Have you ever had a gap in your education? Or maybe you came face-to face- with a missing skill set.
How did you feel? Helpless? Overwhelmed? Intimidated?
Perhaps you rose to occasion and with tenacity. Maybe you played it safe asking for assistance. It could be that you hired help.
As a city girl gone country, I have been taxed to the max when it came to missing skill sets. Often I did not know what to do or how to do it. I have felt all of the above in those circumstances.
Why are there a gap in skill sets?
They do not teach you important basic skills in school. In fact, they do not teach how to grow your own food. Growing a green bean plant in a Dixie cup does not count. It won’t even feed one person. When it came to life on the farm in the real world, I simply was not prepared. It is not easy increasing basic skill sets.
The idea that lost arts are inferior quality
Most of us are taught to value office jobs in school. That leaves us to devalue basic skills to the point they became a lost art. Further, we are trained to see basic skills as a sign of a pre-civilized society. We are taught to view them as old fashioned. Evidently, old ways are categorized as unsafe, unhealthy, inferior and dangerous. For example, I watched a debate unfold online about home canning is dangers. Also, there are loads of articles on the dangers of drinking raw mil,k.
Customers often approach me asking for old-fashioned lye soap. They eye the beautiful collection of swirls and designs assuming that it is not old fashioned. Many think lost arts produce rustic outcomes. In truth, I do not make the lye myself. Homesteaders of old had to make their own lye from wood ash. But the basic skills of soap making are the same. I have the benefit of standardized lye, calibrated scales, scientific formulas, and more to make soap. Specifically, I combine the old ways with modern science to present my customers a well balanced formula nourishing the skin.
My quest to improve skill sets
So, what did I do when I left my city ways to live in the country? Indeed, I did not hire help. Most of the time, I faced the challenge with grit (read: stubbornness to a fault). I did not walk away even when I should. That would have been too smart and easy. At first, I asked for help. The responses included:
“Buy it in the store. Don’t waste your time. It is easier to get it from the store.”
“Don’t ever learn to milk a cow. Let your husband do it. You will be tied down for life.“
Despite their advice, I cracked open the books to find the answer. There was no YouTube back then. Google was just beginning. I did not have the internet. Instead, I used the library.
Trial and error associated with learning new skills
Teaching myself to do it was filled with adventure and a heavy dose of failure. Stubbornness kept me trying until I succeeded. Looking back at my early homesteading days, I have no regrets. Generally, I loved learning new things. And here’s the best part, I have great stories to tell.
Embarrassing gaps when learning to cook from scratch
I am embarrassed to admit, I had no clue how to make pumpkin pie except buying it from a can at the store. Chiefly, I was raised off of grocery store food. My mother hammered into my head that I was not born in a barn. I know that refers to leaving doors standing wide open. But, she made a point. I wasn’t born anywhere near a farm and did not have a garden. Thus, my life had great chasm type voids in it, embarrassing voids at that.
That all changed when I gave up my career to stay home. I decided I must learn how to cook foods from scratch. I bought this beautiful orange pumpkin, carved a hole in the top, and let the boys have at it.
Meanwhile, I cracked open the books and read about how to properly take this hard orange ball and get it to a mushy state. This was a case where my intuition was not correct.
The boys were deeply disappointed when I had them put the sledge hammer back in the barn. They were looking forward to beating it to a pulp with mom.
Basically, I learned how to cook down a pumpkin and how to roast the seeds. My life changed that day. I became more keenly aware of how little I knew about my food sources. Additionally, learning how to process a pumpkin gave me a feeling of accomplishment. I began to investigate many topics related to growing my own food, producing my own meat, milk, and more. And, I haven’t stopped.
Increasing your skill sets means a never ending desire to learn
I have told my children more than once that I have learned more since I graduated from college than I did while I was in college. I have picked up more books, researched more topics, and watched oodles of how-to videos.
My skill set has increased vastly. Instead of microwaving T.V. dinners, I learned to butchering chickens, beef, deer, and pork.
Other skills include:
- milking cows and goats
- cheese making
- making yogurt
- artificially inseminating cows
- making scrapple, sausage, canning meat and produce
- living without refrigeration
- thriving without hot water
- making potable water out of river water
- manually washing clothes
- using a washboard
- creating soap, salves, lip balms, bath bombs, lotions and more
- using a chainsaw
- dehorning livestock
- providing medial care to my family including giving stitches, and vaccinations
- pulling stuck calves and kids (the goat kind)
- grinding wheat berries and turning it into fluffy edible and delicious bread.
- laying tile, laminate, painting, and basic construction
- doing a primal scream out of frustration (I have perfected this one to a professional level)
- building high tunnel structures to grow a winter garden
- growing a winter garden
- growing enough produce for our family and for our community through a market garden.
Simply, I have learned a lot living on a homestead the last 24 years. I call myself a DIY junkie. Its all good until its not. There is a lot of failures mixed in with my successes. But I don’t regret learning these skills and passing them along to my children.
The benefit and ease of teaching skill sets the next generation
Several years ago I puttered around the house while two of my teenagers were in the kitchen. They were chattering away about life in general, their adventures, and their dreams. They took eight pumpkins and processed them on their own. Just like it was second nature, they cleaned the seeds and roasted them in the oven.
As a result, we sat down to watch a family movie while snacking on the freshly roasted and lightly salted seeds. Next, they served warm pumpkin bars fresh out of the oven with cream cheese frosting. Never mind that they drenched the bars in so much frosting that just looking at them made me go into a diabetic coma. They giggled as they saw my reaction.
“Would you like a little pumpkin bar with your frosting?” I questioned.
The laughter unleashed. They were belly laughing.
At that moment in time, I realized what corporate industrialized America hoped to accomplish failed. I closed the gap, learned lost arts, and then taught them to the next generation. But it gets even better than that!
Improving skill sets impacts future generations
Fast forward with me to 2022. This week on the farm, we processed pumpkins once again. This time my grandsons gathered at the table.
Closing the gap has impacted two generations on this farm. As a result, my grandchildren will grow up processing their own food as though it were second nature.
This week we took it a step further. We didn’t buy pumpkins from a store. Instead, we grew them.
Delight filled my heart hearing my son say, “Sammy, do you remember? You helped me plant these pumpkins. They started out as seeds.” This is one of many benefits of increasing my basic skill sets. That is, I get to watch my grandchildren benefit from it. I passed on a legacy to my children. Now I pass it on to my grandchildren.
The benefits of increasing skill sets are vast.
There are many more benefits of increasing your skill sets. This short list covers a few we have experienced.
- Decrease your food bill. My food bill is less. Moreover, growing our own food decreases the amount we spend on food. Keep in mind most of what we grow would be found in the organic section of the grocery store. The quality of home grown is unparalleled in the store.
- Decrease taxes. I don’t pay as much income tax because I stay home. I don’t pay taxes on the food I grow in my garden meaning the government owns less of my income in food taxes too.
- Reduce chemical exposure. Consequently, my brain cells are not dosed with loads of chemicals doused on my food by corporate agriculture.
- Develop a robust education for the entire family. Our home education often centered around the farm. For instance, Sammy, age 2, helped process the pumpkin, he learned a lot. He learned that a pumpkin starts with the letter “P”. Sammy and his brother enjoyed the tactile sensation of separating seeds from pulp. Also, he learned the color orange. Each successive year Sammy helps, he can learn more about pumpkins including marketing and selling them. The sky’s the limit with teaching children on the farm.
- Enhance self esteem. Working with your hands enhances your sense of well being. As a result, it is fulfilling to sit down and eat delicious food you prepared. It is especially gratifying when you start out growing the produce from seed. The daily follow through required to water and fertilize it also yields the feeling of accomplishment.
- Increase family connection. Moreover, my family has a collection of robust memories in the kitchen, in the garden, and on the farm. We have a strong connection and we enjoy being with each other. We especially love cooking together. Sadly, no one loves to do dishes together. Hey, you can’t have it all.
- Improve community well-being. Finally, selling excess produce at the market makes an impact on our community. The benefits we get from growing our own food are passed on to each customer. For example, a simple transaction with a family that loves working together makes a difference in the lives of those we serve. Further, customers enjoy buying food from local farmers they trust.
Increasing basic skill sets brought our children a lot of joy. Now our grandchildren experience a rich life all because I purposed to learn something new. Had I given up, our lives would be much different.
Have you ever learned something new? I would love to hear how you experienced increasing your skill sets. Share in the comments below.