Friday, May 22, 2009

Barter, My Buddy

Just for the record, that's what greek oregano looks like before it's dried and put into jars.

There is something so primal about barter.  The invention of currency was a truly transformative event, absolutely, but...when you take the middleman of money out of your transaction, well, something sort of magical happens.

First, it's my experience that the "bottom line" disappears and both sides trend toward generosity.  Months ago, I found my big blue chair a new home and off it trundled down the driveway in the back of a VW van, the two kids who would snuggle at storytime already anxious to see it in its newly-cleared space.  Rather than taking cash, I'd settled on plant starts and homegrown and harvested pork as my payment, to be determined at a later date.

Today was that date.  Young and enthusiastic farmers, parents, and solar electric business-owners,  J & J offer a study in modern pioneering.  Their 2 acres is intensively farmed, with greenhouses, garden beds, chicken coop, and hog-raising area, and still room left over for a shady grove complete with swing and playhouse.  Not even the end of May, and J has easily over 100 plant starts ready for market.  Lettuce grows as edible borders around their patio while more bolts from overwintering in the warmth of the greenhouse.  

I spent about a half-hour there, choosing with J the tomatoes and peppers I would take home and the squashes I would return for next week.  Still feeling satisfied at the cozy home my beloved chair has found, I want to pay her X for the starts; no, that's too much she says, let's agree on Y instead.

We talk about raising and slaughtering pigs, the pros and the cons - a question I put to any and everyone I learn has some experience with this.  She reassures me, encourages me to try it when others have warned me of the pitfalls.  J alerts me to their meat birds, almost ready for harvest, and together we add that to the barter list.  

I came home with tomatoes and peppers, yes, but in truth that is just the beginning.  No cash transaction ever felt this bountiful.

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