Suburban Skills – My Skills

This is the last post in the Suburban Series that I have been writing over the last few weeks.  The previous suburban skills post was about homemaking, so lets go outdoors and see what skills that may be needed to make the suburbs a little more sustainable, and ready for energy descent. Handyman skills come in many forms. From simple DIY projects, to full blown home maintenance. But let me take you on my skill building journey, because most of them fit into this post quite well. Nostalgic? Yes, but hopefully informative!

Long time readers will know that I grew up on a dairy farm in the ’70’s. It was a simple life, and full of hard work, even as a kid, but fun in so many ways. My parents taught me many skills that were required of farm life;

  • How to drive a tractor
  • How to shovel cow poo
  • How to kill a chicken or two and dress them for dinner
  • How to gut and skin a rabbit,
  • How to weld,
  • How to milk a cow by hand and by machine,
  • How to feed farm animals,
  • How to pick fruit,
  • How to build a haystack,
  • How to use a CB radio,
  • How to build a bicycle from parts,
  • How to entertain myself,
  • How to ride a motorbike,

and many other farm like skills.


Then at 16 years of age, I joined the Royal Australian Navy, and put all of those skills to the back of my mind. I learnt a hole new set of skills that were required to be a sailor;

  • Ships husbandry, which consisted of sanding, sandblasting, painting, and polishing,
  • How to use common sense,
  • How to clean toilets
  • How to wash and iron clothes,
  • How to polish boots,
  • How to march and take orders,
  • Experienced strict discipline,
  • How to shoot a rifle, pistol, and sub machine gun,
  • How to send and receive Morse code,
  • How to use wireless telegraphy,
  • How to berth a ship,
  • How to use portable radios,
  • How to be a member of a boarding party,
  • How to lead,
  • How to evaluate performance,
  • How to deliver vocational training,
  • How to be tactful, and
  • How to stand still on parade for over an hour.

About the only skill I learnt whilst not on duty was to how raise children (dad skills) and how to home brew beer!


When I left the defence force, my skills largely wained, although I learnt how to cook great meals for my family, however computing became my biggest skill set. I let most of the navy skills drop, except those that were required for corporate life. Then in 2006, after my personal awakening I began to learn and re-learn the skills from my youth. So far on my sustainable living journey, I have learnt;

  • Basic carpentry,
  • Basic bricklaying,
  • Home repair,
  • Basic construction,
  • How to build a chook house,
  • How to build a shed and greenhouse,
  • How to build garden beds,
  • How to grow fruit and vegetables and many sub skills that go with it,
  • How to care for chickens,
  • Basic irrigation design,
  • Basic plumbing,
  • Energy efficiency,
  • How to preserve fruit and vegetables,
  • How to make beer (again),
  • How to run a community group,
  • How to write effectively,
  • How to perform an energy and resource audit,
  • How to shovel chicken poo,
  • How to make many types of cheese,
  • How to teach cheese making,
  • How to make soap, and
  • How to build a cob oven.

I probably have missed a few, and there are probably so many more to learn.

One skill that Ben and I have started to learn is Archery, and we had our introductory course on Sunday morning. It was great fun, more of a sport than a skill, but I want new skills that will put food on the table, and in the future this may be one that is required. At least we will be able to keep the zombies at bay 😉

What other skills do you think will complement energy descent in the suburbs?

Suburban Resilience

 I have been thinking a lot lately about this series of posts.  You know the type of thinking, really deep and meaningful sort of stuff.  I have been imagining possible futures, researching case studies, and thinking about the present events around the globe.

Then I came across this quote by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Town movement.

“If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late; if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little; but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”

The quote really rang loud and true in my mind, except that I personally believe that individual action also has its place in leading by example.  I have been following Rob’s work in the Transition Town movement with interest, and believe that it is a great model that has merit simply by bringing the community together and building resilience.  But what is resilience and what does it mean in this context?  Let me show you a very good video on the subject to help you understand.  It has a good message that is easy to fathom.

So individual and community resilience is the key to riding through the approaching shit-storm, making changes for the better, doing something useful with what we have, and in our case the suburbs. By learning new skills, building community bonds that strengthen our sense of belonging and common purpose, we will be able to retrofit our vast suburban wasteland, and re-purpose it into a liveable and thriving landscape that will provide for everyone who lives in it.

The suburbs will remain in physical form, but not in the way we are used to.  By being creative, adopting permaculture practices to transform the landscape into an edible one, and by building community resilience via similar Transition Town/Village/City type actions, we will go a long way towards making them better places to live.  No more sterile wastelands, but places with a beating heart full of local resources, and filled with happy, productive people getting on with their role in their very own community!

“The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you refuse to take the turn.” – Unknown

Well that is the way I see it going down, even if many others don’t.  Penny for your thoughts?

Mousse and Carrots

Kim and Ben have been having a ball over the last two days.

Yesterday, Ben got out a cookbook and decided to cook Chocolate Mousse!  Here he is in action.

Beating the egg whites (all home laid by our lovely chooks of course).  The dogs got scrambled yoke for dinner!

Getting fluffier.

Strike the pose.  Nice skills Ben.

Here is Ben and I about to scoff down our chocolate mousse!  It was light and fluffy, tasted delicious, and he was very proud of himself.  Organic dark chocolate as well.  Well done Son!

Today, Kim and Ben harvested all of our winter carrots at my request, as I have been so busy of late that I just have not gotten around to it.

All harvested, topped and washed.  I love the funny ones.  You always get a few, which is part of the fun.

The scales topped out at 1.594 kg, which is not a lot for 6 months growth, however they are the sweetest carrots that we have eaten all year.  They won’t last very long, as they will be in our belly’s over the next few days.  These are a good size, but if you want to see a whopper, check out the carrot that Darren grew over at Green Change!  Now that is a harvest.  I love carrots, no fuss if you plant them in between rows of onions and just leave them be.  Just make sure the soil is friable before you plant, and keep the soil moist.  Easy peasy.