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The Three Sisters promise a harvest of nourishment and fall fun | The Homepage

By Matt Peters

In the center is a dark brown corn tassel with a tuft of pale pink corn silk behind it. A bee is flying under the tassel as though to collect pollen. Green corn plants and blue sky with a few white clouds are in the background.
A bee buzzes near a corn tassel in one of the Three Sisters plots. An indigenous food-growing strategy, the “sisters” are corn, beans and squash, which complement each other when grown together. Photo by Matt Peters

The end of summer brings a pause in the gardener’s busy workload, as the vigor of the spring weeds settles down and the main work of the harvest hasn’t really started. It’s a time to reflect on the year’s accomplishments, evaluate what could be done better, and give thanks for the earth’s abundance.

This year’s main Urban Agriculture goal was to grow the things we need for a Halloween party: pumpkins and popcorn. Working with folks from Arts Excursions and the Three Rivers Village School, we planted the Three Sisters – corn, beans, and squash – in the Glen Hazel Community Garden and the community garden at the former YMCA. (See the May Homepage for more on the Three Sisters.)

As I write, the corn is looking quite promising, and the pumpkin plants are small but starting to respond to the late summer rains. The long dry spell in June really stunted their growth, so we shall see if we have a successful crop on our first attempt. The first flowers started to appear in early August, so we best not count any unhatched chickens.

Hazelwood celebrates the spooky season in grand style, with Safe Halloween on October 31 welcoming everyone to the Gazebo. This year, a costume parade on October 29 will end with a Pumpkin Carving Party at the community garden on Monongahela Street.

These celebrations are echoes of ancient agricultural harvest festivals and may have roots in cultures as old as those that raised the stones of Stonehenge. The scary costumes, spooky candles, and creepy Halloween monsters are our uniquely human way of processing the fears that come with the understanding of our own mortality played out in the cycle of the seasons. The act of trick-or-treating can be seen as a sort of masquerade ball between the generations, building and reinforcing community ties in a fun and creative way. Carving pumpkins grown here in the neighborhood by neighbors working together invites a spirit of cooperation and community that is always something to celebrate!

Matt Peters is the Hazelwood Initiative community gardens manager and organizer of the Urban Ag Team.

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