Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Relearn the Dying Life Skills


The other day, at a special farmer’s market, I found a handmade work of art. A tiny woman made entirely from hand-spun fabric, teaching her daughter, also made from hand-spun fabric, how to spin wool. A tiny woolen sheep and a basket of real wool stand nearby. The very simplicity of the faceless beauty and natural charm spoke volumes to me. Not only was this woman performing an outdated life skill, but she was teaching it to her child.

There is a generation gap that is affecting our culture in a very subtle, quiet way.  We are losing the skills that our grandparents or great-grandparents learned as a part of daily life; life skills that allowed people to thrive more or less sustainably over so many centuries.

With the development and growth of large factories, our parents and grandparents abruptly dropped the use of these skills, and even stopped teaching them to their children.  With mass food production a reality and the use of overseas labour to produce cheap products, an unsustainable culture has been created.  And now we rely on it.

Food has never been so easily accessible or so cheap.  All we need to do right now is go to a grocery store and buy it.  We don’t need to grow it, preserve it, or collect and store the seeds.  We don’t need to milk the cow, or process the food.  We are so far removed from our food that many children don’t even know where it comes from.  And our food products are so far removed from real food that we don’t even know what the ingredients mean.  Our overall health is suffering as a result, and we are now the first generation to have a lower life expectancy than the generation prior to ours.

Our clothing is mass produced in giant factories overseas so that we can get more for less.  Many of us now have no idea how to sew, much less weave or knit.  A lot of our clothing is made from petroleum products rather than natural fibers, and we all have a huge selection of unnecessary clothing and shoes.

Many people hardly know how to cook, and certainly have never made a loaf of bread from scratch in their lives.  In fact, a home-cooked meal generally means opening a can of pasta sauce and a bag of salad mix, cooking some noodles, and pouring a beverage.

Our home and body products are way beyond most of us.  It took me years before I ever tried making soap since I knew it involved lye, a caustic substance.  And homemade deodorant?  Perfume?  Make-up?  Toilet cleaner?  Not a chance!  They involve chemicals that are not only impossible to pronounce, but full of toxins that we certainly can’t get our hands on much less handle.

The difference now is not only in the lost skills, but also in the ingredients or materials that are used.  We have added so many man-made chemicals, preservatives, plastics, colors, fragrances and so on, that even if we wanted to, we have made them pretty much impossible to make on our own.  These ingredients we use are not only potentially toxic, but they are generally unsustainable beyond the immediate future.  They are also, in many cases, unnecessary.  For every product there is a safer, more natural solution that DOES work. They have worked for centuries, and can still work today. By stepping back, bridging the generation gap, and reaching out to those who still know the skills, we can relearn those basic life-supporting skills that have almost died out during the last few generations.

Have you ever had that satisfying feeling of success achieved with your own hands, and by your own hard work?  I have.  Eating a meal that was produced entirely on your property gives a very gratifying feeling.  So does making the plates you are eating from.  Or changing your baby’s diapers that you made.  Or looking at a pantry full of canned goods you canned and grew yourself.  Or knowing that, on a cold, winter night, the farm animals are snug in the barn you built with your own hands.  In a world were so many people are treated with medication for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, perhaps this feeling of belonging, of success, and of simple gratification would be all that is needed to redirect people in a busy, winner-takes-all, world.

What would you like to learn?  I have a burning desire to learn all the life skills.  While this isn’t practical or even possible, it is definitely possible to learn some of them, and to barter your products for the rest.  There are a few basics that everyone can and should learn.  These would help each family live a more sustainable life, would improve health, and would provide a sense of well-being that comes from the satisfaction of doing something beneficial and natural.

  • Cook from basic ingredients.
  • Preserve your own food.
  • Grow a garden.
  • Raise a few chickens.
  • Pick a skill and learn it.  Then teach it to your children.
  • Make your own body and cleaning products from natural and basic ingredients.
  • Reach back to the generation who lived this life and learn from them.
  • Reach forward to the next generation and teach it to them.

I look forward to hearing what you are doing to help bridge the generation gap and provide a more sustainable future for the next generation.

This post has been linked to From The Farm Blog Hop#34, Common Sense Preparedness Link Up #3, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #74, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #74 and Wildcrafting Wednesday #89.

You might also be interested in my DIY Recipes including homemade fresh lotions, deodorant, washing your hair with baking soda, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, cleaning with lemons, vinegar and baking soda, lip balm, body butter, goat milk and tallow soap, sugar scrub, cotton beeswax plastic wrap alternative, and Faux paper towels.

Plastic Wrap Alternative: DIY Beeswax Cotton Wraps

I was first introduced to beeswax-coated cotton wraps when someone gave me one made locally They quickly became an important part of our food storage regime. They are beautiful, functional, reusable, economical and eco-friendly.  And, as I soon discovered, not difficult to make.

I have been trying to cut back our kitchen plastic usage for years.  I don’t trust plastic especially when it is holding food, and it is simply NOT sustainable.  I replaced all my plastic storage containers and zip lock bags with glass or stainless steel ones.  Other than the cost, those weren’t too difficult to switch over to.  The item that I had a greater challenge replacing was plastic wrap.  The convenience is difficult to replace.  These beeswax wraps, however, have single handedly eliminated plastic wrap from my kitchen.  They are great for wrapping cheese, covering dishes, or folding into snack bags.  They can even be sewn into small snack bags to be used at school or work if desired.

Plastic wrap (I used Saran wrap) is a wasteful, single-use, petroleum product that I am convinced is not an acceptable part of natural living.  When used to store or heat food, plastic leaches toxins into our food that we then consume.  Many studies have now proven that BPA, a chemical that is in many plastics, causes a number of unacceptable health issues in those who consume food products in contact with it.  All plastics contain chemicals, and some are not well-studied to prove their safety. Plastic wrap is no exception.  Beeswax cotton wraps provide a safe and effective alternative.

We have beeswax available all the time since we keep honey bees.  Beeswax is 100% natural, non-toxic, and relatively inexpensive.  I use it in my body product recipes such as hand lotions, body butters, deodorant and balms.  It is water-repellent and has natural antibacterial properties.  When applied to cotton, it renders the cotton “unbreathable” which helps maintain the proper moisture content when storing food.  These qualities make it a great candidate for a plastic wrap alternative.

When choosing your fabric, use 100% cotton (organic is preferable).  The ideal thickness is a sheeting cotton.  (Think, your bed sheets or pillow case).  You can reuse old sheets or pillow cases, or you can choose beautiful fabrics for fun.

If you would rather purchase these wraps made in North America by a sustainable company and priced reasonably, click here.

Materials

  • beeswax, grated (or pellets).  I use about 0.5 oz. of beeswax per wrap
  • 100% cotton fabric, cut to appropriate size (12×12 in. or 8×8 in. works for us)
  • old cookie sheet (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • paintbrush (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • chop stick for stirring the wax as it melts
  • cheese grater (used exclusively for beeswax)
  • a make-shift clothesline and clothes pins
  • oven

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 185F.  (Higher will burn the wax.  I know from experience…)
  2. Place pre cut fabric on cookie sheet.
  3. Sprinkle evenly and lightly with grated beeswax.  You don’t need a lot!
  4. Place in preheated oven.  Watch carefully!  This should take 5 minutes or less.
  5. As soon as the beeswax is just melted, remove from oven.
  6. Spread wax evenly with paintbrush to cover over any spots that are not yet coated.
  7. Hang on makeshift clothes line with clothes pegs, to dry.  Once cooled, you can use it!

Notes

  • If your wax starts to harden before you have evenly spread it, simply reheat it in the oven and try again.
  • This recipe uses less than 1 oz. of beeswax per sheet.
  • If you have a lot of wax left on the cookie sheet, place another piece of fabric on empty cookie sheet and it will absorb the extra wax.
  • All of the supplies except the beeswax can be purchased cheaply at thrift stores and can be used again for other DIY projects involving beeswax.  Purchase the beeswax through Mountain Rose Herbs, a trusted company carrying all sorts of ingredients for body products.
  • Wash in cool water with a mild soap.  I use liquid castile soap.
  • Each wrap will last several months or more depending on usage.

This post has been linked to Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #54, Fresh Eggs Daily: Farm Girl Blog Hop #10, Homestead Revivial’s Barn Hop # 89, 116th Wildcrafting Wednesday and Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday November 20th.