We hear all kinds of advice for novice homesteaders, those brave souls just venturing into the exciting world of self-sufficiency. But eventually novice homesteaders become experienced homesteaders. Through a combination of book learning and trial-and-error, people learn the intricacies of country skills and lead lives of great independence.
But advanced homesteaders never stop learning – or wishing. Once the basic tools for the Big Stuff have been acquired (such as a pressure canner, gardening tools, livestock infrastructure, etc.), then it becomes a matter of smoothing out the rough edges and improving efficiency for the Little Stuff. These are tools to make a formerly arduous task easier, or tools to tackle more ambitious future projects.
What kinds of tools? Consider these:
Food Mills and Strainers
If you’re faced with two bushel baskets of tomatoes, it’s a daunting task to slip the skins and purée the pulp. But with a food mill or strainer, it’s a simple matter of turning a handle to create beautiful purée. A food mill can be used to eliminate skins and seeds from a multitude of fruits and vegetables.
Clothes Drying Racks
Clotheslines are wonderful for summer use, but when the weather is bad, most people return to their dryers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Wooden clothes racks allow year-round drying, which saves electricity (or propane), costs nothing to use, and can be folded away when not in use. Rack drying won’t damage garments either!
There’s nothing like milking your own cow (or goat). But these beloved animals can provide so much more than just milk. With a few basic tools, you can make cheese, butter, and yogurt. A cream separator extracts the richness of the milk, while a butter churn creates fresh homemade butter. (Hint: A dairy paddle helps press out the buttermilk). The skim milk can be turned into rich creamy yogurt with the help of the proper culture and an incubator.
To keep warm in the winter, most homesteaders prefer to heat with wood. Wood-burning cookstoves are a multi-purpose appliance that heats the house, cooks dinner, and dehydrates food. To feed a cookstove, stout tools like a Pulaski axe, kindling splitter, mauls, and wedges make the job easier. You know what they say: If you cut your own wood, it warms you twice.
Advanced homesteaders often choose an off-grid lifestyle. There are so many improvements in tools for off-grid living – everything from Luci solar lights to oil lamps to propane refrigerators to water pumps to water filters, even composting toilets – that the lifestyle is more feasible than it was even 10 years ago. Off-grid options include advanced food preparation without electricity, such as pressure canners, solar dehydrators, grain mills, and sun ovens.
As you become immersed in the homesteading lifestyle, look at your most irksome or difficult tasks and see what tools are available to alleviate the burden. Chances are you’ll find something to ease the burden and make yourself even more self-sufficient. What a gift for the holidays!