Sustainability, reviving old skills focus of Skillshare Faire

Raising rabbits, cooking with solar power, winemaking and plant identification — they’re all skills people learned at Saturday’s Skillshare Faire, a daylong event aimed at teaching people how to live sustainably.

The event, hosted by Transition Olympia at the Olympia Friends Meeting House, featured both new skills and forgotten ones that were used in the past.

“To live in this changing world, we’ll need to learn to acquire new skills — which are often old skills — to make that transition. To do this, we need folks willing to share their skills — skills that our grandparents took for granted,” an event flier read.

Learning to produce and save seeds will be key in creating and preserving a sustainable food supply, said Olympia Seed Exchange founder Caitlin Moore, who taught a seminar on seed harvesting. She explained that gardeners should try to save as many seeds as possible to maintain diversity.

Community seed swapping can also help.

“It’s just like the British royal family,” Moore said. “They were all inbreeding and they got hemophilia. Saving seeds is the same way. You need a variety or it will bring out less-desirable genetic traits.”

It’s easier to harvest seeds from some plants than from others, Moore said. Spinach seeds, for example, can be separated from other parts of the plants by using a colander — or any other rigid material with holes in it — as a sieve. Tomatoes and other “wet seed” plants are a little more difficult.

Moore said she typically squeezes tomato insides into a jar or bucket and lets them ferment in the sun for a few days. She then adds water and decants any liquid or pulp, leaving the bare seeds to dry.

“The jelly on the inside of a tomato prevents germination, so it’s best to ferment that off,” Moore said. “That also decreases the risk of seed disease.”

Gardeners can also experiment with hybrid plants, Moore said. For example, one farmer created an extra-tall kale plant by crossing kale with Brussels sprouts. As a result, the edible portion of the kale was farther from the ground and didn’t get as dirty.

But crossing plants with squash can yield less-desirable results.

“Things crossing with squash, pumpkins crossing with zucchini, don’t let it happen,” Moore said. “You’ll get something really disgusting.”

Gardeners can pick up their own seeds or learn more about seed harvesting by visiting the Olympia Seed Exchange at the Eastside Urban Farm & Garden Center.

Event attendees also learned about producing meat. Jeff Sowers of Olympia has been raising goats for meat for the past five years and brought two female goats, or does, to the event.

“I wanted a source of humanely raised, organic meat,” Sowers said. “I had the property, and raising goats for meat is pretty easy.”

It’s so easy, in fact, that he can raise 18 goats while working full-time as a teacher. His family eats about eight goats per year — about as much meat as is produced by a cow, he said.

Typically, goats are tastier when they’re between the ages of 6 and 9 months, Sowers said. Kids are born in the spring, so butchering time is in October.

Sowers slaughters the goats himself and processes the meat, freezing it for future uses. He said he doesn’t sell any of the meat, but he does give some away to friends and family. This year, he plans to butcher eight goats.

“They’re a lean, mild red meat,” Sowers said. “It’s actually pretty good. I can see why it’s one of the most commonly eaten meats in the world.”

Some of the skills demonstrated at the event focused more on beauty than sustainability. While Barb Scarezze’s skill can be used practically, she mainly uses it to create artwork in the form of woven and felted wall hangings. The Olympia woman said she first fell in love with loom weaving as an art student and has stuck with it for most of her life.

She taught people to assemble their own looms and weave at the event.

“It’s something at I’ve loved for years, and I’m happy to teach other people,” Scarezze said. “You can use it to make blankets or rags; you can use it to make art. It really just depends on what you have lying around and what you want to do.”

To learn more about sustainability and Transition Olympia, visit http://transitionolympia.org.