The buck stops on Saltspring

“The Saltspring barter system is modeled on one one in Ithaca, New York, where barter hours can be used to pay bank charges, grocery bills and restaurant tabs.”

I love bartering or doing trades. Last year in April, I did tea leaf and tarot readings (including for a very handsome actor and an equally beautiful actress — both Viking tall)  in Iceland at the bar in the place I was staying, The Loft, in exchange for a free night’s stay.

If this does not make you understand why I like bartering then read on to the following article. I am quite extensively interviewed.

Which leads to something else about this article. Note that I am interviewed rather than the writer of the following piece. I have always been a media magnet. If I am not writing a piece about something I interested in (and occasionally even when  I am not that interested) then I am being interviewed on the subject. Over the years, yes, I have approached the press but the media has often approached me as well. I know I am quite articulate and get involved in interesting, news worthy type things– there could be the reasons why.

Anyway, enjoy considering what being part of a barter system (too bad this one no longer exists) could mean to you (if will not do away with having to use regular money but it will supplement so  you don’t have to spend so much hard, cold cash) when you read the following article:

Times Colonist

April 29, 2001

by Elizabeth Buchanan

Aaran built Lizzy’s tree house. Tanya munched on Joan’s homemade granola. Kelly weeded Kisae’s herb garden. Kent hauled Larry’s firewood. Ken tuned Amarah’s piano and washed windows. None of these transactions cost a penny. Instead, they were done using an alternative form of currency actively traded on Saltspring Island through a barter network.

Each Salt Spring Hour (SSH) is valued at $12.Network members list goods and services for barter in a directory called Hour Island.  They set their own prices for babysitting, plumbing, Web site design and haircutting. They’ll also teach you Feldenkrais (a physical therapy),  yoga, dance, guitar, art, voice and foreign languages, and sell you soap , salves, cookies, seeds, veggies, beef and hats.

A local press prints the SSH notes on tree-free paper made of cotton, linen, and hemp. ” It says ‘This Note is Local Tender’, not ‘Legal Tender,'” baker James Wood mused appreciatively when he first saw the quarter-hour note. ($3).

Founding member Ken Ackerman explains how the Barter Hours Network  strengthens the local economy: “Federal money on Saltspring is transferred once, maybe twice, and then it leaves the island and maybe the country because labour is cheaper offshore. You’ve got something you want, so the whole thing stops because we don’t have the federal dollars, but it  doesn’t have to be that way. This system steps in and transactions happen.”

As Tanya Lester, teacup reader and reiki practitioner, says, “The  whole idea of Salt Spring Hours being in the community encourages people to do one-on-one trades. I’ve done straight trades with other healers,  but Salt Spring Hours are nice if you just want to go into the system and work with a pool  of people. Also, I think a lot of us have met each other through this. We’re building community.”

Ackerman also emphasizes, “Even if you’re not a member, you can still get the hours and use them.”

The Saltspring barter system is modeled on one in Ithaca, New York, where barter hours can be used to pay bank charges, grocery bills, and restaurant tabs. Several key businesses accept SSH such as Salt Spring Books, The Tree House Café, and The Driftwood (a weekly newspaper).

The notes are perfectly legal. Tax law states professionals and businesses need to record barter transactions as income, but hobbyists are not required to do so. So when Josie the mechanic sells bread to Peter for barter hours, she doesn’t declare the income.

Kelly Waters, a graphic designer, laughs when she recalls, “I got more work initially in the Women’s Weeding Collective because it was spring and everyone was going nuts finding gardeners. It worked great for me because one of the  places I weeded will now be in the novel I’m working on.”

Brand new to Saltspring, one of Waters’ first social encounters was the Barter Hours potluck dinner. “The group was so welcoming. I made a whole bunch of friends really quickly that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”

The monthly potluck meetings where members share surprise meals, update information and find out what goods and services people need are a good example of the community building the Salt Spring Barter Hours Network fosters….


To read the earliest posts in this blog, please go to writingsmall.

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Tanya Lester’s book,  Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, can be purchased from the author or by going to the author and title name to read the first few pages and to buy at

Tanya Lester’s other books are Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Tricksters, and Women Rights/Writes. Some copies can be purchased from the author, are available in some library systems and are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba.


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