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 Gourd Birdhouses by John Remai

In This Issue: 
This colourful array of gourd birdhouses were designed by artist/woodworker John Remai. John was born and raised in Saskatchewan and has spent his life contributing to the betterment of the province. Now retired, John spends part of his time creating wonderful works of art for the feathered population and contributes the proceeds to works of charity. John is an inspiration for not only his beautiful art but also for his generous spirit.

Last month we introduced our new embossing powders and this month we will follow up with a short tutorial on how to use them. They are easy, fun and will give your projects a unique look.
A large variety of gourd art can be seen at the CGS Gourd Festival. This piece by Brenda Chalfoux-Luscombe walked away with ribbons a couple of years ago.
The folks at the Canadian Gourd Society are gearing up for the annual Gourd Festival held October 24th and 25th at the Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto. It will be an exciting time with lots to see and do. For details read on. 
Green gourds ripening in the gourd garden
The gourd growing report, gourd sightings and other gourdly trivia will welcome in the month of September. Currently however it is time for John Remai to take the stage. Here we go're up.

John Remai
  "For it is in the giving that we receive."

This quote by St. Francis of Assisi is reflective of John
Remai's philosophy of life. 
John, in his element, surrounded by some of his birdhouses.
John Remai has retired but is still an extremely active builder. His career started many years ago after he left Carrot River, Saskatchewan to take a carpentry course in Saskatoon at the age of 16. During his teen years spent on the family farm, he built many birdhouses and doghouses as the love of building was already in his blood.

After completing his carpentry apprenticeship and working for a short while, he formed his own construction company. Over a period of many years, he built numerous houses, schools, nursing homes, hotels, motels, condominiums, office buildings and apartment buildings. As one of Saskatchewan's largest promoters, all of his development was kept within the province.
This colourful house would look great in any setting. 
Having fulfilled his dream of building he started to downsize his business a few years ago and completed his retirement planning in 2007. It was natural to go back to his roots for a hobby that would not only provide fulfillment during his retirement but be of value to the people and the community around him.
Once his shop was set up, he started looking at designs for birdhouses and feeders for both birds and squirrels. In his travels, frequenting bookstores for birdhouse books and magazines quickly became an enjoyable pastime. His background allows him to create designs or duplicate or modify existing plans to suit a particular look he wishes to achieve. 
These gourd houses have been treated in order to preserve them so they will last for several years.
It was on their annual winter vacation in Hawaii that John bought a birdhouse book and noticed how gourds were being used for birdhouses. When they returned home, some internet research netted the discovery of Northern Dipper where John has purchased gourds from.
When the gourds arrive in Saskatoon, John drills holes for a clean-out as well as the front entrance hole. He then proceeds to pull out the seeds and other innards. Next the gourds are cured in a copper sulfate solution which will preserve them for many years.
Last of all the colours are chosen and the gourds are painted. One of the unique things John has done with gourds is to attach four of them at the bottom of the large birdhouse condo to make a community for the purple martins.
Gifting to charity has been a large and significant part of John's philosophy. Long considered one of Saskatchwan's top philanthropists, making birdhouses for the benefit of charity is something new for him. Once all his friends and family members were gifted with birdhouses and feeders, his next goal was to focus on the "useful" part of his hobby in addition to the enjoyment part.
This spring, after making a substantial donation to the equipment campaign for the soon to be built Children's Health and Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, John decided to make birdhouses and feeders that people would receive for free. In leiu of a set price a donation would be made to this worth while cause...people are very generous. And while this is his specified charity of choice, John has also donated items to other local charilties for silent and live auctions.  
Although this venture is young, it has already raised thousands of dollars and John plans to continue doing this well into the future. In addition displays were done at the Shaughnessey Gardens this past spring and as this is a seasonal operation, John will be setting up with a year-round retailer very soon.
It was great meeting you John along with your lovely wife Sonya. We love your work and admire your generosity. Once you get set up with a year-round retailer let us know...we will let people know where they can come and purchase your birdhouses and feeders. Carolyn and Linda 

 The Canadian Gourd Society
Annual Gourd Festival
When: October 24 and 25th, 2009
Where: Black Creek Pioneer Village
Times: 11 am - 4:30 pm 
Black Creek is located in north-west Toronto at
1000 Murray Ross Parkway near the
intersection of Steeles Ave & Jane Street.

Catherine Devine, the artist who created this gourd, will be teaching a workshop titled "Advanced Patterned Closed Coiling with Waxed Linen." 

Peter Birkman will be teaching "Pyro Feather On Gourd"

Other well known artists teaching at the Gourd Festival are Gary Devine, famous for his detailed carvings and wood-burnings, Wendy Rinehart, an amazing doll -maker and gourd artist and Pat Blackburn, a woman who has a magical touch when it comes to manipulating Apoxie Sculpt.
What To Expect At Gourd Fest?
- Gourd Art Competitions
- Workshops
- Make and Take Area
- Artists at Work
- Live Demos
-Materials and Supplies for Sale
- Gourd Art for Sale 

Northern Dipper will be there with a full product line and a trailer full of dried gourds. They will also be having many free, informative product demonstrations - times and details will be listed in next months issue of Gourd Fever.  

 Dragon's Head

What Else? Yes There Is More!
The Travelling Gourd
This is a fund-raiser and artists from across Canada have contributed to this worthy cause.

The gourd was cut into sections. Here are two artists that contributed to the whole.

Gaston Touchette, a Quebec artist, does lovely work with sand.

The eye of this leopard, painted by Sue Beckerton, is very realistic and super cool!

Northern Dipper will be donating a huge, thick-walled Chinese Bottle gourd for each day of the show to be raffled off. There will also be a Christmas tree fully decorated with gourd ornaments!

For more information about the CGS Gourd Festival click here:

To learn more about Black Creek click here:

        The Lone Gourd
This is the last of the letters from Sherry Davidson relaying the story of the lone gourd. Alas it does not have a happy ending.

Hi Carolyn and Linda,
So good to see you at Canada Blooms and I want you to know I just love my painted gourd. I am happy to see you would finally sell it. As usual it was hard to have much time to talk but it is nice to see you are so popular.

Very very sad news. The Lone Gourd did not make it...unless that mushy, moldy mess at the top of the hill is faking it. I will give him another few days to shape up or he will have to ship out to make room for the NEW GOURD!!! Never say die.

I am leaving for Florida on Thursday and will be back the last week of April. I bought my seeds from you at Canada Blooms and will be seeking more hand-holding. This year is bound to be a bumper crop. I am sure they will all be exotic and when I open them the insides will be mother of pearl. Ever optimistic.
However Lynda and I need to spend yet another day doing one of your courses this spring.
Take care and we'll see you in May.
Sherry Davidson

PS I would have sent a photo of "The Man" but he was not too pretty. He was in my Yukon for awhile with perhaps a chance of showing him to you but unfortunately The Husband disposed of him when I was not looking. The end of an era - please pray for Gord's children! 
Sherry we want to thank you for sending in this series of letters. We enjoyed them so much and even though Gord didn't make it it was still fun reading about his progress. 
Looking forward to seeing you soon.
Carolyn and Linda


 Namibia, Africa is famous for its impressive sand dunes. 


NEXT ISSUE:  In October we are going to travel around the world to Windhoek which is located in sunny Namibia, Africa. There we will find Este Wiggill, an artist and promoter of the calabash (gourds). In Namibia calabash are used for storage, scoops and to brew beer, or to hold milk and water.

For the most part not too many people in Namibia are decorating and embellishing calabash and this is where Este comes in. It is her goal to introduce this art form to others and next month we will see how she is going about this. We will also introduce her beautiful work and her charming and enthusiastic personality.

The CGS Gourd Festival will be on October 24th and 25th. Carolyn and Linda are excited about this festival and will be busy getting together their schedule of demos and activities which will be published in the next issue of Gourd Fever. They are looking forward to meeting up with both old and new friends - it's amazing how a gourd can bring so many interesting people together.

Just for fun we will have photos of the Marshville Heritage Festival in Wainfleet, Ont. All the vendors will be dressed in period costumes and Carolyn did let it slip that she found a crinoline to wear under her skirt. In 1830 crinolines were made from horse hair - I am certain that Carolyn's will be a much more modern version! 
                                                         Until we meet again,
                                    Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond
PS If you have any stories, ideas or comments that you would like to contribute please send to


 Volume 5, Number 56 


In this issue:
John Remai: Artist, Builder and Philanthropist

The CGS Annual Gourd Festival

Tutorial: Embossing Made Easy! 

Notes From The Gourd Patch: Surveying The Bounty

Gourd Sightings and Trivia

   Northern Dipper News
Hours of Operation

As of September 1 Northern Dipper will be open by appointment and chance only.
Hours will be between 10 am and 5 pm.

Please email at
or call at 705/435-3307 to arrange a time.

It's Showtime!

Marshville Heritage Festival
Sept 5th, 6th and 7th
Northern Dipper Booth: # A - 11
This festival is located in Wainfleet, Ontario and is one of the best shows out there. All juried vendors (over 100!) will
be dressed in period costumes and no manufactured product is allowed in.

There will be demos from many of the vendors including Northern Dipper, and there will be lots of entertainment, food and activities that will appeal to everyone in the family.

Northern Dipper will be selling finished gourd art and dried gourds but not finishing supplies. Hope to see you there!

For more information click here:

 John Remai
 John set up a woodworking shop that is the envy of many Saskatoon hobbyists who think he has the best set up in the world. He is close to home, in his large garage, with every kind of equipment imaginable for his work.
John has designed and collected numerous plans for houses and feeders over the past couple of years. With his background he will find a design he likes and modify to suit his own needs.
 This house has a bent wood top which makes it very different.
All of John's designs have been categorized from bird hotels to houses to condos.

Once the construction is complete, John's wife Sonya does the colour selection and then he completes the painting. Birdhouse conversations occur during the morning and afternoon when Sonya goes to John's shop to make coffee.

They catch up on the days events as well as discuss what to make next, what colour would work and so on.

John jokes that this is the best coffee in the city although they do hit the local coffee shops on their many trips to Home Depot to stock up on lumber, paint and other materials.
 People who have received these large birdhouses have said that that birds are like people - they move in
at the top first and then fill up the lower levels. 
There are many species of birds in Saskatchewan - purple martins, wrens, robins, finches, hummingbirds, swallows, black-birds and meadowlarks to name just a few of the more common.
John and Sonya live on the top
(24th) floor of a high-rise condominium and are entertained
by the antics of 2 falcons who
make their home just
outside their window!
That would be such a thrill to be neighbours with a family of falcons.
We love this roof with its large overhang.

Notes From The Gourd Patch
One of the most common questions we get at this time of year is when to harvest the gourds. In September the gourds are large and look mature but the reality is that they are still growing and ripening. It is still too early to be cutting the gourds from the vines. 
Now, if you have not done this already, go through your gourd garden and turn all the gourds upright. For trellised gourds, if the gourds look heavy on the vine support the gourds using pantyhose.
The brown spots at the bottom of this gourd was caused by bugs.
Other than that there is not much to do. The bug population will naturally decrease at this time of year as reproduction has happened and powdery mildew may raise its ugly head if the fall proves to be wet.

Keep your garden clear of debris and other than that just sit back and admire what you have accomplished during the summer.

Next month we will discuss the most effective way of harvesting and drying your gourds to ensure that
you have success with your most cherished crop.

 Tutorial: Embossing  Powders Made Easy  by Carolyn Cooper
Embossing powders are fast- melting powders that will deliver a rich colourful dimension to your gourd art. Northern Dipper has five beautiful colours to choose from.
Required Tools
 - Embossing Powder
(I have used Cheetah Sheen
for this tutorial.)
- Palette heat activated glue
- Heat gun
(No, a hair dryer is not hot enough.)
- Fine paint brush
- Paper plate
- Sanding stick
- Clean, dry gourd
The Method...

Trace or draw the design you would like to cover. Apply the Palette glue using a fine paint brush. Remember that a small amount of glue goes a long way.

For this design, which is about 2 x 3 inches, I used only three drops of glue which I squeezed out on a small piece of wax paper. Make sure all the required areas are covered. It is not necessary nor desired to have a thick coating of glue.
 Next step will be to sprinkle the embossing powder over the area that you have just applied the glue to. I do this over cheap dollar store paper plates. This way it is easy for me to return the surplus powder back into its jar so I am not wasting any.
Using a popsicle stick or small measuring spoon sprinkle the powder over the glued area. Do not touch or pat down the powder. Shake off the excess onto the paper plate and return it to the jar.
The final step is to heat
the design of embossing powder with the heat gun. Gently wave the heat gun over the section and watch the powder quickly melt into a solid mass.

Let it cool for a few minutes
and you are done. If you notice any spots where you might have missed, wait till it cools, add a bit of glue to missed spots only and then repeat the above steps.

Any areas that need a slight clean-up I gently use the sanding stick which I find can get into small areas.

For more info on the embossing powders click here:

  Gourd Sightings
The Desert Botanical Garden
These pretty gourds were spotted at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona in the Gift Shop. This sighting was sent in by Antonella Grossi. Thank you Antonella!
 To learn more about the Desert Botanical Garden click here: :

Published by 
          Pamela Grossi
Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7 
      Northern Dipper
5376 County Rd 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