Online bartering systems - giving them a whirl and reporting my findings!
My mother-in-law has a huge and prolific fig tree in her backyard, and a couple of weeks ago, she kindly suggested that I come and gather some before the birds got them, and see what I could do with them.
The tree is tall and a lot of the good fruit is at the top, so we tried various methods to get to the bounty, including standing on stools, bending branches towards us with broomsticks, and sending up small children. Eventually we got about a third of the fruits we coveted - about 2 kg of ripe figs, and 1.5 kg of green ones.
On the first day ...
For the first day I got no bites - except for a woman in Walthamstow, England who had logged into the Community Exchange System, and, without realising, hit a button that allowed her to see people's offerings from all over the world instead of just locally.
She asked if I would be willing to drop the figs off to her, as she had just broken her arm, and she invited me to a gardening group at the house of some people called Rob and Liz in Walthamstow village ... Well, frankly I would have LOVED to, but it was just a little too far to travel ...
But the next day ...
Hurray! I got another offer from the Community Exchange System (CES) - and this time it was from Wellington, NZ - someone wanting all the green figs. I looked up this woman's CES profile (hi Lillian!) and found that by happy chance one of her own offerings was clothing repairs.
Of course, when you use the CES, there's no need to do a direct swap. You sell your offerings to anyone on the system using whatever the unit of currency is in your area (in Wellington it's WITS), and you buy from anyone you like using the same currency. It's just like money. (And 1 WIT = 1 dollar.)
However, it seemed convenient that Lillian was offering clothing repairs when I had two skirts in desperate need of work. (I am a reluctant and very bad sewer.) For one thing, I could drop my skirts to her at the same time as the figs.
So that's what we did. I earned 10 WITS by selling her the figs, and I paid her 15 WITS for my skirt repairs, which I am very happy with.
Balancing the community exchange books
I am now in the red on the Community Exchange system, but that's okay.
Generally people in the system are encouraged to stay within 100 currency units of zero. That is, you can be up to 100 WITS in credit, or up to 100 WITS in debt, and there is no problem. Overall everything still stays in balance within the system, and it allows everyone involved some leeway to buy and sell at the times that work for them.
I'm quite excited about the possibilities of the WITS system in Wellington, and I hope it grows. The bigger it gets, and the more people become involved, the better and more useful it will be for everyone.
Back to the figs
I still had the ripe ones left, and they were getting riper and riper. I had no more offers from anywhere, so I decided to cook them myself. I made fig ice-cream, which was delicious!
If you've never had fig icecream, I can only say that in my opinion figs are one of the loveliest fruits for making frozen desserts from - with an incredible creamy mouthfeel.
But I digress.
Wouldn't you know it, just after I had used all the figs I got TWO offers on them from the MyGarden Trader - offering variously to exchange cash, home-made preserves, freerange eggs, and home-harvested honey.
I've corresponded with one of the people who made an offer, and he is interested in more figs if I manage to get out to my mother-in-law's to pick them. So there are some possibilities there ...
And what of Oooby?
I know it sounds like, of the three systems I tried, the Oooby Wellington group was no help in my fig swap, but in fact it was, because I think it was the announcement I made there which sent Lillian over to the Community Exchange System to buy her figs using WITS.
So all in all, I would say all these trading systems are working nicely, and may they all continue to flourish and grow!