Good to Self, Good to Earth

trying on more healthy ways of being, day by day


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New Life, New Garden

I was so inspired by the Three Sisters Garden that I learned about while I was visiting the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center that I decided to incorporate it into my vegetable garden this spring.

First we had to clear out a bunch of grass, clean up a lot of overgrown shrubs in front of the house, bring in a whole bunch of dirt, and build some mounds for planting.
Here’s the “before and after” of that:

 

For the Three Sisters Garden, the object is to grow corn, beans, and squash.  They grow well together, feed each other, and protect one another. I decided to mix it up a bit and choose a few varieties within each of these categories.

Field corn / Dent corn (which is better for corn meal) and pole beans are both recommended for the three sisters garden so that the bean vines can attach to the strong stalks of these corn varieties.  I chose Green Oaxaca Dent Corn and and Pencil Cob Dent corn along with Wando green peas and Kentucky Wonder green beans for 2/3 of my three sisters area. Since I wanted to grow some sweet corn as well, I chose Bantam corn and half-runner Pinto beans. Half-runners are a mixture between a pole-bean and a bush-bean so I’m hoping that they will do alright since they won’t need as much support from the sweet corn.  I will also add stakes as supports for these sweet corn stalks and their beans, just to be safe.

As for the squash, its recommended to use varieties that will grow on a creeping vine (better protection for the other plants) so I am using butternut squash, cantaloupe, acorn squash, cucumber, and spaghetti squash.

So far I’ve only planted the corn and will add the beans and squash in the next few weeks.

In the same front area, I was able to add a few more mounds and rows for a little patch of other vegetables as well.
First, I transplanted some carrot, beet, and swiss chard seedlings which I’m also growing in half-barrels in the back garden.

Then I sowed the following from seed as well:
Zucchini
Yellow Squash
Kale
Lima Beans
Marigolds
Luffa Sponge

Should be having some sprouts real soon!

 

 


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Creating a Succulent Plant Terrarium

This was probably one of the coolest things I have ever made.  Remember making dioramas in school? I always loved those things.  This one is basically like a living diorama and I am very excited about how easy and fun it was to make.

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My boyfriend had this old fish tank just sitting in the garage and I was looking for some way to use it.  I started with a bag of small river-rocks (sort of like a medium sized gravel) as well as a bag of small gravel and a bag of sand.

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I washed everything (tank and rocks) really well with a small amount of dish soap and a lot of water.  I wasn’t exactly sure of how much rocks I would really end up using but I decided just to wash a bunch and figured I could always wash more if I needed it.

I also had a big bag of potting soil which I amended in order to meet the needs of my plants.  I was reading online about how you should really get cactus soil for these types of plants, but I explored further and found some ideas on how to mix up my own batch and see if it works out.  I added a bit of gravel, sand, eggshell powder,and coffee grounds for extra drainage, calcium, and nitrogen.

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This is what my tray of homemade cactus soil looked like once I was done.  I basically just sort of went with my gut in terms of ratios on this.  If you are interested in getting more specific measurements for creating your own cactus soil, you can search and find it online pretty easily (feel free to ask if you want to see the resources I used).

The rest of my ingredients were a mixture of succulent plants and mosses.  A friend had given me two coffee cans with Aloe plants in them that were having babies all over the place so I had spread them out in these shallow trays until I could find permanent homes for them –this terrarium became one fantastic solution.  Then I also had a snake plant which had sprouted a new plant as well and needed some space.  And I went to the store to get a few of these sweet little succulents and a bright red cactus, all of which were already sprouting babies so I knew I’d get some extras out of them too. Finally, I remembered seeing some moss out in the yard and decided I might as well scoop some up and throw it in there too.  You can see I’ve actually got three different types of moss here, hoping that each of them will like it in their new home.

 

Once I had washed all the rocks and the tank, I was ready to start layering the foundation for my terrarium.  I made a layer of larger stones first and then covered that over with some of the small gravel before adding in a layer of sand to support good drainage.  I was interested in having a sort of hilly effect in terms of the terrain in there so I just made some mounds with extra sand.

After that I was able to pour a nice and thick layer of soil over the sand and start sticking my plants into their spots.  I put all of the plants in first and added the moss and a few extra river rocks at the end to sort of fill in the gaps.  My only concern about the moss is that it will require quite a bit more water than the other plants and also quite a bit more shade.  I decided to go ahead with my plans and see how it works out, worst case scenario I can always take the moss out.  Here’s a picture of the finished landscape inside the terrarium.  I will be sure to post again later to show how it has changed over time.

 


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Exploring Southeastern US Tribal Culture

I’ve always been curious about American Indian culture and traditions because I have some ancestral ties to Indigenous North American communities. Within the past year I have been blessed with the privilege of working on some social work research into health disparities and resilience within these communities.

I recently took a trip to Oklahoma to visit some of my family there and was strongly encouraged to take some time to visit the Chickasaw Nation Cultural Center in Sulphur.  This is a beautiful campus that is beautifully designed to include various gardens, monuments, and galleries to honor the Chickasaw people and their way of life.

chickasaw village

Here is a photo of the life-size village they have built on their campus, there’s a “sky bridge” 40 feet off the ground so that you can view it from above.  This photo includes the community gathering building (the big one) as well as the traditional summer and winter homes.  All of which you can walk inside of and learn more about their particulars as you tour the village.  Very cool!

All across the campus, many of the plants and trees are marked with name plates and descriptions which provide information on medicinal uses.  This was probably one of my favorite parts as I am just starting to dig a bit deeper into my gardening at home these days.  I just happened to be there for the Three Sisters Festival which honors the beginning of spring and the planting of corn, beans, and squash.

Corn, beans, and squash are said to be watched over by the Three Sisters spirits and they are planted in a particular formation in order that they may support one another’s growth throughout the seasons.  Corn stalks provide shelter and strength for the others, beans lean on the corn stalks for support and also provide important nitrogens for the soil, the squash vines serve as a living mulch barrier to keep the critters from bothering the corn and beans.  I have heard of this before but thought it was so neat that I am going to use this method in my own garden this season.  (I will be sure and post some info on this once I get started.)

To learn more about the Three Sisters Garden method, click on the link below:

Three Sisters Garden Method

I also got to try out some of their traditional foods at the cafe there and they even gave me the recipes!  I’m going to be trying these out soon and will be sure to write about it when I do.

This weekend, (March 19-20) I will be visiting the United Houma Nation, here in Lousiana, for a pow wow and I am very much looking forward to it.  If you see this and are interested in attending, you can click on the following link to get more information.

UHN Pow Wow 3/19-3/20