Last fall when the economy tanked, folks began to think more deliberately about what they really need to live. Our sudden stumble into hard times exposed a nerve: if I lost everything, how would I secure food, clothing, shelter, medicine?
When you start thinking at that basic level, money becomes increasingly beside the point. Indeed, we know in the back of our minds that currency is a mere proxy for goods and services. Without actual stuff, it’s just paper and promises.
But beyond that primal fear, it’s an interesting exercise to see if you can find a value for the goods and services themselves in a money-free marketplace. In other words, to barter.
I started experimenting with bartering here and there a few years ago. A friend of mine has a home delivery dog food service with very high-quality ingredients that I know I can trust for the health of my pupster. He and his family love my eggs, so I bartered down the price of my dog food by paying him partially in eggs. And a few months ago, when I learned that a neighbor was keeping bees in his backyard and harvesting honey, we traded eggs for honey.
As the holidays approach, a friend and I agreed the other day to trade eucalyptus from my tree for the long, gorgeous rosemary boughs she grows on her enormous bushes. Yet another neighbor brings her family’s kitchen scraps to my compost bins almost daily. And when she started her vegetable garden last spring, I repaid her contributions in finished compost. Bartering encourages a kind of interconnectedness that operates almost like a healthy little ecosystem.
Sometimes I think of it not so much in terms of a direct trade, but a micro-economy that eschews the large corporate presence which feed and feed on our addictions. When I have eggs to spare, I sell them to friends and neighbors, and that’s the money I take to the store to buy more chicken feed. Or if there is some left over, I buy cheese from a friend who keeps goats.
But really, I’d rather trade directly for other things I want and need. So let’s get started, readers: anyone up for an exchange of goods and/or services? I have eggs, some canned goods, and some fresh produce here and there. What do you have? What can we trade? Do any of you knit or sew? Are you crafty? The holidays are upon us. Can you save yourself and a few others some miserable trips to the mall?
And if you have participated in some good, creative, mutually beneficial barters, inspire us–share your stories!
Let the barters begin . . .