-tech tools and appliances? Not a bicycle-powered blender but something simpler like strainers to separate particles and liquids. Or nutmeg grater or simple bathtub with gravity drain or hose.
Perhaps sonething related to how and why to divide plants, both potted and those planted outside?
Ooo! That’s a good one. I have a post specifically on transplanting strawberries, and other posts on propagating by cuttings (blueberries, elderberries, grapes, etc). But something on how to propagate by division, or simply divide plants so they don’t get overcrowded and lose vigor is a great idea! (And bonus, free plants in the division.) Thanks so much, I’ll add it to the list.
Hi Ashley, thanks for all that you do. I love reading your blog.
How about a post on simple wine making? Hard cider?… fermenting other fruits?
Simple small batch winemaking is here, though it definitely needs an update (and it’d be good if I wrote something up about making large batches too): https://practicalselfreliance.com/small-batch-wine/
Hard Cider is here: https://practicalselfreliance.com/hard-cider/
I have quite a few winemaking posts (peach, cranberry, pomegranate, etc), but I have very little on fermenting fruit in general. There’s a lot you can do with lacto-fermentation, either whole fruits or purees like lacto-fermented jams (or even yeast fermented fruits for a more wine-like taste, less lacto type tang). I’ll add that to the list. Thanks!
Hi, foraging for mushrooms or growing your own mushrooms.
Definitely on the list, thanks! Hoping to get quite a few more specific mushroom foraging tutorials up for different speices, as well as a generic one about how to forage/ID mushrooms in general (spore prints, ID characteristics, where to look, etc). For growing, I’ve got growing shiitakes covered, but I’m hoping to add reishi, lion’s mane and winecap tutorials this year.
I’m interested in what you feel are the fundamentals for getting started…. there’s so much that it can be overwhelming. Where to start is my question.
Awesome! That’s good and specific. I can definitely write a post on how to get started making homemade wine =)
The topics you mention all sound good. Off the top of my head, canning sounds particularly good. After a few beginner messes, we somehow never tried again. The idea of the tutorials is overall really good. I think they will be necessary skills, not to far into the future.
I would like to see you cover growing and harvesting dried beans. I saw the topic of how to prune fruit trees. That was going to be my second suggestion.
Dried beans are a big part of our diet, so that’s a good one to do a growing tutorial for! Added to the list.
Distilling water et al?
Good topic. We actually have to add distilled water to our house batteries on a regular basis, and I buy it in jugs…I’ve been meaning to try distilling our own but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll add that to the list!
Might be out of bounds but how about operating a chain saw? I have one for winter wood for my stove but have trouble starting it so gave up. It’s a husquvarna, brand new, and the lightest one I could by for me. Ps looking forward to sausage making, can you add pepperoni and hot and cold smoking??? Thank you
Starting a chainsaw can be tricky. I have a bad shoulder from an old injury and sometimes I have a heck of a time getting it going. There’s a drop technique you can use, which gives you a bit more force without putting it all into the shoulder, though that’s tricky to master. They now make easy start chainsaws though, and just this past year we picked up one from Husquvarna (though it’s a big heavy logger grade one, so not really helpful on that half of it) so I have a much easier starting it now.
You might actually try an electric chainsaw if you aren’t dropping a lot of trees or trying to cut all your wood, they ideal for occasionally chopping up a thing or two.
Anyhow, yes, I’ll definitely add how to use a chainsaw. That’s actually one of my favorite things to do around here, and we cut all our own wood, around 4-6 cords a year (not necessarily because it’s economical, it takes a lot of time and wood is pretty cheap around here, mostly because chainsawing incredibly satisfying and a great way to get outside in the winter, keeps you warm twice.)
For pepperoni and cold smoking, I’ll add those too, I’ve had plenty of requests for both!
Hi Ashley! Happy New Year. I’m so excited to start learning. There are so many of your listed topics I’m interested in. Raising Chickens for eggs and meat would be my first. I’m not sure I am capable , emotionally, to butcher myself. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Lol. Thank you for this wealth of knowledge.
Loretta J Blasko
How to preserve meats by cold smoking.
Added to the list!
How to make root and herb beers
Added to the list!
Hi! How about information about greenhouses!
I’ve seen some dug into the ground, some that look so temporary to me (a frame and plastic sheeting?). some shaped like tunnels, some not. What should I know? What’s worth paying for?
And Happy New Year!
How to make your own shoes.
Advanced, I love it. Adding that to the list, though it may be a while before I pull that one off…
What should I use the bacon grease, that I save, for?
Thanks! Looking forward to your series!
Oh my goodness, so many things! But yes, that’d make a great post, adding it to the list. (and a good excuse to share a recipe for bacon grease chocolate chip cookies, which are horrible for you…in the best way)
I would like to move to no-till gardening. The pros and cons etc.
Great topic, added to the list!
I have an interest in making juices out of grapes and apples for canning
Nice! I have canning apple juice up, and canning grape juice is photographed and half-written, so coming soon.
Hi! I enjoy all of your posts and really appreciate your shared knowledge. Thank you!
First, I would really like to know how to get off the grid without having a lot of money, or if that is even possible.
Second, I think I am developing arthritis and I have heard there are foods to avoid. I’d really like a comprehensive list of things to avoid as well as things that can help (herbs, foods, supplements, ANYTHING). I really like to deal with things as naturally as possible but I don’t know where to begin. Thanks again.
I wrote this up a while back on affordable off grid…not exactly a guide, but our experience anyway: https://practicalselfreliance.com/affordable-off-grid/
As to foods to avoid for arthritis, I honestly don’t know much about that topic. I assume you’d have to avoid nightshades (tomato, peppers, eggplant, etc) as they are said to worsen arthritis pain I believe I read at some point. I’d also assume that any anti-inflammatory herbs/plants/etc would also help, but honestly, I don’t know all that much about arthritis.
If you suspect arthritis, get checked for gout, too.
Great ideas, in addition to the sausage maybe pepperoni as well?
Nice! I’m going to do some dry-cured sausage (ie. Pepperoni, salami, etc) as part of the charcuterie tutorial, so coming soon!
Love your blog and informative how-to’s!!!
I want to learn more about saving seeds, making tinctures, syrups and salves from things like eldeberry, and broad leaf plantain and other common medicinal wild or cultivated plants.
Most of those are coming up, but a few of them are already up for you!
I CAN WITH THE HOT WATER BATH, BUT DON’T HAVE EXPERIENCE ON USING MY NEW PRESSURE CANNER THAT WAS A GIFT FROM MY SISTER. BY THE WAY, IT’S AN ELECTRIC ONE.
How about making our own low tech tools and appliances. Not a bicycle powered blender but something simpler like strainers to separate particles and liquids. Or nutmeg grater or simple bathtub with gravity drain or hose.
There are a lot of people who didn’t take shop classes but still Need to know which way to turn a screw driver.
Organic pest control for gardens and fruit trees. Also any advice re: coddling moths?
I’ve never had problems with coddling moths (thank goodness), but plenty of other pests. Adding organic pest control to the list.
I love this! Great list to get started with!
Container Gardening is of interest coming from a 36 year ranch in coastal climate Calif with raised beds and have moved to Az, Zone 7b, with only containers …. so far. I grow a wide variety of veggies and have successfully for years, some exotics (Pitaya, Lemon Grass, Tomatillos, Cucamelon, Charentais Melon, etc) as well as all the common veggies like Tomatoes, Cucs, Squash, Peppers, etc.
I Grow mainly Serrano Peppers and am interested in your call on making Hot Sauces & Salsas.
I enjoy reading your blog and comments.
Oh man, I wish we could grow really good hot peppers here. Our summers are pretty wet/humid, and never get all that hot so peppers often don’t even ripen. Hot peppers the hot peppers we can grow aren’t all that interesting thus far sadly. (I too used to live in California (zone 9) and I got really spoiled on epic hot peppers…
At our place, we have a lot of room to spread out, but that’s not common for most people. I’ve had probably a dozen requests for more stuff on container gardening, so I’m going to add that one to the list for sure.
Hi! I have recently joined your Blog and love it. I saw you have pressure canning on your list. That’s also on my list. How about basic food dehydrating and storage: meat, fruits and veggies. Also, what kind of dehydrator to get. Two things I have started doing: a prepper’s pantry: what to get to have well-rounded supplies and recipes. Also, medicinal herbal broths. I made up some this fall and froze pints. I am a nurse-grandmother home with Covid right now, living in town ina rental with grandsons nearby. What can I do to provide more safety for my family?? (Medicinal broths are blessing and helping me!! How can I preserve them better than freezing?)
For medicinal broths, freezing might well be the best option. The high temps in pressure canning may well destroy a lot of the volatile compounds that make them so nice.
I have one post covering dehydrator recipes and what dehydrator to get here: https://practicalselfreliance.com/dehydrator-recipes/
I’m going to do a beginner’s guide to dehydrating though, which will cover how to use one more comprehensively.
An article on medicinal broths is a good idea too!
Sorry— more. What I need is a super functional pantry with kid-friendly food. Goal is to provide a better safety net for my family, to be prepared for what may come and to live better.
-Grafting Fruit Trees for Beginners I would love for you to teach us how.
I’d love small space gardening, how to use a pressure canner (I’m experienced with a water bath canner but never used a pressure canner),
New topic – would love to learn how to prune tomato plants for greater fruit production.
Awesome, adding to the list.
I was wondering if you could organize your “How to…” guides according to the time you would do those things/ activities, maybe with some forewarning, if possible. I also would be interested in a whole year outline of activities that happen on a sustainable/ self-reliant farm, like yours. I’m sure you have way more experience with that than my idea of “canning in the summer…”:)
Thank you so much
I’ve had a lot of people ask about this one! I’m going to write something like “Homesteading through the seasons” or a “Month by Month Homestead Calendar” but I’m not quite sure how to frame it. I definitely know the content, just how to organize it. Great topic though, and I’ll figure it out. Added to the list for sure.
I would also (I see it on the list above) love to see something about realistic use of season extenders in the garden (from someone who actually lives in a cold climate!) If you have any experience with a hot bed, that would be very helpful too. Thank you so much for sharing your site. Your experience is so appreciated!
This year would have been the perfect year for it. Even without season extenders, we still have cilantro, carrots, beets, chard, mustard greens, and lots more still in the garden. It just hasn’t gotten really all that cold, and so many things are hardy down to 10 to 15 F, and we haven’t had that much snow to bury things…so I can still pick quite a bit. This is a really good topic though, as our season is normally a lot shorter than this! Adding it to the list.
That is an amazing list. Can’t wait to read and try more of your great tutorials. The only thing I can think to add is how to make and use biochar – it would be part of soil building. Good luck!
Ooo! Great one, added!
Excited about your New Year’s new content!!
I think a guide on the 100 medisanal herbs would be great! Maybe with a lost in the woods type first aid how to!
Ooo…lost in the woods first aid is a great topic! Added.
How to not use big noisy kitchen equipment and still get awesome nut butters 🙂
Thank you you re wonderful!
You’d have to really work it with a metate, and you’d have some pretty beefy arms when you were done. Here’s the tool: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metate
How to season firewood.
Good topic that I would have never thought of…but totally essential. Adding it, thanks!
How about natural plant dyes? I would also like to learn how to make fiber from plant material, specifically flax. Thank you so much for your posts.
There’s a local plant fiber expert that I’ve already asked to write a guest post, and I’m really hoping that comes together!
I’d like to know more about the basics of foraging, harvesting, and persevering rhyzomes of various types. Cattail root flour for instance. I also wonder about fermenting foraged roots similar to ginger or root beer. Thanks
Great topic! I have a post started on foraging edible roots, as there are quite a few out there. I have a few more to find and process this summer before I’m through, but I’ll add it to the list to make sure I get it posted!
How to smoke your own fish and meats
Definitely getting added to the list!
Hi, Ashley! Thank you for your time posting great information on your blog posts. I was thinking that maybe a good post could be about “Finding fresh water sources when none seem to be around,” whether that entails digging or how to read signs of potential subsurface water.
Ooo! That is a tricky one. I happen to live in a water-rich region, where staying dry is harder than finding water, but that’s definitely not the case everywhere. Great topic!
I think that a post about how to make homemade pesticides and herbicides would be very helpful
Good topic! There are quite a few really good plant-based pesticides you can make, from chrysanthemums, rhubarb leaves, and such. Added to the list, thanks for the suggestion!
Natural fiber fabric making. How to harvest, clean, and spin cotton/wool to knitting something. It always seems to fall behind every else, but we need clothes most of the time…
Handspinning coming soon, I’ll hopefully get some more fiber processing tutorials up too.
Living in the Northeast Kingdom Vermont at a high elevation and short growing season, I’m interested in cold weather crops and animals to raise, specifically birds, grapes and fruit trees.
You’re not too far from us =) We raise a dozen varieties of grapes for eating and wine, so there are good options out there for those! I’ll add more on cold weather crops and plant posts to the list.
(For birds, we’ve had excellent luck with buff Orpingtons and barred rock chickens. They do exceptionally well without lights or heat in the coop, even here.)
Here’s something to get you started though: https://practicalselfreliance.com/hardy-permaculture-plants/
How to properly dispose of garbage, when there is no garbage service avail in a long term situation (SHTF) situation.
That’s a tricky topic, but a good one!
Hi ,l would like to know more about the medicinal herbs ,how to grow them and how to use them ,pressure canned meals in a jar and small space gardening would be fantastic!
Awesome, added to the list.
Hi, I too seemed that I am very interested in getting started to know more about what causes inflammation (tomatoes, peppers & etc.) so I may have a better outcome than prescription drugs.
Was going to ask about making lye from ashes, but see you added that one. I’m assuming there would not be any difference in how you use home made lye for soap making versus store bought lye? Soap making is something I want to try, and burning wood for heat, I have all the ashes I need for making lye.
I’m interested in trying that one myself, as it’s one of the few things I haven’t done with ashes. I’ve preserved with them, cooked with them, used them in the garden…still haven’t made ash soap yet. Here’s a primer on some of the other uses, but I will work on getting soap posted this year:
How about pates and terrines especially using organ meats? We need to incorporate more of these into our diets. And also how to procure more of these items. I can’t even buy liver anymore unless it’s frozen. The ethical way to eat meat is nose to tail. In my travels through out England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, China, Turkey, Greece, wherever, America is the ONLY place that eats only muscle meats. THE least nutritious part of the animal. You can go into any supermarket and find at least a dozen different offerings Vegetarian too.
They are incredibly hard to find around here! My husband was just talking about how much he misses tripe, which he used to get at ethnic markets living in the city. I’ve never had it, and you just can’t get it here (or most places). This is a tricky one, because for the most part, you need to harvest your own meat or work directly with a farmer to get organ meats.
I agree with you, it’s something that’s just not often done in this country.
I’ll add it to the list none the less. We process our own animals, so at the very least I can show people how to use them in the hopes they’ll lobby their butcher to carry them.
I am just curious and very positive to your idea and to your mindset. No questions and no recommendations; I am sure that your newsletters will always bring me a feast.
I would like to know how to make plant based butter.
That’s a tricky one! I curious how it might be done reading that…so I looked. I imagine this one would taste pretty darn good (for savory uses):https://lovingitvegan.com/homemade-vegan-butter/
The nutritional yeast in there, along with a smidge of apple cider vinegar and plant milk seems like it would produce the same consistency with lots of flavor. (Especially the nutritional yeast, which gives it umami type flavors missing from plant products.)
For frosting or sweet type stuff, I bet this one would work well…without the nutritional yeast: https://theloopywhisk.com/2019/10/06/vegan-butter/
Foraging 101 for absolute beginners, including urban foraging and wildcrafting, dangerous botanical lookalikes, edible landscaping and edible flowers 🙂
For sure! Great topics
I am very much looking forward to your herbs for medicine. Hopefully they come before I need to get started on my spring planting. I live in the southwest so planting starts early and gets hot. Your blog is great, keep up the good work.
Ashley, I just love your kind and sharing spirit. You are wonderful and anything you share with me is appreciated and cherished. Keep doing what you do. Love your website.
Thank you so much!
Each time I feel that I know a lot, I read a list like yours and realize that there are so many things that I only kinda sorta know how to do. If I were to try to teach someone, the gaps in my knowledge would suddenly widen and I’d realize I don’t know as much as I thought I did–or, at least I don’t know the subject as well as I thought I did. At any rate, I’ll be happy to learn anything you would like to teach. I have found that there are always wee bits of new information, techniques, etc. to be gained from someone else’s experience.
Definitely! And I’m learning so much from y’all every day too, which is one reason I really love comments on here. People often chime in with their own experiences, and I learn new stuff all the time that way!
How to make natural dyes?
Fermenting for a good gut?
What is canning? Please go right back to the first basic of what, why, how includingneededequipment.
I live In the UK but love reading your emails, thank you.
You’d be surprised, about 30% of my readers are from outside the US and I get asked What is canning all the time! It’s so interesting it’s not really a thing over there.
Raised BEd Gardens
REfurbish garden tools
Bee-keeping for beginners.
HI, I read and enjoy your blog. I would love it if you BEGAN your “back to basics” series with the item you listed, “X ThingsYou should Make and Not Buy”. If there were 12 of them, I could learn one a month!
That is a really great idea! Cheesemaking and beer brewing are the first up, but I’ll try to push that one towards the top of the list because it would be really great if it could be 12 things so it could be one a month. Knowing me though, it’s more likely to be 52 things…I’m not sure I could pick just 12…
These are the most desirable topics in the Emil you sent. Thanks so much and keep them coming! I love your blog
Beginners Guide to Pressure Canning
Grafting Fruit Trees for Beginners
Basics of Seed Saving
Beginners Guide to Seed Starting
Beginners Guide to Beekeeping
How to Use a Drop Spindle
How to Stitch a Wound
How to Make Yogurt
How to Render Tallow
Retort Canning (Make your own MREs)
How to reload ammunition
How to Make Charcoal (and Activated Charcoal)
Wonderful! Most of those are half-written or in the works already. Did a big canner batch of meat today trying to get pictures for that one, so it’ll be up soon =)
You did a great job with how to get Clay from soil, is there some type of natural glaze or a way to make the clay food safe?
So to actually eat off of it you’d need to both fire it and glaze it. I’m hoping to build a simple kiln like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrTDJbaxhOI
And then I was planning a wood ash glazing system, but I haven’t done enough research on it yet. Here’s a video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQMCU9z8f-s
Also natural salt glaze I just heard about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ysrsvW_wPA&t=2s
Growing food for chickens. Love your blog and am looking forward to learning alot this year.
Added to the list, thanks!
Excellent idea! This is an often overlooked topic… keeping our egg sources healthy. Not a scrap of leftover food or food byproduct goes into the wastebasket… it goes to the chickens! what they don’t consume goes into the compost bin 😉
I would like to learn about using a greenhouse and watering your garden with a gravity-fed system(water tower of sorts).
You and me both! We’ve been meaning to set up gravity watering for the garden for years! I’ll add it to the list.
BTW we already have the 55-gallon water tower, set up this last year. I can tell you that if you get one set up, be sure to look into how much a full container weighs and whether your platform can hold it! We had to empty ours because the wood split, and will have to repair it before hooking things back up again for summer.
I’m actually working on building a system for a farm this spring and I have consulted experts to learn more about the many factors that affect water pressure, how to calculate how much water you need for crops (according to rainfall patterns in your area, too), how to pre-filter, etc. I have been collecting IBC tanks for this, and I’m making an expandable system that will eventually have upwards of 8 IBC tanks harnessed together. Please email me if I can be of any help in researching some of this for you, and I will be glad to share photos and report on how successful I am or anything I learn along the way. It is a very involved subject that sometimes baffles even experts at the extension office for precise answers, but it is quite exciting and very rewarding for saving money, providing resiliency, and for lowering carbon and environmental impact. So cool!
I know you more than likely don’t have kudzu and may not have honeysuckle but growing them and tending for baskets, mats and such.
We don’t have kudzu, but we do have some species of honeysuckle. Up here baskets are usually made with willow or ash tree strips, and I imagine willow baskets aren’t all that different than kudzu. The weaving would be similar at least, even if the prep before basket making was different. Anyhow, I’ll add basketry to the list. Thanks!
I would like resource/guidance on how to use culinary herbs in cooking, with recipes and methods for the most common and some uncommon herbs. Other than pesto, I am often at a loss on how to use up my fresh herbs and they often end up lying fallow. It’s just my husband and myself in a small space so I don’t have any room to dry, store or freeze herbs. It feels wonderful enjoying them in my garden and they entice so many bees, butterflies and hummingbirds yet also wasteful. So we need to find ways to eat them more!
Great topic! Added it to the list.
I would like to know too, can you add my name to this list ! Thank you
Hello! In your soap tutorial, please consider vegetable-based soap…you do have at least one vegan follower : )
Yes on anything sewing!
Yes on anything upcycling!
Thank you : )
I actually have quite a few vegan followers, I get requests like that all the time! Most often for vegan salves (no beeswax) and I got several requests for vegan cheese, so I’m adding those to the list.
Believe it or not, I actually was a vegan for years, though with a different motivation than most. I was only willing to eat meat (or use animal products) from animals I’d either taken a part in raising or had met personally so that I’d know they had the best life possible. It was a lot of years before I could make that happen, so I cooked vegan meals for quite a few years, even ran a small bakery catering to vegan baked goods. I’ll work on adding a bit more vegan-friendly content/recipes/tutorials, as I definitely know how to convert recipes/projects to vegan versions.
I would love to see more about naturally occurring plants/herbs- preparation methods and recipes which are especially beneficial to building up the auto-immune system. I believe this would be a very poignant topic considering the health chaos that’s being spread about the planet 😉
I’ve got something along those lines here: https://practicalselfreliance.com/herbal-immune-support/
It doesn’t have much in the way of specific herbal preparations, and I’ll add that to the list!
Good topic, and timely for sure =)
Hans van der Heiden
I’m wanting to write my memoirs based on my life in Africa and need some inspiration and how to start.
I have lots of short notes written on my phone and need some sort of programme to get into order and inspirations on how to write and glow to aim at whomever is to read the final book.
Any suggestions would be very welcome.
Hi Ashley! I love your site and read it faithfully. Although I currently am a low income senior living in a tacky apartment lol, my dream is to have a nice little home with some land so I can live as healthfully and peacefully as possible. I actually used to can, bake, garden etc. when my children were young and I love those jobs! Two topics I would be interested in learning are: 1) How to build an outdoor wood burning oven for bread and 2) a relatively simple way to smoke bacon, ham, sausage.
Great topics Lisa! Added both to the list.
add my name to this as well. Kind of new to this page. Right up my ally ! Glad for your inspiration to help others
I would like to learn how to can meat, soups and sauces. Not sure what I am doing wrong but mine go bad quickly.
That’s no good! Properly pressure canned meats/soups/etc shouldn’t really ever go bad, especially not in just a few weeks. Beginners guide to pressure canning is coming out in a few weeks, followed shortly by canning meat, so those will be out soon!
Hi Ashley, Love your blog!
I’m interested in micro greens.
Also, where to purchase good quality knives, what type of knife to use for different homestead needs and how to keep them sharp and top condition for years.
For microgreens, here’s a basic primer: https://practicalselfreliance.com/growing-microgreens/
Our favorite knives are all made by Victorinox, and you can buy them in various places online (ie. Amazon, etc). They’re made in Switzerland, by the same people that make the famous swiss army knives. If you look closely, this is what just about every butcher uses here in the States: https://www.swissarmy.com/us/en/
Hi, I love your blog. My thing would be helping people that live live in the southwest with living off grid. Thanks
I have many large and smaller predators around me, how can you make a safe chicken coop and pen?
How to sharpen a knife on a whetstone
How to start a fire without matches or lighters
Pine needle basket weaving
All great topics, all added to the list!
Start to Finish … Maple Syrup Making as well as taking it to granulated form. Please include best practice tapping, collecting, processing with open fire and storage (non-commercial) cold storage…probably in mason jars.
I have some of that, but it could likely use more detail. Here’s what’s up now:
Hunting wildlife and how to dress, butcher and use every little bit head to toe (including pelt). Thank you
Great topic, added!
My mother, brother, and myself all have rheumatoid arthritis, so I know a little about it. Many of my friends have it too, though they went the medication route. My family chose not to, but have found several things to help, and we are doing at least as well as my friends, who all seem to have complications from being on steroids long term. I try to eat an anti-inflammatory type diet… lots of vegetables, greens, and fruit, whole grains, light on the meat and dairy, I eat fish and nuts, and I try to avoid processed foods and instead go for natural whole foods, especially avoiding processed foods that contain wheat, soy, and commercial yeasts… in other words, all the goodies in the store!. Instead most of the bread and baked goods I eat I make myself, usually using sourdough if they require yeast. I have over the years successfully reduced how much sugar I eat though I do have a sweet tooth, and how much salt (salt makes us retain fluids which settle on our joints which makes them hurt more). There is no scientific evidence for avoiding nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant.. I decided to test it on myself and found no difference in pain for me, in fact I eat quite a lot of tomatoes and potatoes and I am doing far better now than I used to. Trying the “elimination diet” of avoiding a food or food group at a time for a couple of weeks will help you discover what irritates your particular body to create inflammation.. A green smoothie a day with almond milk, fruit, spinach or other green veg and a bit of ground flax will give you a noticeable difference in a few weeks. Another thing absolutely essential is daily, gentle, exercise. I like walking, bicycling, swimming, which are relatively easy on the joints. Yoga also works well for some people with arthritis. My brother makes sure he walks for just 15 minutes every morning and that works for him. Managing R.A. is really all about reducing inflammation, and so making your own food from whole, healthy foods and a little bit of exercise every day is the trick! I do eat some white flour, meat, dairy, and sugar which are all inflammatory, but I eat hardly anything that contains preservatives, fillers, corn syrup, no soda, stuff like that, so for me, that is enough to reduce inflammation. Tis better to eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie than a store bought one… no really, hahaha. Good luck with this.
Oh my goodness, these are all the subjects WHY I am having a difficulty in! This is a must for me. Still trying new things but sometimes very difficult with especially I live with one that thinks and eats and uses prescriptions * doctors as his main source. Pls. Pls. if anything could you send me much information on this one article. My dad had arthritis, my future with my health is learning what things are good and not good for me. Pls. send more info on websites or my email on this l particular subject. You are an angel.
I’m glad if it helps, but keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and if you find and work with a good doctor, they will be able to advise you on lifestyle changes, as well as proscribe if that becomes your need. My personal opinion is simply that we should always look to improving our health through a good diet and exercise, in case that provides enough, and if it doesn’t, it will at least relieve some of our need for medications. I consult a doctor before I try even an herbal supplement, and have learned a lot from them.
There are many good books and cookbooks for eating to reduce inflammation. They are very similar, whether for RA, gout, lupus, or other.. I used the public library for books. When next I go to the library, I will see if I can find the title of my favorite, but really all the ones I’ve seen are good, and you might want to look for a cookbook type with recipes that look tempting, to make transitioning easier.
Again, I do recommend you start methodically investigating what causes inflammation for YOU. Food allergies are one of the things that triggers inflammation, so I would try picking foods you suspect to eliminate for a few weeks to see if you get improvement by avoiding a particular food. You eliminate only one food group at a time (important), and you have to do it for a few weeks or even better a month before you know. Most common allergens are wheat (or possibly just gluten, or in my case it seems to be commercial yeasts or preservatives that are in commercial bread products, as commercial wheat crackers don’t seem to give me gas), other allergens are soy, egg, preservatives, nuts, shellfish, and dairy… all common triggers. You may already have something on that list you suspect. Testing everything on that list will unfortunately take half a year! So observe now, when are you better, when are you worse, if you get gas after a particular meal, what did you eat? I find that gas and indigestion goes hand and hand with Rheumatoid arthritis, and that is what my friends with RA said, too. But that only points you in a direction, you still have to eliminate the food for a month before you really know.
Herbs and supplements I found that helped were turmeric, ginger, garlic, cod liver oil, vitamin C. But I am not taking supplements now, as I don’t need them, and on their own, they didn’t give me full mobility. You need veg, veg, and more veg, and daily gentle exercise. Personally, I found it easier to add vegetables into my diet than to take things out of my diet, but if I added in, I didn’t crave things I knew would bother me later, so it was easier to refuse them. It is easier for me to replace breakfast with a green smoothie, lunch with a salad or veg soup, and then when I eat dinner with my family, I can double up on the veg or make a side salad, because the reality is, the rest of our household may not want to eat like us, and we can’t eat quite like them. You have to figure out how to make it work practically.
It will take time. Just don’t give up. Being pain free and mobile again, being able to fall asleep without pain, is worth it!
Thank you all for all your suggestions. I will give it a try one at a time! Thank you Holly, I am so glad I found this site. May God be with you all.
This is a very exciting list, Ashley! I must say one of the things I like best about your website and newsletter is that you cover topics hard to find on many homesteading websites, so I hope you keep up especially with the topics that are hard to find! For this reason I would love to see from your list:
Repair and refurbish garden tools (could you cover putting on a new handle, too?)
Grafting fruit trees (Could you also cover propagating fruit trees from seed, cuttings, heeling in, air grafting, etc.?
Smoking meats, fish, (and cheeses!)
Cheesemaking (I’ve done mozzarella but wish to make one cheese each month this year and learn about hard cheeses)
Mushrooms – both foraging safely and growing my own
Root cellaring and other techniques of storing foods and garden produce
3-D printing (printing USEFUL homestead things or finding open-sourced plans)
computer programming for non programmers (also Arduino projects useful to homesteading like building a hive monitor)
Thank you so much. You’re doing an awesome job!
This is a great list of suggestions. Thank you so much for sharing. You may want to do a quick search of the website because there are some articles already out there on several of these topics.
I have been happily exploring your website and have found many interesting things, like cheese recipes, some propagating from cuttings, the processing a whole pig and storing it, some uncommon canning recipes (like making pectin from citrus seeds), and others. This spring I will be doing a lot of propagation. I’m trying to establish perennial food sources on a friend’s farm, and don’t have much budget. Instead I have asked at other gardens if I can get cuttings this spring, and have found sources for elderberry, blackberry, gooseberry, currants, but will still have to source some bushes and trees.
About the food storage, I have been improving at storing food without refrigeration, but I am still interested in learning how to do it better for each food. For example, potatoes. I’ve been experimenting, but we are still having some issues, still getting green ones in spite of keeping them in a dark ventilated cabinet, or they start going soft and we have to use a lot up quickly… any tips? So far, I think we are only getting them to last about two months. And I stored cabbages in a cool room this year but I don’t think I’m doing it right. Apples… the quality goes down and they become only good for baking. And I didn’t try carrots this year… only i did blanch/freeze some or keep some in a refrigerator, and some are still in the ground (I’m zone 6a). Canning, dehydrating, pickling, fermenting I can do, but as you know, that’s a lot of work, so I’m looking for some simpler ways of storing some of the food to save time.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!
Jaye L Alynn
Hello Ashley, and thank you for taking the time to write about all these basic skills. I popped in to add knife sharpening to the list, but see someone beat me to the punchline. As everyone else, I have tons of questions related to the growth of my own homestead, but have a very different climate here in Tucson Arizona. My current project list includes container gardening, efficient space design, propagating native fruit trees (from seed?)… etc. I have also started rain catchment and built my own tiny home. Happy to share my experiences/challenges if it is at all interesting.
Where do you get seeds to plant ? I prefer to original seeds
We usually order from Johnny’s and Fedco.
Could you share me the website of Johnny’s and Fedco ? Thank you 💖🌸🌱🌳🌲🏡
Thanks very much 😃💖🌸🌱🌲🌳🏡🌈🌎
I see about pruning fruit trees but what about planting them? That seems like a nice skill to learn :3
Love your blog by the way!
Good topic, added!