Strange Skills

Steven Harper PiziksA while ago, some friends and I were talking about strange and (probably_ useless skills they’d picked up over the years, and it got me to thinking about my own. Off-hand:

1. Raising, butchering, and cleaning chickens, ducks, geese, and other fowl
2. Raising cows for beef
3. Raising rabbits
4. Getting a recalcitrant pig into a truck
5. How to calm a cow at an animal show
6. How to show a horse

7. How to ride a bicycle without brakes through snow, sleet, rain, and
other bad weather and avoid getting killed
8. How to pack and move a household efficiently
9. How to make minor repairs on a harp
(I should probably add that “esoteric” and “strange” are a matter of perspective. Where I grew up, 1-6 were standard skills for everyone, but in suburbia, where I now live, no one knows how to do them. So “esoteric” here shall be declared to mean “something most of the people around me aren’t familiar with.”)

What esoteric skills do you have?

–Steven Harper Piziks

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Strange Skills — 17 Comments

  1. My most esoteric but still practiced skills would be neatly darning fine socks, and making (and repairing) clothes by hand (blouses, summerweight trousers, skirts, etc. for myself, not just for babies, dolls, and little kids). Making jam is better known, but still not done much in my present suburban area.

  2. I am now very curious.
    How does one get a recalcitrant pig in a truck?

    I think my list would be
    Tambour bead embroidery, garden produce freezing, cake decorating, mending, cooking, rewiring lamps, running network cable.

    It’s less I have actual skills than I am willing to wing it. I know the basics of my sewing machine, so anything that looks like a straight seam I’m willing to try. So I made drapes. I know how to thread a needle so I’ll try other mending, even if I really have no idea what I’m doing. I have my grandmother’s cake decorating tools, so I stuff icing in one with a simple tip and write on cakes and make loop-the-loops. I can’t make the flowers and similar she could, but since no one else here is willing to do any decoration, I look like I have actual skills, instead of just the very basics and a willingness to just try it. I know enough to follow a recipe, but there aren’t many things I make without a recipe. So do I know how to “cook”? Matter of opinion. 🙂

  3. I know how to start a car by turning it on, putting it in gear, getting a push (or starting it to roll downhill), and popping the clutch. But then I still drive a stick.

    And I think knowing how to pack and move a household efficiently is an incredibly useful skill, though I’m sure it’s also a rare one. I’m sure people would pay you to organize their moves!

    And btw, was number 6 meant to be shoe a horse? With everything else on your list, I’d guess you know at least the rudiments of that, too.

    • Nope! Show a horse in a horse show. I couldn’t shoe a horse, though I know who to call to have it done. 🙂

      To get a pig into a truck, you put a bushel basket over its head. It’ll walk backward, trying to get out of the basket, and back right up into the truck. It works every time.

  4. When the apocalypse comes (which on my more cynical days I expect sooner than later), and the raiders take over, I will say “I know where the bitter chocolate is and I know how to bake things with it.” They’ll probably shoot me anyway but they’ll be sorry when they try to eat bitter chocolate.

    In other news, I know how to care for, ride, show, and jump a horse. Shoeing, not so much. That is quite a skill. It’s easy to end up with a horse temporarily or permanently crippled by an abscess or worse. Our farrier was skilled, which was a bit more of an accomplishment even than you’d think, considering he was usually three sheets to the wind.

    I recently rode a horse who spent most of his time barefoot but had shoe-boots that buckled on. Pretty cool. An advance in technology since I regularly rode.


  5. Massage therapy, including how to open clogged lymph drains and body balancing when one muscle is torqued and overstretching its partner on the other side.

    Sewing. I can work from a pattern or an old garment.

    I can cook from scratch with the exception of actually killing and preparing an animal–although I know to tie off the GI tract to avoid contagion, and that if I find spots on rabbit organs to bury the entire rabbit and parts.

    I can read maps, a dying skill, and find North.

    I can embroider, do crewel, and quilt.

    I can tell make eye contact with someone and tell if they are a psychopath. (You don’t want to know why I have this superpower.)

    I can walk into a structure and tell you if it has bad mold and where the problem is.

    I am a super taster, sniffer, and hearer. They are tremendously useful in the right circumstances but a PITA living in the city or suburbia.

    Maybe some of those will be useful in the future?

  6. I can make clothes by hand. (I made all mine by hand through the seventies.) I also know how to use a washboard and wringer, though I would rather not.

  7. I can knit anything. I can sew garments, fit them to you, mend and take them in or let them out. I can also knap rocks into hand axes. I know how to dig clay, process it into workable shape, throw it on the wheel, fire it and glaze it. And I can paint some of the finest protest signs you ever saw.

  8. To add to the range of fiber-related skills on display here, my most unusual skill is spinning wool, and I’m working on the skills related to processing fleeces to make them ready to spin.

    In other unusual skills, I’m decent at grooming/groundwork with horses (I won’t claim riding as it’s been too many years now).

    For the more common “unusual” skills, I can claim canning/jam & jelly-making, though I should look up how to do the paraffin sealing methods my Mom used some of the time.

    • Come the apocalypse we need to hang together, Elena. I cannot spin (resolutely determined NOT to learn, lest my life fill up with fleeces). And we need to rake in my sister-in-law, the vet. She knows how to treat the diseases of sheep.

  9. Oh, I’d love to know how to knap rocks, Brenda! Shades of anthropology classes past…

    I can do many of the fibery arts here–sewing for self and home (made lots of my daughters’ clothes when they were small), quilting, knitting; I can also upholster furniture from the frame up, and mat and frame pictures. Been dabbling in jewelry making and thinking about taking a course in the fall, time permitting.

    And, um, semi-obscure sports? I fenced in high school and college, am not too bad at archery, used to curl competitively, and can handle small sailboats.

    And rabbits. We have pet rabbits, so I speak Lagomorph. 🙂

  10. I used to play this game to try to come up with a list of things I could offer when I came to the Great Walled City That Was the Last Bastion of Civilization: why should they take me in? Okay.

    * I can brew hard cider (and therefore, probably, beer, if materials are available).
    * I can weave (and have a four-hettle loom, though it would take me a while to remember how to set it up and calculate the amount of warp thread needed).
    * I can embroider.
    * I can knit (though you’d do better to ask Brenda).
    * I can fake a basic pattern or build one, and sew garments from it.
    * I can cook for a crowd.
    * I can organize a library and catalog it (old style–with cards).
    * I can make preserves and jam.
    * I am about half-way to being able to bind a book the old way.
    * I can bake and decorate cakes.

    Some of these might even be useful. Some not so much.

  11. I spin and weave, and have done some of everything with wool to make a blanket or yardage except cutting it off the sheep (and would work up the courage to do that if I met a compliant sheep). I can knit, crochet, quilt and make clothing. I can make jam and pickles and can fruit, and my garden didn’t always die before I got to harvest stuff. I have fletched my own arrows and therefore know what burning feathers actually smell like. I have made Ukrainian Easter eggs. I can tell a decent joke (which you may not consider unusual unless you had met my mom, who humorously ruined every single joke I ever heard her tell). But I have to say that my most unusual skill is one I haven’t actually done in decades–I know how to wrap guides onto fishing poles.

  12. Let’s see. Do I know anything useful?

    Well, I know a lot of ‘old-wife’ stuff, such as handling diarrhea, fever, sprains… which does actually work. I know how to change a bed for an invalid while they are in that bed. I know how to move an invalid from a bed to a chair without them touching the floor.

    I know how to can food in a hot-water bath. I, too, can make pickles and chutney, and can those as well.

    I can teach someone how to read. In fact, I can teach, which is both a learned and innate skill.

    Not a lot, and maybe not really unique, but mine.

  13. – I can make jewelry
    – I once took a table of 10 people who said they “weren’t readers” and got them to read “Man’s Search for Meaning”, by Viktor Frankl – and like it.
    – I do own a rolling pin, yes I have a sifter, and I can make pie from scratch
    – I grow my own apples, plums, and cherries