The Three Sisters and mounds

The three sisters! I loved learning about the three sisters – squash, corn and beans, the core of First nation farming. I was aware of the practice of rotating certain crops to replenish soil nutrition (nitrogen fixing bacteria in legume plants) but this was the first time I learnt of companion planting and how they support each other in more ways than nutrition. Even more intriguing was the legend or traditional story of these 3 sisters.

The three sisters

Apparently the story of the three Sisters varies from tribe to tribe and this version is from an oral account by Lois Thomas of Cornwall Island found in the ‘Indian Legends of Eastern Canada’.

Once upon a time there were three sisters who lived together in a field. These sisters
were quite different from one another in their size, shape and way of dressing. One of the
three was a little sister, so young that she could only crawl at first, and if she wanted to stand
up she had to twine herself around her eldest sister. This sister wore velvet green with
delicate tendril ribbons. The second of the three sisters, wore a frock of bright yellow and had
a way of running off across the field when the sun shone and the soft wind blew in her face.
The third sister was the eldest. She was always standing very straight and tall above the other
sisters trying to guard them

It is clear that the eldest sister is a corn plant, the second sister squash, and the youngest a bean plant. The story goes on to share how they feed a young Iroquois boy who came to visit them. They all lived together and supported one another. Just like the story the three plants are grown together in what is called a ‘mound’.

The height of the corn supports the bean vines, which tie the corn stalks together for added stability. Beans fix nitrogen, which means they take it from the air and transfer it to the soil, making it an available nutrient. The beans feed the corn and squash, which are heavy nitrogen users. The large leaves of the squash plants act as a groundcover to provide shade, conserve moisture, and suppress weeds. ( Researching these weren’t related to my task in modelling but I was so intrigued I delved into it and had to share here!

So I started with the task of first modelling the three sisters and its variations. I did the squash first. I borrowed some gourds from Sonia and textured them in Zbrush to add the bumps found on squashes. I used the alpha again but changed the size to give it irregularity. The alphas I used were 23, 32, and 07 for the bumps and alpha 22 for the vein texture.

For the corn I took a simple dynamesh sphere, stretched it and drew the kernels on with a dam standard brush. I used the ‘snakehook’ brush to fashion leaves out of additional spheres and textured it using the ‘rake’ brush.

The last were the beans. I googled some images of heritage beans to get a good reference for modelling. Then made simple variations of my base model. Additionally I made single dried bean seeds and that is how they would be eaten also.

Unfortunately I could not get to the mounds yet. It will definitely be a challenge to create something that will be low in poly but be repeated enough to make a field.

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