Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Chocolate Vine

Akebia quinata, The Chocolate Vine, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012

Akebia quinata. Akebia is the adaptation of the Japanese name for this plant. Quinata refers to the 5-lobed leaf patterns. Family: Lardizabalaceae; Genus: Akebia; Species: A. quinata.

Akebia quinata (Chocolate Vine or Five-leaf Akebia) is a shrub that is native to Japan, China and Korea. It grows to 10 metres or more in height. The flowers are chocolate-scented hence the name, Chocolate Vine. The other common name is Five-leaf Akebia Vine.

The fruits are sausage-shaped pods which contain edible pulp. The pulp, though littered with seeds, has a sweet flavour. The fruit is anti-rheumatic, diuretic, febrifuge (brings down fever), stomach treatment and tonic. The rind, with a slight bitter taste, is used as a vegetable, e.g., stuffed with ground meat and deep-fried. The vines are traditionally used for basket-weaving.

The principal use of this shrub in China is as traditional herbal remedies for a number of different problems. The medicinal part of the plant is the woody stem which is sliced in sections and prepared as a decoction [the liquor resulting from concentrating the essence of a substance by heating or boiling]. The stem contains approximately 30% potassium salts thus giving the diuretic action. The stems are also used as an anti-fungal, a febrifuge, laxative and stimulant. Taken internally, it controls bacterial and fungal infections and is used in the treatment of urinary tract infections, lack of menstruation and to improve lactation. The stems are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.

In the drawing above, you can see both female (larger) and male (smaller) flowers. This is a plant that is definitely not welcome outside its native area as it is very aggressive without its natural controls and can quickly overcome the native foliage.

The saddest part about this plant is the name… Upon hearing about a plant called “The Chocolate Vine”, I remember being very interested to discover more about it. It turned out, however, to be a plant that simply smells like chocolate – no dark or milk chocolate bars just waiting to be plucked. Ah, well… at least it was interesting and challenging to draw.

Akebia quinata, The Chocolate Vine, drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2012
using "colour balance" software for colour intensification
I couldn't resist experimenting just a bit with my software.  I really like what this "colour balance" choice gave me and I am thinking about using this version on a greeting card.  I like the way the leaves look especially.

Akebia quinata, The Chocolate Vine, ripening fruit.
Here is a photo of the fruit from the Chocolate Vine.  It looks big in this picture, but remember, the leaves of this plant are relatively small so the fruit is not going to be so large after all.  I read somewhere that Asian children out in the countryside used to pick and eat the fruit whenever they found the plant growing but evidently they no longer do this as it is so easy to get tastier, seed-free fruit from the store.


St. James, the Apostle.  Feast Day, the 25th of July.

Lower portion of TRANSFIGURATION icon by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009 -- St James is the one in the right corner dressed in purple.  Today is his feast day. 
St. James, pray for us.


Sort of a Shaggy Dog Story

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.

An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more. ...

This happens yet again.

The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times.

Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?"

'Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies, "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to Canada and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond."

The bartender and the whole town was pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening - he orders only two beers.

The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender says to the man, "Folks around here asked me to say that we want to offer condolences to you on the death of your brother. You know-- the two beers and all..."

The man ponders this for a moment, then replied, "You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well... It's just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."       



Suki says: "Well, that was a nice nap...
I wonder if it is time to start agitating
to be fed again?" 
I have mentioned before Suki's strange behaviour in her litter box, but I was just thinking about it again this morning and feel like commenting on it once more. 

Suki scratches and scratches while she is in her litter box -- both in preparation and then afterwards.  However, she rarely, if ever, touches the sand while scratching!  Fortunately, she has a litter box with very high sides as it is the sides of the plastic box that she scratches.

It may be because she doesn't want to risk getting her feet into anything -- even though as you know the box gets cleaned, usually, almost immediately after it is used.  Whatever the cause, she will scratch on the sides of the box until she is somehow satisfied and then will carefully leap out of the box and proceed to give herself a good washing.  

An acquaintance suggested that perhaps Suki became very fussy about scratching in the sand after coming to live with a fussy old lady like me!  I certainly admit to being a fussy, old lady, but Suki did this scratching thing from day one.  This is not a situation that I am complaining about as it actually makes my life a bit easier since she gets very little sand on the floor around her box.  I just find the whole business fascinating.

This behaviour carries over into other parts of her life as well since she uses the scratching technique to dispose of anything she doesn't like.  For example, when she wants her wet food and I give her dry, she will scratch and scratch on the kitchen floor tiles, carefully going all around the bowl holding her dry food, until she feels she has "covered" it sufficiently well.  Of course, in reality nothing has changed since scratching on floor tiles produces nothing and so the bowl sits there looking the same as before.  It is amazing to watch her do this, however, as I can almost see the bowl completely covered by sand in my imagination since Suki's actions are so thorough and purposeful.  What a strange one she is.

BTW, I received an email from my friend, Amra, who had a question about an event I described recently:  Suki's behaviour after awakening from what I can only assume was a bad dream.  Amra asked:  "Can cats have bad dreams?"  The answer is, in my opinion, "yes".  It is obvious that they dream -- just as dogs do -- and if they dream there must be the possibility of having both pleasant and unpleasant dreams.  Any other opinions out there?

As for me, I have gone and injured my poor head again!  This time I didn't fall but rather walked full speed into a low ceiling without even realizing it was there until I hit it!  I cut my scalp just slightly, but I did create a big lump which remains quite painful. 

As you may be aware, I have two problems now which cause me to walk into things if I am not very careful.  First is the position of my head due to the fractured vertebrae not healing properly.  Secondly there is the double vision in my left eye, the result of a fall last year.  Due to these problems, I often walk into things now:  other people, posts in the sidewalk, bus shelters, etc.  I just don't see them with my head down and even when I do see them, the double vision often makes me think they are farther away when they are actually closer.  But yesterday, I just did not realize that the low ceiling was straight ahead of me and since I did not look up, I really slammed into it hard.  This is particularly embarrassing for me as someone who has always prided herself on being so alert to her surroundings that I never run into anything.  And now look at me.....

Otherwise, I am doing fine!  Suki is fine.  It is a beautiful day outside and it is now time for me to go and help count coins from the laundry room.  We have a group who does this once a month and we call ourselves "The Ladies who Count!"

May God bless us each one, filling our hearts with His love, joy and peace so that we may quickly forgive each other, always being very kind to all of those we share out lives with.

St. James, pray for us.  Amen.

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