How to dry birdhouse gourds

As the season draws to a close, some of you may have planted some of the elusive bird house gourds. (They seem elusive because I never can find mine until the vines start to die off.) But now what? How do you get these lime green beauties to turn into something for crafting? Well, its kind of a long road but in the end, worth the effort. Step 1) Harvest gourds. Leave a few inches for the stem, it looks cool and open punctures are bad.  You can pick them after the vines die off, or if you are having bug problems, as I often do, you can pick when you are happy with the size. ( If the bugs start making holes, you are in trouble. These buggy holes or other punctures often cause the gourds to rot. ) 2) Store. Some people keep their gourds outside over winter, I do not. I have had pest issues that way, so now I prefer mine to come indoors. I get the benefit  of keeping a closer eye on the drying process and they get moldier. (yes moldier is better) The mold creates beautiful patterns and hues on the finished gourd. Place your gourds in a barn or garage with plenty of airflow between each fruit. Mold is good, rot is bad. I lost an entire years harvest to rot and attribute it to lack of airflow. It was nasty to clean up, and I hope to never repeat that mistake! If one starts to squish up on you, pitch it out, so it doesn’t rot all the rest of your future beauties. So after your gourd have been sitting AWHILE like… until march … you can check to see if they are ready. Gourd skin should have changed to brown and will be dry to the touch, usually the skin is peeling. If you pick them up the gourds are surprisingly light weight, and may even rattle from the dried seeds inside. Then you know it is time! 3) Take off skins. This is the worst part. The skins just don’t want to come off. I filled up 5 gallon buckets and soaked mine (the best I could, it is kind of like trying to keep a balloon submerged) until the skin was more workable. Then I took a brilow pad and scrubbed until I could scrub no more. After the skins were removed I allowed them to dry and then cut in holes for the bird, a landing stick, and some at the top to hang it from a tree.  Then me and the kids had a painting party, and hung them in the back yard. I feel like they turned out beautiful, apparently the neighborhood birds were not as impressed, because none of them were chosen as a nesting place last spring. (maybe birds don’t like houses painted like monsters?) Oh well, they still look cool! I hope you have success in your gourd adventure! I know we will be putting more up this year for next spring’s projects!

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