What are the most important skills to relearn?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I do say relearn rather than learn as regards to acquiring the important livelihood skills of the old ones that we will all be needing in the future simply because we need to relearn them and to some extent it may be a serious learning curve as many of the “old masters” are no longer among us.

Many people, no doubt would have many a different answer to this question and I also would like to stress that I did not ask for just one skill and hence there will be more than one skill listed.

One of the most important skill that we have to relearn, it would seem, is the kill of thinking for ourselves. It would appear that we have forgotten or surrendered this skill and have others, especially the governments, think for us, tell us what to think and what to do.

Another skill we all once seem to have had is the one of making do with what we have. It is, I know, a mind-set rather than a skill but it also involved of making things from nothing for our needs and wants and it appears to also something that most people today have lost.

Our ancestors, and that not all that long ago, applied that mindset to (almost) everything and they knew how to reuse everything as much as possible and to make things out of things that others regarded as waste.

Today even the people in the “green movement” often are totally sucked into consumption and consumerism. So much so that reuse, despite the fact that they repeat the Three R mantra time and again of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” when it comes down to it most can't seem to think reuse at all.

All too many people only hear “recycle, recycle, recycle” when it comes to the Three Rs and, it must be said, the governments with their stress on recycling also is not helping. People need to learn (again) how to reuse things.

In all honesty reusing, repurposing and making do and mending is a skill and a mindset both and it is something to be acquired again by all, and the sooner the better.

Gardening is another one of those skills that we must relearn. There was a time when most of the food for the table came from people's gardens, market gardens and family farms, real farms and not food factories.

When American's had Victory Gardens and those gardens in the backyards of citizens produced 40% of the nation's food. It is possible to get to that stage again but again but only when we get rid off the stupid zoning laws, in the US and Canada, especially, that make a vegetable garden, basically, illegal.

To gardening also should belong small animal husbandry, whether keeping (and raising) chickens for eggs (and meat) or rabbits, etc. Much of it can be done in the backyard, as long as we are talking small animals.

Foraging for wild edibles and hedgerow harvest is also a skill that has become lost and we need to relearn it for there is much out there, in the wild, that can be eaten and that are very good for us. There are many so-called weeds that are edible and are nutritious. In fact I have gone so far as to import wild foods into my garden, that is to say edible weeds. They grow without needing much looking after and fertile soil. In fact some don't do well in fertile soil and thus are great for marginal soils.

Canning and preserving is another skill that has been lost with the majority of people today. Few have any idea how to preserve the harvest for the winter and the “lean” season and this leads to waste of garden produce and to then having to rely on imported foods.

Cooking (from scratch) is another skill that seems to have been lost almost entirely with the great majority and too many people rely on ready meals and ready ingredients from which to make a meal (if they make a meal at all and not just eat the ready ones reheated in the microwave). Even recipes that can be found today more often than not talk about a can of this and a can of that and this or that ready ingredient. Duh? Whatever happened to cooking properly.

The knowledge of herbal medicine, of healing plants, has also gone out of the window in the last half a century or so in our so-called civilized countries and in some places they would like to make the use, and if not the use then at least the sale of herbal remedies (medicines), illegal, as has already happened in the European Union.

However, whatever the idiots in Brussels say is, as far as I am concerned, more than irrelevant in this, and many other matters, and we need to rediscover the use of herbs for health and for the treatment of ailments.

A most useful resource, as far as I am concerned, in this field are the books by James Wong, such as “Grow your own drugs”, which accompanied the BBC TV series that James did.

Another important skill for the future is bartering and I am sure everyone knows what bartering is and thus I do not have to elaborate on the issue more than need be.

While most, no doubt know what bartering is in theory very few will ever have actually worked that system and thus it is important that we start now, on a small and local level, to rediscover this system.

General DIY skills also are important to learn in order to be more self-reliant (there is no way of any of us ever being self-sufficient and not even the native Americans ever were) and those are all the skills you may be able to think of, from carpentry, to plumbing, over working with electricity (ideally here produced by renewables such as sun and wind, etc.) and in 12V DC, and many others.

Other skills also that I would say should be in our armory, to what ever level of perfection, should be the working of leather, of metal as on blacksmithing, copper smithing, etc., working with green and seasoned wood, as in woodcarving and spoon/bowl making, and much more. We might also wish to include here basket making but simply having a book or two to hand for all those skills is not really the answer. We must learn them and perfect them as much and as far as possible.

There will always be a need for good livelihood skills and we need to be learning a large variety of skills. However, it must be remembered that none of us can be a master of everything and that is, in the end, where barter comes in.

© 2013