Caretaker Work Exchange

Learn how nomads work as ranch or farm caretakers in exchange for living space.
By Tom Terrific
March/April 1971
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Working in exchange for rent can be a wonderful arrangement.

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The primary caretaker work exchange for living arrangement for the nomad and/or remote traveler is definitely absentee-owned land. Roads and fences always need to be repaired, cattle watched and timber guarded are only a few reasons that absentee land owners seek farm hands and ranch caretakers.

How does one find such a deal? First, try the local newspapers (not only the dailies but the weeklies and free classified ads too) of the area in which you want to locate. Bulletin board notices (the best places for these—according to a local land owner—are saddle shops and auction yards) can also be productive. When you run classified ads or post a for-hire notice, state what you're looking for and what you are willing to do. There's no need to post anything philosophical and long-winded. The folks you want to reach have little time for such things. The next step—and usually the most successful—is to go out looking and ask the locals.

In small towns, ask the police or storekeepers or local ranchers. Few people will get uptight if you let it be known that you're willing to work in exchange for living space. Country storekeepers are often local real estate dealers; check with them. Realtors use caretakers too. Visit farms and ranches to pick up the gossip and needs of the neighborhood.

Work in exchange for living space isn't a fantasy to dream about. It's happened to many friends. One group I know was invited to live on a ranch by a land owner who digs "drop outs." An acquaintance got a house in the woods in exchange for doing repairs and improvements on the building. Another cares for a house and surrounding land in exchange for rent.

As for me? I turned down an offer to park my camper gratis in the mountains while cutting wood for a living. Instead I moved the rig, my family and myself to another mountain top where I live—without rent—in 77 acres of forest. I neither have to work . . . nor not work . . . just traveling slowly . . . being free.

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