artists, growtips, info & more

Note: If using Outlook click the above bar where it says “Click to download photos” The photos are the best part!
       Patrick Loafman with his gourd instruments.

In This Issue: This month we are travelling to Port Angeles, WA, a magical place in the Pacific Northwest. Here resides Patrick Loafman, gourd artist, wildlife biologist, musician and published poet.

Patrick's gourd art is diverse. He brings the deep forests of WA alive through his exquisitely woodburned detailed images and on the flip side, his abstract designs are reminiscent of Picasso's faces and figures.  

This artist also makes musical instruments including banjos, thumb pianos, and rainsticks. He has just finished making a kora and is teaching himself to play it. Patrick is a fascinating man with many interests, and as you will learn, the hard shell gourd is a central player!

Now that spring is here there is nothing like opening your door to the the melodies of the songbirds. Spring officially arrived on March 20th and soon the frolicing of the birdlife (meaning mating and the raising of the young) will be our daily entertainment.

Welcome them with natural and earth-friendly gourd birdhouses. To get you started we have a tutorial on how to make them. These houses will be used by the birds and after nesting in them once, will be back year after year.
As the days grow longer many of you are busy going through the seed catalogues and dreaming about the gardening weather right around the corner. It is now time to think about getting your gourd seeds started. An early start is essential, particularly if you live in a cold climate, and in the first of the series "The Art of Growing Gourds" we will discuss germination and the planting of the seeds. 
We have much to cover this month so pull up a comfy chair and enjoy yourself. To begin, we are honoured to present this month's featured artist, Patrick Loafman.

        Patrick Loafman

This gourd deplicts life in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. Here is a finely detailed Douglas squirrel.

On this same gourd you will discover images such                  as this long-toed salamander.

Patrick Loafman has had a life that many of us can only dream about. As a wildlife biologist he has spent time in the deep woods and has held owls, squirrels and many other animals and birds in his hands. He has witnessed beautiful events such as frogs giving birth to hundreds of eggs that look like pearls floating on the surface of the water. These are the images that are woodburned into Patrick's gourd art and are  realistic and detailed to the highest degree.

Patrick also plays music. When he became involved with gourds he began to experiment with instrument making including banjos, drums, thumb pianos, didgeridoos and rainsticks. He now sells these with great success due to their unique sounds.


Patrick had dabbled in pen and ink drawings before turning to gourds and had tried painting but often found the choice of colours overwhelming. He states he likes watercolours but usually overworks it. Sketching wildlife through the years has made him somewhat an expert and looking back, he was just waiting for the right medium to reveal itself..

That moment arrived when, about ten years ago, Patrick saw a gourd artist woodburning a gourd. "Interesting" he thought and decided to try it. He started to make Christmas gifts for friends and family and once feeling comfortable began to sell his work at craft shows.

Many of Patrick's pieces are coloured with dyes as they do not turn "muddy" like watercolours can. When the opportunity arises he studies other artist's pyrography on gourds and wood to see how they interpret an animal or a scene.


Lately he has become obsessed with dried and crumpled leaves. As a wildlife biologist he thought he knew what leaves looked like until he started to examine them closer. He discovered that the leaves' veins, folds and holes are a challenge when woodburning.

Recently a couple from New York saw Patrick's work and commissioned him to do two pieces. He burned wildlife scenes covering the entire gourd including squirrels, salamanbers, and geese, with details such as downed leaves and pine needles.

He has also been working on "microscenes" which show frogs, beetles and millipedes crawling over crumpled leaves, pinecones and mushrooms. His last two attempts have been on the back of his banjos and these microscenes are gorgeous.

      A "microscene" on the back of a banjo.

We were curious as to the process Patrick goes through when working on a piece. He told us that when he is working on an abstract piece he doesn't really have a plan and it evolves as he goes along. With the highly realistic wildlife pyrography, he has to have a good pencil drawing before he starts woodburning because a woodburned line can't be erased.

With certain animals that have been sketched many times, Patrick will do a rough sketch and then woodburn in the details freehand. He plays around with freehand burning as well, by turning up the woodburner to high and doing whatever comes to mind. Many Christmas ornaments were done this way and it is a great venue for practice.
Long term Patrick will continue to hone his woodburning skills. He would like to sell more gourd instruments too. Instruments are quite the process to make but the sound that they give is completely unique.
The gourd banjos, for example, do not have the loud tinny sound that other banjos have. Patrick strings them with nylon, which gives a softer sound, and he does not put frets on the neck, meaning you can slide the notes and play the blues, or even songs sounding Middle Eastern or Asian.
Patrick lives with his wife on Dandelion Farm, where they try to grow enough vegetables for themselves. They have ten laying hens, three bunnies and a blue cat. Patrick writes poetry and has two chapbooks of poems out. If you are interested in these you can email Patrick. He also writes prose and is currently trying to get a novel published.
To learn more about Patrick and his art click here:
To hear Patrick playing his banjos and kora like here:
Thank you Patrick, we love your gourd art and your music (our favorite is Wednesday on Dandelion Farm). It was very nice meeting you. Good luck in getting your novel published and please, keep in touch. Carolyn and Linda 

Tutorial: Building Gourd Birdhouses
  The Natural and Earth Friendly Choice

Gourds are not only an affordable way to encourage your feathered friends but they are fun and easy to make. Whether decorated, scrubbed clean or hung dirty they make the perfect nesting home for the birds.

Gourd birdhouses are naturally insulating on cold days and on those hot summer days the small fledglings will be as cool as cucumbers! Singing birds are pleasing to watch and as another bonus are champions at pest control. Mosquitos and other bugs are a normal part of a birds' diet.

        Wrens - Photographed by Ruth Stopps

Hi there,
I recently purchased a gourd from you at the Stratford Garden Show and indicated that I would send pictures of the wrens nesting in my gourd. I purchased this gourd from you a few years ago and it has housed many visitors. Enjoy the photos.
Ruth Stopps ( Mount Forest )

          Swallows -Photographed by Henry &                         Sophia Crawford

Put out nesting materials such as straw and feathers. A favorite that we used for many years was the hair of Tigger, our friend's Samoyed dog. After nesting season we find Tigger's hair woven into wren, robin and even dove's nests. Thanks Tigger!
          Gourds make wonderful birdfeeders too.

The Art of Growing Gourds 

The Facts
1.) Gourd plants require lots of heat to reach maturity.
2.) They take anywhere from 110 days to 140 days to reach maturity.
3.) In cooler climates such as coastal BC and Newfoundland it is recommended that you grow in a greenhouse.

Starting Your Seeds
1.) Gourd seeds have a tough woody shell and can be difficult to germinate.
2.) Sprouting times can vary from 5 to 20 days depending on the variety and the thickness of the shell. Start your seeds six weeks before your proposed outdoor planting date.
3.) Soak your seeds in water for 24 hours. This will soften the shell and aid in both the rate and speed of the germination.
4.) Some people will "clip the shoulders"of the seed before planting. (See diagram) Do not clip too low on the seed.
5.) With small quantities of seeds consider sprouting the seeds between two wettish / damp sheets of paper towel. Place them in a warm, dark place. Do not let the paper towels dry out. Once the seeds have sprouted transfer to peat pots.
6.) For larger quantities plant into peat pots after soaking.
Transferring The Seeds To The Peat Pots
1.) Use 3" peat pots. These can be planted directly into the ground once that time arrives.
2.) Use a good quality potting soil mixed with vermiculite and peat to improve drainage. Do not use soil from your garden due to weeds, viruses and bugs.
3.) Water the soil before planting. Plant 2 seeds per pot 1/4" deep in opposite corners. Top up with soil, Press down and water lightly.
4.) If you are using a greenhouse it may have to be heated at night.
Grower's Tip
Throw in a few extra seeds just in case some don't germinate or some of the seedlings don't make it. 
To order quality gourd seeds click here:

Looking Ahead: May 2011 
        Robin's eggs sitting among dried gourds.

Judy Richie has spent a lifetime experimenting and mastering  various art mediums. At one point she painted and owned a gallery which was very successful. During her time in Colorado she fell in love with Southwestern Native American art and then, lucky for us, she discovered gourds.
Judy's gourd art is nothing less than amazing. Many of her pieces are sculptural in nature and will take your breath away. Her basketry and coiling, using all natural materials, are beautiful. We are pleased to welcome Judy and her fabulous art in next month's issue of Gourd Fever
May is an exciting time for gardeners and in our second article in The Art of Growing Gourds we will be discussing the subject of getting ready to plant the gourd seedlings outside. Where to plant, soil prep and whether you should trellis or ground grow... it is our job to make sure you have strong seedlings that will have a good start in the beginning of the season.

We would like to thank all of you who sent in photos this month. The sharing of these and your words makes us feel like we are truly living in a  global "gourd " village. 

To finish, if you live in or around Ottawa come down to Originals, the Ottawa Spring Craft Show. (April 14-17, 2011) We will be there along with many other great vendors...hope to see you there!
                           Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond
A link to the show: 
PS Every year we put in a link for the webcams of Hancock's nesting eagles. Hancock and friends have set up a series of cameras throughout BC and all of the nests have eagles. So far eggs have been laid and I believe a couple have already hatched. It is all so exciting! Check it out at: 

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


Volume 7, Number 73 


In this issue
Patrick Loafman: Creativity Has No Limits In This Artist's World

The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper

Tutorial: Gourd Birdhouses by Carolyn Cooper

The Art of Growing Gourds: Seed Germination

Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & More

  The Bulletin Board 

As many of you know, in addition to being a co-owner of Northern Dipper, Linda Bond is  a full-time medic. 

Following is a letter from Linda asking for your help in her fund raising efforts for Cops For Cancer. Your money will be going to a cause that affects thousands of people every year.
As a cancer survivor I personally thank Linda and others like her who really make a difference in the screening, treatment and research of this terrible disease. PG
Hi everyone,
On April 30th, at the Vaughan Mills Mall, I, along with other emergency personal, will be shaving our heads in support of Cops For Cancer. Bruce, my partner of 14 years and a good friend for 23 years, as well as Ann, whom I worked with for 12 years, both lost their courageous battles to cancer late last year. They are both greatly missed.

Please dig deep into your pockets and sponser me in this years Cops For Cancer fund raiser. I thank you in advance for helping me and all those whose lives have been touched by this disease.

Sincerely, Linda Bond

To donate click here:
(Once in click on Make A Donation and then Search For A Participant. Type in Linda Bond. It is that easy!)
April Specials
A box of 5 gourds perfect for making birdhouses for $28.00 plus shipping. These gourds range around 7 inches in diameter.
Included will be a hole drilled in the top for hanging, drainage holes in the bottom and a standard 1 1/4" entrance hole.
If you prefer to do the drilling let us know and we will ship them whole. All shipping of this special will take place the last week of April. To order click:

     Patrick Loafman
 "Gourds are fascinating because of the large variety of shapes and sizes. The natural mottled colour is very pretty in itself."
The design was inspired by the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.


"Everything inspires me."
"I've been motivated by the liquid and transparent nature of watercolour and try to mimic that look with dyes."

This turtle sits among on carved background.

This striking mask was carved with a dremel.

Advice To New Artists
"Nothing is a substitute for practice. I look at photos of the first gourds I did and think of how crude and sloppy they looked. The more you work it the better you get."

Gourd Mandolin woodburned with creatures found on a rich forest floor.

"I am completely self-taught. I have learned a lot from books and from experimentation and mistakes. My overall favorite technique is pyrography and I have been pushing myself the past year to make my wildlife pyrography more realistic and with more depth."

"To create depth you need to build up the shading slowly, burning a light layer and then darkening it with multiple layers. You need to have contrast: black and white areas. If everything is light brown the image will come across as flat and lifeless."

A warbler in a tree.
Abstract art


"About classes I have been thinking about teaching banjo making but have not gotten around to organizing it. I have been busy though. I just finished making a kora and
am  learning how to play it.
The kora is a 21-23 string
(mine has 23) African harp frequently tuned to a C scale."
Pyrography on paper.
This is Cedar, a blue-gray Chartreux, who adopted Patrick.

"I occasionally sell at a local gallery and a few stores, but for the most part sell at craft fairs and some from my web pages."
"I went to my first show at Moses Lake last summer where my gourd mandolin won a second place"

 Gourd Birdhouses
Purple Martin Houses

Required Tools
-Saw or hole cutter
-1/4 inch drill bit
-Leather lace or shoe string
-Decorating material (optional)
-Desired gourd
1.) Prepare the outside of the gourd to your liking. We are using a gourd right from the field for this tutorial. 
Note: Studies have shown that birds are attracted to the natural gourd colour as opposed to brightly painted houses.
2.) Using a 1/4" drill bit drill a hole through the top of the gourd. This is for the hanger.
3.) Drill three or four holes in the bottom of the gourd. These holes are the drainage holes.
4.) Next, using the saw or hole cutter, cut the entrance hole. I generally make mine 1 1/8" to 1 1/4". This seems to cover a large variety of songbirds.
When you cut your entrance holes, don't make them too high or too low. You don't want the babies or eggs to roll out and you don't want rain to get in on wet days.
5.) Clean the inside of the gourd of its seeds and dried pulp. Your house is ready to hang. 
Finished Birdhouse
 Birdhouse Entry Hole Guide
Small Birds - 1 1/2 inch
 (Bluebirds, Violet-green Swallows, Flycatchers, Hairy woodpeckers & Wrens)

Medium Sized Birds - 2 inches
(House Sparrows, Red-Headed Woodpeckers & Purple Martins)
To learn more click here:
(Don't forget our April Special - 5 "birdhouse" gourds for $28.00 plus shipping!) 

The Art Of Growing Gourds 
There is nothing quite as impressive as growing gourds in your garden.
Gourd Characteristics
1.) Gourds grow on a vigorous vine and have large leaves and white night blooming flowers.
2.) The vines have strong tendrils & are natural climbers.
3.) The male flowers grow on the main vine and the females on the laterals or side vines.
4.) Gourds are split into 3 groups:
- Bottles which include Chinese, Indonesian and the Mini Bottle.
- Dipper gourds: Both short and long handled dippers, snake and maranka gourds. 
- Basket types: Cannonball, tobacco box, kettle, canteen and bushels. 
Clipping the shoulders.
Ornamental gourds are small and have colours ranging from creamy whites to yellow, green and orange. Their texture can be smooth, bumpy, warty and grooved. Ornamentals have day-blooming flowers.
Ornamentals are small, usually  1" to 6". People use them as centre pieces at Thanksgiving.

 Gourd Sighting


Dana and Antonella took a trip to Florida and visited Disney's 'Living with the Land', which is part of the Epcot theme in the Disney World Resort at
Lake Buena Vista, Fl.

The gourd sighting was luffa, hanging from the rafters. It is surprising some of the places gourds are sighted!

 Thank you Dana and Antonella for sending this in. You two have sharp eyes when it comes to gourd sightings!

To learn more about the Living With The Land click here:

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

Northern Dipper
PO Box 1145
5376 County Rd 56 
 Cookstown, Ontario
L0L 1L0, Canada
(705) 435-3307
powered by     forward      unsubscribe    
This mailing system may only be used for sending permission based email.

If you did not give permission to receive emails from this sender, please notify us.

This email was sent to by | Print / PDF version | Read our Privacy Policy.
Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada