Monday, May 20, 2013

The Free Economy

Last year I started Lancaster Community Gardens with the help of volunteers and the cooperation of the school district. It's been a fun learning experience.

And it's turned me into a habitual Craigslist user. Every day I keep CraigsList open, mostly scanning for free or cheap stuff.

Need stones for your garden? I didn't know I needed them until I found them free. Brick? Free--yeah I'll take that. Garden tools? Haven't come across those yet. They probably get sold early in the season at garage sales.

Lately I've been looking for a clean water tank--something that hasn't housed chemicals. Organic gardeners don't tolerate chemicals, even in scrubbed tanks.

So it's more likely we'll buy something new.

But a lawn mower for $50? Yeah, we'll take that. A pile of wood? Ok maybe later this summer. Raspberry bushes for $1 a piece, right out of the woman's garden? Sure. We'll take 5 and plant today.

But I'm not the only one looking.

Typically the good stuff is jumped on right away by hustlers with pickup trucks and trailers. I suspect the same stuff is put up on eBay or right back on Craigslist, if not in a retail store. When your cost is your time and the price of gas, you can generate decent enough margins to live on.

A highly efficient free and cheap market is not great for the New industries. Recycling, re-using, and repurposing isn't a habit a lot of large retailers would like us to get into.

Fortunately for them, the first thought of the majority of Americans is Lowe's will have it. I need it now, so let's go to to Home Depot. Or Costco. It becomes an event.

Events are nice. But adventure and discovery is much more fulfilling. These days I drive right past those places on my way to discovering new places, meeting sometimes weird and interesting people, and finding incredibly useful, valuable stuff for free or near free.

I'm a fan of free. Free community gardens (free ain't free--lots of work, lots of volunteers, and a bit of cash for insurance, fencing, water, etc). Free community bikes. A tool library. The Internet. Books. Speech.

A life of free adventure and discovery is entirely possible, and incredibly rich. Yeah, you might have to pick up the gas, or you could grab a free bike, and pack a free lunch that you grew at the alley garden or grew on your porch.

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