Thursday, January 5, 2017

16 Skills I Learned in 2016

Our tiny apple tree last spring

Last year, I threw myself into learning the skills of my new story: the home arts, especially cooking and gardening. As I look back on the year, I’m pleased to see how far I’ve come in many of these skills, and decided that other people might want to learn more about them too. In 2016 I learned how to...

Mm... fajitas. (See #14.)
1. Fold my clothes Kon-Mari style. See a tutorial here. Seriously, this changed the way I did laundry— I can actually find all my clothes again! When I refolded all our clothes this way, I freed up an entire drawer.

2. Use up a bunch of kale at once.

3. Make bone broth. Put bones, carrots, onions, celery, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf into a crockpot and cover with water. Let cook on low for 12-24 hours. Ladle out the broth and repeat as many times as you want. Chicken bones will eventually crumble, and you can compost them.

4. Sheet-mulch, using this book.

5. “Fake” chords on the piano. I took several years of piano lessons as a kid, but it wasn’t until this year that I picked it up seriously again. I have a long way to go, but I’m getting to where I can stumble through a Beatles song on the first try!

6. Make the perfect butter pecan ice cream

Making homemade pesto last summer
7. Save seeds from pea plants. I just left my spring crop to dry, then picked the brown pods and left them in a paper bag for a few weeks. I then shelled them and successfully planted my fall crop. Unfortunately, I harvested the next crop when they were frosty, and instead of drying in the bag, they molded. So the moral of the story is, be sure to let your seeds dry completely!

8. Bake quick, easy pizza crust that I can whip up whenever I want. (Requires a food processor.)

9. Grow succulents from a cutting. Simply pluck a leaf from the succulent, leave it in the windowsill for a couple days (this allows the cut section to form a tough layer that prevents it from getting overly hydrated when you plant it), then sink it in some potting soil and keep it moist. Soon tiny plants will pop up from the root system! I’m hoping to start doing this on a regular basis so I can have succulents to give away to friends.

I grew these myself!
10. Shift gears on a bike. Having never consistently ridden a bike with gears before, I am learning the joys of shifting (and actually riding up hills without dying) when I borrow Zach’s bike. It still confuses me that you shift down when you’re going up and vice versa, though...

12. Prune a fruit tree to keep it small (even if it’s not a dwarf variety), learned from this book.

13. Fry an egg without inadvertently turning it into scrambled eggs. Heat the cast iron well, use lots of butter, choose good eggs and crack them carefully. I like a firm white and a runny yolk. Perfection!

14. Cook vegetarian food. It’s a lifelong learning process, of course, but I’m getting better. Cookie and Kate is a wonderful resource, as well as any of the Moosewood cookbooks.

15. Wash greens from the garden properly. Fill a large bowl with water and swish the greens around for a minute to remove dirt. Then transfer them to another bowl of water that has a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Swish again, then dry in a salad spinner.

16. Grow cucumbers and asparagus, my new crops this year. I also planted watermelon, but they died so I don’t count them yet.

This year I would like to make more fermented foods (yogurt, cheese, kombucha, and pickled veggies), increase the number of crops in my garden, and bike long distances without getting out of breath.

What did you learn last year? What would you like to learn in 2017?



  1. I've loved KonMari for a long time, but I just recently gave in and did the folding thing. Now I love it too!! And I can second the Moosewood Cookbook recommendations - my favorite recipes are from there, and they don't feel like forced vegetarian. They're just really good meals that happen to be meatless. I've also learned some good recipes from having international students live with us! My favorite is Pakistani lentils dal served with butter, yogurt, and bread.
    Yay biking!! I'm kind of giving it a break for the winter since running is a lot warmer in the cold, but it is so special. I love my bike - it is definitely a thrilling experience, especially hills, especially at night. :)

    1. All good stuff. :) I had long thought of vegetarian cooking as just gross tofu versions of meat dishes... this year has definitely opened my eyes to the wonderful world of foods that never had meat in them to begin with!