A bag of lemons for two jars of curd, 200g sourdough starter for an envelope of runner bean seeds. A basket of pinecones for bunch of rhubarb, potted tomato plants for twelve homemade bagels or a load of firewood for a few hours pruning. You get the idea.
The tradition of swapping of produce, preserves, time and skills is alive and well in the country. These crop, seed, goods and skill swaps are a wonderful way to meet your neighbours, cut down on waste and impress new and old friends with your green fingers, mad baking skills and/or handiness on the tools (chainsaw, hedge trimming or otherwise).
So, what makes a good swap? Well the obvious answer is an exchange of equal value. But this isn’t always easy to quantify. For example, you might think a jar of precious blackberry jam is worth a loan of your neighbour’s chainsaw. Look, I get it, blackberry jam involves hours of picking in late summer’s treacherous conditions (snakes love those thorny bushes) but the chainsaw owner may not fully comprehend the risks and time involved in producing that jar of jam. Plus, according to my country born and bred husband (I grew up in the city and arrived here in Orange some 12 years ago), borrowing chainsaws is a general no-no. Something about blades never coming back sharp and a consequent build up of unspoken resentment.
So here’s a rule of thumb for these barter/swap situations; always err on the side of underestimating value from your side so you’re never in danger or over-inflating your contribution. Something to be avoided when trying to break into a new community.
Another piece of advice is to play to your strengths. I’m not a gardener, my thumbs are black as black, so there’s no fresh produce or potted plants to bring to the crop swap table, but I can preserve, so when given a bag of blood oranges on a trip to Griffith recently I got slicing and dicing faster than you could say; ‘half a load of firewood’.
From experience, I can advise that a decent sized jar of blood orange and vanilla marmalade is a safe bet when it comes to playing swapsies. So if you happen to be tree changing to, or visiting a citrus growing area this weekend or anytime soon, here’s a blueprint for a marmalade recipe that will set you up nicely for the next crop swap.
And did you also know that this is an official thing? Many towns have a crop swap group that regularly meet somewhere central and do all of the above in an organised, generous and welcoming setting. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see this movement growing throughout all of our cities, towns and villages? Why not start one with your own network of growers and makers? There’s something deeply lovely about swapping your bounty and skills with others your communities. These are the ties that bind, so pick one up, Google what’s happening in your area and bring something to the table.
Find your local Crop Swap via Crop Swap Australia’s website.
This article ‘The Treechanger – Give and take’ first appeared in Domain Living.