Successful Swaps: Build a Free Home, Swap Skilled Labor and More

Learn readers best tips for bartering, including how to build a home for free, how to refine your own skills and more.

| May/June 1982


If you are a skilled craftsman, why not put that to use with a valuable trade?


Successful Swaps is a monthly feature in MOTHER EARTH NEWS where readers share their ideas for bartering and skill-and-labor exchanges. 

Build a Vacation Home For Free

My family used the old-time practice of bartering to obtain the mountain cabin we'd always wanted but didn't have the cash for. We had managed to save $500 to buy a small patch of mountain land, and then collected used lumber from my father's remodeling jobs. However, we just didn't have time to build the cabin and clear the land ourselves (and hold down full-time jobs to boot), nor could we afford the cost of hiring a construction crew. We suspected, however, that some of our handy acquaintances would fairly jump at the chance to exchange a little labor for the use of our cabin as a vacation hideaway or a hunting camp — and we were right! Four of our friends were quick to take us up on the offer.

Before we could put those people to work, though, we still had to find a way to transport the salvaged building materials from our present home to the land (a 150-mile trek). So, we decided to try barter again, and soon traded the promise of a free week at the cabin-to-be to a fellow who owned a trailer truck. He was able to haul all the lumber to our site in one trip.

The use of our little dwelling has since been exchanged for a mattress, some venison, several pieces of used furniture and help in constructing a boat dock. And best of all, we're bartering away only cabin use during periods of time when the building would otherwise be empty anyway!

—  J.M. Pennsylvania 

Swap Skilled Labor in the City

Many people seem to feel that swapping is pretty much confined to the rural areas of the country. Well, as a confirmed city slicker, I'd like to help put an end to that notion.

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