Everything is not Barter… Some things are “Being Neighborly”


Being Neighborly with a tune at the Scarecrow Festival at Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Just as this photo was being taken, a tour bus pulled up and I played some tunes to the passengers who thought I was part of the festival welcoming committee.

Barter is doing business without using man made money. Folks display their goods and you display what you will give them in return for those goods. This is the oldest kind of trade, swap or doing business that exists and a common method of exchange between neighbors and friends in rural Maine.

You can exchange splitting wood with someone who has vegetables, milk, tires for your car or welding on your snow plow. Barter is also called “Being Neighborly” by the folks around The WhisleSmith Shop on Griffin Ridge.

Over the years, I have bartered for lots of items and have found it makes friends and let’s you know what’s going on in the neighborhood.

Aroostook is the largest county in Maine and the neighborhood is a very large area. You get to know a lot of good folks to contact that might be interested in your items. Word of mouth increases your reputation and the number folks willing to barter.

Here are a few examples of barter.

An old but sturdy piano for four cords of firewood. I didn’t have a way to move the one ton instrument, but a wood lot owner had wood and some really strong men and the barter was made. Both parties were happy and the new owner got a piano for his daughter.

Furniture that wore out its welcome got bartered for knitted, sewed, tatted and quilted household items.

Many a newborn got a special blanket to come home from the maternity ward in.

Hand labor and work with the tractor making lawns, plowing gardens and leveling driveways, often means you have new lumber, pickles, or fresh eggs and new baked bread.

I always tell children I barter a whistle with that “I expect to hear about how they make out with the whistle and their feedback is very important to me when I make more whistles.”

The best barter is the smile you get from a child in exchange for a whistle.

While on vacation in Halifax, Nova Scotia I met Gwen, who was setting out breakfast at the Comfort Inn. She was in love with the idea of playing the whistle and just full of enthusiasm. I always carry a few extra whistles so I asked if she would like a lesson and a Low G whistle to get her started. She was a good student and was up and going on her new whistle in short order.

The next morning she presented me with a pair of bright red hand knitted wool socks. Thanks a bunch Gwen, I wear them all the time when I’m plowing snow!

Everything is not Barter…Some things are “Being Neighborly”.