artists, growtips, info & more

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           An inverted batik gourd sculpture by Grant Feltham.

In This Issue: We are pleased to have with us Blenheim, Ontario artist Grant Feltham. Grant is one of those lucky souls who took early retirement and it is a good thing due to the multitude of interests Grant has.  

When Grant is not working on his gourd art he may be found in his wood shop. Or he could be planning the design of another kayak or canoe waiting to be built. On the other hand you may find him standing in a country stream fly-fishing.
His Newfoundland roots have instilled in Grant a love of the outdoors but when winter arrives, the gourds draw Grant inside. Please welcome Grant Feltham in this issue of Gourd Fever.

         Carolyn with an old friend at Kempenfest Festival. 

September; the kids are back to school, routines return to normal. The tomatoes are ripening nicely, the dahlias are in full splendor and the gourds are large and maturing in the garden.

In 'The Art of Growing Gourds' we will be discussing the harvest - the whens, hows and what-nots. This subject is just to prepare you for what is coming up in October or November. In September it is Mother Nature that does the work! 

   Carolyn's parents came down to Kempenfest to help out.
Here at Northern Dipper we've been thinking that it would be fun to add a new bit to the newsletter; you know, just to keep it interesting. The other night a group of us had a discussion about music and how it crosses the cultural divides and brings people together. So, in light of this we now have a 'Music Pic of the Month. ' We hope you will enjoy our selections; no heavy metal/head-banging music we promise! And if you have a favorite, send it in.

                     Grant Feltham

In 2010 Grant Feltman retired after spending many years as an accountant in the forest products industry in Canada and in the seafood industry in Seattle, WA. Always on the go, Grant would spend 4 - 6 months a year in Alaska while various fisheries were underway.

Back in 1978 he got married and moved to Vashon Island in Puget Sound right off West Seattle in WA state. It was here, in the mid 90's, that Grant was introduced to gourds through a woman who was creating beautiful gourd art on the Island. Grant's curiousity was instantly aroused so he added gourds to his already long list of hobbies.
At the time Grant's interests were all geared to the outdoors - fly fishing, fly tying, hunting, etc. He was also building cedar strip canoes and kayaks and a few traditional lapstrake dingys too.


Grant has been playing with gourds for a few years now "not in any big way" he says, "just enough to see what I could do." He has no formal training beyond tutorials, (several from the Northern Dipper

He claims he just looks around to see how things are done and then sitting in his studio, which is the end of his kitchen table, he sets out to see what he can do. Sometimes things work out, sometimes it doesn't but that's Ok - he has loads of fun at it and to Grant, that's really what counts.

Grant's inspiration is whatever feels right at the time. Many times when he is out he may see something and think, "You know if I do this and do that then it would probably look ok." He may see something and then not think about it for the next six months. Then the right gourd comes along and he remembers what he saw. It becomes the kernel of an idea and he  knows how he wants to proceed.

When Grant is not working on gourds he can be found working on small wood projects. He is about to embark into the world of stained glass and next spring will be taking a course in willow furniture- making that is being offered at St. Clair College in Chatham, Ontario. Currently Grant's gourd art can be found at the local gift shop in Charing Cross.

I think I can safely say that retirement agrees with Grant Feltham. To confirm my thoughts Grant looks at me with a grin and exclaims "You see, there are lots of things for an accidental artist to play with." In Grant's case I must say this is very true!

Thanks Grant, we like your inquisitive mind and love your art. Keep us in mind in the spring and send us some photos of the gourd art that is created this winter "in your studio."
                                                                       Carolyn and Linda  

The Art of Growing Gourds       

              Here are some nice looking tobacco boxes.

At this time of year first time growers are full of questions about the harvest. When do we harvest and what the heck do we do with them after they are harvested? Today these queries will be answered.

             Early morning mist in the gourd field 

When: The Timing Is Important When Harvesting Gourds
The # 1 rule when harvesting gourds is do not pick them too early. The indicator when harvesting gourds is the leaves. As long as they are green, do not pick the gourds.
In late October, once the first hard frost comes and kills the leaves, get out pruners and get to work. (The leaves must be dead and brown.)

How: There Is A Right Way To Harvest A Gourd
Well not really but it is best to leave an inch or two of stem attached. The stem acts like a natural seal keeping out bacteria that may rot your gourd. Nicely formed stems can be worked into artwork too.
What and Where: The Science of Gourd Drying
For gourds to dry quickly and evenly it is best to provide lots of air circulation. Gourds that have been trellised can be left outside for the winter and harvested in the spring. The ice, snow and wind will not harm them; in fact some believe it aids in the drying process.

Gourds on the ground should be cut from the vine and picked up. If you are going to dry them outdoors put them on a pallet/skid. This will allow air circulation all around the gourd.

If you are going to dry them in a shed or garage leave a space between them. They dry better and it will allow you to quickly go through them from time to time looking for the immature gourds that are rotting. Look for soft spots or gourds that look like they are going to cave in. They smell and are messy when rotting - much easier to discard of them early on in the game believe me!

Now the mystery is solved regarding the harvesting of gourds. There is not much to do in September other than patting yourself on the back for what you have accomplished. Bravo! 

Out of the Mailbag

Lesley in her Stratford Garden

Hi there,
Thanks for all the information in the newsletter. I am an artist and designer and met you this year at the Stratford Show. This is the first time I have attempted to grow gourds.

I am pretty sure some of the leaves on my gourds are beginning to show signs of that dreaded fungus just as the newsletter describes. I am off to the garden center today...any advice would be appreciated.

Hope you enjoy the photos....
Lesley Jones, Stratford, Ontario

Hi Lesley,
A lush beautiful gourd crop I would say! At this time of year powdery mildew can be a problem but you are on top  of it. The garden center is your best resource.

Looks like you have a bumper crop happening. I'll be curious to see what you do with them after they dry. Maybe you will want to try Michael Harburg's Hawaiian technique with a green gourd.

Keep in touch and let us know how everything turns out. Carolyn

Hi Carolyn,
Check out what I did with that bottle gourd I got from you a few days ago. I need more of these gourds!
                                                         Jeff Menzies

  Bottle gourd banjo by Master Builder Jeff Menzies


           One of Jeff's banjo building classes.

Hi Jeff,
Now that is a very cool banjo. Next time I see you I would love to hear it so bring it along. 
                                        See you soon, Carolyn 

Hi there Northern Dipper,
Gareth Pearson here on Vancouver Island with an update on my gourd seedlings and a great update it is. We had a very warm August and in the greenhouse everything finally took off. My gourd seedling is now a 7 foot vine and I can see male and female flowers happening. I know it is late in the season but I am still optimistic about getting one gourd.  

               The greenhouse seedling at the end of July.
The gourd space is shared with tomatoes (both heritage and hybrids) and they are plentiful. A little trick I learned from a gardening expert in ensuring good pollination in tomatoes is to go out and give the plant a little shake before 7 in the morning. He didn't know why the early morning was important - must be when the pollen count is the highest.

Hope all is well at your end..will keep you posted.
           Gareth Pearson - Saanich, Vancouver Island

Thanks Gareth, now you have us hooked - we can't wait to hear what happens in September. So happy that it survived; in truth we wondered a couple of months ago. Once again it proves that perseverance and hope can accomplish great things!
                                                 Carolyn and Linda

Hi Carolyn,
I had great fun working on my first gourd. Thank you for all your help, I now have started on my 2nd!

Wendy this gourd is striking. We can't wait to see your 2nd! Carolyn

Looking Ahead: October 2011

We are honoured to have with us Indiana artist Marla Helton. Many of you may know Marla from various gourd festivals or perhaps you have attended one of her workshops. If not you may have seen her work displayed in galleries or at major art shows. Marla's art is distinct, evolving over the past two decades into what can be best described as a non-traditional approach to weaving. Her work is lovely, Marla's an inspiration, and we looking forward to featuring her in the October issue of Gourd Fever.
September is always a busy month for us at Northern Dipper and this year is no exception. We are doing quite a few shows this fall so there will be no workshops scheduled for the next couple of months.
We still love our visitors though so give us a call. We have thousands of quality gourds for sale and as a buyer, I can assure you it is fun picking out those gourds that ' talk to you.'
On that note if you attend the Marshville Heritage Festival make sure to come by and say hello at Booth A 22. This is a very good show, particularily if you love history.
                            Until we meet again take care...
                               Caroyn Cooper and Linda Bond
Send your comments, letters and photos to


Volume 7, Number 78 


In this issue
Grant Feltham: The Accidental Artist!

The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper

The Art of Growing Gourds
Out of the Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia
The Bulletin Board

Kempenfest was a very busy show in Barrie, Ontario. It was hot and people turned out by thousands. 

A broad product line and the friendliness that Carolyn and Linda are known for resulted in a very successful show for Northern Dipper. 

Upcoming Shows

Marshville Heritage Festival
 When: Sept 3, 4 & 5th, 2011
43049 Wills Road RR # 1
Wainfleet, Ontario

This festival has been around since 1989 and is recognized as one of the premiere shows
 in Niagara.

The original concept was to recreate the pat circa of 1850 - 1900 through the sale of handmade arts and crafts. People will be dressed in 
period costumes along with restored heritage buildings, displays, demos, food and entertainment. 

The Marshville Heritage Festival is a real family outing with more than 130 artisans and with lots to see and do! Northern Dipper can be found in Booth A22.

To learn more about this event click here:

      Grant Feltham       
"If I am ever to be classified as and referred to as an artist, I should be called an 'accidental artist.' It all started with that one accidental viewing of a gourd and the slow development of interest grew."

"Since my return to Canada, I had been mostly employed in manufacturing at the plant floor level where my employer utilized my extensive inventory control, purchasing and cost control background. Now that I am retired I get to just play!"
 "I have grown my own gourds in the past and may do so again. At this point I have no idea what is going to happen down that road."
 "Regarding the gourds themselves; I suspect I'll be fiddling with them until either my eyes or something goes or I turn into worm food."
 Advice For New Artists
"When I am starting a gourd I  first sit it someplace where I can see it. As I pass it I think about what I want to do with it and how I want it to look. This may take several weeks. It's not exactly a scientific approach but it works for me."
"One of the main things I've discovered about gourds is to kick back and enjoy it. If you mess up, so what. Either fix it or do something else with it."
"My advice - Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy - do not turn it into a stressful situation."
"I personally don't do much painting on gourds but if I do, I usually sketch out the design first. Sometimes what I visualize doesn't translate; meaning it just doesn't work out. I just say to myself  
'You really messed this one
 up fella ! ' and move on"

The Art of    Growing Gourds    
Minis dry much faster than the hardshell gourds. 
Gourds will dry in an excellent manner when left outside in chicken wire baskets. 
These huge gourds were dryed in an unheated barn. Notice that space was left between them. They were also turned periodically throughout the winter. 

Out of the Mailbag
There is always lots to discover in a gourd garden.
Another hidden gem
Gourd plants can be a real addition to any garden.
Jeff Menzies
Jeff Menzies is a talented musician and banjo maker and has the reputation of being an expert in his field. 
Check out his website at:
A banjo made from a bottle gourd.

Jeff's journey into banjo music and building began with a yearning to learn more about the instrument and its history.  
To hear Jeff's music click here:
 Gareth's Gourd Seedlings
This greenhouse seedling took off in August!
Male flower
The outdoor seedling in the pot is not thriving. It was attacked by aphids and although it appears healthy it is not growing much.
Good Morning,
I am a huge fan of your newsletters and was wondering if there was a way to receive past editions? How far back might they be available?
Best regards, Barbara
Hi Barbara,
Thank you for the kind words. To find all the previous issues just go to our website at
 On the left hand sidebar at the bottom it has 'Gourd Fever Back Issues.' Click on it, grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and enjoy. Carolyn

  It's A Dogs Life
When the cat's away, this wet dog will play...Sometimes when we get home the bedding will be in a little ball in the middle of the bed. Mickey  makes that squeaky toy come alive!

 Music Pic of the Month
 This is Toronto singer -songwriter Royal Wood.
The song: Juliet

 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