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Skills from 100 years ago

post #1 of 126
Thread Starter 
Ok, it's a weird title, but I'm wondering about simple stuff that people probably knew how to do 100 years ago that have almost been completely lost. Little things that can save you money and dependence on others. We need to become more practical as a society, and I hope little things like this can help.

1. Bake a loaf of bread. Recipe here, from Mother Earth News

2. Cook for yourself. Even if it's scrambled eggs, find some recipes you're capable of making. Especially if you're the take-out queen. Try to use canned goods or fresh foods - remember to shop the outside of the grocery store (produce, meat/fish, dairy) and ignore the inside. And to add onto it...

3. Eat seasonally. It's important to adjust our eating habits to what is readily available. As local foods become the most likely foods for us, we should know what's in season and use it.

4. Simple mending. If you've never picked up a needle, you may want to. You don't need to really learn how to make your own clothes - just patch holes and darn socks. It doesn't even have to look very pretty - you can just patch up the hole or sew a cute fabric patch over it. Maybe repurpose things when they get too bad - remember almost every piece of fabric works as a rag, and it's cheaper than paper towels, so don't throw ratty clothes out!

4. Simple woodworking. Learn how to use a hammer, a tape measurer, a level, a screwdriver (phillips and flat), a handsaw, and a hand sander. Things might take longer without automatic tools, but they use less electricity and are CHEAPER. It also means you don't have to pay anyone else to do it.

5. Basic first aid. Get certified in CPR and make sure you know how to treat cuts and burns, and when to take someone to the ER. Also, make sure you have papers on file for emergencies.

6. Learn to stockpile. Not a panic stockpile, but bit-by-bit, a couple cans a week of things you eat all the time. Have emergency kits for everyone in the house that hopefully will never come out of the dark corner in which you put them.

Anyone else have other ideas?
post #2 of 126
There is a 30-page thread on this subject on the Mindful Home Management main forum. I just bumped it and here's a link: http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=980275
post #3 of 126
Soap making.
Wood chopping.
Candle making.
Canning and preserving.
Butchering animals.
Cooking/Baking on a wood stove.
Tanning skins.
post #4 of 126
I remember when I was in Germany and I went to a Conner Prairie like museum of a late 19th century farm manor.

Five things stuck in my mind:

1) They baked bread only once a month. The loaf or two they made was supposed to last the whole month.

2) Generally speaking, food was purposely supposed to be gross so you didn't eat a lot of it. They never cleaned the pot they cooked in, just added to it.

3) They kept farm animals in the house as a source of warmth for themselves and the animals.

4) More people than you would otherwise want to think about crammed in a space the size of most people's shoe closets.
5) A dog ran the mill wheel. When the dog got too worn out to do it, they slaughtered the dog and rendered its fat to grease the wheel that the next dog would run on.

Can't wait to relive the past!
post #5 of 126
Interesting-- we are pretty handy here, but certainly still have plenty of things to learn.
post #6 of 126
I would replace "learn to stockpile" with a more specific "learn to preserve food at home." Canning, drying, smoking, etc.
post #7 of 126
I think we've lost the art of breastfeeding, childbirthing and parenting overall.

Think of midwives...for awhile they were just about extinct, thus so were their methods and tricks of the trade.

I also think homeopathy or self care has been lost to some point even though it's made a more mainstream come back. Most people still don't have a clue about eating right, exercising and caring for themselves/kids during illness.
post #8 of 126
Holy cow... there's thrifty but then there's THRIFTY... They must have led miserable lives.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonnenwende View Post
I remember when I was in Germany and I went to a Conner Prairie like museum of a late 19th century farm manor.

Five things stuck in my mind:

1) They baked bread only once a month. The loaf or two they made was supposed to last the whole month.

2) Generally speaking, food was purposely supposed to be gross so you didn't eat a lot of it. They never cleaned the pot they cooked in, just added to it.

3) They kept farm animals in the house as a source of warmth for themselves and the animals.

4) More people than you would otherwise want to think about crammed in a space the size of most people's shoe closets.
5) A dog ran the mill wheel. When the dog got too worn out to do it, they slaughtered the dog and rendered its fat to grease the wheel that the next dog would run on.

Can't wait to relive the past!
post #9 of 126
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonnenwende View Post
2) Generally speaking, food was purposely supposed to be gross so you didn't eat a lot of it. They never cleaned the pot they cooked in, just added to it.
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold....

Some cultures ate more bread than that, though.
post #10 of 126
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolar2 View Post
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold....

Some cultures ate more bread than that, though.
Sure, but I was just citing one example of how hard life really was without the benefit of modern conveinence. We like to romanticize what life was like for our ancestors, but to come face to face with it is a real slap in the face.

The loaves that we were shown were large, but at the same time, they only did it once a month. You can imagine how hard they would have been by the end, what other animals probably ate off of it. It was a fairly labor intensive activity. Threashing grain for breakfast (let alone milling), for example, was extremely difficult and exhausting work without the benefit of modern machinery.

The people also avoided drinking the water if they could help it. A weak beer they brewed was considered a far safer bet.
post #11 of 126
Well, I can do everything listed so far, except tanning animal hides. I feel pretty fortunate and prepared.
post #12 of 126
Quote:
Simple mending.
I've been working on learning this, to make the children's clothes last longer.
post #13 of 126
Quote:
Originally Posted by smeisnotapirate View Post
Ok, it's a weird title, but I'm wondering about simple stuff that people probably knew how to do 100 years ago that have almost been completely lost. Little things that can save you money and dependence on others. We need to become more practical as a society, and I hope little things like this can help.

1. Bake a loaf of bread. Recipe here, from Mother Earth News

2. Cook for yourself. Even if it's scrambled eggs, find some recipes you're capable of making. Especially if you're the take-out queen. Try to use canned goods or fresh foods - remember to shop the outside of the grocery store (produce, meat/fish, dairy) and ignore the inside. And to add onto it...

3. Eat seasonally. It's important to adjust our eating habits to what is readily available. As local foods become the most likely foods for us, we should know what's in season and use it.

4. Simple mending. If you've never picked up a needle, you may want to. You don't need to really learn how to make your own clothes - just patch holes and darn socks. It doesn't even have to look very pretty - you can just patch up the hole or sew a cute fabric patch over it. Maybe repurpose things when they get too bad - remember almost every piece of fabric works as a rag, and it's cheaper than paper towels, so don't throw ratty clothes out!

4. Simple woodworking. Learn how to use a hammer, a tape measurer, a level, a screwdriver (phillips and flat), a handsaw, and a hand sander. Things might take longer without automatic tools, but they use less electricity and are CHEAPER. It also means you don't have to pay anyone else to do it.

5. Basic first aid. Get certified in CPR and make sure you know how to treat cuts and burns, and when to take someone to the ER. Also, make sure you have papers on file for emergencies.

6. Learn to stockpile. Not a panic stockpile, but bit-by-bit, a couple cans a week of things you eat all the time. Have emergency kits for everyone in the house that hopefully will never come out of the dark corner in which you put them.

Anyone else have other ideas?
I don't think that these are skills that have been lost. I mean, come on, simple mending? Do other people just throw out clothes when they need a button or a hem fixed? Do most people really not know how to cook? I live in a city, and I don't know anyone who doesn't know how to do these things. Maybe it's the crowd I hang around with, but that list sounds like it's aimed at 13 yr olds.
post #14 of 126
Thread Starter 
Sonnenmeade, I appreciate the reality check, but I didn't say that we should all go back to living like 100 years ago. I just said that a lot of practical skills have been lost, so what should we preserve?

Let's be honest - I don't think anyone wants to go BACKWARDS 100 years. I'll take indoor plumbing, thank you.
post #15 of 126
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellp View Post
Holy cow... there's thrifty but then there's THRIFTY... They must have led miserable lives.
Poverty does tend to be miserable. It's more than just not being able to afford +2000 sq ft for a family of 4.
post #16 of 126
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolar2 View Post
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold....

Some cultures ate more bread than that, though.
Yes, German food of that time was heavily potato based, not so much bread based.
post #17 of 126
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by choli View Post
I don't think that these are skills that have been lost. I mean, come on, simple mending? Do other people just throw out clothes when they need a button or a hem fixed? Do most people really not know how to cook? I live in a city, and I don't know anyone who doesn't know how to do these things. Maybe it's the crowd I hang around with, but that list sounds like it's aimed at 13 yr olds.
Yeah, people do. Our next door neighbor stores scrapbooking supplies in her oven, because she's never used it. She's repurposed the kitchen pantry into a second clothing closet. My mother refuses to mend anything (and purposely doesn't own a needle or thread on principle ) because she feels like anyone of means can afford a new one - and LOTS of people agree with her.

You may have a good group. It's not like that everywhere.
post #18 of 126
Quote:
Originally Posted by smeisnotapirate View Post
Yeah, people do. Our next door neighbor stores scrapbooking supplies in her oven, because she's never used it. She's repurposed the kitchen pantry into a second clothing closet. My mother refuses to mend anything (and purposely doesn't own a needle or thread on principle ) because she feels like anyone of means can afford a new one - and LOTS of people agree with her.

You may have a good group. It's not like that everywhere.
But that doesn't mean that your mother and your neighbor CAN'T cook or mend, it means they choose not to. It's not like cooking and mending are lost skills.
post #19 of 126
Back to Basics by readers Digest is an awesome book to have if you can find it.
post #20 of 126
Monthly bread making? Are you sure? How about weekly. At least that's how they did it in the even yet more miserable Middle Ages.

Let me add in cheesemaking (Hi Ellien), working together as a community, and preparing dead bodies for burial. (Not all at once.)

I'm a history reenactor so I've tried my hand at a lot of deliberately low-tech projects. I'm always sort of the amused at the dicotomy of "everything sucked in the past" and "all was so lovely and simple back then (before big pharma.)"
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