(This is one of the series of thematic posts about unique aspects of life in the Methow that I’d planned a long time ago and, obviously, don’t get to add to very often. Previous posts in the series can be found here and here, or click on the “thematic posts” tag at the bottom to view all posts.)Several months prior to moving to the valley, I began regularly browsing the Methow Valley Bulletin Board, both with a specific purpose (to look for rental housing) and in order to get a feel for what life was like in the area. One of the things that struck me right away was how many locals were trading stuff, selling unneeded items for cheap, or simply giving them away.
Of course, back in Seattle, I’d given away and picked up plenty of free stuff, as well as bought and sold things, mostly through Craigslist. And, all cities and towns have their share of yard sales (aka garage sales or stoop sales, depending on where you live) and “free” piles set out on sidewalks and in driveways. However, Methow Valley residents seem to have taken this activity to a whole new level.
There are likely several reasons for this. First, it’s a small, fairly isolated community, with a limited number of places to shop. There are no big box retailers here; no chain stores at all, as a matter of fact. The closest Home Depot and Walmart are in Omak, 40 miles away; the closest Costco and Macy’s are in Wenatchee, 90 miles away. Most people prefer to avoid having to make that drive, especially when you just need one thing.
Second, it’s not a wealthy community. Sure, there is a number of well-to-do year-round residents and even more well-off part-timers, but most people here have pretty limited incomes. So, if you can buy used, and buy locally so you can save on gas, it’s a big plus. Trading or getting something for free? Even better.
Third, locals tend to be environmentally aware folks who do not like to contribute to our planet’s out-of-control waste stream. Helping an item that is no longer needed find a new home appeals to both the seller (giver) and the buyer (receiver).
Lastly, and related to all of the above reasons, there is a healthy dose of rural independence and thriftiness at play here. Why let good things go to waste? Why get something new when you can get it used for less? Why go buy from big business when you can buy from your neighbor?
Here is a sampling from the Bulletin Board just from the past few days (not including any yard sales); original spelling and punctuation preserved:
“Do you have fruit trees, strawberries, rhubarb, or anything else that goes unharvested each year? If you don’t use what ever fruit is being produced in your yard, and would like to see it utilized just contact me and I will come harvest what ever you don’t want.” (Follow-up post by the same person: “I can even trade you some of whatever product I make from the fruit I harvest. Jam, preserves, canned in syrup, etc. I hate to see food go to waste, and I love being able to harvest local food.”)
“Dropped my phone at the bank today. The screen is effed. Looking to buy a new one. Preferably Iphone or Samsung device. Will pay cash. Let me know what you have.”
“55” Sharp Aquos TV. Works well, needs to be wall mounted as we inherited this TV without legs. Working remote and no defects in the screen. $50 which will donate to a Methow non-profit. You’ll need to pick up in decent sized vehicle.”
“I have an empty clean steel barrel, excellent condition, no dents, 2″ bung top. Was used to store vegetable oil. Would be great for making bbq, smoker, feeder, whatever. $25. Also, Kohler toilet, water-saver, used but cleaned and pressure-washed. $25.”
“Wanted: bear proof container”
“Looking for a (or two) short haired kitten(s), endowed with mousing genes!”
And, my favorite to date:
“There once was a chicken named Sadie
It turned out she wasn’t a lady
Because of her crow
They said, “You’ve got to go!”
So she flew off and called herself Brady.
Free rooster AND free bad poetry! WHAT MORE COULD ONE ASK FOR? Will even throw in eggstra chicken puns with the free rooster.”
Mind you; this is just the Bulletin Board, which I chose to focus on as the most dynamic and colorful local resource for buying/selling/trading/donating (as well as heated political discussions, local news and announcements, job postings, and rants and raves).
There are also several local Facebook groups where goods are exchanged; flyers posted on the old Merc barn, outside of Hank’s and the Mazama Store, and a few other places; and dozens of deals taking place every day more informally, between friends and neighbors, without being publicly advertised.
Unlike someone I know in the valley, I am not a barter fanatic or compulsive yard sale scavenger. Still, after more than two years in the Methow, I’ve lost track of all the things we’ve bought, sold, given away, traded for, or picked up locally. We bought most of our furniture from local residents. We traded a kombucha scoby for a piece of venison, one or two dozen eggs for pick-your-own apricots, and a pint of homemade jam for a small jewelry repair job. We’re currently trying to give away a couch that’s too bulky for our small living room.
For someone like me, who fits into a lot of the categories I’ve listed above – limited income, environmentally minded, doesn’t like waste, prefers to shop small and local – it’s been really kind of perfect. I just wish someone would take that couch off our hands.