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


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.