Dear 43 Things Users,

10 years after introducing 43 Things to the world, we have decided we have met our last goal: completing the incredible experience that has been 43 Things. Please join us in giving one last cheer to all the folks who have shared their goals with the world, as well as all the people who have worked at The Robot Co-op to build this incredible website. We won a Webby Award, published a book, and brought happiness to a lot of people.

Starting today, 43 Things users can export their goals and entries from the site. Starting August 15, we will make the site “read only”. 43 Things users will still be able to view the site and export their content, but we won’t be taking any new content from users. We hope to leave the site up for folks to see and download their content until the end of the year. Ending on New Year’s Eve takes us full circle.

It has been a long ride (one of our original goals was to "build a company that lasts at least 2 years” - we beat that one!) While we wish the site could live on, it has suffered from a number of challenges - changes in how people use the site, the advertising industry, and how search engines view the site. We wish the outcome was different – but we’ve always been realistic about when our goals are met and when they aren't.

As of today, you will be able to download your goals and entries. See more about that on the FAQ page. Thanks for 10 great years of goal-setting and achieving.

- The Robots.

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is so behind!



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blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
A good week blog-wise

We upgraded WordPress recently and I haven’t figured out how to link our posts back to 43things as easily as I’ve done in the past. I’m working on that.

Meanwhile, some recent highlights include:

Our 100 Year Old Lilac

Lilacs & Rain: Sweet Spring Scents

Rhubarb Containers

DIY Cloches: A snake in the grass

Rub-a-Dub Planting Tub

Planting Peas

Hey, that’s a lot of posts! With pictures and everything!



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
Finding my groove

I’m trying to find the right pace for the garden blog, the ideal of posts-per-week to shoot for. Every day blogging is a bit too much. A post each week isn’t really enough. Jimbo and I are co-blogging (is that a word yet??) which makes it a bit easier and more fun. We need to work on encouraging each other, I guess.

Meanwhile, I wrote a post yesterday about our current bush, which can be read here.

I need to finish some of the other posts I’ve started. Our garden is just waking up so there’ll be lots to write about in the coming weeks.



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
DIY Garden Cloches

Have you ever seen traditional garden cloches? They are beautiful, glass bell jars that you put over tender plants to protect them from the harsh elements and insects. You can use cloches to get a head-start on the growing season. They add a very classy, Victorian look to a garden. Imagine a row of them, covering all the early seedlings in a garden. How lovely!

large_bells.jpg

And imagine the expense! At $50 or $60 a pop, these beauties are not cheap.

Using cloches is an ingenious gardening technique, however, and we’ve managed to do so for the last few years with a bit of the DIY project. If you are itching to get your garden going again, this is an easy, earth-friendly recycling project with which you can pass a little time until the snow melts.

We save large-ish plastic juice bottles. With heavy sheers or a knife, carefully cut off the bottom of the plastic bottle. Once you’ve transfered your seedlings to your garden soil, top them off with a plastic cloche. The cloche keeps the air warmer, but vents itself through the spout, so it doesn’t get too hot inside. Cloches can cut down on insects on your plants. Using cloches has reduced the number of flea beetles that find and nibble on my baby eggplants.
diycloches.JPG

Ours are not particularly gorgeous, but they serve the purpose. We switch them around after a week or two, moving them to the newer or smaller seedlings over the course of the start of our garden.

Jim came up with a clever and whimsical way of storing our plastic cloches too. He strings them on a rope, creating a very cute clear “dragon” that we hang on a peg in the barn when the cloches are not in use.



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
90 Things We Compost

On this, that rare odd extra day of February, it is still winter in Michigan, and it has been a very wintery winter. It seems like it’s always snowing. In fact, it’s snowing right now.

We had a little break in the weather last weekend (that is the temperature went above freezing for the afternoon!) so Jim and I had a chance to work outside for 20 minutes or so. We tidied up the yard a bit, moving a wheelbarrow into the barn that had previously been frozen to the ground, carrying compost out to the bin, and taking a few pictures of the frosty garden.

Given the frozen state of affairs, I’ve had compost on my mind. While not actually gardening, composting nonetheless lets me think about what I will feed our plants at some point in the not-too-distant future.

In my websearch for composting resources, I came across this great list: 163 Things You Can Compost Marion Owen’s list includes some things have I haven’t composted (so far), and it also inspired me to make an exhaustive list of the things we have composed. So here goes:

Freezer-burned vegetables
Freezer-burned fruit
Wood chips
Hay
Popcorn (unpopped, ‘Old Maids,’ too)
Freezer-burned fish
Old spices
Pine needles
Leaves
Matches (paper or wood)
Hops
Old, dried up and faded herbs
Spent grains from brewing beer
Spent yeast from brewing beer
Grass clippings
Potato peelings
Weeds
Hair clippings from the barber
Stale bread
Coffee grounds
Wood ashes
Sawdust
Tea bags and grounds
Egg shells
Grapefruit rinds
Pea vines
Houseplant trimmings
Old pasta
Grape wastes
Garden soil
Powdered/ground phosphate rock
Corncobs (takes a long time to decompose)
Blood meal
Beet wastes
Tree bark
Flower petals
Pumpkin seeds
Expired flower arrangements
Bone meal
Citrus wastes
Stale potato chips
Rhubarb stems
Wheat bran
Nut shells
Clover
Straw
Cover crops
Fish scraps
Tea bags (black and herbal)
Apple cores
Electric razor trimmings
Kitchen wastes
Shrimp shells
Crab shells
Lobster shells
Pie crust
Onion skins
Watermelon rinds
Date pits
Olive pits
Peanut shells
Burned oatmeal
Bread crusts
Cooked rice
Tofu
Banana peels
Wooden toothpicks
Stale breakfast cereal
Pickles
Pencil shavings
Fruit salad
Tossed salad (now THERE’s tossing it!)
Soggy Cheerios
Burned toast
Old or outdated seeds
Liquid from canned vegetables
Liquid from canned fruit
Old beer
Snow
Fish bones
Spoiled canned fruits and vegetables
Produce trimmings from grocery store

and here are some other items we compost that are not on that list:
• ash from hardwood charcoal (NOT from charcoal briquets!)
• leftover oatmeal
• sad old rice
• the lost items from the bottom of the fruit and vegetable drawers
• flour that’s gotten too old
• jack o’lanterns (and other pumpkin shells)
• spent sunflower heads (after Jim has saved the seeds for next year)
• avocado peel (we’ve had less luck with the seeds- too hard)

Marion Owen’s list also included several categories of things we don’t compost, the most prominent being paper products. We have always lived in places where curbside recycling collects paper; we’ve put our paper there, rather than composting it ourselves. The exception to that is newspapers, which we’ve used successfully several times to take down weed patches. To do that, we spread newspaper layers over the area, like behind a garage say, and then put a layer of yard waste like leaves and trimmings to hold the newspapers down. Over the course of a season or a winter, the weeds underneath are thoroughly smothered.

We have no pets, so we don’t compost pet hair or feathers. We don’t have a supply of manure either, although that may change if a certain proposal passes in our town. We’d really love to have chickens!

Marion Owen’s list also includes leather items, such as old gardening gloves and worn-out wallets. I have to admit: I’m intrigued. Jim’s present wallet is looking pretty sad and therefore like my next science experiment more and more each day.



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
Compost Containers

My latest entry can be read here



share my nightmares (read all 5 entries…)
I did it again...

You can read my nightmare here.

It involves shoes.



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
Composting in Winter

People tend to think of composting as a summer activity, if they think of composting at all. In our 20 minute garden, we are thoroughly committed to composting year ‘round, and it’s among the easiest resolutions to make— far easier than promises to exercise daily or eliminate a bad habit.

Here are my top three reasons for composting:
Caring for the earth. Maybe that sounds a little hokey, but, seriously, every bit of kitchen waste that we compost goes back into the dirt as opposed to into a plastic bag for a couple thousand years. The more we compost, the smaller our weekly garbage output. Composting is just the next simple step up from recycling.
Focusing on nature. One thing I truly appreciate about gardening is that it keeps me in touch with all things green and growing out in our yard during spring, summer, and fall. In stark contrast, winter in Michigan is a very nice time to spend indoors. Composting keeps the life cycle fresh in my mind.
Free fertilizer. Finished compost is an excellent substance to add to your soil. At no cost, you can enrich your soil, making clay soil lighter and light soil richer over time. You can give your seeds and plant sets a head-start.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how very easy it is to begin composting.



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
Winter Garden

It’s been a blustery, snowy winter so far in Michigan. We’ve had more than one picturesque snowfall. The newly-painted barn looks particularly lovely and sturdy! wintergarden.JPG

The snow on January 1st was the wonderful sticky kind that piled up on and coated every surface, including the famed 100 year old lilac.
wintergarden2.JPG

How can we continue to call it a garden, with so much snow, you might wonder? Does a garden imply green growing things, not piles of white fluff? It’s still a garden because of our memories of growing seasons past and our hopes of sunshine and seasons to come. We know what lies under the snow so it’s still a garden. Oh, and because of this: wintergarden3.JPG
All hail, King Kale! Snow-defying edible wonder! We marvel at your hardiness and welcome you to the dinner table still.



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
Indoor Gardening: Bean Sprouts

Growing beans sprouts all year long is easy. The only challenge is remembering how easy it is to grown your own sprouts. We especially like to grow sprouts during the winter time.

sprout.JPG
The requirements are very simple. You’ll need a wide-mouth quart-size canning jar, a ring that fits, a piece of cheese cloth and a tablespoon of mung beans. Put the mung beans in the jar, cover with the cheese cloth and twist on the ring. (I bought a nifty little round piece of screen that works well in place of the cheese cloth.) Rinse the seeds thoroughly with cool water. Drain them well. And set them aside for 8 to 12 hours. Repeat the rinsing and draining process. That’s pretty much all you need to do. The indirect light of a kitchen window provides enough sunshine for the soon-growing seeds.
jar.JPG

Small sprouts will emerge usually within 24 hours. We usually let ours grow for 6 to 8 days in order to generate enough sprouts for a delicious meal of Egg Foo Yung.
fulljar.JPG

Egg Foo Yung, basic recipe

• 2 cups of bean sprouts, rinsed and chopped a bit
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 6 eggs, well beaten

Combine the bean sprouts, salt and eggs in a bowl. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Fry by 1/4 cupfuls. Keep patties in shape by pushing egg back into the patty with pancake turner. When set and brown on one side, turn and brown other side. Serve hot with rice and sauce.

Variations

There are many easy variations on the basic Egg Foo Yung recipe. What we have on hand determines what else goes in. We also enjoy adding one or more of the following:

• 1/2 cup finely chopped onions or scallions
• 1/4 cup finely diced celery
• 1/2 pound of left-over ground beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. If raw, saute first and add to the egg mixture.

Sauce

We don’t care for the gravy traditionally served with Egg Foo Yung at many Chinese restaurants in the US. Instead we mix equal amounts of soy sauce, mirin, and rice wine vinegar to make a thin sauce that’s also good for dipping dumplings.

pattyjpg.JPG
We sometimes get out of the habit of sprouting seeds. Getting back on track with sprouting beans is very easy however. It’s a great activity to do with children too because the results are very quick and pretty amazing actually. Sprouting seeds is an easy and fun way to eat something fresh and homegrown, even in winter.



develop the habit of being on time (read all 12 entries…)
Much improved

Okay, I’m still not perfect.

I have, however, made some improvements in several areas:

1. Time cushion.
This means knowing how much “extra” time I have built into my schedule. I’d like to leave at 5:00pm, say, but realistically, I know I have until 5:30pm, in case I’m not quite ready or something comes up.

2. Letting go of “one more thing.”
Maybe the hardest change I’ve made. Trying to finish “one more thing” before I head out the door was always a bad idea. Throwing in a load of laundry or doing some small task could easily derail being on time. Instead of doing the thing, which takes more time than you think, writing a note to myself to do the thing when I return, if it’s important, actually saves time. And there’s always laundry to do, so what’s the big deal about one more load?

3. Savoring relaxation.
When you are on time, you can relax. That’s the biggest pleasure of being on time. That and you don’t make people angry.



share my nightmares (read all 5 entries…)
Another contribution

I sent in another bad dream to The Dailynightmare. I can hardly wait to see it in print!

I can go for long periods without having any dreams, or maybe without remembering any dreams that I’ve had. I’m therefore quite pleased when I remember enough of a dream to be able to write the “whole thing” down and have enough to make sense—whatever that means in a dream.



stop coloring my hair
Going Natural

More than a year ago, mostly egged on by Jimbo’s joshing me about being afraid to go gray, I stopped coloring my hair.

For the previous 15 years, I’d had my hair colored in salon visits or gotten pretty good (ha!) at doing the job myself. As I’ve gotten older though, the sessions gradually moved closer together and, frankly, the short-lived results contributed in large part to my decision to surrender to the natural consequences.

I’m really glad that I’ve stopped coloring my hair. I do like the way it looks, the gray sparkles amid my real brown hair. I also appreciate the time and fuss that I’ve let go of. Further, my hair hasn’t been this soft or healthy in a long time. I do occasionally miss the sassy auburn that I adopted, but I think my real colors suit me better.



blog about our garden (read all 9 entries…)
Seed Catalogs: The Earliest Harvest

In the dead of winter, when nothing green is showing in the yard, seed catalogs provide hope and ideas. They remind you of the promise of spring, the unfrozen ground, the warmth of the sun—just when you are in great need of having those memories kindled. They provide a bit of gardening inspiration in what we have to admit is only the middle of winter.

A few years ago, we managed to get on too many mailing lists. From January 1 onward, we received a catalog or three per week. We didn’t purchase from enough catalogs, I guess, for a couple years because the deliveries have decreased to a reasonable amount.

This year, I went looking online for some of the catalogs we like and I found some others that were new to me. Many companies make it super simple for you to request their catalogs online. Here are a few I contacted today:

Seeds of Change, certified organic
Park Seed Company, certified organic
Burpee, mostly conventional, some organic

I was very impressed by the 16 varieties of Black Tomatoes available from the Tomato Growers Supply Company. Who knew there were that many kinds of black tomatoes available?

Another fun site I discovered today was Golden Harvest Organics. Their site is full of organic gardening tips and encouragement on topics like animal control and companion planting, in addition to a wide variety of non-GMO seeds.

We don’t grow everything in our garden from seed, in part because we are able to get very reasonably priced organic plant sets from our local farmers’ market. We also have begun to save some of our own seeds, especially sunflowers and pole beans, and there’s tremendous satisfaction from doing that. Still, seed catalogs provide us with inspiration and ideas, even if we don’t buy anything from them. They remind us too that, in the grand scheme of things, spring isn’t so far away.



start planning the garden
Rough Draft for Summer 2008

We brainstormed up a list of what we’d like to grow in the garden this summer. Here’s the start of it:

  • Blueberries, new addition
  • Rosa rogasa, new addition
  • Basil
  • Perfecta Detroit beets
  • Brocolli
  • Pole beans
  • Edamame
  • Melon of some sort maybe
  • Eggplant, 2 kinds
  • Pickling cucumbers, perhaps
  • Mesclun
  • Greens, maybe Swiss Chard
  • Kale
  • Sugar peas
  • Red peppers of the sweet variety
  • Ancho peppers
  • Pumpkins, sweet
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • Winter squash, acorn or butternut
  • Tomatoes, including Amish paste and Brandywine
  • Sunflowers

The above would be in addition to the already established black raspberries, asparagus, mint, oregano, thyme, and rhubarb.

Yes, the list looks like a lot, but it’s actually about how much variety we usually grow. I’m excited about the prospect of trying to grow more of our own food. What are we forgetting?



eat from my garden at Christmas dinner
Christmas Kale and Horseradish

How fun is it to eat food from your garden on Christmas day? Preserved food is great, of course, and very do-able. The exciting thing was that we, who dwell in Zone 5, consumed FRESH produce as well.

Our first delight was horseradish sauce as an accompaniment to an impressive standing rib roast. As mentioned in an earlier post, we make two kinds of horseradish sauce to please the various palates around the table. One tangy horseradish sauce is made simply of ground horseradish root mixed with vinegar. This will keep for about 6 months in the refrigerator. We also make a creamy horseradish sauce, which is mixed with a bit of sour cream usually. We somehow managed to run out of sour cream so we substituted cream instead, and that worked just fine.

Our second delight was a kale dish, made with kale picked from our garden only minutes before preparation. I must admit that I had no idea that kale was actually that sturdy. The leaves I cut on December 25 had the same turgid structure of the kale I’d been cutting all fall.

To prepare about 2 pounds of kale, I washed the leaves and tore out the thick part of the ribs. Then I chopped the kale. In a large pot, I put one sliced onion, 2 cloves of garlic chopped, and about 3 cups of homemade chicken stock. The kale simmered for about an hour while we got the rest of our dinner together. It was really a superb dish. And we had a really lovely meal.



make chinese dumplings
Lunch Feast

Late Sunday evening, my daughter had a hankering for dumplings. Her request was nearly enough to propel me to make a call for take-out. But reason prevailed: it was too late really, and would be a quite expensive snack.

In the morning, Jimbo suggested that she act on her initiative and make dumplings instead. We’ve made Chinese dumplings in the past, and, like other labor-intensive assembly type foods (pierogies, egg rolls, ravioli, etc) have found that making a big batch is as easy as making a few. So Elle and I popped off to the Asian grocery for the needed ingredients. Several hours later, with the mixing and stuffing and frying and steaming accomplished, 6 adults ate their fill of lovely, homemade dumplings.



make macaroons
Macaroons are Wonderful

Sometimes Jimbo and I have lunch at a nifty little lunch counter across the street from his work. We have BiBimBop or hamburgers, and, for dessert, a macaroon, that we usually eat while lunch is being prepared. We liked the macaroons very much.

So I hunted up recipes. The best one so far I found on the wrapper of the coconut. 6 ingredients, 25 minutes in the oven. Coconut perfection. Mmmmm.



participate in the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge (read all 2 entries…)
Survived it

Our family made it through the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge. To be honest, that’s just what we did. We planned, we budgeted and we carried out our meal plan. For a week, we ate on a Food Stamp budget.

And we were really happy to be done with it. There was a collective sigh of relief around the dinner table.

Jimbo had raised the issue of continuing to “Do the Challenge” or of doing it again on a monthly basis. We probably could manage because we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The Challenge has made me more aware of the difficulties faced on a daily basis by people depending on Food Stamps. They don’t go very far.

You can read more about the Food Stamp Challenge here.



participate in the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge (read all 2 entries…)
Doing without a Garden

Ever since the first summer after we were married, which is now 25 years, we’ve had a garden of some sort. Our first gardens were small and located in reclaimed flower beds along the south fence. Each year, they got a little bigger in size and variety. When we moved away to Toronto, we had congenial landlords who let us plant small vegetable gardens so we were able to keep our hands in the dirt. When we came back to Michigan and had our own place, we devoted a larger area to our garden. Our “annex” in the neighbor’s yard this summer has given us a generous addition of space for even more growing. In short, in our married life, we’ve never gone without a garden.

So when we decided to participate in the Michigan Food Stamp Challenge, we decided that eating from our garden was going to be acceptable. As Jim wrote, “We consider our ‘kitchen garden’ to be a political-spiritual practice that reminds us that food is not essentially merchandise.” The food from our garden is not “free” of course, but it’s something we’ve consistently budgeted for and planned around, always. Our gardening is not ‘just for fun.’ We grow what we eat and we eat what we grow. We garden purposefully and without any chemicals of any sort. Our garden is very much a part of our lives.

That said, I don’t know how we could have done the Food Stamp Challenge as successfully without having a garden of our own. We’ve eaten our own produce for every lunch and dinner. Our shopping budget was used to buy the things we don’t grow, which is really a lot of things: milk, eggs, bread, bacon, and on. Our fresh produce this week has essentially been what we’ve grown: kale, yellow squash, tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplant. We would have been hardpressed to buy those on the Food Stamp budget. We would have had to go without something.

Many lessons have come my way this week. I’ve been reminded how easy it is to take food for granted when you can. We planned our meals for the whole week ahead of time, a practice that we have used from time to time; under the constraints of the budget, planning was completely necessary. This has reminded me that spontaneity is costly in the food department. I’ve been surprised too at how much food has been on my mind. We haven’t gone hungry certainly, but I’ve spent a lot time thinking about the planning and preparation of inexpensive meals and the small shelves which hold our groceries. I’ve looked at our garden in a new light. For many reasons, it’s a place and practice I could not do without.



Tear down my garage and build a 12 seat theatre (read all 11 entries…)
Update

What’s done or nearly done:

Paint doors—- Stained a lovely brown color

Hang doors—- In process

Paint exterior—- Stained a great barn red, with brown trim

Still to come:

Electricity

Big party :)



Entries
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