artists, growtips, info & more

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    Carved wood by Joan Forbes

In This Issue: Up in the wilds of Manitoba, in an area known by the locals and visitors as "God's Country", lives a woman named Joan Forbes. Artist, business- woman, outdoor enthusiast and fly fisherman, Joan's philosophy in life is "don't let fear and common sense get in your way." This thought has allowed her  
freedom in her pursuits and the result is a lifestyle that is full of exploration and fun. Please welcome Joan - her stories are wonderful and all have the spirit of adventure.

              The word "miracle" aptly describes a seed.
                               A quote by Jack Kramer.

Many of you have been chomping at the bit to get your gourd seeds started and now that April has finally arrived, your task can come to pass. Every year Northern Dipper presents a series of articles on the art of growing gourds. These are of particular use to the first timer, and will answer the questions of even the most seasoned grower. This month we will start at the very beginning of the journey... the planting of the seed.

Sherry Davidson, author of our letter series "The Lone Gourd", asks the questions that all first time growers ask. Growing gourds can be such a mystery at times and Sherry's humourous responses to this new experience brings back many memories for us more experienced growers.

There is lots to cover in this busy gourd world of ours but first here are a couple of show photos from last month's Stratford Garden Show and Canada Blooms.
The Northern Dipper booth at the Stratford Garden Show. Carolyn and Linda were very busy with the non-stop traffic. Top sellers were seeds, gourds for bird houses and supplies.
Decisions, decisions. This woman was looking for a few curly handled dippers. She looks like a kid in a candy shop!
   Here is a woman carrying one of Catherine Devine's beautiful gourd purses.  

              Joan Forbes  
   Joan standing beside one of her stained glass panels. She states that the success she experienced with glass gave   her the confidence to try different techniques with gourds. 

The interview with Joan Forbes revealed a woman with an abundance of energy, a wicked imagination, and interests that were expressed through art. Past experiences with mosaics, wood carving, stained glass and beading helped Joan develop her own unique style in her gourd work.

Much of her inspiration is drawn from nature which only stands to reason as Joan owns and operates Child's Lake Lodge & Outfitters. Running a fishing and hunting resort allows one a front row seat to the changing of the seasons and a multitude of birds and animals.These are images that us urban explorers can only dream about. Joan's journey has been quite an adventure. Here in her own words is how it unfolded.


"Years ago I saw a picture of a carved birdhouse gourd which happened to stay in the back of my mind. As fate might have it some friends began spending winters in Yuma, Arizona and they were constantly telling me about the carved and painted gourds that would show up in their travels. A couple of years later my sister and I drove down with my mom and once we saw these gourds and came across some "how to" books...well what can I say - my sister Sandra and I were hooked!" 

"Sandra was always much more artistic than I spending her time knitting, cooking gourmet meals or building something. I prefered to be outside fishing, hunting or snowmobiling. One year Sandra took a stained glass course and during a visit she brought her design books. It was intriquing so we planned an "educational" weekend where she taught me the basics. A trip to the local stained glass shop for supplies and I was on my way."

"My growth as a glass artist had a natural flow to it. Before I knew it people were asking me for specific designs and the patterns got larger and more precise.
I sold everything I made through the Lodge and the money went back into my new business. I opened a bank account and did business cards with "The Raven Glass Company" on them. A perfect name as my mom, sister and I are like ravens - we just love anything shiny. As a matter of fact the tagline on my card is "Specializing in bright and shiny objects."
"I learned new techniques through discussions with other artists, the Internet, books and through exploration. I also quite often put a project on a back burner and just looked at it while working on other things. It's funny because some mornings I wake up and think 'I bet this would work great on that gourd!" 
 This is really nice. We love the detail on the inside of the gourd.
"Child's Lake Lodge is where I sell all of my work. My husband Brian and I own and have operated the lodge for 19 years. People often see my work here or in someone's home or cabin and will then commission a piece. I don't have time to attend trade shows. I have some difficulty producing enough pieces to keep up my stock at the lodge itself."
"Recently I purchased a Quarter horse and any free time is spent at my friend's ranch herding her cattle. It is great exercise and I am suppose to learn how to rope this spring. Last summer I acquired my fly fishing guides license and I'm trying to promote that, along with getting in some fly fishing with friends too! 
To learn more about Child's Lake Lodge & Outfitters click here.

  Thank you Joan. Your life is very full and we are so happy that you find the time for gourd art! Good luck with your fly fishing. If we ever get by your way we'll be sure to stop by for the experience. Carolyn and Linda

Notes From the Gourd Patch
 Starting at the beginning with the gourd seed  
Getting ready to plant. Here the growing medium is Pro-Mix.
The Facts:
Gourd plants require heat and warm soil temperatures to reach maturity. They take anywhere from 110 days to 140 days to mature.
In northern climates in areas such as coastal BC, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland it is recommended that gourds be grown in a greenhouse.
               They look so pretty once planted and watered.

Starting Your Seeds:
Gourd seeds have a very thick woody shell that can be difficult to germinate. Sprouting times can vary between 5 - 30 days depending on the variety and thickness of the shells. Start your seeds 6 weeks before your proposed outdoor plant date.
Soak your seeds in water for 24 hours before planting. It will soften the shells and will aid in both the rate and the speed of germination.
With small quantities of seeds consider using paper towels. Place seeds between a couple of layers of wet paper towel. Keep in a dry, warm, dark place. It is essential that you keep the towels moist. Once sprouted plant the seeds in peat pots. For large quantities of seeds soak and plant in peat pots.
It is such a good feeling when they all start popping up.
Transferring The Seeds To Peat Pots:
Three-inch peat pots will accomodate two seeds. Use good quality potting soil mixed with vermiculite. Do not use garden soil due to weed seeds and bugs.
Plant 2 seeds per pot and water. * Be sure to keep the seedlings warm.  If you are using a green house heat it at night.
GROWER'S TIP: Plant a few extra seeds just in case a few don't germinate or a few of the seedlings don't make it. Keep in mind that gourd seeds can take a long time to germinate.
To view seed varieties click here. 

 We thought we would end with  these fabulous purple martin houses built by John Remai. Watching martins swoop through the summer air is like watching a ballet in motion.
Below is a female martin (left) and a male.


The original idea for this month's issue of Gourd Fever was to feature artist Joan Forbes and her sister Sandra together. But once we interviewed both sisters we quickly realized that both were extremely interesting and both very different.
In light of this, next month we are delighted to present sister Sandra McKelvey, a psychiatric nurse who lives in Northern Manitoba. Sandra has a passion for seeking out embellishments for her art. Whether it is an afternoon walk or a trip to the thrift store, there will always be something that catches her eye. Join us to share Sandra's unique art and her positive approach to life.

Notes From the Gourd Patch, a series of articles on growing gourds, will include topics on fertilizing and taking care of your young seedlings. With a few basic steps your seedlings will be strong and healthy and within a few weeks, ready to be planted outside.

We have a couple of surprises that we would like to keep under our hat for the moment so until next month...cheers.
                               Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond

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


    Volume 5, Number 51 


In this issue
Joan Forbes - The Adventuresome Artist

Getting The Scoop On Gourd Birdhouses

Notes From The Gourd Patch: Starting Your Gourd Seeds
"The Lone Gourd" Letters by Sherry Davidson 
Dear Carolyn, Readers Corner & Gourd Sightings

Rolling Out The Welcome Mat For The Wildlife In Your Yard
Invite your favorite birds to your yard by installing gourd birdhouses.
Housing size and location are two important elements in attracting birds. Some like large gourds (the purple martin) while others prefer the smaller home. (wrens, bluebirds) 

Any shape of gourd will work - cannonballs, dippers, apples & kettles
are all popular choices. 
The size of the entry hole is an important  factor when a bird chooses a home.
Decorated birdhouse 

 To clean the houses out in the fall
use long nosed pliers. Birds will return year after year so hang them back
out in the same spot.

Purple Martin Houses

Wartie gourds are like designer houses in the bird world.
How to make gourd houses? Click here.

For info on entry holes click here. (Scroll down to Nest Box Dimensions.)
 To learn about purples martins click here.
To view gourds for houses click here.
     Joan Forbes   

"My son has told me that he thinks stained glass is too one - dimensional for me and that I have grown as an artist since beginning with gourds."

 Joan transforming a block of wood into carved trim for a mantle.

Carved wood and stones ... well done Joan!

Joan is self-taught for the most part and was always thrilled when carving knives would be given as gifts at Christmas and birthdays. The ultimate gift was when Joan's husband bought her a Dremel
with a flex shaft.

Joan usually has a few projects on the go. When working on one she will be eyeing up the others thinking hmmmm...

"People have commented that some of my art has an Aboriginal flavour. We live in a large Metis community and  many of our friends and neighbours are Metis. I find Native art to be largely influenced by the wildlife and topography that surrounds them and I guess I am no different."

"I love how the native artist can translate a single line or brush strole into movement, flow and even attitude."


"Our mom always encouraged Sandra and I in whatever direction our creativity headed. Mom dabbles in creating beautiful mosaic - topped tables and is also an awesome cook and gardener. She is also an avid fisherman and loves to go
after Lake trout or pike."

Joan's experience with the loom helped her greatly with weaving pine needles on a gourd rim.

"Our favorite quote around here is don't let fear and common sense get in your way. Funny yes but often true in the artistic sense and certainly applicable in this case. The other thing is to start simple and let your work evolve."

Joan brings the outdoors inside with these images of wildlife.

Dragonflys are such an interesting
subject to paint with their irridesent colours.

"The Lone Gourd"  
The Second of a Series of Letters by Sherry Davidson

(These letters were written in 2008.)
Small gourds or pepos sit underneath the female flowers.
Hi Carolyn and Linda,
Well here is another update. Every weekend, after a long week of working in Toronto, I rush up the little hill to see if I have any flowers that need to be pollinated. NOPE. What I have now is a trailing vine with large leaves that are running along the ground.

On top of the larger leaves there's a small stem with a little ball- type thing on the top. Is this a flower or a little gourd? The ball is about the size of a pea.

Now tell I sound like the village idiot or what. I saw a T-shirt in California which I almost bought for the man. It said, "Your village called. The idiot is missing."
I should have bought it for myself and painted a gourd on it... 
Will let you know what happens next!

    Sherry Davidson
This is the bloom of an ornamental gourd. Hard-shell gourd flowers are always white.
Hi Sherry
 When we first started to grow we couldn't tell the difference between a male or female flower and that little ball!! Now we can spot the difference from a mile away.
 That little ball is indeed a gourd but unless the female flower is pollinated the very same night it opens that little gourd will turn brown and fall off.
Keep your eyes open for a male flower and get out the paint brush. Let's hope Mother Nature cooperates.
Keep in touch Sherry,
Dear Carolyn
Hello Northern Dipper!
Could you send this newsletter to my better email? Also any past newsletters available? My new email is......
I appreciate getting your newsletter every month. I am a gardener and have recently received many types of seed. I already have a Dremel tool and accessories AND I am going to RETIRE from my job in three years and plan to get very GOURDY!!
Thanks so much, Lyni 
Hi Lyni,
Thank you for your email. We will most certainly delete your old email address and replace it with the new.  
Re: Back issues of the newsletter - they are all on our website under All About Gourds - Gourd Fever Back Issues. 

It is worthwhile checking them out as we have had the privledge of featuring some amazing artists from around the world. There are also some very good tutorials listed.

Good luck with your plans of retirement. Before you know you will be counting down the days!

All the best,

       Gourd Sightings
Alex James: Cocaine Diaries Series

Former cocaine addict Alex James travels to Columbia to meet with the farmers, sellers and enforcers involved in the cocaine trade. He also meets with the President of Columbia.

This documentary shows how destructive the cocaine trade is to the people of Columbia among other things.

Musicians who sing about the cocaine traffickers were using gourd instruments.

To learn more about this informative film click here.
Alex James meeting the President of Columbia on YouTube -

 PS Last But Not Least
 Workshops at Northern Dipper
The new Northern Dipper workshop schedules are up on our website. They are plentiful and it is guaranteed you will have a good time. To learn more click here.

  Published by:
Pamela Grossi
Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7

Northern Dipper
5376 County Road 56
RR2, Cookstown, Ontario
L0L 1L0, Canada
(705) 435-3307
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Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada