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One of The Most Successful Human Inventions Ever Created

March 21, 2011

PURSUANT TO THE DESIRE, articulated in the previous post to learn new survival skills for after the demise of FAKE post-industrial society, I’ve added a blog category, as a means to keep relevant information and ideas handy. The president wants us to “win the future.” Setting a slightly more austere goal for myself, I’ll be content to simply “survive the future.”

For the inaugural post in the new category, this is what’s been on my mind today, when I should more rightfully be focused on busy work:

“A milpa is a field, usually but not always recently cleared, in which farmers plant a dozen crops at once including maize, avocados, multiple varieties of squash and bean, melon, tomatoes, chilis, sweet potato, jícama, amaranth, and mucana…. Milpa crops are nutritionally and environmentally complementary. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the body needs to make proteins and niacin;…. Beans have both lysine and tryptophan…. Squashes, for their part, provide an array of vitamins; avocados, fats. The milpa, in the estimation of H. Garrison Wilkes, a maize researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, “is one of the most successful human inventions ever created.” [Wikipedia]

Can a system like this be adapted to the colder climate and shorter growing season around here? Also, fucking avocados, how do they work? They don’t seem to be grown locally to Northern New England. Managing to survive the future and having continued access to avocados would be freaking orgasmic, though.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Crow permalink
    March 21, 2011 1:05 PM


    Check out Burlington Vermont for winter climate growing, Burlington Bread, community farming and overall awesomeness. Come summer, I’d be willing to meet you and visit its farmer’s market (a real deal, not a paltry affair) and talk with the locals, if you want. If I shoot up to Concord, we could meet there or somewhere inbetween and travel the two or so hours onward up 89 to B-ton (a gorgeous commute in itself).

    • March 21, 2011 1:33 PM

      i’d be up for that trip. i could swing down through Concord or just shoot straight across to Burlington via the White Mountains. (speaking of commutes that never get old.)

  2. March 21, 2011 1:58 PM

    My only thought: don’t forget greenhouses, which can help with temperature exposures up to a point (after which frost etc are still live issues), don’t forget location (most hours of daily sun), and don’t forget that a diligent regular survey of the plants will be a better pest/weed control than any chemical.

    I grew yellow squash and carrots in a local community plot last summer. The guys who ran the plot use pyrethrin for bug control. I’m not sure it’s necessary but they swore by it for those who don’t really pay attention to their plants. Certain plants deter other pests (marigolds and chrysanthemums, for example) for the same reason: they exude pyrethrins… so it may be easier to plant the complement, rather than spray an industrially prepared “organic” pest control substance.

    • March 22, 2011 7:27 AM

      word. really like the idea of ‘planting the compliment’ as pest control.

  3. March 21, 2011 1:58 PM

    Check out One Straw Rob, who is turning his southern Wisconsin suburban lot into a little farm.

    Or as he puts it “building resiliency in our suburban ecosystems”.

    • March 22, 2011 7:30 AM

      nice. i’ve subscribed to both that blog and green roof growers. thanks!

  4. btr3 permalink
    March 24, 2011 12:27 AM

    The North American version is called a “Three Sisters Garden” after the 3 crops of corn, beans and squash. Although I gather that sunflowers, in particular, and a number of other crops were also grown in and around the same garden. I’ve been doing some reading this winter and plan on planting one in a corner of my yard this year. I have two sites bookmarked; I recommend
    which shows three different layouts for climates with more or less rainfall. And the following url;
    has instructions for a 10×10 plot that I am using as my template. I live on the plains, but irrigation with cheap water should make the difference. I read somewhere in my googling that a one acre garden like this used to support a family. This intrigues me greatly, especially since Native Americans traditionally had neither pesticides nor water pumps.

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