"The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land."
-Abraham Lincoln

Cleaning the Inside of a Gourd

I've gotten the outsides of all of the gourds completely cleaned and scraped down and ready to go.  Last night I worked on the first birdhouse of the batch.  Now if you are going to make a birdhouse, bowl, jug, drum, etc. out of dried gourds (anything that requires large-ish open holes) you will need to clean the inside of the gourd as well as the outside.
The paper like stuff inside the hole is the pith.  It's usually moldy and gross. 

Not to sound redundant (in other words, yes I realize that I said this in the last post but it bears repeating) but you will need a dust mask of some kind...something more substantial than a bandanna or dew rag or t-shirt tied around your face.  I strongly suggest a full on respirator, I use one-P100 hot pink filters and everything.  At the very least you will need a dust mask made for filtering fine particulate matter. 

The other tools I use for cleaning the inside of a gourd are my trusty variable speed dremel tool with various sized grinding/sanding attachments (a drill and a hand saw or handheld jigsaw/router would work fine too).  I like the variable speed dremel because it cuts down on the amount of dust and offers better control.  I also use an old jigsaw blade, curved awl, and a thin wire brush.

For making a birdhouse the first step is to drill four small holes into the bottom of the gourd to help ensure proper drainage, it is a birdhouse after all not a birdbath. The next step is to determine where you want to place your opening.  I use a compass to draw a circle that is 1"-1 1/2" (the type of bird you want to attract will determine the size of hole you need to drill...check out a chart here) in diameter and use a pencil to mark the center of the circle. That's where you'll drill your starter hole. Then you need to drill two small holes into the handle of the gourd for your hanging wire, leather strips, strong string or whatever other sturdy material you'll use to hang your birdhouse.

I use the various grinders and sanders for creating the hole opening instead of a jigsaw or handsaw in part so that I can sand the hole opening while I'm making it...you know, killing two birds with one stone and all that...sorry for the poor choice of idiom but you get the point.  Anywho, once the opening is made it's time to clean out the inside of the gourd.  I use the old saw blade to break up the pith and the seeds and I shake out the loose material.  Then I use the awl and wire brush to loosen and grab whatever is left for a completely clean result.  Some people leave a bit of pith in the bottom to help the birds gain footing.  Personally the birds that come to my birdhouses never seem to have any trouble with footing without the pith and the one or two times I've left some in there the birds usually throw it right out anyways. Ultimately though the choice to pith or not to pith is really one of personal preference.

The inside of the gourd after it has been cleaned and the pith has been removed.

That's it, now the gourd is officially cleaned. After it's cleaned you can finish it off by painting or staining it and sealing it and it will last for decades. 
Finished (or nearly finished) product. Please ignore the extremely cluttered work table :)


Most of the gourds that I set aside to dry are ready.  There are only two that aren't quite dry yet and will probably need about another week or so. 

  The outsides of these gourds have already gone through two of the three (or four..depending on the project) cleaning processes that I use.  They've already had their warm spongebath in sudsy dish soap water.Got rinsed off and then dried again in the sunshine (what little we've had lately) and they've soaked for an hour or so in 1 cup of bleach (vinegar works well too) to one gallon of warm water. 
  Little word to the wise...gourds float.  So if you are going to soak them make sure to either put them in a nylon sack (think pantyhose) that already has a brick or heavy stones in it before putting them into the water OR place a wet rag over the tops of the gourds after you put them into the water.  You just need something to hold all parts of the gourd under the water.
   Once they've soaked in the bleach solution I use a copper pot scrubber to gently rub all over the surface of the gourd to remove all the more stubborn mold that sometimes sticks to the gourds. Sometimes it takes a little doing.  I hadn't gotten to this part of the cleaning process yet when I took the above pictures.
   The mold frequently leaves a moddled stain on the gourd, it's part of it's charm.  If you want to stain the gourd you will want to finish the outside cleaning process with a bit of fine grit sandpaper worked in even, gentle circular strokes all over the gourd.   If you don't do this step and try to stain the gourd the waxy outer skin will likely mess things up for you. Be aware though that sandpapering the gourd also removes some of the moddling left by the mold.

If you are leaving the gourd whole without cutting, carving, or drilling into the gourd in anyway then you can stop here.  Otherwise, you will need to clean the inside of the gourd.  That's a tricky...and potentially dangerous process. Before you even THINK about starting to do that you will need to get a good quality dust mask or, better yet, a full blown respirator and some safety goggles. The inside of gourds always contain dust and usually contain some nasty molds, fungus, sometimes bacteria etc. that can cause nasty things like infections, gourd flu (really sucks), allergic reactions...sometimes anaphylactic in nature. So, yeah, be smart and be safe about all of this. I'll get into how to clean the inside of the gourds later on...for now I'm off to watch "How the States Got Their Shapes" on the History channel because I'm one of those dorks that really LOVES those kinds of shows.

Hello, Sunshine!

It's been a bit soggy in our neck of the woods.  It's rained almost everyday for the last month or so and our forecast is calling for rain 9 out of the next 10 days.  I'm seriously considering buying a boat. Today was one of the very few days when there was no rain at all.

Thankfully, though, the last couple of days weren't that bad. It sprinkled a couple of times throughout the day and came down really hard once or twice. I say "thankfully" because I was at the Relay for Life event and it would have been truly awful if it had rained the entire time.  It was kind of interesting though, it did sprinkle at the event, but it never downpoured, as I said before it DID downpour a couple of times throughout the day, it's just that it did so in the areas surrounding the fairgrounds where we were but it never rained buckets on the fairgrounds themselves. I don't think the rain would've dampened the spirits of most of the walkers regardless but it was nice that we didn't get soaked out there.   Even better, despite an almost completely gray, cloudy, blah day the sun managed to peak out right at the start of the survivors lap.  It really was inspiring. It lasted the whole lap and part of the next.  Some people may call me silly but I like to think that it was God smiling on them.  All told there were 57 teams, 389 participants and the event raised $44,758.16 for cancer research and support!!!!
You can check out more information about Relay for Life at the American Cancer Society website.

The kids and I took advantage of the little time we could get outside the last couple of days by going to the nature preserve and checking out the waterfall and the pond.  

The pictures aren't the greatest quality, there is a nice smudge in the lower left corner in each and every picture.  The result of Oldest saying "I promise I won't drop your camera" and then promptly dropping my camera, lens first, into the dirt.

I've Been Away for Awhile

It seems like it's been forever since I last posted on here but life has, once again, become very hectic.  This time it's because we are in the process of a move.  We're leaving our little homestead and heading for a much bigger one. 

It's gotten a little crazy, all of this was supposed to be finished at the beginning of April and here we are at the start of May and we're not entirely moved yet.  My husband's grandmother, who lives with us, has been having a very hard time with the move.  She doesn't care for change even on a small level so this big change in routine, lifestyle, etc. has been really scary for her.  So if anyone out there would be willing to pray for her, we would all greatly appreciate it.

The kids, on the other hand, are EXTREMELY excited. They can't wait to get to a bigger place with even more room to run and play than we have right now. The move was a definite necessity.  Since DH's grandmother has come to live with us space has been tight to say the least.  All three kids are crammed into one relatively small bedroom and Oldest is getting to the age where sharing a room with two boys is no longer something she tolerates well. We have only a small kitchen that is no longer functional for all the food prep (cleaning, cooking, canning, freezing, harvesting, drying etc.) that we do around here and storage is limited.  Living space is even worse with six to ten people usually spending the day crammed into the ridiculously small living room.  The lack of a basement in this house is also a big concern for DH considering the higher incidences of tornadoes and wicked storms that we've been experiencing as of late.  

Unfortunately I haven't been crafting much lately because I've packed most of my craft supplies and yarn and fabric away.  It's really starting to make me a little crazy, though.  I had no idea how dependent I was on "making things".  Clearly it's a sickness.

On a positive, and entirely unrelated note, Bin Laden has bit the big one!   We got him!  Woot!