LFL #3966

It’s been several years ago now since my husband and I searched through the sales floor of our local Habitat for Humanity Restore for a used kitchen cupboard.

My husband transformed the standard maple cupboard door into one with a sealed plexiglass window. He bolted this unit to a post set in concrete in our front yard, with its own personal little roof as shelter from the rain. The post is set beside the road, in the shade of a big oak.

Voila! My mother’s birthday present.

A big part of the birthday present was anticipation. Mama’s mystification about our on-going project and her delight in the final result are described in detail in the pages of Little Libraries, Big Hearts. She said it was the best birthday present she’d ever received.

Mama was a dedicated steward of her new Little Free Library.

Later we added a tub of flowers, a bench (one of Mama’s yard scale scores), a granite-slabbed surround so patrons wouldn’t get their shoes muddy, and a stainless-steel dog water bowl ($1 at Diversity Thrift).

Mama took pride in stocking the shelves of her library. She checked it every day. She kept a pen and pad inside and glowed whenever anyone wrote a compliment. She was discriminating in her choice of books — no supermarket pulp for her OR her library. She removed books with bodice buster covers or bare chested Scotsmen. Her LFL offered a selection of acknowledged literature and contemporary books people were talking about, often hardbound.  Even the children’s books on the bottom shelf were nice ones.


Mama’s hunting forays in the wilds of thrift stores and yard sale bagged her good books in good shape — cheap. She found sales in thrift stores, but she was most successful in situations where personality could be used as currency. She’d ladle the charm on the sellers and walk off with a box of donated hardbacks which the previous owners would load in her trunk themselves, all the while thanking her for find a home for their old books.

Mama wasn’t above using her terminal cancer diagnosis to wheedle a 50% discount off an already low price from a gentleman in charge of the book tables at a big rummage sale. The organization sponsoring the yard sale shall remain unnamed — but their members have tender hearts.

She wasn’t kidding about the cancer. It did kill her. She was only eighty-five and I thought she had at least another ten years of thrifting in her.

Yesterday I heard a car pull up in front of the house. It had an Avon sign on the side but the driver didn’t knock on my door. She only got out of the car to visit Mama’s Little Free Library. She left with books so I guess she wasn’t disappointed in the selection. Mama would have been though.

You see, in the years since Mama died, I’ve tended LFL #3966.  I clean the cobwebs, sweep oak leaves and twigs off the roof, put out fresh water in the dog dish (and watch the squirrels sip from it throughout the day) and pull the occasional weed from between the patio stones.

As for stocking the shelves? Mostly, I let the neighborhood do that. Occasionally some well-meaning soul donates so many books at once that they fill the shelves with double rows and the door won’t even close. Or they leave a box or bag of books on my front steps. But usually, it works the way it’s intended to work. One person takes a book or two. Another person leaves a book or five.

When the bottom shelf is looking bare, an appeal for children’s books on the Nextdoor site will see the shelf full again within a week or so. People are generous.

Was Mama trying to elevate the literary tastes of the neighborhood or was she showing off her own preferences? She had many patrons for her library so her choices were obviously appreciated.

But I’m not choosing books, only sorting. I cull textbooks, spotted or musty books, out-dated books. If I removed lurid romance novels or cute cozy mysteries the shelves would be bare. Mama would remove political or religious books, but I don’t — unless they don’t travel on by themselves. Any book that sticks around too long gets pulled. Now the shelves hold James Patterson and Jane Feather and Nora Roberts and Clive Cussler. Sometimes even the disdained Silhouette Romances! Mama would be appalled! LFL #3966 seems to have patrons. Perhaps they are different patrons than Mama had?


I have plans to obtain “better” books, books in keeping with Mama’s original vision. There’s a used book store fairly new to town that has boxes of free books outside for the taking, or so I’ve been told. Mama would have been over there the first day she heard about it and I’ll be going soon — not today, I’m busy today — any day now, really, and see what I can find.

In the meantime, LFL #3966 circulates books that someone, or a number of someones, like just fine. Even if we don’t meet Mama’s high standards.



Curb Finds

  Do I like thrift stores and yard sales and flea markets?


But scoring two new-to-us porch chairs and a loveseat from the sidewalk is even better: it’s FREE!

Of course, it’s only fair to pick things up from the curb if you can use them. If you don’t have an immediate use for a free thing, it’s not yours. Storing it for “someday” is like stealing from someone who could use the whatever-it-is right now.

That’s why we left the like-new glass-topped patio table on the curb beside the potted plastic palm tree. Someone will be delighted with that handsome table. The plastic palm? I don’t think I know anyone who would be delighted with that,* but it probably found a home. FREE! can add a touch of glamour to even a plastic palm tree.

Rattan furniture is not something I would buy. Large dogs and small children are murder on rattan. But since we didn’t pay anything for these pieces, we aren’t wasting any money on something that may only last one or two seasons more. And, besides, even if this furniture doesn’t last long under the abuse it’s likely to receive at our house, it’s already been thoroughly used by someone else. There are broken splints in the front of the chairs and the seat of the love-seat is split in the front. We removed the most uncomfortable chair on our screen porch, rearranged the furniture, and set the “new” love-seat and one of the chairs in there.The finish is still good enough for the porch, but the finish on the chair destined for the patio needed reinforcement.

[And here’s a reminder: Before you spay your curbside treasure with clear gloss polyurethane, brush off any spider webs. Rattan furniture – even FREE! rattan furniture – is less attractive laced with stiff cobwebs and clinging spider egg cases. You don’t have to ask how I know this.]

The chairs have a throne-like quality that lends a regal air to anyone who sits down in one.


And yes, both FREE! chairs came with FREE! seat cushions that don’t clash too badly with the mostly green cushions already on the porch.However,  the love-seat — with the broken seat? — it was bare.

To remedy this, I first tried folding up an old blanket. I could feel every rib of that woven seat through that blanket. So I made a trip to JoAnn Fabrics where I picked out slightly oversize exterior cushions and green cotton duck on the end of the bolt. But I’d misread the price on the weatherized foam and gasped when the clerk rang me up at more than $85! I took the cotton duck  for $12 and left the pricey cushions on the counter.

Maybe if I used TWO blankets? (This didn’t work: I learned the hard way.)

After a few days, I got my mind around the idea of spending money to make our FREE! love-seat comfortable. We were already using it. We liked using it. Two people could sit down together and look at the same book. I could lie down and read with my legs up in the air. If, as was likely, new cushions outlasted the love-seat, we were likely to get a new love-seat anyway.

So I gave in. I ordered two  4″ thick weatherized foam cushions on-line from JoAnn’s website, where I found exactly the right size (no trimming required). I went back to bricks-and-mortar JoAnn for a 22″ zipper to insert in the green cotton duck. And I got out the sewing machine.

The cushion for the FREE! love-seat? Sixty-five dollars!

In spite of my justifications, I’m not completely comfortable that I spent $65 on  a cushion for a FREE! love-seat.

But it sure is comfy.

Tell me, what would you have done?


  •  To be fair to the potted plastic palm tree, I will try to imagine how someone might be delighted to bring it home:
  •  You are fashioning a small island from a pile of sand in your back yard: a potted plastic palm tree  adds that essential tropical flavor.
  • Or perhaps your cock-a-too is happier and screeches less often with a potted plastic palm tree occupying the corner of your screen porch.
  •  You fill the empty spot in the vegetable beds where your eggplants died with — you guessed it! –a potted plastic palm tree
  • You have no furniture in your living room except a futon and a radio, so why not?