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Cobbling For Fun and Profit

Jan and I have been discussing possible good aspects to the economic down turn. One hope that has come up a couple times is that hard times will spark folks to try to “do for themselves” instead of running to the mega-mall. We let this idea have full sway for awhile and were trying to come up with practices that modern Americans don’t normally perform. One of our relatives, for instance, canned vegetables this year for the first time in her life. While I applaud the activity, if for no other reason that because it lets you see the steps of the process and to know them by doing them, it can’t be very cost effective to buy the produce you put into canning jars, can it? When I survey our fifty plus quarts of tomatoes, part of the joy I get is knowing that I was with these tomatoes from the very beginning.

But Jan and I tried to come up with the Next Big Home Craft and, Jan, in a flash of inspiration, said “cobbling.” Cobbling as in shoe-making. We cracked up laughing. When was the last time you even heard of some one who had shoes hand made for them? Granted, I know a couple serious hikers who have had hand crafted hiking boots made and they swear by them. And a friend in the Netherlands asserts that hand carved wooden shoes are critically important for children just learning to walk since they provide support for the tender bones. Apart from these stray examples, though, everyone I know buys foot wear off the rack.

Jan’s whimsical idea got us thinking though. What’s involved in making shoes? Do you have to use leather? How would they be made water proof? What about the sole? Should the goal be to make something that could be composted when it’s worn out? These musings — entirely unperturbed by actual research or fact, I should note — delighted us through most of the summer.

We visited Jan’s sister and brother in law who spend their summers in a 10 x 20 trailer beside an idyllic lake in mid Michigan. Sitting around the fire one night, Jan asked her sister if she knew any one who cobbled.

Jan’s sister perked up. “Why yes!” she replied. A man who stayed in a trailer just around the corner was quite an expert cobbler come to find out. Janice and I nearly fell out of our chairs. Jan’s sister continued “He’s always got one going.”

“I beg pardon?”

“He uses a big cast iron dutch oven. Peach cobbler, raspberry cobbler. He’s quite the expert.”

Posted in • Making.