I often get really excited about emergency preparedness and want to do everything I can to prepare. Everything. Not only do I want to have food storage and first aid kits, but I wish I could attend classes to become a nurse, and learn how to be an old-car mechanic.
I could collect a bunch of guns, become an amazing and successful gardener, learn butcher skills, develop my spinning and knitting skills, and so forth. If I could just learn to do everything (and buy everything), then I could be totally self-sufficient no matter what happens!
Of course, this is entirely impractical. I don’t have the time or money to learn everything or buy everything. Nobody does. So how can we really be as prepared as we possibly can?
We can specialize, and learn to barter.
My ancestors specialized. I remember one time I found a census record that listed some of them as weavers. Very interesting.
Last year, my husband and I visited a history museum containing artifacts belonging pioneers who traveled across the west. We loved the old dairy equipment—tools for separating cream, and for making butter and cheese—but there were a bunch of other things like quilts, dolls, and furniture. There was also a big display about a lady who was a midwife. The display card indicated that she had delivered a whole bunch of babies. Everyone was poor, so they paid for her services “in kind,” which meant they gave her goods or services instead of paying her with money.
The idea here is, if we have valuable skills we will be able to trade them for other things that we want or need, even if society becomes poor and people don’t have money.
Our ancestors did this all the time, but bartering is not as popular anymore. I don’t remember ever having bartered for anything before, except when my sisters and I used to trade Halloween candy after we went trick-or-treating. (“I’ll trade you ten Tootsie-Rolls for your one Twix bar.”)
Last week, I decided to try this out. Our dairy goats are in milk now, and we have a surplus of fresh milk. One of my neighbors is a lady who makes fancy homemade soaps to sell at farmers’ markets and on the Internet. She had mentioned that she makes goats’ milk soap sometimes. I contacted her and suggested a trade: goat milk for soap. She was excited about the swap and I think we both felt like we got a great deal.
Suppose you find yourself wishing you had more food sometime in the future. Maybe you will need a doctor or a lawyer, or you’ll need some plumbing work done at your house. Or, facing inflation, you may wish you knew how to mend clothes. Barter can solve any of these problems, if you know how to do it. Next week we’ll discuss how you can be prepared to barter for anything you need.