Our sister club in Taneytown, Silver Fancy, had room for 7 additional persons to go on a fieldtrip with them and invited Carroll Garden Club members to fill the spaces, so I decided to join in the fun. The following is a photo essay of our trip since, as usual, I took lots of pictures! (Click on gallery pictures to enlarge them, but sorry, the directional arrows on the page don’t always lead to the expected next gallery picture in the series–a program bug.)
Meadowbrook Gourds is west of Carlisle, PA, so I headed north on Rt. 34, thinking I might catch some foliage pictures and nice views on the way. I did not count on the presence of a slow tanker truck directly in front of me spoiling that opportunity for miles and miles of no passing lanes! Meadowbrooke is situated on a road close to Conodoguinet Creek. When we had the last huge rain storm, Potato Rd. was flooded out for a period.
I pulled into the parking lot and as luck would have it, Lynn Walter’s van full of Silver Fancy members driving from Taneytown was there a minute later, parking next to me! Another car or two of their caravan arrived and we gathered in the parking lot for introductions. Meanwhile, we gazed out over the fields of gourds which had been gathered and stacked upright in groups. In the distance were cornfields and sunflowers grown on the 100+ acres of land owned by Meadowbrooke Gourds. They are a company that uses local labor from starting seed to finished product. Due to using hand pollination techniques on their gourds (in additional to natural insect pollinators), they were able to reduce the number of acres planted with gourds down to about 30 since their yield is now much higher.
The plan was to first work on a gourd project and then to have a factory tour. After looking around in the shop, we adjourned to the crafting area. We each selected a cleaned gourd that had been drilled to make a birdhouse with entry and drainage holes and wired to hang. There were acrylic paints to choose from, sponges and brushes. Each person settled down to work on their birdhouse design: fanciful, naturalistic, decorative… They would be hung to dry and then be covered with a waterproof gloss at home.
Next, we went for a tour which started with an introduction to the farmer/proprietor who had been busily creating gourd sculptures and figures the whole time we were there. We watched a video about the operations and then took a tour of the building. After harvesting them, the gourds sit out to dry from fall through winter, as can be seen in the field picture. Most of the dried gourds will go into a chemical cleaning bath to take the mold and dirt off them. The process also winnows out any which have thin walls: they will break in the process. Afterwards, some will be sold to crafters as is and others will go to the next step after being crated up by type. Working with gourds became a segment on Dirty Jobs–it is!
The company has a number of rooms with shop equipment–saws, drills, electricals, painting, crafting and so on. Each had people hard at work since this is a very busy season for them covering Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The gourds may be sliced at the botton to stand straight, holes drilled to withdraw the innards in some cases. Lights are inserted, wires twisted, straw features becomes hat fringe to adjust or arms to pull through holes. Faces are cut and painted. Little goes to waste since even parts of gourds are used to cut out hats or accessories for other gourd sculptures. They use different types of paint, but most of the solid colored gourds are hued with custom leather paints–multiple coats–to give them their unique look.
We finished our tour and headed for the finished goods shop and drooled over all the offerings. Meadowbrooke Gourds is apparently the largest gourd to finished goods company in the U.S. They offer seeds and books for gourd art too. Outside was a warehouse of bins of cleaned gourds to select from for the crafters among us. I picked up some mini gourd seeds and bought some egg shaped gourds to fool my chickens into laying in one spot.
Afterwards, we had lunch in Carlisle and some great conversations. I sincerely hope Silver Fancy and Carroll Garden Club can find more opportunities for togetherness in the future!