Practical Skills From Your Grandparents
by Emilyn Linden
This week I decided to put together a list of books focused on reviving traditional skills that can help us reduce waste and our environmental footprint. While I was looking for books for that list, I came across an interesting book in our collection. How To Do Things: a compendium of new and practical farm and household devices, helps, hints, recipes, formulas, and useful information from the Farm Journal was printed in 1919 for rural residents. The copy we have is for rural Fond du Lac county residents and includes a directory of local farm supply businesses. It contains such helpful information as how to milk a cow by hand and a section called “The New Farm Helper -- Electricity.” If you’re interested in taking a look at what the Farm Journal thought rural residents should know around 1920, the book is in the local history section on the second floor of the library.
I've been interested in traditional skills for a few years now because they are often less wasteful (and less expensive). It seems like many Gen Xers and younger are interested in learning the skills we used to see our grandparents perform and are looking for ways to acquire them. I watch Youtube videos to get information about specific skills, but I also browse the books in our collection and in the Wisconsin Digital Library for ideas since I often don’t know what I don’t know. If you, too, are looking to learn a thrifty new skill or hobby, these books contain some great ideas for heritage skills, sometimes with a modern twist.
Emilyn Linden is a librarian in the FDL Public Library Information and Outreach Services department