Today we’re sharing a little behind the scenes action in our gourd fields! These pictures show trial runs of a gourd sorter designed to help us sort our small gourds. This is somewhere around the tenth model we’ve built in the last twenty years. Most models never make it to field trials, since they end up being an idea that just didn’t work.
This particular model has doubled our sorting speed without compromising accuracy. It does show some flaws with getting the gourds out of the hoppers, however, so model number eleven might replace this one in about a week. Although this is a huge step in the right direction, we bet we can build a better one. Once we get the design flaws fixed we will have a much larger metal unit built for us.
The sky is blue and the ground is dry. Although it might not feel like Spring weather just yet, it is time to harvest our dried gourds! This is always an exciting time since we have been growing and drying this crop for ten months. At this point, we are able to find out just how good of a crop we have. Our production team has been anxious all winter for this crop to be ready. This should keep them quiet until next winter.
Spring is here!
A little something interesting for your Monday morning!
These gourds spent the winter in a bin outside. We got anxious to sort and size them only to find they were all frozen together when we poured the bin out! Sights you will see only at Meadowbrooke Gourds.
Sometimes when we don’t plant enough of a particular gourd variety the year before, the need arises to speed dry the gourds in our greenhouse in order to use them sooner. When our inventory of raw, dried gourds is gone we just can’t wait for spring to come and the gourds to dry outside. Instead, we bring them in to be speed dried. This allows us to craft them about two months sooner than naturally drying them outside during the winter.
This particular circumstance is occurring with the pictured gourds.
The white spots in the picture are not snow – they are mold. It is critical to allow this mold to cover most of the gourd . If a gourd is dry before the mold has broken down the skin, the skin literally super glues itself to the shell and creates a nightmare for our washers.
First step: Freeze the gourds.
Second step: Mold the skin.
Third step: Place in a hot, dry room and hold your nose!
Final step: Wash all the mold and skin away with ease.
It’s fascinating how ugly these gourds need to get before we can turn them into something beautiful. In about a month these moldy gourds will be shiny Christmas tree ornaments!
We are very excited about February’s product of the month – Gloria bunnies!
The bunnies pictured below are as a result of our designer’s effort to create this new product. Ben does the cutting and putting together, Ashley critiques them and adds color, then Denise adds the bows and finishing touches.
It all starts with the idea to create a new bunny. Our goal is always to reinvent ourselves and innovate what we currently produce. As we start to make them, each one takes on a personality of their own. Some creations turn out worse than we expect and some better. The bad ideas head for the trash and the very best ideas go into production. We are then left with one of a kind gourds looking for a home. The next hop for these bunnies will be to our retail store as the February product of the month!
The finished Gloria bunnies…
Our Gloria gourd bunnies will be available February 1st! We are holding a pre-order sale right now! Read more about the sale here.
For those that have visited The Meadowbrooke Farm and Retail Store in the past few months you would have noticed that we are under construction! Everyone is very excited for the plans for our production and shipping areas, as well as our retail store. We really think you will like the changes.
This is a picture of the new wall that is still under construction. The wall isn’t even done yet and little Lucy has already picked her spot. Although she is a dog, she thinks like a cat and likes to find a perch up high so that she can supervise. She does come down when it’s time to eat and for the UPS delivery person since he always carries bones.
This wall separates our shipping room from our retail space. Now Nathan will be able to enjoy his music while he ships and our customers will have a nice, quiet shopping experience. The other side of this wall is going to be a surprise!
This picture below is of our retail store under renovation. The posts and beams are the beginning of building a barn from the inside out! Normally you would place the posts and beams then add the roof and walls, however the building was built ten years ago and we are just now adding the beams. We really think all our customers will love the new store when we are done. We are getting great comments and are only 25% done!
Our gourd crop has been under snow for several weeks and we went for a walk to inspect them. We were please to find them happy as ever and starting to dry nicely. This time of year always has us anxious for spring when it’s time to gather them up. We also took along some buddies to help. The little one is Lucy – she has a great nose for rodents that may be enjoying the gourds from the bottom side. If it were up to her, we would check the field for mice everyday!
This past weekend during our Spring Open House, we held a paint-your-own gourd eggs, birdhouse and basket workshop! Both adults and kids enjoyed being creative and we enjoyed their masterpieces! Here are some of their wonderful creations. Some of the eggs have been entered into our Kids Art Contest. (Winner will receive a gourd basket filled with goodies. Contest winners will be announced March 23rd.)
Gourd Birdhouses Galore!
Gourd Egg Creations
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We get a lot of questions about our processes of growing, harvesting, drying, and crafting here at Meadowbrooke Gourds and we love talking about what we do.
Here are just a few facts and insight into the growing process at our gourd farm!
We grow 50 varieties of gourds on 20 acres and harvests about 250,000 to 300,000 gourds each year. Growing season begins in early spring when seeds are started in the farm’s hothouses. The seedlings are then transplanted by hand into the fields with row covers protect the young plants. We water them using a drip irrigation system.
Pollination does occur nationally by moths, but a team of seasonal workers use cotton swabs to carry pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers to fertilize as many flowers as possible. Each gourd flower is only open for one night. The moths still continue the process naturally, but we started hand-pollinating about five years ago just to ensure the yield. The entire process is very hands-on and labor-intensive from start to finish.
The gourds continue to mature through the first frost!
We welcome tours of our gourd farm. Click here for more information.
Raw gourds at Meadowbrooke Gourds
For all of you DIYers out there or for those that are just interested in what we do at Meadowbrooke Gourds, here is some insight into one of the steps in gourd crafting- drying.
For those that want to craft and paint their own gourds without the hassle of growing, drying, and cleaning, we do offer raw, cleaned gourds in many shapes and sizes online here.
Here at the farm after the first frost, we cut the gourds off the vine and line them up in rows. There they sit until the snows melt and the ground thaws. By that time they are close to 90% dry. Then we pick them up, and the can begin thier journey to our washing and crafting rooms.
Gourds in our zone in Central Pennsylvania grow from June to October or until the first hard frost hits. The frost will kill the vine and it will not continue to grow. After the hard frost hits, pick your gourds and let them dry outside over winter, off the ground (skid, picnic table, etc.) if you can. It is okay to place them on the ground-they will just take a little longer to dry. If a gourd has a matured to a hard shell a frost will not harm it. If a gourd got a late start and is not mature, the frost will make it rot.
A quality gourd will go through a skin decay molding process-this is normal as long as the gourd is still hard and not mushy to the touch. Do not get discouraged if your gourds look terrible and may even smell. Small gourds dry faster than larger ones. Some really large gourds can take up to June the following year to dry completely. Your gourd is completely dried when it weighs only ounces. For most, this is around March or April.
Please let us know if you have any gourd drying questions! We’re here to help.