Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Three Sisters Gardening & Jolee’s Emergency

a balck and white photo of a man in a ballcap holding a black and white dog and a woman wiping the dogs paw.

Hello fellow readers, I intended this week’s topic to be about Three Sisters Gardening—companion plants in your vegetable gardens stemming from Native Americans. They combined corn, pole beans, and squash, creating an ecosystem for sustainable gardening. Rather than planting in rows, you grow them in groupings.

Three Sisters gardening as featured on the reverse of the 2009 Native American U.S. dollar coin. Attribtuion- United States Mint, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Three Sisters Gardening is featured on the reverse of the 2009 Native American U.S. dollar coin.
United States Mint, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The corn supports the pole beans, while the beans help stabilize the corn from the wind. Beans provide a nitrogen boost to the soil, and squash suppresses weeds and helps maintain moisture. There’s more to why they make perfect companions…

…but if I may share a story tugging my heart.

On Sunday, we took Jolee to Blue Mountain Lake, part of the Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area, a spot we frequented with Miss Ellie. Jolee is nervous on a ride but ignites with excitement during hikes.

a blonde woman kneeling in the middle of a heart-shaped grouping of stones with a mostly white dog with black markings

Jolee and I at Indian Rocks

We stopped at Indian Rocks, a viewpoint overlooking PA’s mountains. There was a heart-shaped arrangement of stones a previous hiker left behind that brought a smile. Curt snagged a photo of Jolee and me in the middle. Then on to Hemlock Pond, where several folks were enjoying the respite. Once there, Jolee took off, pulling out from the hold on the leash running into the woods.

“Leave it, leave it, leave it,” we yell, a command not yet mastered.

I feared it was a bear cub, then saw a porcupine meandering up the tree. I’ve come upon the docile creatures several times hiking the Appalachian Trail. Thankfully, Curt was able to grab the leash, and the situation seemed under control.

Then came squeals from Jolee. Curt exits the woods carrying our dear pup, her left front paw loaded with quills. She accidentally stepped on a baby porcupine below the tree, Curt explained, not seeing it there. We were two and a half miles from the parking lot. Too far to carry Jolee the whole way, and if she walked on the quills, it would add far more to the injury.

I should preface this: Curt is trained as a veterinary assistant, having worked part-time to satisfy his love of animals. Porcupine quills have barbs on their end, making them more painful coming out than going in. It’s a manual process to pick them out, and usually, the animal is under sedation. My job was to hold Jolee.

a balck and white photo of a man in a ballcap holding a black and white dog and a woman wiping the dogs paw.

Angel hiker Maria selflessly stepped in to help.

Angel hikers step in to help.

Two women saw the scene, “Is there something we can do to help. We have a first-aid kit with tweezers.” At first, we didn’t take them up on their offer, but as Jolee’s fear escalated, along with mine, I asked for their help.

One gal hands the tweezers to Curt, but I couldn’t keep Jolee from squirming out of my grip. She offered to step in as Curt held her, not an easy task; our poor pup was in such pain. One by one, the angel hiker managed to get the remaining quills out.

Curt carried Jolee on his shoulders for lengths of the trail back to the parking lot. The scene reminded me of when he lifted Miss Ellie to bring her to the truck on our way to help her go home. Tears flowed as I followed behind.

As I write, it’s the day after, and Jolee is doing fine.

We called our veterinarian, who said to watch for signs of infection. We are grateful for the angels that stepped in —inspiration to all of us to help those in need.

a balck and white photo of a man carrying a white dog with black markings on his shoulder

The scene reminded me of when Curt lifted Miss Ellie.

I wish I could send a proper thank you, but I only learned their first names in the flurry—Maria from Vernon and Trish from Branchville, NJ. In sharing Jolee’s background, we learned Maria once volunteered at Father John’s Animal House, from where we adopted her. There are no coincidences.

Back to Three Sisters Gardening —I’d love to know other great garden companions if you would kindly share your successes. You can reach me by leaving a comment below or emailing me (

At the same time, if I may ask your thoughts on whether it’s time to change the column photo from Miss Ellie and me to me in Jolee. Maybe, in a way, it’ll be like we’re becoming three sisters, Ellie always in my heart. Garden Dilemmas? (and now on your favorite Podcast App.)


There’s an addendum to this story. Maria found me through the Garden Dilemmas Facebook page, asking how Jolee was doing. We’ve become “pen pals” since :^) Thank you, Maria and Trish- You are indeed an inspiration, and we are grateful for your kindness. 

Are porcupines considered a pest in the garden? Porcupines don’t hibernate during winter, during which time they can wreak havoc on trees by eating the bark and evergreen needles. And, during the growing season, they can damage your garden; they adore root vegetables. Should they become invaders in your garden, capturing them in an animal trap and moving them works well. And, there are products such as Critter Ridder they say can work. Better yet, installing electric fencing can do the trick. Here’s a link to helpful information on porcupine controls.

There’s more to the story in Episode 28 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

A link to the story of Miss Ellie in Unexpected Furry Messenger 

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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