Practical Skills That People Once Knew

Here is a list of practical skills that more people knew ‘back in the day’, compared with today.

(updated to include many of your prior comments below)

Technical schools, trade schools, apprenticeships, journeyman, etc… used to be much more popular. It was pretty common for many young adults just out of high school going on into various trades.

Today however it’s almost expected that every high school graduate must go on to ‘academia’ in order to ‘succeed’ in life. Although lots has changed over the years, I do wish that more young adults would explore the trades. Similarly, I wish that we in the USA made – manufactured – more ‘stuff’ like we used to. The country was much more self-reliant back then. But I digress…

While there certainly are people today who posses these skills, I wonder how fewer there may be than days gone by. Many years ago, life (and our jobs) required that we posses more hands-on and practical skills than required of us today.

It seems to me that for decades now – far fewer kids are being taught the practical skills which would better help them make it on their own in a more self-reliant way than today. We have evolved into a modern and dependent society – one which would be in deep doo-doo if the SHTF, or TEOTWAWKI.

Practical Skills List

This list could be endless, given enough time to think about it – but I’ve noted some practical skills which crossed my mind as I wrote this.

>> Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills
(view on amzn)

Some of these could be a career. Others, just good practical skills to know. Still others, maybe hobbies.

Even though we live in a modern world requiring little or no traditional practical skills to survive, I sure do recommend learning a few of them. It makes you a better person (e.g. more self-reliant and independent), and some of this is great for general preparedness.

In no particular order:

  • Woodworking
  • Metalwork
  • Hand tools (versus powered/electric)
  • Carpentry
  • Drafting
  • Cooking
  • Home Economics
  • Reading & Writing (don’t laugh, I’m serious)
  • How to build basic things
  • Basic math skills (by hand or ‘in your head’)
  • Knitting, Crocheting
  • Sewing (by hand, and non-electronic machine)
  • Making clothes
  • Gardening (and it’s many sub-categories of skills)
  • Composting
  • Fence building
  • Fishing
  • Forestry
  • Pottery, sculpture
  • Making bread from scratch
  • Make your own soap
  • Primitive fire making
  • Raising chickens for eggs and meat
  • Foraging
  • Well driller, maker
  • Archery
  • Backpacking
  • Camping
  • Shooting, marksmanship
  • Canning, food preservation
  • Budgeting, staying out of debt
  • Knot tying
  • Car, engine mechanics
  • Gunsmith
  • Blacksmith
  • Textile
  • Welding
  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Medical – the basic practical skills
  • Map reading, pathfinding
  • Cobbling
  • Leatherwork
  • Entrepreneurship, inventing
  • Reloading
  • Washing clothes by hand
  • Stay at home mom
  • Adapting, making the most of what you have
  • Food pantry storage
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Raising farm animals
  • Dehydrate fruits and veggies (without electricity)
  • Greenhouse
  • Handyman
  • Tree-cutting, firewood
  • Bicycle repair
  • Shearing, spinning wool, weaving
  • Herbalism
  • Midwife
  • Frugality
  • Analytical thinking
  • Alternative energy
  • Solar design
  • Basic electronics
  • Firearms training
  • Making moonshine
  • Masonry
  • Plumbing
  • Butcher
  • Baker
  • Candle stick maker

Most people today (especially our young) are caught up in an electronic world. Many practical skills have been left behind.

Entertainment is more high-definition TV, video games, and celebrity, rather than stepping outside and smelling the fresh air. Remember when you were younger and would spend nearly your entire time outdoors after school or after dinner or on the weekends? Our minds ‘worked’ differently in those environments, and we learned many practical things and lessons in life just by the fact we were closer to the land, nature, and getting our hands dirty. But I digress yet again…

The Foxfire Series:

The classic series of old traditional practical skills of an era gone by… Each book covers a unique variety of skills. I bought the series years ago. Classic.
(view on amzn)

The Foxfire Book
Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining, and Other Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 2
Ghost Stories, Spring Wild Plant Foods, Spinning and Weaving, Midwifing, Burial Customs, Corn Shuckin’s, Wagon Making and More Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 3
Animal Care, Banjos and Dulcimers, Hide Tanning, Summer and Fall Wild Plant Foods, Butter Churns, Ginseng, and Still More Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 4
Fiddle Making, Spring Houses, Horse Trading, Sassafras Tea, Berry Buckets, Gardening

Foxfire 5
Ironmaking, Blacksmithing, Flintlock Rifles, Bear Hunting, and Other Affairs of Plain Living

Foxfire 6
Shoemaking, 100 Toys and Games, Banjos, Wooden Locks, Water-Powered Sawmill

Foxfire 7
Ministries and Church, Revivals, Gospel Singing, Faith, Camp Meetings, Foot Washing, Snake Handling

Foxfire 8
Southern Pottery, Ash Glazes, Groundhog Kilns, Churns, Roosters

Foxfire 9
General Stores, Jud Nelson wagon, Catawban Indian Potter, Haint Tales, Quilting, Home Cures, The Log Cabin Revisited

Foxfire 10
Railroad Lore, BoardingHouses, Depression-Era Appalachia, Chairmaking, Whirligigs, Snake Canes, Gourd Art

Foxfire 11
The Old Home Place, Wild Plant Uses, Preserving and Cooking Food, Hunting Stories, Fishing, More Affairs of Plain Living

 Add your own comments of the skills we’ve gotten away from as a modern society.

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73 Comments

  1. Well Ken, out of your list I am proficient in 25 and minimal skills with six. Many, I feel I would pick up on easily because of some knowledge of other skills.

    It is so true that everyone is into the electronic gadgets. I have a one year old grandson, and although I’m sure he will be doing that stuff, I will be teaching him more of the old ways that at least I know. I will make it fun for him and special as his father is more into the electronics.

    1. Papa J, kudo’s to you for teaching your grandkids about the great outdoors. I taught my kids how to play outdoors the way I did. Now my youngest prefers to stay inside and play video games. sigh But my oldest loves picking blackberries and canning with me,camping,gardening etc… I only hope our generation is successful in passing on the traditions or else they may go away forever.

  2. Between my wife and myself, we have all but 4 of these down pat. Many are an extension of another skill such as tree cutting and forestry or welding, blacksmithing and gunsmithing. We didn’t score well on moonshine making, textile, reloading and making soap. We have books on most of these. Just haven’t had time to tackle them yet. You are right, the list is endless. That’s life.

  3. I went to school to learn to be a computer programmer, because I thought I would be able to get a great job doing so. I have been very successful the last couple of years, but I too see the writting on the wall hence the reason I am here. I realized that the skills I learned to make a living are not going to serve me well in the coming future, which is why I have taken on a number of these items listed. First I took on gardening. I have limited space, but I learned about earthboxes and build a couple of my own and now I have over 20 of them. I also recently got into raised beds. Recently my wife and I went camping and I have been researching camping, back packing, and fishing equipment to name a few more.

    You may be asking who cares? I would like everyone to not only prepare, but also not be afraid of this list. Start small, but take them on. You have plenty of time to do them. I spend a lot of time in my garden and watch a lot less tv.

  4. Water sourcing and purifying; well making.

    Making and using primitive weapons; slings, bows, arrows (incl. flint knapping), spears,etc.

    Identifying and preparing wild plants for food and medicine.

    Emergency medical skills.

  5. yes, I think it is a good thing to point out. back when I was a youngster on the farm (50 yrs back), pretty near everyone I came in contact with could do most all, and more. Have to admit, I have few. My observation of generation younger than me, they have even less than me.

    Even supposing the world goes merrily along, for the next two hundred years, I feel there is a great loss in youngsters/young adults/even grown ups not being competent in at least some of these. Knowing these gives one a great sense of confidence, in one’s self. Even if not used in every day work/life, it gives a solid base for life.

  6. Back in the 70s there was a series of books called FOXFIRE. As I recall, it was an encyclopedic “how to” series written by “mountain folk” as a project to get students interested in their heritage. It covers everthing from moonshine making to trapping. I see it available used sometimes but I’d buy it in a heart beat if it were available electronically. Might be worth looking for….

    My Kindle is loaded with survival books and is easily charged with my portable solar charger.

    Copper

    1. @Copper
      I have the first 3 Foxfire books as pdf. files. They are available online. I just don’t remember where I got them.

      1. Hi Tammy,

        I’d suggest printing those pdf files (you can email them or take them via CD, thumb drive, etc. to a printing place) and have them bound and ready to go as hard copies. I did that with a woodcutting saw pdf, and the binder turned out great!

        NG :)

        1. My suggestion is if you want hard copies of the Foxfire books and don’t want to pay new book prices, check our your local library used book sales. They’ve been sold for 40 years now, so there are many older copies of the books available, sometimes only for pennies if you time your purchase correctly. I routinely see copies of the Foxfire books for sale at my local library used book sale that sells donated books to benefit the public library.
          There are numerous sites that also host scanned PDF copies of the entire series, if that’s more to your liking
          I also send around a collection of prep documents on a thumbdrive to folks on request and only ask that they send back documents they might have to add to the collection so that future recipients of the collection can benefit from their donation.

    2. A friend left me her set of Foxfire books when she passed. I am very grateful to her. Unfortunately I don’t think my daughter would be as grateful to me!

  7. We really do not make things in America anymore, sure, we make some cars (with foreign made parts), airplanes, and some small local manufacturing plants make things.
    Skills used by folks to live by, on a daily basis are a lost art.
    Learn any skill you can.
    Talk to old folks who did it.
    Read books, try, trail and error, and keep at it until you can.
    We will need it in the future.

  8. I think I have at least 8 of the foxfire books as well. I picked them up about 30 years ago. I have a bookcase full of how-to books. I have 5 on my kindle only because I can’t find a print version. I’m not counting on those too heavily. The print books will still be good 50 years from now, the kindle I’m not so sure. I read reference books like some people read fiction. I love learning new skills, however I don’t rely on my memory to retain it all, hence the books.

  9. Ken – I love your nursery-rhyme ending to the list! It made me smile, as all are wonderful skills to know. I would add seed saving, knowing the nuances of garden plants, knowing garden plant pests and diseases (and how to treat them), setting up a root cellar (knowing how to properly store these items and deal with their off-gases), darning socks, beekeeping, making your own dairy products from raw milk, naturopathic medicine and nutrition, navigation with a compass and the stars, knowing how to predict the weather the best way possible (and know the signs of severe weather), etc. I will post again when I think of more!

  10. -how solar panels work.
    -beekeeping
    -teaching or tutoring children.
    -how to guide & lead a survival group
    -how to handle prisoners
    -guard duty
    -training methods of security

          1. You’re welcome. Suggest you try real Maple syrup if you haven’t. It’s quite a bit better than most of the crap they sell in the store. Kinda pricey.

          2. It also does not have high fructose corn syrup in it. I agree on the taste, I can’t eat pancakes, waffles, or French toast without it. Up here people collect it from the trees in plastic tanks on a wagon. Literally by the hundreds of gallons.

    1. out here some people tap box elder trees and render the sap. it’s not maple but it sure is good

      1. Plainsroamer we in NH also tap beech and birch trees for sap. Maple preferred but they all taste good.

          1. Could someone do a post on tapping trees for syrup? I’ve researched, but I am not at all sure I even understand the basics. I have box elder trees behind my house, maples next door (although not sugar maples) and a walnut tree in my yard. Any one of them can be tapped.

  11. Maybe add medical skills. In the old days, gramma was your doctor, unless you were dying of Tb. Most people have lost touch with these skills.

    I also see a lot of sites recommend learning CPR. Although this is a great skill to have, it will do very little in a true cardiac arrest but sustain blood pressure until you get the patient to a defibrillator. Alas, learning the art of caring for the sick without the luxury of medical technology is crucial. I’d even suggest that many doctors and nurses have lost many of these skills too! Other than those who work with homeless, or who have worked in third world countries, health care workers may also struggle when you can no longer just order that blood test or that CT scan.

    Volunteer in providing first aid on the streets to the homeless…. that will expose you to some rich skills.

    1. Some of the older Girl Scout Handbooks (printed prior to 1955) had chapters about HOME NURSING, which included basic sanitation, infection control, comfort and prevention of bed sores as well as meal suggestions (clear liquids, soft foods, semi-soft foods).

      If there is a set of skills that any and everyone NEEDS to have, (and it will be needed throughout your life with or without SHTF), it is some home nursing.

      That is only the basics to have some one comfortable while sick with an illness or laid-up with a broken leg.

    2. As a nurse I use several of these skills on a daily basis, and critical thinking is part of my every day. Any good nurse should be able to fall back on basic nursing from his/her 101 class and remember the principles Florence Nightengale. As someone else pointed out, it may not save the person that needs neuro surgery, but the basic principles taught in nursing school can help keep those who aren’t sick well.

  12. Thanks for all the information regarding Foxfire online. Man, that brings back memorys. Does anyone know where I can buy the whole set in PDFs? Thanks for the first 5.

    Copper.

  13. Agree we should add security and medical skills to list. my husband and I cover all but 4 items and include the medical, security and water collection/purification. kids can fill in the rest…no maple available here in the altitude, so I will have to stock up! nothing like the real thing!

  14. Growing coffee trees will be one of my priorities. I live at 8600 feet and have been growing two trees for the last 5 years. The only problem is the yield. I think I will need about a hundred trees to keep up with my habit.

    1. Yaupon holly trees have caffeine in their leaves. Avoid the berries and roast the leaves, grind them up, and you have a coffee substitute. Yaupon is abundant here.

  15. There are always solar powered chargers to use with electronic devices. They are small and easier to transport than a ton of books.

    1. I have several of these as well, along with a larger (multi kilowatt) solar panel system with enough ‘juice’ to feed my primary systems in the house. I agree.

      However, ‘if’ there were an EMP event:

      Carrington Event

      EMP nuke detonation

      …these electronic devices ‘may’ cease to function – as in ‘fried’. I believe in a diversified plan (including alternative power sources for our modern electronic devices) as well as hard-copy references – where possible.

      1. Actually it would not take an EMP or a Carrington type event to reduce a Kindle or whatever to a poorly designed table leg leveler.

        All electronics will fail at some point. Particularly the high tech devices like computers. Anybody remember when Amazon deleted some books by Orwell in 2009? They probably still can do so. You know, only the government mandated ‘subversive’ books. A side of Internet kill switch to go with that?

  16. Old time medicine and first aid are a must.My pain killer of choice in this day and age is good ol aspirin. I have a large stash for the troubled times ahead. My mom was an RN and she also went through the depression, she had old fashioned remedies that she passed on to any of her children that gravitated towards helping their fellow man. Grow apple trees because you know what they say about ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’

  17. All of the items listed here are useful in a SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation,
    with the exception of a few. The things that I think are odd (?) are:

    a. Drafting – This is really a problem of conceptualization. This is really
    a problem of visualization and making a rough sketch of the item to be
    build.

    b. Home Economics – This is really a broad area. There are many skills
    involved like cooking, washing clothes, planning meals, etc.

    c. Budgeting, Staying out of debt – Furher down –
    Adapting, making the most of what you have
    Frugality
    This is a skill set for use before things happen. Afterwards, debt
    won’t happen.
    The rest is really pre-planning, so you can make the most of things.

    d. Car, Engine Mechanics – It seems to me that after TEOTWAWKI, cars won’t
    be running

    e. Cobbling – Shoes are not designed to be repaired. Shoe making is a
    skill that will be useful.

    f. Entrepreneurship, inventing – Entrepreneurship is like Home Economics,
    a catagory of a basket of skills.
    Inventing is really just problem solving, along with conceptualization.

    g. Stay at home mom – Again like Home Economics and Entrepreneurship, this
    is a class of skills. Some people treat this like sitting on the couch
    and watching Oprah.

    h. Handyman, again a class of skills. Plumbing, electrical, carpentry,
    roofing, etc.

    i. Analytical thinking – Really conceptualization and problem solving.

    j. Verbal communication skills and Proficient reading – These skills are
    only learned by doing and that is not done in schools.

    It was stated:

    “far fewer kids are being taught the practical skills which would”
    better help them make it on their own in a more self-reliant way
    than today. We have evolved into a modern and dependent society
    – one which would be in deep doo-”

    I think that most kids aren’t taught anything, except how to pass the
    proficiency tests given by schools to see what was learned. There are
    only two things we learn from a test. That is first how good the teacher
    is, and second whow good the test is.

  18. I am a child of the 80s and when I was younger I spent many hours playing outside using my mind to occupy my time verses playing on game systems and the internet. The children now a days don’t know how to do anything without using some sort of electronic device. The schools now a days tell children to Google what they are not sure of. The kids don’t know how to look in a dictionary anymore. We have become solely dependent on electronic devices. We don’t teach are children to use there brains and think for them self. I know how to use many hand tools. The kids now a days just type it in a computer and a machine does it for them. We need to shut down the computer and make the children go outside and play make them use there hands and build a fort dig a hole. Make them be less dependent of electronic devices.

    1. Upstate, I agree with you regarding kids. But much depends on who ever is the adult taking care of them, and looking around, not too many adults are bright enough to know what to do with themselves in life.

      Both of my kids know how to cook, and I mean not the box or microwave. They know how to pick food for preserving, canning, storage and what to do with it too. They have been taught money management skills and how to stretch a dollar. They both know how to cut and sew clothes (not perfect, but the skill is now there). Both know how to fix things around the house and the cars. I have a daughter and a son which is my younger one. They are not afraid of getting their hands dirty and that includes knowing how to clean dishes, the house and laundry.

      My husband, their dad, died many years ago and I simply took over everything which they needed to be thought about. And still, both kids are with the technology and know how to use it, typical young adults. They still know how to find their way out of a bad circumstance, navigate the woods without a compass and a GPS. Over the years, I quietly taught them survival skills and how to be prepared and how to use renewable sources. They were taught how to dress wounds and what mother nature has to offer for healing. And yes, they know how to use weapons too.

      Perhaps, I should mention that their dad and I put in over 30 years combined serving our country and that has helped a lot. As a mother and woman, I am pleased to see them growing up, but there was a lot of discipline, love and common sense. It truly irks me to see some parents letting their kids get away with crap, but then, what can one expect when I see a mother in the cashier line waiting and checking her stupid social media account while the kids are running in the store around wild.

      We are in a sad state when it comes to parenting. And schools, well, my kids went to public school, I have to work, but every night, I was at home with the kids supplementing their studies what the stupid school system was simply not teaching. I felt and feel it is my responsibility as their mom to make sure they are being thought properly, especially seeing our school system failing our kids, and selfish, incompetent parents failing their children.

      I am glad to have found this site to see that there are like minded people out there and I like to read every ones wisdom and tidbits :)
      Be well everyone

    2. They don’t make the physical Encyclopedia Britannica anymore, but I have seen them sell real cheap for outdated versions 2010 and earlier for $5.

  19. We create community by specializing in certain skills. While it is great to be able to do a little bit of everything, we can depend on each other as a human race. If times get really, really tough we will learn to operate as mini communities and not lose our basic instincts

  20. I’d also suggest that people learn how to make tipis and lodges from hides and canvas, after the hides are cured, treated, and made pliable.

    Making arrowheads and hatchets from stone – metal will quickly become more valuable than gold.

    Learning herbalism, and being able to not only identify the herbs, but to know how to cure and use them. Many of our modern medications are taken directly from the herbs.

  21. Midwife
    Apothecary
    Both crucial for long-term grid-down scenarios.

    Song leader – currently always a nice end to a long day of river rafting, having a guide or two with a guitar, harmonica, native flute, or drum lead the group in singing. In a WROL situation could help center a group and calm children. With hard copies of songbooks and hymnals.

    1. I suppose that it could be a practical skill (teamwork). It’s something that many people have difficulty with. While not every task or directive requires a team, many do – to accomplish goals quicker, more efficiently, etc..

      A big advantage of teamwork is the broader range of ideas and methods that come up. There are times when you think that you have the best way to do something, but then discover that someone else has a better way – for reasons or methods you hadn’t thought of.

      Some people can’t work together very well. A skill is that of managing people. Putting the right people together. Identifying their attributes and weaknesses. Using that to benefit the goal.

      Yes, teamwork can be a good practical skill. Especially if it’s the right team…

  22. Enjoyed your list and the comments. I would say I am proficient in 26, intentionally focusing on improving 10 other and ready to acquire 6 of these. There are 5 I have tried in the past and 13 my DH and I have discussed doing in the future. That leaves 11 and my DH is proficient at 10 of those.
    One thing a list like this can provide is perspective. It would be almost impossible for a couple or a small family to be proficient in enough of these to be completely self-sufficient. Supports our notion you need a small community of like minded individuals with complementary skills able to work together.

  23. Butcher, Baker, candlestick maker….
    Hey, you got that from a nursery rhyme.

    Farrier work.
    Stay at home dad….I like that one.
    Horse trainer

    Hands on training/learning is the only way to go.

    You can read about it, but the only way to get it done is using your own two hands

  24. I have most of those on the list for basic skills because I learned to do a little of everything, but I also taught skills I was most proficient in to younger generations.
    Today it is needed in these modern times. It would have been easier if I was taught many of them, but because of the circumstances, I was self taught without computers or teachers.

    The most important thing is willing to learn instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them. There will be times of trial and error, but that is how we learn. There may come a time these skills will be needed.

  25. I will add these reluctantly but,
    Mining- good for getting raw materials of many kinds. ( coal, lead, copper, phosphate, etc, ) Excavation. Both of these involve cutting in th o mountains shoring up ground and rock. Might include the making, sharpening, and heat treatment of hand drills and tools. (Won’t mention use of explosives- that is best left to experts. Whoops just did, but forget I said it)

    1. Miner Jim ,,,,,things that go boom ,,guess I can talk about it ,i must be on a list some place , was trained UDT , and I collect old magnetos you know the old wood box’s. And the wrist twist too,,,this world has gone mad ,almost forgot , old cap boxes and wood powder boxes too.

  26. How to sharpen things like knives, hatchets, axes, chain for chainsaws, gardening and woodworking tools.

    Small engine maintenance and repair for things like roto-tillers and chainsaws.

  27. Ken, I remember reading this article years ago and the list is too comprehensive for some of us thus I did not respond. It serves the purpose of making me think and it gains new relevance as I approach retirement from the medical field which I have been working for over 30 years now in different capacities.
    With a steady income, it has been easy for me to “call an expert” in to fix things while I went to work. ( new flooring, new roof, new water heaters etc.).
    My hobbies are some of the things on the list that I took to heart and chose to specialize in to a higher degree such that I may be able to combine an enjoyable and relaxing hobby into a small business that can pay for itself and provide a small income to supplement my pension(s).
    My chosen area of work outside of day job has been gun-smithing, reloading and writing about it in some trade related journals. From what I’ve read, many of todays gun writers had day jobs because being an outdoor writer is not consistent enough to keep the wolf from the door or to keep beans and bread on the table. One of the jobs I had at a gun shop was to bring in new customers whom I met at competitions in SoCal.

  28. Having had a Teaching Credential earlier in my career, I must say the toughest thing to teach a student is critical or analytical thinking. You show a student the basics but trying to teach the student to step back and gain a big picture perspective is not always possible. Same with planning for continuous use of limited supplies over an extended period of time. Until you actually live in those conditions, most people will never learn these skills.
    One of the best methods to learn several lessons about frugality, the need for rationing/self discipline can be learned by back country travel by backpack, canoe or pack animal. The supplies you bring are all you have until you come out for resupply. Traveling with the pack animal forces you to think about other creatures with you because you have to tend to your mules in addition to yourself. Self-centered people are a disaster when working with large working animals.

  29. My pet peeves of living off grid: While enjoying a view from a mountain overlook or a sunny day in the garden, or catching trout from an alpine lake, having a travel companion complaining about: “I don’t get WIFI out here! I want to go back and get some Starbucks soy-milk latte!”
    When traveling by horse and mule, you probably will not have ice cream for a few days…to bad.

    1. Calirefugee,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, you just made my day , and gave me a smile ,,
      Tea and chocolate

  30. – I learned enough of Ken’s original list to at least be willing to attempt most of those skills. Some I can do well; some not so well. There a few that I am at the most basic beginner level, but I have at least some knowledge to attempt to start it. Growing up, I learned plumbing from my maternal grandfather and my father. I have replumbed gas lines and repaired water lines in a house that I lived in with my family afterwards for ten years.
    I can bend nails with regularity. My DW is a much better carpenter than I am. I have been gardening since I was four years old, thanks to my mother. She also taught me to sew and crochet. According to my daughters, I iron better than DW can.
    I have books on plant identification for edible and medicinal plants, and I know a few common ones. I am by no means a herbalist, but I do try and learn.
     I have some experience with hunting, trapping and foraging, and I try to pass that knowledge along.

    1. I would have to credit the Boy Scouts for a lot of those skills. My father was an engineer, which added a lot more skills or at least experience. The Army added a goodly number more. Working in Operations you might need to be any number of skilled professionals in one day.
      – Papa S.

    2. Papa Smurf,
      I have found you can get by very well by just being a “Jack”, rather than a “Master ” of all trades. I too learned to sew and cook at a young age.(thanks Mom!) I still sew better than any lady I have ever been with, trick is to never let on!😝

  31. my take on it is that the intelligence level has gone down. i myself don’t really believe that the younger kids from last 20 to 30 years were not just interested but intelligence has just gone down, i don’t mean to offend anyone really. I just don’t really see even trying to get some of these kids today to try something like trade school. when i was in high school in the early 70s a lot of my friends were in trade school (automotive, building, welding etc). i myself did not do trade school but went on to college after a little experience working at a shoe factory for awhile and found out i did not want to spend the rest of my life doing that. Again, i do not want to offend anyone by what i have said.

  32. A recent question from a commenter about pvc glue, going bad. It got me thinking again, probably not a good thing. I have a LOT of pvc fittings, pipe, etc. They’d all be useless without the primer/glue. I’ve messed with pex stuff once or twice. Not an expert. A friend gifted me a pex tool recently. I’d helped him out with something, but refused pay. Pex doesn’t require chemicals to work. Shark-bite fittings are great, but pricey. I think I’ll buy a few fittings/clamps to have on hand. I already have 200 feet of 1/2″ pex pipe for solar deep well pump. The “crimp-on” fittings are much cheaper than shark-bite.

    For those who don’t know, when going from one type of pipe to another, go to any threaded fittings to make the switch.

    1. Plainsmedic,
      Have been using pex for water plumbing/ heating for 12 years, no complaints. Have used sharkbite fittings to go from pex to copper, pricey but work well. Love copper, but pex is cheaper and less likely to break when frozen. Actually, I only use copper pipe to make antennas anymore.

      1. Minerjim,
        Yep, things are always changing. I still have pipe dies for 1/4″ up through 1 1/2″. It’s a rare occasion when those tools are needed. Most plumbing changes have been for the better, at least easier. If you’re ever at an auction, you know, out in rural America, and ya see an old bucket full of steel pipe fittings, buy it. It’s still great for woodgas and I guess a few other things. Professional pipefitters earn their money.

        1. Plainsmedic,
          Couple of months ago I picked up a bunch of 2″ galvanized fittings and some nipples. $5. Enough to make two forges. It pays to keeps fittings around, for every piping system.

  33. Another craft gone because of computers is the ability of kids to read cursive. Of course we just called it handwriting. I didn’t know it had a name until my daughter was taught in school. Recently I gave some 19-20 year olds an old postcard to read and none could read it. The first think I said was you can’t read the Constitution in it’s original script. How sad.

    1. Old Lady,
      How true, how sad. Not only did we learn cursive, but in jr high was introduced to calligraphy. Which I think “they” classify as an art now. Spent years learning to draft and letter drawings..these kids today say,”what’s the point? We will do it on computer”. I just smile, give them a pencil and paper and tell them, “Go for it”. I can only describe the look on their faces as “Clueless”.

    2. old lady,

      I homeschool my boys, and older one writes very well (cursive, to me, is writing; the other is printing). My younger one is starting on it. One of the very reasons I shared with them for learning cursive is the ability to read our founding documents, as well as historical letters, diaries, etc…

  34. Good list, Ken. Growing up on a rural farm means so many of these things were just every day life for us. Some skills I haven’t needed to do in a long time, but I do consider them important. The last feather mattress I helped stuff was in the late 70s. Any of y’all ever done that?

  35. I just made a net for the first time. And it is something so simple. The net was just to hold my water bucket but it could be used for anything. The video I learned from used it to make a hammock.

    It just shocked me a bit that I hadn’t thought to learn this before, and it has me wondering what other basic skills I lack

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