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Do it yourself living meets frugal lifestyles in the Old School’s classrooms

Maggie Shepard, CNM instructor and co-director of the do-it-yourself program Old School, said her classes have reached out to those who want to live frugally as well as those who fear the apocalypse.

“People really want to know how to do stuff, whether it’s to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, or if the market down turns, or just to connect with their heritage or their generation’s past to kinder that spirit,” Shepard said.

Old School started in 2011 and focuses on teaching hands-on classes. Shepard said she started the organization after she wanted to learn how to bake bread and preserve and can goods. Shepard sent an email to a group of her friends and wrote a few posts on local websites about teaching or participating in do-it-yourself courses. Shepard said she and her friends taught 14 classes after the initial response.

Old School currently teaches 40 classes and is hosted at the Albuquerque Mennonite Church. The organization has more than 1,000 people signed up to the group’s email list. Since it began, Old School has taught classes on candle making, wine making, beekeeping and solar-oven construction.

Co-director Leila Salim said her pursuit of a do-it-yourself lifestyle began long before she replied to Shepard’s Internet cry for help. Salim said she grew up in the South Valley of Albuquerque alongside goats, sheep and chickens. Salim said she began creating her own clothes at the age of 7.

“My grandma would take us to the fabric store and let us pick out fabrics, then go to the patterns. We’d pick out patterns, and we’d take them home, and we’d cut them out and sew them,” Salim said.

Salim teaches a grey-water recapture class, as well as a hummus and pita bread-making class at Old School.

“I grew up making them (hummus and pitas) and eating them. It’s baffling how expensive it is to buy something that’s made from beans. It’s super cheap to make — the markup is like a thousand percent,” she said.

Old School features volunteer teachers, from college professors to passionate hobbyists. At one point in 2011, local celebrity Don Schrader taught a few lectures on his frugal life and how he survives on $4,126 a year.

“I think Maggie and I would agree that we just want to share our skills, and we want other people in ABQ to share their skills with us,” Salim said.

Dara Saville, Old School herbalist teacher and founder of Albuquerque Herbalism, said she joined the organization after noticing her career in herbalism aligned with the organization’s goal of living a sustainable life.

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“I think herbalism is one facet of a sustainable life way. Learning about how to use plants for your health and wellness can be a very sustainable, natural path to health and wellness,” she said.

Saville said she has taught a few herbalism courses with Old School. Her most recent course focused on creating bath bombs and bath rubs for the holiday season. She said her interest in herbalism began when she was pregnant with her first child.

“A decade ago, becoming a parent for me meant having an enormous responsibility to take care of someone else’s health and well-being, and living in a country where health care is not really available to everyone, I decided to learn how to take matters into my own hands and learn natural ways of keeping my children healthy,” she said.

Saville said organizations like Old School keep crafting and hands-on skills alive.

“More and more in our culture, the skills and stories of our elders are not being passed on, because the nature of our family relationships and our community relationships have just changed in the modern world,” she said. “If we can continue to know how to do things ourselves, and we don’t have our grandmas, then we can find other grandmas in the community that want to share.”

To sign up for available classes, head to


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