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Fall gourds

Lead Summary

HCP columnist

So this is fall. When I glance in the rear-view mirror as I drive down the road to the cabin, I see a swirling cloud of leaves rolling in my wake.

When I walk along the edges of the fields, I pretend that I am only allowed to step on dry leaves, and I have to jump from one large sycamore leaf to another, playing a solitary game of creek-style hopscotch. And when I settle in for the evening, after the dinner dishes are done, I wonder if I should light a fire in the wood stove, or simply snuggle in under the covers and wait to see if I really need to light a fire in the morning.

This is fall.


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Some folks might think that fall signals the end of summer, the end of a season of growing and bounty, but I guess that I am not quite like some folks because I could not be more excited. I know that fall signals that very special time of year when the sun sets sooner and I can sit quietly in the warm cabin and work with my gourds.

The hard-shell gourds lie drying in the garden. Between the soggy soil rain days, I walk out across the garden field and check on them. A few of the apple and bird house vines have already withered completely, and I have taken several armfuls of the drying gourds into the tobacco barn and hung them on bailing twine from the rails to fully cure.

Midsummer, when the gourd flowers had begun to wither and the gourds themselves had began to swell and grow, I would walk among the rows of spreading vines and carefully set each gourd on end. Sometimes I even knelt down and hollowed out shallow bowls of earth to better support the growing gourds.

This way, I knew that they would finish smooth and symmetrical and not lopsided or misshapen. And all through the long days of summer, I have been gathering my supplies. When the Kentucky coffee tree sprouted new leaves, last year’s seed pods fell to the ground. I gathered up handfuls of the hard marble-sized seeds. And when the pawpaw ripened in mid-September, we would pause on our walks to shake the fruits down from the
trees, and with the sweet taste lingering on my tongue, I would spit the large seeds into my hand and collect them in my pocket.

So this is fall, but I am still amazingly busy. There are way too many things that I still need to do to even list, but I know that as the days shorten, so too does my to-do list, and my evenings will soon be spent at the cabin table working the gourds.

I will hold each gourd and turn it over in my hands, and I will know if it is to become a bowl, or a lidded treasure box, or a bird house. I will draw a pencil pattern onto its hard shell, and then I will cut it out and perhaps sand down the edges. Maybe I will trace the pattern with my wood burner and then buff it out with wax, or perhaps I will paint the gourd and then cover it with high gloss acrylic. The gourd will let me know.

And then I might drill small holes around its perimeter, and wrap it with waxed cotton thread, perhaps strung with pretty glass beads or with Kentucky coffee and pawpaw seeds. The options are endless.

I have learned that no two of my garden gourds are ever alike. I am also quite certain that no two of my gourd creations have ever been the same, but I suppose that I really cannot say this for sure. I never seem to keep them long and have given them all away as holiday gifts or with spur of the moment smiles. 

To me, fall signals that a new season of quiet creating awaits! I know that in a few weeks it will be that special time of year when the sun sets sooner, and I can sit quietly in the warm cabin, turning last summer’s gourd over in my hands and make something special.

Christine Tailer is an attorney who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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