Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Social Studies and Seed Saving.

Three Sisters Garden,

As a gardener, I sometimes wonder why. Why am I so driven to tackle weeds, battle squash bugs, and fight the forest in its effort to reclaim our asparagus bed? As a mom, there are days when I wonder why I dragged the kids out to the garden, invading my garden zen with their complaints and fussing as they weed the strawberry bed. What's the point? We have an absolutely fabulous Farmers' Market nearby if I'm so determined to feed the family vegetables. 

Then, once in awhile, it all makes sense.

In South Carolina, third grade students study our state's history. Incorporated into social studies lessons is a student project about Native Americans of the Carolinas. Kids can choose to create a model of a tribe's home, draw a poster, or write an essay. (Truthfully, the term "student" should probably be substituted with "parent." Many overzealous parents build architecturally correct renderings of Cherokee, Catawba, or Yamasee homes. In fact, one student in Mikey's class grumbled that his mom only let him make the campfire for his model. Seriously.)

Thankfully, Mikey chose the essay. Sure, building the model seems like fun, but since he recently broke his arm on the soccer field, a one-handed model-making fest did not appeal to either of us. 

So, he researched and wrote the rough draft of his essay.  Then, I made him go back and write more. Let's just say, it was pretty obvious that he rushed his research and writing to play Minecraft.

Much grumbling ensued.

To top it off, I sat with him while he typed it one-handed. I know, I know...I'm such a mean mom. The reality is that even without a broken arm, he still would type with one hand. He's in third grade, after all.

As he finished the paragraph about the vegetables planted by the Cherokee--including squash, beans, and corn--I reminded him about our garden. 

Our "Three Sisters" garden, based on the companion planting techniques of Native Americans.

Three Sisters Garden,

Suddenly, something clicks--there's history right in his backyard! He helped shuck corn from the "Three Sisters" garden. We're still eating beans from the garden, much to his dismay. (I think everyone is a little tired of beans. We've harvested a lot of beans.) Sadly, our squash succumbed to the overly wet summer, but we talked about how and why the plants work together.

Luckily, as a garden blogger, I had a photo of the "Three Sisters" garden. He took the photo  to share with his class to show the Native American's farming techniques.

As he finished writing about the discovery of gold on the Cherokee's land and their subsequent death march to Oklahoma, I realized something else.

We planted several heirloom varieties of beans in the garden, including 'Cherokee Trail of Tears,' a bean reportedly carried by the Cherokee on the march, which survived and passed to following generations.

Mikey realized that not only did he help grow an historical garden, he ate beans rich in history. (He may not have liked it--but he did.)

Watching how history came alive for Mikey through our garden, I decided to share Native American history with his friends, too. I sent in 20 envelopes with 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' beans and 'Cherokee Purple' tomato seeds.

Native American seeds,

Hopefully, history will come alive for other kids in the garden. You can grow a love of learning through a garden, don't you think?

Do you grow anything historical in your garden? Please share!



Each month on the 4th, You Can Grow That! features garden advice and tips for growing great gardens.


  1. I absolutely LOVE this!!! Wonderful! And hopefully some of those "seeds" of knowledge were planted in fertile minds!

  2. what a lovely story - you have created memories there, and those lessons will never be forgotten.

  3. I grow the Cherokee Purple tomato which I absolutely love! It is still producing for me even in October

  4. Although I have been practicing companion planting in the vegie patch for a while now I had not heard "The Three Sisters" story. Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing. I have enjoyed growing heirloom vegetables for a bit but I am yet to try the 'Cherokee Purple' Tom. I am also interested in the 'Cherokee Trail of Tears' bean especially since your blog. Now on the look out for an Aussie supplier! Heirlooms I am planting out this spring are:
    Tomato- 'Brandywine', 'Riesentraube' and 'Lutchist Zurich'. Beans-'Redland Pioneer', 'Lazy Housewife', 'Blue Lake' and 'Tongue of Fire'. Carrot- 'Danvers' and 'Royal Chantenay'. I have recently planted an old variety of apple- 'Reinette Doree' (also known as Golden Reinette) a 1600's heirloom variety from France and am eyeing off the Scottish 'Forfar Pippin' and 'Court of Wick', Somerset UK variety from 1790's. Perhaps next year...
    P.S. Had a chuckle at the one handed typing. You go girl :-).

  5. Well, I don't know if this counts as historical, but I think it is kinda grandparents lived on a farm for most of their life. They always grew rhubarb just for pies and such. They gave some to my parents when they bought their first house. Then we moved and it came with us. It has thrived over the decades and my sister was able to plant some at her house too. Mine is still waitng for me at my parents house-we are saving up for our own little farmette. Some day my girls can grow it in their yards too!