Sunday, January 11, 2004



Yesterday evening when I went out into the snowfalling dusk to gather some leaves from the biwa tree (loquat; Eriobotrya japonica), the leaves-- moreso than the seeds (as chronicled in earlier here)-- being a general tonic/panacea particularly useful in the winter (and when Kaya is visiting), I found that something had been there before me.

When I got ten meters from the tree in the dimming light I could see that several of the tree's branches had been freshly broken in other than the direction of the limb, and that the tip (new) leaves were gone, which ruled out the weight of the snow as the cause. Immediately I thought of monkeys, as per the fig tree episode that I had originally wrongly blamed on Dr. Crow, but I hadn't seen or heard any monkeys-- which would be eminently visible cruising through the leafless trees-- nor could I picture monkeys eating biwa leaves, which are rather dry and hard, not at all succulent. Monkeys love succulent.

I was standing there pondering this puzzle when from across the road I heard a great thrashing in the wild mountain bamboo, its violently waving tips taller than a man, and turned toward the sound thinking that it couldn't be monkeys, who don't fancy hanging around down in the bamboo, and judging by the size of the thrash it was a lot bigger than even a big male monkey; whatever it was had been doing this to the biwa tree when I had interrupted.

Judging from the thrashing, the beast had apparently picked up my scent, since I was upwind. I thought it might be a crescent-moon bear; I couldn't see the creature itself, but I stood there staring and sending my scent and before long from the far edge of the bamboo into the distant meadow leaped a white heart-shaped patch of whitetail, that bounded away up toward the greater forest; all I could see in the dusky blur of falling snow was that much brighter patch flashing away to disappearance.

Perhaps I had been too hasty in blaming the no-good renegade onion/shiitake marauding monkeys for the fig tree... this deer had come to the garden in the light of afternoon and not been seen; they must also then come at dawn and when no one is here, to dine on the fine new leaves and buds.

I cut the several broken branches off the biwa tree and now we have enough leaves for a long winter's tea. To make the tea, you wipe the fine hairs from the leaf backs with a wet sponge, then scissor the leaves into ca. 3 cm pieces and boil; you can also tincture the pieces in white alcohol (e.g., vodka, shochu) for an excellent topical/internal home remedy. Thanks to the deer. This time. As to solutions, I wonder what deer think of hot peppers. Nature leads the mind into places wondrously strange...

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