artists, growtips, info & more

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Sculpture by Judy Richie

In This Issue: A while ago a friend sent a link that she knew would awe us. Gourd sculpture and exotic rims are a weakness and here, in front of our eyes, was a website that we quite simply could not shut down.

The website belonged to Judy Richie, a gourd artist from Texas. Judy has no formal training in art yet her sense of design is equal to those with years of experience. Her sculptures capture the imagination and the detailed rims definitely keep your interest. Please welcome Judy Richie; an artist who creates and inspires.

The gourd seeds have been planted and are up and growing. In a few short weeks they will be ready for the garden and to prepare, there are questions that should be discussed. Should they be trellised or grown on the ground? What about the soil? Where should they be planted? These questions and more will be answered in the article "The Art of Growing Gourds."
Jeff Menzies (far right) teaching a banjo making  workshop in                                             Berkley, CA.
We have lots of mail to delve into, a gourd sighting plus a couple of things that are not gourd related but are fun. Just like the month of May!

                           Judy Richie
                  "Red Cloud Originals"


Judy has always loved art. In her junior year of high school in Austin, Texas, she was among several students chosen to attend an art class at the University of Texas. Apart from this Judy has had no formal art training, and yet looking at her work, one would think she has spent a lifetime studying. 

Drawn to colour, many years were spent working in oils. She became an expert painter bringing flat canvases to life. And then there was the phone call.
"Judy, I just got back from the Texas Gourd Show and you would not believe the things I saw and did."

Judy's sister was bubbling over which piqued Judy's curiousity. Upon hanging up she went on the Internet and started to explore. She was fascinated with what people could do with the hard shell gourd and found that just by looking, ideas were already formulating in her creative mind. 

Tools, books, gourds and supplies soon filled her house and in the middle of it all was Judy. She experimented with various techniques and knew at this time she had found her niche. Two years later she retired and moved to Kerrville, Texas.

It was in Kerrville that another door opened and Judy began to sell some of her gourd art. She realized that this was a match made in heaven. She could do what she loved - work with gourds - plus make a bit of money to supplement her retirement. She got busy and made some more.
Judy states that learning how to create gourd art includes lots of just trying out. "I do like to experiment with different technique and materials." she explains. "I just try new things and play, play, play. Of course they all don't turn out to be something but that is just what happens in life."
Thirty hours per week is spent working with gourds. On top of that Judy teaches at festivals, retreats and sometimes at home. She sells her art at the Texas and Arizona gourd shows and also exhibits in several galleries. Some of these are Rogoway's Turquoise Tortoise in Tubac, AZ, Coppershade Tree in Round Top, TX, Bandera Art Gallery, Bandera, TX, Cactus Jacks in Gruene, TX and Gunnison Gallery in Gunnison, CO. 
On a personal front Judy has 6 grown children, 2 step children, 18 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren! To complete the family she and her husband have a wonderful dog Sally that they got from a shelter when they lived in Valdez, Alaska. After the children grew up and moved out Judy started a 7 bedroom suite bed and breakfast. It was a fun 8 years, but a lot of work.

A current interest of Judy's is genealogy. Each generation you go back, the more grandparents you have to find. She has discovered that she had one ancestor that was in Texas, when it was still part of Mexico, and three more that were present during the Republic of Texas. She says it was exciting to find out that information. When Judy is not busy with  gourds and genealogy she can be found out in the garden, Sally at her side, her hands dug deep in the soil.

Thank you Judy for sharing your art with us. It is gorgeous and we look forward to seeing future works.  Carolyn and Linda

To learn more about Judy and her art click here:

     The Art of Growing Gourds

The gourd seeds planted in April should be up and growing rapidly. Fertilization is essential at this stage as you want strong, healthy seedlings to plant out later this month. Use a weak formula of 1 teaspoon of 20-20-20 fertilizer and 4 litres of water and fertilize every second watering.

With that end of things looked after now is the time to start thinking about the best place to plant your new seedlings.Gourds require heat and lots of it so plant in full sun in a location with a southern exposure.

Planting won't occur until the end of May after all danger of frost has passed. Frost can wipe out your seedlings so please be patient!

Ground Grown, Trellised or Containers
All three methods are beautiful to look at and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Available space is usually the deciding factor. 

Ground Grown
-Takes up more room.
-Hilled - there should be 8 feet between the hills.
-In rows there should be 8 feet between the rows and 4 feet between the plants.
-Large gourds such as bushels should always be grown on the ground.   

-Trellised gourds take up less room and are easier to prune.
-The vines are strong therefore the trellising must be strong. Some people grow on their chain link fences and it looks good.
-At harvest time the gourds can be left up for the winter where they will dry hanging.
-For dippers the chances are you will end up with nice straight handles when trellised..

Pots are perfect for small mini gourds. Place some chicken wire or a small wooden trellis in the pot and train the vines up. I have planted minis in hanging pots too and even though the yield wasn't great they did look nice all summer.
Soil Preparation and Planting
Gourds love rich, slightly acidic soild with a PH of 6.0 - 6.5. Add lots of compost or manure to your soil to enrich it.

Warm the soil by spreading an opened up black garbage bag over the soil. Secure the edges with rocks or soil. Plastic will control the weeds, keep the moisture in and keep the soil warm. 

When it comes to planting you are going to rip a hole in the bag, dig a hole and pop in the seedling. If you used peat pots (two seeds per pot) rip the pot in half and pop in the hole.

If you have clay dig your hole and add some compost or potting soil. If sandy add the same - it will help keep the water in.

Regarding water, a soaker hose could be placed under the plastic. Soaker hoses are excellent as it waters only the roots, not the leaves. (Gourds like dry leaves.

Hardening Off
In the middle of May start putting your seedlings outside in a sunny sheltered location. Bring them in at night.

**** We would love to see how people's gourds are doing during the growing season. Send in your photos and keep us posted. It would be an interesting experiment to see how gourds do in different regions around the world.

                Out Of The Mailbag
                             Photo by Ruth Stopp 
Hello Northern Dipper,
Last month you had suggested using dog hair as nesting material for the birds. I have read that here and in other places about putting out pet hair for birds to use as nesting materials. The idea can be both good and bad.

Make sure that no chemicals such as flea treatments have been used on the pets. Flea and tick chemicals on the fur can kill the birds if they use it as nesting materials. It will also kill the baby birds quickly. Also if string is put out, it should be cut into small pieces to prevent entanglement and choking.
Thanks, Jay Williams, Petaluma, CA

Hi Jay,
Thank you so much for your email. Your points are very true and should be noted. If chemicals are used on pets please do not put it out for the birds. Carolyn

Dear Northern Dipper,
The recent April issue of Gourd Fever, which I just got around to viewing, is stunning. Since discovering gourds 10 - 11 years ago I have been especially interested in gourd musical instruments. It was a joy to read about and see the work of this fine artist Patrick Loafman.

Everything in the newsletter, including the mask,  bird house instructions and inspirations, was greatly appreciated. Thank you, thank you all!

I find I am more and more drawn to gourd constructions of all sorts. Sending love and best wishes...Cris Coffey, Castle Valley, Utah

Thank you Cris for your letter. We agree that Patrick was very interesting and his instruments sound wonderful. It is amazing because even after seven years of producing this newsletter we still get a thrill with every artist we feature. Perhaps you would like to be featured sometime Cris. Carolyn and Linda

              Maureen harvesting her gourds.

Hi ladies,
Well this is a very exciting weekend, I got to harvest my first crop of gourds. I got 70 off the vines and still have another 30 or so to pick later.

Can't wait for next year. I have so many more seeds and will make sure I get a bigger variety. It is going to be lovely playing with gourds and not having to feature in the cost of the gourd. Yahoo!
Maureen Hall, Australia

        These will keep Maureen busy once they dry.

Hi Maureen,
How nice to hear from you. Thank you for the note and the photos. What an excellent crop you grew. Make sure you send some photos of your finished projects. We would love to see more of your art.

Here, on this side of the globe, we are just starting our planting season and are hoping for some good growing conditions this year. Take care,
(Maureen was our featured artist in Issue 71. If you missed it click here and then click on Issue 71.)

Looking Ahead: June 2011
June is an exciting month for us. We have, as featured artist, Bill Colligen. Bill's art can only be described as exquisite. Finely-detailed, Bill uses several techniques including relief carving, pyro-engraving, metal leafing and inlay. His work can be seen in several galleries and we are certain, in private collections as well. Not to be missed is Bill's interview in next month's issue of Gourd Fever.

The gourd seedlings will be settling in and the pests will be noticing. Gourds are a real draw for cucumber beetles and next month we will be discussing how to control these destructive insects. On the brighter side flowers will start appearing in late June and you, the growers, will become experts in pollination. It's a soothing experience playing Mother Nature on a beautiful, warm summer evening. 

Cherry Blossoms
Mother's Day is coming up Sunday, May 8; a day where women around the world are honoured. Take the day and enjoy yourself.

The housework can wait and maybe even the dishes! Take a walk, have an extra coffee in the morning, do something special. As we all know a mother works pretty hard the rest of the year so on this day, live in the moment. To heck with everything else!

Here is a song for all the mother's out there.
See you next month.
                             Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond
PS If you have any stories or comments that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to


Volume 7, Number 74 


In this issue
Judy Richie: Speaking From The Heart

The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper

The Art of Growing Gourds: Out In The Garden We Go! 
Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings and Trivia
The Bulletin Board  

Northern Dipper has 1000's of gourds for sale. An excellent selection, you will find gourds appropriate for all your gourding needs. Call at 705/435-3307 and set up an appointment. 

For directions on how to get there click here:

Banjo Making Workshop
by Jeff Menzies

We are pleased to announce that Jeff Menzies will be coming to Northern Dipper to teach a much desired gourd
banjo-making workshop. 

Jeff teaches throughout the US and Canada and his classes are very much in demand. You will walk away with a banjo with a unique tone and a
great look.

Jeff's workshops are guaranteed to be educational, relaxed and fun. A date will be announced for this worksop in next month's issue of Gourd Fever.

  Judy Richie
"I may start out with a plan, but rarely have I stuck to it. The gourds usually have their own ideas."
"I am most inspired by the Hopi and Pueblo cultures, but I have been venturing into contemporary designs."
This Asian inspired sculpture is striking.
This vessel is carved with a pine needle and reed rim.
 "I would have to say that coiling is my favorite technique. I'm trying to make myself get out of the box more. It's fun to start a gourd and not know where you are going to end up."
Words of Advice To New   Artists
"Don't be afraid to try new things. Just play and have fun.
"Remember there is such a thing as a trashcan. I've tossed's just what happens and it is how you will learn and grow."
The reed around her neck is a lovely deatil.

The Art of Growing Gourds
 Questions & Answers 
 My seeds are just starting to come up. Will it be too late to plant outside? JB
Some gourd seeds just seem to take forever to come up. One trick that a grower told me was to insert the pots in a plastic bag which will retain the moisture and heat. Just carry on and they will soon catch up. Keep the pots warm (lots of sun) and watered but not wet. Good luck, let us know how it turns out. Carolyn
 I didn't use all my seed. Will I be able to use them next year? Sol M.
Hi Sol,
Yes you can use the seed next year. Store them in small plastic bags in a jar in a dry dark place and they should be fine. Carolyn
  My seedlings are pretty big. Can I plant them outside early? Susan White
Hi Susan,
You did not say where you were writing from but a good rule of thumb is to wait until the May 24th weekend to plant out. By this date the weather is warm and there will be no threat of frost at night. Carolyn
 Trellised Gourds
Ground Grown
 I once saw gourds growing out of an old tire. Have you ever done this? Sylvie Wade
No I haven't but I do know someone who always plants this way. Sink the tires into the soil and fill with soil.The rubber keeps the heat in which gourds just love plus the tires provide a ready made hill. Carolyn

        Gourd Sightings
Club Paradise, a comedy with Robin Williams, Peter O'Toole and Rick Moranis, is sure to make you smile.
The expression "Out of your gourd" was used.
 To learn more about this movie click here:

 Workshop Photos 
Northern Dipper offers a large variety of workshops throughout the year. Here are some photos of some happy participants.
Learning the basics
Finished vessels
Drum making workshops are always filled up quickly.
A flat edge is necessary for a good sounding drum.
Proud owners of gourd drums. 
For details on Northern Dipper workshops click here:

 Bags From Around The World
 These are cool bags used to market businesses & services.  
Check out boredpanda to see more bags and other neat stuff 

 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
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Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada