Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ol' Time Homemaking Skills - a Lost Art?

In earlier generations, our ancestors had to be resourceful to survive.  In many cases, our ancestors had to make due without the benefit of having a store nearby to purchase their supplies from.  As the people moved westward into less populated areas, a trip to the store could literally take days to get there and back.  Our ancestors had to find ways to manage without the convenience of being able to buy everything they needed.  The homemaking skills utilized back then are very different that they are today.  Now, many of the basic skills that were taught to the daughters are now becoming lost or are relegated to the status of being a hobby.
Young girls learned many skills by the time they were of marrying age.  They were taught to garden, preserve the harvest, tend livestock, soap making, candle making, sewing from patterns that they learned to draft themselves, tend the home, cooking & baking over a fire, knit and/or crochet, butcher their livestock and any animal that was brought home after a hunting trip, and how to preserve the meat through various methods such as salting, pickling, smoking, and drying.  Many young girls also learned to do needlework such as embroidery and quilting.  It was common especially in the pioneer era for the women to make a bed mattress filled with straw.  Bed pillows were often made from the chicken and other bird feathers that had been carefully cleaned and stored after butchering.  It took a long time to save up enough feathers to make a pillow.  I have heard stories of pillows also being made from straw.  Women helped their husbands in the field if there was no son to aid him.  They learned how to handle draft horses to pull the plow.  All in all, their workload was enough to make most women of today feel spoiled.  What of those homemaking skills?  How many of them would be a blessing and benefit to us today?  For those who are trying to become self-reliant, nearly if not all of those skills would be valuable. 
There is a resurgence of people wanting to learn these skills.  That is the good news.  The problem is that there are less people with the knowledge who can teach the next generation.  Some of the skills, such as knitting & crochet, are hobbies that are easily learned.  You can find books, websites, and even videos that teach these skills.  Soap making and candle making have become both hobbies and for many women, a way to earn an Income.  Food preservation is nearly becoming a lost skill.  Though the supplies and information for doing it is still available, less people are willing to take the time necessary to learn and to home can or otherwise preserve food for their pantry.  To my dismay, I know families who only store enough food for about a week in their home.  I wonder what they would do if an emergency came up or weather was bad in the winter, making them unable to go to a store.  
I will admit, there are a few of the old homemaking skills that I look at today as being in the "nice to know" category.  Learning how to butcher various animals is one skill that would be nice to know, but knowing I get queasy just from cleaning a fish, I doubt that I personally would use it unless I absolutely had to.  For me, the crocheting is simply for my enjoyment.  I make items for the home and family that have more function than just being decorative.  Knitting is a skill that I would like to learn. 
One of the benefits that the skills have for us today is that with some of them, you can earn a little extra money for your family.  Baking bread is something that I have done in the past to earn a little.  If you are able to crochet, knit, make soap or candles, sew or quilt, you can make items to sell at craft shows or sell from home.  If you are good at any of the skills, you can also make money through teaching them to others.  Community Centers and community colleges often have classes for adults to learn various skills and handcrafts. 
Whether you live in the city or in a rural setting, many of these skills can benefit and bless you & your family.  You can utilize the skills to bless others also.  Numerous charities would welcome handmade items for their clients.  You can find them by doing a web search online.  Many children's hospitals, women's shelters, and homeless shelters would welcome things like blankets, afghans, knitted or crocheted socks, hats, mittens, or slippers.  If you enjoy sewing baby diapers, there are organizations that may be interested in donations of those for new moms who cannot afford to buy cloth diapers.  A hospital can often use donations of baby blankets or baby buntings.  It is amazing how many young women forget or do not have one for taking baby home in cool or cold weather! 
The main point is to find the skills that you are able to do and learn them well.  You may never "need" that skill, but the knowledge will be there in case of an emergency.  If you find a skill that can be used for charitable purposes, consider making a few items to donate for those who are in need.  The Lord blesses each of us with talents.  Find yours and then prayerfully consider where you may best be able to use that talent to bless others.
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