Bill Wodraska shared some of his thoughts regarding one of mankind's better ideas—barter—and offered up an interesting suggestion: "I'd like to see a continuing feature on barter agreements and skill-and-labor exchanges," said Bill. "You're on!" MOTHER EARTH NEWS replied.
When I decided to move to the country, I had no idea of the expense involved. Land can be costly here in Australia, but at last I managed to find a wonderful 10-acre property that was within my means. A number of willing friends helped me build a cabin and furniture, but I was still left with an empty purse and many "final touches" that had to be attended to.
Fortunately, I discovered a nearby elderly couple who were leaving their home of 50 years to move into Sydney. A few neighborly visits later I had arranged to swap my "citified" vital necessities for their "countrified" ones: a fully automatic sewing machine for a sturdy treadle model, an electric blender for a butter separator, a large kerosene heater for a toasty Franklin stove, and a lawn mower for handy axes and tools. We simply exchanged lifestyles without incurring the usually burdensome "starting up" expenses.
When an American friend heard of my new homestead, he offered me another trade: MOTHER EARTH NEWS. It's not readily available in most parts of Australia (I had never seen the magazine before), so a swap of a year of your magazine for a year of the Aussie equivalent of Playboy was quickly agreed to. Now I make trips to Sydney just often enough to buy my basic needs and to check my post office box for the latest copy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS!
North Sydney, Australia
The best swap I've ever made came right from the pages of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. What better way is there to complete a library of back issues than to swap old magazines for them? And that's just what I did!
I paid 50¢ for a bundle of 51 magazines at an auction on the chance that some of them might be tradable. It turned out that MOTHER EARTH NEWS could use all but one, and was willing to give me 24 issues in exchange. True, the postage amounted to $3.98 but that's still a cost of only 18 1/2¢ per magazine, and I surely couldn't have afforded to buy all the back issues at their full cover price.
I've made several more swaps since then, and so far—for a total investment of $13.70, including postage to mail the magazines—I've traded for 39 issues and saved myself $103.24!
If this letter gets printed, I'll receive still another six issues free in the future. At the risk of swamping your office with letters, I had to share this greatest swap!
Traveling Storyteller and Consultant
I've always been hard-smitten with wanderlust, and have found that "roaming the empire" can be quite a profitable venture.
In 1975 I left Laguna Beach, California for two years of travel throughout North America. As a writer collecting stories for my future book, The Roamin' Umpire: An Automobiography, my intent was to live by my wits ... and I accomplished my goal by swapping tales: for showers, for the use of stoves to cook my grains and beans, and for a dry floor to sleep on in times of heavy rains or snows. These simple trades enabled me to light out to the territory ahead with freshly washed body and clothes.
I occasionally picked up an added bonus when I traded my solar power/energy conservation knowledge and skills for food money. For the price of a week's worth of vittles ($7.00) I would conduct an energy audit of the family's home and/or business.
This service not only included a description of the advantages of simple, low-cost measures like weather-stripping, caulking, thermostat setbacks, manual-igniting pilot lights, cleaning and adjusting furnaces, insulation, and storm windows, but also basic information on the cost of a 100% solar heat retrofit.
Now I admit that my water storage calculations and flat-plate collector sizing estimates were only crude approximations, but they did show the savings that could be made if the family wanted to pursue my recommendations. And the folks for whom I performed the calculations would occasionally reward me with a bonus: a month's worth of food ($28)! Traveling light can not only be enjoyable, but—with barter as your companion—also financially rewarding.
Lawn Waste Disposal
As an organic gardener in southern California up against clay soil and scorching summer heat, I had a perpetual problem: where to obtain material for composting and mulching. My lawn didn't generate enough clippings by itself, and even collecting the neighbors' mowings wasn't meeting our garden's voracious appetite for mulch.
Then came the gasoline crunch, and with it the need to conserve fuel. No longer was I able to go foraging for soil improvers. But strangely enough, that crisis actually solved my problem ... and the solution helped me save gas at the same time!
I discovered that two local gardeners (each of whom cares for several properties nearby) had been hauling all their clippings and prunings 10 miles to the local dump. I put two and two together, and asked the horticulturalists to dump their grass cuttings and leaves on my front lawn instead. I now have more than enough material for compost and mulch, and they are spared such frequent long trips.
I'm very proud of my barter: their waste (which my garden so sorely needs) in exchange for a nearby dumping spot. They save on gas (more money in the pocket, more time for working, and less sitting in gas lines) while my soil gains in tilth. And when the crops come in, I'll give them some of the produce they helped make possible!
Swappers, unite! Here are some examples of the tradin' we do up here in the Green Mountain State.
"Barnsitters" are a necessity when our family wants to get away for a weekend, but the good folks we get to handle the chore think farmwork is fun and refuse to take money! So we've traded coveralls and leather-top boots for the services of one sitter (to make him more comfy while he's doing our chores!) and homegrown bacon and sausage to another helper.
As one more "fer instance," the gal who owns the best pizza shop in town needed help during the noon rush but didn't think she could hire someone for just that one hour. I spoke right up, and she got my help in exchange for a free lunch (and I'm a big eater!).
We've also traded typing jobs for food, dumpster use for snowplowing and gardening, eggs for grapes, eggs and milk for babysitting, and maple syrup for "sappin' rights". And best of all, we'll get a one-year extension of our subscription to MOTHER EARTH NEWS for writing all of our swaps down! Who needs money?
N. & D.V.
Firewood for Food
Last March found winter still hanging on here in upstate New York, and this year's pile of stove-wood was near the vanishing point. I had spent a good part of the previous winter felling trees with an axe—neither I nor my three children can handle a power saw—and cutting them to stove length by hand. There had to be a better way.
There was—in the form of a swap with a tall, slim friend who had access to a chain saw and who possessed a complete wardrobe that was in need of repair. Well, I know how to mend and patch, and I'm a pretty fair cook too. So my friend got an occasional feed as well as having his shirts and jeans patched up, and I got my firewood felled and cut.
Best of all, this trade—which started out of necessity—wound up with both of us realizing that we enjoyed the same MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type lifestyle. From now on, we'll be doing our swapping together.