Neighborliness

I enjoy blogging. I enjoy reading blogs.

So how does my affinity for blogging square with my advocacy of agrarian values?

“Stay away from screens,” advises Wendell Berry, who famously owns no computer.

But surely blogging is not necessarily inconsistent with agrarian sensibilities. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that blogging, done well, should be understood an extension of one of the principal agrarian values–that of neighborliness.

Blogging doesn’t replace a chat on the front porch, of course, but to my way of thinking, a recipe shared on a blog is no less friendly or helpful than one passed over a fence. As far as I’m concerned, sharing gardening tips, encouraging or inspirational quotes, a good story, a book recommendation, or pictures of the kids, is being neighborly, whether it’s done at supper, or on a blog.

Mr. Berry’s advice is best considered in context:

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

It seems reasonable to me to think of the internet as a kind of “place.” It’s as good a place as any to be a good neighbor. And there are no unsacred places.

So let me close by doing what any good neighbor would do today.

Merry Christmas y’all.

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27 comments on “Neighborliness

  1. shoreacres says:

    When I started my WordPress blog, my friends from the Weather Underground blog page threw me a blog-warming. There were virtual cinnamon rolls, coffee, cheddar biscuits, and a little wine. If that’s not the essence of neighborliness, I don’t know what is.

    Besides, the lines aren’t so firm as Berry seems to suggest. I have plenty of bloggers I’ve talked with on the phone, visited with, and exchanged gifts with. On Tuesday, I had coffee at a new place in town with one of my readers — whom I met online, but who lives only a mile away. My, weren’t we surprised to discover that!

    It’s one world, with multiple ways to connect. I still prefer a real book to a Kindle, and a phone call to a text, but the advantages of being able to reach out via computer are obvious to me.

    For one thing, I can wish you a Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

    • DM says:

      Linda, I too have met several of my fellow bloggers in person. One is coming again this March from Washington State. this will be her 4 visit. She fell in love with Winston back in the day and keeps coming back. Discovered another blogger who lived about 50 miles away a few years ago. She and her husband had us over for a super bowl party one year. I could go on and on.

      Like

    • Bill says:

      Like you I spend most of every day outside. Fortunately I’m not chained to a computer screen. But also like you I enjoy a little time on the net, sharing and chatting with folks who are just as real as the folks I see “in person.” As with most things, moderation is the key.

      Like

  2. DM says:

    love that poem Bill! And concur 100% with what you just said. Merry Christmas!~ DM

    Like

  3. Our area has no farmers anymore, so the internet for our farm is a way to connect with like-minded folks. The same amount of folks live here, just all spread out now with gates across their long driveways to protect their goods while they are at work all day. Logging towns and the stores and businesses that thrived are all gone and that land is all National Forest. One grandfather was a blacksmith, and one was a carpenter they worked in their community. Both would have a hard time making a living these days in our “town.”

    I can’t even say the amount of times I have nodded in agreement or identified a pest immediately when reading blogs or interacting with peers on Instagram. Like any tool, the internet can be misused or can be helpful.

    Merry Christmas to all at White Flint Farm.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That’s a very important point you raise. As farming/homesteading, especially traditional farming, becomes less common we need the internet to stay connected, share information, encourage one another etc. Hardly a day passes that I don’t learn something valuable from the internet. Likewise hardly a day passes that I’m not inspired or encouraged by something. We do get to choose what we look at, after all.

      Certainly your blog makes the internet, and therefore the world, a better place.

      All best wishes for a very Merry Christmas!

      Like

      • Joanna says:

        I have to agree Bill. Matronofhusbandry’s blog has been a great inspiration and source of information for me, along with many other sites along our journey. Ironically I would never have known about Wendell Berry were it not for the internet. A Merry Christmas to y’all too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bill says:

        There are websites and Facebook pages devoted to Wendell Berry, which is amusing. It’s his privilege of course to refuse to use a computer, and I appreciate, respect (and participate in) personal boycotts. But I wonder if he hasn’t been trapped by a well-known and controversial essay he wrote long ago, when personal computers were first appearing. All best Christmas wishes, from Virginia to Latvia!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Laurie Graves says:

    I love being part of a blogging community that is world-wide. I’ve “met” so many wonderful people, and I look forward to hearing from them on a regular basis. As you noted, this community is no substitution for an actual community, but it certainly is a terrific addition.

    Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I agree Laurie. I enjoy my community of virtual friends. I feel sorry for people who use the internet for mean, ugly reasons–that would diminish life. But being part of a community of friendly people enriches it I think.

      All best wishes for a joy-filled season!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t imagine how we would become farmers in this day and age without the wealth of information available to us through farm blogs, but Mr. Berry’s point is well taken.
    Have a wonderful holiday Bill!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I agree. At least for now, our community of radical farmers benefits greatly from the information and support we get on the internet. I’m grateful for it. But I’m also grateful for gentle reminders to be wary of it and not to see it as a substitute for fully authentic community. We’re privileged to live in a time when we can have both.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, hey, hey, hey, the weather outside is frightful but the fire is so delightful. Let it snow; let it snow; let it snow. Yes, the first real snow of the season is falling and making the scene out the front window a Currier and Ives picture. Looks like we will indeed have a white Christmas for Nebraska. It truly marks the beginning of Winter. I like all the different seasons.

    I’ve been lurking around the Internet since 1995 when it was in the very Infant days. Having a career in technology, I’ve been able to watch the development of the early stages of passing information through wires in text form which seemed like magic back then to the wireless smart phone technology that still seems like magic to me. The tech world has totally passed me by even though I was of the generation that invented it. I still have a landline phone in addition to a very non smart cell phone. My 31 year old daughter just shakes her head at my rebellion against technology. The very thing that has provided my existence and retirement has become a uncontrollable monster in some ways. I do indeed use the Internet every day to stay in touch with family, friends, and neighbors. I do text on the cell phone because it’s the only way long distance grand kids will respond. Berry is right about way too much screen time. TVs, computers, cell phones, tablets, Ipads, and the list goes on and on with screen distraction.

    Trash, yeah, I marvel at the stead stream of trash trucks that come and go when I must take a pickup truck load to the landfill. Thousands of tons of trash gets covered up every week. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services estimates that it takes 1 million years for a glass bottle to decompose in the environment, with conditions in a landfill even more protected. That alone should inspire us to recycle as much as we can. During my childhood, like you, there was bucket that we put all edible scraps in for the chickens and pigs. I make extra money by selling newspapers and got extra for slick paper magazines. Pop or soda, however you say it, bottles were two cents a piece and another source of income for kids on their bikes riding the neighborhood. Milk came in returnable glass gallon milk jugs. We had a burn barrel out back for anything that would burn that couldn’t be used. I don’t remember even having a trash can on the farm except to store feed for the cows as we milked them. Today, at least one full can of trash and tub full of recycles for me but others have way more than me on my street.

    Pumpkins, yeah, they are a total decoration vegetable. That’s unfortunate because they store really well for long term. I know only one person that uses pumpkin to bake and they buy it from the store in a can. At least my city will pick them up in the yard waste and compost them. I might be able to get some pumpkins next year now that the deer fence is in place. Those rascals ate all the flowers and buds last year.

    Have a very Merry Christmas. Were up to five inches with heavy snow still coming down. I guess I’ll have dig out Stormie, my snowblower and get too work later. I’m sending it your way so be watching for it. 🙂

    Like

    • beeholdn says:

      And here we are in Toronto with nary a flake.
      Merry Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Enjoy your snow Dave. Here we’re continuing to enjoy record highs. Last night we had to sleep with a fan on and the window open!

      We used to sometimes walk the 3 miles from our house to the country store, looking for soft drink bottles along the roadside. We’d usually find enough to pay for ice cream by the time we got there. Even in those days the deposit didn’t stop people from throwing their empties out the car window. I never understood that.

      Hoping you have a great weekend.

      Like

  7. Merry Christmas Bill and Cherie!
    Without spending time on the screen looking for like minded folk, I would not have found you and your blog. In fact, I wouldn’t know who Wendell Berry was without the internet, either. Every tool is valuable when used for the right purposes, but can also be destructive if not used appropriately. Then internet is just such a tool. Thanks for being a blogging friend!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Back at you Dawn. All best wishes for a very happy Christmas weekend.
      I fully agree with you about the internet. It can be used to poison the mind, or to enrich it. I’m convinced that the good far outweighs the bad. I could live without it of course, but I’d prefer not to.
      I’ve especially enjoyed developing virtual friendships with people all over the world over the years and I look forward to “chatting” with them over coffee in the morning. I’m grateful for friendships like yours. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. BeeHappee says:

    Here is one for you, Bill. I am reposting it from Shodo Spring at Vairochana Farm (https://vairochanafarm.wordpress.com/)

    ~ by Ganga White
    What if our religion was each other,
    if our practice was our life,
    if prayer, our words.
    what if the temple was the earth,
    if forests were our church,
    if holy water—the rivers, lakes, and oceans.
    what if meditation was our relationships,
    if the teacher was life,
    if wisdom was self-knowledge,
    if love was the center of our being

    Like

  9. rhondajean says:

    I wish you both a very happy Christmas. Sending love across the miles. xx

    Like

  10. avwalters says:

    I think that blogging “takes back” desecrated places. Where once we might have swapped stories, Saturday afternoon, with a cool drink on the porch of the General Store, we now do so with the same sense of community, online. In so many places, the General Store is no more. But community can be found everywhere there are like minds, or neighbors.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yes, well said. Even as more traditional forms of community are being destroyed/lost, new forms emerge. I like the image of blogger communities as a contemporary version of the old country store.

      Like

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