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Bottles & Dippers

Finally, it was time. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever be time. When they say it takes a while for gourds to dry out, they aren't lying. It takes every bit that much and maybe a little longer.

It is odd how it works. I had some that dried rather quickly on the vine but another batch that took every bit of five months. In the meantime, my gourd trellis structure took a beating from some strong winds during the winter months. I had my work cut out for me to get the last of the gourd harvest cleaned and ready for paint. Plus, so much needed to be done if I was going to be prepared to plant on time for the upcoming season.

First Things First

"That's just nasty"

Well, first I need to repair my gourd trellis. However, I will need some supplies in order to complete it and it will be a few days to get those things in order. So, in the meantime, I shall round up the last of the gourd harvest and get them cleaned. Let me tell ya, they are nasty looking and toxic with mold. Always wear a mask and gloves when handling moldy gourds.

You'll know a gourd is fully dry if you give it a shake and hear the seeds rattling inside. Yep, these are ready for a good cleaning. Different people have different methods of cleaning. After researching the various methods, I settled on using a bucket filled with white vinegar and Dawn dish soap. Some people prefer bleach. I didn't choose it because:

  1. I hate to smell bleach, especially for long periods of time while cleaning. While vinegar also has a strong odor, at least you won't feel like passing out.

  2. Bleach is not porous. Meaning it works best on flat surfaces, it doesn't get into the pores. So, vinegar is better, it is porous.

  3. It dries my skin out like crazy. Even when using gloves because somehow, I always manage to get a hole in my gloves. Vinegar may leave you smelling like an easter egg but at least you won't be dried out.

I filled one bucket with vinegar and Dawn. Then I filled the other bucket with cold water to rinse. The tricky part is keeping them underwater to soak for at least fifteen minutes. Gourds float so, I needed something heavy to hold them underwater. The longer they soak, the easier they are to clean. The mold comes off fairly easily with steel wool.

That's so much better. Each one is unique and has spots. The spots are created from the mold. They are kind of like scars from the gourd's drying-out process. Anyway, once cleaned, they are safe to handle safely without gloves. For these, I will be making birdhouses. There were two which have cracked stems. So, they will be made into bowls.

Keeping Track

Different birds have different sizes and need different size homes. I grabbed a notebook and compiled a list of my gourds. I took some painter's tape and numbered all the gourds. Now I can measure the gourds and this will help me determine the size of the hole to make for the entrance to the birdhouses. Three key measurements will help determine the entrance hole size.

  1. Length

  2. Diameter

  3. Base

To create the birdhouse, you'll need the following:

  • A small drill bit

  • A hole saw kit

  • A coat hanger

  • A mask & goggles

  • Wear old clothes and wash them when you are done

Always, wear a mask and goggles when drilling into a gourd. Gourds have inside them what is called 'gourd dust' and this is toxic. You don't need to have an allergy for this to harm you. There is a thing called 'gourd flu' and it's caused by gourd dust. Inhalation of gourd dust affects your respiratory system. You don't want these particles in your eyes either. Always, err on the side of caution.

Drill a hole into the gourd with the hole saw. You will also need to use the regular drill bit and drill two holes at the top around the stem. This will be used to place a wire or string to hang the birdhouse. You will also need to drill three to four small holes at the bottom of the gourd at the base. This will be for drainage purposes.

The coat hanger is used to clean the inside of the gourds. You can also use a ball/shaft sander bit with your drill if you have one. Gourds are full of seeds and soft, papery-type matter. It feels a lot like packing material.

I got three coffee cans of seeds from twenty gourds!

Time is Wasting

"It's a catastrophe"

The weather did a number on my gourd trellis structure. I needed to get the seeds in the ground the week of May 10th. After the proverbial 'May 10th cold spell'. By the looks of it, this won't do. Not at all.

Oh my, my work is cut out for me.

First, we need to make some sense of this mess.

So, we need to sure-up the sides. It looks better but I needed to run to Lowes for a few extra T-posts, some tie-downs, and a weed barrier carpet.

Ready for planting, which I did. I had gourds appear within five days and they are now about three inches high.

Now, that the hard part is done, it's time for fun. Painting the gourds is what made it all worthwhile for me. Growing my own canvases and painting whatever suited my fancy. I can't really put into words how much I enjoyed that. I love how they turned out and I love the smiling faces of the people that wanted them. The funny thing is, people love the brightly colored ones. The birds, however, prefer the more naturally colored ones. I hang these on a line to dry after applying the sealant. While they were drying, a bird started building a nest in the green one in the center of this photo. I didn't notice at the time I took them inside. The bird must have wondered where his new home went off to.

I kept the first one I grew just for me and whichever bird would like to live in it. It's hard to tell from the photo below but it grew to be 15.5" long. It was the second longest one I grew by two inches, the longest was 17.5".

I figured the size would be suitable for an Eastern Bluebird so I went with a two-inch overlapping oval-shaped opening. These bluebirds prefer natural colors, so I made the image on the backside, maybe they won't notice. Anyway, if you are a gamer, you will recognize the Aku Aku tribal mask from PlayStation's Crash Bandicoot games. Still one of my all-time favorite games and it made for a super cool image for my gourd.

That's just too cool! Even if I do say so myself. I used a coat hanger and hung it as high as I could get it on a dead tree. I see woodpeckers and bluebirds hanging out a lot in this dead tree, that's why I chose it. I hung the birdhouse with the hole facing East. Ready for company.

If you are interested in how my fascination with gourds began, click here I hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading!

May you have the most blessed of days.

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