The following are among the barter agreements readers reported negotiating in the past year.
I've known for some time now that I could swap
for expensive items (which I wouldn't be able to
afford any other way), but MOTHER EARTH NEWS recently motivated me to
make bartering a regular habit. To date, I've exchanged my
goods or services for a Kohler generator, boat storage,
fire wood, and even for food. And it's not just the
practical aspect of bartering that appeals to me,
either. I'm hooked into the ethics of it as well! I
prefer swapping for items rather than accepting "freebies," and it also seems that trading provides a more
genuine transaction than just forking out the almighty
dollar for merchandise.
But I was especially happy to discover that
bartering can help me professionally, too! As a college
instructor teaching "human communication," I often
supplement my not-very-large paycheck by consulting for
private business firms. Unfortunately,
however—although I do provide a much-needed
service—many potential clients are scared off by the
cost. So, when my dentist suggested that we swap his
tooth-tinkering skills (to cap my chompers) for my
communications evaluation of his staff, I jumped
at the chance to do some serious trading. I simply studied
the office interaction while having the dental work
performed ... and—after the first successful
consultation session—the doctor even wondered whether
he'd done enough on his end of the deal!
What a great way to do business! In fact, from now on, I
aim to operate my consulting firm on a barter basis as
often as possible!
C. M. S.
I own a small woodworking and instrument repair shop, and
the onslaught of winter found my establishment still
unheated. Not particularly wanting to lose fingers or ruin
a partially completed musicmaker through cold-induced
clumsiness, I began searching for some practical means of
warming the place up a bit.
At first I ran the gamut of available electric heaters, but
besides the fact that none of the watt-wasters was
adequate to warm the shop, I found myself feeling guilty
about consuming so much energy so inefficiently (not to
mention that my electric bill was beginning to increase
faster than the rate of inflation!).
I was still mulling over my heating problem one blustery
winter afternoon, when a friend showed up at the workshop
and admired a banjo I was building. It turned out that he
was hankering after just such an instrument ... and
before long the musician proposed a trade involving my new
banjo and his antique stove! Well, in practically no time
at all, I had a warm shop in which to work and—more
important—was discovering the many pleasures of wood
Since then the timber-burner has been moved into my house,
where it is a continuing source of cheer, and I've even
built several wood stoves: one for the shop, another to warm the water
in my hot tub, and a third that I traded to a friend.
I guess it just goes to show that you can find eager
swappers even down here in the Sunshine State!
Rototilled Garden for Chicken
My wife Viola, our three-year-old Damian, and I have been
dining on a delicious harvest of chickens this winter,
thanks to a convenient trade we made last autumn. This is
how our "fowl feast" deal came about:
I'm a mechanic of sorts, you see, and had recently
completed repairs on a rundown rototiller. But before
giving the clodbuster a clean bill of health, I wanted to
take it for a spin ... to be sure that the "cure" had
worked. And since my garden was already sprouting
a fall cover crop, I was searching for some "not-so-green pastures" to till.
While I was visiting my neighbors one evening, the folks
happened to mention that they were thinking of selling 35
egg layers who were past their prime ... and, in the
course of the conversation, I discovered that the couple
had a frostbitten garden that needed to be turned under
before the winter weather arrived in full force.
Well—aside from the fact that I'd been looking for a
bare garden plot to till—I have a pretty strong bent
toward barter (and am mighty fond of a tasty hen decorating
my dinner plate now and again) ... so I offered to test
the sodscrambling machine on my friends' soil, in exchange
for a number of their cluckers
Now my neighbors have a garden that's just waiting for the
first daffodil to poke its head through the snow, and we
have a freezer packed full of featherless fowl!
Maple Syrup Trades
This morning, as I opened my last quart of homemade maple
syrup, I was reminded of the many items the sweetener
"bought" me—through barter—over the past year.
I was bitten by the "sugaring bug" for the first time the
fall before last, and immediately began trying to locate
some tappin' trees. Well, it just so happened that my
neighbor had a beautiful grove of sugar maples nestled
along his creek ... and although he admitted that he'd
like to be able to feast occasionally on a
plateful of flapjacks drowned in a sea of syrup, my
next-farm friend couldn't be persuaded to spend his
crisp winter days toiling over a vat of bubbling sap.
So we struck up a bargain: I would tap the trees of my
choice (and use all the dead wood I needed to stoke up the
sugaring fires), and my friend would get half of
whatever syrup I coaxed from his maples.
Well, by the time the spring flowers began to parade their
petals around our farm, my share amounted to four
gallons of the lip-smackin' sweetener. And that
was just the beginning of my trading spree!
When my garden soil needed a boost of organic fertilizer, I
swapped some syrup for a spreader load of manure from a
local dairy farmer. Then, later in the summer—when
the vigorous vegetables had occupied every available
cultivated corner and were camped out all over my kitchen
counter as well—it seemed that I had gotten the best
part of the deal, so I gave the dairyman a couple of
bushels of sweet corn to even out the bargain.
Now, as I settle back after a delicious breakfast of
steaming hotcakes and (of course) syrup, I'm glad that sap
season is just around the corner because I'm sure
looking forward to another year of good eating and
Swapping is so much a part of our lifestyle here in Tucson,
Arizona that it's impossible to keep track of our
bartering deals! Just a sampling of some recent swaps
includes trading "dough babies" for hand-dipped candles, exchanging two
embroidered pillowcases for a collection of African
butterflies, and receiving a bolt of elegant
hand-painted fabric, and a load of beautiful oak lumber
(which we used to build our children's beds), in return for
some of our silver artwork and jewelry.
We swap for the "essentials," too. For example, I
"purchase" my pick of fashionable garments without money by working part time in a friend's vintage clothing
shop. (And with the high prices that are normally charged
for women's wear these days, my deal saves us a
lot of cash!)
Another advantageous exchange—one which is necessary
to our simplified lifestyle—involves my writing the
monthly newsletter for my daughter's alternative school.
Believe me, trading off part of the tuition sure helps our
limited budget stay out of the red!
And, now that money is becoming even scarcer (and
it looks like the economy won't be budging from its low
condition in the months to come), I'm swapping every chance
I get. So how about it ... this story for a