Rediscovering an old talent and passing it on
What's the use of knowledge if it's not used or passed along to someone else who can use it?
A couple decades ago, I was nearing the end of my time in 4-H. I had spent 10 years learning and practicing a variety of skills. And then, I went off to college, started a career, started a family and lost track of some of those things I once had gotten kind of good at.
That's not, of course, to say I haven't been using things I learned in 4-H. Years of giving demonstrations and other talks, interviews at fair time and livestock judging reasons have made the interviews and various types of public speaking that come with being a journalist much easier. My time showing livestock made me more resilient against stress, and the livestock knowledge I gained have made me somewhat of an asset on the ranch. I know how to participate in a meeting and how to run one. I am adept at finishing projects and making sure they're ready to shine and at finishing record keeping (usually at the last minute, just like I did in 4-H).
But while the lessons of 4-H prepared me for adult life, I also certainly put some of the skills on the shelf.
For instance, I didn't touch a sewing machine or serger for years until I wanted to make some curtains during college. The old lessons came back to me quickly, and I've dabbled a little at making and mending since then. Of course, I still tend to sew a bit crooked, but I can take care of some basic needs. I even helped my daughter make her first sewing projects, with a number of false starts when I forgot how to read patterns.
But probably my favorite 4-H project was leather craft. I was lucky to grow up in a community with two different stores dedicated to the craft and a number of leaders to help me learn about it. I loved creating images on leather and projects that would stand the test of time. I learned to draw my own patterns and create things that were completely unique. I served as my club's junior leader and taught other kids, too, which was sometimes as much fun as doing my own work.
After high school, I didn't touch any leather tools until about a year ago, when my daughter expressed an interest in learning to create the kind of projects she's seen still in use at my parents' house.
So, we got her some tools and I got my brother to return a few of my old ones. I taught her a little about carving and stamping, and she got a blue ribbon for her first project, a bookmark. Since then, we've picked up more tools, and both daughters and I have had some fun pounding out designs.
When the time came for one of our county 4-H committees to offer some workshops across various project areas, I said I would be willing to put on leather sessions. In preparation, I made my first projects in two decades, a checkbook cover for my husband and a little wallet for my younger daughter.
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed creating. And I had forgotten how enjoyable it can be to just do something I enjoyed — not for money or awards but just to do it.
The workshops seemed well received. I think all of the kids liked the fun of pounding on something. And a few of them really seemed to enjoy the end results of their work.
The experience has been a good reminder to me that it's OK to spend some time doing something I enjoy and that even more so it's always fun to pass along the knowledge that someone else once gave to me.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-595-0425.