Posts Tagged ‘harvest’

As an experiment this year, and partially for fun and curiosity, I have convinced HB to let me devote a small section of the garden towards a “three sisters garden.”

Image from Cordite Country Show Notes

The Three Sisters Garden is a method of planting seeds that has its base in Native American civilization.  Many Native American tribes adopted this form of agriculture, but it is said to have originated with the Haudenosaunee, or the “People of the Longhouse” also known as the Iroquois, of the northeastern United States.

The traditional Three Sisters garden, created by the successive planting of corn, beans, and squash, forms a beneficial mini-ecosystem where the plants rely on each other for nutrients, support, and protection.

From Renee’s Garden:

According to Three Sisters legends corn must grow in community with other crops rather than on its own – it needs the beneficial company and aide of its companions.

The Iroquois believe corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of three sisters spirits, called the De-o-ha-ko, or “Our Sustainers”. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honor them, and a festival commemorates the first harvest of green corn on the cob. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, Native Americans passed down the knowledge of growing, using and preserving the Three Sisters through generations.

A Three Sisters garden is made up of three plants, as previously mentioned:  corn, beans, and squash.  The corn (the oldest sister) provides a trellis for the beans to climb and grow upon.  In return, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, not only adding to the soil, but also supplying a nutrient that corn relies heavily upon.  The beans also stabilize the corn plants, making them less susceptible to wind damage.  The squash, often in the form of pumpkins and other winter squashes, provide ground cover, helping keep the threat of weeds to a minimum.  Planting squash also helps prevent erosion, maintains soil moisture, aids in a cooler soil, and provides a ground cover that may help keep out predators (such a raccoons) that want to harvest your garden!  At the end of the season, most of the plant life can be returned to the soil to amend it for the following garden season.

Sounding good yet?  There’s more!

Nutritionally, this combination complements each other.  While the corn helps provide carbohydrates, the beans provide protein, and the squash provide vitamins and healthy oils.

Last week I set up a test plot in our garden, and planted corn.  Once the corn is about 4 inches tall, I will plant the beans.  Two weeks later, the squash (pumpkins) will go into the ground.  I’m very excited to try this!  But beware!  Don’t try to plant all the seeds at once, or else you’ll likely end up with a tangled mess of green growth, and probably not a lot of corn due to the competition.

Want to set up your own Three Sisters garden?  Renee’s Garden has the best format to get you started.

Want more information of the historical value of a Three Sisters garden?  The Bird Clan of Alabama has some of the legend.

Want to read more about how a Three Sisters garden can influence children and how they view the world?  The Center for Ecoliteracy has a beautiful, informative website devoted to this topic.

In late spring, we plant the corn and beans and squash. They’re not just plants- we call them the three sisters. We plant them together, three kinds of seeds in one hole. They want to be together with each other, just as we Indians want to be together with each other. So long as the three sisters are with us we know we will never starve. The Creator sends them to us each year. We celebrate them now. We thank Him for the gift He gives us today and every day.  – Chief Louis Farmer (Onondaga)


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Last Saturday afternoon we piled into the car and headed to Gretna for a visit to Our Father’s Farm.  The farm, owned by the Fuhrmann family, is an 1800’s tobacco farm-turned family farm that raises cattle and poultry for meat, milk, and eggs.  We met the Fuhrmann’s a few months ago at the community market and after a discussion with the in-laws, decided to purchase two turkeys from the farm to dress our Thanksgiving table.

The farm was beautiful, rolling green fields dotted with grazing cows and chickens.  The beautiful family of 10 (husband, wife, grandmother, and 7 children) were honest and sweet.  We arrived just as a chef from Isabella’s, a restaurant in Lynchburg, was leaving, his Volvo SUV loaded with at least a dozen turkeys.  The Fuhrmanns informed us that Isabella’s buys all of their eggs, ground beef, chickens, and turkeys from the farm.  We were thrilled to hear of a local restaurant supporting local, sustainable family farms in such a manner.  We love Isabella’s, and I think we’ll try to support them a little more frequently when we can!

The children showed us around the farm, introducing us to the farm dog (Shadow, a lean black German Shepherd) and showing us the animals.  We helped ourselves to some cider and talked “shop” with the adults learning about the farm and how they manage it and offer produce.  As a couple of young farmers who would eventually like to do a similar enterpise, we wanted to hear what they had to say!

As we left one of the younger blonde-haired daughters offered us a loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread, fresh baked by a neighbor.  We enjoyed that bread several times with week, soft and delicious.

My favorite part?  A part I didn’t even think to photograph? (But now wish I had?)  Inside their storage room, the room lined with coolers and freezers for storing milk, eggs, and beef products, was an inscription written into the poured concrete floor surrounded by handprints and the names of family members –

“A land of milk and honey”

A fitting quote, I think, for a couple of married missionaries, raising their seven (soon to be eight!) children on a farm in rural Virginia, bringing delicious, healthful, and sustainable food to a willing community.

Good for them.

And so, our turkey, which a week ago roamed green fields and feasted on green grass and bugs, rests quietly in our refrigerator.  This afternoon we’ll place him in a brine solution and roast him slowly tomorrow.  Tomorrow we’ll give thanks to God for our fortunes and sorrows and think happily of the family who cared for our turkey before us.

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Bubbling Cauldron

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

from Macbeth

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.

Enter the three Witches.

1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

*Picture of our Halloween Brunswick Stew, made with many ingredients from the farm – beef, tomatoes, lima beans, green beans, etc. 🙂

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Garden Bounty

Earth here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.  ~Douglas William A Land of Plenty

The garden continues to produce into October, as the fall garden is just starting to to take off.  On this particular day, we collected a hodge-podge of heirloom tomatoes, two kinds of lima beans, a few rose gold potatoes, and two kinds of carrots – Scarlet Nantes and Purple Haze.

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