A neighborhood friend of mine and I have worked out an arrangement regarding my fig tree and grapevines: I provide the fruit, he provides the jelly (before he gets angry, let me clarify that he actually makes preserves, and they’re delicious). It’s a pretty good deal for me: he and his son come by and pick figs (and grapes, soon), converting them into delicious preserves, which I enjoy after the fact. All I do is keep the plants alive and give him access to my property.
Earlier this week, he and I spoke for a bit after he and his son partook in some morning fig harvesting (God is Good—it’s been a bumper crop this year, and the figs haven’t gone entirely to the birds and the beetles). We talked about the figs and the muscadine grapes that will be ready for harvesting soon. In doing so, he pointed out all of the possibilities in our neighborhood for similar collaborations: those with some resource or item (in my case, figs and grapes), and those with the time and inclination to put them to use (in this case, my neighbor making preserves from them).
In years past, I’ve shamefully let my figs go unharvested, letting the brown birds and beetles strip the tree of its fruit before I could get to it. One year I managed to get maybe a half-pound of figs from the tree, but my own negligence, coupled with a busy schedule (not to mention South Carolina’s intense summertime heat) has dissuaded me from picking the luscious fruit. Even having gotten the fruit, I’m often at a loss as to what to do with it, other than pop full figs into my mouth.
Thus, the magic of this arrangement: my neighbor has the time and the knowledge to put my resources to use; I simply have the resources. He gets a good portion of preserves, and I get to enjoy some jars, too (and they’re really good preserves).
Regardless, in discussing the beauty of our arrangement of the possibility of other such collaborations around the neighborhood, we also discussed how much stuff—not just fruits and vegetables, but just sheer, material stuff—is just sitting around, unused, waiting to be put to some higher purpose—if only someone with the know-how, time, and ability could come along and put it to use.
The possibilities exist for an entire second-hand or recycled economy. How often have you driven past someone’s home—usually way out in the country somewhere—to find their yard or a half-open shed full of goodies untouched by human hands (even if touched quite extensively by the ravages of time)? But that junk—one man’s junk is a another’s goodies, I suppose—is actual, usable stuff—it can be put to good use.
In an age of hyperinflation, the expansion of a second-hand or cast-off or recycled economy takes on a whole new level of attractiveness.