Three Sisters Update

As our regular followers know, the premier area this year is the Three Sisters Garden. Like most things around Five Feline Farm, a simple idea grows and expands into much more. This garden feature started with a vision of a simple garden plot in a Native American style. Corn supporting climbing beans, surrounded by yellow squash to double as a weed blocking mulch. The garden expanded to include an area for gourds, buckwheat, lavender, mammoth sunflowers and additional dent corns.


A recent discovery is the Google Earth view. The design was to reflect a honeycomb and without a doubt it does. The outline is less visible now that the plants are filling in, but the base is still there.


Already these plants are nourishing us. Yellow crookneck squash abounds. It is a goal to find as many delicious ways to cook this new vegetable as possible.

Perhaps we are picking them smaller but this variety seems to have a different flavor than standard yellow squash. When picked small the squash is tender yet firm enough to hold up and not become slimy. So far we have had it grilled, roasted, sautéed, added to a foil packet of green beans, dehydrated into chips, fried and in stir fry. It feels a bit like Bubba in Forrest Gump naming all the ways to cook shrimp. “Ya got ‘yer fried squash, roasted squash, squash casserole…..”

The next anticipated produce from Three Sisters will be pinto beans. These will be picked when the pods dry, then shelled and vacuum sealed. Surely pintos will produce in a more manageable quantity than yellow crookneck squash.

As always, the Farm blesses us with bounty from vegetables to a gorgeous vista.

Leave us a comment if you have a novel way to prepare yellow squash. If you are in our neighborhood and need some, let us know that too.

Three Sisters

Five Feline Farm is planning a garden area on the south end of the property to showcase new crops as well as heritage varieties of familiar crops. In time, a garden shed, marked pathways and dedicated plant beds will be added. Visitors can expect to see this area expand and develop over the next two to three years. Each new variety will be planted in the most sustainable method available.

The central feature for 2014 will be a Three Sisters companion planting. You may recall this referred to in the last post. Three Sisters is an ancient method of companion planting corn, beans and squash. Some accounts or legends associated withThree Sisters suggest this is the method that was taught to the English settlers by the Native Americans. Each plant benefits the other. The products harvested then support a balanced diet for the gardener.

Varieties for the Three Sisters area at Five Feline Farm have been sourced from Native Seeds. Each reflects an ancient culture and are open pollinated.

Three Sisters begins with corn. The sturdy stalks provide a natural pole for the beans to climb. We will use two varieties of corn: Hopi Greasy Head and Mayo Tuxpeño. Both of these are “dent” corns to be dried and ground into cornmeal.

Pole beans are the second sister of the trio. Beans collect nitrogen from the air and impart it to the soil. Nitrogen is a critical nutrient for healthy corn development. In keeping with the Native American theme, Hopi Black Pinto beans are the variety of choice for this planting at the Farm. These beans can be picked and eaten green but also allowed to ripen and dry for long term storage.

The final sister in the planting is squash. We will be using Yellow Crookneck. The large leaves of squash vines shade the ground under the group acting as living mulch to conserve moisture and block weeds.

The Three Sisters are planted in a slight mound with a flattened top. The mound is approximately one foot high and four feet or so in diameter. Corn is started first and allowed to grow to about twelve inches before the beans are started. One week after beans, squash is planted.


Meanwhile as we dream of weather warm enough to start Three Sisters, early seed starting is beginning in the basement. Marigolds, heirloom tomatoes ranging from Cherokee Purple to Roma, peppers, tobacco and herbs will be poking through the germinating mix soon.


As you can see, planning for the growing season, dreaming of warmer weather and starting the garden plants indoors is how we address the winter doldrums here at Five Feline Farm. Post a comment to let us know how you are coping with the cold winter.

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