I dug what was left of the manure after Scott took the pile for Pomanuck’s gardens. It’s the stuff that’s been there for at least a year if not more. Now, thick black earth. Into the wheel barrow, I then shoved it into my Three Sister’s Garden.
I left the tomato plant, it still has some green tomatoes on it. And a pumpkin vine, with some flowers. I dug up the corn and sunflower roots, knocking the earth from them, then tossing them into the pasture. I did the same with the weeds and the small yellow cucumbers that never got the chance to grow long and green.
The wool that I used as mulch was matted and moldy. I scraped it up and threw it in the trash.
I cut the heads from the sunflowers all around the yard and wove them into the pasture fence. If the birds don’t get all the seeds before they dry out, I’ll give them to the donkeys and Chloe.
They already got the corn and sunflower stalks which they devoured in an afternoon.
Was my Three Sister’s Garden a success?
Not if it had to sustain me. I picked the corn too late, so it was chewy and mealy. I only got enough beans to eat one or two each morning for a few weeks. And mostly, to my surprise, I only grew one zucchini. The weed of the vegetable garden and I only got one fruit. But a friend did harvest the flowers and fried them with pork for dinner.
Three small pumpkins decorate our porch. And I cut up the few small round cucumbers to flavor my water.
The tomatoes, not a traditional part of the garden, are still green.
Still, I’d say my Three Sister’s Garden was a success.
I may not have been able to eat much from it, but it brought me closer to the earth in a way I hadn’t been before. Sticking a tiny seed in the ground, watering it and watching it grow into something that could keep me alive, is pretty magical.
It also helped me grasp just how dependent people in my part of the world used to be on their gardens for sustenance. Not only in the growing season, but in the winters too.
The root cellar in our 1840’s house, complete with old pantry shelves and plaster walls, (and which keeps a constant temperature of 50 degrees) has bars on the windows. Those canned fruits and vegetables were money in the safe. So much work, not just growing it, but canning it too. And what if it was a bad year, too much rain, or not enough. All the things that could go wrong in a garden.
My Three Sister’s Garden made me see how disconnected I am from the gifts that the earth affords. If I had to grow all my own food, I’d either learn how to do it quickly or starve.
Next year I’ll grow corn again. And pick it sooner. I’ll clear the grasses around the cucumbers to give them the space and light they need to grow. I’ll plant some cherry tomatoes, because I love them when they’re fresh off the vine. And I’ll try some winter squash along with pumpkins, because it tastes so good.
I realized when I planted my Three Sister’s Garden that it was about the size of one of my quilts. I like the idea of laying a blanket of seasoned manure on top of the freshly turned soil. It freezing with the first snow and melting with the spring thaw in preparation for planting.
But for now the nights are getting longer. And inside the house I wrap my pink quilt around me and cherish the idea of the long, slow, dark winter. Thinking of hibernating bears and sleeping gardens. Winter’s work.