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cleaning gourds for birdhousesI was asked the other day, ‘Where do you buy gourds? And when you talk about cleaning them, what does that involve?’ Oh, yeah, not everyone knows about this stuff. Funny how you forget that at one time, you yourself were asking the very same questions! And gee, these questions were nicely timed, as it’s the natural next step to talk about gourds.

You can either grow your own gourds; purchase them from the local farm market (usually fresh and you would have to dry them) or over the Internet from a gourd farmer. My two favorite places to purchase gourds are Mojave Gourd Farm in California and Foothill Farms in Ohio.

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Why two? Mojave Gourd Farm offers gourds by the box. They usually offer two types of boxes with varying amounts and shapes of gourds for a nice price. I get a whole box of characters and personalities to create with! When I need a particular type of gourd in a small quantity the place I like to get them is at Foothill Farms I just love the Internet and modern technology.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I intend on growing some of my very own gourds next year. I received lots of tips when I attended the Ohio Gourd Show and am I excited to put them to the test! Oh and you bet, I’ll be blogging about that.

Now the next question was "and when you talk about cleaning them, what does that involve?’ You know you are a true lover of gourds if cleaning them is nothing but a thing. What happens in the morphing process of a gourd from fresh to dry is it loses its water weight. This process takes about six to nine months. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind shrinking that much in that short amount of time!

During this process the water evaporates through the gourd’s skin and forms mold. Okay, maybe that wouldn’t be a good process for a human to lose weight. Can you imagine? ‘Oh look, Tracy, you’ve got a nice coating of mold on you! How much longer do have to go?’ When the process is complete, you have a dried gourd with a moldy residue on it. This must be cleaned off to reveal the wonderful golden color and markings underneath.

I’ve noticed that how easily it cleans depends upon where it’s been grown. This is not based on any scientific fact. This is from my own personal experience. Those desert gourds require a bit more elbow grease than the Ohio grown ones. Now my Mom, who orders gourds from the same place, has managed to get ‘easy’ cleaning gourds. I think the difference there is that she has 19 more years of ‘cleaning’ muscle built up than I do. I know she could beat me at thumb wrestling.

To clean the outside of your gourd you can use some different methods:

Soak the gourds in water and a bit of bleach. Gourds float so it’s important to lay a wet towel over the top of them. After a few hours, wash them with a copper scrubby.

Soak the gourds in plain water and continue as above.

Do not soak the gourds and immediately start scrubbing with dish soap and copper scrubby. Can you tell I get impatient?

And my personal favorite for those desert gourds (and I have to give credit where credit is due, this was suggested by Janice Maloney from Mojave Gourd Farm) spray the gourd with Dawn Power Dissolver. After about half an hour they are ready for the copper scrubby. Sometimes you have to do it twice before you’re finished. There are places that offer to clean the outside of your go 1ff8 urds but you pay extra for that service.

Now the next step is to clean the inside, which wholly depends upon what you are creating. There are various schools of thought on this. Some folks believe that the inside must be cleaned out no matter what and others say ‘not’. I usually go with the first method, but have since learned that it wasn’t necessary. I’m still feeling my way on that one. There are two methods to accomplishing this fun task, dry or wet. Wet cleaning just about eliminates the dust, but I think it takes longer so I usually don’t do this. When the mood strikes, I want to work on the gourd as soon as possible.

When you open up a gourd the first thing you realize is that this is what underneath all that wrapping on a mummified person must smell like. Also, if you happen to have your mouth hanging open (as I catch myself doing often) you can get the nastiest taste in it. It takes several glasses of water, candy, ice cream, or chocolate to get rid of it.

Inside the gourd is a large ball that holds all the seeds along with membrane sticking to the sides of the gourd. If your really lucky, you’ll get a gourd where the membrane ball simply falls out and there isn’t any sticking to the sides. I’m warning you though; these are the really nasty dusty ones!

To wet clean this, I would take out the seed ball and then fill the gourd with water and let it soak. I’ve let them soak from a few hours to overnight depending on how patient I want to be about it. After they’ve soaked, the membrane is very soft and can be scraped out with a sharp edged spoon or a gourd scraping tool. Be warned! Cleaning out wet membranes is a messy and goopy job.

My preferred method is the dry method. Now I started out doing this with a spoon or any sharp object I could find until I bought my scrapers. Then, the Gourd Gods smiled upon all their people and someone invented The Gourd Genie. I love this tool!

This neat device fits into your drill (or your husband’s drill which suddenly has a new home in YOUR Lair. It becomes yours due to squatter’s rights). This neat tool scrubs out all that membrane very quickly! I can’t imagine life with out it. Well yes I can because the first one I bought broke. That’s how I found out what it’s made out of! It’s a golf ball covered with grit (like sandpaper grit) attached to a metal shaft. How simple is that? I really missed having it and it wasn’t long before I bought a replacement.

It is very important to clean your gourds in a well-ventilated area and to wear a mask! I didn’t listen (and still sometimes don’t) and ended up with a reaction to the gourd dust. It’s not fun! For me the result can be as severe as an intense ragweed allergy attack with a nice dash of bronchitis added on top. Gourd dust is nasty, nasty, nasty stuff. I highly recommend a mask. I started out with a mask from Home Depot that has the cartridges on it. Yes, I looked much like Darth Gourdess, which was most fun. ‘Gourd…. Gourd…. come to the dark side….’

I usually wear a blue disposable one for fine dust and so far so good. I clean my gourds outside whenever possible. If I can’t, I have a fan in the window of my Lair set on ‘exhaust’.

There you have it, where to buy your gourds and how to give them a bath. The fascinating thing about cleaning gourds is finding out what’s underneath that mold and dirt. Some of the most interesting pictures spring forth in the markings. It’s like finding the hidden message or the diamond hidden under the coal.

Want more information? I encourage you to check out The American Gourd Society (of which I am a proud member). Yes there are even gourd societies out there! One of my friends thinks that’s rather amusing. What I love is how people who have never heard of gourds until they meet me will suddenly see them everywhere. I didn’t realize how popular gourds were until I started looking for more information. They are everywhere…mwhahahahahahaha…. Oh, excuse me, I got a little carried away.

Have a Wonder-Filled day and enjoy the journey!

Author: Tracy Swartz

Tracy L. Swartz, PhG The Domestic Gourdess

My work is a treasure hunt to find the mystery and beauty of the Gourd hidden beneath the layers.

Gourd art is similar to life unfolding before us, and the choices we make. I choose to transform those things that may on the surface appear awful and unlovely into something uplifting and beautiful. I equate my gourd art to the versatile nature of people, always changing, always unfolding, and always discovering something new.

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The Growing of Gourds and More Gourds

A gourd which rattles is usually better than one which "clunks." Folk lore tellers say a gourd that won’t rattle will bring bad luck — so if you are buying a gourd, shake it. Buy the one that rattles.


The gourds grew up and over the top.They looked like alien pods hanging down through the lattice. It was a fun project.I did buy gourds after that. I do not have enough room to grow all the varieties I wanted.

Farmers’ Market

As I was unloading the car, a lady bought several of my bird house gourds before I even had a chance to put them out! Woohoo!! Of course, the vendors buy from each other.

"Running Of The Gourds"

It is a judged event for the artists and place to them to display their wares, offer classes, buy gourds for their next project and visit with fellow artists and suppliers.

Bitter Betty Blogs

Your gourds are excellent; thanks for explaining how to use the fresh ones! There’s an excellent anti-mold product called Concrobium that you can buy at any Home Depot. It has no scent, is made of food-grade mold-killers.

Gourd Art Lampshades

Ok, I just did some research and one can easily buy dried gourds or if you have patience take the 2-4 months to dry them yourself. These people put beads in the holes they drilled which I really like. One could just go crazy with ideas.

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