Yesterday we planted three sisters in the prison garden. Native Americans knew to plant their corn, beans and squash when they saw the earth warming and greening and spring trees blooming and geese returning from the south. They first used a dead fish, put a mound of composted leaves and stalks on top of that and then made three small holes. In these holes they planted one corn kernel, one bean seed and one squash seed. Nature took over then. The corn rose tall, the beans climbed the corn for support and the squash spread itself out like a blanket and prevented weeds from taking over and gave shade to the corn and bean roots which were exposed and thirsty.
We read aloud first about the excellent nutritional balance these three foods created as well as the way they were planted with such ease in allowing nature to take care of the staking (corn) and the mulching (squash) and adding nitrogen back into the ground (beans) for the next year. At the end of the harvest they left the stalks, the leaves and the vines on site to break down to become the next year’s soil.
The students love hearing this story as do I. It points to such simplicity, such kindness to the earth and a knowledge that nature makes it easy for us to live sometimes if we just listen, observe and respect.