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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