Sunday, January 4, 2009

Rediscovering Lost Knowledge

In the last 150 years, our country has experienced an extraordinary loss of knowledge. While we think these days that we are far ahead of our predecessors in scientific and technological information, the fact is that when it comes to taking care of ourselves we have become as dependent as newborn babes are for their diaper change.

As part of our homeschooling last year, I read a book with my daughter called "Diary of an Early American Boy". It is about a 15 year old young man named Noah Blake and it chronicles his life in the year 1805. Here is a young person who knew how to build a house and a barn, plow a field, build a bridge, construct a mill with a pond, clear the forest, and that was just to set up the homestead! He knew about moon phases, how to grow food for his family, and how to make nails at a forge. This appears to have been common knowledge among farmers and settlers in the past. 

Then we also read the delightful story by Laura Ingalls Wilder called "Farmer Boy". Although I think she rolled all of Almanzo's life on the farm experiences into one book covering one year of his youth, it is still an amazing picture of know-how and industriousness that makes our present-day young people look pretty useless.

We have lost so much knowledge that I wonder if we can recover it in this generation. I am thankful for the books that are available about the many aspects of gardening and farm life, but it would be great to have more practitioners in the flesh nearby who could show the way.

Years ago I lived in the country on 8 acres. My neighbors were an elderly couple who had cleared the land I then lived on. The pear tree she had planted 50 years before was still bearing fruit in my yard. I would go visit her regularly and watch everything she did. If she was digging in her garden, I would pay close attention and try to copy her activities in my own garden. She probably had forgotten more than I would ever know about raising food on that plot of land in Louisiana. I learned so much from her.

I am now passing on my knowledge to my daughter. We garden together, we learn about being productive together. The next generation needs to know how to be producers and not consumers. It is satisfying to be able to grow your own food and make your own clothes. The knowledge of past generations is our national heritage. Let's rediscover the many treasures of know-how and common sense living that have been handed down to us, and let's leave this heritage to our children. 

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post! All three of my older children read "Diary of an Early American Boy" as part of their homeschooling, and they loved it. So did I....I can't part with our copy :)

    I completely agree about raising kids to be producers instead of consumers. Have you noticed that the media refers to us as consumers now instead of citizens? Sad.