My Family’s Deep Breaths

Sharon April 24th, 2008

I thought it might be interesting to tell you how we’re stepping back a little from the thoughts of crisis today.  My boys and I are…inventing permaculture.  Shhh…don’t tell Simon and Isaiah this existed already.  They think it was their idea.

 You see, in his wonderful book _Gaia’s Garden_ Toby Hemenway mentions that three sisters gardens actually have a fourth sister, cleome serrulata, also known as Rocky Mountain bee plant.  We’ve been planning for some time to do a family 3 sisters garden - the kids have drawn pictures, helped me make a garden plan and chose varieties of corn, beans and squash.  When they heard that, of course we had to add a fourth sister, and while we don’t have that particular Cleome, we do have seeds of common spider flower, also a Cleome.  Will it work?  No freakin’ idea, but we’re going to experiment. 

Well yesterday, as we were out on the swings, Simon and Isaiah came running up with a new idea.  Could they make a Four Brothers Garden, one based on plants that were special to them and that would work together?  And…and…could they be plants that come back forever, so that they have them every year.  I swear - they thought of the whole thing themselves.

So we started to talk about what a Four Brothers Garden would look like.  We all agreed that Eli’s plant should be the biggest, and that it should be an apple tree.  Since Eli can eat a half bushel of apples in a weekend, this seemed important.  We have apple trees, but one more is always welcome.

Simon, being the next sized down kid wanted  a shrub, and I suggested a Goumi, since we don’t have any, they fix nitrogen and I want one.  And Simon likes the idea because birds like them and he likes to say “Goumi.”

Isaiah wanted to have the pollinator plant - he loves bees, bugs and humming birds, and wanted something red that would attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.  We picked some Bee Balm - good also because Isaiah loves to make salads with edible flowers.

Finally, Asher is the little guy, but with a big, pushy personality.  What could be better than comfrey, dynamic accumulator that it is, for its natural mulching pleasures.  Yes, it is a spreader and occasionally a PITA, but then again, so’s my kid ;-).

With just a little guidance from Mom, we’ve essentially reinvented the wheel.  But boy are the boys excited - and proud of themselves.  And it strikes me as remarkable what kids of four and six can accomplish when they put their minds to it.  Heck, permaculture summercamp - the next big thing!

BTW, I really wish I could go to this - I want to go to camp!  My relationship to permaculture is self teaching plus bugging some people I know to help me out - I’d love a chance to do a more formal program.  But I thought I would recommend it to those who don’t have four little tutors - and I’m told there’s some fundraising being done for those who can’t afford the full program.  

I’ve been invited to stop by and visit, and I might - although there are factors working against it.  First, there’ll be the goats to milk.  Second, there are the four kids and the lack of many people who really want us to dump them on them.  Third, there’s the driving miles - Rioting, y’know.  And finally there’s the real reason - I’m afraid Toby Hemenway will throw composting fruit at me ;-).  We had a little argument once, and I think he might be out for revenge - permaculturists are a rough bunch ;-).

Ok, must abandon the blog - the screaming in the yard suggests that it is now time for Mommy to encourage the children to reinvent non-violence.


7 Responses to “My Family’s Deep Breaths”

  1. Mike Lorenzon 24 Apr 2008 at 12:54 pm

    That’s awesome. I derive some of the simplest and most genuine pleasure out of spending time in the garden with my kids (4 y/o twin boys and their 2 y/o sister). True, they sometimes want to help a little TOO much, and they don’t always grasp the importance of the paths between the beds, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Seeing Alex get excited because he found a tomato that was ready to pick or watching Erik tear across the yard to chase a furry invader out of “our garden” makes me happy in a way that few other things can. If we can give our kids a love and understanding of natural things now, it will do more to prepare them for the future than any amount of stockpiling of food or ammunition. Keep up the great work.
    - Mike Lorenz

  2. Shambaon 24 Apr 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I’m a first time poster but not a first time reader. Your writing and passion are wonderful and that you share it with the rest of us.

    I’m not “hoarding” but I’ve actually got a few months of food in my house. I retired last year–early retirement to think about my life and the things that are coming–and I started cooking again and with staples and bean, legumes, etc. not just meat and potatoes. :) I like it!

    I’m doing things to the house to improve it, insulation, etc. I like the idea of a garden but that’s way out of my experience and possibilities at the moment–I live in Phoenix. And that’s home at least as long as my mom is still alive here and I’ve got 8 cats. I do like it here and I know people lived here and must have grown food before ac!

    Your work it good and thought provoking. Blessings on you and your husband and 4 little boys.

  3. Laurenon 24 Apr 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Wow this brings back wonderful memories for me, some of the best times I had with my son were “working” in the garden. He would just walk around grazing the greens, popping fresh peas, and after he figured out how good corn right off the plant was we never seemed to cook it after that. But I do have to say that the times this mommy had to worry about what the little ones were up to was when it got very quiet.

  4. Tadpoleon 24 Apr 2008 at 7:46 pm

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog.

    This post and the story about how your boys plan a four brothers garden with plants that will always come back almost made me weep out of tenderness. (not so good when you are surfing the internet at the office!)

    Not only are you an amazing writer but you are an amazing mother.

    Take care.

  5. Robinon 24 Apr 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Tadpole, you took the words right out of my mouth.


  6. jordison 25 Apr 2008 at 7:10 am

    what a wonderful name - four brothers garden :-)

    I am usually a read-only vistor of this site (not much to contribute, I am afraid…), but the choice of plants promted me to post a word of caution: Comfrey, though indeed a wonderful natural mulching plant, is somewhat toxic for humans - and animals like goats etc. It is a traditional medicinal plant, but newer info on it usually suggests to forgo any internal usage because of comfrey containing allantoin (which is a liver toxin).

    You have a wonderful blog I regularly read for inspiration on new food for thought - keep on!

    Peaceful day to you and your family!

    Greetings, Jordis

  7. Wendyon 25 Apr 2008 at 7:28 am

    Fantastic! We’re doing a three sisters garden this year, too - in addition to our other little garden beds. I like the idea of the “three brothers” garden, but as I have girls, our “permaculture” would have to be another “three sisters.” So far, we have an apple tree (for Big Little Sister, because she’s like your Eli) and chives, which the two little ones picked, because they love chives. Go figure ;).

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