Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is She Off The Grid Or Off Her Rocker?


As the proud possessor of numerous arcane and offbeat skills, I thought it might be fun to list some here with an emphasis on my more delicate skills for your amazement and derision.

1. I can weave baskets. I can also select the tree, chop it down, strip it, split it and plane it. Although I think willow and grapevine are beautiful, my favorite boxes and baskets are simple white oak. I have never cared for the mass produced look of Nantucket baskets. I understand the intensive labor that goes in to making them by hand, but to me they look a bit twee.

2. I can spin cotton, flax and wool. Not only can I spin it, I can and have sheared an intact fleece, broken flax and dyed and felted wool. I would like to try spinning fur and quivet. I prefer walking wheels because it is easier to control the speed and I like the feel of the gliding rhythm, but treadle wheels are easier for controlling tension. When I had the time to spin, I did not have the room for a wheel. Now that I have the room, I do not have the time. I have one leftover basket of handspun wool yarn that I never used. Sometimes I unroll a bit and just let it glide through my fingers. I miss spinning.

3. Although my Godmother taught me to knit as I child, I do not remember how. I would very much like to learn. I learned to weave clear simple patterns on the monster loom at school, but I can not design cloth. My favorite kind of weaving is Inkle weaving. I love making ribbons and trims. I was secretly disappointed when my Godmother sold her giant pedal loom (please don't tell her how I coveted it).
I can do fine needlework including intricate and long forgotten knot and cross techniques, but my utility and machine sewing skills are lamentable. My regular running stitch is 1/32" long with a number 12 needle. I use a 10 for quilting. I have not worked on a quilt in seven years. My favorite quilts are of the solid cover variety since they show fancy stitches better than patchworks. My darning work is nearly invisible. I am excessively proud of my darning skills.

4. I can make a large variety of meals by hearth and without an oven including baked goods. I have a frightening number of drying, brineing, smoking, sugaring,and salting techniques for preserving food stuck in my brain (but I'll bet you might have guessed that from my blog title). I also know two different ways to make soap and three different ways to make candles.

5. I posses the knowledge to perform these three tasks: Tanning Leather, Blacksmithing, and cleaning and preparing bodies for burial. One of these tasks I've done very successfully after a two week hands on course. One I went to extreme lengths to avoid having to study in depth, but I do have the knowledge to do it in a pinch. One of these things was taught to me by a family member. Can you guess which is which?

So! In the event of urban collapse, I would be very useful to have around. I will not, however join your extreme survivalist cult and I'm too mean and selfish to be of much help in your commune. I like to think of myself as some sort of post apocalyptic crone living on the outskirts of the village helping the women, frightening the children and throwing things at the men (Insert insane cackle here).

Today I give thanks for the knowledge of previous generations lovingly passed on by wise and patient teachers like my Godmother.