Tag Archives: Little Free Libraries

What Do I Do Now That I Have All This Time on My Hands?

Standard

I stay busy.

Between writing and scheduling blog posts, staying in touch with friends, reading, and creating art, I barely have time to wash the dishes, exercise, or meditate. However, in Facebook groups for vandwellers and other internet resources for people who live nomadically, I regularly encounter people asking for advice on what to do now that they aren’t working full-time, permanent jobs. Some people have never had free time before, so they’ve not learned how to entertain themselves. Others are fine as long as they’re moving from place to place and seeing new things, but if an injury or lack of money means they have to sit on public land or in the same town for a week or two, they’re bored out of their minds.

For all the nomads who are trying for the first time to figure out what to do with themselves and for folks who want to try something(s) new, I offer ten activities to fill your time now that you own your life.

#1 Explore the public library. As may have been evident from my post 10 Ways to Save Money on the Road, I’m a big fan of public libraries. Even if you don’t have a library card, you can probably hang out away from inclement weather; use a computer to surf the web; read books and magazines; view art; and attend free movies, concerts, lectures, and classes.

Some public libraries will issue library cards to nonresidents. If you can score a library card, you may be able to enjoy books, music, and movies in the privacy of your own rig.

I encountered this Little Free Library in my travels.

#2 Read! I’m also a big fan of reading. If you can’t borrow books from a public library, get books from Little Free Libraries. Find inexpensive books at thrift stores and library book sales. If you’re staying in a campground, check for a library in the clubhouse or office.

If you rather look at photos and read short articles, acquire magazines instead of books. Magazines can often be had at thrift stores and library book sales for 10 cents or a quarter each–if they’re not outright free. Maybe you have a friend in another town with a magazine subscription who will put together a care package of back issues and send them to you via general delivery.

If you don’t like to read, but you do like to listen to stories, consider audiobooks. How cozy would it be to lie in your bed and have a talented voice actor read you a bedtime (or nap time) story? If you like the classics, Open Culture offers links to over 900 free audiobooks. For more options, Book Riot offers a list of “11 Websites to Find Free Audiobooks Online.” These are all legal audio book options.

#3 Listen to podcasts. Similar to audiobooks, you can listen to podcasts while driving, cooking, folding laundry, or cleaning the rig. Some podcasts are educational; some are entertaining. You can learn all about finding free podcasts in a 2017 Wired article called “The Beginner’s Guide to Podcasts.”

If you’re wondering what podcasts I like, read my post about my favorites.

(Note: When listening to podcasts or audiobooks, use headphones or make sure your volume is low enough not to bother others. Folks who go into the wilderness to hear birdsong don’t necessarily want to hear what you consider entertainment.)

#4 Learn to do something new. If you’ve always wanted to (fill in the blank with an activity of your choice), but never had the time, your time has come. The Instructables website shares directions for almost any DIY project, craft, or van-home improvement project you can think of. You can learn a lot on YouTube too. I taught myself to macramé hemp jewelry, and The Man learned how to replace drum brakes by watching YouTube videos, so I suspect most folks could use YouTube to learn a new skill.

#5 Play a musical instrument. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a lapsed musician, use your spare time to play an instrument. The Man carries an acoustic guitar in his mini van so he can play whenever he gets the urge. Coyote Sue often practices her flute while boondocking on public land. If space is at a premium, go for something small like a ukulele, a piccolo, a kazoo, or a harmonica. If you’re lacking space and/or money to buy something, remember, your voice makes music too.

(Note: As with podcasts and audiobooks, please make sure your musical endeavors don’t disturb others. When camping or boondocking on public land, let the sounds of nature prevail.)

I whipped up these postcards from collage fodder Coyote Sue sent me.

#6 Write Letters. Don’t think you have to be a great writer to wrtite letters to your friends and family. Trust me, your people will be so excited to get what I call “real mail,” they’ll barely care about what you write. If you’re too shy to write to the adults, write to the children. Kids always seem super excited to get mail.

If you don’t think you have enough to say to justify writing a letter, send a postcard. In tourist towns, I usually find postcards costing between 20 and 50 cents each. At thrift stores, I’ve found postcards as cheap as a nickel each. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been to the place on the postcard. People like pretty photos, even if you’ve never seen the landmark in question.

If you need a creative project, make your own postcards like I did.

#7 Keep a journal. If you don’t much like writing, make it more like a log book where you record where you stayed, what you did, weather, gas mileage, or any information you might want to remember later. If you rather draw than write, sketch the trees, the people you meet, the critters you see.

#8 Get artsy–or crafty. Find ways to get in touch with your creative side that don’t require lots of materials or tools that take up too much of your precious space. Paint watercolors the size of postcards. Make collages. Decorate the

This is how Coyote Sue has been decorating the inside of her rig. She gave me permission to use this photo.

interior of your rig. Sketch your campsite. Make jewelry. Make your own greeting cards or postcards. Sculpt with air-dry clay. Whittle.

#9 Take some photos. With today’s technology, you don’t need a fancy schmancy camera to take decent photographs. Most smartphone cameras let you use filters on your photos; adjust contrast, sharpness, and exposure; crop your image; and doodle right on the picture. With all these bells and whistles, you can take a decent photo and turn it into an awesome photo. Of course, if you don’t know the basics of composition, you’ll want to learn that too, courtesy of ePHOTOzine.

A good place to start learning to use your camera phone is an article by Photography Concentrate called “Smartphone Photography 101.” Once you have the basics down, take your photography skills to the next level by following the suggestions Rebecca Moses offers in her article “Finding Your Inner Photographer: Making the Most of Your Camera.”

#10 Get close to nature. If you’re on public land, put on your sturdy shoes and go for a hike or a little walk, if that’s what you’re up for. Sit still and listen to the birds sing. If you’re in a city, get closer to nature in a park or arboretum. Learn to identify the trees, flowers, and/or medicinal plants in the area you’re in. At night look up at the sky and find the constallations. Paying attention to the cycles of nature could keep a person occupied for days, weeks, months, or even years.

I got close to this nature while boondocking outside Natural Bridges National Monument.

I hope this post inspires you to try some new things and figure out what fun activities make you happy as they fill your free time. Feel free to share what you do to stay busy in the comments below.

I took all the photos in this post with the exception of the one of Coyote Sue’s rig decorating endeavors, which I used with her permission.

 

Little Free Library in Mesa, AZ

Standard

Sometimes I go looking for Little Free Libraries, and sometimes they surprise me. The Little Free Library Nolagirl and I found one Sunday afternoon in Mesa, AZ was a complete surprise.

We were in town for the Spark! event at the Mesa Arts Center. We weren’t surprised to find all the parking spots close to the Arts Center taken, so we had to venture farther to find a place to put the car. Nolagirl settled on the free lot behind the Milano Music Center.

This piano was on the Main Street edge of the pocket park last time I was there.

We can walk through the park with the blocks, she said as we gathered our things and locked the car doors.

I didn’t know what she was talking about until we walked up to the pocket park in the narrow area between two buildings.

Oh, I’ve been here! I said. There was a Play Me, I’m Yours piano the last time I was here.

The piano was gone (all of the Play Me, I’m Yours pianos seem to be gone from Mesa), but the artificial turf and the large, colorful blocks were still there.

Is this grass fake? I asked. Nolagirl said it was, and we both laughed. Why put down fake grass in a pocket park in an alley? Oh, the mysteries of Mesa.

Little Free Library in a pocket park off Main Street in downtown Mesa

I don’t remember who spotted the Little Free Library first, but we were both happy to see it. We’ve gone Little Free Library hunting together; we both think the gift economy of books they facilitate is great.

This Little Free Library in Taos, NM is made from an old newspaper vending machine.

Nolagirl was especially pleased to see this Little Free Library was repurposed from a container that once housed free reading material one often finds in cities. She and her husband are both in the newspaper business, and she said they’ve discussed repurposing discarded metal newspaper boxes into Little Free Libraries. I told her about the Little Free Libraries I’d seen in Taos, NM made from old metal newspaper boxes. Her idea is being implemented!

The Little Free Library in the Mesa pocket park was a renegade. It didn’t have an an official charter sign or charter number. Someone had come up with the the old dispenser and painted “Little Free Library” and “Take a Book or Leave a Book” on it, but hadn’t registered with the Little Free Library organization or paid for a charter sign. I do appreciate the Little Free Library organization, but I also love grassroots efforts done on the cheap, so I love renegadae Little Free Libraries too. It’s not necessary to be registered to get books to the people!

There were several magazines and a few books in this Little Free Library.

(However, registrations does bring benefits, including the option to add the library to the Little Free Library world map which makes it easier for patrons to find and visit the library.)

There were a few book in the library, as well as some back issues of Sports Illustrated. (What a great way to pass on magazines after reading them!) I didn’t need any of the reading material, so I didn’t take anything. I wished I had some books to donate to the library, but all of the books I was ready to part with were in my van. This time my only contribution would be documentation.

I hope the Little Free Library stays in that pocket park for a good long time. I hope folks who find it continue to take books and leave books too.

I took all the photos in this post.

The Best Dog Park Ever & a Little Free Library

Standard

The Man and I were in Santa Fe, and Jerico the dog had been spending a lot of time in the van.

Jerico’s a puller when he’s on his leash, so he’s not much fun to walk with. His leash is attached to a harness instead of a collar so he doesn’t choke himself with his pulling, but still, The Man has to keep an iron grip on the leash so Jerico doesn’t drag him around.

One day we put Jerico on his leash after we ate our lunch, and we walked with him around The Plaza. Jerico enjoyed being outside and meeting other dogs, but it was embarrassing when he ducked under the ropes cordoning off the lawn and took a giant dump on the lush, green grass. Also? It wasn’t much fun for The Man to feel as if he were risking having his arm pulled out of its socket while Jerico tried to go his own way.

The next morning, after The Man had his coffee, I reminded him that we’d talked about taking Jerico to the dog park. We decided to do it, to let Jerico have some special doggie fun.

As I drove us to the park, The Man told me it was the biggest, the coolest dog park he had ever seen.

How cool could it be? I wondered. Aren’t dog parks just a patch of grass where dogs get to run around off leash? A big patch of grass would make a better dog park than would a small patch of grass, but a big patch of grass is still just a patch of grass.

However, I was surprised and pleased when I saw the Frank Ortiz dog park.

First of all, it’s huge. According to the City of Santa Fe website, the dog park consists of 135 acres.

Secondly, the Frank Ortiz Dog Park is not just a big patch of grass. The 135 acres consists mostly of natural terrain. Juniper trees dot the sandy, rocky land. Trails criss-cross the area and while there are a few benches scattered around and a large, flat, empty area good for playing fetch, most of the park is the way nature made it.

(Are you wondering–as I was–who the heck is Frank Ortiz? I couldn’t find much information about him, but according to Wikipedia, he was the mayor of Santa Fe from 1948 to 1952.)

We were at the park around eight in the morning, and it wasn’t very crowded. Of course, the park is so big, dozens–maybe hundreds–of dogs could be running around, and the place wouldn’t feel crowded.

The Man strapped on Jerico’s harness so he could grab the dog and pick him up like a suitcase if a fight occurred. Jerico might not start a fight, but he’d get into a scrap if another canine tried to boss him around. Once he was harnessed, Jerico was let loose to run around and sniff and scratch around in the dirt.

Usually, when The Man and I are on a nature walk and the dog’s off-leash, Jerico stays several paces behind us. During those times, The Man and I periodically turn around and call Jerico to catch up with us. Less frequently, he’ll run ahead of us and stop, then look back as if pleading for us to catch up with him.

On the day at the dog park, The Man and I had turned around a couple of times and urged Jerico on. We were plodding up a hill when Jerico shot past us, crested the hill, and disappeared over the top. The Man called him, but Jerico didn’t stop.

Come on, Honey, The Man said to me. We have to run.

I’m not running, I told him. I’ll meet you on the other side.

The Man jogged off while I continued up the hill. At the top, I found The Man snapping the leash onto the rings on Jerico’s harness.

Oh, the shame, I told Jerico, of having to wear a leash in the dog park.

We continued to walk around, and Jerico successfully made friends with other canines. One lady started talking to me and The Man while her dog and ours sniffed rumps.

Does your dog run away? she asked.

We admitted he did.

Mine used to run away too, she told us. But then one day I hid behind a tree. She looked around for me like she was worried, so then I came out from behind the tree. I told her no more running away from me, and she never did again. You have to treat them like little kids.

After we walked away from the woman, we decided Jerico probably wouldn’t even notice if we hid behind a tree while he was fleeing the scene. We thought we shouldn’t experiment with the woman’s technique to curb runaway dogs.

We walked around another ten or fifteen minutes, then let Jerico off the leash again. He behaved at first but then decided to ignore The Man when he called. It was back on the leash for the headstrong Jerico.

We went back to the van and loaded up.

I want to stop at the information board, I told The Man. I thought it might offer, well, information about the park or at least some sort to photo opportunity for a picture to go with this post. Alas, the only information was a couple of flyers announcing lost dogs and a couple of signs giving the name of the park and park rules. However, next to the non-information board, there was a Little Free Library. Yippie!

I love Little Free Libraries. This one at the Frank Ortiz Dog Park is only the second one I’ve visited in person. (My first visit to a Little Free Library was in Los Gatos, CA.) I was enamored with the concept of Little Free Libraries long before I visited one. I love both books and gift economies; Little Free Libraries combine both of these loves.

According to what was painted on the side of the library, this one was constructed by the SFCC Youth Build group. According to an October 2015 post on the YouthBuild USA Facebook page,

Students from Youthbuild at Santa Fe Community College [were] building mini libraries to install around Santa Fe, NM. Their work will add to the growing list of Little Free Library exchanges currently in 50 states and 70 countries!

Skinwalkers
As soon as I saw the Little Free Library, I started rooting around in the van hoping to find the Tony Hillerman novel I’d recently finished reading so I could donate it. Success came between the wall and the food of the bed, and I happily placed the novel among the other free-to-new-home books.

I didn’t find any books I was excited to read in the Little Free Library, but The Man took a couple. I wasn’t really even looking for free books because I currently have plenty of reading material. My pleasure came in spontaneously finding a Little Free Library and being able to leave a book I hope another reader will enjoy.

The entrance to the parking lot of the Frank Ortiz Dog Park is on the southwest side of Camino de las Crucitas at Buckman Road.

I took the photos in this post, with the exception of the cover of Skinwalkers. That’s an Amazon Associates link.

 

 

 

 

Little Free Library (Los Gatos Edition)

Standard

I’d heard of Little Free Libraries before, but I’d never visited one.

If you haven’t heard about Little Free Libraries, here’s some info :

A Little Free Library is a “take a book, return a book” free book exchange. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the most common version is a small wooden box of books. Anyone may take a book or bring a book to share.

Little Free Library book exchanges have a unique, personal touch. There is an understanding that real people are sharing their favorite books with their community; Little Libraries have been called “mini-town squares.”

Little Free Libraries are examples of gift economy. There’s no buying or selling, no bartering or trading. People leave books they want to share, and other folks are free to take any of the books from the library. The aforementioned FAQ says,

…anyone may contribute or take books. The more the merrier! If you take a book (or two) from a Library, you do not need to return that exact book. However, in order to keep the Little Library full of good choices for the whole neighborhood, the next time you swing by the Library bring a few books to share. Little Library book exchanges function on the honor system; everyone contributes to ensure there are always quality books inside.

I was visiting my friends in Las Gatos, CA, and The Librarian casually mentioned the Little Free Library within walking distance of their house.

What? Where? I wanted to know. This was my very first chance to visit a Little Free Library.

I got vague directions from The Librarian, but almost didn’t go because it took me forever to get myself ready to leave town. But I managed to pull myself together just in time to visit the Little Library before I had to hit the road. I grabbed a couple of books I had finished reading, as well as a couple of books The Librarian was giving away and headed out to find the Little Free Library. I asked a woman pushing a baby stroller if she knew where it was. She did! Just keep going straight, she said. 14639584_197335864038529_3193993963841986859_n

Then I saw it in the distance. The closer I got, the more excited I became.

The box had a door with glass windows and two shelves. There were probably twenty books in the library, including one by James Patterson, on whom I’d been ragging just the night before. (Poor James Patterson. He’s the author I make fun of when I’m discussing not very good books read by the masses. On the other hand, James Patterson must be hella rich, so I don’t actually feel too bad about making fun of him.)

I added the books I’d brought to the library, then carefully looked through the offerings to see if there were any books I wanted to read. I found two, The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham and The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

When we were discussing Little Free Libraries, The Librarian told me there has been controversy surrounding them in some cities. I was indignant! How could anyone be against Little Free Libraries?

14720475_197336020705180_7340245597807035176_nAccording to the USC Marshall School of Business,

in some cities, [Little Free Libraries are]…illegal and those cities are spending scarce resources to clamp down on them. Why?

The issue seems to be that the libraries are considered “obstructions” and “that you can’t do anything that might block emergency vehicle access, obstruct motorists’ views, impede pedestrians or make it hard to open car doors” lest you be subject to fines and penalties. And moving the libraries from city-owned boulevards to the private property immediately in front of a house doesn’t help, as it would then require zoning permits. A city spokesperson said, “that if there is no clear obstruction, it might be possible to keep the library where it is if [the owner] is willing to apply for a permit. And it’s possible that city arts funds could be tapped to pay for the permit.”

Scarce city funds being used to pay for a permit to allow what residents were willing to do for free must be the height of myopic absurdity. Thankfully, however, some residents are fighting back. 14713664_197335954038520_8200205731003869874_n

The Los Angeles Times reports of at least one instance where a resident who was served with a citation will be taking the case to court. And in Shreveport, Louisiana, public outcry and civil disobedience led to city council rewriting zoning ordinances and granting an exemption for what would have otherwise required a commercial permit.

I hope the stewards of Little Free Libraries in other cities will fight against foolish bureaucracy, because I want to visit more of these places of community sharing.

I took the photos in this post.