The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


glass water fountainA lot more of us will be bartering in the future, I reckon.

I imagine that there will be a smart culture for professionals in suits with plastic barter cards and fingerprint swipes, and a subculture of people like us, swapping like for like. While an architect carefully swipes his forefinger in London there will be someone walking to the next village with a bag of courgettes and a pot of honey to swap for two organic sirloin steaks from cattle that have been grazing on someone’s former lawn.

I hope that I will be a mover and shaker in the like for like culture. I am working on building up our bartering treasure. Learning about growing stuff that people will value in the future – blueberries, raspberries, garden flower honey, fresh eggs, and melt in the mouth jelly alongside seasonal veg and superb chutney. Someday we will produce a delicate goat’s cheese and a yoghurt, although Danny has banned goats until I retire.

I started bartering about three years ago. A lot of my clients are not Internet savvy. If they need something, I am happy to go online and find the right item at a good price and order it for them. They are always delighted to pay what it costs but I have often found stuff lurking in their garage or shed that I am happy to swap for the goods. This is not because I have spotted a rare Chippendale chair mouldering into dust. I constantly need demi johns, chicken equipment, garden cloches and dog beds. Canny people hang onto these items for the future. Quite often the future is me.

We are also in the Ebay phase. Masses are selling. Many are buying.
“I bought this in Harrods / Harvey Nicks / Woolworths.”
Has been replaced with:
“We got this on eBay.”
“But they’re great!”
“It was from a London embassy.”
It doesn’t matter if you got what you needed from a garage in Peckham. The main thing is that you got what you wanted, at a competitive price. If something needs to be replaced, eBay is now a first port of call.

The photo above is of our new chicken/Guinea fowl water fountain. I have always wanted a water fountain with a clear glass chamber. I know that in the winter the ice will crack the chamber so it’s solely for summer use to supplement the other drinker on very hot days. I swapped it for a pot of paint that my friend Anna needed and which happened to be taking an extended sabbatical in Jalopy.

And that says it all.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Thank you Kate. That would be marvellous and much appreciated.

    What a shame that you can™t drink wine anymore.

  2. Kate(uk)

    They really are going spare- used to make wine ( elderberry,yum,yum) but now my heart can’t take the excitement of strong drink so I’ll drop them off when I visit my aunt in Suffolk!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Don’t throw them away Kate! They are great for making fruit liqueurs (on a grand scale). Why not try making some country wine, it’s great fun.

    The demi johns would be great if they really are going spare.

  4. Kate(uk)

    Hello Fiona- wish you were closer- I have a cupboard full of idle demi-johns! If I pass your way visiting relatives I’ll try to remember to drop them off!

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lynn,

    I’ve swapped labour for items too. People love it if I knock money off my bill and drive away with a car load of what they consider “old junk”.

    A homestead would be great. Although I know that I am not getting the maximum out of our third of an acre, yet. It’s a question of time.

    Hi Chris,

    This is an insteredting point. D says that with bartering there is no profit involved so it wouldn’t be taxable but I’m sure the Revenue would find a way…

    Hi Richard,

    Eggs for coffee sounds like a great swap. We swap eggs for the vegetables that we don’t grow. Got a big bag of beetroot last week.

    I have checked out Freecycle and it looks great. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Richard

    My sister-in-law swaps eggs for coffee with a colleague…
    Have you come across Freecycle? – essentially it’s a localised give-away forum – if you’ve got something you no longer need, join your local group and offer it – there’s always tons of stuff on offer in my local group – worth a bash!

  7. If bartering becomes more popular in the future, particularly for labour as well as produce, how long will it be before there is a new page on our tax returns requiring us to record every transaction?

  8. I love bartering. We’ve done a lot of that over the years. Mostly through some sort of labor exchanges. I believe as you do, that it is in our near future. We only have 3/4 acre of land ~ not much to do anything with. This is why we are looking for some acreage. We really want a small homestead.

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