Squash Vine Borer Averted!
With the awful luck we’ve had in the past few years of Squash Vine Borer infestation we decided to wait until later in the season to plant our squash. The borers emerge in late June to early July and quickly lay their eggs on the squash. We didn’t plant our squash until late June, so the plants had just germinated by the time the borers were ready. That may seem really late to plant squash, but as you can see we already have one fully grown Lakota squash which has begun to ripen and many, many more in development. We probably have another month or more before the first frost, so we should be able to harvest quite a few squash this season!
Have you ever heard of a tassel ear? Neither had we, but it looks like we have one growing on the Oto corn we planted this season. There’s always something new to learn in gardening and apparently this does happen to corn occasionally. Corn flowers are both male and female when they first appear, but as they develop, the female flowers abort on one and the male flowers abort on another leaving the male tassel and female ear, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen and so in this case the female flower did not abort on what became the tassel which was then fertilized by the male flower and formed this ear. They also tend to develop on the sucker stems; those stems that are offshoots of the main stems. It seems that usually these aren’t very useful since they tend not develop fully due to not having the protective covering of the ear, but it looks like the one on our corn has produced some nice big kernels!
ningiimakakokemin! We made birch bark boxes!
This summer we made wiigwaas (birch bark) makaks for our summer project to learn more about the proccess and materials involved. We use some old birch bark for this project and so had to use the iron to heat the bark to make it pliable again. The whole process took a series of afternoons usually working inside because of the 100+ degree weather! In the end our makaks turned out rather nice, with Chaz, one of our interns this summer from the American Indian O.I.C., adding his initials with wiigob (the inner bark of the basswood tree).
With the bee balm in bloom, we picked some of it to dry on the drying stage. This plant has many names in many languages. It’s common name in English is Bee Balm or Bergamot. It’s Dakota/Lakota names are hehaka tapejuta or wahkpe wastemma. It’s Ojibwe names are bibigwanakak or wabinowak and its Latin name is Monarda fistulosa.
The leaves and flowers are dried to use to treat headaches, colds, fever reducer among many other things. We will be drying this for use as a tea.
Corn! Here are some of the first cobs from this year’s corn harvest in the Big Back Yard. On the top left is Delware Blue Corn, top right is Seneca Round Nose Corn, bottom left is 1,000 year old corn, and bottom right is Iroquois Hominy Corn. No matter how hard we try, there is always some cross pollination with the corn, so one of the Delaware Blue Corn cobs cross pollinated with appears to have been the Seneca Round Nose Corn. We just won’t save these individual kernels for the collections.
Tobacco! The tobacco have returned from their space journey and are settling into their home on earth. Come to the Big Back Yard over the weekend to see them. They’re under a sign labeled “tobacco” near the Hopi Red Dye Amaranth patch.
Squash! The squash has bounced back after its nearly devastating infestation by the squash vine borer. Even though we trapped well over 100 adult vine borer moths in our trap this summer, some seem to have managed to escape its captivating pheromones and laid their eggs on our squash. We managed to save parts of the plants by mounding dirt over the vine in several places, which then caused it to sprout roots. We then cut off the infected area, leaving the unaffected vine portions to grow. Hopefully we will be able to have a few more squash develop before the first frost in five weeks or so.
Trip to Tsyunhehkw^ at the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
We were fortunate this summer to schedule a tour of the Tsyunhehkwa program run by the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin near Green Bay. Ted Skenadore gave us a warm welcome and tour of the amazing 83 acre organic and sustainable farm that the Nation began about 15 years ago. We learned about the entire process of planting their traditional white corn, harvesting, and finally processing. They also raise organic, free-range chickens and turkeys as well as cattle. This is a wonderful program for not only the Oneida Nation community, but the surrounding community as well and is a great example of the concept of Indigenous food sovereignty in action. We all highly recommend the tour. Thanks Ted!
We ended our trip with a visit to the very nice and educational Oneida Nation Museum.
Ethnobotany: It’s not just about the plants we eat
Ethnobotany is about how people use and interact with plants. Looking through the collections of the Science Museum we found inspiration in these Ojibwe sweet grass baskets. Having some birchbark and porcupine quills on hand and using the sweetgrass we grow in the Turtle Medicine Garden, we decided to try our own renditions of a sweetgrass basket top. We harvested and dried the sweetgrass which then had to be soaked in water to make it pliable again. As you can see in the pictures, Dahjiae’s and Mariah’s basket tops turned out beautifully!
This summer, we enjoyed a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in NASA’s last space shuttle Flight STS-135. Tobacco seeds from our collection traveled 5,284,662 miles in 200 earth orbits aboard shuttle Atlantis. Jim Rock, Dakota educator and a member of the Science Museum’s American Indian Advisory Board secured us some space to test the extent to which their germination would occur in a microgravity and soilless environment in some very sophisticated test tubes (cell chambers seen above). Rock worked with John M. Cassanto, President Instrumentation Technology Associates Inc.who designed the cell chambers and was very generous to donate enough space for six of these cell chambers to house our seeds.
The seeds for the STS-135 mission were carefully chosen to meet NASA’s strict space requirements and hand-delivered by Rock to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. They were then transferred to Cape Canaveral for the shuttle mission.