The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Bandelier National Monument is a fantastically beautiful place (especially on a weekday in spring when there are not a trillion people mulling about) and has been “calling” me back for the past couple of years.  We finally made the short drive yesterday (the beauty of following the public schools calendar it that, when they are closed, I get to take a day off!!!) and walked around for an hour or two, snapping photos, enjoying the sun and reflecting on the not-so-distant past.

Any time I think about native farming I think about the Three Sisters and irrigation.  We have a short growing period here in northern New Mexico and are prone to drought.  Natives came up with several ways to address these problems and have left me wondering (yet again) about our current (collective) pre-occupation with instant gratification and an insatiable appetite for water.  It’s very easy to just turn on the hose and water water water until everything is drenched (or take a 30 minute shower, wash your car, spray down your driveway, or leave the sprinkler on the lawn all night long just because you forgot to turn it off). 

Now, do I live next to a stream from which I can divert any run-off from the snow melt?  No.  However, I can (and will) purchase one more water catchment  container (the 50 gallon guys work well in our yard).  The water catchment is contingent, however, on water falling from the sky so you can actually catch it!  Given this, I will continue to pray for rain.  I can also combine my plantings so they will protect each other and then I can mulch mulch mulch!

The Three Sisters (corn, beans and squash) are fun to watch grow, however, I have found myself wondering if the time and water that are required for beans are worth the output (last year we only harvested about 2 burritos worth (3 cups +/- of dried beans)?  Especially since yummy, local, organic, dried beans can be purchased at a great price at the Farmer’s Market, the local Co-op or through our CSA!

This year I am excited to plant 3 types of corn (Sweet being the old stand-by which makes for a heavenly calabacitas when added to squash and garlic from the garden and some freshly roasted Hatch green chile in late summer…recipe to come soon) and some squash (as well as zucchini), however, I think I’ll nix the beans and stick to peas instead 🙂

Written by Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm


  1. Pilar

    Well….definitely try it! Maybe the house will be a good enough buffer. I’m a little ashamed….we have a huge yard in town, but I only plant a tiny fragment of it. Last year was the first time I planted in it, and everything did well. But I haven’t decided if I want to plant it again this year or not…I’m leaning towards yes, but need to jump on it. I like to plant mostly really hardy crops that are relatively low-maintenance, and then I get most of my other veggies and fruit from my family’s farm in Chimayo. The garden in town is just for fun, in other words.
    Hope to see you soon!

  2. Bee Girl

    That’s what I was thinking was the deal with open-pollinated varieties. I’ve been intentionally staying away from hybrids for a couple of years now. Just seems creepy to me. The 1000 foot distance is intense! I had heard 100 feet! My plan is to plant one type in the front yard and the second type in the back yard up against the house. The pollen from one would literally have to go through the yard and around the house the get to the other…which is still possible, but not probable…what do you think? No worries about not inviting me to Tesuque 🙂 Maybe next time! I am totally obsessed with seeds this year too! They’re so much fun!!! And I would love for you to come see our little garden! It’s amazing…we have done so much and yet there’s still so much more to do! Do you have a garden in town???

  3. Pilar

    Well….open-pollinated varieties are usually the heirloom crops. Hybrid seeds are used more commercially and typically have a shorter growing season (for corn). Open-pollinated seeds are the ones you want to save for future planting. Hybrid seeds will not continue to produce consistent results with their produce. I’ve heard different things about preventing cross-pollination between corn (which is wind-pollinated), and I just went to an awesome seed-saving workshop in Tesuque Pueblo last week (I totally should have invited you, didn’t even think about it until just now). They say if you want to prevent cross-pollination between wind-pollinated crops, you need to have anywhere from 1000ft to a mile of distance between crops. You can also use barrier crops to “catch” any pollen between crops: something like sunflowers or sorghum that grows tall and is sort of sticky. But if you really want to make sure that your crops don’t cross (because you want to save the seed for future use), then the best method is to only plant one type. I’m totally obsessed with seeds right now: they are so amazing and complex. would love to see your garden in person someday soon!

  4. Bee Girl

    Pilar! YAY!
    Let’s see, we haven’t decided for sure what other corn to plant. We have limited space and I don’t want them to cross pollinate, so I’m thinking one kind in the front yard and one kind in the back yard…sweet corn in back and either a blue corn in front or a strawberry popcorn for fun. What do you think? Honestly, I’m not sure if what we have is open pollinated??? The sweet corn seed is from the corn we grew last year and I’m not sure about the blue or strawberry I have…I’ll check it out! Gosh, I’m such a newbie…what’s the difference???
    As for beans…this year I’m thinking we’ll just plant some we can eat fresh off the vine 🙂

  5. Pilar

    Loving your blog, Melissa! Hey, there are some dryland beans out there that take very little water, but you have to get hardy seed. But I understand what you mean…..unless you can plant rows and rows of beans, you’re only going to get a couple burritos.

    Have fun with the corn! I LOVE growing corn. What other kinds are you planting? Are they all open-pollinated? This year I want to try a drought-tolerant, open-pollinated Oaxacan green corn that I got from SeedSavers Exchange. I mostly just like growing it out for seed though.

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