Dancing with the Gourds

The main purpose of our garden is to provide our family with fresh nutritious food but it also supplies us with all manner of homegrown decorations (all fully compostable!) to feed the soul with beauty and whimsy. Either fresh cut or dried flowers grace the kitchen table year round. Sometimes the veggies themselves make a lovely summer centerpiece. Fall, however,  is when the garden ornaments truly shine with colorful popcorn, sorghum seed heads, corn shocks, pumpkins galore and weird squash to add to every corner (see my previous post).

This year our gourd crop was especially noteworthy. There were birdhouse gourds aplenty and the children were completely fascinated in discovering all personalities of goose gourds hidden under the prolific vines. We were especially amused by the vine that decided to climb a nearby apple tree resulting in geese with very long straight necks. Our daughter experimented with growing luffa gourds which are now drying with hopes of recovering a sponge from the inside. Other years we have grown apple gourds and even snake gourds (my son’s choice, not mine!).

Tenessee Dancing Gourds

The most amazing gourd crop this year were actually the littlest fellows, Tennessee Dancing Gourds or Spinners. We chose this variety from Lehman’s Seed Saver Exchange rack and planted five hills of them. These 2-3 inch green striped gourds were reportedly a toy that children used to take to school to enjoy at recess. After gathering over a bushel of these whimsical little gourds, we have the happy job of sharing them with everyone who stops by our house. One of my customers is a preschool teacher and bought a quart to share with her class. Others have bought quantities as toys and even table favors for a ladies’ luncheon.

I also share them with children and grandpas who came by my Thursday demonstration table  at Lehman’s. One day I handed one to a grandfatherly gentleman and he chuckled and wondered how I knew he was visiting from Tennessee! Amazingly, this happened with two more families, none of whom had traveled together. It was Tennessee Day at the store.

I had fun showing folks how to spin them on their wide bottoms until another demonstration day when a couple who had recently attended a Gourd Conference stopped at my table. They showed me the real way to spin them on their pointy tips and shared that they were one of the first to grow them and were able to sell them for $1 each at the Conference 4 years ago. That could easily have made my gourd harvest the most lucrative garden crop for the year! He also told me that he dries the gourds, scrubs off the mold and cuts them into tiny bowls which he decorates with wood burned designs.

I spent the rest of the day showing off my new trick to visitors. Once I got home, our whole family was on the floor seeing if they could spin the gourds. I also have a pile of gourds drying on a large screen with hopes of creating tiny bowls this winter. Oh, the fun we can have from garden toys and the things we can learn from others. If you are in Kidron on Thursdays, I invite you to stop by my demonstration table in the garden room at Lehman’s and share your knowledge with me.