Bartering Services and Goods

Readers in 1980 contributed a number of stories detailing how they succeeded in bartering services and goods, including scissor sharpening for steak and fire wood for legal fees.

| September/October 1980

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 bartering services and goods," said Bill. "You're on!" MOTHER EARTH NEWS replied.

Fire Wood for Legal Services

My wife and I recently completed a swap (our first, but by no means our last) that may provide helpful inspiration to other folks who are just starting the lengthy—and costly—process of acquiring a homestead.

We used practically all of our hard-earned savings to purchase 18 beautiful woodland acres up here in the Pine Tree State (on which we plan to build a passive solar home and finally begin to live our dream of a country lifestyle), and we hadn't figured in the added cost of the lawyer's fee! So when a booming bill arrived in the mail a few weeks after the deal's closing, my wife and I (and our wallets) were caught totally by surprise. It was apparent that legal fees had been affected by inflation ... and this one had grown right out of the reach of our budget!

There was nothing for it but to approach the lawyer about our shortage of funds. In the course of the conversation we discovered that the attorney was heating his home with wood and—like a true Mainer—was willing to barter! A more natural swap couldn't have been made: For a couple of weekends spent outside in the clear autumn weather, renewing the inner spirit (and exercising my chain saw), I paid the lawyer close to $300 worth of good-quality hardwood. And we had intended to clear a portion of the land anyway—to provide space for a house and garden—so the trade actually speeded up the work on our soon-to-be-finished home!


Motor Repairs for Tool Sharpening

Necessity can be the "mother of swapping" as well as the mother of invention! I own a scissor-sharpening service, you see, and about 95% of my work is accomplished using one machine. So, unfortunately, when that honing apparatus is out of whack, I'm out of a job! A couple of months ago, though—with the help of a little "horse trading "—I was able to have the whetting device repaired ... and gain some new customers in the process. Here's my swap:

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