Made by Hand: In Praise of Amateurs

Note: I'm afraid this post is long and rambling. So sue me. I've been meaning to write about this subject for a long time, and finally felt moved to do so. This article may be amateurish, but that's kind of the point…

My father was a serial entrepreneur — he was always starting businesses. But more than that, he was a serial inventor, a master of DIY, an amateur everything.

When I was a boy, my father:

    • Built a windmill to supply some of our electricity. (The windmill blew over during a freak windstorm, and lay on the ground behind our property for many years.)

 

    • Built his own boat. I can't remember what kind of boat it was, but I think it was a small sailboat. (I was very young at the time, but I remember the library books he used to teach himself how to build the craft. I couldn't help but remember them; he checked them out in 1972, and we still had them at home during the early 1980s!)

 

    • Built his own telescope — or tried to. Again, I can't remember if he ever finished the project, but I know that for years, he had a huge (12 inch? 15 inch?) and heavy hunk of polished glass the top drawer in his dresser.

 

  • Wrote his own accounting software to manage his businesses. Dad bought an Apple II when I was in fourth grade (so late 1978?). Using the built-in Integer BASIC language (and, to some extent, the machine's assembly language), my father taught himself how to program whatever he needed.
Note: I taught myself to program on the Apple II also. Starting in 1978 (when I was in fourth grade), I learned to type in the programs from various computer magazines. Since many of these programs were written for other kinds of computers, I had to teach myself how to modify the programs to my needs. And since Dad wouldn't buy any computer games for us, I had to write my own.

 

  • Later wrote an entire suite of applications to run the box factory. When my father founded the box factory in 1985, he bought a new Atari 1040 ST computer and wrote all of the programs he needed in BASIC. He wrote programs for box layout, accounting, and more.
Note: The box factory continued using Dad's programs up until around 2001. Sometime during the late 1990s, our Atari ST computers began to die. Reading the writing on the wall, I taught myself Visual Basic on the PC and spent several months re-creating Dad's programs. We gave up the Atari ST when the 16-year-old external hard drive finally croaked.

 

    • Designed an electronic, timed sprinkler system to run the irrigation in his failed nursery business.

 

    • Designed, built, and marketed a line of wheat grinders and food dryers. Doing so, he built his first successful business, Harvest Mills. After five stressful years (and many gained pounds), he sold the business in the late 1970s.

 

  • Created a second successful business, Custom Box Service, which he started in 1985. As I mentioned, he wrote all the computer software for the company, but he also built all of the manufacturing equipment by hand. Today, 25 years later, that equipment still powers the family business.
Tony gluing a box

 

When Kris and I decided in 1993 that we wanted to start our own vegetable garden from seed, my father helped me build a small greenhouse. We didn't use any blueprints; he was the blueprints. One long Saturday, we bought lumber and nails and plastic sheeting, and he stood around watching me, telling me what lengths to trim the two-by-fours and at what angles. He didn't sketch anything out on paper — he just told me what to do and I did it. That greenhouse is still standing.

But all of these things barely scratch the surface. These are just the things I remember, and mainly his successes. My father did more: He wrote poetry (mostly bad poetry), played guitar, drew funny pictures, spent a couple of summers raising 40+ acres of wheat, flew airplanes, sailed boats, and more. When he contracted the cancer that eventually killed him, he bought a microscope so that he could draw his own blood and look at his dwindling supply of white blood cells.

Made by hand
So what? What does all of this have to do with personal finance? I've already written a lot about how my parents — especially my father — were poor at handling money or growing their savings account. (In fact, all of Dad's extensive and expensive hobbies surely played a role in our family's poor financial standing.)

Well, I just finished reading an uncorrected proof of Mark Frauenfelder's Made by Hand, which is due to be published in late May. In the book, Frauenfelder — who is perhaps best known as the co-founder of Boing Boing and editor of Make magazine — chronicles his experience dabbling in the world of do-it-yourself (or DIY). The book includes chapters describing how Frauenfelder (intentionally) kills his lawn, grows food, raises chickens and keeps bees, brews tea and coffee, builds musical instruments, carves kitchen utensils, and, most of all, learns how to learn.

The book isn't a practical guide to anything. You won't learn how to keep your own bees or carve your own kitchen utensils in Made by Hand; instead, you'll get the pleasure of watching over Frauenfelder's shoulder as he does these things. And, if you're like me, you'll be reminded of how much we, as a culture, used to do ourself.

Note: If you're looking for a practical guide to these sorts of DIY projects, seek out a copy of Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills [my review] or pick up a copy of a homesteading magazine. (My favorite mag — by far — is Countryside, which also has a great website.)

 

For good or ill, the United States has become a service economy. We pay people to do all sorts of things we used to do ourselves. In some cases, this makes sense; “outsourcing” can free us from work we find drudgery, allowing us to pursue our passions. But sometimes this reliance on professionals and experts makes us more detached from the things we ought to know about. (As a hypothetical example: If you pay a financial adviser, you may think there's no need to know about asset allocation and diversification and all that boring stuff — but there is.)

Frauenfelder believes — as do I — that the DIY ethic is only partly about the things you produce. It's also about learning how to learn, about connecting with others who share your interests, and about taking pride in your accomplishments. (Look! I built a personal-finance blog read by millions of people every year!) There's a reason Get Rich Slowly has a DIY category, even if it's seldom used: Doing things yourself is a great way to save money and increase happiness.

Note: I'd love to provide a more detailed review of Made by Hand, but I can't. The copy I have is an uncorrected proof, and I'm sure things are going to change by the time it's published in a couple of months. Let's just say that I think the book is great, and I encourage you to pick up a copy if you're at all interested in DIY.

 

In praise of the amateur
After reading Made by Hand, it occurred to me that much of my own personal philosophy is about finding ways to do things myself. I don't (and can't) do everything myself, but I get the most pleasure in life when I'm producing instead of consuming. I also thought of other folks I know who do stuff. My father was one of these, but I know (or know of) many others, such as:

    • My wife, who cooks and cans and bakes like crazy. (One reason I struggle with my weight is that Kris is always making terrific food.) But she does other creative stuff, too. Sitting next to me at the moment is a little stuffed animal that she made by hand.

 

    • Bloggers of all stripes. I love seeing others write about cars and flowers and painting and chemistry and more. I think it's great that blogs have served to level the playing field, allowing non-professional voices to be heard. (My favorite shelf in my library contains books by bloggers.)

 

    • Chris Guillebeau and others who produce top-notch e-books on a variety of topics, earning good money while bypassing the traditional publishing industry.

 

 

    • My friends who play musical instruments. I love that Rhonda took up piano in her late thirties. Over the past two years, I've watched her move from rank beginner to competent learner. And I hope to see her progress even further.

 

    • My friend Craig, who is a DIY master (though he probably wouldn't call himself that). He's remodeled his house (slowly), built raised garden beds and a chicken coop, constructed his own vineyard, built a mud oven, and is one of the best DIY cooks I know. (He and I and another friend were going to make our own bacon together for my upcoming birthday, but it's too late now…)

 

  • And, most of all, our friends' children. Craig's son, Albert, for example, loves electronics. His parents have fostered this, giving him all sorts of stuff to build and take apart. Other kids we know love to write, draw, do science, and more. It's great to see children innately drawn to DIY before they grow older and more complacent.

The thing is, these folks are all amateurs (and so am I). They're not trained pros. They do these things because they love to, and this passion aids their performance. When they fail (as they inevitably do), they try again. (I think Craig has built his mud oven at least three times because it keeps falling apart.) These amateurs find ways to succeed, even if it's not a success in the eyes of the world.

There are a lot of people who dislike amateur work because they think it's poorer quality than that put out by the pros. That's fine. I get that perspective. But for myself, I get much more value for my money when I pay five or ten bucks to see a community theater perform than when I pay fifty or one hundred to see a Broadway show.

I'm not saying that you have to choose one or the other; I'm saying there's room for both. But for some reason, we've abandoned the stuff of talent shows and living-room concerts. I'd like to see more of that. I want to be awed by the stuff my friends make and do.

Action is everything
As always when I dwell on this subject, I'm reminded of Sarah Dyer's manifesto, “Action Girl's Guide to Living”. I've linked to this many times before, and nobody seems to like it as much as I do, but that's okay. I think it's great, especially this abbreviated bit (which I think I pulled from an actual Action Girl comic book):

ACTION IS EVERYTHING! Our society, even when it's trying to be “alternative” usually just promotes a consumerist mentality. Buying things isn't evil, but if that's all you do, your life is pretty pointless. Be an ACTION GIRL! (Or boy!) It's great to read / listen to / watch other people's creative output, but it's even cooler to do it yourself. Don't think you could play in a band? Try anyway! Or maybe think about putting on shows or starting a label. Don't have time/energy to do a website yourself? Contribute to someone else's website. Not everyone is suited to doing projects on their own, but everyone has something to contribute. So do something with all that positive energy!

I love that. And I think it has everything to do with personal finance and happiness. (When I say, “Nobody cares more about your money than you do“, I'm thinking of Action Girl and the DIY ethic.)

What I value most
My father died in 1995, ten days shy of his 50th birthday. I wasn't very close to him at the time; our relationship had grown strained over the last few years of his life. But in recent years, I've become more and more sentimental about all the stuff he knew and did.

A few years ago, I realized that nobody in our family actually owned a food grinder or a wheat grinder from the old Harvest Mills days thirty years ago. How was that even possible? I managed to track down a food dryer via Craigslist, but the wheat grinder was more elusive.

Little Harvey
One of my father's first food dryers, made by hand.

 

Then one day, we were scouring our favorite annual garage sale. And there, sitting on a table, was a Harvest Mills wheat grinder. I knew it instantly from its shape, even though I hadn't seen one since the 1970s. It was marked at $100. Being a frugal fellow, I tried to bargain with the owner. No go. He wanted $100. That was fine, though. I gladly paid the man the money. I would have paid $1000, if that's what it would have taken.

Like most Americans, Kris and I own a lot of Stuff. Some of it, like the computer I'm using to write this post, is actually worth a fair bit of money. But you know what? None of it is worth as much to me as my father's food dryer or the painting of Kermit the Frog that Jolie just made for me. This computer (and most of the other stuff in my life) is impersonal and mass produced, but these other things were created by people I know.

So, please: Make stuff. Don't just consume the things produced by others. If you don't already, try to find something that you enjoy doing, something that you can make by hand. Or make a homemade gift that will mean the world to someone. Don't be afraid to fail. When you make things, you make the world a better place.

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Jason Braganza
Jason Braganza
10 years ago

This is my dad!

1. Builds things on his ownsome! – check
2. Has an awesome sense of design – check
3. Can do attitude – check
4. Amazing artist – check
5. Extremely poor financial sense – check!

I find myself in much the same situation as you! But then, I wouldn’t trade my happy childhood for anything the world!

Charles
Charles
10 years ago

I remember the first episode of the classic BBC science series “Connections” from over 30 years ago. The host, James Burke, challenged people to take everything out of their pockets or purse, and try to find anything that wasn’t manufactured by machine. I never forgot that, and I told my sister about it. She decided she’d always carry something non-manufactured, like a shiny pebble or a small piece of driftwood. She gave me a fossilized shark’s tooth to carry around. I’m preserving a hand-made traditional art, I’m probably one of the last practitioners of an old photo method that dates… Read more »

Melinda
Melinda
10 years ago

I don’t care if it was long. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It’s a kick in the pants I needed. Being a “creative”, I was taught that I didn’t matter as much as someone who was “business-minded” or a “professional”. It’s hard to make money being a creative, I was told, so give it up and work in an office where you have “stable” employment. This reminds me that I was taught others’ values and they don’t have to be my own. Wanna come to Virginia and have some awesome chocolate chunk cookies while listening to a violinist play Devil’s… Read more »

Mrs. Money
Mrs. Money
10 years ago

I put down new wood flooring throughout most of my house by myself. I am so proud of that!

I couldn’t figure out to do with this one step that is in our living room. This weekend I figured out what I wanted to do and started working on it. It’s going to look fantastic when done. I am so proud of myself for doing it. I almost hired someone a few times.

Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom
Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom
10 years ago

I enjoyed reading this post. My experience at DIY isn’t extensive but at least I know how to fix general things around the house, put together furnitures, fix the drywall, paint the walls, caulk around the bathtub, change doorknobs, and simple things like that.

Luke
Luke
10 years ago

J.D. – a great tribute to your father! He sounds much like my girlfriend’s dad – a Jack of all trades: A wonderful chef (so he transforms raw materials into magic every day!) A gardener (grows vegetables, herbs and flowers as well as landscaping and building garden furniture) An accomplished carpenter (lays floors, crafts gifts and sells handmade items in gift shops) An amateur electrician (he recently thought a heated water bath for sous vide cooking was too expensive and so designed and made his own for 1/5 of the price) Can fix a computer in a pinch Then again,… Read more »

Surreption
Surreption
10 years ago

I think this is occurring more and more with music and concerts. Partly out of necessity, as the record contracts of old don’t really supply a living like they used to. But so what? If I can go see a concert put on by people that are passionate about music and playing their best, I find that it is just as enjoyable and often similar caliber to some “professional” musicians. The lower ticket prices are nice too! In terms of DIY around the house, sure, it’d be faster for me to hire a contractor and even possibly cheaper given my… Read more »

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

Yet again, Get Rich Slowly feeds my soul. I think it’s really great how you inspire me to spend less and live more each week. I love your personal stories and reflections upon how you got to where you are. It’s a nourishing ramble. I hope others think so too. 🙂

Kristiina
Kristiina
10 years ago

New here…great post. My husband and his toys–I mean, tools, have built us kitchen cabinets, coffee tables, toy boxes, etc etc…At first I saw it as just a hobby, but he has saved us thousands and the pride he/we have in his work is awesome! He’s rubbed off on me–I (w/his help!) just tiled our bathroom floors. We could’ve found some cheap labor, but it was great fun to learn how to do it and I smile every time I walk into the bathroom now!

-kristiina

Cara
Cara
10 years ago

Learning how to learn is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills a person can have. Great post!

Jan
Jan
10 years ago

Wonderful post- and wonderful tribute. 50! that is really young. I am sorry for your loss of your father. The person he was is what made the US great. I have so few students who are still encouraged at home to “just make it yourself!”

Becca
Becca
10 years ago

One of your best J.D. I am also blessed to be surrounded by similar folks.

Stephanie
Stephanie
10 years ago

“Why tip someone for a job I’m capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did, however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.” -Dwight Schrute

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

I highly recommend finding out if there is a Pecha Kucha event near you. http://www.pecha-kucha.org/ Each city has it’s own flavor, but the concept is the same everywhere. A presenter gets to talk about something they do or are interested or passionate about for 20 slides for 20 seconds each. For the most part, it’s not about what people do for a living, but what they do for a hobby that makes for the best presentations. The last one I went to included a sculptor, a chef talking about local food sources, someone who sailed around the world, a landscape… Read more »

Jim Sowers
Jim Sowers
10 years ago

Your dad sounds like my dad. He sounds like my grandfather.
I make things with my hands every day and dearly hope that my small son will enjoy that also.
I was glad to hear that you treasured something your dad made. Knowing that would mean the world to him. I think that everyone who makes things with their hands hopes that someone they care about will love and value that thing.
Good Job.
-Jim

Toph
Toph
10 years ago

People often say “I’m just an amateur” to discount or qualify their work. Saying this to my brother, he reminded me that the word amateur comes from the Latin word for love, and means “lover of” in French. It is in contrast to a professional, who does something for a living/money. To be called an amateur is something we should be proud of, to do something for the love of it.

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

My parents are the same way! My dad has built an airplane, a 3-wheeled car powered by a motorcycle engine, and a huge pond in his backyard (quite the feat in Central Texas where you only have to dig a few inches to hit bedrock). Growing up my mom made my clothes and we always had a garden with tomatoes and carrots and the like. I fought it for a while but a few years ago the urge hit me and I learned to sew. I have vegetable plants on my porch in Chicago. I bake my own bread. I’m… Read more »

Michael
Michael
10 years ago

I love DIY! Gardening, woodworking, home repairs, electronics, car repairs, finance…I’m willing to break it all.

I’m pretty sure I inherited it from my grandpa along with his boxes of screwdrivers and piles of current testers.

Maureen
Maureen
10 years ago

I love this post. My father also made a boat by hand – a fibreglass rowboat. My mother could knit and crochet beautifully. My husband, an engineer got his start tinkering with old radios and televisions, building his own computers as a teen(this was before the IBM PC or Apple got their start). He built his own telescope too (I’ve seen Jupiter, Mars, Venus and most lovely of all, Saturn). I enjoy sewing, knitting, gardening and cardmaking. I find it very rewarding to be creative. Apparently I hum away happily as I create. I’ve noticed my husband whistles when he… Read more »

Alin Dunhill
Alin Dunhill
10 years ago

I really enjoy reading your thoughts. First of all – Thank you, thank you, and thank you for sharing! Secondly, oftentimes we, consumers, are left to choose between one or another product or service. The choices we have are limited. I have read, and re-read, these books by Aman Motwane: “The Power of Wisdom” and “Yes, You Can Change the World” and by changing our perspective can allow us to make the choice for “both.” The Wisdom of Duality allows us to choose both: We can go to the Broadway show to enjoy the first class performance and also go… Read more »

tom
tom
10 years ago

One of the better “Make Stuff” websites on woodworking I’ve found over the years is this:

http://www.knockoffwood.blogspot.com

Ana lays out simple plans to build furniture inspired by Pottery Barn and other major furniture retailers. It’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish (and save!) with your hands and a few tools!

The Biz of Life
The Biz of Life
10 years ago

God bless your father and all the do-it-yourselfers out there. They are the salt of the earth

ElysianConfusion
ElysianConfusion
10 years ago

My husband and I take pleasure in the things we do ourselves — and you know what? We do a pretty decent job. 1) We make our own maple syrup 2) We make jam every year, it’s delicious and it’s fun to share 3) I sew baby blankets for friends with new babies (or sew ribbons onto diaper clothes for burping) Some of the things I’m most proud of though, include 1) Painting our garage/barn. We had our house painted, and you know, we did a much better job, even if it took us much longer. 2) Digging the holes… Read more »

Hazzard
Hazzard
10 years ago

I have similar thoughts about my father. He also was an amateur inventor. He built so many different things over the years, some of which never got out of the “beta” phase. I think his crowning achievement was his tractor that he built out of nothing. He used a small car engine and transmission, fabricated all of the transmission linkage, and used parts that he found from all kinds of places. It was really a fascinating machine (and it worked!). I always envisioned having that after he died. Tragically the tractor, along with every other invention that he made over… Read more »

Becky
Becky
10 years ago

Thanks Toph for bringing up the origin of the word “amateur.” I was thinking about that too. I’m visiting my brother, who has a machine shop in his living room instead of a sofa and TV. Anyone who doesn’t believe a machine shop could be beautiful should see this place. He made all the wooden workbenches themselves, and they’re not only practical, but well-proportioned and with beautiful detailing. His hobby as a machinist informs his career as an engineer, and his artistic skill informs them both. You won’t see many engineers dressed as snappily as my bro. He’d never compromise… Read more »

EscapeVelocity
EscapeVelocity
10 years ago

Last year, my father helped me install a new vent hood over my range. Neither of us had ever done any duct work before, but it turned out OK (it plugs into an existing outlet, so there was no electrical involved). My father and his siblings are all the ones who fix stuff in their households, and it’s not so much that they learned a lot about how to fix stuff growing up, they just have confidence that they can find out how to do it and then do it.

HollyP
HollyP
10 years ago

Making things myself/DIY has been the biggest sacrifice involved with being a parent while working outside the home. The little free time that I have, I’d rather spend with my kids than making a mess in the basement. However, I miss the learning and the creativity.

Thankfully now that my kids are a bit older (7 & 9), they are being to be able to work on some projects with me.

Amy@MD
10 years ago

Thanks JD, it’s such a nice article to read in a cloudy Monday morning! From where I grew up – an Asian country – the handmade stuff are usually very cheap because of the low labor cost and thus handmade things are not as really well recognized and well respected as they are here in US. My dad makes bamboo music instruments such as flutes, t’rung – a xylophone look-alike.. or stone marimbas. Those instruments were highly considered by westerners who came to my country and loved to know our culture, however they (the handmade instruments) are just cheap ugly… Read more »

mary
mary
10 years ago

Wonderful post! My SO and I are confirmed DIY-ers. My Dad could build anything and my Mom could sew anything. Years ago I heard musician Sawn Colvin encouraging her audience to play music for themselves. She said, “Music is too important to be left in the hands of the professionals.” I think you can substitute just about anything (except surgery) for music and have it be true. Amatuers (people who engage in an activity for the love of it)enrich the field they’re engaged in through their energy as well as enriching their own lives by just by doing. This ties… Read more »

Mark G.
Mark G.
10 years ago

A very stirring post, especially for Monday morning. Another book in this vein that others might find interesting is Matthew B. Crawford’s “Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into The Value Of Work” Excerpt: “Service manuals were once written by people who worked on and lived with the machines they wrote about … the writers of modern manuals are neither mechanics nor engineers but rather technical writers. This is a profession that is institutionalized on the assumption that it has its own principals that can be mastered without the writer being immersed in any particular problem; it is universal rather… Read more »

rubin pham
rubin pham
10 years ago

jd,
this is a very well written article. it is neither too long or too short.
people who build their own things tend to be the one who INVENT and CREATE which make this country and the world a better place to live in.
i build my own home stereo speakers and write a few personal finance program on ms access. these task give me great pleasure although i never profit from it.
thanks again for writing this post.

elena
elena
10 years ago

I was beginning to think that this blog was starting to lose the JD personality and then, wow, a post like this. Love it. I, too, am reminded of my parents who did things. Neat things. I think as a grown up I’ve turned into a scaredy cat afraid of screwing up. Years of being snarky, watching too much tv and overly self aware coming back to haunt me? I need/want the push to get out there and try things.
Thanks JD.

brooklynchick
brooklynchick
10 years ago

wonderful wonderful post. Your Dad sounds one of a kind!

Suzy
Suzy
10 years ago

Hear hear!! 😀 Between my husband and I, I’m definitely the “handyman”, as the guys at the hardware stores have dubbed me. 🙂 I’ve gradually taught myself enough to be confident installing grounded 3-prong outlets in place of ungrounded 2-prongs, changing light fixtures, installing a dishwasher where there hasn’t been one before, building kitchen cabinets and drawers… we could afford to hire someone to do it for us, but I can’t tell you how much more fun it is to load up the dishwasher when you drilled the holes through the walls and installed it yourself. 🙂

Joe D.
Joe D.
10 years ago

This type of post is the reason I read most blogs, trying to find that nugget of gold that really hits home. My dad is a lot like yours, JD. He is a self taught chef, plays piano, is a great artist, and rebuilt his own deck. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Thanks for this post. Shows you what we all could do with a little creativity.

Jenn W
Jenn W
10 years ago

HollyP – I understand the pressures of kids (I have three) and working, but please don’t let it stop you from making things. They don’t have to be “projects”. Do little stuff – We had a blast one day making fairy houses with glue guns and sticks we picked up from the yard (that’s how I got them to clean the yard!) They hung around for a while, then we threw them out as they were – shall we say – architecturally unsound. But we got a half day of play out of the cost of a few glue sticks,… Read more »

Caitlin
Caitlin
10 years ago

Great post!
Knowing when to pay someone else to do something, and when it can be a huge benefit to do it yourself is a great skill to have, too.

Paul Williams
Paul Williams
10 years ago

Great post, J.D.! I love doing things myself as well. It’s not always the best choice financially, but the satisfaction I get from it is worth quite a bit to me. Saying “I did that.” or “I built that.” just feels good. Combined with the fact that I’m learning while doing and probably spending my time in a better way (rather than watching TV), I think DIY is a great “hobby” to have. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I truly enjoyed reading your post – even if you think it was a bit “amateurish”. 🙂

Frank
Frank
10 years ago

JD – probably one of the best blog posts I’ve read in months, on any blog – thank you!

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

What a sweet post.

Honey
Honey
10 years ago

I am 30, up until I was 5 or 6 we lived in Vermont, where my dad: – Built a house for my mom as a wedding present – Grew much of our own food in a large garden – Raised our own chickens and pigs – Made our own maple syrup Sadly, I don’t remember any of this except the garden and the syrup. By the time I was 9 we lived in a Floridian suburb and had “crossed over” in that way. I am proud of the fact that I can do minor repairs around the house (replacing… Read more »

Christine
Christine
10 years ago

I loved the post – it gave me something to think about. Thanks for sharing your dad’s story.

erika
erika
10 years ago

JD’s father sounds very much like my grandfather, my parents, and my father-in-law. My husband and I are homegrown DIYers, initially due to financial necessity, but also ability and desire. We have a full vegetable garden (in our small suburban yard), make enough pesto, pasta sauce, and salsa to share freely all summer, just added a full 2nd bathroom to our home, and will be taking on a kitchen remodel next year. I agree with many of the other posters who say that it’s not only more cost effective (hugely so, in the case of remodeling), but also much more… Read more »

bethh
bethh
10 years ago

J.D., it sounds like you’ve got a lot of your dad’s varied interests and enthusiasms! That bit about him looking at his blood in a microscope is so bittersweet. What a great guy.

I’ve never heard of pecha-kucha, but it sounds great. However I think the link from your site has crashed their server 🙂

I’ve gotten increasingly interested in DIY. Just this weekend I managed to repair rubbing alcohol damage to my apartment’s hardwood floors without resorting to stripping the finish (WHEW).

Schizohedron
Schizohedron
10 years ago

Riveting post; no need to apologize for rambling at all. You did your dad and amateurs all over the world proud with this testimonial.

Ely
Ely
10 years ago

JD, this is an awesome post. Thank you. Personally, I suck at DIY. I’m lucky if I can hang a picture on the wall without making a mess of it. So as much as I’d like to repair drywall or redo the bathroom myself, I’m just going to have to hire someone. However I do appreciate the value of creating. I just recently started writing – a one-off for an essay contest (which I won handily) cascaded into a blog of nature poetry, and I find myself inspired by my own work! My friends are starting to read and like… Read more »

Bradly
Bradly
10 years ago

Great post. I really enjoyed this. It actually reminded me of a lot ofthe posts over on http://www.TheArtOfManliness.com

I think people would be a lot happier and much better off if they (myself included) would become more self-reliant

Hazel_nut
Hazel_nut
10 years ago

Long time lurker here. Excellent post. I’ve always strived to do things myself. I love to learn new things or at least know how things work eventhough I know I can’t physically do some of them myself. Being the only girl, I’m blessed to have three brothers each with different passions they love to share. I’ve done auto mechanic stuff like change my own radiator, brakes, etc. Do outdoor things like fly fish, camp, road cycling, rock climbing all because of people like my brothers and by checking out library books to learn how to get started.

Bella
Bella
10 years ago

Great post! My inlaws (being from the west coast) are very much like your parents. Owned their own businesses, and instilled that sense of control over one’s destiny in their sons. My parents (east coast) instilled a sense of DIY for the luxuries in life, my mom has always had a huge rose garden where she cuts her own flowers to fill her house all summer long. My dad used to do stained glass, and my mother sewed lots of clothes for us growing up. Her insistance that my sister and I learn to sew (prom/fancy dresses are WAY cheaper… Read more »

Deb
Deb
10 years ago

Thanks for this post. I really needed it today.

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