Back to Basics: Do-It-Yourself Skills for a Simpler Time

BACK to BASICS  September 12, noon-3 • West Central Park

Back to Basics: Do-It-Yourself Skills for a Simpler Time will be happening on Saturday, September 12 from noon til 3 at West Central Park, corner of Harrison & Division, in West Olympia. The challenges of an unstable climate, a contracting economy, and the risks associated with access to oil mean that we are facing a changing world. Back to Basics is a brief introduction to both skills from the past and newer skills that will be needed for future local self-reliance.

Weavers and spinners, candle and sauerkraut makers, grain grinders and do-it-yourself pinch pots, stove and fire builders will be there to give hands-on opportunities along with knot tying and folks willing to fix a flat tire or to demonstrate bike maintenance. The Pine Hearts will provide alternative bluegrass music.
The event is free. Sponsored by Transition Olympia. Contact

PEDAL-POWERED GRAIN GRINDING The hand mill using two flat stones to grind grain into flour is one of the most primitive utensils in the world. The hand crank grain mill was certainly a great improvement, but grinding grain is much, much easier if you are using your feet rather than your arms. Try taking turns pedaling a bike which is hooked up to a grain grinder which turns whole wheat into flour. (Sarah Vautaux)

KNOT TYING Knowledge of knots has been useful for hundreds of years, not only for boating and fishing but for many outdoor activities and it’s also also useful for emergencies. Try your hand at some of the basic knots and pick up a diagram to take home so you can practice. (Mark Bock) 

COOKING ON A ROCKET STOVE Rocket stoves are low tech, ultra efficient, clean burning, low cost, easy to build and use minimal resources. The technology, which was originally designed for third world countries running out of fuel, can also be applied to heating space or heating water. Find out how to make your own simple rocket cook stove with discarded tin cans.  (Gita Moulton)

FERMENTATION Aside from the health benefits of the probiotics in fermented foods, interest in fermentation, one of the oldest forms of food preservation, is growing today as a way to prolong the life of food and preserve its quality without refrigerating or adding chemicals. Making sauerkraut and kimchee will be demonstrated. Maybe there will be samples.   (Joanne Lee)

NATURAL BUILDING There is a movement away from conventional resource intensive building with wood to strawbale and cob construction using local renewable resources. Joseph Becker has been experimenting on his own and will bring his Rumpelstiltskin machine and make some “Insulating earth” or “light clay straw”. It’s fun to watch.   (Joseph Becker)

MAKING FIRE Knowing how to start a fire without matches is an essential survival skill. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll need a fire, but you don’t have matches. And whether or not you ever need to call upon this skill, it’s just really cool to know you can do it. Watch a quick and simple demonstration on how easy it is to do using just a piece of flint or quartz and a piece of carbon steel and then try it for yourself.   (Glen Buschmann and Janet Partlow)

CANDLE MAKING How many of us are prepared with candles for light when there is a power outage from windstorms or other emergencies? Having a supply is easy if you have old crayons or candle stubs on hand. And even if you don’t, it’s easy to make your own with local beeswax. Here’s you chance to see how it’s done and give it a try.  (Scott Bishop)

PINCH POTS A pinch pot is a simple form of hand-made pottery produced from ancient times to the present. Simple clay vessels such as bowls and cups can be formed and shaped by hand using thumb and forefinger, a basic pot making method that’ s good for beginners. Jen has found clay locally where the banks of Totten Inlet have been undercut exposing lower layers of soil at low tide. Try making one. She might even fire it for you if you ask. (Jen Olson)

TOOL SHARPENING Tool sharpening can be an intimidating skill to master but it’s also an important one to learn.. You simply can’t do many jobs with a dull tool, and you can perform any cutting task much better and more easily with a sharp one. Watching Rama can give you an idea of how to start with maybe a kitchen knife before tackling the pruners or a hatchet. (Rama Lash)

WEAVING ON A FRAME LOOM Weaving is one of the oldest surviving crafts. Long before looms were invented to make cloth or rugs, the concept of Interlacing fibers was applied to using branches to create fences for protection or twigs to make baskets. Working on a simple frame loom, which you can easily make for yourself, is a good way to explore the concept of weaving or maybe make a handbag or placemat.  (Barb Scavezze)

WATERLESS TOILETS There are many good reasons to think about waterless toilets, especially now as we continue with our drought, but primarily, they conserve water. They also manage waste on site or they can convert the waste into fertilizer and they don’t require a septic system. Many models, like the one Pat will show you, are available commercially, but you can also build your own. (Pat Holm)

BIKE REPAIR Economic instability, ever-increasing climate change and the environmental risks associated with oil extraction are three of the many reasons why riding a bike is an excellent reliable alternative to driving. But it won’t be reliable unless your bike is in good working order. If you bring your flat tires or other minor adjustments or problems, Tim and Michael will help you fix them and give you good tips on tune up and maintenance.   (Tim Russell and  Michael Loski)          

SPINNING WITH A DROP SPINDLE There is evidence that drop spindles were used to spin fiber as far back as 5000 BCE and were the primary spinning tool used to spin all the threads for Egyptian mummy wrappings and even the ropes for ships for almost 9000 years. It’s a little trickier to learn to use, but a $6 drop spindle will give you yarn just as good as you can get with a spinning wheel, Try your hand at it and maybe pick up a spindle for further practice at home. (Shannon Rae Pritchard)

SEED SAVING All domestic crops were once from wild seed which Stone Age farmers saved to protect their food supply from unfavorable climate conditions or invading tribes.  Today, it’s important to protect the seeds that perform best on your own land with your own unique growing conditions. but also to protect them from corporate control over what we grow. It’s not difficult. Ask Tanner.  (Tanner Milliren)


3rd Annual Skillshare

Saturday, September 6, 10 – 5
Friends Meeting House, 32301 Boston Harbor Road NE         
 (2 miles past Priest Point Park) Skillshare Faire 2014
To live in this changing world, we’ll need to learn to acquire new skills – which are often old skills…
A Day of Skill Sharing
We can’t know the particulars of what the future will look like, but that we’ll live in a more frugal and more local world is certain – there just aren’t enough resources to continue consuming at our present rate. To live in this changing world, we’ll need to learn to acquire new skills – which are often old skills – to make that transition.
Skillshare Faire is a day-long festival to revive many of those skills from the past and showcase new ones that will be needed for local self reliance. Come share the day with goats and rabbits, weavers and spinners, and enjoy kitchen demonstrations of making wine and herbal medicinals.
There will be workshops, demonstrations and talks on other hands-on skills like spinning and cheese making, seed saving and raising small-scale livestock, tool sharpening and knot tying. Newer  energy saving technology like rocket stoves, natural building and water filters will be featured along with good food and music.
Join us as we share in passing on what we know in a multi-generational setting to enhance our resilience and better face the coming changes. Bring apples to press, a jar for cider and contributions to make stone soup.
Sliding donation $5-$15, under 14 free. No one turned away. Sponsored by Transition Olympia.
Stay tuned for updated info!

Sovereignty and Survival or Status Quo? Options and Actions for the Local Food System

Please join us for our monthly meeting on
Monday, May 12th, 7-9pm

MIXX 96 FM meeting room, corner of State and Washington
7-7:30 meet, mingle, announcements
7:30-8:00 presentation
8:00-8:45 questions and discussion

Sovereignty and Survival or Status Quo?
Options and Actions for the Local Food System

with TJ Johnson

The unraveling of the global industrial food system is becoming increasingly obvious to even the casual observer.  Climate change is reducing yields, chemicals are poisoning people, land and water, and corporations are stubbornly clinging to control.  What are the prospects for creating a sustainable food system in Thurston County? Join TJ Johnson of Sustainable South Sound’s Local Food System program to learn about what’s happening with local food policy, urban agriculture, community gardens and more.  Get the information you need to be an effective advocate, a savvy consumer and a engaged member of the local food revolution.

Meeting Notes 2/10

Hello friends and community members!

At last week’s general meeting, we chose four projects to focus on.  If you would like to get involved or get more information, please email us at

Repair Café

Repair Cafés are free events that bring volunteers who like to fix things together with people who have broken items that need fixing. They are not only great events to get your vacuum, waffle iron, or lawn mower fixed, but the very nature of their collaborative and community-oriented learning spirit contains the antidote to our modern day throw away mentality – and they’re a great help to the bottom line.

Asset Mapping

Web page with list of skills, resources, projects, and future events happening in and around Olympia.  The map will include physical locations of local business, garden spaces, and community meeting spaces.  The mission is to build networks between small interest groups, with the goal of creating a more resilient Olympia community.  Contact Thomas Solenberger,

Skillshare Day, 3rd Annual

The world is changing and we need to acquire new skills – which are often old skills – to become more locally self-reliant and to transition to a more resilient community. Skillshare Day is a multi-generational voluntary sharing of a wide variety of such hands-on skills as tool sharpening, pedal-powered grain grinding, spinning, candle making, basketry, bicycle repair, cheese making, beekeeping, seedsaving and many more.

Community Space

Work independently or in collaboration with other local organizations to identify one or more locations to house much-needed resources which would be prohibitive to acquire on an individual basis, such as a commercial kitchen; tool library; grain mill, work and education space, etc

We also need members for our Core Group!  If you have energy and the willingness to commit some time to an inspiring and creative movement, please contact us at

Attendees also listed other projects or events they know of:

  • Community Rights Ordinance (CRO):  meets regularly at MIXX (State and Washington) on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays from 12-2pm.
  • WasteLessFood Campaign:  Thurston County Solid Waste will launch a community-based and media campain to reduce wasted food in the community.  Contact Terri Thomas, or 360.867.2279.  Terri expects the program to launch in March/April.
  • Guy McPherson,  ‘How Shall We Live in the Light of Climate Chaos?”  Guy is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona. He lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house where he puts into practice his lifelong interest in sustainable living via organic gardening, raising small animals for eggs and milk, and working with members of his rural community. He has developed a comprehensive set of durable living arrangements in response to the ongoing collapse of the industrial economy and global climate change. Author of “Walking Away from Empire”.  At Traditions Cafe, Feb.28, 7:30 pm
  • Check out in “Climate Chaos in 4 Minutes”
  • Judith W. lives on 135 acres in Montesano and possesses many skills including blacksmithing; animal husbandry; gardening; furniture-making; etc.  She seeks up to 12 individuals to possibly live on the farm as interns (think WWOOF)

Transition Meeting

Hello friends and community members!

After a long hiatus, we invite YOU to join us for a Transition Olympia meeting next Monday, February 10 at the MIXX meeting room, corner of State and Washington in downtown Olympia. Coffee and cookies provided!

6 pm Special: “In Transition”, a 50 min. film introduction to the Transition Movement.

7 pm Meeting begins. We’ll discuss ideas for some really tangible projects with the goal of choosing 1-2 by evening’s end that we can focus on. Potential ideas so far include:
• A Repair Cafe
• Asset Mapping
• Planning 3rd Annual Skillshare Day
• Developing Resiliency Indicators
• Locate a centralized space in which to develop shareable efforts on a community scale, eg. commercial kitchen; food processing equipment; tool library; education/community meeting areas; etc.
• Other ideas that you bring!
Please join us with intent towards action and accomplishment!

Transition Initiatives are based on four key assumptions:

“1. That life with dramatically lower energy consumption is inevitable, and that it’s better to plan for it than to be taken by surprise.

2. That our settlements and communities presently lack the resilience to enable them to weather the severe energy shocks that will accompany (the triple crises).

3. That we have to act collectively, and we have to act now.

4. That by unleashing the collective genius of those around us to creatively and proactively design our energy descent, we can build ways of living that are more connected, more enriching and that recognize the biological limits of our planet.”

― Rob Hopkins, The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience