Though you might not guess it from the rhetoric of the most recent election, there is a pretty substantial movement among Americans to regain lost skills and return to a level of self-sufficiency somewhat akin to what our grandparents had. From caning chairs to canning pickles, people are using their hands to turn out some interesting products — and discovering a pretty solid marketplace for those products.
Perhaps it is a reaction to the information age, wherein we seem to spend our days working with our fingers but not our hands. Or the fear that a catastrophe is looming that will send us back to the days before electricity. Or, perhaps, it is part of the search to derive meaning from a world that seems to have lost religion, human interactions and hope for the future.
Whatever it is, I have neighbors who have decided to keep bees. Another neighbor is raising goats, and a fellow a mile or so over now has two camels. Not sure what that is all about.
People are rediscovering the joys of canning food, particularly the simple but elegant pickles and salsas. Other people are setting up stills to make their own liquors, though it is still illegal to do so. Not to sell the products, but just to learn how it is done. And perhaps take a swig or two.
Lately, I’ve started churning my own butter, using a recipe that involves cream and a food processor. And planning how I want to make apple cider vinegar from next year’s harvest. Next on my list is learning to work in stained glass, in the hopes of selling some items at local craft fairs.
This isn’t just a Virginia thing, or even a country thing. People are learning to make their own beer and wine from northern Maine to San Diego. Residents of New York City are keeping bees on their building rooftops. Suburbanites are making their own sourdough. Their own cheeses. Their own sausage, and hamburger.
And there is plenty of room for more. Fixing up old radios and record players, which seem to be back in demand. Flower arranging. Home gardening. Don’t know how to do something? Ask your grandparents or check out WikiHow.
There is a whole new world of fun and adventure in learning old skills. And the world as we know it doesn’t have to end for you to enjoy it.