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Trading time. June 25, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have always loved our handymen. Neither of us is the least bit handy—screwing in a lightbulb and flipping the switch is a major accomplishment for us—and this trait runs in both our families, so it must be genetic. Our handymen (and our parents’ handymen, and presumably their parents’ handymen), by contrast, can do pretty much anything, professionally and affordably. From building a deck to repairing a leaky roof to replacing a faulty electric circuit to making a stone firepit to getting the clothes dryer back up and running, handymen are the best. We salute you!

But hey, what if your handyman worked for free? Most of us choose handymen rather than pros because we can’t afford professional service fees. A free handyman would be a huge boost to our tiny budget. So would a free tree pruner, petsitter, and auto mechanic. So you can imagine what a shock our friend Ben had this morning when I happened upon an online article from All You Magazine called ‘We Make Ends Meet Without Money’.

The trend to supply time-valued services for free in exchange for free services is apparently nationwide, but the article focused on five Vermonters who were connecting through a local time/service exchange, the Brattleboro Time Trade. Residents who sign up for the Time Trade can ask for services, such as lawn mowing and stacking wood, in exchange for babysitting, homecooked meals, dog walking, and clothing repair. Or, say, financial advice, massages, elder care, weeding, and music lessons. The possibilities are endless.

The article suggests checking out two websites, timebanks.org and hourworld.org, to see if there are already time banks, as they’re called, in your area, and if not, how to set one up. They suggest starting with at least 10 members and appointing a paid coordinator/administrator to take care of the online and phone work. They recommend that the members have clearly defined skills, post them on the site, and have the exchanges put in writing so both parties are clear on what’s expected and when.

In our case, that would mean exchanging our own highly honed writing, editing, vegetarian, cooking, gardening/horticultural/herbal, archaeological, paleontological, historical, collecting, art, chicken-raising, and in-depth knowledge of literature skills for some hands-on work. It would be so great!

But our friend Ben has a question: When will Big Brother, in the form of the IRS, show up and tax this classic form of barter?! Barter has always been popular with the underclasses, who are just trying to get by, and hated by the upper classes, who feel robbed of additional income, through taxation, of the goods/services being exchanged. Our friend Ben fears that this initiative will find itself taxed in a Hunger Games scenario, with The Capitol pouncing on the impoverished and helpless Districts and forcing them to give every last drop of blood in exchange for a crumb of food or a rag of clothing.

Barter is a time-honored means of exchanging goods and services the world over, from the earliest human history to the present. It enables those who couldn’t otherwise afford goods and services to have them. (Another Hunger Games reference: Those who know the books and films may recall the heroine, Katniss, exchanging a squirrel, destined for the stewpot, for a ball of yarn and the mockingjay pin on the black market.) Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood wholeheartedly approve of the barter system, and especially since it’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and make new friends.

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Veggie Trader: Check it out. October 8, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I just found out about a national veggie and fruit swap/sell site, www.veggietrader.com. Over 10,000 people have signed up for Veggie Trader since its launch. Once you’re on the site, you can post your excess fruits and veggies for sale or trade to other local growers who’d like to swap their own excess for yours, or pay you for all those extra tomatoes or plums. Check it out!

Frugal living tip #8. February 23, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s Monday, and that means it’s time to start the week with another Frugal Living Tip from Poor Richard’s Almanac. Today’s tip comes to you courtesy of Becca over at BrightHaven Times (http://brighthaven.wordpress.com/).

Becca e-mailed to let us know that she was participating in a seed swap this year, which both saved her money and allowed her to try lots of new things in her garden. Our friend Ben and I think a seed swap is a fantastic idea! Not only does it save money—you don’t have to buy a whole packet of every single seed you want to try, which can add up to serious money faster than you can say “Boxcar Willie Heirloom Tomatoes”—but it means you can pass along extra seeds while they’re still at peak viability. (The percentage of seeds that germinate drops, sometimes very dramatically, with each year that you store a pack of seeds. That’s why seed companies put “Packed for 2009” or whatever the year is on their seed packs, so you know you’re getting fresh seed with the highest percentage of germination.)

That’s the sensible, frugal part: Free seeds!!! The fun part is, as Becca pointed out, that you might have a chance to try something (or many things) you wouldn’t ordinarily grow. I headed over to Becca’s gardening blog, Little Green Bees (http://www.littlegreenbees.com), to check out the list of seeds she was receiving and sending, and noted that broomcorn, a plant I always thought would be a lot of fun to grow, was on the list. (See Becca’s February 12 post, “Seed Swap/Round Robin,” to check it out for yourself.)

Great idea, Becca, and thanks for sharing it with us! If you’re a gardener with seeds to spare, this is definitely a win/win for everybody.

           ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

Big bucks and silver dollars March 12, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to resume my discussion of dollars and sense. Ever wonder why we call a dollar a buck? I did, too. So let’s put on our deerstalker caps and follow the money trail to find some answers. As Sherlock Holmes would say, the game is afoot!

Back in Colonial times, America’s money was a mess. The colonies all minted their own money, merchants minted coin-like tokens with monetary value, and everybody used all types and stripes of foreign coinage right alongside the local versions. Lots of people didn’t have money at all, and bartered goods that they raised or made in exchange for goods they needed. (Still a great idea, in my opinion.)

With all this money madness, one coin emerged as the “gold standard” (in quotes because it was actually a silver coin) of reliability. Everyone recognized it, and everyone acknowledged its value. It became the most popular coin in the Colonies. The Susan B. Anthony dollar? (Sorry, couldn’t resist that.) No: the Spanish dollar.

The so-called Spanish dollar, or 8-reales (“royals”) piece, was a hefty silver dollar minted all over the Spanish colonies of Central and South America as well as in Spain. In Colonial times, the guy on the front was usually King Carlos IV (on the coin, Carolus IIII), though his predecessor Carlos III also showed up regularly. In a time when a dollar was a lot of money, these big coins were often broken up into smaller denominations–into fourths, or quarters (yes, that’s where our quarter comes from), or into eighths (and if you’re reminded of the infamous piratical “pieces of eight,” yup, these were the ones they meant).

Okay, where does the buck come in? Deer meat was pretty popular on Colonial backwoods tables, and deer hides commanded a good price in trade. In fact, a buck’s hide was valued at–you guessed it, a Spanish dollar! To this day, the word buck has lingered in our collective vocabulary as a synonym for dollar. I discovered this intriguing fact just last week while reading Robert Morgan’s biography of Daniel Boone (called simply Boone: A Biography). Mr. Morgan’s knowledge of the period must be encyclopedic indeed. Mystery solved!

But wait, you say. Where does the word dollar come from, anyway? That’s a little easier to answer. Some of the first countries to produce big, standardized silver coins were the German States. They made gorgeous coins called thalers that collectors like our friend Ben lust after to this day. In much of Germany, the thaler was pronounced like “taller.” But in low German, it was pronounced like–you guessed it again–“dollar.”

Just goes to show that, like us, American coinage has a very diverse and international background. And in case you were wondering, the Spanish dollar remained legal tender in the U.S. until 1857, when Congress insisted that everybody use U.S.-minted coinage. (Hey–where does that phrase “legal tender” come from, anyway? That’s a good topic for a future post…)