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The Art of Passing on Knowledge

December 17, 2012

Last night, I was upset. I was frustrated when I realized I spend a lot of time on the internet. I got rid of facebook a couple months ago and thought I would have freedom from internet by finally sacrificing the most time consuming element of my life… I was wrong. It seems that I enjoy being on the internet in general, facebook didn’t help my time consumption by any means but I’m still glad that I finally bit the bullet and signed off, but I still spend the equivalent amount of time clicking on new pages and shopping.

As my husband and I delved into the problem I saw a trend of the things I like to look at. I love to learn new things. Since my lifestyle is much more different than it used to be I have so many things to learn, plus I enjoy trying old-fashioned things, like making cheese, butter and using a team of horses. The internet has a plethora of information at any given moment. I’ll be walking around the house and think about something and immediately jump on the computer to research how to do it or how it works. The days before internet you would have to look at a book or more importantly… ask someone wiser than you.

This is when it dawned on me. The art of passing on knowledge. What used to be taught by elders or people skilled in a particular field is almost gone in the physical world; The internet has taken the place of what used to be a humbling experience of going to someone and asking to be taught. Let me rack your brain for a minute. When was the last time you went to your grandmother to learn how to sew? Or who taught you to cook? Was it an internet tutorial or a class that you paid money for to be taught by someone you didn’t know? I’m not saying these things are bad, but this was not how things were traditionally taught. Today’s skills are not typically taught by parents, elders or skilled people, but in a classroom setting. If you don’t have a degree from some school it seems like you can’t get a job anywhere! Some people overlook skills that they have been taught over a decade compared to a piece of paper they earned in 4.

Since I’ve sufficiently gotten off track, let me regroup and explain where I was taking this.

The type of skills that Sean and I have acquired over the last 2 years have mostly been through serious trial and error. Example: Broiler chickens. The first spring we were married we bought a bunch of chicks for meat chickens. After a couple weeks of raising them we thought they were doing great, until our dog got into the room we were keeping them and killed them all. When we went to the store to buy more chicks there were “dual purpose breed” rooster chicks that were only $.10 a chick. That totally blew out of the water our $1.75 chicks that were just all obliterated by our dog. We quickly bought 60 of these little chicks and thought we had it all figured out, they were cheaper, and were supposed to fatten up in the same amount of time as the other chicks did. Boy did we get gipped. We lost several of chicks quickly due to poor health and once they were big enough for our moveable chicken coop we lost a couple to them by getting out of the coop and when they got older they started killing each other! Most meat birds finish out in 6-8 weeks and weigh about 4-5 lbs… These chickens went on 14-16 weeks and only weighed 2-3 lbs, they were lean and hard to eat, almost tasting like game birds. It would’ve been nice if someone could have told us from the beginning that those chicks were laying hen roosters and they are not bred to fatten up quickly and they get very agressive as they get older, it would’ve saved us a lot of time and feed.

Now this is an example of when we got help from an experienced person in their field. When we first got the Belgian Mare Horses this year we were really excited. The guy who sold them to us didn’t give too much instruction on how to harness them, but we figured we could figure it out. My husband put it all together and hooked them up to a cart and was able to drive them around with little trouble (they kept banging their heads together, but he figured they were just acting funny). Well, a couple weeks later we invited our friends out who have had draft horses for years and have done everything with draft horses. When Sean started to put the harnesses on the horses again the older gentleman kept correcting him all along the way. For what seemed correct to Sean was actually wrong and thankfully we happened to buy some really well trained horses that knew what they were doing, despite our mistakes. After a couple hours of harnessing, hitching and learning how to roll out a bail of hay with the horses Sean felt pretty confident about feeding hay with the horses for the winter. It was such a good experience for him.Not to mention it was just a fun afternoon visiting and learning.  It would’ve taken him quite a while to figure out how to work these horses without the help of our experienced friends who weren’t afraid to tell Sean when he was doing something wrong that could hurt him or the horses.

Sean’s got some old cowboys that’ll teach him when he needs to be taught, but for me at home, it’s a little different. Even though there are still a few people that know how to drive a team of horses, it’s difficult to find people that still make their own butter or yogurt. There’s a plethora of information on the internet on how to do these things, but I would’ve really liked to learn from someone who actively still makes these things from scratch or for that matter make anything from scratch (when I say “from scratch” I truly mean from scratch without any boxed or canned anything). I  even struggled to find out how to make dried beans into cooking beans, since most people just use already pre-cooked beans from a can.  Supermarkets have completely taken away the skill of making food from scratch and raising food in general. I’m guilty as everyone else is, but guess what, that’s the way  I was raised and learned that food came from the store.

This is a trend I’m trying to reverse in my life and my family. I want my kids to know that eggs come from chickens, milk comes from the cow, meat comes from the animals we raise and harvest and vegetables come from the garden. I do not believe that we should go back in time and erase all technology, because I absolutely believe that technology enhances our lives, but it can also hinder us. I want my kids to learn from experienced people in their fields of expertise.

The art of passing on knowledge must be kept alive. The learning curve on how to farm, raise livestock, raise kids, etc. is way too steep to just depend on the internet and some people’s opinions that you have never met. It’s time to find an elder or an experienced person in a certain field to help you learn the things you’ve always wanted to learn. I would like to obtain information in this order: go to someone experienced first, then if all else fails go to a book or the internet.

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  1. check out goatcheesplus@yahoogroups.com the lady that owns the list is a very good friend of mine and an absolute wealth of information. I’m sure you will pick up on WAY more than you will ever imagine. please do not let the goat cheese name miss-lead you…. the list was officially started as a group that only uses goat milk as its foundation, but cow milk works equally as well…only difference is goats are SOOOO much easier to handle and milk and they actually bond to you much like a dog will do.

    Best of look and remember ..that cowboy will lay down his life for his wife….. whether shes eastern emigrant or otherwise….

  2. I just want to say AMEN!! We are doing the same thing. I just made my first batch of cheese the other day…I got the information from the internet. I love it when I “meet” someone who has the same thoughts as I do. Keep up the good work!

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