Skills I Never Expected I’d Have to Learn

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by J. G. Martinez

As preppers we try to teach others the skills they need to be more self-reliant. Even the most self-sustained preppers out there know that knowledge is the most valuable preparedness tool there is.

During these couple of years that I’ve been (almost) on my own I had to learn skills I never expected I’d have to learn. Some of them very interesting. Like dehydrating food. And other skills, like sewing. (Ugh) Those readers who follow writings of my (or ours, kiddo and mine)  ” adventure” know that I’m not precisely skillful with my hands.   

Here are the skills I never expected I’d have to learn.

Dehydrating Staples

You may ask why dehydrating was a “needed skill.” Remember, I don’t have a fridge. We need to have some means to preserve meat and have proteins for a few days. Canned fish is awful here. Besides, they have all the fresh fish they want! Canned poultry and meat are much worse. (Red meat is hyper-expensive).

After trying a few recipes, I found the exact one to provide a tastier and long-lasting product. I could buy it in the market, but I am suspicious of the sanitation of the place. With all the small shops closed on Sundays (the day I use to have some red meat at lunch!), the need to learn was evident. 

The temptation to prepare powdered eggs is there, but I don’t want to use up my gas bottle. Getting a new one will open a hole in my pocket. We should be heading home in a short while, so there’s no need to spend that money. Meals cooked with dehydrated vegetables are pretty tasty! Dry fruits are excellent for “Merenda” (in Italian) or snacks in the afternoons.  

Daisy has several articles about dehydrating things like oranges, tomatoes, and even holiday leftovers!

Cooking Healthier and Tastier Meals

As a single man until 2001, I was never interested in cooking. Eating healthy was only somewhat of a priority. Venezuela is a cattle country. We eat lots of cheese and red meat. I went decades without cooking beans and white rice until kiddo came to live with me. Now, healthier, tastier meals are on the menu for us. 

With a few videos, a folder of simple recipes, and the assistance of my little helper, we enjoy cooking our mealsfather-son quality time. We were apart for too much time already. I have just a tiny fishing knife and the tiniest cutting polymer board I found. Also, I have a battered aluminum frying pan and a good-quality stainless pot. The pan won’t make it to Venez. Probably not the pot either. However, it was not cheap, and if weight allows it, the pot will go.

I learned that even a simple sandwich could be a satisfying meal with a bit of seasoning. Kiddo was pleasantly surprised when I prepared him grilled sandwiches. I fried an egg to add to his sandwich with some herbs. Before getting my borrowed gas stove, I cooked in a makeshift “rocket stove.” He loved the sandwich. 

Roasted peppers are incredibly delicious by the way. I prepared some cheese arepas, adding the roasted peppers. You should have tasted it. Dang. And just a few cents. My kid told me several times he wants to open a restaurant someday. I told him, “Sure, after you get your college degree.” 

Sewing Skills

Taking care of clothes is something we Latino males usually don’t even consider. God forbid your friends suddenly arrive home with a case of beer and catch you sewing a pair of socks, some underwear, or your favorite trousers. But unexpected accidents like a rip in the crotch of my jeans suddenly made me see why this was a need. You can save a lot of money by sewing socks instead of throwing them away and getting new ones.

As I don’t have a sewing machine here, this is a steep learning curve. Tutorials help. But for someone with less than stellar mechanical abilities, it’s challenging. Note: Learn while you still have good vision, fellows. Those with more patience and willingness to learn may get an extra income working upholstery, refurbishing old car seats and furniture.

Basic Plumbing Skills

We all know how much a plumber charges, don’t we? 

Maintaining a functional home is hard work. (To some of you youngsters out there who have not decided to buy one yet, remember that.) When you own a home, no matter what, you will get to a point where something needs fixing. Inevitably, something will happen with your pipes or roof, and you will not have money to fix it. And these needed repairs will arrive much quicker if you have kids. 

Cleaning a plugged pipe. Nasty, gross, will make you puke but will save you $$$ and will avoid a potential disaster. Make sure to get some tools to attach to an electric hand drill or some others more complete:  Plumbing Snake Drain Clog Remover Tools 3/4 “-2” Pipes. (I suggest going with an unpowered version.) Be sure to wear a face shield, disposable gloves, and a mask. It’s a good idea to watch a few tutorials, too. Oh, and a few incense sticks. 

Daisy offers some great tips on what to do if the toilet won’t flush. She even tells you how to make a Kitty-Litter-Potty.

Basic Roof Repair

Disclaimer: Roofing can be dangerous. Make sure you don’t do anything foolish.

I had to replace a few boards on my roof, and it wasn’t easy at all. However, with some help from my older kiddo, it was doable. I couldn’t install the weathering layer because I didn’t have the needed equipment. After watching the guy and the kid he brought with him do it, I realized it wasn’t hard. I decided it was something I could do with a bit of practice.

Our roofs are pretty simple: just a board with grooves and tabs in the edges that are put together side by side and adjusting to one another. You don’t need complicated stuff in the tropics. What you do need is suitable quality materials to avoid leaking. I’ve done some research, and I found a combination perfect for stormy places. A layer of thick PVC cover, glued to the wooden roof and covered with a special paint we use, with aluminum powder. It reflects sunlight instead of absorbing it, heating and cracking itself. Doing this myself saved me a lot of money on roof repairs.

Basic Electrical Skills

With this, I mean fundamental skills. My dad is an electrician, but I never had a particular interest in that field. However, knowing how to join cables, tape them, weld, and learn about AC (for homes) and DC (cars and bikes, mostly) are good skills to have. It’s beneficial to know how to change an outlet, where the main protection switches are, and route a burned-out wire into the wall conduit. It requires a special tool to get the new electric wire inside the conduit and take it to the outlet you need. It is not expensive though.

It’s essential to learn about your solar system, vehicles, and house wiring. Not necessarily how to repair it, but how it all works. That way, if a problem arises, you are more capable of identifying it. A small assortment of special tools is needed. And, of course, gloves, safety glasses, and isolator boots. 

In case there is more to the issue than just a faulty wire, here’s a guide that will help you handle a power outage.

Gardening 

I have to acknowledge this. In my entire life, I have grown very few things. Going back to the Homestead to make a living out of 2000 square meters of rocky land and limited income (plus a child to support) is going to be an adventure. Homesteading isn’t easy, but as Erica reveals in her book, it can be done successfully.

My previous experience with growing something off the land was limited to strawberries. Yes, in the middle of the tropical forest, they rooted and thrived until my dad stopped taking care of them. The dang crickets ate them too. Mother has been composting for decades a small place, like a few square meters. That compost is one of the better ones I have ever seen. I’m sure it has something to do with the bacteria colony growing there. The decomposition speed is exceptionally high. 

Yes! You CAN grow stuff in the tropics

I do know you can grow plenty of stuff in the tropics if:

  • You have enough skills to sort of know what you’re doing
  • You have access to a water reservoir once the drought arrives

No need to worry about the sun as it is always abundant. With the limited amount of space, I read about the tire-growing approach. Knowing the hazards of using something not designed to be part of food production, I dug a little and found this: Is It Safe To Grow Potatoes In Tires? Tires have lead in their composition. 

However, this article details how tires can be used in raised beds. Whichever option I choose, I will combine it with liquid fertilizer and the one produced by a worm farm, and results should be decent.

Since many of you aren’t in the tropics, here’s an article from Joanna on how to grow a successful garden in (almost) any climate. The key is to plan and think ahead.

Bonus: Computing Skills

It’s not exactly my specialty, but my dependence on a computing system to make a living is extremely high. Tinkering with the operating system is not something I usually do, but recent events made me realize how important this is. Computers are now incredibly more complex than ever. But I feel like I reduced the former problems like freezing and slowing.

I incorporated basic maintenance tasks and some not-so-basic into my skill set. Not having money to pay for software repair forces you to dedicate time to learn these things. 

What are some skills you never expected you would have to learn?

Have you had to learn new skills that you never even considered? What was it like? Did you have a difficult time learning, or was it pretty easy? Share with other readers your newly acquired skills and how you gained them in the comments below.

With the Global Reset coming and possibly another pandemic, the times ahead will be rough. I will do what I can to show you if I can survive and thrive with only the help of a young kid, you could do much better. 

Stay tuned, people, and thanks for your always-welcomed support. God bless you all.

J.

About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151

Skills I Never Expected I\'d Have to Learn
J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151

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16 Responses

  1. Where to start?

    -Raising small, medium, and large livestock (books).

    -Fecal testing (web site).

    -Slaughtering and processing chickens, rabbits, hogs and turkeys (books).

    -Curing bacon and other meats (books).

    -Pasture management/management intensive grazing (books).

    -Using a European scythe to cut enough hay to feed 6 goats for 3 months (books).

    -Gardening (mostly books).

    -Knots (books).

    -Woodworking (books).

    -EMT/Wilderness EMT (adult continuing ed class/NOLS.

    -Basic Firefighter (community academy).

    -Marine Corps stuff (too many to list).

    Don’t know if you could tell or not, but I learned a lot from reading books. But reading books will only get you partly to real knowledge. Where the real rubber meets the road is in practical application. And not just one and done. Each time my process and techniques got a little better. Other aspects, I liked something different than what was in the book. Cognac cured bacon is pretty dang good.
    People tend to gravitate towards things that interest them, not a bad thing. But we also need to learn skills that while may seem mundane, could be practical in a post-SHTF world. Jose mentions sewing. That is something I need to learn.
    I look at it as what would my Prepper Resume look like in regards to Food, Water, Shelter, and Security?
    Then identify the short comings in my Resume and address them.

  2. Great article, Jose! I’m with you- sewing is the bane of my existence, but I can manage a straight seam and can repair clothes.

    Here’s my list:

    Darning wool socks, helping with the delivery of baby goats, raising steer for meat, irrigating fields, caring for all manner of livestock, first aid skills for both humans and animals, using YouTube to figure out how to repair almost anything (Ha!), homeschooling, cooking or baking in a solar oven, using a rocket stove, dehydrating veggies and fruits, pressure canning, making and keeping a fire in a wood stove (sounds easy…not so much!), and making do with what we have, which requires a measure of creativity.

    1. Der Fina,
      I used the good connection in Peru to collect a huge amount of videos about whatever I believed I could need. Files, and tons of ideas and useful projects. I will be writing and uploading videos to my channel.
      Stay tuned!

  3. Jose,

    Another great article! Some of mine:

    Self-aid and buddy care ( military speak for first aid)
    Snowshoeing
    Snaring wild animals
    Dressing out said animals

    I was blessed to grow up in a house where gardening and preserving food was considered normal, as well as having other preps. Mostly what the military taught me was a gift on top of those skills.

    1. Dear GhostViking,

      That´s great to know. Most of Latin American/South American people don´t have a clue about food preservation. Fridges and chain supermarkets finished with any initiative. Even country people buys canned food, instead of salting or sun-drying.

  4. The skills I thought to learn were hunting, skinning, processing the animal, and then turning that meat into sausages, etc. Add in trapping and snaring.

    Intellectually I knew these were good skills to have but I’d never had an opportunity to develop them. When a friend asked if I wanted to go hunting I jumped at the chance. Until I actually shot my first deer I wasn’t even sure I could do it outside of a survival situation. As it turns out I am able to shoot them.

    Hunting has taught me that I have lots of patience – I can wait for the proper time to take the shot to ensure that it is quick and as painless as possible for the animal. It’s taught me that I don’t have “Buck Fever” – getting do excited that I take bad shots or make mistakes.

    It’s also taught me that I’m a damn good tracker and the rest of our hunting group need to leave the tracking to me. This was a really nice surprise. Some good books and videos showed me the techniques and some of the tricks.

    My grand parents lived through the Great Depression and had a huge impact on me. I learned how hard it could be, that it made sense to have extra food around, how to fix and mend things.

    I can sew by hand and have everything I need for that, but that can take a lot of time sew a shirt. I have two treadle sewing macines and a hand crank one as well (a lot more portable). My two favorite sewing machines are my grandmother’s 1950s era and another similar aged one.

    1. Dear Thaylore,
      That´s great to know. Wildlife in most of Latin America, I think, has diminished to levels that make almost impossible to hunt. But something has to be understood, topography and weather is different. Much easier to raise cattle for meat than hunting deer.

  5. I learned to shoot at 14. I cook, sew-make my own patterns, know tailoring, own 6 normal electric sewing machines, one commercial leather sewing machine that could make jackets, sew boot tops, or make thick multi layer denim items. I’m restoring the wood on a good treadle sewing machine. I aIso repair and maintain sewing machines. I pressure and waterbath can. I have made solar dehydrators. I also knit and crochet, deliver babies, have set myown broken arm(1998), recently learned to do sutures and bought suture kits and a 100 blade scalpel kit, and have a good med kit put together. I raise rabbits, chickens, and ducks for eggs and meat, butcher both large and small animals, and make jerkey for snacks and for cooking. I grow fruits and vegetables. My heat is a rocket stove with a hopper set on for gravity fed pellets or wood chips, the heat collector is 16″ so I cook there all winter. Summer time cooking is on a homemade BBQ with wood or homemade charcoal. This summer I plan to build another horno for my baking. I have felled trees, split wood, et but doing less now. I’m 74, and a bout with Covid last spring almost took me out. I’m still recuperating. My husband has alzheimers so I care for him and work alone on the place. We lived most of a year on thing set back in previous years. Rebuilding that store again. I didn’t garden last year. I even lost my house plants when I was so sick. With careful planning we could do it again. I’ve have dried and canned and bought all I can. I canned most of the holiday ham and turkey. Made bone broth and some turkey vegetable soup. Without electricity so no refrigeration most of last year. I’ve set up enough power for the fridge, tv, and a lamp. I’ve been buying up solar supplies a little at a time and 2 books on the subject. About ready to put full solar power on the home, a well, power in 2 shop buildings- sewing, and the woodshop. Simple lights in a third shed. I’ll have to make my frames for the solar array and a small building to hold the charge controllers, inverters, and batteries. Doing several separate smaller set ups rather than one big set up. If one goes down we won’t be without power. I’ve been buying the bigger items at auction. I won a bid on 20, 270w Canadian solar panels. Delivery was almost as much as the panels. But it still worked out cheap. I won bids on several deepcycle batteries. I out right bought some also. All matching batteries. I have 9 so far. The woodshop and the commercial sewing machine that needs 220v will use a lot of power on the rare occasions they are used. Home is usually low use. Fridge is the single biggest user in the home.
    I spend carefully, buy with planning, keep learning…..
    The solar array and instalations will be my biggest project to do alone. Not too shabby for great grandma. Still more I want to do or learn to do.

    1. Dear clergylady,

      Your approach is great. Small steps and escalating your systems as money comes around, is going to make much easier your preps. For sure, it´s purely experience and knowledge talking through you.
      Awesome!
      Just reading your comments makes me happy, proud and lucky all at the same time!

  6. As a kid I learned to forage with Mom, built things with Dad once I could drive a nail straight. At 5 I was nailing off wallboard on the lower part of the walls on construction jobs. I built my own tree house. Dad had to inspect it for safety. I was 5. I learned to build a home from foundation to shingles. I’ve helped build 9 churches, 3 pastors homes and myown church and repaired my repo mobile home. I bought the repo ,”as is” 3 years ago.
    A church program for kids offered the chance to earn patches much like scouting. I earned patches in knots, trail blazing, direction finding, tracking, camp craft, camp cooking, auto mechanics and much more. It was fun but really gave life skills I still use. One year the church program took us to the state fair for the opening day parade. We marched as a team. I was in the color guard. I displayed art work and won 2 blue ribbons that year.
    Growing up with parents who were adults during the depression and a grandmother born on a farm in 1877 made it seem natural to do many things by hand and gardening and canning or sun drying were just a regular way of life. I still live that way. I still use great grandmas meat grinders and her cast iron round griddle, Moms hand cranked flour mill, and sometimes Dad old brace and bit from his Dad. I keep and use dads many hand planes also mostly inherited from his dad who was a carpenter. I have a small hand cranked coffee mill. The aroma of fresh ground coffee is almost better than a cup of coffee. I also learned to roast dandelion roots or chickery roots as coffee stretchers or substitutes. Folks who lived the old ways, survived the Great Depression or war time rationing were great teachers. They learned to make do, reuse, and use up everything. I collect old time cookbooks. Teens I know often get one of the cookbooks or construction books I’ve picked up as birthday gifts. Inlaws sons or daughters get more modern survival books. I still keep an older boy scout book, first aid and nursing books, 5 acres to Plenty- a book that laid out how to be self sustaining on five acres written in the 1940s. It taught gardening, building, animal husbandry and more. I kept Moms 1970s book on solar use. It had plant for a solar dehydrator Dad and I built together. How to figure the proper angle for greenhouse side windows to best warm by the sun for your longitude and latitude. Interesting things like building solar collectors and reflectors for making steam to pump water from a well or cook your food. When I was teaching 7th to 12th graders in a little school I used the plans to make a parabolic reflector to cook with. Cardboard construction covers in aluminum foil. It worked. I also showed them how my grandma used hay boxes to cook lunch for harvest crews on the apple farm where Mom grew up. She’d bring pots of stews up to a boil then wrap them in old quilts and nestle the bundles into wooden boxes filled with hay. Early slow cookers. She would drive the team to haul a sled with waxed runners, loaded with big baskets of apples to a cool storage shed. Just before meal time would go back to make biscuits to go with the stew in the summer kitchen. She’d make sure the stew was done then set the pots on the wood stove to reheat to boiling and stay warm whiIe the biscuits baked. Then slice up tomatoes and whatever else she picked from the garden the night before. She served other things beside stew but that meat was a favorite. She would work a few more hours driving the team then go home to fry up potatoes and meat and bake a fruit desert of somekind. While the desert baked and food stayed hot on the stove top she gather eggs, harvest vegetables from the garden, set up to do laundry later. Often hanging clothes at dusk.
    Farm life isn’t easy. Doing things by hand was often slower. Work was dawn to dusk.
    Grandma built a stone spring house. Grandpa buiIt a smoke building where smoked meats were kept. They also salted down a barrel of pork and a barrel of yearling beef. They raised a few pigs for neat and a few cows mostly for milk and the barrel of beef for the winter. Grandma milked the cows for milk to sell and milk for the home. She churned butter, made cottage cheese et. They kept the home milk and butter in the cool springhouse. Eggs were kept there also. Winter eggs were stored in waterglass. Grandma was always the one who saved eggs for the new years cakes for church. she ran the winter home, raised 3 kids and waited on a complaining mother in law while Grandpa was away a lot making contracts with scattered country stores across New England. He took care of the apple business and planted and pruned trees.
    Homesteading must include some income as well as I roviding all you can for your family.

    1. Dear clergylady,

      Thanks for those insights, and for sharing your memories about how life was. You´re right. Farm life is not easy in any country. Hopefully, with a few modern techniques kiddo and I should be able to harvest a few staples to eat, preserve and sell out.

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