Event #218: Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday evening, Bob was spending some time zoning out in front of the fish tank. Then, in a semi-dream state, he was treated to another look at the field (in her time) where the vegetables are being grown. Bob describes these dream-state events as if he is watching [what he is being shown] on a 3D TV. When we talked on the phone about an hour later, he said he’d drawn a quick picture of what he saw there – the planting style. I scanned the drawing and have inserted it here full-size to get the full effect of Bob’s drawing detail, because this one is quite good:

The Lenape "Three-Sisters" (Corn-Beans-Squash) or "Companion-Planting" style

Bob explained what he saw in their field:

“I saw this last night when I was ‘taken there’,  but I didn’t really understand what I was looking at. They do have rows of crops, but there is something else. There are these individual mounds, and the corn is growing out of the center of the mound.  This is further back around the corn. It’s like there is a mound of the corn, then surrounding them are plantings of other things. They might be ‘progressively planting’ in stages. The mounds are about 24 – 30″ across; there is a center plant, and around it are other plantings, like beans maybe.” Bob continued to explain.

“Are they there to support the other plant in some way?” I wondered, not sure why, but thinking that perhaps being together like that, the plants benefited from each other, possibly even physical support, like we might install a trellis or poles.

“I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like it, just that this was the ‘planting style’.” Bob replied.

I then did a little internet research today to see if I could find a picture that might agree with Bob’s renderings of their planting style. I could not find a picture, but did find this information regarding “Three Sisters Agriculture”, also known as “Companion Planting”. This comes from this site, which is a Wikipedia description:

“In one technique known as companion planting, the three crops are planted close together. Flat-topped mounds of soil are built for each cluster of crops. Each mound is about 30 cm (1 ft) high and 50 cm (20 in) wide, and several maize seeds are planted close together in the center of each mound. In parts of the Atlantic Northeast, rotten fish or eel are buried in the mound with the maize seeds, to act as additional fertilizer where the soil is poor. When the maize is 15 cm (6 inches) tall, beans and squash are planted around the maize, alternating between beans and squash.The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants utilize and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, which helps prevent weeds. The squash leaves act as a “living mulch, creating a micro-climate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the body needs to make proteins and niacin, but beans contain both and therefore together they provide a balanced diet.”

Finally, I did find a rendering of what this style looks like growing, and I now know why it was so hard to find. I approached this search using “Lenape Style Gardening Techniques” or words like that. I could not find much. But using “Three Sisters Gardening or planting”, there are a lot of results. Too many for me to get involved in today. (I wonder if it’s too late to try one of these mounds?)

Three-Sisters planting: Corn, Beans, Squash

This is all very interesting, especially relative to Bob’s drawing of what he was shown. I’m wishing that we had seen this prior to doing our own planting, but we will see how that goes. Back to the drawing:  it would then appear that the corn was planted in stages, and at the 6″ stage, the other plants were put in, but the corn must be done progressively, otherwise, why would there be mounds that only have corn in the center of them in Bob’s drawing? (Maybe he just got tired of drawing them).

An image of the mound for planting from "nativetech.org"

There will be more from Bob’s observations in his “dream-state” in the next post, as there was actually quite a bit to this “visit”. I will also add a new picture from our garden, as, with this week of rain, things have begun to GROW! Here is one last picture:

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