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Permie Practice: Daily Skill-building Ideas

 
master pollinator
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Like many who manage a permaculture homestead, I am a “jack of all trades.” Some call this a generalist rather than a specialist. Despite the fact that responding to daily and seasonal challenges is a rewarding way to live, I have an incredible yearning to be really good at something. Inspired by L. Johnson’s spoon carving thread, I searched for articles about the craft and found this fascinating challenge taken on by Stian Korntved Ruud to carve a spoon per day for a year:
https://www.stiankorntvedruud.com/Daily-Spoon-2014-15-1
The thought of spending an hour a day creating a pile of 365 curios over the course of a year sounds like a terrific journey! Please contribute some additional permaculture-related possibilities for hands-on daily practice that will enable a jack-of-all-trades to become, if not a virtuoso, a crackerjack.
 
gardener
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I remember a conversation my sister had. It went along the lines of "You're so lucky to have such a polite son", she smiled and thought, "No, it's damn hard work".
I also remember seeing someone wearing a T-Shirt that with a quote from Seneca — "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
I apply the same logic to being a "Jack of all trades". It's damn hard work, taken decades of preparation so when a new opportunity or skill is required, I'm ready.
I know plenty of people, very "successful" people who are really, really good at one thing. They tend to be rather dull unless you talk about the one thing they're good at.
I will always gravitate towards "generalists". Amy, you are an amazing "generalist"! You have written some really good answers to my questions. So saying, I think that the spoon challenge would be a wonderful way to spend 2022 and I'm tempted myself. Looking back, the green wood tasks were some of my 2021 highlights, especially sitting outside at the bottom of the garden enjoying late Autumn sun. I think carving spoons is better than meditation, it's good for the mind. There are many more benefits than just being a good spoon carver. I can't think of a better hands-on daily practice.
 
gardener
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What springs to my mind is cooking. Something we do everyday, but only as far as the functional.
I read somewhere (it may have been in a fiction book) that soda bread can take a lot of getting right, the same goes for normal yeast based bread of course. Getting 'the touch' for dough recipes would be awesome. We have a local baker who does a range of bread and cakes for us in our shop once a week. Even though I bake, I buy her stuff because it is so much better than I make myself.
 
Edward Norton
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Nancy Reading wrote:What springs to my mind is cooking.

Great idea. What ever you choose it has to be with intention, especially something like baking, elevate it above just creating fuel.
 
master steward
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What Amy's post reminds me of is repetition, doing the same thing over and over until a person gets really good at what is being done.

I could not think of any good examples until I thought of the word repetition.

Here are some threads that reminded me just that.

Everyone probably remembers learning to write in the 2nd or 3rd grade.  Improving writing skills with repetition:

https://permies.com/t/97636/permaculture-writing/art/improving-penmanship-learning-handwrite-legibly

Repetition helps build good habits:

https://permies.com/t/92519/productive-downtime/build-positive-habits-reduce-eliminate

Like Nancy suggested: cooking.  What better way to build cooking skills than with repetition.

Great thread, I can't wait to see some other ideas.

 
gardener
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It's interesting  how our minds work.

Your post, Amy made me think of posting every day someplace, permies is a great one, about the things I do and the things I learn. Hmm, kinda like the boots.

Off to think about it.

How exciting! And a new year starting, too...
 
Amy Gardener
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Edward, thanks for that encouragement. That carve a spoon a day challenge seems like a perfect permies practice.
Liv, your observation that entering a post on the Forums here each day is a very ideal way to document 365 days of skills development. Nancy and Anne's thoughts on daily cooking practice brings back fond memories of the cooking challenge in, Julie and Julia:

There are so many awesome 365 day cooking challenges using famous authors, ethnic, regional, and historical cooking styles.
More ideas please; this is so inspiring!
 
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This is what apprenticeship was, in the old days--daily skill-building in the real world-envoronment of the profession, under the tutelage of an accomplished professional in fine arts or trades.

So I think fine arts and handicrafts are great for daily practice.
  • practice with musical instrument
  • photography
  • blacksmithing
  • making baskets
  • weaving
  • Etc.

  • (Daily practice to improve a unit of your current livelihood work would probably pay you back really well over time!)

    I also think it's a useful method for learning lots of information that seems intimidating. Such as, making a daily practice of:
  • local plant identification
  • investigating regional resources


  • After all, consistent daily efforts can make a big difference, even through mountains: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/man-single-handedly-carved-road-mountain/ That man is my inspiration for what one person can do working each and every day!
     
    gardener
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    Daily practice can cover a wide range of activities. I expect that once I'm living on Wheaton Labs and heating myself with wood next year, I will enjoy carving a feather stick as I light a fire in my RMH. As the fire is started with the previous one, I can sit nearby carving a new one to have ready for the next fire. I was thinking about wood carving little items as a possible indoor winter activity, making progress each day until the quality is good enough to give them as gifts perhaps.

    Making a point to say something nice (and mean it) to at least one person every day is another one that I believe has a positive ripple effect. Whether it's a smile for a stranger, a 'hello how are you' for a neighbor or hug for no other reason than 'fyi I love you' for a family member.
     
    gardener
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    For the curious who are following this thread, Paul has a video on experiences at the Permacukture Bootcamp.
    "Bootcamp question of the week: why the permaculture bootcamp at wheaton labs?"

    A common thread amongst each of their answers is excitement about the unique opportunties the bootcamp has to offer; especially in skill-buildong. I found it intriguing the interest in some of the to go beyond their 'comfort zone.' There's a lot of courage in these boots.

     
    master gardener
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    I'm not sure I could ever be so focused as to practice something every day, as I'm too prone to being blown in different directions by the weather (thank goodness that focus was on planting a tree and filling the rock-walled terrace I'd made for it with punky wood, goose shit inoculated wood chips and finished compost, before the freezing weather and now snow moved in!).

    That said, last year I decided it was time I improved my hand-sewing skills. My sewing machine's "reverse" stopped working, making it more annoying to use for little tasks, and Hubby hates it when I mess with "mechanical tasks" he considers to be his purview.
    Lots of subskills here people:
    I started with mending/reinforcing socks - it's getting harder to find 95% cotton socks and my feet don't like polyester or nylon much at all - so fix the old ones!
    Also did hand patching of Hubby's jeans.
    Did a whole shirt - (https://permies.com/t/154258/sewing/fiber-arts/Clothing-patterns-based-rectangles)
    That included hand-sewing button holes for the first time!
    Got ticked about undies being contaminated by stretchy plastic like lycra, and the cotton being thinner and thinner, so my latest new skill was the stretch stitch as I recycled a damaged cotton T-shirt into a pair of underwear - comfy! (I'm going to make a second pair... maybe a third... oh no I'm getting addicted.)
    Subskill inside a subskill - how to make a pattern fit me starting with just a diagram and vague instructions - I'm about to do so with a pair of pants (and the kind help and ideas of May Lotito - it's nice to feel like I've got back-up!)

    So I may not be making this "Daily Skill-building", but I do make the suggestion because the fashion industry is a huge source of pollution/energy hog/land-fill so learning mending and "up-cycling" of clothing we've got or can get second hand is a valuable use of a waste stream. And there are some good threads in the fiber arts forum and good people to give you inspiration, support and advice if you ask for it.
     
    pollinator
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    With some new food intolerances, I need to cook from scratch, but I've never learned to cook more than a few basics. So that's become my daily practice. I also want to be more efficient in the kitchen, and I imagine practice will help with that, too.

    For starters, I'm practicing with the Instant Pot. I imagine once I get past the learning curve, it will be a big time saver. I want to practice with sourdough next and outdoor cooking this spring.
     
    gardener
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    I'm trying to do something similar as part of my 2022 New Years Resolution.

    I'm using the SKIP program as my guild for expanding my homesteading skill set while also trying to become PEP 1 certified.

    I created the "SKIP Club" to try and share my journey with others. Here is the link if you're interested:

    SKIP Club - Doing 1 BB a Week

     
    gardener
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    With time and energy limited by work and family obligations I find myself having to think twice before I start anything. Do I need this? Do I want to spend my little free time doing it? Will I get frustrated if I can't finish it it keep it up?

    If I clear those checks I get really motivated and usually accomplish my tasks.

    I'm a generalist by nature, but I'm actively avoiding inspiration for new projects... My back log is too long already and I really need to make a new long list. I finished a good 80 percent of my 2021 long list.

    Most of the fun stuff is make a tool so I can make a tool so I can repair a tool so I can build a chair... Or something like that. Maybe I'll post my 2022 long list here for those who need inspiration...
     
    L. Johnson
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    On the topic of repetition to the point of mastery... I can understand the desire but don't share it. I'm happy making 100 different mediocre things, each one a new and exciting learning experience, than 100 of the same thing

    One day I do hope to build bespoke wooden board games and toys though, so maybe by that time I'll settle for repetitive crafts.
     
    Rachel Lindsay
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    (I've heard a talk by a music teacher who had studied in Japan that there is a Japanese proverb that runs to the effect of,"Ten thousand times and then begins understanding." If this idea is a part of Japanese culture, then no wonder they have achieved so much!)

    To me it all comes down to how the repetition of a project is focused. Artists/homesteaders/students are certainly not machines to me--and so I see daily practice as building in us the skills to work through varied aspects of a craft, and thus master many or all aspects of a complicated process, rather than forcing us to monotonously churn out identical objects for the sake of empty repetition. That would be awful to me, too!

     
    Edward Norton
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    Rachel Lindsay wrote:(I've heard a talk by a music teacher who had studied in Japan that there is a Japanese proverb that runs to the effect of,"Ten thousand times and then begins understanding." If this idea is a part of Japanese culture, then no wonder they have achieved so much!)



    This doesn't surprise me. I have two Japanese nephews. They both had to pick one after school activity and that was their only club, and they had to attend everyday including weekends. This went on for a number of years. One of them came third in a national competition for their chosen hobby. Both quit the day the compulsory period finished. I've also noticed in Japan that a lot of small restaurants are run by people who cook the same menu for decades, with the eye to continued improvement. I'm very grateful there are people who can have such dedication to one activity but it's not for me.
     
    pollinator
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    That can be a good thing to do: practicing a certain skill by doing it daily (not all day, but every day for some time). I don't need to start practicing anymore. I already have two of such 'hobbies'. I do my best to practice them daily, but that doesn't always work out ...
    My two 'specializations' are drawing and textile crafts (especially knitting), and I am practicing both for decades already.
     
    Amy Gardener
    master pollinator
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    Thank you all for these terrific ideas and insights. Now that it is January 1, 2022, I've decided that this year's permies related daily practice is to meditatively sculpt the same object every day for 365 days. Building on a skill that I have loosely practiced for the last decade, I've decided to approach the repetitive craft with greater dedication and written documentation as to my progress in a small journal (no photos). I plan to focus on control-joints as the object in development shows some need for strengthening work at the joints. The other emphasis will be creating a more elegant form by slowly reducing the center of mass and elongating the distal ends of the work. When time permits, I will build a low pedestal for the object, a series of blocks to support the work while working on various angles. Sewing will of course be a part of the project due to the need for special cushioned surfaces to protect the skin of the work and support the armature in various poses as it is being developed. So begins my renewed dedication to advanced daily yoga practice.
     
    master gardener
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    I'm not a 'NY resolutions' kinda gal. The things I do daily are either things that feed my soul (like reading my Bible, praying, coming in here, and various little routines that bolster my relationships), or things done by necessity (like taking care of the critters, and other farm chores). As far as learning skills, I try to do some work every day, on building various skill sets, but I'm just going to have to settle for 'good enough is good enough', or I won't ever get finished with all the things that need to be finished. It goes back to how I'm going to spend/ budget my time vs priority of a task.
     
    They worship nothing. They say it's because nothing is worth fighting for. Like this tiny ad:
    Permaculture Voices 1, 2 and 3 - all 117 hours of video!
    https://permies.com/t/voices123
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