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I am not the only one fretting about over-specialisation it seems. I was pointed to Sharon Astyk’s ‘Casaubon’s Book’ blog by this Eating the Seasons post, which mentioned the book Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front.
The post that I thought might be of interest is this one about the ‘gaps’ in our self-sufficiency skill set. It is an interesting challenge, and one I am already engaged in constantly! Not necessarily because of peak-oil, but perhaps more to do with John Seymour and maybe Felicity Kendal.
For the past couple of years I have been trying to grow stuff (I have an allotment now even, but need to get a bike and somewhere to store tools & shelter me from the rain.. look out shed alert!).
I recently fixed my daughter’s bike which had suffered a horrendous chain tangling accident (involved the use of a chain link removal tool!).
I have wrestled with basic plumbing (I can plumb in a dish washer or washing machine, replace washers in taps, unblock drains etc), I sweep my own chimney, split logs, make kindling and light a fire without a firelighter (i do want a firesteel though and must have a go at friction fire lighting).
We make our own compost, I collected seed from some of the veg and herbs I grew this year, and we have eaten stuff I grew (just not as much as I know we can).
My wife has always been a great cook, but she has been whipping up some delicious veg box meals, and has recently become a bit of a compulsive masterbaker! She can now pretty much cook any recipe, but her cakes and cookies and sweet treats are better than anything you buy in the shops. I am a competent cook too, just not as dedicated, or perhaps committed…
That was quite cathartic, we/I have made progress. But here is my list (to be expanded upon and hopefully crossed off):

  • I many have gaps in my DIY skills – we need to decorate (we know how to do that – we just enjoy sitting down after work ;)) and erect many, many shelves and stuff
  • Lots of room for improvement in the horticultural field. I just need to get out there more. Weeds, slugs, spider mite, blight and cabbage white butterflys are on my hit list – I generally want to grow gluts, cancel the veg box and learn to preserve
  • I want to learn how to use a chainsaw and more tree related stuff (I have been planting tree seeds recently – want to go collect some acorns, but also want to learn how to fell and coppice etc)
  • I want to learn to play an instrument – one that doesn’t need plugging in
  • I always loved chiseling and whittling wood as a kid – I want to rekindle that and turn it into something useful (like a breadboard or a wooden spoon)
  • I want to learn more bushcraft and foraging skills

I have an abundance of diverse technical skills and I blame that for my lack of diversification and competence in more practical skills, but at least it is doing something tangible to help – it is paying the rent and putting food on the table, and giving me a lot of job satisfaction, as I have managed to combine my geeklust with an environmental job. So I am sorted there really – I could go on for ever learning this scripting language or that OS but I am slightly less obsessed now I have a fairly good grounding I can plug most gaps one way or another.
That’ll do me for tonight!
Anyone else feeling gap aversion?