Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Word Wednesday - Heirloom Skills

Sustainability is defined as the capacity to endure. It sounds like such drudgery when you put it like that!
Graphic by NotMadeinChina

I am loving the concept of "heirloom skills" though.  It sounds like something valuable, something precious and useful. These skills used to be passed down, usually from father to son or mother to daughter. Crocheting, woodworking, how often to water plants, cleaning, baking bread, building barns. Today it's primarily passed vertically from those of our own generation to others.  Previous generations, on our moves out to the big cities put down many of these skills, thrilled to be able to buy conveniently pre-made goods.  I'm not against pre-made.  Sometimes, it's pretty damn handy to have someone else make what you need! But sometimes, what's made is not exactly what you need or it's made by people in horrible working conditions or it's shipped 10,000 miles across the planet using up an enormous amount of resources for us to have a $3 knitted hat.

I was pretty lucky in that I learned crochet from my grandmother starting at about 7 years old and cooking and baking were essential skills to learn in my house growing up. I was taught sewing but I didn't like it at the time and so I stopped until I was about 25. I must say, I regret that.

I wish I had learned other skills like canning, woodworking and planting, but I am slowly teaching myself, mostly through trial and error, though I have to admit that the intertubes are really helpful for learning.  For instance, I picked up about 6 pounds of figs from a friend yesterday who has a fig tree but has no idea what to do with them. I'm not particularly skilled in the fig department either so I went online to discover the type of fig (Desert King) and what one can do with them.  I'm going to try my hand at it this afternoon and we'll see what we get.

I'd never really built anything prior to building my raised beds. That was also mostly trial and error and the next beds I build which will be going in the back 40 are going to be a lot more stable than the first set, though I will give myself some credit; the first set is holding up its fourth planting season in a row!

I love to trade skills with people. You show me how to use a miter saw and I'll show you how to crochet or knit or can figs.

OK, so here's my heirloom skills wish list for right now, if you have a skill to trade or you have a list of your own, add it to the comments and we'll see what we can work out!

  • Woodworking skills - Primarily using a miter saw or learning to turn wood
  • Oxy-acetylene welding
  • Photoshop/graphic design (ok, maybe this isn't heirloom but it's definitely going to be!)
  • Weaving
 What's on your list?


  1. Oh, this makes me think. What the heck skills do I possess?



  2. You have mad skills, my dear.