In This Issue: Living in a magical place called Gooseberry Lane is inspiration enough for NE Kansas artist Nancy Overmyer. Sitting in her studio, with cat Fiona at her elbow, gourds are transformed into golden fish, kansas wheatfields and quaint little villages. The birds, the wind and the change of the seasons influence her art; nature is always close to Nancy's heart.
Before gourds, Nancy was a salt dough artist and many of the skills learned have been incorporated into her gourd art. Nancy's award-winning gourds are one of a kind designs and are fresh and eye-catching. Her latest work include her charming gourd fairies, perhaps inspired by the fairies peeking out from behind the woodland ferns at Gooseberry Lane. Please welcome Nancy Overmyer to the July pages
of Gourd Fever.
Canadians (and maybe Americans too) are weather obsessed and this year there has been lots to talk about.
Destructive tornadoes have swept across the landscape in the US midwest. In North Dakota and throughout the Canadian prairie provinces severe flooding has created havoc. Overall not a good situation for the farmers or the gourd growers, but as you know, both groups will persevere with hope.
In The Art of Growing Gourds the 3 P's will be discussed. This is pruning, powdery mildew and pollination. Powdery mildew is caused by air born spores and in areas where there is lots of moisture in the air the problem can be worse. Read on to learn some solutions to this nasty problem.
The mailbag has some great letters this month and of course no newsletter would be complete without a gourd sighting. But before we get to that please welcome Nancy Overmyer, owner of Gooseberry Lane Gourds.
Gooseberry Lane Gourds
Eleven years ago, after the last child flew from the nest, Nancy Overmyer felt the need for change. She packed up her urban lifestyle and moved back to the family farm, a country home set deep in the woods. Within days she knew she had made the right move. Looking out her window she was surrounded by the pace of nature: wildlife, trees and plants...it was tranquil and lovely.
At the same time Nancy felt a bit restless. A naturally creative woman she felt the need to express herself but did not know what she wanted to do. Now it
should be mentioned that Nancy has a great day job working at Topeka's Public Library and one day she decided to walk over to the art section (her favorite section in the entire library) to peruse the books on art and crafting.
Here she came across some books on gourd art and was instantly interested due to their connection to nature. She knew her sister had just finished drying a crop of gourds. A quick phone call later and there were gourds on their way. With an armful of books and a zest to get going, it wasn't long before Nancy joined the leagues of the addicted.
Nancy comes from a very creative family. Her father was an inventor and was always busy designing things to make life on the farm easier. Her mother was into fibre arts; quilting, crochet and sewing. Consequently Nancy can't remember a time when she didn't draw or create something from nothing.
Nancy has a degree in Interior Design from the Kansas State University and most of the courses were art courses. Apart from this she is entirely self-taught in gourd art and laughing says has the scars to prove it! She belongs to the American Gourd Society and upon retirement may consider beginning a Gourd Patch in NE KS as it does not have a gourd society.
Before gourds, Nancy was a salt dough artist. She has had several books published including Funtastic Clay Critters which is still in print. One day there may just be books on gourd art from Nancy Overmyer.
Nancy started out with gourds in a simple enough manner with leather dyes and a roll of tape. She quickly realized that she needed a wood burning tool which, to her, felt like a drawing tool. She tried weaving raffia fibres into the rims but it wasn't for her.
A couple of years ago she started to add metal leaf and wire embellishments to her designs and it is now a favorite thing to do. The metal leaf makes the images pop and adds a very rich touch to the finished art.
Another thing Nancy finds very rewarding is using up all the parts left over from a gourd project. Shards become brooches and pendants and tops become fairy skirts. Nancy has started to incorporate pottery shards and stone and shell fragments into her art as well.
Now that Nancy has discovered the gourd jewelry market she plans to continue in that vein once she retires in a few years. She is building contacts and resources and hopes to have a nice little business in the near future. Another goal is to have a couple of books published. She has three ideas brewing in her mind and in sketch books just waiting to hit paper.
Nancy has two grown daughters and four grandkids. She states that being a grandma is the best job in the world. She has a wonderful boyfriend who supports her in all of her gourd endeavors and all she has to do is go to a few classic car shows in return!
Nancy has been at the Topeka and Shawnee Co Public Library for 15 years. There she has had several jobs; children's librarian where she did everything from story time to summer craft programs; computer trainer-where she taught adults how to use the computer for the first time and her final job; program supervisor-where she helps organize all the programs at the library. Smiling she says,"Sometimes I fondly call it 'herding cats." She does love her job.
Nancy has written a few fiction children's stories and hopes to be published someday. She has had several craft books published with Hot Off the Press, Canby, Oregon. This stemmed from her days as a dough artist. One book is still in print and is geared to kids and using clay. We do suspect, and look forward to the time when Nancy does publish a gourd book. If it is anything like her beautiful gourd art we will all have something to look forward to.
Thank you Nancy. Your work is lovely and your fairies and chickens are charming. Once you retire the world will be your oyster; time to do all the things you've dreamed about and never had time for. It will be great! Carolyn and Linda
To learn more about Nancy Overmyer click here:http://www.gooseberrygourds.com/
To get caught up read Nancy's blog at:
The Art of Growing Gourds
The Three P's: Pruning, Powdery Mildew and Pollination
Blossoms only bloom for one night. If these were pollinated there will be a couple of nice gourds. If not the little pepos will turn brown and fall off.
Following is a letter from last year that is a good introduction into one of this month's subjects: pruning.
Hi Northern Dipper,
We got a good start with our seedlings and since planting they have grown like a brush fire. Some are planted on the ground and some on an 8 foot trellis. Every night lots of flowers are coming but they seem to be consistantly male. How can we encourage the females blossoms to come out?
John and Edna Greene, Bracebridge, Ontario
Hi John and Edna,
Pruning is important for two reasons:
1.) It will increase your female flower production.
2.) A gourd vine needs to be controlled. If left unattended the vines can grow up to 100 feet.
To understand pruning you must understand the gourd plant. It is monoecious meaning that it produces both male and female flowers. Male flowers grow on the main or center vine /stem and the female grow on the lateral and sublateral vines, or put more simply, the side vines. It is the females that produce the fruit so you want long healthy side vines.
Let the main vine grow to about 8 - 10 feet and then cut the end off. Starting at ground level follow it up with your hands. At the required length cut with an Exacto knife. This will help produce more female flowers as the strength of the plant will be going into the laterals and blossoms and not the main stem.
Good luck, let us know how it works out for you.
Give your gourd plants a long deep watering at least once a week. Use a soaker hose as gourd leaves do not like to be wet.
Keep pollinating on a nightly basis using a cheap paint brush...your efforts will pay off at harvest time.
Out of the Mailbag
Dear Northern Dipper,
I live on Vancouver Island and this year we have had a cool spring. It has affected everything in the garden. For example the lilacs were at least a month late and the winter pansies were still glorious in June. I think I was a couple of weeks late starting my gourd seeds and this year it took longer for the seeds to germinate.
I have planted the seedlings in various spots including the greenhouse, in pots on the deck, and a couple out in the garden. The gourds in the greenhouse will do the best I would imagine due to the concentrated heat it gets on sunny days. But as you can see it is now June and the seedlings are just getting their first leaves.
My question: Do you think there will be enough time to get gourds?
Gareth Pearson, Sannich, BC
Ideal growing conditions will produce many July gourds.
Good question. It is true - your seedlings are small for this time of year but I would not give up just yet. I took the opportunity to look at the long term weather in your area and it looks optimistic.
July, August and September are suppose to be warm (warm for west coast standards) so we will be crossing our fingers that your seedlings will have a few growth spurts and catch up. Concentrate on the ones in the greenhouse.
Keep in touch and let us know their progress. Good luck - here's hoping for some hot weather!
Carolyn and Linda
Just a short email to let you know how much we enjoy your monthly newsletter. We love the articles and your selection of gourd artists is astounding. I have only been playing with gourds for about a year and my work is still rough but I must admit that I dream of being one of your featured artists one day. Anyway thank you very much; I do appreciate it.
Celeste Bonner, Miami, Florida
Thank you for your letter. You may want to keep in mind that we try to feature artists from all different backgrounds, with different skill levels and experience. So anytime you feel ready to be featured just drop us line. We would love to hear from you.
All the best, Carolyn