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Planting Report 2007
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Three Sisters Planting Report 2007

Year 2007 has been an amazing one for the TSP Project. The timing, growth, water needs and availability have been very different from all previous years. Although the website was started for the year 2006, this corn seed stock has been grown in Sonoma County for many years prior to being brought to the land in Ashland, Oregon where it was grown in 2007.

Because I am driven by my need to know that this corn will still be available for future generations, and also I want all people to have equal right to be alive, and to have food, clothing and shelter as appropriate to the land, I was excited to be growing such a large amount of this very special corn. Each ear has about 300 seeds, and because they had been mixed for many years, I separated the seed into blue, black or other very dark seeds, and the red or other colored seeds.

The agreement for the corn to grown in the field was reached in mid-April, the land was turned over as soon as it was dry enough and the corn was planted April 29 and 30th, just two days before the full moon. A half dozen people from Siskiyou Permaculture Resources Group and Jackson County Sustainability Network help plant the blue field" on 4/29.; This was blue seed selected from the stock that I had. All the other colors were planted in the Red/Colored field. There were 2000 blue and 1200 red/colored seeds.

The next day was a Monday and I was alone, with a single row two-wheeled planted which had to be returned to a local CSA by noon. Due to chronic conditions, my knees had given me quite a bit of pain if I walked in uneven ground very much. I was hesitant to attempt planting a dozen long rows alone, and decided to sit and rest ten minutes between each row . However, there was no choice so I filled the hopper and started up, watching the ground flow by under the wheels and so full of joy to see the wonderful seed flowing into the ground.

Suddenly I realized that I was in the last row and there was no more to be done. I squinted at the sun...seemed like it was still early. I loaded the planter into the car, and checked the had only taken me ONE hour to do that planting! My knees did not hurt at all, what a blessing! This was the first of many amazing interactions between the life of the corn and us, the current humans, two kinds of beings on Gaia, the living planet.

A few years ago I read that the idea that Earth was one living being had been accepted as a scientific theory. Good idea...seems as if that theory would confirm why the edge efficiency principle of Permaculture works so well. The principle that edges are where life forms interact is why the Three Sisters Planting system is so efficient. The corn is planted and needs nitrogen. The beans are planted near the corn, and they fix nitrogen for their own needs and that of the corn. The winter squash are planted in between the rows and they shade the ground and keep moisture available for the corn and beans.   The result is three crops in one place, and even if one of the three does not do well, some food is still produced. It also expresses another idea from Permaculture: GET a YIELD !

In about ten days, there were a lot of little green corn seedlings, and I set up some sprinklers and moved them around to try and get all the plants watered. For a while I could drag the hose over the little grassy seedlings and then they needed more water and the spring warmed up more and the seedlings were getting larger and larger and knee high by early JUNE! They were growing at an astounding rate. In the previous year I had "dry farmed" this seed in California, and it grew small and short but it still produced seed, though never more than one ear per plant. Now many plants were over five feet tall by the 4th of July. And it was getting HOT too!

Luckily, an apprentice showed up in the knick of time, because I was not able to keep up with all that work and watering and walking constantly increasing! I had planted a LOT of beans when the seedlings were about two feet tall, but the heat and lack of really good watering systems kept most of them from growing fast and the corn just kept going and growing. Soon the corn was tasseling and some were silking I put off planting the winter squash because then I would not be able to walk in the fields to water, only from the sides. All of these factors contributed to the overall results.

There were also other factors. Just as the corn was tasseling, some Hooker dual purpose corn was planted nearby. Because it is an heirloom variety and is quite fast and strong, soon it was making pollen, long before my mixed varieties had stopped making pollen. In fact, it may be that there is still pollen out there, as the last late ears have some seeds on them even though the tassels at the top seem quite dried out.

And the winter squash just did not seem interested in growing. I'd never seen this before, as ordinarily it leaps out of the ground and runs all over with up to 20 foot long vines. I thought maybe it was getting too much shade from the vigor of the corn but a second planting in a separate field did not change the feeling. Another person growing winter squash only a few miles away also had a crop failure for winter squash.

Summer was an active time of making the watering schedules (one or two persons every morning for 2-4 hours) and also one or two every evening for one or two hours usually. At the point where the corn was really tasseling, we had to stop watering in the "overhead" sprinkling way because it would have knocked the pollen down. What we did instead was shoot water in from the sides, going all around the fields which were long rectangles. We also planted areas of tomatoes, cucumbers and other foods, and these all had to be watered as well.

The harvest was delayed and not conducted as I had hoped because I got bitten by a three foot long timber rattler and was in the hospital and seriously unwound for over a month. (Yes, I have written the Snakebite Saga now, including specific information on alternative modalities that I used for my own healing, in addition to the five days of anti-venom administered by the hospital.)

Most of the corn in the "blue field" was blue black and dark colors. I call them "dark and mysterious"....deep plums, deep bronze-like browns and very dark greys and silvers and both shiny and matt-finish textures of all. Few (less than 10%, estimate) had much white or yellow, most only the "traditional" few whites and an occasional yellow of the "HOPI" blue corn type. There was even less purple or orange or red in the "blue field". In the red field, much of one section was full of the shaded purple that came from the Hooker heirloom seed which cross pollinated the red side more than the blue.


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