I've been an assistant Girl Scout leader with my sis-in-law Gina since last spring. Yesterday I taught the girls how to make a simple yeast bread. This is something I learned from my neighbor Ginger, who copied it out of an article in Mother Earth News.
Soon after she first mentioned it - how good it was and how easy the recipe is, I went to my favorite discount food store (which has become less and less of a discount). There the organic whole wheat sliced bread that was 1.30 when we got here in January 08, is now over 3.00. That's still 2.00+ cheaper than other places, but after doing some calculations I realized that baking your own saves 1.50 to 3.00 per one-pound loaf (or more if I could find bulk organic flour). I was now motivated.
A little knowledge + Motivation + Access to tools/resources (recipe, flour, oven...) = Willingness to try something new
This is the way self-reliance skills seem to be moving out into the population now. A generation or 2 or 3 ago, people learned this stuff from their moms and grandmas. You watched them do it for a few years, you helped them do it for a few more, then you took over doing it for the family. Now we learn from books and articles, sometimes classes, and a lot more trial and error. But we DO have some amazing internet resources - people who have done the trial and error already and then generously sat down to make some notes about what they did, so you can avoid their mistakes. When I made jelly last fall and it wouldn't set, I got on Google and found out why from a forum of internet-savvy canning ladies. And I was able to save my apple jelly.
We also have our friends on the path. By observing how the Dervaes family kept chickens in their backyard, I saw how how I could do it too. And my doing it helped my friend Nicole see how she could do it too, and so on.
Trial and error + Shared experience = Success
Even though I am wheat-sensitive and not supposed to eat gluten I started making the bread every few days. The first loaves were a lot of work trying to get it all just right. Once I ran out of flour and had to ad lib with some nongluten flour which did not work as well. A couple of times I burned them. But the results have been pretty good overall. I've done it about 20 times now and my confidence and understanding of the process is way up. It's not a big deal and it smells good, tastes great and feels right. In the last batch I made I partially substituted potato flour, and it came out really yummy (recipe will follow).
So the next step is sharing it, like Ginger did with me, like the author of the article in Mother Earth News did, like I just did with the Girl Scouts.
Individual success + Generosity = Spread of skills
None of the Girl Scouts had ever made bread before, they didn't know what or how yeast worked and they didn't know the difference between whole wheat and white flour. But now they do. They were so excited about the bread as it was baking. The scent wafted into the Cafeteria. "Is it done yet?" "Can we look at it?"
At the end of the meeting I brought the round golden loaves out onto the playground, and they tore into them. They gobbled them up, sans butter, right there. That is really the best skill teaching tool possible, bread fresh from the oven made by your own hands.