Welcome. I am the author of Universal Time, a sci-fi urban comedy;
Beaufort 1849, an historical novel set in antebellum South Carolina;
and Pearl City Control Theory, a comedy of manners set in present-day San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Useful Skills for a Gift Economy

Long Ago Beekeeping
Don’t quit your day job, but what second set of skills might you have that would be useful in a gift economy? Are there goods you make or a service you could render as a present or for informal trade? For a skill to be valuable, there must be some barrier to entry. Usually this barrier (why everyone just doesn’t do it themselves) is a certain amount of specialized knowledge or equipment. Sometimes it is talent! 

My husband and I have taken up beekeeping.  It's not all that hard but it does take some know-how and special apparatus. I’ve also put in a vegetable garden and fruit trees in our urban yard. While lettuce and zucchini seem so easy to grow anyone could do it, tomatoes and pumpkins take more of a green thumb. Fruit trees take years to mature so they definitely represent an investment. I’ve thought long and hard about raising chickens but am unwilling to do the work required. (Effort--a significant barrier to entry!)

Below are some of the skills sets I’ve been thinking about lately. Not that I have any desire to acquire them all myself, but having friends and relatives with a wide variety of them would definitely be a good thing! Many of the skills are very traditional but some are more modern. An amateur might not perform them as well as a professional but could still achieve enough proficiency to be valued.

If you have any of these skills, how did you acquire them—from a friend or relative, a class, from a book or on-line? In the past parents or grandparents handed down these skills, but this has been less common the last few generations. For beekeeping I went to class, read a couple books and read a lot on line. For vegetable gardening I read books, read on-line, and went back to memories of previous gardens I’ve had and my father’s gardening as I grew up. 

Are there any skills you’d add to this list?

*Canning/food preservation
*Soap making
*Beer brewing
*Chicken-raising (eggs)
*Beekeeping (honey)
*Simple bicycle repair
*Fancy cakes (parties/wedding)
*Hand sewing/clothes mending
*Machine sewing/clothes making
*Knitting (socks and sweaters in particular)
*Woodworking/furniture making
*Fruit/nut tree growing
*Child party host (art/games/fun themes?)
*Handyman carpentry repair
*Simple insulation/weatherstripping/house sealing
*Vegetable garden tending
*Herbs (wildcrafted or domestic)
*Tree pruning
*Simple electrical wiring
*House painting/decorative finishes
*Cooking (specialized, time intensive, or gourmet food)
*Baking (bread, pies, etc.)
*Simple haircuts/hair styling/hair dying
*Shoe repair
*Computer geek
*Website development
*Meat or fish smoking
*Liqueur making
*Tutoring (math, science, writing, foreign language, test prep)
*Jewelry making/repair
*Play a musical instrument (well enough for a wedding, party, etc.)

Photo (of old German stained glass):  Ingeborg Bernhard