The days of the pioneers are long over, but the reality is that many of the skills they used for everyday survival are still rather useful in the 21st Century. If you’re looking for a fun and challenging DIY project, roll up your sleeves and pay homage to the pioneers.
Here’s a few lifestyle changes you can make to get started:
Living Off the Land
In the rugged, untamed wilds of North America, the pioneers didn’t have much choice but to live off the land. Most of the time that meant tracking and hunting, but nowadays that isn’t always a practical option. Perhaps you have little ones and don’t want to have firearms or hunting crossbows around the homestead.
Pioneers’ homesteading skills kept them alive throughout harsh winters and ensured that the land they chose for themselves could support them indefinitely even with no stores in close distance. You too can use your land to your benefit by taking on the following:
- Growing a Garden — Yes, it’s more than just sticking seeds in the ground and waiting for things to grow. Growing a garden requires time and patience, as well as knowledge about different plants and optimal growing conditions. For new “pioneers” it’s best to start with more basic (yet often vital) foods like tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, onions, peppers, etc.
- Saving Seeds — Learning to save seeds will help do away with your need to go out and purchase seeds (especially when you can’t always trust the supplier). When harvesting, separate the seeds, rinse and then set aside to dry. Depending on the type of seed, you may need to start fermentation processes.
- Keeping Livestock — While many animals (chickens, rabbits, cows, ducks, turkeys, etc.) can certainly be eaten for food, there are multitudes of other ways that animals can help we humans survive. They can provide milk to drink, wool for clothing, eggs for cooking, feathers for pillows, and more. Keeping livestock and therefore being responsible for animals’ livelihoods as well can also be a very rewarding experience in and of itself.
Storing and Preserving Food
What good is cultivating your own food if it won’t actually last that long? The key to pioneer survival was not just finding their own food sources, but preserving and storing foods for long term. There are many different ways to do this, but the pioneers found the following methods most useful:
- Drying Herbs — Growing herbs in your garden and then drying and properly storing them will provide you with usable herbs year-round. Herbs can be air-dried for the most part, but microwaving small quantities at a time can work as well. Store dried herbs in a cool, dry place afterward and use as needed.
- Canning — Contrary to popular belief, the preservation process of “canning” does not necessarily need to involve cans. Instead, goods can be sealed in any airtight container (most commonly mason jars) and heated to kill bacteria. Once the canning process is complete, canned goods can be stored in a cool, dry place to await future use. Most canned goods can actually last for at least a few years until they go bad.
- Dehydrating — A lot of vegetables like tomatoes, onions, peppers and more can last for a very long time once properly dehydrated. You can use a modern food dehydrator to quicken the process and ensure that vegetables last as long as possible, but if you do want to stay true to the pioneer way you can use salt and smoking to draw out moisture.
When it all comes down to it, the fact is that in today’s times you don’t actually have to adopt a pioneer lifestyle to survive. That said, taking the time to master some of their skills (and then putting them into practice) could actually help save you a lot of money in the long run and can even be good for your health.
So while it may not be time to start wearing a bonnet or swapping out your car for a covered wagon, it may be long past due for you to start cultivating that bountiful garden you’ve always dreamed of.