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Learning from one another: Transition Honesdale builds community through sharing skills

Katie Baxter demonstrating woodworking on a Barns #2 Velocipede scrollsaw at Ant Hill Farm.

September 22, 2011

HONESDALE, PA — When Hurricane Irene hit the area, even though it put people in the dark for a while, it also woke up a lot of people.

What are we going to do without electricity? Without refrigeration? Without water for washing and flushing toilets? Without food from the supermarket?

These are some of the questions asked during the storm. Were any of them answered?

Answering questions like this is the concern of a local group called Transition Honesdale which is initiating a major new program called “SkillShare.”

“Envisioned as a network of people who are passionate about doing, learning and teaching, the SkillShare is a creative attempt to unearth the ‘collective genius’ of the greater community,” said Donni Hoffman, coordinator of the program.

For instance, someone may want to know more about beekeeping. There will be a program taught by local beekeeper Tom Morrisette. Another young farmer may want to know how to butcher a chicken. That skill will be taught by Billy Templeton and Amanda Avery, who raise chickens.

“Every person is both a student and a teacher and has something to share, whether it’s knowledge, a skill or simply energy,” Hoffman said.

The purpose of the project is to help people relearn forgotten knowledge, comprehend new knowledge and teach skills that are applicable to our lives today and in the future, she said.

“As co-organizer of this project, I’m hoping the Honesdale SkillShare will be the ‘go-to place’ for people who are looking to do more for themselves, this community and—hey! I’ll say it—for the planet,” she said.

“We want people to be more self-sufficient when times get tough,” said Jane Bollinger, another Transition leader.

The group has been conducting a SkillShare survey throughout the community at events that they have been conducting. The survey asks two questions: one, skills you would like to learn and two, skills you would like to teach.

“We’re finding a lot of skilled people who are eager to teach what they know to their neighbors,” said Katie Baxter, another Transition leader. Baxter is ready to teach people a long-lost skill of fashioning wood on an instrument from the 18th Century called a velocipede scroll saw. “You sit on a kind of bicycle and pedal the saw,” she said. “Velocipede is the old-time word for bicycle,” she said.

“Our grand goal is to have a searchable data base of people who can teach skills and others who want to learn, even informally,” Bollinger said.

Where will they hold these classes?

SkillShare classes
October 20: Salve Making. Learn how to make healing salves in your home. Workshop will feature calendula and comfrey salves.
November 12: Beautiful homemade gifts. Make holiday gifts, details still being worked out, but homemade soap, knitting or sewing and possibly simple wooden gifts or card making.
November 17: CraftLuck! Topic TBA
December 13: Cookie Exchange. Bring a plate of your favorite cookies and go home with a plate full of other people’s favorite cookies. Recipes will be collected. Holiday Hour and open work session.