Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 4

Yesterday was a review day and today's post is sort of a fun alternative to market watching. I'm thinking about play and the role of play in both animals and people to increase skills needed in life. What kinds of skills can we expect to need in either a post peak world, or perhaps a Greater Depression world? What sorts of hobbies build these skills?

I know that I started canning some jam years ago as a fun activity in the kitchen. This year that hobby has expanded into full-scale work on food preservation until mid-night and get up in the morning and can before work, as was the case today. (Mrs. Neighbor and I picked tomatoes and onions and used our frozen blanched corn to make a really nice soup - mmmm).

In my family, each of us is taking an area of some interest and moving it to the next level. For instance, in the past my sister (who is great at gift giving) gave the girls soap making and candle making kits. Now, these are the sorts of kits that come out of craft stores and arn't really about taking over the needs of a household, but I did ask DD14 to begin to look into soap making. She made our last laundry detergent - the the next batch will need some adjustments.

DD17 is a serious academic with intentions on medical school (oncology). I have asked her to begin to learn more about herbal remedies and natural cures. If things crash before she can get all the loans she needs to get through medical school, she can use her desire for the medical arts and her exacting nature to learn about alternative cures.

I have been quilting for a few years, producing a handful of quilts with fine detail. However I suspect this winter will turn to larger quilt squares, and faster turn out of work to increase the number of warm quilts in the household. I have what my family has Always called, Grandma's Depression Quilts. When the yard dries out I'll set them out to air and take a picture of them. They are made of all sorts of pieces of old wool clothing. I imagine the center layer is an old blanket and the backing is a wool Army blanket. My Grandmother was nothing if not frugal. Sleeping under these heavy quilts in the cool, thin, mountain air, I can remember concentrating on breathing in and out as I felt crushed.

Mr. Greenjeans is an all around handy fix-it man who has years of honing his ability to fix, and build all manner of things.

Some other hobbies that I know people have that can be honed to be useful in a power-down world are: knife making, re-loading, smithing or metal working, making oil lamps, wood working and furnature making, gardening, sewing and needle work such as knitting and felting, raising livestock, hunting and fishing, basket making, throwing and firing pottery, spinninng and weaving...

What kinds of hobbies do you pursue? Can you add ideas to this list?


MeadowLark said...

Count my skills as:
1) Nothing

At least, nothing that would be an "economic asset".

Crud. Crud. Crud. Being bossy probably isn't much help in a post-peak-oil world. Sigh... but I'm so gooooooood at it.

Sounds like you guys are getting a great setup going. At least YoungSon is learning knife-making/blacksmithing.

Verde said...

nothing on the list? Is there anything there that appeals to you to start picking up on?

Bossy and no skills? You might find yourself president!

MeadowLark said...


Haven't you ever wondered why anyone who is actually SMART enough to be President is also actually SMART enough NOT to be? Sad, isn't it. :)

I'm pretty much a hacker at everything... I can quilt enough to cover myself, but I wouldn't say it's a joyful process. Knit a square. Bake edible bread. Afraid to light a welding torch. Tell Husband what isn't going to work out correctly in his latest project. I have a fabulous memory and storehouse of useless stuff in there. Heck, I'm really REALLY good at recognizing people who are bad people, even when everybody else believes that they're good - not a very marketable ability. Basically, it's just actual SKILLS that I'm short on.

I'm going to have to work on this one for a while. Good food for thought. I was planning to rely on chutzpah and intimidation. Dang.

LisaZ said...

Meadowlark, I am so much like you! I have all sorts of ideas and things I'd LIKE to like to do but when it comes down to it I'd rather sit and read or chat with my husband. I have all kinds of projects "on the backburner" while I read online or books or magazines or newspapers.

I do like to clean my house, but even that--with two kids homeschooling--gets overwhelming. And I like to bake our bread and do fine at that, but would prefer it was a "hobby" and not a necessity. I also don't mind canning and putting up food and find the end result very satisfying, but again I'm wishy washy on that so long as there's still grocery stores I kind of resent feeling I HAVE to do it.

I do think that when things become necessary, we will do them and get used to them without much complaining. Kind of like people go to their jobs to earn the money they will exchange for goods someone else preserved or sewed or whatever. We usually accept those jobs as necessary, so when there is none of those jobs anymore we will turn to new "necessaries" and do them. And at least some of us will have practiced these skills for when that time comes.

Oh, and I'm very bossy too. And good at recognizing people's true character. And I think those skills of taking charge and using our intuition are always going to be handy!

Anna M said...

I just filled up the linen closet between the house and the barn with blankets and pillows. We've gone from 4 bedrooms down to one and I suspect I have a bit of a blanket fetish because we have over 40 blankets and 10 lap throws. There are two of us!!! I'm going to take a few of the cotton quilts (not the handmade ones) and use them as warm window coverings.

We won't talk about all the decorator pillows....

MeadowLark said...

Lisa, I think where I lose "the joy" is that I'm just not very good at those things. Come on, who amongst us has not secretly hoped that they would try a new "skill" (embroidery? quilting? knitting? painting? sculpting? tap dancing? fencing? welding?) and be a NATURAL? It can't just be me!!!!! So I'm sure quilting is fun, but isn't it pretty exacting? Not a big skill for me.

Anna, just put those pillows under flannel, sew in a quick pocket and call them Hot water bottle holders. Or something like that.

Brad K. said...

Meadowlark, sometimes just getting started, and learning the basic tasks is what you need to find where your interest lies. Then you learn to excel in what you enjoy.

There are no tools that don't require skill to use properly. Some irritating people learn from seeing it once. Most of us have to be careful not to skip over the fundamental parts.

There are a lot of web sites on black smithing. One of the issues is about charcoal - making charcoal is something most people can learn. One way uses a barrel or two, and consumes most of the unsavory fumes. Producing charcoal can heat homes as well as serve the local blacksmith. Just don't burn charcoal indoors, without adequate ventilation.

Managing trees to maintain sustainable wood supply for carpentry or home heating is slower than gardening, but rewarding.

Maybe even learning to cut shake shingles for roof maintenance and repair..

I want to be a smith, too.

Anna - sounds like you are set for somewhere between ready for sharing a home, to having resources if someone's house burns in the winter. Or maybe, something worthwhile to barter for material, for food or jams or pant or help with the yard or garden.

Erin said...

as far as what life will look like. I can grow things. I can can. I know how to root cellar, and dry and salt meat. I can garden, make cheese, and know what to do with raw milk, heck I know how to get milk properly :)

I can quilt, knit all the basics that will keep us warm and fed.

Something I want to learn is how to embrodery. Yes it seems silly when you are talking worst case scenarios, but I think we will still want to make our environments beautiful. That sastifies some sort of primal desire in the hearts of women espeically

Matriarchy said...

I used to think it would be cool if we all lived near each other - but now I think we would boss each other to death!

I have some skills. I used to run a contracting business. I can cook and sew. I'm relearning canning, and turning my garden from flowers to food.

But my body is failing me - I wrecked my hands and knees doing the contracting. I have a bad hip. So I may have to fall back on "supervising". That's what they call "bossy" in the business world, ladies: supervisory experience.

And it's a real skill to be able to organize a project and motivate the people working on it. If you can motivate *scared* people, that's even better. Keep people moving and doing productive things, instead of thinking too much or drinking too much. Learn to match personalities to tasks and to the forming of teams.

We can all learn new skills. I may not be able to do needlework anymore, but I can run a sewing machine and strip-quilt.

Meadowlark, I'm not buying "nothing" as your skillset. You just need to learn to think of your skills in a way. Or think of ways to turn old skills to new uses.

My old careers were in urban planning, construction, and web technology. I also used to make tie-dyed stuff. I sat on the board of a nonprofit, raised $25K in one night at a charity event. Worked in catering and restaurants.

I can make webpages and run servers for farmers that want to have a CSA. I can chair a public meeting and draft a budget. I can draft community agreements. I can plan and supervise a construction project. I can make connections between people with common interests. I can support someone starting a business with practical skills but no business experience. I am a good scavenger, and could buy and resell stuff in the informal economy. Not all of us will be able to be homesteaders that produce all of our own food, or enough to go to market.

I think one thing we all have going for us is that we are already imagining - imagining a future that looks different, and how we will adapt to it. That alone is a skill that a lot of people lack.

MeadowLark said...

Erin - I do not think you should brag that you can "can can". Not all of us can dance you know... wait, not "can can", but can (am able to) can? Oh. Nevermind. :)

This conversation has made me think and quite honestly, I think my skill is being XO. As in "executive officer". That's the guy who doesn't have to make the decisions about what mission we're doing, but rather is the guy who makes sure that what the C.O. wants, the CO gets. Pretty much what I do in my day job when we're filming on location. I herd that cats. I keep whiny people happy, I make sure people do what we're paying them for, I solve problems and I keep problems from cropping up. Now if I had some SOCIAL skills, this would translate rather well. Alas, social skills are not my thing either ;) So I guess maybe I'm the girl you want in case there is a fire, but you'd probably end up wanting me to leave soon after. I'm good in crisis, but don't want to waste time with the niceties that would make any sort of leadership position sustainable. Usually my boss has to go back and smooth some feathers I ruffled because some big baby got their feelings hurt.
Wow. Sorry. Just saw how long this is. Thanks though for a place to bounce ideas.

Verde said...

Yea, I'm thinking Meadowlark isn't giving herself enough credit.

Matriarchy...well the name says it all ;-). Notice my dream of having us all as neighbors includes acrage between us! he he

Robj98168 said...

Meadowlark- being Bossy is a skill- we all need leaders

Luckily I have been hacking furniture long enough to have built some nice things out of garbage- it sounds like your husnabd and I would get along just fine. I am a long time fixer-upper who believes in repair.
That and I have some skills that test my *ahem* Feminine side- canning, cooking, can sew a bit, can hem my own pants - if it wasn;t for that bobber on the sewing machine I would try more.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Meadowlark, I think you have social skills, look at all your comments! You say what you mean and that is a skill in itself.

Maybe you will have to hike over the mountain to the west side and learn how to quilt and embroider with me - or knit, or blacksmith with my DH or milk my cow (maybe that's not a good idea, she's kinda bossy). But I'm bossy too, who isn't to some degree or another.

Your skillset would be much appreciated in any community.

MeadowLark said...

Good heavens... please know that I am not "stumping for votes" so I can feel good about myself. The thought makes me cringe!

Quilting seems rather "exacting" doesn't it. And I did just buy a book about "doodle embroidery" which seems more likely to fit my natural inexactitude.

And Husband reminded me of a skill today - I get in and get the job done, usually shaming people (by action, not words) into getting off their backsides and joining in :)

PS.. I would be delighted to head over to your side of the mountain.

Chile said...

I took up the canning over a year ago, having no idea that I would get so totally carried away with it. My fridge and pantry is full of home-preserved food.

One of my best attributes is the desire to help people get information they need. I enjoy research and then condensing information from various sources to a useful cohesive document (or post). Maybe I'll teach classes at a community center?

I don't enjoy fabric skills so I can't even approach learning those as a hobby.

Um, I can be bossy, though. I'm skilled at seeing what needs to be done - very detail-oriented. (Yes, I drive the other volunteers at the CSA nuts.)

What was the question again?

Anonymous said...

Meadowlark-if you really have such a good memory, why don't you learn herbal medicine or homeopathy? That will be very useful. You could always have an apprentice that was the nice person.

My skills include photography, drawing, painting, lettering, and domestic arts such as canning, sewing and cooking. I have an art degree as well as a nursing degree. I have not worked as a nurse for almost 8 years and feel like brushing up on first aid type skills would be helpful. I also have an interest in learning herbal medicine, so does my DH who is a pharmacist. He is also a fabulous bike mechanic and pretty handy all around.

Cindy in FL