Post #G21-026: Bolted Arugula Soup

We’re having something of a spring heat wave on the U.S. East Coast.  Several of my cool-weather crops bolted, including a bed of arugula (a.k.a. rocket).

Once arugula has bolted, it isn’t good for much.  Conventionally, it becomes too hot and bitter for salads.

I picked it anyway, figuring it had to be good for something.  If nothing else, the neighbor’s guinea pigs like fresh greens.  I ended up with a pound and a half of arugula leaves. 

I read that cooking arugula reduces those off flavors.  The suggestion being that you can eat it cooked, after it has bolted, even if you wouldn’t want it in a salad. Continue reading Post #G21-026: Bolted Arugula Soup

Post #G21-025: Demonstrating the scope of the canning lid shortage via a random sample of Walmarts

I first wrote about the 2021 canning lid shortage in March (Post #G21-003).  The number of hits on that posting continues to ramp up, suggesting that, if anything, the lid shortage may be getting worse.

But how bad is it?  How often are canners across the U.S. going to their local hardware or other stores and finding empty shelves where the lids ought to be?  Am I getting hits from a few scattered localities where lids are unavailable?  Or is this really a nation-wide shortage of lids? Continue reading Post #G21-025: Demonstrating the scope of the canning lid shortage via a random sample of Walmarts

Post #G21-021, the state of recycling in my area.

I’ve been reassessing my grocery and other shopping, with an eye toward minimizing packaging waste.  I immediately found out that I was too ignorant to do that.  I didn’t know enough to be able to do make sensible choices.

As a result, this is a post about curbside recycling in my locality — Town of Vienna and Fairfax County, Virginia.  It’s about household waste, and the recycling of cans, bottles, cardboard, and all the other stuff that goes into the household waste stream.

At a minimum, I’d like to know two things:

  1.  What are the rules?  What am I supposed to put in the recycling bin these days, in my community?
  2. Where does it go?  How much of the material in the recycling bin actually gets recycled, versus being downcycled or burned-and-buried?

To cut to the chase, I’ve only gotten through Part 1:  What are the rules?  And as far as I can tell, it’s going to be impossible to get accurate information on Part 2:  Where does it go.  So this may be as much as I can do without involving a whole lot of guesswork.

Just the review of the rules in my locality told me things that I was absolutely not aware of.  In large part because those rules keep changing.  The recycling rules (here, at least) are now totally oriented toward cleaner separation of materials, not toward keeping certain types of raw materials in or out of the waste stream.

One surprise is that those “chasing arrows” plastic recycling numbers are now totally irrelevant in my locality.  The modern plastic recycling rules are all about shape and color, and have almost nothing to do with the type of plastic being recycled.

Another surprise is that you should never recycle black plastic of any type.  At least, not in this locality.  This has has nothing to do with the type of plastic.  The main reason is that recyclers rely on reflected light to separate the plastics, and black plastic simply messes up the separation process by reflecting too little light.

A third item that I was aware of, but only in part, is that you should never recycle plastic films of any sort.  That includes plastic bags, which I already knew.  But the rules really mean to exclude bags plus stretch film, shrink wrap, plastic sheeting, and so on.  It’s not that the type of plastic itself isn’t recyclable, it’s that it soft sheets of plastic, of any type, gum up the works as recyclers try to separate the materials.

A fourth surprise was the broad range of paper products that can be recycled.  In a nutshell, if it’s all-paper or cardboard, not  shredded, not too soft (like facial tissue or toilet paper), and not too hard (like the cover of a hardback book),  it goes into the recycling.  In particular, glossy catalogs are OK, junk mail is OK, and so on.  (But not paper plates, presumably from the large amount of food residue typically present.)

You will get mixed messages in two areas:  Milk cartons/juice boxes, and pizza boxes.  In both cases, the firm that actually does the recycling in Fairfax County give you an absolute, unambiguous NO.  NO, do not put milk cartons, juice boxes, or pizza boxes into the recycling bin.  For whatever reason, some local governments tell you otherwise.  But the rule is, when in doubt, leave it out.  And if the firm doing the actual materials separation says NO, I think that means NO.

One small surprise is that aerosol cans may be recycled, as long as they are empty.  I’d have sworn that the last time I looked at this issue, they weren’t recyclable.  But they are now, as long as they’re empty.  Reddi-Wip is back on the menu.

A final surprise is that Fairfax County’s glass recycling program has turned out far better than planned.  Originally, they were just going to grind the glass up and use it as road fill.  (And so, that was not really different from being buried in a landfill.) But, in fact, the quality of the end product is such that they are able to sell most of it to glass manufacturers.  It’s actually being recycled into new glass.

Continue reading Post #G21-021, the state of recycling in my area.

Post #G21-020: Not-really-a-shortage of canning lids in my area. But not normal, either.

This relates back to post #G21-003, regarding a shortage of canning lids.

A month ago, people across the U.S. were having trouble finding lids for home canning.  That included my neighborhood, Vienna, VA.  These lids are single-use items, and they simply were not on store shelves.  U.S.-made name-brand lids normally cost something like a quarter each, for wide-mouth lids.  And nobody had them for anything near the “normal” price.

At that time, my guess was that when manufacturers started shipping for the 2021 canning season, this problem would be solved.

And as of 4/18/2021, it looked like the shortage was over (Post #G21-013).  Around here, at least.  The shelves had been restocked and you could buy as many as you wanted at the normal price.

I spoke too soon. That happy situation only lasted about three weeks.  Now, it’s hit-or-miss as to whether my local suppliers have lids on the shelf. Continue reading Post #G21-020: Not-really-a-shortage of canning lids in my area. But not normal, either.

Post #G21-019: Dickinson pumpkin is a keeper

As I plant my garden this year, I realize that I need to finish eating last year’s produce.  Of which, this has been an ornament in my kitchen for the past six months:

That is a Dickinson pumpkin.  And today’s post is about how well that kept, for six months, with zero preparation on my part, just sitting out on the kitchen counter.

Answer:  Just fine.   I’ll be planting those again this year.

Details follow. Continue reading Post #G21-019: Dickinson pumpkin is a keeper

Post #G21-018: Radiant barrier for keeping a raised bed warm at night, final post.


I’ve been looking into simple ways to keep to keep a raised garden bed warm at night.  So far, I’ve figured out the following:

  • What doesn’t work:  Floating row cover (Post #G21-012)
  • What does work:  Space blanket plus “passive solar” (Post #G21-014)
  • Why that works:  The math behind the space blanket (Post #G21-015)
  • You need the extra heat input from passive solar:  (Post#G21-017).

I have now learned one two more things. 

First, space blankets are too fragile to be used on a windy day.  That’s unfortunate, because they are cheap and easy to store.  But the windy conditions two days ago showed me that they just aren’t strong enough.  I had to cover the space blankets with a tarp to keep them from being shredded.

Second, actual radiant barrier, made for use in construction, works better than space blankets.  This is material sold for use in home construction.  This isn’t the the bubble-wrap-type Reflectix (r) insulation.  This is more-or-less a piece of aluminum-coated Tyvek (r), and so it’s a heavy, stiff, strong fabric.  I had a roll left over from a prior project and tried it last night, as the weather report called for near-freezing temperatures. Continue reading Post #G21-018: Radiant barrier for keeping a raised bed warm at night, final post.

Post #G21-017: Warming a raised bed at night 3: passive solar helps.

This is a continuation of a series of posts on how to keep the surface of raised beds warm during cool spring nights.  So far I have shown:

  • What doesn’t work:  Floating row cover (Post #G21-012)
  • What does work:  Space blanket plus “passive solar” (Post #G21-014)
  • Why that works:  The math behind the space blanket (Post #G21-015)

Here, I answer two more questions.  Yes, you need the passive solar input (jugs of water than have warmed in the sun).  Or, at least, that clearly helps quite a bit.  And no, you won’t kill your plants if you forget to remove the space blanket the next day. Continue reading Post #G21-017: Warming a raised bed at night 3: passive solar helps.

Post G21-015: The math behind the space blanket



Fair warning:  This is a technical post.  It wanders off into a discussion of heat content, conduction, radiation, and so on.  Calculations will be openly displayed, without apology.

If that’s not your thing, then skip it.  Sometimes the juice is not worth the squeeze. Continue reading Post G21-015: The math behind the space blanket