Issue # 89 -September/October 1984
In the interest of promoting one of humankind's better
ideas-barter—we announced in issue 37 our
still-standing offer: Send us a short account of an actual
barter (write to Successful Swaps, THE MOTHER EARTH
NEWS®, 105 Stoney Mountain Rd., Hendersonville, NC
28791), and if we print it in this column you'll
receive a year's subscription (new or extended) to
Likewise, if you now operate, or have ever operated, a
home business that was inspired by an article you read in
MOTHER, tell us about it in approximately 500 words (write
to Bootstrap Businesses, THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS®, 105
Stoney Mountain Rd., Hendersonville, NC 28791). Be sure to
mention how you started your enterprise—including how
much seed money you needed—the amount you make (net),
and anything else that might be of assistance to other
entrepreneurs. If your story is used in this column, you'll
receive a free two-year subscription to
Every Christmas I seem to get clothes that just don't fit
or that aren't my style. I never know what stores they came
from and usually don't want to bother with exchanging them
Then one day I discovered that some of the other guys at
work had the same problem. As a result, we got together in
the parking lot on our lunch break and swapped all our
unwanted wearing apparel!
My successful barter evolved from a serious illness which
kept me bedridden for three months. About all I could do
with my time was crochet and read, and you can imagine what
it would have cost to keep me in books and yarn!
However, the problem was solved when several of the nurses
became interested in my handiwork... and especially in
learning how to duplicate it. We soon worked out a swap:
lessons in knitting and crocheting in exchange for books
By the end of eight weeks, eight nurses had mastered
crocheting (three of those also learned to knit), and I had
40 books... as well as enough yarn for five full-size
afghans, two crib blankets, and a crocheted bedspread. Not
only were the participants in this swap pleased, but so
were the recipients of the gifts I made.
After reading my first issue of THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS®
(No. 78), I was inspired to make a swap of my own. My
neighbor had pastureland that needed clearing and fencing,
and I was in the market for lumber. I offered to clear the
land and build the fence in exchange for all the leftover
Now my friend has a fenced pasture, and I have a new home
(built with the help of an article on log cabin
construction, also in No. 78), plus a large woodpile in my
I'm a self-supporting col lege student, and in the past I
was always in need of part-time work, which was usually
limited to the minimum wage and to late-night hours. I had
thought about starting a bootstrap business like those I'd
read about in MOTHER, but I didn't know what my enterprise
should be, until the following incident occurred.
Two years ago, a friend who is a real estate agent with a
local company complained about ripping his suit jacket
while attempting to put up a for sale sign at one of his
listings. When I heard this, the gears began to turn in my
head, and one week later I presented my business idea to
the real estate agency's office manager. I would store all
the agency's for sale signs in my garage and do the dirty
work of putting them up and taking them down as the agents
requested. I already had a mini-pickup, and I could also
use a small station wagon to transport the signs. The
office manager was delighted with my plan, and we agreed
upon a payment of $2.00 each time I either put a sign up or
took one down.
My business has continued to build steadily over the past
two years, and I've averaged $300 per month for about 1-1/2
hours of work a day, five days a week. In addition to
putting up signs, I've begun repairing, cleaning, and
painting homes listed by the agency. The work fits right
into my time schedule, and best of all, I'm my own boss.
I'd encourage other MOTHERreaders to start a
sign-transporting business where they live!
D. E. W.
When my husband was jobless last year, we increased our
efforts to cut back on basic expenses. One day, while
shopping at the local farmers' market, I noticed that the
two young children of the woman I buy eggs and milk from
were bored and cranky. I asked the busy mother if she could
use a baby-sitter.
Every Saturday since then, I have come home from the market
with all the eggs, milk, butter, cream, chicken, and lamb
we can use, and with two little girls who spend
the day playing with my son while their mother sells the
family produce in peace!
One day during my sophomore year in high school, my brother
brought home an old, green, wooden duck punt he had
received as payment for repairing an elderly couple's car.
(A punt is a lightweight, shallow-water, flat-bottom boat
with a square stern.) He wasted no time trying it out on
the local stock ponds and soon cleaned out the bluegill
That fall I needed a boat to run my trapline on Cadron
Creek, so I traded my old .22 rifle to my brother for the
Not long after that, one of our buddies decided he was
missing out on the fun, so he gave me $10 and five rabbit
traps for the craft.
I then made enough money selling wild rabbits (and from
various odd jobs) to purchase a secondhand motorcycle
and to buy back the punt for $17 later that year.
Another friend who was looking for excitement that summer
had heard the legend of the duck punt. He gave me $25 and
three prizewinning Red Satin domestic rabbits in exchange
for the vessel... and I, in turn, bought feed and built
cage with the cash and soon had lots of bunnies, which I
sold for $5 to $7 each.
Unfortunately, the old boat met its end that summer on
Crashing Rock in the swift waters of the Cadron, but none
of us will ever forget the extra income, valuable
experience, and fun that the punt provided.