Friday, October 23, 2009

Living History to Learn Skills

I read a post at Preparedness Pro yesterday about the importance of learning skills. Acquiring useful skills is actually something I've thought about a lot in case you couldn't tell by all the crazy stuff I share with you that I've been doing. I believe that having a quiver full of skills and things you've actually tried is way better than having a library of books about self sufficiency. Now don't get me wrong, your resource books are very important. It's just that having experience with something, even if it didn't go so well, gives you so much more to work with.

The type of skills that were the focus of the article were the skills that will make you an asset to society if it ever needs rebuilt from a major disaster or TEOTWAWKI type situation. Skills like blacksmithing, woodworking, weaving, sewing, leatherwork, candle and soap making. Skills that were everyday and ordinary in the past but are not as necessary in our world of convenience and electricity. Unfortunately, because of that, many of these skills just aren't taught anymore. But I wanted to let you all in on a great resource for learning some of the "old time" skills (no, it's not my mother). It's historical reenactments or living history events.There are so many different groups that organize and participate in historical reenacting or living history events. I bet there's one near you. These events usually range from a few hours to a week long, and encompass many different time periods. Everything from vikings to pioneers to World War II and everything in between.Our family participates in historical reenacting of the colonial and mountain man eras (1770's-1840). We've been doing this since my kids were very small, in fact the littlest turned 2 months old at her first rendezvous. Besides being a great family activity, these types of living history events are an amazing resource for learning skills from the past. Through reenacting, I've been able to take classes on different types of weaving and cordage, outdoor cooking, flint/steel firemaking, basketweaving, butter making, tanning leather, and the list goes on. Sweet husband has taken some of the same classes plus done some blacksmithing classes as well. You can learn to make knives and other weapons, shoot guns appropriate to the era, and primitive archery. You can even learn to throw knives and tomahawks. (Yes, she's only 4 here, yes, she popped the balloon with her own tomahawk, and yes, it's scary how consistent she is with it--watch out future boyfriends!)Get to an event and ask questions. Most re-enactors are more than willing to share what they know. If you meet one that's not, go ask someone else. Some events have organized classes, others don't. You might need to get out of your box and strike up conversation to learn the skills you want to know.

Attending these events as a visitor is a good start, but will only give you half the experience. Why not step up and become a participant? Then you too can experience the joys of primitive dishwashing!
You learn how creative you can get when the whole family is cramped in a little tent while the rain pours, how fast or slowly shoes dry out, how to wash hands, faces, hair, clothes, and dishes with minimal water, how long making a fort of sticks and rocks in the woods can occupy a boy, how to string canvas together to make a shelter when the tent isn't big enough anymore--you get the picture. It is exhausting and fun and educational all rolled into one.
And you get to do it all . . .
wearing . . .
really . . .
cute clothes!

Here's some ideas to find your nearest living history event:
Check this page at wikipedia.
Or this site for a listing of events.
Search for your state muzzle loading association and contact them to see if they sponsor any events.
Ask your local chamber of commerce.
Ask the "locals" in your community.
Watch out for flyers or notices in the newspaper.
Sometimes even the TV news crews will cover events.

So if you're looking to learn some "old" skills, give some thought to giving living history a try--you might find out you really like it! :)


Preparedness Pro said...

Angela, this is priceless, thank you for sharing this article and pictures from your family's experiences with living history. I have a friend, Susan Glenn, who participates in Mountain Men outdoors events, as well. I have to say I'm not much of a camper, but really admire the skills that can be acquired through experiences like these.

HermitJim said...

Now THAT'S a fun and educational way to spend time with the family!
How cool!

I should check into some of those classes!

Melonie said...

What a wonderful post! The photos really make it fantastic. Thanks for sharing so many shots - I love 'em!

Angela's Mom said...

Ahhhhh, my daughter, good times!!! Makes me want to set up the tent right now, dig a fire pit and give the skill of dutch oven cooking a try. Maybe next summer we can work on that one...

Angela said...

Emily A just suggested I ask you about Pioneer type dresses and then I see this post. My girls are going to be Laura and Mary for Halloween and I'm looking for dresses for them. Would you happen to have two dresses I can borrow for a 4 and 6 year old? I'm currently staying in Orem while I nurse my baby in the NICU in Salt Lake, but if you do have some dresses, my husband could come and get them. If not, no big deal. I'm planning on scouting DI. I really enjoy reading your blog. You're a fountain of good information.

Anonymous said...

great information on your blog ty.