So, the grid has gone down (or place whatever large scale, long term disaster you want here) and things have changed. We can be sure of two things, 1 – life is no longer what it once was, and 2 – people are going to try and get it back to where it was. This may take time, and it may never be as good as it once was, but it is our nature to continually try to improve our quality of life and make our situation better. This is why we don’t live in caves, and nobody lights a cigarette with a bow drill.
Depending on the disaster that caused things to go so bad, there’s probably going to be at least a month (or a few) of instability, but at some point, the focus will likely shift from trying to survive from day to day to more of a long-term rebuilding phase. In this phase, a few of commonly overlooked barter items come to mind.
In the “rebuilding phase” the goal will be to bring back as much of our previous “normal” as possible. To do this, we may literally be building new things or fixing old things to make life more bearable. Depending on where you live, some of these tools may seem like items you’d find in just about anyone’s garage or shed. But the reality is, a lot of people don’t have garages or sheds to store tools or simply pay someone like a handyman to repair things around the house and may not own any for that reason.
That may relate to fixing a leaking roof, building a chicken coop, or even just cutting firewood to stay warm or cook. Tools like axes, pry bars, hammers, hacksaws, etc. could come in handy to have as bartering tools. Now obviously I’m not recommending that you all run out to the local hardware store and start stocking a bunch of new tools in your shed but what may be a good option is to start looking for these types of items at yard sales or garage sales. Every Friday and Saturday there are yard sales all over the country, and as they say, one man’s trash or junk is another man’s treasure. Start looking for these items, and you’ll probably find some pretty sweet deals, especially if there’s a handle missing from an axe head, etc. These tools could end up not only being great barter items in a grid down situation but putting these tools in the hands of locals probably also leads to your local area being improved faster as well.
Nails – If the grid is down, it’s not very likely that the masses are going to have solar panels set up charging all of their cordless drills so, nails are a much better option for bartering. Think about trying to build just about anything and an easy way to join two pieces of wood together comes to mind. Even if the other person doesn’t have a hammer, there’s always something that can be found to use as a hammer in a pinch.
Traps hunt 24 hours a day and allow you to accomplish other tasks in the meantime. We’ve all no doubt heard the familiar “I can hunt and fish for food so I’ll be fine,” but if you’ve ever spent any amount of time actually living off of your hunting and fishing skills, you know that mother nature doesn’t always provide in the particular timing that keeps your belly full all the time. This means you may be hungry quite a bit (depending on seasons and where you live) and trying to actively hunt after three or four days of no food while actively “surviving’ is pretty darn taxing. Being calorie deprived also means you may not have the juice to be out there actively hunting and fishing like one might think. At the end of the day, it just makes sense to have something that’s always hunting for you while you accomplish other tasks. To do this, we need traps!
There are all kinds of traps. Primitive traps are pretty cool and can certainly provide food if you know to build them pre-disaster (Youtube probably won’t be there for you to reference), but the reality is that modern traps exist for a reason. They are simply a lot more effective at catching animals, and they are made from hardy materials like steel that will last for generations if cared for properly.
Modern traps come in many forms and sizes ranging from conibear traps, foothold traps, box traps, snares, and even fish hooks could be considered a type of trap. Bank line for making trotlines as well as fishing line may be a pretty valuable barter item as well. These are all things that I’ve found at yard sales locally, but you can also find them for surprisingly low prices at outdoors stores. A lot of these traps are $15 or less and don’t take up a lot of room to store.
Traps would be a very valuable barter item, just be sure to consider where you might go to trade these types of things in a barter situation. You obviously don’t want everyone in YOUR trapping area to be taking away from your harvesting abilities.
An overlooked barter tool is knowledge. There probably won’t be a lot of use for the experience an attorney possesses in a grid down situation, but someone like a nurse or a doctor has a very valuable knowledge base. We can’t all run out and become nurses or doctors, but we can start to gain knowledge in areas that will be lacking in the event of a major disaster or grid down situation. There a lot of different directions we could go with that, but since the theme here is barter or a transaction, plant knowledge and harvesting comes to mind — specifically, medicinal plants.
If you start spending some time now learning about plants that are local to your area (and even some that aren’t) you may put yourself in the position of being an asset to your community in the event of a grid down scenario. Knowing where particular plants of value grow locally, planting medicinal plants on your property and even having seeds for planting them later could go a long way in giving you a renewable barter source, especially with medicinal plants that aren’t native to your local area. I probably own 20 or 30 books just on plants, trees, and their properties. These types of books in your reference library may serve you well in adding the ability to research and continue learning well after the grid is down.
There are a lot of medicinal plants we can find that have been used in traditional healing for longer than any of us have been around. These plants have been used to treat things ranging from diarrhea and dysentery, acid reflux, and burns to sexually transmitted diseases (which could be a significant problem post grid down). Harvesting or wildcrafting these plants and preparing them as tinctures, wound powders, salves, etc. will give you a lot of trade value for those who fall ill when modern medicines are scarce or non-existent.
Preparing these plants and herbs for trade or barter items also means that you’ll want to stock up on things to prepare, store and package some of these medicinals. Clear alcohol (cheap vodka for tinctures), dropper bottles (dark brown or blue help prevent UV light from penetrating the bottle and degrading the medicinal properties), small tins and even ziplock bags are all great methods for packaging these herbs, and these things can be bought very cheap in bulk on sites like Amazon. With some forethought, hanging and drying these plants in spring/summer/ fall will also give you trade stock in winter when a lot of these medicinals are dormant and in highest demand. Just imagine having an adverse reaction to poison ivy and not having a modern medicine to deal with it. What would you be willing to trade for a medicinal plant that would neutralize the effects of the poison ivy?
Of all the barter items, having a renewable resource and the knowledge of how to use these plants will not only give you long term sustainable barter items, it will make you more valuable to the community.