This piece was cut from the Summer Issue of Woolgathering. No room for the gourds!
When planting the garden last year, I insisted on growing birdhouse gourds. There is an aged one hanging in the front of our house. It’s starting to crumble, and I’m not sure if it has been home to anyone in a while. Nonetheless, its curvaceous shape and whimsy remains an open invitation.
My affinity for gourds began when I was about eight, and my brother and I participated in a nature camp one summer. During Mr. Patterson’s nature camp, we learned about the types of clouds, tasted freshly farmed honey, and hugged trees. The experience was so positive that my brother brought home a baby bunny whom he named after Mr. Patterson --despite her being a female. In addition to scientific observations, we made things inspired by nature--like ceramic owls and birdhouse gourds.
This latter project so perfectly marries garden produce with creativity while creating homes for our feathered friends. These goosey gourds are beautiful in the sculptural sense and historically very functional produce. Gourds were the plastic-ware before there was plastic--serving as ladles, bowls, and spoons. They weren’t often adorned since they were considered common and disposable. They have also been used as instruments. In fact, holding one in my hand preparing to sand its surface, I instantly started to shake the dried seeds within the cavernous shell. They are an instant rattle.
We grew four of these percussive vegetables. The smallest rotted. The other three I sanded, cut holes, and varnished. They hang near the patio now, and I wait until someone moves in. Until then, I will plant the saved seeds from these gourds for growing more birdhouses for next year.
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.