Kearneysville, WV. Several years ago, I had dinner with a group that included a well-known economist. It soon became apparent that this man was a lover of wine. His tastes were refined, he possessed a broad knowledge of the subject, and he relished talking about the various facets of wine production. Sometime over the course of the evening, I mentioned that I have a small vineyard on the hill behind my house. He gave me a quizzical look and then shook his head. “I believe in specialization,” he said. The obvious implication was that he would leave the wine-making to the specialists, for they would create a better product that he could as an amateur. Likely he was right on this score. But is anything gained by doing something yourself? Is anything gained by sinking one’s hands into the soil, carefully tending young vines, and learning the specific knowledge of soil types, grape variety, and climate? Do careful attention, diligent work, and long months of patience impart a flavor note to the final product that is acquired in no other way?

In January 2010, The Wall Street Journal ran a piece on the way economists think. One example: two economists gave a friend $150 to hire movers instead of helping him themselves. Of course, few people relish moving and even less helping someone else move. There are innumerable ways most people would rather spend their time. Yet, by simply giving a friend the money to hire movers, are the obligations of friendship discharged? When we send strangers to do the work of friends, we are outsourcing camaraderie. We are denying the friendship the times of mutual discomfort that can draw the bonds tighter even as the difficulty is lightened by sharing it. Lost is the face-to-face interaction between persons that adds another small layer solidifying the friendship.

Wilhelm Röpke recounts a conversation he had with a prominent economist in the aftermath of WWII. As they strolled along the streets of a German town, Röpke pointed, with satisfaction, to the many small vegetable gardens kept by the residents of city. The economist shook his head disapprovingly and grumbled. “A very inefficient way of producing foodstuffs.” Whereupon Röpke responded, “But perhaps a very efficient way of producing human happiness.” This rejoinder takes us to the heart of the matter. Happiness is the proper end of life. By happiness I do not mean the glib and transitory pleasure that so often is confused with happiness today. Happiness, as described by classical and Christian thinkers, is a life of excellence in accordance with goods and standards (both natural and supernatural) that are suited to human beings. This sort of happiness is not achievable in isolation, for humans are creatures fit for community.

I relate these anecdotes not to pile on the economists but to highlight a way of thinking that extends far beyond the cozy walls of the economics department, permeating many aspects of our culture. It is a way of thinking based on the notion of efficiency and specialization, and when these are combined with relative affluence, the results are significant. Ultimately, the health of individuals and communities are in jeopardy.

There is a connection between what might be called the “neighborly arts” and a life well lived. When we make it a point to learn various skills, we become better equipped to help our neighbors. When we can grow a tomato, we can then share it with others. When we can build a fence, install a light fixture, or repair a carburetor, we can not only take better care of ourselves and our families, we can better serve our neighbors. Learning to tend livestock, cultivate fruit trees, and keep bees provides the satisfaction of doing for oneself, but we can also share the bounty. When times are hard, the neighborly arts are at a premium. In times of affluence, they can atrophy under the illusion that specialization and purchasing power are all we need. But if we fail to cultivate these practical arts, the hard times will be harder and the opportunity to help our friends and neighbors in practical ways will be diminished. The bonds of community will be attenuated even as our collective need for a strong and energetic state will correspondingly increase.

Could the neighborly arts be one facet of the art of freedom? Could these practical skills expand our opportunities to engage others in the associational life that is the best bulwark against the nanny state? Could these skills serve to bind families together even as they facilitate one aspect of economic independence? Could the neighborly arts provide the opportunity for healthy interaction with the natural world unencumbered by the weight of institutions and expectations that distort reality by virtue of their scale?

We once had a neighbor who made his living as a chiropractor. One evening he had dinner with us. At the end of the meal, he pushed himself back from the table, smiled with satisfaction, and asked if anyone needed an adjustment. My wife had been having some neck pain, and he happily plied his trade on the hostess. I jokingly told him that if he ever had a philosophical crisis, I would be more than happy to use my skills on his behalf. The joke worked, but it also served to highlight the fact that training as an academic is inadequate. Manual skills are necessary for both living well and for being a good neighbor.

Recently several young women asked my wife to teach them to make bread. They knew that homemade bread tastes better than much of the stuff on the shelves at the grocery store, they knew it was healthier to eat, and they knew that my wife likes to bake a variety of loaf and artisan breads. So for several hours on a Saturday in the spring, our kitchen was full of sifting flour, laughter, and questions as my wife instructed these young women in the art of bread-making. Perhaps one day these young women, now grown older, will teach their own children or a neighbor how to make bread. In the ensuing years, they will no doubt refine their skills, adding particular nuances and flourishes of their own, so that when they pass on the knowledge to another, it will be what they received but different nonetheless. In such a manner is any living tradition passed from one generation to the next.

The neighborly arts, like all arts, are cultivated in practice and passed on from one person to another in a particular place and time. The neighborly arts are placed arts, for they are embodied in the particulars of a local community. They are the humble arts that consist of persons living in proximity with each other and sharing particular knowledge in a way that improves the lives of family, friends, and neighbors. The neighborly arts bind people together in mutual help and affection.

The neighborly arts begin at home, extend outward in service to others, and return in the form of gratitude, friendships, and commitments born of practical skills shared and received. In this sense, I think, the art of hospitality represents in a concrete and intimate way how the neighborly arts can foster good will, good conversation, and good times (not to mention good food). Ultimately, a life together in the presence of extended family, friends, and neighbors is more possible, more durable, and more enjoyable when the bonds of nature, proximity, and affection are strengthened by the mutual assistance born of the neighborly arts. True happiness begins at home.

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  1. I remember reading that WSJ article and thinking to myself the people it spoke of had in some way lost an element of basic humanness.

    Sure it might be more effecient to pay for movers, or to hire someone to decorate your family’s Christmas tree (also in the article), but this efficiencey comes at the cost of lost experiences. Some of my fondest memories from childhood involved going with my dad and grandfather to help neighbors put up their hay, mend their fences, or drive their cattle from one field to another. It was hard work, and yeah, at the time I probably wished I was doing something else, but I always learned something. Not only did I learn practical things–like how to roll start a pickup truck, but I also learned how to be a decent and considerate human being.

  2. More grist for this mill – consider the economic thesis that “gift-giving” is inefficient, and that if you really want to be an efficient giver, you should simply give the recipient some cold, hard cash. According to one recent study, gifts typically are evaluated by their recipients to be worth 20% less than their actual value. This differential is calculable in particular by “putting aside sentimental value” in assessing a gift’s worth. But this last bit of chicanery is exactly the point – “sentimental value” can’t be factored in by an economist, because a price can’t be put upon it. And since it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.

    Stephen Marglin makes this point at some length in his book “The Dismal Science,” especially in regard to community. Because the goods of community cannot be measured, they don’t exist – they cannot be factored in to a cost-benefit analysis. And so, demands for efficiency inevitably discount community, and thus economics (as the new “Master science”) systematically destroys community in our world, and inevitably there follow demands for Government to step in as a substitute.

  3. Beautifully and truthfully said, Mark. And count me as another fan, along with Patrick, of The Dismal Science; it’s a wonderful book.

    Leaving where I do, and having specialized my life as I do, I’m rarely in a position to offer what manual skills I have (milking cows, for example) to my neighbors. Like you, Mark, I’m mainly a recipient of their neighborliness. I’ve been much blessed by my friendship with the all-around handy-men–construction workers and engineers–who are part of our church; they’ve taught me how to install a backflow device on our sprinker system, how to repair a front door, how to install a ceiling fan. Hopefully I can return their generosity someday, but I fear that’s not in the cards.

  4. The economist with whom Roepke was speaking was Ludwig von Mises. Mises was simply wrong: the backyard gardens are a very efficient way of producing vegetables. For one thing, they make use of otherwise unused labor and capital. For another, small plots tend to be farmed more intensively than large ones. Finally, expenses of marketing, transportation, retailing, etc. are eliminated. Adam Smith noted that small holdings tended to be more efficient than large ones, and the same holds true today. It is no accident that the industrialized farm requires billions in subsidies all over the world.

    There is a reason for this. Farming is one of the few businesses which actually meet the “free market” model: the products are undifferentiated (ie, winter wheat is winter wheat no matter which farm it comes from) and there are a vast number of producers such that none of them have any pricing power. The model predicts that such firms operate at the point where marginal costs equal marginal revenues, and that real profits are eliminated, that is, profits beyond what the value of the entrepreneur’s labor. And this actually works. The problem is that such firms are unstable, because a mere whisper suffices to blow them away. this is because cost structures change faster than price structures; prices and wages tend to be “sticky,” to have a lot of friction that prevents them from changing very fast. IOW, firms need a real profit to have any real staying power. All management, whether anybody cares to acknowledge it or not, is about avoiding the consequences of the free market model and finding a way to earn an economic profit. A firm that operates at the point where MC=MR will be too fragile to last very long.

    I add my endorsement to Marglin’s book. Marglin also has a seminal essay, “What Do Bosses Really Do?” about the economic and social effects of the division of labor. This essay likely deserves a post of its own, and perhaps I will write one. Suffice it to say that the DofL, which is by now an economic dogma, is not really economic at all.

  5. If cost structures change faster than price structures in our increasingly globalized world perhaps we are seeing the recognition of this “stickiness problem” in the increased financialization of capitalism where the ability to be quickly liquid in cash terms is the better way to make a profit and maintain the value of your money always assuming you can read bubbles.

  6. “The neighborly arts begin at home, extend outward in service to others, and return in the form of gratitude, friendships, and commitments born of practical skills shared and received.”

    And much more. A prime example of this–perhaps the preeminent example of this–is to be seen in the baking of Qurban, or Holy Bread, for use our parish. I would never consider a bread machine to make it, as my physical labor, something of myself, seems an essential part both of the symbolism and the gift. The rewards are truly unimaginable, “pressed down and running over.” To use one’s bread-making skills to offer bread for Communion and receive it back utterly transformed and beyond any good imaginable, is truly to see this return.

  7. Wine-making–another area the arch-economists can’t understand. No other piece of earth could produce the same wine as your vineyard. In this country, we market wines by the grape, but where they are grown is just as important for taste. You can’t fake a Bordeaux, and you can’t fake a Kearneysville!

    Vineyards are like people: they aren’t interchangeable.

  8. you can’t fake a Kearneysville!

    That ought to be engraved on a stone somewhere, or embroidered into a tapestry, or something. Maybe it should be the new Front Porch Motto.

  9. When relocalization becomes inevitable with the evaporation of the tertiary and quaternary economies, the grid going down and the Internet being reduced to packet radio, then one might feed The Wall Street Journal to one’s donkey as Dimitry Orlov has suggested.

    At that time skills such as those suggested in this post will became not just vehicles of camaraderie, but means for survival.

  10. No one–other than, perhaps, the totally disabled–is lacking in ability to share “Neighborly arts.” I appreciate Mark’s encouragement to learn to do something so we can share. It is somewhat like The Apostle Paul’s counsel to the theives of Ephesus. Get a job. Work with your hands (In a slave based economy manual labor was not esteemed.) so you can not only meet your own needs but have surplus to help others. (Ephesians 5:28) Mark, there may be more similarity between preachers and philosophers one one hand, and theives on the other, than we care to admit. The fact is we all possess arts with which we can be neighborly. Most of us can push a lawnmower. The other day I mowed my neighbor’s front yard while he was out of town. I have an elderly neighbor. Largely because of his fondness for accumulating useless junk he has a driveway, where an old motor-home sat for at least a decade, that is covered with vines and debris. My goal is to cut, shovel, and remove a wheelbarrow load a week until I get the space cleaned off.
    My point is that usually the problem is not that we don’t know anything that would enable us to be neighborly, but that we don’t use what we do know. (Though, other than making wine to make your neighbor’s drunk, I agree with your post, Mark.) Neighborliness begins with recognizing the worth of our neighbor. I encourage practicing that virtue here on this website.
    It appears to me that sometimes commenters (I raise my hand in guilt) here–maybe even posters–value the point they are making more than the person to whom they are making the point.
    Could it be that at least on occasion that comments are posted here with the goal of showing off vocabulary, rather than using that vocabulary to communicate a point that would help a neighbor? If using a word that your cyber-neighbor probably doesn’t know is the best way to make a point, that is one thing. If it is a literary means to enforce the pecking order it is quite another.
    I find it strange that on a site that promotes community that the noticible absence of a member of the community has been almost completely ignorred. (As far as I know, I’m the only one who has inquired about the where-abouts of the curmudgeonly, Buckeye disciple of Voegelin.)
    I’ll not belabor the point. Neighborly arts imply neighborliness. It is a skill that I need to work on a great deal more.
    Thanks, Mark. Good word!

  11. Howard, your point about everyone–even academics–having neighborly arts and the capacity to develop them further is something I’ve tried to take to heart, and encouragement to actually do stuff in community is a welcome reminder on a blog. While the warning about the motivations behind using a particular vocabulary is also welcome, I tend not to take the presence of words I don’t understand as a threat, but as a rich part of personalities and, yes, an encouragement to learn more. Language is both practical and artistic, and honestly, it seems to me that the latter aspect is more neglected than the former, in general. I find relief from cynicism in mystery.

  12. Albert,

    Thanks for the kind words.
    I totally agree about the need for artistry in language & I realize that an artfully composed missive may take a bit more trouble to understand, but in the end it is worth the effort. As to “relief from cynicism in mystery,” I too have trouble being cynical about what I can’t quite grasp.

    Here is an illustration of the value of the well-spoken, well chosen word, that you might enjoy. I give credit to Warren Wiersbe for the illustration. In the opening chapter–or maybe it is the introduction–of his book, Teaching and Preaching with Imagination, he refers to the speeches of Ahithophel and Hushai in 2 Samuel 17.
    Ahithophel had the best plan, yet Hushai persuaded Absalom to follow his plan (He was a double agent working for David.). Leaving aside, for a moment, the sovereignty of God it is easy to see why Hushai’s word won the day. Ahithophel’s message plods along on flat feet, while Hushai weaves a tapestry of images carefully chosen to have just the right effect on rebellious son/would be king.

    As one who runs his mouth for a living, and dabbles in the written word, I regret to say that I hear and read more followers of Ahithophel than Hushai.

    And, Mark. If you make some grape jelly to go on your wife’s homemade bread–I’m in.

  13. The economist with whom Roepke was speaking was Ludwig von Mises. Mises was simply wrong: the backyard gardens are a very efficient way of producing vegetables. For one thing, they make use of otherwise unused labor and capital. For another, small plots tend to be farmed more intensively than large ones. Finally, expenses of marketing, transportation, retailing, etc. are eliminated.

    To make such a claim about efficiency, you have to specify and quantify the items in your numerator and in your denominator. Just because your statements about the merits of gardening are true doesn’t make your statement about efficiency true. The term efficiency by itself doesn’t mean a thing without specifying what it is you’re trying to effect. And it still doesn’t mean anything unless you specify the terms in your denominator, too. Even if it’s impossible to quantify the terms, you have to specify what they are. And then you should be modest enough not to claim that von Mises, who did specify his terms, was wrong.

    FWIW, I like vegetable gardening. I planted peas the day before Easter, and they’re doing well. Years ago when we raised goats ‘n chickens, I was accused of setting up my own little 3rd world country on our small acreage. I kind of miss it, and if there comes a time when I can’t go off on bicycling expeditions any more but can still get around on my feet, I might want to get back into it.

  14. John G., I agree with you that the term “efficiency” is misused, especially by economists. The proper response to a claim of “efficiency” is “efficient at what?” For example, producing the highest profit may not provide the most economic efficiency. In fact, the profits will be economically inefficient if they depend on economic rents or externalized costs. Economists, including Mises, frequently speak of efficiency in terms of inputs and outputs. But that is an engineering question, and economists can add nothing to the conversation. Economic efficiency consists in measuring economic rents and externalized costs. No engineer can proclaim a system “efficient” unless he knows the true costs of the inputs. But if some of the costs are externalized, it is impossible for the engineer to say that one system is more efficient than another.

    And I am quite certain that Mises was wrong, not only in the kind of efficiency he has talking about, but in terms of the output of the gardener as well. That citizen was utilizing otherwise unused capital and labor, and doing so without subsidy or rent, so that the resulting vegetables were a pure profit.

  15. Professor Mitchell

    I enjoyed this and found it–as you can see below–very provocative. It demonstrates one more reason that our declining manual skills are killing us. But if I may say so, I’m not sure you realize yourself what a can of worms you’ve opened. What we make when we make things with and for people close to us, make things with our own tools, using craft skills we’ve chosen because we find pleasure in them, and make things FOR USE, is nothing less than enduring CIVILIZATION–both material and social.

    “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.” John Ruskin said that. He also said, “There is no wealth but life.” We must learn to distinguish between wealth and riches. I believe utilitarianism is the nineteenth century term for an economics that gives primacy to efficiency and no value to the creativity and fellowship we can only know through laboring together. Manual work is an indispensable means of expressing our joy in life. And the expression of that joy in life through labor is art–the art of winemaking, for example–and, perhaps, the neighborly arts. Almost anything you make by hand can be elevated to the level we call art. Especially if you have in mind the pleasure it can give you, the maker, and your neighbor, the user. “Could the neighborly arts be one facet of the art of freedom?” You’d better believe it. What you make out of your home and your basement or garage workshop is free work, because at least there you have ownership and control over the means of production. And freely given, freely expressing the joy in the work and the gift it provides, the work itself is free to rise to something beyond mere utility–to what we call art.

    By the way, would like to see John Ruskin cited more on this website. The best essay I know of on the relationship between democracy and architecture, which is the basis of the whole front porch idea, is Ruskin’s “The Nature of Gothic”–though it treats a completely different aspect of that relationship. Ruskin’s essay, which was subtitled, “And herein of the True Functions of the Workman in Art,” demonstrates that the extraordinary beauty of Gothic architecture reflects the joy of labor, of handcraft, practiced in community, allowed by the social conditions (yes, it was a feudal society, but one in which guilds thrived and in many respects effectively resisted autocracy) within which the cathedrals were built. Each cathedral is a unified organic expression of the community’s free, various and diverse individual talents, bringing their own tools to the job, and their practiced handcrafts. Unlike classical architecture, which is designed “top down” by a very separate talent and merely executed by workmen, Gothic accepts the imperfection of the individual and grows “bottom up”. William Morris called it “helping in the work of creation.” With apologies to Lloyd Blankfein, it’s REAL “God’s work.” Those cathedrals are the ultimate–and enduring–expression of the neighborly arts.

    Whatever else they were, medieval towns were real communities, and though bigger than what we’d call a neighborhood, they weren’t that big–more like several neighborhoods. And look what their citizens did together as neighbors. For a medieval craftsman, helping to build a cathedral wasn’t just an act of devotion to God; it was an act of devotion to neighbors and community. (More easily grasped by us today, perhaps, is the Amish barn raising.) It was the greatest honor to their craft, which they practiced with pleasure and pride.

    Often ignored out of the assumption that it’s about an architectural style, “The Nature of Gothic” is truly a work of political, social and economic thought (Ruskin was very close to Carlyle). It belongs high on the reading list of everyone here.

    By the way, this goes to the comments about economists paying others to do work as favors for friends and neighbors: careful work, freely given to others, in response to their needs and aspirations is devotional. It involves sacrifice of time, toil, thought, sweat and even blood and tears. Ruskin’s first “Lamp” in his great work the “Seven Lamps of Architecture” is the Lamp of Sacrifice. It simply doesn’t mean as much to pay someone else to do the work your neighbor needs–though there’s some sacrifice in that.

    To look at the significance of the neighborly arts from another, but equally important, point of view, consider the interdependence and intertwining of the arts in pre-modern times — both in respect to each other as well as, and not coincidentally, with daily life — and contrast that with the separation of the arts from each other and from daily life as the age of commerce sets in. In the middle ages masonry, carpentry, sculpture, tapestry, stained glass-making, metalwork and painting all work together in service of Gothic architecture, with no one example stealing all the attention to itself but working in harmony with the other arts. In the 17th century, though, they come apart, become more specialized and less attuned to one another. By the nineteenth century, painting–now becoming not integral mural painting but separate easel painting–almost completely arrogates for itself the title of “Art,” and becomes something remote not only from the other arts but from the daily life of all but a few people.

    Following the lead of Ruskin and Morris, who recognized this and its broad and devastating implications for humanity, a great nineteenth century movement grew, which is still felt and in many ways sustained today. It’s a movement poorly understood in general and certainly by social and political thinkers because we’ve largely ignored it, tending to be distracted by the stuff it produced, and miss the ideals that produced the stuff. It was, though, in truth, one the the great social movements of the past 200 years. It’s the Arts and Crafts Movement, named for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, which was originally called, “The Combined Arts” because it was devoted not so much to the revival of the handcrafts and the lesser arts, as many believe, but to restoring the primal unity of ALL the arts and their intimate role in life. In other words, it was devoted to reviving, if you will, the unpretentious, non-individualistic, rooted-in-daily-life, NEIGHBORLINESS of the arts, and their basis in ordinary labor. It was devoted to traditional, often local, arts, reviving the folk spirit, the vernacular, in art, and creating a genuinely popular art — an art of the whole people. Most of all, at least to its leadership who truly understood it, it was devoted to re-channelling the great wealth of modern society to reshape the conditions of labor so that our daily work could be meaningful and our lives pleasurable again.

    Second thought on this piece has to do with raising kids in the neighborly arts (shifting the emphasis here to the social skills of being a responsible neighbor). Seems to me we’ve truncated the whole process of growing into responsible citizens by allowing neighborhoods to decline socially. The growth of the individual starts with attachment to one person–the mother–then moves into the immediate family, then the extended family–then for far too many American kids today it stops there instead of continuing into the neighborhood and on into progressively larger spheres of participation. I know there are homes in my neighborhood that house children I never see playing outside or even walking to a neighbor’s house. I see them through their parents’ car window as it’s backing out of the garage. Or I might hear them playing in their own yards. The other day one watched from an upstairs window a couple of doors down as my daughter and I played basketball on the street. I’ve never once seen him outside.

    Will that child ever learn responsibility beyond the walls of his house? Will he be there for his neighbors, his town, his state, his nation?

    My wife’s uncle, who lived his whole life in a small town in North Carolina, liked to tell about a lesson his father taught him as a boy one day when the two were walking down the street together. Seeing a coin lying on the sidewalk, my wife’s uncle rushed ahead, picked it up and thrust it into his pocket–a great find for a kid. His dad stopped him and said, “No. You see if you can find who dropped that coin and give it back. If you can’t find the owner, put it in the collection plate at church this Sunday. Son, I want you to take care of what’s yours. But you also help others take care of what’s theirs.”

    Communities that teach their children that lesson–and where people grow into work and lives based on that lesson–are not Milton Friedman’s “aggregates of self-interest.” Pity us all suffering the poverty of–I mean the impoverished society envisioned by–Milton Friedman.

    Finally–a word in defense of economists, because my father was one. My dad was an academic, and as I went through college I felt myself gravitating to academia too. But I never saw a more satisfied, pleased smile on his face than the time I told him that I’d finally realized that what I wanted to do was work with my hands. It startled me that he was so pleased, because it contradicted what I believed he, as an economist, thought.

    Beyond that, he taught me two things apropos here. First is something he told me: economics is not a science because economists themselves participate in the economy, so there’s no way for them to have the objectivity required in true science. While he was a Harvard-trained economist, what shaped him more than his formal education was his upbringing in a small midwestern town during the depression. Yes, he was frugal, but that experience, more than economic training, gave him the habit of frugality. The point of economics for him was to alleviate economic suffering. And more than efficiency and specialization–though he far from dismissed the value of those–he was always concerned with the social fabric.

    Which leads me to the second lesson — not something he told me, but something he did: on one cold wet morning when I was young he took me out to help neighbors dig out and prop up their houses that, after a heavy storm, had been hit by a surge of mud that had torn through the valley where they stood. The storm had washed out the only road offering access in our coastal community, so all we had in that little town was each other. Showing up with a shovel on that morning was what you did for neighbors. It was the right thing to do; the civilized thing to do. And neighbors, seeing each other’s needs, showing up with their tools, have even been know to build cathedrals.

  16. There is another kind of freedom that comes from doing for yourself and your neighbors that even an economist could understand. The time I put into my vegetable garden and personal woodpile is tax free income. If I worked harder for wages, I would lose 20-30 percent in income and social security taxes before I could buy the product of the specialist. For this reason, we have cut down on commercial farming and do more home economy based growing.

    Thanks be to God, the Government has not yet found a way to tax how we spend our own time, or our tomatoes.

  17. _Thanks be to God, the Government has not yet found a way to tax how we spend our own time, or our tomatoes._

    Back in the early 1980s there were informal proposals to do just that, e.g. tax you on the value of the home improvements you did yourself instead of hiring a contractor to do them.

    BTW, I mightily approve of a vineyard in the back yard.

    BTW(2), the last two nights I was out working in the garden, weeding and mulching until it was too dark to see what I was doing. It was very pleasant, and I got to wondering why I don’t do that more often. Than I remembered: Mosquitoes. They usually come out after the wind goes down (and sometimes before) but there haven’t been any the last quite a few days. It’s not as though we’ve had no rains. Anybody else who talks about gardening actually get out in their garden and notice that phenomenon this year? (I’m in SW Michigan.)

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