Do You Have the Skills to Survive a Depression?

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depressionAnswer yes or no to the following questions:

Easy skills level: 

  1. Do you know how to sew on a button?
  2. Do you know how to use an oil lamp?
  3. Do you know how to boil an egg?
  4. Do you know how to ride a bike?
  5. Do you know how to keep houseplants alive?

If you answered yes to all 5 move on to the next level.

Medium skills level:

  1. Do you know how to cut up a whole chicken?
  2. Do you know how to hem or fix a rip in clothing?
  3. Do you have a stocked first aid kit in your home?
  4. Do you know how to build and maintain a fire?
  5. Do you know how to cook and season dried beans?

If you answered yes to any of the 5, move on to the next level.

Hard skills level:

  1. Do you know how to grown your own vegetables?
  2. Do you know how to use a pattern and sew your own clothes?
  3. Do you know how to can fruits and vegetables?
  4. Do you know how to start a fire without matches?
  5. Do you know how to raise chickens?
  6. Do you have a fully prepared emergency kit in your home?
  7. Do you own and know how to use a gun?
  8. Do you or does someone in the home know how to fish and hunt?
  9. Do you have a well-stocked pantry?
  10. Do you know how to make a quilt?
  11. Do you know how to bake bread from scratch?
  12. Do you know CPR and basic first aid skills?
  13. Do you have the physical ability to ride a bike?
  14. Do you know how to purify water for drinking?
  15. Do you know how to cook in a dutch oven with charcoal?

If you answered yes to all in this level, congratulations! You will survive. If you passed the easy and medium levels but failed the hard level not to worry. You are teachable. A Boy Scout learns 99% of these skills!

Contributed by Lisa Todd

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I'm the original Survival Mom and for more than 11 years, I've been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more with my commonsense prepping advice.

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58 thoughts on “Do You Have the Skills to Survive a Depression?”

  1. The only one I would not pass is no. 2 on sewing clothes! Ha ha I could do it but I would look really awful 😉

    Great post! Very informative!

    1. I actually know how to sew and am pretty good with it! I didn't realize how few people had sewing skills. I must have been a really good student in my 8th grade Home Ec class!

      1. My aunt Ruth showed me how to darn socks with a light bulb a good depression era adult trick and she gave my family her button collection thousands and thousands of buttons she and my grandmother grew up on a farm in Nebraska so they were pretty well versed for life as young adults during the great depression I don’t believe I have their skill level but I was a Boy Scout with a troop that had a specialty for light weight backpacking and wilderness survival skills my father was our Scout Master U.S. Marine Recon Korea & Viet Nam and our Assistant Scout Master was a Screaming Eagle 101st Airborne Viet Nam Era so we got really good at surviving with very little. One more thing Lisa I love you site and I have seen you here in AZ speaking and have an autographed copy of your book I also have a great respect for you and what you have done for prepper’s and familie’s all over the world thank you so much for bringing information that is responsible to all.

  2. Those of us who know how to sew and cook really need to pass on those skills to others! I am also trying each month to learn a new skill. Last month I really worked on baking bread…put on extra pounds while learning! This month I am working to get more physically fit. If I had to run for my life right now, would not get far!

    1. Hey Lisa….I guess even guys could make a quilt so how about doing a list of what skills would be important for men around the house of a lady with all the skills you mentioned. What would women want these men to be good at?

  3. Need to take a CPR and First Aid class and get into better shape…otherwise I'm surprised how well I did!

    BTW ~ I haven't cut a pattern and sewn an outfit since home educ. class, my sophomore year in h.s. I'm sure it would come back to me. 😉

    I do enjoy quilting. It's wonderful for keeping your hands busy in the evenings.
    (My precious husband insisted I stockpile a king size pattern. He even chose the fabric for me!)
    Everyone should stockpile their hobby: quilting, painting, reading, etc. May help keep your sense of identity!

    1. I agree about stockpiling your hobby! I buy books at library book sales but save them for later. I also have yarn and fabric.

    2. Now I feel less guilty about stock piling patterns and fabric and other craft stuff. I can do most of the things on the list. I have never had to light a fire without matches but I know the basics that is one thing I need to practice. Guns are very hard to get here and very very expensive. I work at a library and people donate old books. When ever old text books come in I buy them.

  4. I haven't built a fire in over 20 years, but was VERY active in GSUSA. DH started one in a new fire pit we bought for the patio. After a few minutes I took over when it went out and restarted it. I was actually really annoyed when I tried to use the plastic lighter and went back in for REAL (fireplace) matches. As I was coaxing it to life, I found myself really wishing I had some fir sticks, but it wasn't worth the effort at that point. And the lint filled egg cartons were a definite help! At any rate, my point is that some of this stuff sticks better than you realize. 🙂

    At our house, we can check off a lot of those and are working on a lot of the rest. We'll probably try to get a chicken coop over the summer so we can start keeping chickens. We just planted more berry bushes in front yard and within a few years should (fingers crossed) be getting lots of several different kinds of berries. Veggie and herb gardens to be planted soon.

  5. This makes me soooo thankful I was reared in the country by a mom who could sew and garden and raise chickens and do all sorts of things I took for granted at the time. She tried (unsuccessfully, she thought) to pass her skills on to me. Now she's amazed that a lot of it "stuck". I quilt and sew passably well. There are some great patterns now that don't require doing hard things like zippers. I garden and put up my own produce. I hunt and fish and know how to shoot. I have a flock of chickens and am soon buying rabbits. Also milk goats, for cheese and butter. I make sourdough bread weekly. I have a year's stockpile of food, along with six months of toiletries and cleaning supplies and medicines and stationary items. I have sewing supplies. All this, and I still don't feel ready. It's like a rabbit hole. Once you go in, you find more and more to do, but I'll keep at it because every bit adds more security to my family.

    1. I'm impressed by how much you can do and how much closer you are to prepared than most of us! We're still working on most of this, but at least we've made progress. Unlike too many people out there. You go girl!

    2. I know what you mean about the rabbit hole. The more I know, the more I feel like I need to learn. I feel fortunate too, for having a mother who raised me right.

    3. LInda, what great skills! I hope you’ve passed your skills off to the youngsters in your family and extended family.
      You are fortunate to live in an area where you have the land and resources to accomplish these goals- and parents to share these skills with you.

      I think people are waking up to the fact that the world’s economies are volatile and these old skills may make a difference in our lives.
      I appreciate your post, and has given this small time gal some goals to shoot for!
      Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. I have some ideas running thru my head for the guys in the family….Do you know how to dig a well and hook up a hand pump for water? Do you know how to patch a roof? Do you know how to skin a rabbit? Hmmmm….will have to work on this list.

    1. Lisa, how about if I post the question to all the gals reading this blog and see what they have to say. Go ahead and work on your list, we'll post it, and everyone can compare notes!

        1. Nancy in Alberta

          I’d like to learn those skills for myself! I’d like to know about electronics, and small engines, for starters, and how to sub out stuff to fix them.

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  8. I don't know much about raising chickens but I think the rest is good. As a kid I learned to sew and crochet as well as most cooking skills. Boy Scouts taught me the rest. I learned as an adult leader. Go volunteer with them, you will not just get to learn the skills but use them too. I won high praises as my patrol cook at Wood Badge. …I used to be and Antelope….

  9. yep – i can do all … had a bit more of a gap on the one you posted for guys (how i came across this blog).

    Great blog, looking forward to browsing through it.

  10. raising chickens: obtain chickens, contain them if needed, provide safe nighttime shelter, feed them and never let them run out of water. I feed my girls scratch and laying pellets. they come running when they hear my voice and give me 3-4 eggs a day ( I have 4 chickens). they perch on top of the 6 foot tall coup I have so I have to clean poop off of it rather than out of it but I can't get them to sleep inside unless I trim their wings. the cat loves to hang out in the back yard and watch 'chicken TV' but the chickens have made it clear who's boss so she doesn't EVEN think of hunting them. lol

    1. It's amazing that raising chickens has become something of a fad. Here in the Phoenix area there are classes offered by the Phoenix Permaculture Guild on raising urban chickens!

  11. Survival Girl

    We had to learn to sew in 2nd grade, so I have that down. Thank God for rural schooling. My only 'no' was a dutch oven. My great grandmother can cook on one, though.

  12. survival girl get 1 learn how to use it and you never need a kitchen agin i have 12 of them, love to cook in them.find a boy scout to teach you. its not hard. if you can cook in a kitchen you can cook in a dutch.

  13. My 71 year old wife shoots the 5-10 rattlesnakes yearly around the house. It's my job to feed them to the crawdads. You get used to it. We leave the rest of the snakes alone to eat gophers and rats.

  14. Heh looks like we’ll survive too 🙂 my girlfriend has definitely told me I was born in the wrong century before! Only thing on that list I don’t know how to do is raise chickens (though I really want to, I love chickens! Petting them, eating them :9 ) I’m hoping I could muddle through, tho I feel knowing how to build a fortified chicken coop would be a worthy skill to have first!

  15. Looks like I would be okay but have a few areas to improve on greatly. Starting a fire without matches, canning, raising chickens and sewing these are my down fall.
    I can get started on 3 of these four and need to convince my husband about the chickens. Wish me luck 🙂

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  17. Sewing…’s always the sewing that gets me lol;) I can attach a button & that’s about it. I loved home ec 8th grade because of the sewing but you’d never know it because I can’t seem to remember a bit of it. I’ve taught myself to garden, can food, make soap, & many other things I never thought I could do but for some reason sewing absolutely alludes me.

  18. I lack only four items in the hard level. But I think I get bonus points for making clothing without a pattern. And for making cloth “sheep to shawl”.

  19. Sew your own clothes? I have bolts of fabric from the thrift store, boxes of patterns, and spools of thread. What I am lacking is a treadle machine. If I have to hand sew because the power is down, it’s going to be a long, arduous process with a lot of swearing.

    Canning fruit, absolutely. Vegetables? Nooo, not unless I pickle them.

    A fire without matches? Sure, as long as it is daytime. Nighttime, I know how to strike flint and steel but haven’t in a long time. Daytime though is easy with a magnifying glass (even if it is overcast). If you don’t have a magnifying glass handy but it’s winter, you can make a curved dome out of ice that does the same trick. You can pull a chunk from any puddle and roughly rasp it with a stone. To smooth it, you can use the heat from your hand (which I don’t recommend) or a metal spoon. Yep, you can polish ice with the backside of a metal spoon. Fun fact, when I’m casting jewelry a final polish with a spoon is one of the neat tricks to use on silver pieces. It helps take it to that glossy shine.

    Chickens? Nope. Well I have books on how to, but I personally don’t have any on the property nor have I ever raised in any.

    Med kit? Yeah. We have livestock, and live half an hour from the vet and an hour from a hospital. Vet/med skills are a good thing.

    Gun? This is actually my New Year’s Resolution. I have and know how to shoot a bow, but I have never fired a firearm in my life. I plan to change that this year.

    Fish? Yes. Hunt? Not yet.

    Pantry? Stocked, but can it ever be stocked enough? 😛

    Quilt? Yeah. By hand even. Huh, I wonder if I could make a quilt batted with dog hair. We have enough of them (sooo many dogs).

    Bread? Oh yeah. For anyone who doesn’t, I highly recommend trying cornbread first, since you don’t need yeast.

    CPR? Been a few years since I was certed but I should still be good to go.

    Bike? Yeeees, although I’m not sure if we have a bike anymore *cough*.

    Purify water? Yep.

    Cook in a dutch oven with charcoal? No. But I do know how to cook in and on a smoker with charcoal or wood. A wood/charcoal smoker is -awesome- when the power is out.

    I would like to throw a few more out there:

    Do you know how to make soap?
    Do you know how to make candles?
    Do you have basic carpentry skills and supplies?
    Do you have basic metalworking skills? You’d be surprised how easy it is to make a clasp out of a single piece of wire, or file a piece of wire to a point (handy for a lot of things!), or even build a reflector oven out of a piece of aluminum and some wire. I promise, it’s not scary to use pliers and a hammer. There’s a lot you can do without getting anywhere near a forge. Copper wire is cheap and easy to practice with.
    Can you dye stuff using plants from your garden?
    Can you make any kind of medicine from your garden? For example; oregano tea for coughs, aloe vera for burns, yarrow salve for cuts and stings, etc.
    Can you milk an animal?
    Have you ever tried brining and smoking any meat for preserving? Making your own beef jerky and smoked steelhead is delicious and way cheaper than buying it.
    Do you know how to make paper? What about ink? Bonus points if the ink is from your own backyard.
    Have you ever made butter in a mason jar? Yogurt in a thermos? Ice cream in a bucket?
    Can you ride an animal?
    Can you make charcoal?
    Have you ever made pottery? Clay, water, and a bonfire can lead to a lot of fun.

  20. Other than raising chickens, I think I have the rest of the lists down. I not only can make my own clothes but I can make patterns if need be. I also make my own soap, candles, I can weave. I have the kids for spinning if we end up with sheep. Both boy children have wood working and metal working skills from Boy Scouts. And all the children can cook on an open fire with cast iron. Medieval Reenactment allows for learning so many useful skills. I think the next one I’ll be learning is beekeeping.

    1. Jen… my husband and I were Civil War re-enactors for 10 years and we have all the tentage, equipment, and cast iron that we acquired. We still use the cast iron every day. I learned to make peach cobbler in a dutch oven one weekend and how to bake a pie in a dutch oven. The cobbler didn’t look like any peach cobbler I had ever seen, but boy howdy was it good. We learned how to make hard tack, and other things. We have a gas stove, so when the electric goes out, I can still cook, just have to light the burners by hand. One of the gals from the The Society for Creative Anachronism taught me how to use a drop spindle and use a table loom. I don’t remember a lot, but I think it would come back. My mom taught me how to can when I was small. My grandmother taught me how to hand sew button holes and darn socks. With all that said, I don’t think I could can over an open fire, nor bake anything special over an open fire either. I would survive I am sure, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

  21. Wonderful list of things to be aware of. Only have one question, I do not understand How CPR is going to help. Face facts, you are in a survival situation, help is miles away, or three days out, are you going to do CPR for that length of time, doubtful, accept the fact that there are things you cannot control. First aid, YES but up to levels, do you have the materials to sew up a wound. YES a boy scout should have learned most of these skill and have enough common sense to improvise.

  22. I passed everything except knowing how to raise chickens – but my husband could teach me. I’m surprised by how many of my friends admit they have never done any of these! Now I’m adding skills, such as making candles and soap and learning how to preserve meat without refrigeration. Good post!

  23. I passed everything except knowing how to raise chickens – will have to get my hubby to teach me that one. I’m amazed by how many of my friends have no idea how to do most of these skills! Now I’m learning new skills such as how to make my own candles and soap. Need to learn how to preserve meat without refrigeration. Good post!

  24. Dang, this is a great list and all the suggestions were great. Chickens are a breeze– you can let them scratch in your garden but buying food for them might be limited.
    Man, I need to get myself some Boy Scout badge books!!!

    I was SCA and making felt from Sherpa wool is easy and quick way to make “fabric”.
    In drought area, water is a factor in growing even a modest garden. Rabbits are great protein – I’d skin it, but please some one else kill it.

    I would love to hear more extensive list so we can challenge ourselves to be the best we can be in any situation. Please keep your suggestions coming!

  25. Using a sewing pattern and quilting are my weaknesses uugg I hate sewing however I would mind learning how to quilt

  26. Some of your questions begin to elude to some of these rather important life-saving questions: 1) Do you know how dispose of human waste properly in order to prevent diseases like cholera? 2) How to dispose of dead bodies in emergency conditions? 3) Do you know how to properly give someone an injection with a hypodermic needle and administer fluids by an intravenous infusion? 4) Do you know where and how to build a shelter in the wilderness if you had to stay over night(s) and prevent hypothermia especially if you happened to get wet? 5) What is the most important thing for you to do in any survival situation? Answer: stay calm. 6) Do you know how to identify when someone is going into shock and how to prevent or control it?

    1. While most of us are planning for a great big type of SHTF situation…let it be known that it’s the rest of life that’s happening that’s likely going to get to you first. I mean things like heart disease, diabetes, cancers and car accidents which are happening to us all the time. As a prepper you must be just as concerned if not more concerned about all of these things as you should be in regards to the “Great SHTF”. Sometimes some of these things are outside of your control or might be a 50/50 sort of thing…just be mindful of your mind, body and spirit.

  27. Shucks! I almost had ’em all! I do not own knowledge of raising chickens nor have I ever sewn a quilt. :-\ My SO wants to get 25 cornish cross chickies so maybe he’ll teach me this year about chickens.

  28. Some people know that I am a bit of a prepper and they laugh. I worry because they don’t prep. Sorry. You ain’t coming to my house

  29. Nice to know that I have about half the list down pat, and most of the rest at least I’ve tried. I need practice and could definitely learn the few I’ve not tried yet, but I at least would not be running around in a panic, naked trying to eat dry beans.

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