On a budget? (A nice way of saying "cheap" or "underemployed" or, in my case, both.) Then try bartering your gardening advice or labor for services you need. My adventures in bartering started with my friend Dan, who’s a professional computer-guy. In exchange for fixing my many tech problems he got not just my off-the-cuff suggestions for landscaping his new building but the collective advice of blog commenters, so he thinks he got a really good deal. Then, following Elizabeth’s suggestion, I went to CraigsList to offer "gardening consultation for website consultation" and found a winner. I ultimately hired him to set up my website and turn it back over to me, the technophobe, using a Dummies-friendly program to upload the content.
Then recently after I’d spent a morning helping my wonderful neighbor create a wildlife garden, she asked what she could barter in return and suggested cooking for me. (It’s true I don’t cook, but I didn’t realize it it was so obvious.) Her idea was that occasionally she’d cook up some extra for me when cooking for her family. Sounds good, I said. Then I got really ballsy. "Um, some of my high school girlfriends are coming for lunch and I WAS going to do carry-out…." I hint. "Great!" she exclaims, "I’ll cater!"
And cater she did. A full Tex-Mex meal to die for. Recipes were demanded! Imagine avocado soup, green pepper strada, apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, and a cool salad I can’t even describe. Here are Margaret, Rick and Lucas delivering the feast just hours before my guests arrived.
For me, barter doesn’t just save money. It takes me back to small-town life in the spirit of barn-raising and all that good stuff that real communities are so famous for. (I grew up in a central Virginia town called Bon Air and yes, the air was good and so were the neighbors.) And for self-styled but long-subdued subversives like myself, barter has the added appeal of screwing the taxman, so what’s not to love?
So, is bartering your gardening know-how working for anybody else? Let’s hear it! In my brazenness I once offered to barter for physical therapy treatments (and what middle-aged gardener doesn’t need a PT on retainer?) but she didn’t bite. I’ll keep trying, though.