If you take a look around, and you look really hard, you can see what I mean. We have industrialized almost every aspect of our food production. We no longer can trace where our food comes from nor do most of us care as long as we can run to our local grocery and pick up what we need for dinner. We no longer have relationships with neighbors and local produce growers. This leads to innumerable problems as our industrialized way of life lends itself to overpopulation of animals in factory like settings which is a breeding ground for diseases (look at all of our e coli and salmonella outbreaks, not to mention the recent avian flu issues).
When it comes to our skills, most of us can wield a smart phone like a multitasking guru going from email, to Facebook and shopping on Amazon all while texting a friend. However, most people today have no idea how to can and store farm fresh produce. Most people have no clue how to re- purpose items that break into new things. No idea how to mend and sew. Little if any knowledge of animal husbandry or natural remedies. Honestly, if our power went out and our smart phones no longer worked, most people in this country would be at so much of a loss that they would be unable to function.
We are failing to learn some of the older ways of doing things and the people who have this knowledge (our grandparents, great grandparents) are dying without passing on the information to us. Not because they are hoarding some type of carefully guarded secrets, but because we are too busy to sit down and ask.
I recently had the privilege of visiting with my 85 year old grandmother. She was born around the time of the Great Depression and she knows a lot about farm life and how to be self sufficient. However, I realize that even though I do seek information from her on occasion, when the time comes that she is no longer here, there will be so much information lost, as will with most of her generation.
While grandma was here visiting we were in my kitchen while I was processing apples that a friend had allowed me to pick. I was questioning grandma about her memories for how to make homemade apple cider vinegar. However, the juice from these apples was so sweet and good it seemed like such a shame to turn it to vinegar when it tasted more like an expensive cider from an apple orchard. She shared with me memories of her family’s orchard and of taking apples to the local cider press and then returning home with fresh pressed cider (though by today’s terms we might think it juice). She also shared with me memories of her mother canning apple juice for use later in the year, I hadn’t really thought to do that before but I imagined that a hot cup of this deliciousness infused with some fresh cinnamon sticks would be amazing come December and January. So with her guidance and lots of taste testing, we canned some apple cider-juice.
I will so miss these visits when the time comes that my grandmother is gone. I will also miss all of the stories of not only how things were in a more simpler time of doing things, but also the stories of our ancestors and the anecdotes that grandma has a special way of sharing.
Let me encourage you, no matter what age you are to seek out someone who is at least a generation older than you and ask about how things were done differently when they were young. Go back as far as you can and ask someone to teach you a skill from how things used to be done. You will make someone’s day by being interested and you will likely learn a new skill, recipe, or thought process for how to do things.
Here is a picture of my grandmother on her most recent birthday; she is beautiful, talented and so full of life. I thank you grandma for all you teach me.