Roasting Chiles on a BBQ and Making Charcoal to Cut Back on Greenhouse Gasses

Burning wood instead of using a gas or electric range is one way to reduce your carbon footprint a little bit. Roasting chiles are a great way to use wood, because they are best roasted at a high temperature. By putting out the fire at the end, and producing a little charcoal, and then burying it, you can sequester some of the carbon.

Here’s a video explaining the fire-building and roasting process.

Roasting Chiles in an Oven is Easy, Roasting On a Gas Range is Better, but Roasting Over Wood is Best

  • Roasting in an Oven
    • Pros
      • Requires little “hands on”.
      • Warms the room.
    • Cons
      • Burns fossil fuels.
      • Takes a lot of energy to bring the oven up to temperature.
  • Roasting on a Gas Range
    • Pros
      • An authentic flavor.
      • It’s pretty easy.
      • Takes less energy than the oven.
    • Cons
      • Burns a fossil fuel.
      • You need to watch it and flip it over.
  • Roasting over burning wood.
    • Pros
      • Good flavor.
      • Does not burn a fossil fuel.
      • Gets rid of some waste wood.
      • A hot fire around 600F cooks it fast.
    • Cons
      • Smoke and fire risk.
      • You need to watch the chiles and flip them over.
      • You need to saw wood.

What Kind of Wood is Good to Burn

I used a dead cheremoya tree. It wasn’t a good wood, but it wasn’t horrible.

Hardwoods are favored, particularly nut woods, because they burn slower and have more energy. Fruit woods are usually a little softer, but are also fine, and have a good flavor. There’s a fair amount of dead oak around Los Angeles and Southern California, so keep an eye out for this. Also, maple is often used as an urban landscaping tree, and it can be burned.

The bad woods to burn are softwoods like pine, and also cedar and sycamore. Eucalyptus is also bad. Any aromatic wood is a problem because they have a nasty flavor, and also tend to burn very hot.

Treated woods, like pressure-treated boards, are toxic and shouldn’t be burnt.

Also, it’s not good to burn painted or varnished woods for cooking.

Cutting the Wood

I just used a small saw. I cut partway through the twigs and branches and stepped on them to crack the wood. You need to dry the wood before you do anything to it, or it won’t burn hot.

Drying dead wood takes anywhere from a week to a few months, depending on the humidity and temperature.

Saw for pruning branches.

I used a pruning saw. It’s okay. There’s better options, though, like a folding saw from Corona. These newer saws have a flat edge and the teeth are cut into the steel.

Fire Safety

Because we have fires out here, I hosed down the area with water, and also gave the wood pile a spraying. I won’t be able to burn it for a while, but, safety is more important.

If I had the energy, I would have cut the wood and stored it elsewhere.

What Kind of Chiles to Roast? Hatch?

Nope. Hatch chiles are nice, but their skins are not that thick.

You want Poblano chiles, which are usually sold in Mexican markets as Pasilla chiles. This is according to Wikipedia. I only knew them as pasilla. Anyway, it’s these chiles:

Poblano chiles in a plastic basin.
Poblano chiles, also called Pasillas in the US.

While there are many chiles to roast, these are widely available, at least in areas of Southern California where Mexican immigrants live.

They’re inexpensive, mild, and, most importantly, have a thick skin that stands up to fire, and must be removed before eating.

Other chiles, like the Anaheim, or Bell Pepper, or even some Hatch varieties, were bred to have thin, edible skins. Those must be avoided, because the smoke and heat will overwhelm them.

Here’s what they look like when they’re completely roasted:

Soot and char covered chilis.
Soot and char covered chilis.

These skins are not just burnt – they are covered in soot from the burnt wood.

To peel them, wait until they are cooled off, and then “rub” the skins off. The burnt, black parts will slide off, revealing a slippery, green chile underneath.

I peeled them, and put them into used tofu containers, and wrapped in plastic bags, for freezing. They keep for at least a month, but I’ve always finished them up within the month, so don’t know how long they can keep.

The peeled chiles can be used for chiles rellenos, but I’m too lazy for that. I just eat them as they are, or with some cheese or eggs.

Producing Charcoal

If you put out a wood fire by cutting off the air supply, the fire will stop burning. If you keep the air supply off, the embers will burn out, and you’ll be left with unburned wood and charcoal.

Partially burned wood with charcoal.
This is partially burned wood with some charcoal formed.

That metal plate I threw on the grill actually helped with the charcoal formation. This twig was under the metal, and is nearly half charcoal.

The charcoal part will snap off easily, and can be crushed.

What is Biochar?

Biochar is a charcoal that’s intended for use as a soil amendment, and a way to sequester carbon dioxide.

Charcoal comes in numerous forms, commercially. There’s charcoal briquettes for a BBQ, lump charcoal, similar to what we produced, activated charcoal for filters, charcoal for art, and other forms. “Biochar” generally refers to a form intended for use as a soil amendment.

Biochar was based on studying the land management technologies developed by indigenous people in Brazilian rain forests. By burying burnt waste, they developed terra preta, black soil, that made farming possible in areas where the soil wasn’t very productive.

It’s suspected this technique is ancient, and global, and is an art that was lost among the “civilized” people in industrial society.

Biochar is made from any organic waste, like wood, shells, husks, and other woody material. After heating produces biochar, it’s crushed, to improve incorporation into the soil. This is in contrast to lump charcoal, which is generally made from pieces of wood, and kept in fist-sized pieces.

Biochar is a soil amendment, but it doesn’t work like a fertilizer. It’s almost like the opposite of a fertilizer: it acts like a “sponge” or an activated carbon filter, that sucks nitrogen and other nutrients out of the soil and into the carbon.

However, the “sponge” stays in the soil, as a supply of nutrients and for plants grown in the soil. It’s a long-term improvement strategy that takes years and may persist for centuries.

I’m still researching how to use the charcoal, and will update when I actually bury some of it.

California Rent Control Initiative 2020 Info and Links

Links to debate, news stories, and the text of the rent control initiative. The proposition, if it makes the ballot, would allow voters to decide to amend the current rent laws , allowing more properties to be covered under city rent control laws. Landlords with 2 properties would be exempt. Rent increases would be capped to 15% over three years (meaning an average of 5% a year) .

Status of the Initiative

The initiative is being circulated for petition signatures. When enough signatures are collected, it will become a proposition on the November 2020 ballot.

If you wish to submit a signature in support, you need to find a petition circulator. I don’t have a printable, mailable form at this time. Petitioners are at community college campuses, stores, and bus stops during the day.

Research Resources

Text of the Initiative (PDF).

Ballotpedia “both sides” overview.

Some history at Curbed LA: California Voters Could Decide to Expand Rent Control in 2020.

Proposed initiative enters circulation.

Examples of Effects

Today, the Costa Hawkins Act prohibits cities from applying new rent control regulations to properties built after 1995, and in cities that have rent control, it prevents expansion of rent control past their date limits.

If this initiative makes the ballot, and then passes, the date is moved up to 2005, or later if the property was put into the rental market after 2005.

Landlords are given 15 years to make back money on their property, before it’s put under rent control, and has rent increases limited by a local law, if any.

Rent control laws usually include a “right to stay”, so they can’t evict you just to raise the rent. They need a good excuse to evict, like you are damaging the apartment.

Example 1: City Has No Rent Control at Present

For tenants to attain rent control, a city must pass a rent control ordinance. This initiative affects the viability of such a law by bringing the benefits of rent control to more local residents.

For example, if a city has 10,000 voters, and 4,000 live in rentals built before 1995, then 40% of voters benefit from a new rent control law. This is the current situation.

If the same city, with 10,000 voters, has 6,000 voters living in rentals built before 2005, then 60% of voters benefit from a new rent control law. This happens if the initiative passes.

This initiative, if passed, puts increased political pressure on local city councils to pass laws to protect tenants from excessive rent increases.

Example 2: City of Los Angeles, which has Rent Control

The City has rent control on anything larger than a duplex, built before 1979. This initiative, if passed, would allows the city to pass a law to bring into the existing rent control, the properties that have been occupied as a rental longer than 15 years.

Example 3: Mom and Pop Landord Rents Out a Back House/Casita

This type of property is exempt under the proposed law, if this is their only rental.

Example 4: Mom and Pop Landlord Rents Out a House

This type of property is exempt under the proposed law, if this is their only rental.

Example 5: An Apartment in Unincorporated LA County

Right now, there’s a temporary rent control law in unincorporated areas of LA County. The law mainly affects East Los Angeles, which is mostly older apartments, and the vast majority of residents are renters. The current rent cap is based on the inflation rate, and it was 3%.

This proposed law would not change the rent cap, because it’s lower.

Rent control would cover more properties, because it would change the date range from 1995 up to 2005.

Current Rent Control

Most cities in California do not have rent control.

The cities in the LA area with rent control are: the City of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Inglewood, and West Hollywood.

The unincorporated areas, like East LA, now have rent control. This is not all of LA County, just the parts that aren’t within a city government.

See the LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs Rent Control page for more info.

Green Party

California Green Party supported the similar Proposition 10 in 2016.

Los Angeles County Green Party members circulated the petition to put Prop 10 on the ballot.

Eastside Greens are involved with the LA Tenants Union, which is a tenants organization fighting against excessive rent increases.

LA’s Totally Awsome Glue-Away and Goo Gone Reviewed and Compared

How does this new product compare to Goo Gone, the standard adhesive remover and cleaner that people use to remove stickers from products before they gift them, or, in my case, resell them online.

About Goo Gone

Goo Gone is considered the go-to cleaner if you want to remove a sticker form a product or tape from an object. While many products can take care of this issue, Goo Gone has the following qualities that make it stand out:

  • It softens sticker glue so you can peel off the label.
  • It evaporates, slowly, so the cleaner goes away without effort.
  • It doesn’t melt plastic… sort of. It seems to contain a plasticizer that makes plastic shrink wrap stretch, and sometimes leaks behind the plastic.

Competitor Goof Off is in the same product space, but their product doesn’t work for people using it for removing labels because Goof Off melts some plastics. It evaporates quickly, and it seems to dissolve the sticker glue more than soften it. In other words, Goof Off is too strong.

About LA’s Totally Awesome

It’s a mainstay product at the 99 Cents Only stores. Just about everyone in Los Angeles County has bought a bottle, thinking it was going to be a fake 409 or a fake Fantastik. Well… it was, but it was actually better than both in some ways, mainly in that it wasn’t as strong as either.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Sometimes, you don’t need a strong product. You need something that won’t damage the object being cleaned.

The LATA value is obvious: a $1 bottle of cleaner that is the appropriate strength. The other cleaners are $3 a bottle or more, and need to be more useful in more situations.

About Glue Away

Glue Away is obviously a Goo Gone clone, down to the name. It’s a citrus cleaner, like Goo Gone.

I tried it out on two different stickers. The first was a product at Home Depot, and I think it may have been a return. I didn’t spray, but dripped the cleaner on it.

My general technique with both Glue Away and Goo Gone is to drip a few, or several, drops of the cleaner onto the sticker. I soak the paper, and then let it sit for at least half an hour. Sometimes, I let it sit overnight.

Glue Away was oilier than Goo Gone. It was thicker, almost gel-like, so I had to use a paper towel to spread the fluid all over the sticker. Also, it didn’t seem to migrate under the sticker as quickly or completely as Goo Gone.

I also tried it on a prescription bottle, to remove the sticker. It worked very well here. It left more residue than Goo Gone, though. It was slick and oily like flypaper, but not as sticky. So, you need to use a rag or paper towel to clean up, and finish the job.

I tried it on books, to remove the Goodwill stickers. It worked, but left behind some residue. I let it sit a couple hours. Then, I peeled it. I had to use a paper towel with some Glue Away on it to remove the bits of leftover glue.

So, I have some complaints, but I think Glue Away is still a great product. It will threaten Goo Gone in ways that Goof Off cannot. It’s that good.

How Does it Compare?

Glue Away works. However, it’s messier than Goo Gone.

Glue Away’s characteristics, compared to Goo Gone:

  • It doesn’t damage the plastic.
  • It soaks into the label, softens the glue, making it easy to peel off the sticker.
  • It evaporates slowly, but, maybe a little too slowly. It also leaves behind some oil that may or may not evaporate.

I would give the prize to Goo Gone, but if you aren’t near a store that sells Goo Gone (Kmart, Home Depot), and you are near a 99 Cents Only store, just get the Glue Away.

Conversely, if you have Goo Gone nearby, just get it. It costs $3 to $4, versus Glue Away at $1. The driving will probably eat up any cost savings.

Goo Gone is better than Glue Away, but it’s not that much better.

Glue Away is cheaper than Goo Gone, but not that much cheaper. The way I use Goo Gone, by dripping onto a label rather than soaking a rag, saves the Goo Gone. I will take more than a year to use a bottle.

However, if you have lots of sticker cleaning needs, get Goo Gone, and get it by the gallon. The way Goo Gone evaporates makes it a great product that lets you peel stickers, and then put the item into inventory or into service, without needing to wipe leftover cleaner away.

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