Note: If using Outlook click the above bar where it says “Click to download photos” The photos are the best part!



"Geometric Design" by Toronto Artist Noel Potts 
Woodburned and Inked
It’s Spring at Northern Dipper

Freshly Harvested Bottle Gourds
 In This Issue

The signs of spring in rural Ontario are here at long last. The Cardinals have departed and the Purple Martins are returning from their winter home in Brazil. In this months Issue you are going to meet Ian McDougall, whose relationship with Purple Martins began in 1982. Ian will go to any length to help the survival of these pretty birds. Here at Northern Dipper we have completed our harvest and as you will discover there are great sales on quality gourds this month. So pull yourself out of your garden for a few minutes, have a cup of tea and relax with this May Issue of Gourd Fever.

Farm Visits Only - 20% Off All Gourds
Carolyn's Gourds
What Will These Be – Feng Shi Bottles, Bowls, Birdhouses, Snowmen, Sculpture, Drums….
 The selection is now at its best. On all farm visits, from  May 1 - 31, we will be offering 20% off all gourds. It is well worth the trip. Save on freight and chose your own.
To view a map of our location click here.
 To view gourd varieties click here.
Monday to Friday  Please call ahead at 519/443-5638 or email to set up a time. Then print out our map and come on by.

Saturday & Sunday is our drop-in day. No appointment necessary from May 1 to October 31, 2006. Hours - 10 AM - 4:00 PM

New to our Website are Warties. These are unique gourds, round like a Cannonball but textured with hundreds of little bumps. Warties make great birdhouses, interesting containers and fascinating small purses. To view click here.


Robins Eggs – There are always nests of robins and Killdeer in the gourd field. We work around them and harvest those gourds later.

50% off all Minis 

We have hundreds; no thousands; of Minis. Stock up now for those special projects with the kids or for your own projects. Make creative wind chimes, ornaments, window decorations and Halloween and Christmas crafts.

Must ship in the month of May. Applys to both farm visits and Internet orders. To see more click here.

Ian McDougall - Purple Martin Landlord and Enthusiast


Ian McDougal’s Martin Houses
He has 33 gourd houses and one 22 room house for his Martins.

 This is a true story...

It was early April 2005. In a small rural community, located a few miles east of Point Pelee, is where Ian and Simone McDougall live. The Purple Martins had just returned to  Ian’s back yard where they make their summer home. The weather was good and there were plenty of insects for the Martins to eat. Three weeks later however the cold was returning.


Warm weather and then a cold snap...not a good thing. In 2003 the same thing had happened and Ian was very concerned. The early arrivals, the older birds, cannot go without food for more than a couple of days and in the cold there are no insects. Ian lost all of his older birds that year, as did every Martin enthusiast around him and he was determined that it was not going to happen to him again. He proceeded to devise a plan.


Looking Up at Ian McDougall’s Martin Houses. Note the large  4" inspection covers that are corked into the sides of the gourds.
The next day Ian and Simone went out to the back and lowered the Martin houses. As the birds would enter their homes Ian would plug the entry holes and proceed to extract them through the inspection covers. He placed them all in the largest gourd house he had and ended up with 18 Martins. Ian and Simone gassed up the car and headed south several hundred miles. Once there were blossoms on the trees and the hum of insects in the air they released the birds. Both Ian and Simone commented that one of the birds appeared to look over his shoulder almost as much to say “Thank you for saving our lives.” And save their lives they did. That night a terrible snowstorm blew into Point Pelee and consequently the Purple Martins would have perished for sure.


 Simone and Ian McDougall

Martin Observations and Facts by Ian McDougall

Martins start coming back to Canada from the end of March through till June. The southern part of Ontario gets them first. In fact on an early spring maybe we'll get them back the last week of March.


There are no natural cavities left for the Martins anywhere. They depend entirely on housing put up by man. Early in the spring the scourge of the bird world, the imported starling, takes over all available cavities in old trees. Not only do they displace the likes of the Martin but all native cavity nesting birds. A lot of our native birds just can not reproduce because of the starling.


Long before the white man came to North America the native people used to put up gourds for the Purple Martins. They must have set the standard because in many cases Purple Martins will take gourd housing over a martin house. I belong to Essex County Purple Martin Association, located in southern Ontario. There are members who’s Martins prefer houses to gourds but in my case they prefer the gourds.

They seem to like a big gourd say 10 to 12’’. There have been many advances to entrance holes in gourds. The native people of years ago did not have the problem of the starling so they just used a round entrance hole but now most people have to modify the entrance hole to exclude the starling. In fact, several years ago, a Canadian in New Brunswick, Charles McEwen, revolutionized the Martin world by inventing a new type of hole called a crescent, shaped like a half moon and to specific measurements. It will allow a Martin to enter but not a starling. And by the way a starling will kill a Martin and also break eggs and just do whatever it takes to secure the martins nesting cavity. Since the crescent was invented there have been many other forms of the crescent invented but all come under the heading of starling excluder.


The internet is just packed with all kinds of information on Purple Martins. The site I use the most is Purple Martin Conservation Association  - a great site, and there are many others, just punch in Purple Martin and browse.
 This picture was taken at the Essex County Purple Martin club meeting on Sat. April 22 at the home of Gilles Breton who has a beautiful 30 pair colony.  Gilles is the President and Founder of the present club. These are his martin houses.

Last year I had 38 pair and raised well over 100 young. A fellow just a ¼ mile from me had 50 pair so he must have raised well over 200 young. In fact he is mostly gourds as well. His name is Nick Glazier and has had Martins for over 30 years.


Most of the young Martins leave their nests towards the end of July but come back to roost in the evening. About the middle of August most leave and work their way down to South America where they spend the winter.

Thank you very much Ian for the enjoyable discussion and for contributing this excellent article about Purple Martins.  And thank you Simone for filling in the details!  We will be down this summer to see you and your Martin colony. PG
(All Martin photos in this article, apart from Joe Dillingers, were taken by Ian.)
Interesting websites about Purple Martins:
Purple Martin Photos by Joe Dillinger -
Attracting and Managing Purple Martins -
The Purple Martin Gourd -
Building a Successful Martin House (Scroll down to find articles)

Claire's Gourd

 Grow Report: Gourd Growing in May
Gourd Seedlings In the Greenhouse
Note: This is based on the Southern Ontario climate.  Modify depending on the zone you are in.
  • Plant seeds inside now if you haven’t already.  
  • May 12-14 – Work up soil and spread black plastic.
  • May 15 – Start hardening off – Set your seedlings outside next to a south-facing wall or in a warm protected area for a few hours during the warmest part of the day.
  • May 24th weekend (depending on weather) – Plant seedlings out.

Get your seeds started now if you haven't already. An early start will result in strong seedlings, which will result in a higher success rate. Soak the seeds for 24 hours at least before you plant them to soften them up.

Plant in 3” peat pots work. Fill the pots with good seedling mix, water well and press down. Place 2 seeds approximately 1/2” deep per pot.  Top up with soil and lightly water. Place in a sunny window and keep the soil moist. Cover your peat pots with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and once your seeds start to germinate remove the plastic. Gourd seeds take anywhere from 1 – 3 weeks to come up.
Once the leaves start coming up give the seedlings a weak formula of fertilizer and water. The seedlings will grow rapidly.
Trellis or Ground: Trellising takes up less room but your structure must be very strong.  Either a wooden structure or even a chain link fence acts as a great trellis.  On the ground gourd vines are vigorous and like to spread out. They can be planted in rows or in hills similar to pumpkins. Leave approximately 8’ between hills or rows & 4’ between plants.
A couple of weeks before planting spread out black garbage bags to warm the soil. Use soil or rocks to keep the edges secure. Plastic keeps down the weeds and keeps the moisture in. 
Keep in mind that the 3 most important factors to gourd growing are:
1.) Full sun  2.) Rich, well fertilized soil  3.) Plenty of water
Tips on building a tellis click here.

May Dates To Remember  
May 1: May Day, the first of May is celebrated around the world. The Celts called it Beltane. May festivals were a time of "wearing of the green," a time to celebrate the renewal of life. To communist and socialist countries, it is a celebration for the workers.
May 3: World Press Freedom Day recognizes the value of freedom of expression, and the sacrifices journalist have made to attain this freedom. It was created, and is sponsored, by the United Nations. While we enjoy this freedom in the United States and Canada, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression, is not a given right in many countries.  
May 14: Mother’s Day: Historians claim that Mother's Day emerged from the ancient Pagan festivals dedicated to mother goddess. Today May 14 is a day where we honour of our immediate mothers. In the United States, Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948) is credited with bringing in the celebration of Mother's day. Happy Mother's Day!
May 24: Planting Outside If all danger of frost has past plant your gourd seedlings outside. Water well after planting. Gourd seedlings may wilt due to transplant shock but they will recover after receiving water.  
May 24: Victoria Day is held in honour of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) to celebrate the birthday of the long reigning  queen of England. It is celebrated in England, Canada and other former British colonies and territories.

  Glorious Daffodils in Northern Dipper Gardens

NEXT ISSUE:  To get into the mood for the upcoming July CGS Gourd Festival, the June issue of Gourd Fever will be looking back at previous gourd fests. In addition we are happy to present Darienne and Ed McAuley. Darienne is the Founder of the Canadian Gourd Society (CGS) and although she has stepped back the past couple of years, if it weren’t for Darienne, there may not be a CGS. We will discuss what it was like when those first few people sat in Darienne’s living room and the changes that have occurred since that time. We will also present Darienne and Ed's gourd art which is found in collections and galleries in both the US and Canada. I might add that Ed and Darienne will be teaching at this years CGS Gourd Fest. To see details of what is being offered click here.
Until then, Happy Trails, See you in the movies...Pam Grossi & Peter Bell

 In the spring there is new life all around us.
Killdeer Eggs.
Killdeers lay 4 eggs in the gravel driveways or in the field. The babies are literally born running. They are very cute dashing about – all are carbon copies of their parents, only smaller.
 A Mother Killdeer Protecting Her Eggs.
She will move away from the nest and pretend that she has a broken wing. When she feels her eggs are safe she will fly away. If you don't move she will actually fly up towards you trying to scare you off. Believe it or not we have been known, on more than one occasion, to close off part off our driveway until the eggs hatch!
To learn more about these precocious little birds click here.

Back issues of our newsletter Gourd Fever are on our Website. If you have missed any issues there are some interesting tutorials and grow information you may want to check out.


PS If you have any stories or ideas that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to


Volume 2, Number 15 


In this issue
It's Spring at Northern Dipper
Great Sales This Month 
Ian McDougall - Purple Martin Landlord and Enthusiast
Tutorial: "How To Build A Gourd Martin House - Links & Tips!
Gourd Growing Report - What Happens Next? 


Dates To Remember!


Gourd Sightings & Trivia

 Gourd Art by Toronto Artist Noel Potts 


Noel Potts is a soft - spoken, retired teacher with many interests, one being gourd art.  The above 5 photos are pieces that have received  much attention at various gourd events in Canada.

    A Sampling of Ian McDougall's Martin Houses 

                Gourd Martin Houses
  Wooden martin house that Ian replaced with a metal 22 room model.

 Purple Martins are:
1.)  The largest member of the swallow family in North America, measuring 7 1/2 inches (19 cm) long and weighing 1.9 ounces (55 grams).
2.)  Purple Martins are monogamous. The male and female cooperate equally in building the nest out of mud, grass and twigs. The female lays two to seven pure-white eggs at a rate of one egg per day.
3.) The female incubates the clutch for approximately fifteen days, then the young hatch. The parents both feed the young continuously for a period of 26-32 days until the young fledge. The young continue to be dependent on their parents for food and training for an additional one to two weeks after fledging.
To learn more click here.

The following 5 photos were taken by Joe Dillinger. 
Close-Up of Purple Martin
Young Martins in a mailbox
  Parent feeding the young
Martin eating insect
Bathing Martins 

Most of Joe’s  photos were taken using an Astrophysics ``Traveler'' astronomical telescope at prime focus at his father's house in Duncanville, Texas. To view Joe's photos check out the link at the end of the Martin article.

Claire's Beautiful Gourds Using Knots
and Pine Needles
My name is Claire, I'm French but I live and work in Texas. After a good week of work in front of a computer I like to free my mind and exert my fingers with crafts.

In 2003 I made a wonderful trip to Hawaii and at the art museum of the Volcanoes National Park I saw a very beautifully carved gourd. I was deep in my hammock period but I decided that my next experimentation would be gourds.

Claire incorporating her knowledge of knots in her gourd art.
The pine needles are dyed Oxblood to match the gourd. This piece is lovely.
Pine needle lid 
To view more click here.

 Gourd Seedlings  
Cotyledons - These are the first leaves but are not the true gourd leaves. The next set of leaves will be gourd leaves.
 Seedling In Peat Pot
Laying Plastic at Northern Dipper
Photo Plastic - Enviromentally correct but it broke down midway through the season and as you can see the result was a big problem with weeds. There are a couple of gourd leaves up in the top left hand corner.

 Gourd Sightings
This antique gourd drum from West Africa was spotted in an email that came in from London drummer Jack Barnes.  
Past Winners at Gourd Fest 
Karen Cheeseman's Bird
  Carved Red Gourd. I do not know who    did this but it is gorgeous.

 This is Hannah, our # 3 cat. She is the oldest at 15 years but still behaves like a kitten with her stuffed mice. Hannah loves ladders and has the agility of a mountain goat no matter how high they are.
 Royal and her friend Tripp.

 Published by Northern   Dipper Enterprises
Northern Dipper Farm
1666 Villa Nova Road
RR1 Wilsonville, Ontario
N0E 1Z0 Canada
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Northern Dipper Farm - 1666 Villa Nova Road RR1, Wilsonville, Ontario, N0E1Z0, Canada