Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Skills you want to learn

I know we are all busy learning new skills either for a hobby or to prepare for an uncertain future, either one that is a result of low energy or one that may be altered by climate change. Which of the following skills do you wish you knew more about or would like to learn?
  • Food gardening and food storage (canning, dehydrating, pickling, fermentation, etc.)
  • Seed saving and/or fruit tree grafting
  • Foraging for wild foods, mushrooms, etc.
  • Composting

  • Animal husbandry (chickens, goats or larger)
  • Beekeeping
  • Animal skinning, processing
  • Sheep or other animal shearing
  • Spinning wool
  • Knitting
  • Sewing

  • Cooking, baking
  • Making own cheese and/or yogurt
  • Making beer and/or wine
  • Solar cooking

  • Alternative medicine and/or first aid
  • Making soap (cold process from oils and lye)
  • Making candles

  • Carpentry
  • Plumbing or electrical
  • Bike maintenance and repair
  • Appliance repair

What is the biggest thing preventing you from learning to do these things? Time, money? What would make it easier?


Heather@TheGreenestDollar said...

For me, it's definitely food canning/preserving. My dream is to have a HUGE garden where I can grow both vegetables and flowers. I've already got tons of books on the subject! I think that growing and canning your own food would be incredibly rewarding.

Right now I can't do those things because I have a very, very small yard. But, our house is about to go up for sale so my husband and I can build a very small, green home on lots of land. So, I'm on my way!

knutty knitter said...

I'd like to learn dehydration and preserving methods that don't require huge fuel inputs. Money is my most serious problem - we don't have any. I have already used all the containers I can scrounge from friends and family for this years stuff. (There are still 2 and a half bags of apples to go).

I already do rather a lot of those things on your list and those left tend to be stuff I could do if pushed but which I'd rather let someone else do.

viv in nz

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I'm in the same position as Heather, though grrr, jealous she is about to do what I WANT to do, tiny house, big land! Anyhow, no yard, but would like better preserving abilities to go along with my big phantom garden. Other than the stuff you actually need a yard/land for, I do quite a bit of the other stuff.

Adrienne said...

I wouldn't mind learning any of those things (other than spinning, knitting, & some sewing which I already do), but my priorities are container gardening and food storage. Currently I have no outdoor space where I live; August 1 I'm moving to a place with a fairly large deck which I plan to use for as much container gardening as possible. I'm also determined to do some canning (which will probably have to happen immediately after moving, won't that be fun?) partially for the sake of learning how and also so I can have more local food through the winter.

hmd said...

For me, it would be making soap, candles, or more info on planting (seed to seed). I'm learning this whole gardening thing from scratch. GREAT experience, but I know nothing :)

Farmer's Daughter said...

I'm going to a canning class in a few weeks. Even though I know what I'm doing, I'd like to learn more.

I'd also like to learn more about saving seeds and also foraging for wild foods. Saving seeds is a problem for me because much of it has to be done in the fall, when I'm crunched for time in between school and our busy season at the farm. Foraging is an issue because I'm scared of the wrong mushroom!!! Although I do forage for garlic mustard (and invasive and also quite tasty) and wineberries.

Anna M said...

I need the practical gardening knowledge. I've read a bazillion books but this is the first time we are planting 1/4 acre and I know it's going to be a huge learning experience. I really want to get serious about integrated pest management and soil conservation without petroleum. We're on the path but it's a brand new path and I don't think the sand underneath is settled yet...

Fleecenik Farm said...

Heather at the greenest dollar. You could still can even if you do not have a big garden. I can a lot from my garden but I also go to U-pick strawberry and blueberry fields. I go to farmstands and buy quantities of produce that I do not grow in my own garden. If you have a CSA you could get a larger share just so you can preserve some of the food for next winter.

I would like to learn to keep bees but right now it is a matter of time and resources. I think I would really want to learn from a workshop, not just from a book. It seems like there is much to it if you want to keep the hive going over the long term.

I have tackled a few new skills this year. I have learned how to sew and handyman skills around the homestead. The handyman skills are rudimentary at best but I need them to handle any emergency that comes up when the hubby is not here.

Chile said...

Time is the biggest challenge for me when it comes to learning new skills. As I choose to do more tasks manually rather than with power - biking instead of driving, hanging up laundry instead of dryer, hand washing instead of machine, etc. - less time is available at the end of the day to pick up something new.

Perhaps more importantly, less energy is left to devote to learning. Sometimes I compromise and use mechanical power to do some chores so I can spend that time learning something new.

Ryan said...

I don't think one would need all these skills, but the community you surround yourself should. It would take years to learn all on the list and you may find you are not very good at some.

Having a close community around you will be the best chance of survival. Only with cheap oil have we been able to be single people, or single family units. Our great grandparents had to rely on a network of friends and family to get by

Greenpa said...

You forgot one area, you Frontier Girl.

These are all skills for someone with a bit of land.

Ok, two. (trying to avoid having this devolve into a Monty Python skit...)

1. How to talk to your neighbors- and build community.

2. Security.

And there will be variations for suburban and urban situations...

Camp Teotwawki is going to include some very rough and rude hazing initiations, I think. Not all lanyards and campfire songs.


Carmen said...

For me, it's sewing. I know how to hack some things together - but I don't have nice, clean technique. I'd love to be able to whip up my own clothes or be able to alter more.

What's keeping me from doing it? Finding an appropriate class and taking the time to do it. I wish people were selling "tailor tutoring" on Craig's List...

CuriousNomad said...

I'll be attending a bike maintenance class at REI tomorrow night!

Misty said...

I'd really like to learn some gardening and food canning skills. Right now it's next to impossible because my newly-wed husband and I are crammed in a one-bedroom apartment with 2 dogs and a cat who love to tear into anything and everything (not so good for plants). I'd also like to learn how to sew and knit/crochet; I've made some efforts to learn knitting, but I have a hard time with it unless someone is showing me step by step. I'm working toward buying a sewing machine, though!

Mike said...

Since a lot of these comments are about wanting to know about food preservation, may I recommend the following:

I have it bookmarked on my iPhone so I can use it for rapid reference in the kitchen.

Pamela said...

There are so many of these I want to learn. The food preservation, foraging, seed saving, gardening, beekeeping, chickens, cheesemaking, soapmaking (I've only ever done melt and pour), spinning. I'm working on learning how to garden properly, as I learn by making my first grown-up garden this season. The HOA prevents chickens and other livestock. The rest is mostly that I lack the time or money to take up new hobbies even if they're valuable hobbies to have. I have a lot of plates spinning right now. I get impatient with not being able to do it all at once, and then I remember that I have the rest of my life to learn these skills. I am trying to view patience as a virtue and not as a thorn in my side.

Billie said...

Lately, I have really been feeling the sadness at having lost skills that were present in my grandmother's and mother's generation... maybe even my generation. I guess I have fallen down on the job of keeping the old skills alive.

I wish I lived closer to my family so I could ask my Mom to help me regain those lost skills. I can cook, sew (clothes, home decorating and quilting) and garden. If we didn't live in a condo, I could potentially get involved in others but that won't be happening any time soon.

Chile said...

I second the recommendation for the National Center for Home Food Preservation - link left by Radical Garbage Man. Great info there on canning, drying, curing, freezing, and pickling all sorts of food.

Katie @ said...

Great post to reflect on, Crunchy! I really want to try cheese and yogurt making when we get back to the US. In Germany, our yogurt comes from an organic shop that uses glass jars with a deposit on them. I love the idea, and frankly, we just can't use as many plastic containers as we collect from yogurt in the US.
I like everyone else's thoughts and struggles that have been left so far.

Lisa said...

I want to keep learning to cook more foods from scratch. That is going pretty well. The fact that my kitchen is tiny makes it a bit hard but I'm doing my best.

I have been starting a garden but I hope to have a lot of raised gardens when we buy a house.

I started composting a few months ago and it seems to be going well. I put some good soil in it the other day to hopefully help speed it up a bit.

If we end up with some land I would love to have at least one sheep and maybe a horse again. Chickens would be cool as well.

I have taught myself to knit squares but I want to learn more and also I want to learn to crochet.

Sewing would be great but no room for a sewing machine right now.

So much more!! Most is waiting on us buying a home so I have the room.

Anonymous said...

At present I am about to attend a gardening course, so in addition to food gardening I should soon also want to know about canning/pickling. One first attempt at cheese making 2 weeks ago, tried making yoghurt in a cupboard above the fridge, that was so warm, till the fridge's engine blew. Gardening/canning means, I want to learn about composting as well, as I want to do something with my kitchen scraps other than putting them into the garbage.
During the past week, I was knitting dishcloths and I hope to move on to socks now (that heel!).
After Easter I will attend another course for sewing my own clothes, and yet one more in November. Just recently I made my own duvet (at another course) out of sheep wool fleece - fantastic!
I live in an apartment, so no real access to a proper garden with sheep/goats and any chance of a beehive - but these would be the next things I would like to learn about. Keeping chickens, maybe, too.
All of the things I am already busy with, should keep me busy into Autumn in my free time besides my job. If I have time, I may try making a solar box oven out of cardboard boxes and experiment with those.
Making my own pottery and some wood carving might be material for next year. Wild food gathering, too.

So all the other suggestions you listed are new things to ponder, thank you for those!
(Sorry, this got so long!)

Kelli - Our Local Life said...

I am the lamest in the last category - carpentry, plumbing, electricity, bike repair, etc. I agree with Greenpa and Ryan that good community building would be very handy skill to have - and could ideally fill in the your own personal gaps in skill. Otherwise, like Chili, there's not enough time in the busy day.

The Internetter said...

I'd say my main reason for learning the following is because of the freakin' recession, just because it's so immediate and who knows, I could be laid off any second, so any stab at self-sufficiency is for the best, but I'm also trying to use as little plastic as possible, which really results in having to make a lot of stuff.

However, my #1 block is the fact that I'm a renter and don't own my property. I could do stuff at my parents' house (which is nearby), but you can't really tend a garden a day a week (or can you?). Hence, I'm working on the following:

gardening--to the extent of having a couple indoor plants haha

dehydrating--perfect for the coming summer!


foraging--apparently there's a class you can take around here; sounds fun

composting--if my roommate okay's it :P

sewing--have already started, in which I'm learning the ancient ways from my mom, which has been so cool


bike maintenance--if I get a bike, which I'm tempted to do

making cottage cheese and yogurt--and tortillas!

maybe making beer

I think I'll master these first before moving on to the others...

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

This post was very exciting and I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s responses!
1. My mother told me about how they’d pick sorrel and other wild greens when she was young, so I’d love to learn about plant identification/foraging.
2. Fermentation: sour pickles, sauerkraut, etc
3. Beekeeping – I would like to take this up
4. Alternative medicine (which also includes foraging) – especially tinctures and salves. I think we can do so much better with what nature provides (in most cases.)

Unfortunately, there are limited resources in my area, so I rely on the internet for information. Thanks to you and everyone who sends in helpful posts!

Anonymous said...

I would love to learn more about taking care of farmyard animals. Spinning wool and other crafts that use materials from the land would be beneficial for my family's goal on living in the country. We're moving to my husband's grandpa's farm of 24 acres late this year. He raises Scottish highland beef. Big thing would be learning how to spin wool into yarn for my grandma to crochet her afghans and sell them for profit.

Anonymous said...

Seed saving & Beekeeping!

I have been working on canning/food preserving, but I think I need a class or something. Especially before summer gets here!!

stella said...

In my current situation (living in an apartment), I would like to learn to do more of these: Food gardening and food storage (canning, dehydrating, pickling);Foraging for wild foods, mushrooms; Sewing; Making own cheese and/or yogurt; Solar cooking; Making soap; Bike maintenance and repair.

I wish I had more time to do them all and more money for starter items (e.g. a sewing machine, solar oven).

Chris Clark said...

We are trying to learn skills to fix things, ie. keep the dishwasher running, fix/tune up the lawnmower and to build things we need like garden boxes (easy), rain barrel stands (slightly more challenging) and a shed (yikes).
We are learning gardening, started last year. I want to know how to do it better so I don't lose plants or have some that don't produce much.
Those of you with no land or minimal land, think outside the box if you want to garden and preserve. You might be able to find an older person with land and gardening knowledge that can't get out there and do it anymore. They might teach you and let you plant in exchange for sharing the harvest. Do the U-pick option for fruits. Talk to people at the farmer's market. Last year we made some good deal by offering to buy a large bulk of things (25 lbs. or more) so we'd have enough to can.
Look on freecycle and craigslist. Several ads last year netted me over 100 canning jars for FREE (including about 3 dozen really nice widemouth quarts) as well as about 50 pounds of pears from a tree in someone's yard. I simply placed ads that said I was interested in canning supplies and/or excess garden produce or fruit. Many people might have fruit trees or bushes and not want to deal with the entire harvest.

Alison Kerr said...

I'm working on the gardening and compost skills. I'd like to save seeds, bake bread and preserve foods.

Cat said...

This post makes me feel REALLY good about the progress we've made, actually! I have dabbled a bit in every one of your categories except one - alternative medicine. That's my big one for this year...I want to learn more about herbs for health and healing (and how to grow them successfully!).

I do agree with Greenpa - you left off a few things of great importance like individual security, gun use and relationship building/diplomacy. :-)


Anonymous said...

I am most interested in learning about gardening and seed saving, since I feel like I know very little. I'm also interested in making my own cheese and yogurt.

In both cases, having a 4-year-old and a baby interferes with my ability to get much done. I realize it sounds like an excuse, and it sort of is, but I also know this is a short period of my life so I'm not sweating it.

I'm actually hoping to do some seed saving this year, though. We'll see how it goes.

Laura said...

I listed below the subjects nearest and dearest to me, where I stand (basically) in my knowledge of them and what my ideas are for next actions. Time and energy are the biggest factors keeping me from getting more learning done. The 9-5 has me beat. I am seriously considering ditching the day job (even in this economy) and getting into other forms of employment. Namely ones that don't involve being glued to a computer all day.

Food gardening and food storage – I am a renter with a yard. I am going to grow potatoes and herbs this year. Maybe some strawberries too. I have never canned anything. I wonder how it will be done when we don’t have access to new metal canning lids with the self sealing heat activated rim. What did we used to seal the cans with, bee’s wax?

Foraging for wild foods, mushrooms, etc.- This seems like an important all round skill. If things get bad enough that there are huge migrations of people it would be helpful to know what is edible that is growing wild. Also, protection of gardened vegetables as they grow may be very difficult. Maybe it will be best to let nature do the growing? Maybe there is a local foraging group that I can meet up with or take a class from?

Composting – I have some worms composting some of my veg scraps but not on a very large scale. I still send most veg matter ‘away’ in the green bin. I have designated an old trashcan for this purpose, just need to punch some holes in it and get started. I’m not sure how to keep raccoons out of it, since it will be outside.

Beekeeping – I would love to do this! Seems daunting. I have been reading bits on the Backward Beekeepers blog and getting inspired. I have a spot picked out in our front yard. I need to hone my beginner carpenter skills and build a bee box of my own.

Spinning wool – I want to get a drop spindle. Maybe I could make one? Need to find instructions.

Knitting – I am a functional knitter. Not a pro for sure, but I know some basics. Pick my next knitting project and keep going to my knitting circle.

Sewing – I know some basics. I want to convert my sewing machine (given to me by my mom) to peddle power, instead of electric. Quilting seems useful. I will get a project planned for when my mom visits so that we can work on it together and I can learn more.

Baking – I use the bread maker for bread. I have not gotten past the bake-a-brick stage of hand kneading my own bread. Maybe the 5 minute sour dough starter method would be my best choice. I will try that.

Making own cheese and/or yogurt – I don’t do it often but the thermos method works great. Where does one get starter if they don’t order it online or get store bought yogurt? I will get more thermi (thermoses?).

Alternative medicine and/or first aid – I want to learn more about plant medicines. Maybe this could be part of the foraging class/group?

Other things I want to learn:

Languages – I think basic knowledge of several languages could come in very handy. I want to find a few classes in French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Arabic.

Clean water – Distilling seems like a handy know how. I need some practice in building a distiller though.

Great post. These are things I think of all the time. Thanks for getting me organized enough to list them! :)

Delora said...

I'd love to know more about bee keeping. We can't have farm animals in my county unless you're on 2+ acres (this includes hens), so I've given some thought to raising bees to help pollination and to harvest delicious, local honey. However, I'm a wimp and worried about getting stung. There, I said it. That, and it would be on such a small scale I'd worry about sinking a ton of money into a new hobby and not reaping enough of a reward.

Robj98168 said...

I would like to learn to be a male prostitute- always a demand, easy supply. But that not being a choice
Foraging for wild foods, mushrooms, etc.would be one of mine, along with Beekeeping,Carpentry, Appliance repair and making cheese and yogurt with a little solar cooking mixed in.

JessTrev said...

Want to learn more abt: canning, cheese and yogurtmaking, gardening, dehydrating. Almost no land. If I moved where I had a yard? Would love beekeeping + chickenry! Holding me back from the first lot? Time.

Anonymous said...

i'd like to learn to raise and process animals such as rabbit, dove, quail and guinea pig and home repairs. i hate having to pay for work i know i could do for myself if i could only learn the details. the only thing that's stopping me is where to look for the information. i'm certain, if i look hard enough, i'll find it.

Sharlene said...

Shearing, foraging, canning and preserving. I know how to spin wool but I would like to know how to shear as well.

DramaMama said...

Sewing, gardening and storage, and BARTERING. I know, what's to learn, but I guess I really would like to see some sort of community push for this. As in, me and my 10 friends all agree to swap services and goods. Right now we tutor other people's kids for money. Sometimes we get child care instead. But things like that would help. A sort of co-op, if you will. Lots of people have lots of skills and knowledge that I think would help if we could share it. I don't sew much b/c the projects always seem to big for the chunk of time I have available. I am hoping to learn more about gardening this summer and I think I will do ok, but the storage part scares me. It's a lot of work and what if I do it wrong? I don't want food for the bartering, I just don't feel bold enough to propose that to people. Good topic Crunchy!

CuriousNomad said...

I have learned to knit, and heels aren't as bad as they're made out to be (although I do have to pay attention!)

The problem is making myself sit down and knit! I always feel like I should be *doing* something, not just sitting there! [wry grin]

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

My bike has a flat and needs some work on the bike chain so I want to learn Bike maintenance and repair. I do the DIY stuff around the Condo so I'm up on carpentry, Plumbing, electrical, and appliance repair. To be fair to my husband (he cooks I clean) I should cook more although I do all the baking. Since we enjoy a craft beer or two, learning how to brew beer wouldn't be so bad to learn either.

Anonymous said...

Good comment Greenpa, those skills will really be needed in the future if we need the skills Crunchy lists. It certainly won't be all cutesy, craftsy campfire time out there.

I would like to add another skill:
using what you make. Eat what you grow. Shearing is a fine skill, along with knitting but do you wear what you make? I shear and put the wool in the compost- too dirty and coarse to use for anything but rugs.

Monice said...

I'm most interested in learning about growing my own food and food storage, particularly canning. I'm in the process of learning a lot about growing my own food, so that is going well, but its the canning that needs to come next. I think the thing standing in my way is not really knowing people who do it and I learn best by actually doing it with someone so I can learn what tools I need and what techniques are best. Its one thing to learn it from a book - its another thing to actually walk through it once with someone who knows what they are doing and can troubleshoot along the way.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I hate to be the wet blanket, but the wildcrafting should only be on your own property - mushrooms and some wildplants are already over-foraged here in the PNW, in the state and federal forests. We have people climbing our fences constantly to "live off of our land" and of course they don't ask for permission to forage for our mushrooms, nettles and assorted flora and fauna.

I would like to eat mushrooms from my own forest, but it someone takes them from me without recompense, they are in fact stealing from me, not some vague "they."

Anonymous said...

On my list of things I want to learn:

Food preserving and canning. I really want to do more and plan on taking a Community Ed class to pick up some new info. Considering some things I can dont do as well as others I want to learn more. Along with learning more about seed saving.

Knitting I have the basics but plan on taking a class to learn how to make socks that actually well lets say I don't know what I'm doing. The yarn shop has classes and plan on doing that as soon as I save up some money.

We already have chickens and I plan on getting some more eventually. I really like having eggs and our nieghbor well takes care of end of life matters for us since we always make the same mistake of naming the chickens. In return for the services we give them some eggs and a couple chickens. It works for us all and we never really know what chicken we have on the table afterwards.

I really want to learn how to do more but the cost is whats holding us up. With working fewer hours it just means we have less money to go for the extras. Even though in the long run it's all stuff thabt would help save money.

temptressyarn said...

Great blog--I'm so glad I found you! I'd like to move up from basic canning to get a pressure canner and try something beyond jellies, tomato products and pickles. I'd really like to try doing some fermentation this year, and my husband plans to try his hand at wine making this season as well. Just bought a cheese making kit and yogurt cultures for a first try at those skills as soon as I can get my hands on some good raw or low temp pasteurized milk.

It would be nice to improve my sewing skills to be able to tailor clothes properly. I knitted some mittens and my first kids sweater this year but would like to keep improving my fiber skills.

We're planning to grow a lot of potatoes, onions and carrots this year, so I really want to get a grasp on root cellaring before fall, and do some seed saving as well.

Soap making has been an interest for a while. Animal husbandry (chickens in particular) would be great, but we're not in a position to do that right now.

I also hope to TEACH at least one friend how to do basic canning, and teach spinning to someone who inquired about it last summer. Teaching builds community!

Cynthia said...

Sewing. My mother & great grandmother, did not see fit to teach me this skill, or knitting, or cooking for that matter; even though we all lived under the same roof while I was growing up.

The cooking I learned with some skill. The knitting I took up a year ago. Now I have signed up for a sewing class at the Fancy Tiger in Denver.

I am hoping to sew my own reusable bags to give to our wedding guests for their hotel greeting gift. (Complete with homemade muffins & reusable water bottle).

Anonymous said...

From:franklycrazy. I would love to start a vegetable garden with herbs as well. I would also like to learn some basic cooking skills. I am in awe of what I have read on some of these blogs. I go from my sister's blog, beautifuleachday, and read from there. I know that we all have challenges and that no one's lives are great all the time but I would like to take a little from each blog and try to do something to make me feel like I am more a part of the world. If it means cooking better for my family so that they aren't totally grossed out :( then that's a start. I will continue to read for more inspiration.

Azulao said...

My problem is that I'm lazy as hell. I *could* learn all these things, but I won't!

My word verification is "jaura" which strikes me as either an interesting name for a girl, or a comment on jars for canning.

Layla said...

lol I'd love to learn most of these!! :) - except the gross ones including raw meat & such!!

everything else is just soo interesting!!

biggest obstacle? hmm - only 1 me, & so many interesting projects!! :)
& then trying to green other people too, etc! :)
/& being the greenest around, mostly! others may do some of those things, but in a more conventional way! I'd prefer permaculture & greener ways of doing all those things!
I must silence my perfectionism & learn what I can, then analyze/recap & see if I can do better & greener!/

& ideally, I'd manage to make money while doing all that, now here's an idea!! :)

Also, these 'survival skills' aren't so highly valued by my parents as 'earning money' is - although personally I now value them more!

I am learning gardening (mentored by Mum) this year, will also try to learn food preservation, handsewing & such (obstacle: have you ever tried to be mentored by my Mom?! lol!!), have talked to neighbour about beekeeping, & in the winter ideally some relatives would teach me to weave baskets & use a spindle! :)

foraging - probably next year, or sometimes in-between..
making candles is on the list too (ideally before Nov 1st!)

oh, am working on sourcing greener food & networking too.. :)

I guess what I'd need is super-brilliant time management? (& less time online? ;) but where else could I get so much inspiration & tips & find excellent bloggers living it already?!:)

Unknown said...

I want to learn to grow my own food and how to fix things and build things so I can take make best use of my 1 acre suburban 'homestead.' I'd like to learn how to forage, too. What stops me is that I don't know anyone else who is interested and it's really difficult to completely remake your living without a support network. The internet inspires me, but I'm still afraid of the power drill...