Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

what can you offer?

Being a regular prowler of social media, this morning I saw on Twitter that someone posted a story of communities in Greece who have started trading goods and services in lieu of money, since their cash economy has pretty much hit bottom.

I haven't really been keeping up on what's going on in Europe, but I do know it is quite unstable with Greece being the biggest wildcard, that their economy has failed in part because of government corruption and mafia intervention. Well, Greece is the birthplace of democracy, so who better to set the example of how to reset a failing economy by good old fashioned trade?

The idea is so simple it is beautiful. The story focused on a woman who baked a bunch of stuff in her kitchen, came to a market to trade her wares, then at the end of the day had a jar of olive oil and a bunch of other necessities.

I found this story to be rather poignant. In one sense, I am not participating in a cash economy right now, at least not very much. I have no income, and while I do have expenses (vehicle insurance, cell phone bill, food, gas, credit debt payments) I am managing as best I can with support from Dan. Things will be much easier when I get to North Carolina and I start working, but I have been doing a lot around here at Backyard Feast and hopefully earning my keep, as it were.

One of the things I have been doing is chicken-sitting. I think I'll save that for a separate blog post because I want to include photos of what a broody hen looks like, or what a chicken saddle looks like. Things are changing in the flock as spring draws near (even though today is "the first day of spring", it was snowing and pouring rain here all day) and there is much movement in the chicken world, but I digress.

In the past few years, since near the end of my Master's degree, I haven't worked (as in paid employment) very much. There was waiting for a move for a job in the fall of 2009, then moving to Ucluelet in early 2010, not expecting to need to work and getting a weird fish job just for fun, then when our reason for moving there didn't work out and we both needed incomes, jobs that paid a decent wage were hard to come by, and by the time I did find a job that I liked, it wasn't long before I left it (when Dan left I couldn't afford to pay living expenses on the income from my job, so I figured there was no sense in working at all and began couch-surfing). Then there was the waiting-for-immigration-not-looking-for-a-job. I would feel dishonest if I went into a potential employer and said "I"m waiting for immigration so I could end up leaving in a month or two."

So what ends up happening is you learn what you can do without money. What can I offer up in trade? I mentioned the chicken sitting. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen here, developing my bread baking skills, trying to keep at least one dessert around (which may or may not be a good thing). As the hours of daylight increase, Toni and the Skipper are spending more time outside after they get home from work so I'm helping with dinner preparations. If March wasn't so darn stormy, we'd be out there in the garden more but that is on my list of tasks I can do for my friends. The week before last my truck was used in the procurement of fire wood.

 Sometime in the next few days I'll be hauling hay in my truck. So I help in any way I can around here. But this article also got me thinking about what else could I offer in a trade economy? And this led to thinking about what do I actually want to do for work?

Big questions. I can offer knitting, that's for sure. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that peak oil was now and it was almost impossible to have cheap highly processed sock yarn shipped to Vancouver Island. Local farmers who raise fiber animals would be sought for the securing of a stable supply of fiber for spinning into yarn which is then knit or crocheted into garments. A raw fleece is worth a certain amount. Then that fleece has to be washed and carded and spun into yarn of varying thicknesses. Then, depending on that yarn's intended purpose, it will also need to be plied (more than one strand wound up together to give it strength). Then dyed, and this is all before a sock is even knit! I don't know how long this process would take let's call it 20 hours, and then knitting a basic pair of socks by hand would take another 40-60 hours. I daresay hand knits would start to be valued way more than the commercial machine-knit cheapy cheapies from China are!

What else. I can do lots of things, and yet trying to compile a list has been utterly challenging. I can offer transcription services, I can babysit, pet-sit, I can write/tutor/proofread/edit. I can bake. I can make soap. I have a big truck with a long box that is good for hauling stuff. I can do yard work and some farm chores. I can make butter!

It is very sobering to come up with a list like this. What can I do for you in exchange for something you have? In this sense, I think I have a lot to offer, especially since I have the luxury of time right now. This particular exchange is known among anthropologists as reciprocity. Toni has been reading this book called Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein, that talks about a gift economy. The idea that if I give you a gift, I do not expect you to give me one back but know that you will pay it forward and eventually I will receive a gift from someone else in the future. It's about the flow of energy, and a recognition that giving and receiving are the same thing.

I'm still processing a lot of this in my head but you get the idea. It's a good exercise and something I will be pondering in the coming days. What do you have to offer?


  1. I must admit I too have pondered this idea of trading for goods. I've brought up to friends that I could swap knitting for homemade meals, jewelry, or even simple things like pet sitting. However, I need to work on what I can offer too! Ha! Wit & sarcasm are not paying attributes. ¦]

  2. Yes, the barter system is alive and well today. My Hubs barters all the time, usually fixing vehicles. We've had our driveway paved, gotten topsoil, and had trees taken down. It works.

  3. Hello Stacey,

    I finally got to look at your blog this morning, after a recommendation from @CaithnessCraft, on Twitter. This article is lovely & has set me up, nice & calmly, for the day. Thank you.

    We too have been swapping for a few years and live with very little money. Our main currency is eggs, followed closely by lamb & chicken, a wee bit of computing, photography & sewing plus the occasional spot of baking. Every Summer we have our neighbour's cattle to graze our fields, in return for enough wheat to feed our sheep & chickens all winter. Excess produce from veg plots is always shared between neighbours & if I say it myself, I make amazing ice-cream. It's all so much more satisfying than our previous rat-race life.

    I once asked a lovely lady from Ghana how she survived with no income. Her reply "By magic" has stayed with me to this day.

    Best wishes for you new life.