My 13 in 13 Profile
Ok, so the 13 skils in 2013 page has been launched and I made my page. The main website is www.13skills.com. A general overview of the site is that people are pledging to learn 13 new basic skills or improve existing ones in some way in 2013.
Over the past couple of years I’ve really started to take an interest in this kind of stuff and making a point to learn basic skills. I’ve learned how to do quite a bit in the past few years and I know I’ve only scratched the surface. Not everything I’ve tried has been a success, but when something does come out right, it feels good – even the small things like sprouting mung beans, picking something from the garden or making your own bread from scratch. Since I’ve decided to make an effort to practice basic skills, I’ve incorporated several of them into my day-to-day life and I think I’m better off for it.
Part of me wants to learn these kinds of skills “just in case”. A bigger part of me wants to learn these skills to improve my daily life and to preserve our heritage. If we don’t learn how to grow things, make things, do things and so-on, who will do it for us? I’d rather not leave that up to Wonderbread, the Jolly Green Giant and whoever makes particle board furniture from China. I think that practicing the kinds of skills that were part of our ancestors’ daily lives helps us to better understand who we are as humans, Americans or whatever group we belong to. Plus it feels good to be able to bypass some of the systems of support that most people depend on.
So here’s what I picked:
1. Gardening. In my case I’m making this goal into “winter gardening”. Right now I have a 6×8 greenhouse up, a cold frame and an aquarium I’m using as a mini-greenhouse. I’m hoping to extend my growing season at both ends and have a salad sometime in January. Of course I’m going to work on regular seasoning gardening stuff as well.
2. Building Community. I’m going to reach out a little more this year to like-minded people. I went to a preparedness meetup last month that I’m excited about, so that’s a good start. I know there’s a lot of people around here that do things I’m interested in, it’s just a matter of getting in touch and all of that. I want to do a better job of talking to my neighbors and reconnecting with people I’ve kind of fallen out of the loop with. I’ve been really, really bad about this. I’m kicking around the idea of a Des Moines urban homesteading website/forum, but we’ll see.
3. Beekeeping. I’m going to get 2 or 3 hives in my backyard. The wife says 2, I say 3. The goal with that is to end the year with two functioning hives and a little bit of honey. I’m still not exactly sure what kind of hives I want, but I found a guy a mile or so away from me that breeds Russian bees, so I’ll order some nucs from him after the new year. I’m a little apprehensive about this with the dogs (they have a tendency to get into things they shouldn’t), but I think I can make it work. I have a couple ideas to make this happen.
4. Dairy. I chose this one because I want to try to make a couple different kinds of cheeses and finally figure out yogurt. I think I’m probably at somewhere less than 50% success whenever I’ve tried to make yogurt. It would be cool to figure cheese out. If we move out to the country in the next few years, I’d like to get a dairy goat and knowing how to use the excess milk will be a good thing.
5. Knots. I think this will be a good one I can do on a rainy day or something. It would be nice to know a few functional knots. I know I’ve been in situations where it would have been good to know the appropriate knot instead of just trying to fumble through it. Right now I only know a couple, I’d like to know about 10. I had some training on this in the Marine Corps, but I think most of that knowledge went by the wayside. I think I could fumble my way through a Swiss seat, tie my shoes and do a basic square knot.
6. Second Language. I’m going to improve my Spanish. It’s hard to quantify, but I’d like to be better at it by the end of the year. I’ll listen to podcasts, read some books, use Spanish subtitles and all of that. I think I should set the goal to have a conversation in Spanish by the end of the year. We were kicking around the idea of going to Spain in February, but I’m not sure that will happen.
7. Woodworking. I picked up some carving knives and a few books. I’m going to try to make some Welsh lovespoons or maybe a chess set or something. I’ve always been terrible at drawing and other art-related things, so this one is a little daunting. If I make some mistakes, oh well, it’s just wood. Either way, we’ll see where that goes.
8. Alternative Energy. I’m going to learn more about it and maybe do some kind of small-scale project. I have a few good books on the subject. I have some small solar panels to play around with. The kinds of projects I’m thinking about are making my shed solar powered, solar ovens and making my house more energy efficient. I’d like to learn more about wind, solar, water and biomass. Something like making alcohol for gas would be cool or maybe looking into small-scale wind, but I might be putting myself out a little too far with that at this point.
9. Carpentry. I’m going to build a chicken coop. I’m also going to build something to enclose the bee hives. I might even try my hand at some furniture. I’m hoping to learn a little more about building stuff and using hand tools throughout the year. I think this skill is a good one because it will tie in to several of the other skills I’m planning on pursuing this year. I like knocking out a couple birds with one stone.
10. Plant Identification. I will identify and use at least five new wild edibles. I’ll also brush up on tree identification. I used to be really good at that, now occasionally I get stumped by things a little out of the ordinary. I picked up a book about this and will probably start this once plants start growing again.
11. Teaching. I will speak in front of an audience and teach about something. I’d like to do some interviews and in-depth blog posts on how to do some of this stuff. I think this could be another multiple-birds-with-one-stone thing. The best way to learn something is to teach someone else how to do it.
12. Animal Husbandry. I’m going to get a few hens, keep them alive and maybe get some eggs out of them. A co-worker will most likely start raising goats this year and I think I’ll also have the opportunity to get my feet wet with them as well. If he does, I’ll volunteer some of my time to help out with the goats.
13. Science. This option was originally “meteorology”, which I picked on a whim after looking at the list. I’d like to learn more about identifying weather patterns and being able to look at a website like wunderground.com and really understand all the data they’re giving me. I’ll broaden this out to observable astronomy, like really grasping the phases of the moon, movement of the sun, location of constellations, stellar navigation and so-on. I already know some of this stuff, but I’d like to have it down cold. I think this is something that I would use every day, so I’m excited and diving into this one.
So that’s what I’m thinking right now. There’s always the chance that other opportunities will come up and the list might change a little, but at the very least I promise not to cheese-dick out of things (i.e. picking origami or something over beekeeping). I might be able to take a blacksmithing class or something like welding. Either way, this should be a productive year.
In addition to these 13, I hope to improve my blogging/web presence skills as I go. Very few people know that I do this site and I don’t peddle it too hard. At this point it’s more of an outlet for me to talk about some of the things on my mind instead of just reacting to what’s on other people’s minds. I think I’ll be “public” about my site amongst people I know very soon.
I will be posting about some of the 13 skills related things along the way. I will make a category and a tag on it to keep tabs on my progress. I really think this is something that everyone should consider, even if they can only manage a few skills this year and I’m interested in hearing about other people’s plans.