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Three Sisters, Spirituality, and Growing Your Own Food  RSS feed

 
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Hi All, this here is a thread to talk about The Three Sisters, Spiituruality, and Growing your Own food. It spun off of William Schlegel's topic here: https://permies.com/t/70889/Ideas-growing-food#592862. Here's the first post, for reference:

William Schlegel wrote:I have my copy of "Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden" out lately and have been thinking a lot about three sisters gardening lately. Also have thought a lot about how to grow all your own food. Some of the most practical advice I have ever found I found last winter on the latter subject in an article written by Joseph Lofthouse. What and how many seeds to plant. I printed this one out. Also I am pretty sure I have seeds enough in my seed stash now for this scheme- I may be short on one or two. I have quite a lot of squash, corn, beans, peas, and fava seeds on hand right now.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/survival-seed-banks-part-two-zbcz1312

So I reckon I can do this and it would be fun to try. Next year? Not sure I actually may need to cut back next year. One things for sure I'm doubling the space between the rows in my garden next year. Gotta fit the rototiller between them in case things get ahead of me! Lots of plants did remarkably well with minimal weeding though!



Now continues the rest of the discussion related to spirituality and Three Sisters gardening!
 
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This is an interesting thread. The very first three words written were "Three Sisters Gardening". Every other word written after that is about square footage, preserving food, and other "mechanical" stuff.

Gardening by Original Peoples was certainly skill and art and acquired practice and learning. But just as important, maybe in many ways most important, was Ceremony and Spirit (of the Garden). One of the things that has so amazed me about the general discussion of permaculture is how I have never noticed anyone really talking about, writing about, Spirit. For us here at Stone Garden Farm, the first thing, the constant thing, the last thing, we are aware of in any food harvesting (hunting), food planting/nurturing, food harvesting, food preserving, food consuming, is Spirit. We are mindful of, and pay attention to, all the aspects of life. We Pray often, we recognize the Fairies and Nature Spirits, we give Thanksgiving for All. To just do the "mechanical" is to do half, maybe even less than half, of all there is to "food". To do just the "mechanical" is not Three Sisters Gardening, it is merely the planting of, ...corn, beans and squash.

I have thought about writing on these pages about Spirit and Ceremony for many months now. But it almost seems as if such writing is far outside of most thinking or interest. It just seems a direction with which "permaculture" is not concerned (interested).
If I am suffering from a misapprehension, let me know. Maybe we might begin to talk of the "other half" of life, living, and gardens.  
 
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Good points Kola Fry. This thread, while not really on the subject of the title, is staying to the OP's first post however.
 
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Jim Fry wrote:I have thought about writing on these pages about Spirit and Ceremony for many months now. But it almost seems as if such writing is far outside of most thinking or interest. It just seems a direction with which "permaculture" is not concerned (interested).
If I am suffering from a misapprehension, let me know. Maybe we might begin to talk of the "other half" of life, living, and gardens.  



You may, by all means, start a new thread about Spirit and Ceremony. We have a Religion and Spirituality Forum. I am sure there are many here who recognize and value these, as you must, in all areas of life.

However, if others are like me, I don't speak much about spirituality to others because I find it to be very personal and individual. I was taught by my parents to always work "quietly and reverently".
 
pollinator
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I personally feel that discussions about "Spirit" inevitably result in something of blasphemy. It's like the religious idea that some of the names of God should not be used; I feel much the same. Permaculture is much more than any religion or spiritual belief system; it is a design philosophy based on observation and rational deduction.

We can all observe, and describe what we see, in observing our garden or natural environment. We can make changes, and note the effect of those changes. We can make decisions through rational deduction based on the knowledge gleaned from places like this site, and from experience.

When things go well, or badly, we can look at what happened, and make educated guesses about cause and effect. We can then alter our approach, or our way of thinking, to fit the case.

I wholly appreciate the diversity of scale and type of life in my garden. I am not missing anything by attributing what I see to biology and physics, which are just technical ways of describing and categorising what we observe.

The Three Sisters technique works because it takes advantages of the growth characteristics of three specific plants (and yes, I know there are more in different circumstances), not because of some ephemeral entity.

Furthermore, I know it's not fairies causing the end-rot, or leaf blight, or any other thing. It's a good thing, too; I know what I did wrong if I get any of those things. I would be hard-pressed to figure out how to deal with pissed-off fairies.

The food coming out of my garden isn't delicious and much better for me because it's been blessed by the earth spirit, unless that's code for having been raised in soil made healthier by my knowledge of composting, teas, and extracts. It's survived not because of magical creatures, unless you consider soil life to be magical (read RedHawks SuperSoil thread, I think to call it magic is insulting to how amazing soil life is), but because of natural variables that I have helped to enhance, such as water retention in the soil, appropriate nutrient and mineral levels, and crop rotation.

I no longer read fantasy novels because of the whole magic thing; I read science fiction. In fantasy, instead of explaining why things are, they are just called magic. That's code to suspend disbelief and enter fantasyland. In science fiction, especially hard science fiction, an author may do years of research on a topic, or consult with the Heads of the field in which they're writing, so that the reader doesn't have to bash in their own brain with the suspension of disbelief stick just to enjoy the story.

This is reality. If what is going on in the garden can't be explained scientifically, someone has just stopped trying. That kind of intellectual disengagement makes it very hard to spread permaculture to rational individuals, like those conventional ag farmers who we so desperately want to bring over to the side of soil science, increased water retention, polyculture, and other aspects of permaculture. These guys are worried about debt, about having borrowed against next year's crop just to pay for 'cides and fertilizer. They are skeptical when someone tells them that innoculating their soils with a manure tea, or raw milk, or a compost extract, will do better for their soil than another application of chemicals, largely because of what is at stake. This is their LIVELIHOOD. So for someone to start interjecting about Spirit and fairies is something of a non sequitur, to put it mildly.

While a spiritual person in nature, I strongly disagree with ideas of spirituality being integrated with permaculture. That's for singing and drumming circles, and even then, I think that if you have to talk about it, if you have to name these ephemera, you lessen them all. It also opens the topic up to disagreements about the nature of the imagined entities, establishment of new religions, religious wars, and the driving off of farmers and agriculturalists and other potential actors on the permacultural stage who would have been engaged by a more technical discussion, and perhaps even convinced. Best to let others come to their own ideas of spirituality and permaculture, and discuss what can be observed and deduced.

-CK
 
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Chris Kott.... you haven't apparently experienced a PDC in Santa Cruz, CA!  It's the only PDC I've attended, so I'm not sure it's unique in Permaculture Design Courses....

Anyway, every day started with a gratitude ceremony, and ended with a closing circle.  We might not call it religion, but it definitely had a spiritual element to everything we did in the course.  After the election last November, the programming changed a little to address trauma.  We worked on social permaculture that weekend, allowing a lot of expression of whatever we were feeling at the time.  It wasn't all fairies and spirits, but it could have been.  During the water part of our course, we sang songs about water.

The idea of Three Sisters can be interpreted holistically to include the spiritual element to it.   Or not.  Some people won't get it, and that's totally okay.  Sometimes information coming from spirit can be a valuable guide in creating the magic in the landscape.
 
Chris Kott
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Yeah.

Don't mistake misunderstanding for rejection.

I have never found it useful for people to proselytize to me. It never made me want to convert.

I see purple permaculture in the same way. The audience members it is important to reach are worrying about their livelihoods. It is no wonder the purple permie movement hasn't made any inroads on converting farmers.

I am spiritual about how I go about my life as well, it's just not on display. I am comfortable enough with intellect and reason that I don't dismiss soil science as magic, but seek to understand it.

And if my personal spiritual or religious beliefs come into conflict with what is being preached, am I more or less likely to listen to the important part of your message?

Beyond reverence for life, I can't agree with teaching permaculture as a religion. It sets up too many conflicts.

Fables and parables are useful to explain things to children and childlike adults. I don't think adults should need the crutch these days.

-CK
 
Nicole Alderman
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I view religion and spirituality as very similar to philosophy. We all have ideas about right and wrong and the intangibles that cannot be studied. Religion/spirituality/faith is often called a crutch. I often hear it called that in a condescending way, but what is a crutch other than an assistant to help us walk? We're all imperfect--none of us can know everything. Moral principles based upon faith/spirituality/religion/philosophy are a guide and an assistant to making choices. If we did not choose some sort of guiding principles--either consciously or subconsciously--we would be paralyzed by lack of knowledge. We can never know ALL of the potential ramifications of a choice--we can either step out in faith as to what we think we'll be the best choice based upon our current knowledge, or we can do nothing because we don't know enough. Religion/faith/philosophy is the crutch that allows us to make choices with the knowledge we have.

Having said that, I do think it's important to keep spirituality/religion/philosophy outside of the sciences to a large degree. We need "hard" data to form that base of knowledge. But, sometimes our faith and ethics do come into play. That's where we wrestle with questions of, "Is it okay to test this on animals?" "Is it okay to genetically modify things?" "Is it okay to test these techniques on our land if they might damage it?" These are questions that we wrestle with, and  they guide the things we research and the methods we use.

There are people on these boards who are very knowledgeable and rigorous in their search for science. They ALSO believe fairies exist. Others believe this Christmas coming up celebrates the birth of a guy born of God and virgin woman, who later died and rose again. There's also people who base their actions on the belief that there is no God or spirits, and base their decisions on what feels right (many atheists/agnostics that I know do things because they are "right" but cannot express why those things are right) or on a guiding philosophy. I cannot prove one way or another which person is right. It's not a fable or a fairy tale to the person who believes it as truth.

I think it's really important when we talk about religion, to remember that religious texts and stories are not myths and fables and folk tales to those that believe them. This is especially important to remember in reference to native American oral histories. So often these stories are called, "Native American Myths" or "Fables" or "Tales." People generally don't call the Bible a fable or a tale or a myth unless they are insulting it--they call it a religious text. We should, I think, accord the same respect to native oral histories. I don't know what the correct term should be, as they are not usually in "text" form, but I think we should be careful in how we word things--and ask those who believe thusly what they want it called. Just because I don't believe something, doesn't mean it might not be true. I can't "know" that they're religion is false--there's no science for that--and as such I really try to accord respect to everyone's way of thinking and believing.

In the end, though, me thinking I should respect other's beliefs is part of my OWN belief system. It might not be part of someone else's! That's where this all get's so very confusing!
 
Chris Kott
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Mainly, I dislike it being suggested that because I don't see a thing the same way that someone else does, that I am missing something. To me, that smacks of condescension, from a position I consider lacking rational foundation or evidence.

I like the idea of sharing ideas of religion and spirituality. Even personal takes on established religion tell much about the sharer. I think that, because religion and spirituality have historically been such a large contributor to an individual's psyche, that we're wired for belief in some ways. That, to me, explains the rise in Humanism among spiritual atheists, agnostics, deists, and others. It also explains the resurgence and rebirth of religions and spirituality today, where it exists.

Where I object to it is where it gets in the way. Not like those for whom interacting with others in a drum/dance/song circle is a waste of time. No, I am specifically talking about where belief in ephemera is used to excuse intellectual laziness. I object to having the soil science available, but rejecting it in favour of Georgian fertility rites. Instead of diluting a portion of your raw milk for innoculation of a bit of pasture or soil, which would encourage soil life to thrive, you put it out in a bowl with a pinch of salt and bread, which would probably draw a rodent, which would then be killed by a cat, who would then treat herself to the milk.

Of course when you come out the next day and see the milk and bread gone, you feel good because you've fed the spirits of place, or the house hob, or the fairies. But I think, and I hope they excuse me for speaking for them, that, taking for granted for a moment that these entities exist, and that our actions in this world can affect them, improving the soil in which they live, or the environment that they call their own, with methods that we understand fundamentally improve conditions for soil life would be more appreciated than the sacrifice of a rodent and the feeding of a cat.

I like, for instance, a lot of what biodynamics has to say. It gained a lot more credibility in my eyes when I read over some of Pfeiffer's work in figuring out the science behind it. I mean, how dissimilar in form and function are compost-innoculated biochar and compost-innoculated manure-filled cow horns, really?

When I make my compost teas and extracts, though, I am using a bubbler. If it gets a rolling oxygen bubble for 8 to 72 hours, I don't think I need to stir it seven times seven times, changing direction each seven strokes. I don't think that cosmic rays or positive energies of the cosmos have anything to do with anything, but I could definitely see where high tide gravitational conditions could improve vertical water uptake by root systems. And should someone set their tricorder for positive energies of the cosmos and show me them and their interaction with plant systems, I will probably be very interested in how it all works. But right now, as there is no evidence of it, I will think on ideas for which there exists evidence to ponder and perhaps experiments to plan.

I am not saying that these ephemera don't exist. It's not even relevant that there's no proof of their existence. There are just areas where the subject matter is technical enough, and complex enough, like soil science and mycology (okay, all biology and all physics. All science) that we don't need the clutter. And if we take care of the terrestrial host, the ephemera should thrive, if their domain is the natural world.

Also, I prefer limited animism to faerie theory or theism in the context of describing plant and soil life. While I do feel reverence for the inorganic components of the earth, I don't ascribe to every rock its own spirit. I might, however, be wordlessly thankful in the silence of my mind as I gather stone for a wall, say. But that kind of animism at least recognises the significance of the contributions of individual living organisms, rather than attributing their work to otherworldly or higher powers.

Morality doesn't require a religious or spiritual context. I know many examples of this fact personally. All that is required for morality is to have a wide enough view and the slightest bit of enlightened self-interest. In the same way that a system only produces waste products if its scope is too focused, if we see others around us as waste, as useless or obstacles, as opposed to others like us, for whom we should wish the same things we wish for ourselves, we aren't looking at the system as a whole.

Science, while it requires a moral compass, doesn't require a spiritual or religious context for that morality. By its nature, it can't address issues for which there exist no evidence. So because most of the methods that we can rely on repeatedly are science-based, and because for some this is more than a hobby, but livelihood, science is relied upon.

So I have faith. I have faith in the scientific method. I believe paul stamets, for instance, has devoted his life to the understanding of mycology. I believe, based on the research he presents, that his ideas about the fundamental nature of the role of fungi are valid, and critical to understanding the whole of the earth's biosphere.

I believe that anyone can make themselves understand soil science as it is currently understood to the extent that they have the tools to deal with problems they can diagnose in their soil, and identify as problems those they need help with.

I believe in composting, the ability of the hot composting method to kill pathogens and parasites in the soil, the aptitude of certain macro- and microbiota to break down compostable organics into soil, and the fact that worm castings are amazing in the garden.

I believe that the seeds I plant with care will almost probably come up, that the chickens will produce eggs given sufficient access to forage and feed, and that all animals kept by humans for whatever reason should be treated kindly and with respect, whatever their intended end, not for fear of some ethereal consequence, but because we know that all living things, plant, animal, and fungal, exhibit degrees of awareness, in some cases attaining semi-sentience. Because we survive on death, it is vitally important that we cherish all life. It also ill-behooves us to act with anything less than compassion.

So should I feel something insubstantial moving between my plants in the garden, why is it less likely to be plants communicating energetically through the air, or a sympathetic sensation to root-zone and mycorrhizal communication than it is to be faeries?

-CK
 
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