Thursday, November 27, 2008

Seven useful things I need to learn to do

By Tracy

In no particular order:

1. Sewing. I was hopeless at this at school, and have resisted returning to it in any way at all since then. I tell myself it's the spatial aspect I can't handle ("I'll end up stitching the wrong bits together") but I've never had that problem when making up knitted garments, so it's just self-deluding. Plus, I was hopeless at cooking in my schooldays, and have no problems with it now... so the schooldays excuse doesn't wash. Why this resistance to such a useful skill?

2. Preserving fruits and vegetables. I used to make a lot of jam (easy) but I have never learned how to bottle or to dry. Resistance comes in the form of a paranoia about poisoning ("What if I didn't seal the jars properly?") but there is really no reason to be so afraid of it. Plenty of people manage (and always used to manage) this without poisoning anyone; why not me? The very old Golden Wattle Cookbook in my kitchen drawer, despite needing much adaptation for a vegan cook, is full of practical information about this. (I did blanch and freeze several litres of our abundant broad beans recently, and tentatively used the first batch in dinner two days ago -- not without paranoia about the quantity of ice crystals they had gathered, despite my best efforts to pat them dry and freeze them quickly. But I would prefer to learn ways of preserving that aren't reliant on electricity as freezing is.)

3. Making vegan soap. Without palm oil. There are many vegan soaps around but almost all of them use palm oil (in place of animal fat). There was a company called Desert River (in Brookton, I believe) making soap that was animal- and palm-oil-free, but they don't seem to be on the net anymore. According to the Cruelty-Free Shop, Rambilldeene Farm soap uses "sustainable palm oil", so that may be the best option when buying from the supermarket, but I recently read an article that raised issues about the whole Round Table on sustainable palm oil thing... Best of all would be to make it oneself. I started humming and ha-ing about this more than five years ago... why have I not done it?

4. Ditto for making vegan candles. Then I'd have to worry about the provenance of the soy wax...

5. Do a permaculture course. I've been humming and ha-ing about this one for ages too. Hard to fit in when you've got a little kid, unless it's part-time and spread over several weeks. And needs adapting for vegans, since we don't import animals into the picture. (Though animals may come of their own accord and do what they do best -- as they already do on this block... but vegans don't eat them, eat from them, or keep them for use of any kind.) We already have a veganic veggie garden, and John has been a veganic gardener on and off for more than twenty years, but I would like to learn more about the principles of permaculture that could be useful to vegans.

6. Make paper, as John mentioned in an earlier post. It would make sense to recycle the paper we've already got, and some months ago I started to look into paper-making kits online and even bookmarked this site, but again, haven't "got around to it"...

7. This is last (for now) but not least. Do a first-aid course, a proper one with St John Ambulance, because I've been saying it for about seven or more years and I never actually take the step. I really loathe their t.v. ad, the one where they talk about the typical mother who did this and this and that but never made time to learn life-saving skills and so couldn't save her kid's life... I loathe it because it plays on a specifically feminine guilt, especially about having time for oneself, a career, whatever, as if that has to be at the expense of your kids. (If they showed a dad pursuing all his work and leisure activities and then said, "but he never made time to learn how to save a life", I might buy it.)

Nonetheless, guilt aside, it makes obvious sense to acquire these skills.

There are so, so many more. I will probably extend the list in a later post.

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