Practical Skills for Hands On and Preparedness Viability

Practical Skills

Most professional worker skills today are hinged with our modern day way of life. The majority of people in the United States generally work in services rather than manufacturing / hands-on.

Preparedness for the ‘here and now’
Preparedness for the potential ‘after’

Having practical skills are beneficial for the now and potentially the ‘after’. ‘After’ meaning a time of post-collapse, a depression era perhaps.

Those skills that involve a trade, working with your hands, or anything that will assist your sustainability may be particularly valuable in that sense.

Our ancestors of generations ago had many practical skills. It was pretty much mandatory for survival back then and a part of their way of life. You needed to know how to do a lot of things yourself.

Today’s generation do not need practical skills in that context because things can simply be bought. We trade our modern skills for currency which in turn buys what we need. It works quite well actually. Until it doesn’t…

So if and when it ever “doesn’t”, wouldn’t it be nice to know how to do something in the practical sense? A trade or using your hands and skills to better survive or even thrive during such a time?

That aside, I personally enjoy the practical skills learned in life. Even though I don’t technically need them during these modern times, I simply like working with my hands. I enjoy learning and doing some of the things our ancestors did, and I also enjoy learning the hands-on trades of today. I feel better in knowing that I can do some of these things “just in case”. Plus I get a sense of satisfaction knowing that I can do it.

What ever happened to the days when a good portion of people went to trade schools? Or when a fair number of people became apprentices at one trade or another?

Oh, that’s right, I almost forgot… our manufacturing jobs went overseas to increase corporate profits. Many of our traditional ‘hands-on’ skills became obsolete in this new modern world.

I suppose one may call that progress. I call it stupid. A well rounded society includes all classes from top to bottom. Unfortunately today there is a huge disparity between the top and bottom with hardly anything left in-between. But I digress.

It’s nearly impossible to detail a complete list of practical skills. One could look upon such a list in different lights, varying scenarios. A preferred list would change depending on circumstances or the hypothetical times when they would be applied (today versus post-collapse for example).

That said, one must start somewhere. Here’s a list of various practical skills for the preparedness-minded that came off my fingertips as I brainstormed. Feel free to add more.


Practical Skills for the Preparedness-minded

Bicycle repair
Bread making
Butcher, skinning/prepare game
Candle making
Chickens for eggs/meat
Clothes making
Dehydrating foods
Fire making
First Aid, Medical
Foraging, plant/food identification
Gardening, Farming
Herbology, Herbalism
Knitting, Crocheting
Knot tying
Livestock raising
Map reading, Pathfinding/Compass
Maple Syrup making
Masonry, stone work
Mechanics, general repair, machinery,
Rainwater harvesting
Reloading ammo
Root cellaring
Security, Guard duty/Tactical
Sewing, Mending
Shearing, Spinning Wool, Weaving
Shoe making
Shooting, marksmanship
Soap making
Tanner, Scraping/Curing
Teaching, tutoring
Water sourcing and purifying, Well making
Weapon making, primitive/sling/bow/arrows/spear
Wood Gassification
Woodworking, Cabinet making

Are there any particular practical skills that interest you personally?
Things that you would like to learn?


  1. I have a question. Would there be priority skills?

    Perhaps they would be akin to the priority survival skills. And perhaps categorized from there by necessary or convenience or luxury.

    Ken may I inquire as to how you’re faring with the snow storm?

    1. CR

      If I had to pick the absolute number one “skill” to learn, I would have to say Fire Building.

      2. Security/Shelter

      3. Gathering water

      4. Food

      As the article indicates the list can be absolutely HUGE of the skills need in the “After” just to survive the first week, all along for any length of time.

      I just sure as all get-out hope we never need to find out.

      1. NRP; I disagree with you on the list. I think the most important (top of the list) is water, then shelter, then fire, then food. Of course you will have to take into account the time of year (season) and where you are ( are you in Az., Hi. Fl. TX. or NH.) when the “AFTER” comes.

        1. There’s all sorts of opinions on what should be first. Makes for good conversation. Ultimately it depends on the situation and circumstance, which may alter one’s opinion.

          Air. Things to do with your breathing may logically be considered first. Without it we’ll expire very quickly. Minutes.

          Shelter. When you define shelter to include your body’s core body temperature and direct exposure to elements, clothing, outerwear, staying dry, then it may logically be considered second. You can get hypothermia and die within hours.

          Water. The rule of thumb is 3 days without water and you’re in deep $#!%.

          Food. We can live for weeks without food, although will become hardly able to work and move about effectively sooner than that.

          To add to the debate, I typically include “Security” in there somewhere. It could even be considered first depending on the scenario. I’ve listed it first in previous articles. One’s life could be taken in an instant in this regard…

      2. Course you maybe S.O.L. anyways, if you are in an area that is experiencing a tidal wave, wild fire, earthquake, or a severe tornado.

    2. #1: learning fast
      #2: Being willing to try things without instruction

      One thing I’ve noticed is that very few people are willing to “just try it” without some sort of guidance. Many times I’ve shown people some of what I made and had them say “how did you know how to do that?” The truth is that I didn’t, but tried it and it worked. In a SHTF scenario, you aren’t going to have an oven for baking, you’re not going to have a saw for woodworking, and as such your ability to improvise and “make a plan” will be more important than any more formally trained skills you may have.

      That said, practice and training is very important, but try doing so without some of the things you normally use.

      I think there are a relatively small set of fundamental skills that make up nearly all of the listed skills. They are:

      – Building/Construction
      – Catching/Preparing Food
      – Defensive/Weaponry
      – Medical

      I suspect that most people will specialise in one of those areas: Engineers, Hunter/Farmers, Warriors, Doctors. So as part of your skills training, make sure you spend time in all the areas.

      Over history, the population has shifted from one to the other. Historically it was mostly Hunters/Farmers. A few decades ago it was mostly Engineers. Warriors go in-and out every few generations. Doctors are always in short supply. Currently large parts of the population are … Bureaucracy. Oops. Sorry, that isn’t a skill that’s particularly useful.

      1. Some people are gifted that way. Others are like a woman I worked with. I brought to work a bowl of pasta salad. Now the main ingredient other than pasta was Zesty Italian Dressing along with olives etc. She asked how I made it and could I give her the recipe. Oh, there is no recipe for this. You just put whatever ingredients you like in a bowl over night and stir it from time to time. Blank Look………………. from her. I asked do you ever just make something without a recipe? answer, No.
        Same goes for all sorts of tasks in life.

      2. Good comment!

        I like the attitude of ‘just try it’!

        Figure it out. Adapt and overcome…

        1. I/we have always been a “just try it”…Sometimes it doesn’t work out…Well, then we “try again”. Much of my cooking has been like that. Early yrs it was due to necessity and not being able to afford much of the usual ingredients, now it is just how it is.

    3. @CR,

      There would be a priority of skills but it would “depend” upon what we’re talking about.

      For the article’s intent I’m simply being general.

      But if we’re talking about post-collapse practical skills then that gets into more specifics. Even then it depends. It depends on “how bad” the collapse is. Depends on where one lives. Depends on if you’re truly on your own or if there are others to assist. Etc..

      I do have a number of articles buried here on the website that gets into survival priorities. Makes me think of the rule of threes for example…

      Regarding your question of the snowstorm, there’s a thread going on over at the most recent “What did you do for your preparedness this week” post for this (and any off-topic content).

      (Here’s the thread)

  2. Skills that I have mastered for after SHTF and I have resources to go with the skills:

    1. Hunting and fishing
    2. Reloading ammo
    3. Growing many types of food (animal and plant)
    4. Disease recognition and treatment, injury treatment
    5. Defense of my location
    6. Electrical power generation
    7. Communication with local Net work of like minded preppers

    The above list is just a few areas that I have focused on. Many others skills are (by discussion and agreement) filled by my neighbors.

    1. You sir just made the perfect list of needed skills in the correct order.

  3. Electrical (single phase), plumbing, roofing, framing, low-voltage, PC hardware, data networks, welding, hydraulics, pneumatics, PLC’s, flooring, cabinets, commercial vehicle modification, solar power systems, masonry, auto repair, NatGas appliances, fencing, plant security and CCTV, HVAC repair and service, CERT, first aid, automated irrigation, and a few other things. Wasn’t very successful at school though. Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ kind of got to me.

  4. Interesting and fairly extensive list, hard to add to.

    That said I would add a couple, of course we’re talking the ‘Here and Now’ and/OR the “After”

    Food preservation; other than canning and freezing, having the knowledge to Salt-cure, Air-drying, Fermentation, and cold/cool storage. Also the ability to recognize when food is actually “Bad” or just looks ‘nasty’, mold is not always a sign food is “Bad”.

    Medical; wound-care, internal medicines, Dental, can you set a broken bone (not something to practice often), how about an infection? How many can assist in delivering a baby?

    Physiotherapy; Yes the ability to help people mentally when they lose everything and/or their loved ones, children, family.

    Distillation/Brewing; Ken mentioned Moonshining, but what about Purifying Water (can you set up a still?), Beer, Wine, Vinegar, Kombuche?

        1. Ha Ha, I did that one time with blackberries. Blew the tops off Grolsch beer bottles. Made a good venison marinade though.

  5. Woodgass/fuel production
    Feel pretty fortunate that i have a reasonable proficiency with many items on that list

  6. I would like to become more proficient with herbal medicines (teas, tinctures)

    I have been dyeing cottons, silks, and wools for many years (both natural and chemical dyes). The woolens are dyed for hand-hooked rugs I make, the cottons for quilts, and silks just for experience/fun. I have no experience with Indigo dyeing but want to learn this science. I have the Indigo cakes and proper chemicals to set up a dye pot, but until recently, haven’t had enough spare time to learn the basics of this craft. Perhaps this year….

    I would also like to bind several small hand-made books to pass on through my family.

    And I would still very much like to erect a small log cabin with my spouse.

    Throwback stuff…

    1. MT
      A little off topic but…
      ….. “to erect a small log cabin”
      got my attention.
      I built us a 10x 12 w/ a small addition and loft. I used 4×6 untreated timbers from Menards. —cheaper-
      It holds a temp always above freezing even when the wood stove has been inactive for months in the winter.
      I love working with wood. Just wish I had more time.

      ” Just try it”
      No better words than that. If you don’t challenge yourself how will you know what you can/cannot do.
      Learn and learn to better yourself.
      Even with ‘failure’ comes knowledge.

  7. I would add basket weaving to the list. Made of natural materials. A wondrous resource to have, should paper, and plastic bags ever become unavailable.

  8. I only scored 18 out of that list. I got to get to work and learn more.
    My suggested addition would be communication – ham, morse code, etc.

  9. Other than cooking & baking, I realize I know a little bit about a number of things, but not mastery. I have basic knowledge of 1st aid, sewing/mending, canning and dehydrating, gardening, and I have rusty crocheting skills. I am also learning more about herbs and EO’s. I enjoy fishing but have not spent enough time to get really good at it. I can use basic hand tools but so can most people. I have strong skills in math & other subjects, so I can tutor, but no professional training.

    After this critical self-assessment, I’m wondering if it’s more valuable to have a range of basic skills that can get me by, or if I should be focusing on a couple of skills to master in hopes they would be valuable/unique enough to support myself in the Gultch. It’s really important to me to have enough practical skills to add/bring value.

    1. So Cal Gal – It may be considered “putting all of my eggs in one basket”, but I am going with the “couple of skills to master” approach that you mentioned. I’ve accomplished some of the 56 skills that Ken listed, but many have been years ago, and I don’t know if I can even do some of them anymore (due to my age, physical ability, unknown technological advances, etc). I think I know what all of those skills basically consist of, and I can still do some of them, but a person can’t know and do everything, so getting good at (I avoid the term “mastered”) one or two things seems more do-able (and valuable) for me.

      Just to get “good at” a skill requires that you do it a lot, and are doing it now, today. You need to live it, day in and day out. That’s why I yak about mending on a treadle sewing machine so much. That’s what I do, and I’ve been doing it for 12 years as often as I can to get as good at it as possible. It’s not for everyone, but that could be a good thing.

      CD in Oklahoma

      1. CD,
        I think in this case it would be better to work to be a “Jack of all Trades” than be a ” Master of One”. Even if you did those things so many years ago, and don’t think you could do them now due to your age or limitations, you could still teach them to someone who could learn and excel at it. In that regards your past experience is so very valuable.
        I think your skill on a treadle machine could be very valuable in the long run. (my Mom taught us boys how to cook and sew at a young age, thankful every day that she did.)

      2. I remember one person trying to get a really tight nut off and not having much success. I looked at the attempt and told him no wonder you’re having such a hard time. It’s a metric nut and you need metric pliers. By then the nut was so rounded the only thing that was going to hold was vise-grips. I got mine out of the trunk
        and removed the nut. He looked at me and said he was going to buy some metric pliers next time he was by a Home Depot.

        I recall another post some time back where somebody was at a gathering and the toilet was acting up. The owner was going to call a plumber the next day. The guy went in and fixed the problem with his leatherman. The guests were horrified that he put his hands in toilet (tank) water.

        Seriously, some people should not be allowed around tools, especially around a powered ones.

        1. Metric Pliers! Now that’s funny! Gotta love those vise grips!

          Regarding the toilet tank episode, the horrified people are the sheeple who will not fare well during a major socioeconomic collapse.

    2. That’s an interesting statement.

      “…more valuable to have a range of basic skills…or focus on a couple of skills to master”

      For me, it has been both. And I believe it’s good to have both. At least one master skill (better to have a few – but that comes with time). AND lots of basic practical skills.

      That said, if I had to choose one or the other (which I don’t because I have freedom of what I do), I would choose lots of basic skills over only one single mastery. Seems like it would generally be better that way.

    3. So Cal Gal,
      I could have written your post. I have the same skill set as you, and I certainly am trying to learn more. I think cooking and baking will be very important because we need to do things differently if the grid goes down. Baking in a solar oven, on a camp stove with propane, or rocket stove that uses small pieces of wood. It will be very different, and I want to be ready. All the food we store needs to be cooked when needed, and we need to create alternative ways to cook while conserving our fuel and water.

  10. There might be one other skill set that would be very handy if a truly massive amount of manure entered the rapidly revolving blades of the proverbial fan – the skill of using animal power for transport and other tasks now relegated to electrical and internal combustion power. What brought it to mind was an old book that I have, “Handbook for Rangers and Woodsmen” by Jay L. B. Taylor. It was published in 1917 with a 1916 Copyright. Taylor was a Forest Ranger with USFS and quite a bit of the work is focused using animals for personal transport, carrying equipment and supplies, and performing many tasks that we’ve turned over to internal combustion in the century following the publication of “Handbook”. Knowing how to manage pack and harness animals could be very handy if we haven’t eaten all of them before the trucks start rolling again.

    1. If things really do go awry, thats definitely a solid thing to think about, but definitely consider all that goes with it, ie feeding the critters, where you will keep em and also protecting them from predetors, both four legged and two legged

      1. You’ve hit on most of the major elements of the skill set and the principal issues involved. Most of the issues you’ve mentioned, feed, confinement, health and protection, could come under the heading of ‘Animal Husbandry”. There’s an even more critical one though, being able to obtain, maintain/manufacture the equipment necessary to put animal muscles to work in a controlled, efficient way. Blacksmiths can make the shoes, of course, but who’ll be producing harnesses and the structures needed for transport, wagons, sledges, pack saddles, etc.? I wonder if the Amish have an ‘apprentice program’?

  11. Ken, your comment

    “What ever happened to the days when a good portion of people went to trade schools? Or when a fair number of people became apprentices at one trade or another?”

    Yes, and they are in big demand in our area, people as young 18 years old (actually younger if they went to vo-tech in high school) with skills in welding, machine repair, construction/contracting work, plumbing, HVAC, even entry level nursing certification or vet tech/farm vet tech to name a few areas have plenty of jobs to choose from….

    This is a good thing…employment with hands-on skills….

    I think trade schools and apprenticeships are very good paths for those interested in jobs with hands-on skills, looking back I wish I had pursued one of those options as a young person…

    When I went to a state university to pursue a degree in the education field, they did even let us get much experience teaching students until our last year….kind of tough when you may have second thoughts and you’ve already invested a lot of $ and time…that was several decades ago, maybe they do it differently now…

    Hopefully you can do what you enjoy even if it is a beneficial hobby

    For me it’s raising small livestock that benefits our family…

    I enjoy it immensely…love being connected to nature

    DH is good at plumbing, building, and engineering… builds whatever coops hutches I need

    He DIY our solar system

    Keep up the good ideas!
    Blessings to all!

  12. I agree with communications as a primary skill that’s needed along with supply/inventory control/scheduling as part of that job. You need communications to talk to your people on patrol, contact with foragers looking for supplies, communication with observation posts, long range communication and information gathering. Additional duties would be inventory control and record keeping, along with scheduling of patrols/chores. Some ones got to do this. At one point in a past life while deployed, I was tasked with inventory control/supply/communications/and morale NCO for my company.

  13. Ken,
    Wow, great list! I tried to come up with something to add, but could only maybe expand “metalworking” to include ‘machining’, ‘smelting’ and ‘metal casting’. With those three, and welding, you could reproduce just about anything out of metal.
    I might add that I see a common thread throughout all of these, and that is having some very basic knowledge of math and chemistry. Not the textbook stuff that most kids hate, I am talking the need to teach our kids ‘Practical math and chemistry’, with real life applications. I think if schools taught ‘applied math’ and ‘applied chemistry’, kids would be interested and really learn. just my thoughts on the matter.

  14. I was a machinist for a prototype shop in a previous life, can make basic plumping ‘fixits’ for toilets and sinks, replace electrical outlets, beginner at canning and dehydrating , can cook and bake, I’ve made a couple of candles and could make wicks if I had to. Basic sewing. Rainwater harvesting? That one is easy. Guess I’m old enough to know a little about a few things and could figure out others while still others would have me baffled.

  15. What I do find interesting in the Article list and the additional “items” from comments is the mindset of how far ‘back’ the reset could put us.

    At times personally I’m thinking the 1600-1800, or do we think along the lined of the Depression Era?

    Also what resources would be available? Could we scrounge for materials to rework, or do we think along the lines of scratching Iron out of the dirt?

    Good food for thought Ken; kind of opens the mind again to the ‘what-if’.

    Again time to take a good look around at the ‘skills’ and the resources it would take to scratch out a life “without”.

    Thinking Blue needs to get a LOT better at catching those rabbits running around the homestead.

    1. It certainly would make a significant difference depending on “how far back the reset could put us”. Good point.

      In general, I feel that the more we learn practical hands-on skills, it can only help. Regardless.

      Seek your inner self. What are the things you might be interested to learn that you don’t already know how to do. When we’re genuinely interested in something we will devote more time and resources towards it (if we allow ourselves to).

      1. From my POV just how dangerous other folks are is the limit of recovery reset. The first month will be ugly as even good fathers will kill to feed and shelter their kids. Once most of those who cannot adapt are dead the survivor’s who has basic food and shelter needs resolved will have a lot of salvageable materials at hand only limited by your knowledge and tools available.

        The good father situation is why I have set aside beans/corn/rice as well as plastic sheeting etc to trade for work to allow potential friends to survive during the great die off. Planning to make allies is far more successful IMHO than killing off everybody who threatens you. No charity but you can work for my help.

        No recovery is possible under Mad Max situations as destroying is so much easier than building.

        1. I agree with you.

          Better to establish tribe than go it alone ‘Mad Max’ if at all possible.

  16. NRP, ditto on hoping that we never need to use these things because of a collapse. But I do think that in the event that there is an ” after “, then I do believe that sanitation would need to be placed very high on the list of priorities.

    1. I agree. Those of us on a septic system are good to go if you have water. A pandemic would require quite a bit of cleaning. Then there will be the deceased to take care of.

      1. Mrs. USMCBG
        Just an of-topic reply to your information on freeze drier oil – You mentioned that the cheaper oil has moisture/water in it. I must point out that the minute the pump starts in the process, you are getting water in your oil from the food and it increases as the food is heated to dry. So, in three or four years, has the extra expense in the premium oil not exceeded the cost of a replacement pump?
        On the use of a septic system, a useful item and ability would be to have a grinder pump to empty the tank as needed – perhaps every 3 or 4 years. It would require a generator for a few hours but certainly would extend the convenience of a sewage disposal system.

  17. All good comments and ideas for pre and post disaster lifestyle. However the main trait in thriving is “Thinking Ahead”.
    The recent snow bomb storm as an example. You know how many “Emergency” deliveries of fuel oil and propane we had struggling to get up the hill during that storm? Thinking ahead even a little bit would have made life much safer for those poor delivery drivers.

    The flu is another example of the power of Thinking Ahead. Having a ready rack of wood at hand already dry cut and chopped as well as easy to make soups and such is a life saver if your family is sick and struggling with the snow. Thinking ahead is not using that up and “plan” to restock it tomorrow. The flu can make tomorrow pretty evil. A chainsaw/axe/hatchet/cold AND the Flu can be ugly bad.

    Gardening is also a chance to Think Ahead. Yes I could plant lots of flowers (non medicinal) and fresh tomatoes but some winter squash, dried corn, garlic and dried beans could keep you and yours well fed and healthy.

    Just in time attitude can KILL you. Where do you think the 90% kill rate of EMP comes from?

    For me and mine this NH Snow Bomb was a snooze. Generator was ready, plenty of back ups, lots of salt and sand for the driveway. Just the annoyance of 4 hours of shoveling in the windy cold. And that was needful only because my two 91 year olds had Cabin Fever. That said Thinking Ahead was having my beloved watch over me while I was working. Shovel, warm up, shovel. No one watching a slip and hard fall could KILL you.

    1. NH
      Were there actually people that needed emergency fuel in the middle of that storm? We knew a week ahead that it was coming. Glad you came through okay but that much shoveling – my skidsteer saves me from that heart attack job.

    2. I dont get it how people can live in a place that has gotten that kind of weather before but they dont do anything to be prepared for the eventuality that they will have a big storm again, just makes no sense.

    3. Quote: “A slip and hard fall can kill you”. NH MIchael you are absolutely right on that one. I speak from painful experience. Luckily on the first occasion there was someone there to be able to respond, and the second time a couple years later I was able to get myself up (slowly) and to help. In either case, things could have turned out WAY differently…..but for the grace of God.

    4. Good one!

      Thinking ahead!

      Even though it’s not a “hands on” skill, it leads directly to hands on (assuming you take action).

      Living in NH myself, I saw on WMUR News how so many are desperate for home heating oil, given this very cold weather we’re having. The first thing I said to Mrs.J was “What the heck are people doing waiting till the last minute to fill their tanks?!”

      But you know what I think is going on?

      I’ll bet that it’s partly a reflection of how so many people live on the edge, paycheck to paycheck, and wait till the last minute to fill their gas tank or add heating oil for their furnace. Always running on empty, so to speak. (until it’s 20 below zero!).

      Also, there’s the psychological factor. When it suddenly gets wicked cold, people turn up the heat. They start thinking about the “NEED” for heat. So they all start ordering more fuel…

      But then again, why does everyone (except me) run to the grocery store the day before a snowstorm and clear out the milk, bread, and eggs? How long have they lived here?! Sheeple I guess. It’s hopeless.

      1. McGyver,
        I would take that as a complement, even though your Old Granddad might have not meant it as such at the time. In my many years as a project manager I can honestly say I have my butt saved many times by the ‘Jacks’ on my team, and almost got sunk as many times by the damned “Masters”. Hats off to you my friend.

  18. Ken:

    Couldn’t help but notice “moonshining” as one of the basic skill sets. I know diddly squat about making moonshine, but have a couple good stories on the topic of moonshine made by others. However, it is an interesting topic (and skill) and would be interested in learning more. I wonder if you might consider having have an article on that one whether by yourself or a guest author?


    1. Bogan
      That topic might tweak the interest of big brother. There are a few interests that are perhaps better left for personal entertainment research only.

      1. Yes, that would be a convenient way for ‘them’ to shut down the blog now wouldn’t it?

        I can’t do a “how to” on something that’s illegal ;)

        Although there is a TV show on the subject! Maybe ‘they’ don’t care…?

        1. It’s funny that on the show “Moonshiners”, the feds couldn’t find the old man for years and years. I think his name was Popcorn. But the TV show producers could easily find him!

        2. Beach’n
          we noticed that too. We figured maybe he was really just brewing tea………………..

  19. I think a person is able to make it for themselves, its just when it comes to selling it to others without paying tax that its a problem. (I.e. Tax evasion). The fabled “Revenuers” are tax collectors/enforcers.

    1. Bogan
      The ATF might have different interpretations of the law regarding possibly volatile liquids. As a little insignificant guy, I am not in the habit of testing my Constitutional rights.

    1. Hah
      I got one to add, Ken….
      Farrier work….
      I learned from my dad. Eon’s ago.
      Been doing it then as well as now.
      No schooling, so I’m not a professional. But I read farrier books to better myself.
      Also might add shoeing, blacksmith.
      Both I know nothing of.

      1. I learned a helluva lot from my parents.
        Like someone posted, “a jack of all trades. Master of none”
        Knowledge is power….even if it’s a little.
        Take that as you may
        From the “cobbler” . Lol

        1. Wow
          Glad caught and re-read that last before I posted.
          “a jack off…”
          ” a jack of….”
          Either way….. i.guess.

    2. You assume “they” care about legality. Everything is legal until someone decides to enforce some long forgotten statute. If someone is looking for excuses to shut down blogs like this, any little thing will do.

    3. Bogan,
      Hermit Us is correct. It is illegal under federal law to distill alcohol without a license, whether it is for personal use or for sale. You can, under federal law, make 200 gallons of wine a year for your own consumption, and I believe you can do something similar for beer. FYI, in most states ‘moonshining’ is considered a misdemeanor under state law, it is the Federal law that is most stringent. (similar to states where pot is now legal by state statute, but still illegal by Federal law).
      Still (no pun intended) learning how to distill is a good trade to know. Like NRP said, you can use it to distill the nastiest water into something drinkable and safe. Also, you can distill herbal oils. In war torn countries people have learned to distill plastic to make motor fuel.(actually more like refining, but similar principles). As I mentioned above, it involves ” applied chemistry” which would be good to know.
      Now if SHTF and we have TEOTWAWKI, I do not think any ‘Revenuer’ is going to show up at your place, but until then I would stick to ‘book learning’ for the drinkable “organic parts cleaner” and maybe practice distilling only to make distilled water or essential oils., the stuff that is presently legal. (BTW- even concentrating alcohol by freezing and removing the ice is considered by the FEDS as distilling, and hence is illegal. Just saying.)

      1. Actually you “cook” plastic in a O2 deficient atmosphere (otherwise is simply burns) in a metal container. You get something a lot like kerosene and a waxy material that is an excellent fire starter. When I was in Bosnia I met a gentleman that did it as a survival skill. Taking plastic trash and a little firewood to make fuel for folks kerosene stoves. Not sure that is related to distilling but I have been wrong before. Takes a LOT of plastic to make a decent amount of kerosene sort of like melting snow for drinking water. But if you have plenty of trash and a need for heating/cooking fuel……. Hard on vehicles from what he said.

        1. NHM,
          I read an article about a fellow in Bosnia, that’s why I made the comment. I guess it is more like cracking oil (fractional distillation) where you break down a complex molecule into lighter ones. Booze distilling would be driving off alcohol from a mash. Not the same, but similar. My point is this is a basic physical process that might be good to know about. Bet you visit to Bosnia was real interesting.

        2. Very Interesting as in Chinese Curse. I saw a lot that I would like to forget and it affects how I view the world. Folks get NASTY when rule of law is gone and basic needs of food and shelter are unmet. Folks that survive get real TRIBAL in those situations. Thus I try to tell the lone wolves and my family is all I need folks to get Tribal before disaster strikes. As the Bible says “Better a friend nearby than a family far away”.

        3. I would be very hesitant in regards to burning plastic for fuel or fuel derived from plastic. One of the thing patients in house fires and smoke inhalation are checked for is cyanide poisoning. It is a byproduct of plastic combustion and there are many plastics in house fires.

      2. Minerjim and Bogan
        When you live in northern Idaho, the feds always think you are a militant person running around in white sheets. Political winds change on a dime but records on file about you stay forever.

        1. When I mined in Northern Idaho, many moons ago, it was like a different country. We always knew when the Feds were coming to town days in advance……cards games were gone, gambling gone, and I am told the brothels were locked in Wallace.
          Glad I was not too foolish back then. You are right, records last forever.

  20. I don’t think this was mentioned…
    We’ll need a Dentist or simply an excellent teeth puller! There will not be any sedatives or novacaine. They will need to be fast and perfect,
    I just can’t stand the thought… but, I guess we have to. Maybe I read it here that the number one reason for suicides, before modern dentistry, was due to teeth pain. Yikes!

    1. For the most part, alcohol was used as a sedative. Get someone drunk enough, they don’t care about the pain. Aftercare was almost non-existent, though. There are herbs that can be used as a local or general anesthetic.

    2. Gently bite down on a whole clove….used to treat pain and anti-bacterial
      for tooth pain (until you can get to a good dentist if there is one)
      I use clove essential oil for making a dental rinse 1-2 drops per 1/2 to a 1/3 cup water

    3. Needing a dentist and not being able to find one has always been my biggest fear. Being from the mountains of NC I have often heard of “tooth jumpers”. From what I understand a “tooth jumper” could take a type of chisel and hammer and pop that tooth right out with very little pain. It was considered a trade in olden days. I doubt that anyone could do it now. Has fallen by the wayside like so many other crafts.

      1. I’ve had a little help removing teeth over the years, usually with a fist or foot, so the easy-to-get ones are long gone. I have been pulling my own teeth these past years as I’ve gotten older and they’ve gotten looser. I’d like to know more about these “tooth jumpers”. Thanks for the post.

        CD in Oklahoma

        1. Google “tooth jumping North Carolina miscellany”. The article I read is in “These Storied Mountains” by John Parris.

      2. veggies,
        I’ve never heard of a tooth jumper. I have family in NC mountains, but I live near the coast. Doing research on this will be fun and I appreciate your “jumping” in with the info! :)

  21. Well, not to be a “chit disturber”,
    but being skilled at harvesting/growing those plants useful for TP (Lamb’s ear?) would rate right up there with many…..

  22. Ken,
    thought I would mention I know there are other sites that have electronically uploaded old books. FB has uploaded something like 700K+ titles, all old ( 100 year old or so or more) . there are a lot of titles there that cover grassroots technologies, many of which are on your list. I bought a lifetime membership five years ago for like $65, which allows me to download 10 titles a month, for life! I also believe that they have the ability to print hard copies for a reasonable price too. Might be a good source of ‘old’ but very useful information.

  23. I don’t know too much but could survive for a few years of hardship – most of the urban the youth of today have not had the opportunity to learn any life skills. Even my kids refused to learn the basics of construction, gardening, raising small animals for food, ….. I’m kind of glad that I am as old as I am. I really do not want to see the suffering if the crap does happen.

    1. Know what HermitUs?
      Kids retain what they learn, even if they don’t show it.
      Me for one and my son, as an other example. I was scared $”itless for my boy, but he sees. He is learning.
      I’ve learned. We have all learned in our own due time….so to speak.
      I believe if your kids have ever watched you in any of your projects, they have retained ‘some’ knowledge…..thru you.
      Let’s all hope for the best..
      Lord knows we did.the best we could. Only a parent once.

    2. hermit us

      your comment reminded me of a famous saying that seemed to go…. ” don’t mess with old people, for they are probably smarter than you, AND they really dont give a flying fig anymore”

      1. NRP
        It has taken people like us a lifetime to learn the skills we need – some think they will just jump in and accomplish everything they must do to survive. You can watch someone build a structure in a week and when they try it – two months later they finally ask for assistance. You can watch that old guy walking from the river with a line of nice fish – but when they bring out their fancy equipment – not a bite. I could go on but I think you get my drift.

        1. Ohh my
          I wish I was so God-like as such.
          Ones own opinion can be so ridiculed..
          Just wanted to throw that out there.
          Mom’s sayins
          Don’t know why it came up????

        2. Curious comment Joe c

          When I was younger I was quite thin skinned. Life’s School of Hard Knocks toughened me up quite a bit. I try to listen to everybody as even a fool might drop a gem of wisdom.

          A fishing tid bit for those that can learn. Fish like to eat. That flashy spinner is to fool the fish that your baited hook is dinner. Kids like to Catch Not Fish. So when I take kids out to fish a few days before I put a tin of cat food there with holes in it. Kids can almost catch with a bare hook then.
          Not sporting but effective. Your mileage may vary.

        3. Joe c
          Please tell me if there was something in my comment that offended you. As someone that has supervised many construction crews, an officer in the fire service, and in younger years a manager in retail, you soon learn how to teach others and which ones do not wish to learn. There is nothing better than helping someone that wants to learn, tries, admits mistakes, and hangs in until the job is finished.

        4. NHMichael,
          That works good for catching crabs too, lots of times they can get out of the net if the bait comes apart too easily or the net lays wrong, but if you poke a hole through the cat food can and a few other holes and tie it into the net they keep working on that can trying to get at the cat food,,, locally that works for catching all sorts of other stuff, eels and such in shallow tide pools, we got a morey eel in a little tiny tode pool when i was a kid, it was a frightening sight seeing that 6′ long 40# eel slither over the rocks to get into the pool, razor sharp teeth,,,

  24. When I was looking for things to learn to do for enjoyment I wanted to do something that was useful. I took up weaving and spinning. I can go from sheep to shawl or blanket etc. It could prove to be an important skill.
    Also homesteading on raw land has proven to be a learning experience. We built a cabin without electric, and when electric did come, wired the house. (hate pulling wire and shingling) We witched our well- it works, gardened in a very inhabitable place and even figured out a way to build an indoor orchard. My husband is a telecommunication engineer so he is good at engineering and communication.
    I think a skill many people don’t seem to have is to be able to learn from books. So many say you have to show me, i can’t learn from reading. Learning from people is great but someday we may not have a choice,

    1. Old Chevy
      I have seen some beautiful inlaid patterns and pictures in wood cabinet doors, passage doors and tables. So good a work that I could not come anywhere near that perfection. I met one one hermit up north that did carving on a small scale – he handed me a wood block a little bigger than a deck of cards and told me to open it – what I said because I could not find an opening anywhere. He then tapped the side and to my amazement, it was a box with a deck of cards inside. Talent is everywhere but patience and skill are a must.

  25. Wow Ken, hope that you’re not on Mr. Washington! Just read that it’s supposed to get down to -100! Stay warm! Added skill, blanket weaver/maker.

  26. When I was growing up my Dad had a shoe “last” and would repair our shoes. He had pieces of leather and shoe tacks on hand. We were quite poor and we would wear our shoes until the bottom wore holes in them. When we outgrew them we would pass them down to a younger brother or sister. There were 8 siblings so there was no way we could just go to the store and buy new shoes. We also had to keep them oiled to keep the leather from cracking. I still have his “last’. Now we have many pairs of shoes but it might still be a good trade to have depending on the length of time of “shtf”.

  27. Very good comments today. Just started again a skill I had dropped for a number of years. Darning socks. With good cold weather socks costing $10 to $20 I figured I might as well save some money. 1st sock was pretty slow but by the 3rd one I was getting much faster & neater. Us ancient ones know quite a few skills because we had to but with modern day cheap stuff we have got rusty on quite a few of them. As with the darning it does come back faster than the 1st time we learned the skill. Hope all you easterners are well in the storm. We on the prairies at the same time had several days close to -40 so that sure ate up the wood. We start each winter with 3 yrs in the shed so even if we have to dip into next years wood we will be fine.


    I think practicing this now May save lives later


  29. Well Ken,

    it appears your list is making some of us feel inadequate in our skills at present time. I am pretty sure that was not your purpose.

    I am with Shepherdess in that I am a fan of and product of the Trade School system within the United States. I was lucky enough to have been spotted as a smart kid while in such programs and have been tutored and introduced to people in several different middle-income careers during my working life. I eventually ended up with a degree in economics which will never land me a job at Lehman Brothers but it gave me the long vision to scan for things that are doomed to fail or things that have potential to take off. ( Trend Spotting.)

    Along these lines, I would like to put a plug in for the California system of Community Colleges. ( their motto: We put California to work.). Many of my other hobbies were a side line to my primary job at the time. ( knowing how to hunt and fish successfully allowed me to be much more effective as a ranger when I was in Law Enforcement. Reloading my own ammunition was key to winning long distance rifle matches. Learning to cook was very helpful with a portion of wild game meat I never ate before. Spending time tracking poachers through the brush had me mending my own uniform with needle and thread when I got back to base. )

    Many skills mentioned also complement each other like creating a water purification system will be the basis of a field kitchen and food processing area. ( and also a hand washing station for the field hospital.). The only two areas within a field camp that has refrigerators are the hospital and the kitchen.

    I truly hope there is not a reset of apocalyptic scale as we would all lose in a big way. ( if we do not lose or suffer, our family members would.) But the last recession of 2008 resulted in many people with minimal “hard skills” with advanced degrees in fine arts or financial management were the “mass casualties” along with the people who lost their homes. I have been fortunate to have gone to work and collect my paycheck through at least 3 recessions since the days I was in my first trade school over 30 years ago.

    And I did that without a Masters Degree.

  30. To old lady:

    Some things can not be learned from books. Some of us are called: “Tactile learners” in that we learn best from actually doing it ourselves rather than watching a you tube video or reading a book. ( visual learner ) or listening to a lecture or recording ( auditory learner )
    2 skills that come to mind are: teaching somebody to cast their own lead bullets and carmelizing onions, it can be difficult to describe getting the temperature just right and when to stop the process so I personally like to show somebody the first time then I turn them loose to make a batch on their own under my supervision. Having a few failures is part of the learning process. ( lead can be remelted, the onions may give you a tummy ache.)

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