What Skill to Acquire?

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sylvanarrow's picture
sylvanarrow
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What Skill to Acquire?

I'm a writer who runs an internet publishing business.  I'm sure that'll come in handy in a survival situation. :P

Even if nothing horrible ever happens, I'd still love to learn a new skill and have a hobby where I actually create something.  And if horrible things do happen, well, it'd be nice to have something to fall back on!

I see a lot of folks talking about getting into gardening, but I don't have any knowledge or much interest in vegetable gardening (it seems like a huge learning curve and nobody in my family has any inclinations in this area).

I do have about a half acre of land I can use for growing things, so I'm thinking of putting in a little mini orchard.  I've done some home brewing and was actually planning to use pears and apples for hard cider regardless of SHTF scenarios, grin.  

Anyway, what are your thoughts on a skill or skills that would be useful to acquire (and feasible to learn on a part-time basis over a couple years? I'm going on the assumption that even in a worst case scenario, not everybody would have to be a farmer. We'd still need dentists and doctors and... ?

I guess I'm not sure whether to brainstorm skills-that-could-become-occupations for medieval Europe or the Old West or the Depression or what. 

I'd love to hear about skills you're getting into or what you think would be useful.  Thanks for musing with me. :)

 

 

 

 

Morpheus's picture
Morpheus
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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

I'm an electrical engineer. I am sure that there will be PLENTY of jobs designing cell phones that no one has any money to buy! LOL

Seriously sylvan. You ask a great question that I often ask myself. 

Doug's picture
Doug
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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

I would suggest carpentry and wood working.  Carpentry will be a necessary skill for any kind of building, and woodworking is kind of a natural extension of that.  There is something about working with wood that I, and many like me, find quite satisfying and useful.  There is an investment in tools, but they can be purchased over time as your skills improve.

switters's picture
switters
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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

One way to think about this is to consider the skills that were in demand and essential to life before the industrial and technical revolutions.  They will likely always be in demand, no matter what is happening with the economy.  If you listened to Chris M's recent podcast, you may have heard him mention Maslow's heirarchy of needs.  That's another way to think about this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In both cases, the most basic human needs are emphasized.  No matter how bad things get economically, we still need water, food, energy, shelter, clothing, safety and basic health care.  Skills in these areas are likely to always be in demand.  Examples might be: cobbler (shoemaker), farmer, builder (focusing on alternative materials and design), herbalist, renewable energy specialist, permaculture designer, etc.

You mentioned brewing beer.  I don't think there's ever been a time in history where alcohol wasn't in demand, so that's probably a good skill to acquire if you're interested in it.  

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

Hi:  I have also been thinking about this very thing.  I have an idea that a bicycle mechanic will become a very busy fellow in the next few years.  If you are handy with tools you might consider getting into this area.  I think I'm going to buy me a supply of tire patching items before they get to expensive (they are probably all imported) and start learning more about how to repair bikes.  I have 3 bikes and ride to work in good weather so this seems like a natural way for me to proceed.

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

Good subject. What makes it doubly difficult to decide what to pursue is that it's hard to know just how bad - or even different - things will be.

For example, wood working/carpentry is probably a good idea. But if we go through a period of brownouts or outright power failures that last for days or weeks a truck full of power tools will be a truck full of expensive doorstops. So that means that if you think it's going to get REALLY bad you might want to look into working old school with hand tools. Difficult - but it's the way everything was built for thousands of years.

Beer is similar. If you can't go down to the local home brew supply store for a can of malt extract and some hops and yeast what will you do? Do you have local sources for these items? Can you grow them?

I was talking with a friend about stocking up on bike tires and patches. But those things degrade over time. If we lose access to the sources of these things eventually we will be left with a large supply of useless tires.

None of this is easy. Everything we take for granted must be re-examined from a sustainability perspective. Otherwise we could be in for some very unpleasant surprises.

Arthur

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?
Arthur Vibert wrote:

For example, wood working/carpentry is probably a good idea. But if we go through a period of brownouts or outright power failures that last for days or weeks a truck full of power tools will be a truck full of expensive doorstops. So that means that if you think it's going to get REALLY bad you might want to look into working old school with hand tools. Difficult - but it's the way everything was built for thousands of years.

Actually, when I posted above, I was thinking in terms of hand tools.  For instance, there is a wide range of Japanese tools that make word working and carpentry relatively easy and enjoyable.  A friend rebuilt a part of his barn, including cutting heavy beams, using only a Dozuki hand saw for cutting.  It can get to be an expensive hobby, but for the enthusiast, you can't beat the precision and ease of use of these tools.  Japanese wood tools can be found at: www.japanesetools.com/ 

 

 

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

Arthur,

You bring up an important question.  What skills we choose to develop will of course depend upon our vision for what the future holds.

I happen to believe we're in for a "long descent", as John Michael Greer calls it, rather than a cataclysmic "Mad Max" style collapse.  If that's true, we'll still be riding bikes, building houses and brewing beer for years to come - albeit not as prolifically or cheaply as we've done so far.

 

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What happens to current individual debt?

I'm new to this site, but not entirely new to these ideas. I read Larry Burkett's "The Coming Economic Earthquake" last go round - 2002-ish, and put it back on the library shelves, and in the back of my mind. Recently, I checked it out again. WOW - his fictitious future scenerio is right on target!

I have some questions maybe some of you can help with. What happens to those of us who have a home mortgage? Say we still owe $100,000 on the house. What happens to that loan? Does the bank cry that now it's only worth a loaf of bread - and increase the debt adjusted to the 'new' (worthless) dollar? Demand payment in gold? Can they demand payment in full? My husband says the Feds put something in place after the Great Depression so that won't happen again, but if the Feds aren't able to back it up this time ... who knows? Or do the banks all disappear and forget to send a statement? Folks with credit card debts - what happens to their debt when their credit card lender fails?

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

Doug -

I love Japanese hand tools and use them often. They are beautiful objects that are also very effective tools. A great combination!

Chris -

My guess is that you and Greer are right - in general. I think there are some locales that will be better off and some that will be worse. Of course, it's impossible to know which sort of locale you're in until we get further down the path we're on. My only admonition is to think it all out. We can't assume that things - for better or worse - will stay the way they've been.

Stay flexible and recognize that change is the only constant. It always has been, of course. We've allowed ourselves to believe that things will always be the same and that has led us to where we are now. By embracing change, and understanding how to live with it, we can survive and even prosper.

Arthur 

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

Something many people don't realize is that working with metals is very important to any society, everything that is manmade today requires that metal be reshaped to fit some purpose. Food requires tractors and plows, plastics require metal molds, woodworking tools are metal, as are nails and screws. Learning machinist and blacksmithing skills would be useful in hard times.

Greg

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

I'd suggest doing something you have a natural inclination for. Also consider your age. I changed careers many years ago when I could see working on tall ladders wasn't personally sustainable.

Recent discussions have made me reevaluate keeping my mom’s old pedal sewing machine. Looks less like a decorative antique when you think about no or not so much electricity. Clothing is in the bottom of the posted pyramid.

.'s picture
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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

   Basic skills like the ones mentioned in the prior posts are great.  Hand tools that use your body for power are nice and should be acquired for a redundant back up system (low cost from garage sales). But don't forget battery operated equipment.  The main goal I have been working towards is moving back to the family farm that was homesteaded in 1896.  Much of the current farm equipment is powered by gasoline, which will become scarce if not impossible to obtain in a worst case scenario.  So what to do to save labor and your back?  Think of this combination: solar panels, wind turbines and water turbins used to generate electricity that is stored in a battery array.  The battery array in turn charges all of my cordless tools (DeWalt 18v cordless equipment).  For larger tools I am working on  a small trailer that has a battery array and an inverter to power my electric tools (like a chainsaw, weedeater, etc) for use out in the woods or fields.  This in turn is towed by an electric golf cart.  Once I get to my location for the work I will use 100 ft power cords for my chainsaw to cut firewood or what not.  I have been slowly gathering the equipment from garage sales, craigslist etc.  Lets hope my system works.  I'll keep you posted.

 

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

Hi Worker Be-

Sounds like we're doing - we're getting off the addiction to gas/oil. Many times I've gone through withdrawl.

Our farm is doing a permaculture and no mowing grasses theme and we're raising our own food. Last summer was a real learning experience and frankly, after 25 days of zucchini in everything - I was dieing for a bag of potatoe chips, a big mac and a chocolate shake.

We spent 25 + days eating just from what we could grow and my daughter's diabetes was never under better control. Next summer we're adding goat's milk to the diet of garden food and eggs. Now I have a better idea of what else I want to grow.

We chopped our own wood for heat and my fingers get nipped to the bone when hanging out clothes now that it's winter. . .not to mention clothes freeze faster than I can get them up. We finally put up a clothes line inside but I like the wind-whipped clothes better.

Skills?  Learn to toughen up. Going to town or getting to work could mean a ride on the bike in the snow & ice. (having a power bike could help) Having food to eat could mean spending summer days in mud in the garden instead of the warm sandy beach. Having a warm home could mean spending your spare time insulating your house till you are not blue in the face or breaking your back cutting trees and falling over logs. .

Just remember - you can do it and learn to live well under these conditions. Just keep doing it. 

Live in Peace-

Blind Joe's picture
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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

"A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker."

Writing certainly isn't a bad skill to have. I think most places will be able to afford that level of complexity.

Think about what you would want to do if you were applying for a job at Colonial Williamsburg. In other words, how would you fit in to the steampunk economy?

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Damnthematrix
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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

Depending on your age, I'd suggest learning as much as possible.  This is of course nearly impossible in the age of specialisation, like now......  but you should have a go.

I'm not trying to blow my own trumpet here....  but the number of skills I have gathered over my 40 or so year of adulthood is not only impressive, but by today's standards, quite rare.

I've just built a house.  Which I designed BTW, to state of the art energy efficiency standards.  I did do an 'apprenticeship' by first renovating two other houses, but just look at what I did here:

I set the house out (with my then 15 y o  son) using a $50 laser level, some timber, and string.  Yes, it took us a week to do a job an experienced surveyor could have done in half a day, but even the block layers were impressed when they measured the finished base and it was 2mm out of square! (under 1/8th of an inch)

I poured the concrete slab (more friends here..!)

I did all the carpentry.  Doors and windows, all timber.  I even routed 1200m (3/4 of a mile) of shiplap joins in pine boards a friend milled from raw logs a long time ago..   I also built most of the kitchen from scratch, using scrap drawers, but I made my own doors and benchtops...

I wired the house myself.  Including the PV system...  though it was connected to the grid with expert help.  It all works perfectly!

I did all the plumbing (except drainage under the slab - I'd never done that before) including the solar hot water installation..

I roofed the house too, with the assistance of a team of friends..... 

I've done all the tiling.  My DH helped with the creative bits here, anyone who walks into the house usually goes WOW when they see the floor...

Then of course I designed and implemented the Permaculture around the house, planted all the trees, and built the chicken pen, and I'm learning how to look after goats and how to raise ducklings and chicks.  I've just built a large internal fence to manage the menagerie.

I know how to weld, sort of.  I'm an OK mechanic....  our cars over the years have rarely gone to workshops, a year ago I totally rebuilt a ride on mower my (idiot) brother broke, pulled apart, and gave me in pieces without a manual (no longer available!).  Life's little challenges.

Now of course, none of it is perfect...  I do have limitations! Wink  But it's good enough, it works and it has character even!

The important thing I think, is to have a go....   If you don't you won't make the mistakes you learn from.  And the school of hard knocks is the best of all.

I also brew beer..  and make bread.

I'm also confident I can survive the crash.... with no gold and no money.

Mike 

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Re: What Skill to Acquire?
As Chris Kresser pointed out, the skills valuable would be based on the vision we wdould have for the future. In a world where energy is a precious commodity, we may see more businesses that sell wind turbines or solar generators for the home. Cars like those of today may be a rare commodity. But in India, we already have a tiny car that can be charged by plugging into the socket like a mobile phone. This one does not make a style statement, but once charged can go upto 60-80 kms. Energy engineers that make/service these kind of devices could be a profession for the future. 
Carpenters, plumbers, barbers, teachers, cobblers, will all be required by the society. Computers and the internet would certainly exist although their affordability by the common man is doubtful.
Once the transition to a low-energy world has been made, there will be a profession to everyone's capability. I believe the idea of growing your own food is to survive the transition.
tom.'s picture
tom.
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Make your own gas

El-Capitan's picture
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Re: What Skill to Acquire?

I know it's not nice to think about, but I think knowledge in security/military tactics would be very useful. If you imagine a world where the demand for level 1 needs (in Maslow's heirarchy) exceed supply, you can see this is the case. I will certainly be prepared to protect my family and our food supply...

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