Vintage Skills…..Modern Kids Need!

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This article was originally published by Tiffany Davis  on

You might be like me, a suburbs kid that grew into a love of homesteading and self sufficiency.  That’s ok, better to start late than not at all!  I had the opportunity to learn many of these skills from my grandmothers but didn’t master them.  My grandmother’s weren’t homesteaders but they came from a time when homemaking was done by hand.  It is a lost art my friends.

Maybe you’re asking yourself why we need to teach these vintage skills to kids. It isn’t just so the art of them are lost but our kids deserve to have the ability to care for themselves. We live in precarious times. Modern kids need vintage skills as a matter of survival, sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Here is my list of the vintage skills kids need for homesteading and beyond.  They are in no particular order. Keep in mind the age, maturity and readiness of your child before diving into this list. But keep in mind, also, that in a bygone time kids were doing many of these chores before heading off to elementary school. You know your child best but they also may be more ready than we give them credit for.

  1. Cooking from scratch.
    No boxes, no pre-cooked stuff. Just real, whole, food. Collecting some vintage cookbooks could help in this pursuit as well.
    Additionally teach them to plan meals, eat seasonally and how to follow directions in a cookbook.
  2. Tending and preparing animals for food.
    This may be as simple as tending laying hens and collecting eggs.  Or it may be teaching them how butcher and process a chicken for the table. Don’t shy away from teaching where meat comes from.
  3. Mending and Sewing Clothes.
    Being able to create an outfit from a pattern and cloth is awesome and definitely should be learned and taught.  But simply knowing how to mend/repair clothing and putting buttons back on is practically essential! I think everyone should have a portable sewing kit for these little mends.
  4. Gardening/Seed Saving
    Gardening is one of the easiest things to teach our kids; meaning there is usually very little resistance. Not only is it important
    for growing one’s on food but it teaches patience vs instant gratification.  It also shows them the importance of treating our planet with love and kindness. Furthermore, to paraphrase Ron Finley, kids that grow vegetables, eat vegetables.
    Now don’t forget to teach them about GMOs, heirloom seeds and seed saving.  This knowledge is imperative to their future!
  5. Basic Auto Care and Repair
    Yes, even the girls! Go over how to change a tire, oil, how to jump a battery and any other basic repair you feel comfortable teaching. And show them the time frame for maintenance like oil changes, tune-ups, filter replacements.  Knowledge is power – even if it just keep you from getting taken to the cleaners by a dishonest mechanic.
  6. How to make a budget, saving and paying cash.
    We live in a credit riddled society that constantly lives above its means. I am not pointing fingers, I too have done it and paid the price. There was a time when we saved for big purchases, put money away for a rainy day and never bought on credit.
    Teach your children how to make a budget that includes savings for emergencies, and saving for large purchases. If this isn’t something you’ve been taught can I recommend you find Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class in your area or at least pick up his book Total Money Makeover.
  7. Camping/Hunting/Fishing
    Can your kids split wood, start a fire, build a basic shelter? I learned these skills in girl scouts many moons ago and so thankful for them. But many kids are scouting anymore and still need to have a basic understanding of these skills! Even if you don’t want to hunt, at least take them fishing. Show them what bait works, how to put it on, how to reel in a fish and how to prepare it for the table. You could take this a step further and teach them wild foraging skills. You can’t be too prepared, right?
  8. First Aid/Natural Health Care
    Everyone, including kids, needs some basic knowledge of first aid. I am not talking how to put a band aid on! But how to make a sling. How to close a wound without stitches. What to do if someone goes into shock. CPR!!!
    I also think it is important to teach natural health care, herbal treatments and essential oils. My 9 year old will give you peppermint if you have a headache and lavender for bug bites and itches. She was taught from an early age about oils so it is her first thought, not pills. I’m not saying don’t teach kids about responsible western medicine but don’t stop there.
  9. Food Preservation
    Canning, dehydrating, even freezing. Kids need to be a part of preserving the harvest so they can preserve their own in the future. I don’t recommend little kids jump into pressure canning but they can help dry tomatoes or make their own fruit roll-ups. They can be in the kitchen when you sterilize your jars and pack them for canning. Gage their maturity and readiness for their own hands on lessons; but everyone can watch, listen and ask questions.
  10. Housekeeping
    *Laundry (sorting, cleaning, hand washing, ironing, line drying)
    *Bed making
    *How to fold clothes, sheets, towels, etc.
    *Daily cleaning vs seasonal vs occasional
    *How to clean
    *Basic home maintenance like when to change a filter, gutter cleaning, unclogging a toilet or drain, etc
    *How to make laundry soap and other household cleaners
  11. Taking it a step further! 
    A few other skills you may want to consider teaching your kids:
    *Reuse / Recycle / Re-purpose
    *Finding bargains
    *Organizing (house, bills, calendar)

I hope this list gives you a jumping off point on vintage skills kids need.  I’d love to hear how you’re teaching your kids skills or others you think should be added to the list. Leave me your thoughts in the comments.

Saving our forefathers ways starts with people like you and me actually relearning these skills and putting them to use to live better lives through good times and bad. Our answers on these lost skills comes straight from the source, from old forgotten classic books written by past generations, and from first hand witness accounts from the past few hundred years. Aside from a precious few who have gone out of their way to learn basic survival skills, most of us today would be utterly hopeless if we were plopped in the middle of a forest or jungle and suddenly forced to fend for ourselves using only the resources around us. To our ancient ancestors, we’d appear as helpless as babies. In short, our forefathers lived more simply than most people today are willing to live and that is why they survived with no grocery store, no cheap oil, no cars, no electricity, and no running water. Just like our forefathers used to do, The Lost Ways Book teaches you how you can survive in the worst-case scenario with the minimum resources available. It comes as a step-by-step guide accompanied by pictures and teaches you how to use basic ingredients to make super-food for your loved ones. Watch the video below:


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How to Save Carrot Seed

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Save Carrot Seed Like a Pro

Here’s a great video from Seed Savers Exchange that will answer all of your questions about how to save carrot seed.  Dr. John Navazio is a veteran organic seed saver, with a PhD in plant breeding from the University of Wisconsin.

Here he shows you the different stages of seed maturity in carrot flowers (or umbels).  The videography is great and you really get a good visual example to know when the seed is ready to take.

As you’ll see, the only tools you’ll need for this task are two hands and a cookie sheet.  John has some really nice screens for separating the seed from the burrs and dust, but you can manage just fine without those.

Cleaning Your Carrot Seed

When you save carrot seed, the hardest part is usually separating the seeds from the rest of the drying plant.  You don’t want to store all of the dust and debris from the dead flower.  And if you’ve ever handled carrot seed, you know that we’re talking about some really tiny bits and pieces.

In this video, John uses screens to separate the seeds from the dust and dead plant matter.  That’s a great approach, but many of us don’t have a set of screens for this purpose.

One alternative is to keep rubbing and blowing the seeds, as shown in this video – indefinitely, until the seeds are separated enough for storage.  Using an electric fan to blow away the dust is another popular technique.  With tiny seeds like these, you won’t want to put your work directly in front of the fan, but arrange it somewhat to the side of the fan, so that you only get a gentle breeze to blow away the dust and crumbling leaf bits.

Storing Saved Carrot Seeds

All of the carrot seeds in the world won’t help you if you can’t find them next season at planting time.  Check out this helpful video Marjory made to show you how she stores her saved seeds: Organizing Your Seed Collection with Marjory Wildcraft.


Thanks to John Navazio and the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm for producing and sharing this helpful video.

The post How to Save Carrot Seed appeared first on The Grow Network.

Simple Seed Germination Test at Home

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Germination Test for Saved Seeds

Sometimes we save seeds with the best intentions, and then we fall short on the follow through – by not planting those seeds when the next season rolls around.  A simple germination test can tell you whether or not those seeds are still worth planting.

I know there are plenty of orphaned seeds like this in the seed collection at our house.  Sometimes they’re seeds that we just forgot to start.  Sometimes they’re the remnants of a project from a previous season.  Sometimes they’re seeds that we just forgot to label, so we don’t really know what variety they are or what year they were grown.

However you ended up with questionable seeds, there’s an easy method you can use at home to find out just how viable those seeds are.

Want to start saving your seeds?  The [Grow] Network offers an online training course with everything you need to know.  Learn more here: Seed Saving Training Expedition

Testing Your Old Seeds

The testing method is simple.  You wrap up a random sampling of the questionable seeds in a wet paper towel, place the paper towel inside a plastic container, keep it out of direct light, and wait. The test should last as long as it usually takes good, new seed to germinate.  So, if you normally expect tomato seeds to germinate in 5-10 days – your test for old tomato seeds should be 10 days long.

As the seeds begin to germinate, you check the seeds daily and keep a running scorecard.  Record the number of seeds that germinate successfully, and the number of seeds that fail or mold.  Each time a seed germinates or molds, remove it from the test (take it off of the paper towel).  At the end of the test, determine the percentage of seeds that germinated successfully, and extrapolate that percentage to the total number of seeds you have.

Here is a guide, with pictures, from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: How to Test Germination

And here is a more detailed approach from the Seed Savers Exchange: Home Germination Testing

For starting seeds in trays – this test should help inform your decisions about how many seeds you need to start.  For direct-seeding – this test should help you determine how densely to seed your garden bed.

You should do your test in the same conditions you plan to have when you start the seed.  So if you’ll be starting lettuce seeds in cool conditions – run your test in those same conditions.  If you’re testing peppers that will be started in warmer conditions – make your test conditions warmer too.

Keep in mind that you need to do this test before it’s time to start the seeds in question.  For some seeds, the time it takes them to germinate in the test is the same amount of time that it will take them to germinate in trays, seed starting cells, or directly in the soil.  So if you usually expect 7 days for seed emergence for tomatoes, you should do your germination test at least 7 days ahead of the date when you plan to actually start the seeds.

How Long Can You Store Saved Seeds?

That’s a tricky question.  Typical seed life varies according to plant variety.  And in my experience, I’d say there’s a lot of fluctuation based on how the seeds are stored and environmental conditions.

A few crops, like sweet corn and spinach, typically have very short shelf life and you should probably plant them the very next season after they were saved.  Most seeds have longer lifespans, and typically stay viable for 2 – 5 years.

Here is a helpful list from Iowa State University’s ag extension: Life Expectancy of Vegetable Seeds

If you have some old seeds that have been stored well, don’t give up hope!  Check out this [Grow] Network writing contest entry from 2014: Too Many Tomato Seedlings – From 30 Year Old Seeds!

Interested in ways to use up your old seeds?  Here’s one great idea: How To Create Chicken Fodder Using Your Old Seeds

Thanks to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Seed Savers Exchange for sharing the helpful info!

And thanks to James Romer, Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The post Simple Seed Germination Test at Home appeared first on The Grow Network.

10 Fail Proof Foods To Grow For Beginning Homesteaders

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Gardening for HomesteadersIt is springtime, and everyone, prepper or not, is beginning to consider planting and growing a garden. For those that want to successfully feed their family, but are not necessarily the most seasoned gardeners, there are several fruits and vegetables that are easy to maintain and therefore will help ensure your success in producing food crops. These crops can often be canned and stored as well as eaten fresh and enjoyed by you and your family. In addition, the knowledge of being able to grow your own food is invaluable in a post-SHTF scenario. I find that as a Mom myself it is so important to have healthy food for my family, but just because I feed my family vegetables, it doesn’t mean I know how to grow them. However there is no reason for me, or anyone, to feel overwhelmed; these 10 food crops are a cinch to grow and great place for any new gardener to start.


Early (Cool) Season Vegetables

Early season vegetables can be planted in the cool spring. They don’t usually fair that well in the hot summer.

Radishes –

Radishes are quick growing. They sprout easily and produce a harvestable vegetable in just about 4 weeks. You should plant radishes in a staggered cycle, about every two weeks from early spring to just before summer in order to obtain a continuous harvest. Remember that radish leaves are edible too.

Arugula and other lettuce greens –

Lettuce and arugula do not store well, but they are easy growing plants that can easily be planted and maintained in any scenario, especially if you are growing after a disaster. They grow well in pots, making them a natural for urban homesteaders.

Snow peas/Sugar snap pea-

Snow peas are slightly different from sugar snap peas, but both are easy to grow for beginners. Snow peas are usually flatter, and more tender; they grow on a vine and require support of a cage or trellis, but there are also bush varieties that do not require support. Sugar snap peas are the fatter variety, and they also grow on a vine requiring support. Either kind is a wonderful food packed with goodness that most everyone in the family loves to enjoy. They also freeze well for long term storage.

Green onions –

Green onions are another plant that is extremely easy to grow. They can be harvested and dried for long term storage as well as used fresh. They provide a powerful pack of flavor that would be highly sought after in a survival situation. You can plant seeds, but you can also replant roots that you trim off the green onions you bought at the store. As they grow you can harvest the green stems as needed and then they will grow again.

Late (Warm) Season Vegetables

Warm season vegetables love the sun. There is no point in planting these early, no matter how nice the weather is looking and how excited you are to get planting. You’ll want to plant most of these in late spring, depending on your location, but for most of the US that means late April to early May.

Tomatoes –

Tomatoes are a given for any gardening beginner. They are so versatile, and can be canned, stored and prepared in a number of ways. You are able to can and store sauce, pastes, stewed tomatoes, or enjoy them fresh throughout the late summer season. Tomatoes can also flourish when grown in a big enough pot, making them effective for even small space gardeners.

Tomato plants come in two forms: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate plants stay compact—about three to four feet in height—and all the fruit ripens at roughly the same time. These are a good choice for urban homesteading when space is at a premium. Indeterminate varieties are more vining, and continue to grow and produce fruit until the fall sets in. They can grow quite large, especially with fertilizer, and need a tomato cage for support. If you are planning to start your own from seed, you might want to start them indoors in the early spring, or buy seedlings at the store if available.

Zucchini –

Zucchini, as well as other summer squash, can produce a fair amount of crop for canning or for eating fresh. Most squash does take up a fair amount of garden space, making it less common in urban garden settings, however the patty pan summer squash is slightly more compact for urban and suburban gardeners. Zucchini should be harvested when they are about 6″ long, or in the case of patty pan varieties about 2-3″ across. Squash blossoms are also edible and popular in many cuisines.

Green Beans –

Green beans come in both bush and pole varieties. Once the plant start producing, you’ll want to harvest the green beans every few days for several weeks. Green beans can well for long term storage. There are also yellow and purple varieties that grow easily as well.

Peppers –

Bell peppers are the most popular variety, but they require a slight bit more attention than other pepper plants and can take much longer to reach maturity. Hotter pepper varieties, like jalapeno, and serranoes are easy to grow and produce a plentiful supply of peppers per plant. Like tomatoes, you will want to start your seeds inside to protect them from the early spring cold, or buy seedling plants from your local nursery.

Tomatillos –

Tomatillos grow huge and produce a significant amount of fruit making them ideal for preppers. Tomatillos are also called husk tomatoes, because the fruit grows with a protective husk around the outside making it very resilient and insect resistant. They grow similarly to a tomato plant and can benefit from a little support from a tomato cage. They also have plentiful seeds, meaning once they are introduces to your garden, it’s will easily re-seed and grow anew every year.

Cucumbers –

Cucumbers are one of the post popular pickling vegetables, but they are also wonderful fresh out of the garden. Cucumbers grow on a vine, and while you can let them climb a trellis or cage, they can grow on the ground successfully as well. Cucumbers produce for only a few weeks in a row, so you might consider planning in succession every couple of weeks if you want a long lasting harvest period.

Of course depending on where you live, a certain plant may be easier to grow than another, but for the most part in a standard American climate, you will find these plants will all grow without too much trouble or concern. When you are trying to start your own garden or homestead, it’s often overwhelming trying to decide how to get started, but with these 10 easy crops you can’t go wrong.

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