Grape Leaf Skeletonizer

I know the “Grape Leaf Skeletonizer” sounds like the perfect ghoul for Halloween. Indeed, this unwelcome trick-or-treater did come dressed in the most fabulous costume.Harrisina metallica  Grape Vine Skeletonizer

I was outside arranging my grape vines and enjoying the cooler weather when I came upon these lovely caterpillars.  They are Grape Leaf Skeletonizers (Harrisina metallica).  Despite their beauty, they are unwelcome visitors to my garden.  (Especially since I spent the summer picking caterpillars off my defoliated passion vine.)Grape Vine Skeletonizer Harrisina metallica

Seven Pounds

Seven Pounds movie with Will SmithSeven Pounds is another movie in my top ten list of Buddhist theme movies.  This movie brings to mind the activities of a bodhisattva.  A bodhisattva is defined as someone that has bodhichitta.  And bodhichitta is the wish to become totally enlightened for the benefit of all sentient beings.  One of the activities of a bodhisattva is the perfecting generosity. Generosity is perfected when one gives without self-concern at all.

Although Will Smith is not motivated by bodhichitta, his role in this movie reminds me of the following quote from Master Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.

To begin with, Buddha, the Guide, encourages us to practice giving such things as food.

Later, when we become used to this, we can gradually learn to give our own flesh.

This may seem a little startling, but there are many stories of bodhisattva’s being asked to give of themselves and they do so without hesitation.  Indeed, one story of Buddha’s past lives has him coming upon a starving tiger and her cubs.  He sacrificed himself in order to save their lives.  Since the mother was too weak to eat,  he first cut himself and fed her his blood so that she would become stronger. Then he offered her his entire body and his life.  It is said that the cubs reincarnated and became his first disciples after his enlightenment.

In the movie, Will Smith gives up “seven pounds” of body parts in order to save people in need.  It is an interesting movie to stimulate thought regarding the practice of extreme generosity.

Chenopodium album

Chenopodium album, also know as lamb’s quarters, goosefoot, or pigweed (Hey, but everything is also known as goosefoot or pigweed) is coming in strong in the garden and ready for the table.  It tastes a little like spinach due to its similar high oxalic acid content.

Chenopodium Plants - Phoenix AZ Fall 2013

Chenopodium album plants – at TESLI Central Phoenix, Arizona Fall 2013

I just discovered a new trick for harvesting that I’d like to pass on. In Phoenix, the plants go straight from sprouts and into flower. I prefer young tips without flowers, but this just doesn’t seem to occur in our climate. The small tender leaves are best, but they are tedious to harvest. I used to sit outside and either pluck them off one-by-one or I’d use scissors to cut them. I only found time to do this once or twice a season. Such a pity to let all those greens go to waste.

Today I realized that I usually had more plants then I could handle and, since reharvesting was rare, I just cut the whole plant off and brought the stalks inside. Much easier to pluck leaves when I’m working directly over a bowl. Great time saver!

Another thing I would like to share is my trick for washing dirty greens. Chenopodium seems to attract dust, so I always have to clean them. When I was growing up we lived on ice berg lettuce – all clean and cellophane wrapped from the store. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I learned an easy way to get sand and dirt off of spinach and lettuce. I was working at a restaurant and we would simply fill up a basin with water and dump the greens in.  After dunking the greens a couple times, the dirt effortlessly sank to the bottom and we would pluck the greens out and put them in a large colander, dump the water and dirt and then repeat. Twice was usually enough, but occasionally a batch could use a third rinse for good measure. At home I spread them out on towels to dry for a bit before storing in the fridge.

Chenopodium album

A pile of freshly cleaned lamb’s quarter’s leaves ready to eat.