Once again, Mother Earth News is sponsoring an event in September, 2013, to help people learn about homesteading. They are hoping to generate a flurry of activities across the country. If you have a skill or interest, find our more at their web page, International Homesteading Education Month.
Those of us who are crafters may already know that gourds are fun to have around for all kinds of projects. They can be painted, carved, dyed, etched with woodburning and turned into all kinds of fanciful objects and useful objects. But did you also know that gourds are relatively easy to grow in a back yard garden? This picture is a gourd that I grew in my backyard, but I didn't plant it just for crafts.
Texas summers get terribly hot. At the time, I had a 10 foot by 30 foot kennel in my backyard for my four dachshunds. Doxies are notorious diggers, so I had built the kennel and put a wire bottom in it, a left over piece of 2" x 4" field fence, and covered it with mulch to have a safe place for them to stay while I was at work. However, I needed shade, and lots of it.
I stretched chicken wire as tightly as I could over one end, covering about one third. I planted gourds around the outside of the kennel where they could grow up and over the chicken wire. Depending on your space, you might want to make raised beds or set big pots up around the kennel, but I just planted mine straight into the ground and kept them watered.
The gourds quickly grew up and over the kennel, covering it with big leaves and lots of shade. I pulled the little gourds through where they could hang down as they grew...but you have to have dogs that will leave them alone. I did get a wilt in one vine and lost it, but still had lots of shade for the kennel all summer. You could also plant vining flowers if you did not want to dispose of all the gourds. As the vines grew, they got heavy enough that I had to prop the chicken wire up by adding a post on the unsecured edge inside the kennel, but otherwise it worked great. Little lizards and bugs took up residence in the vines and kept the dogs entertained for hours...another benefit that I had not considered, but appreciated. In winter the vines died and let the sun through. All in all, I think it was much better than shade cloth.
My favorite gourd craft books, all of which are on my bookshelf, are:
Why permaculture? Once upon a time I worked in plant pathology research and learned about things like male sterile corn and the mayhem that monoculture can cause, the damage from overuse of chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizer, damage to soil tilth caused by too much plowing--we pay a big price for our factory farms, too big. With my background in ecology and biology, I am a big believer that Mother Nature has done a pretty good job of working out the details of what constitutes a healthy environment and that we would do well to learn as much from her as we can. Permaculture uses methods that are closer to nature and that is why I’ve chosen that route--I believe it is healthier for my environment and for my family.
As defined on Wikipedia (my favorite encyclopedia), permaculture is "a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems". It embodies the principles of caring for the earth as well as the people and setting limits as needed to sustain both. We have a finite amount of planet to work with here folks and it is getting pushed beyond its point of being able to sustain us. We need to start paying attention.
I heard a recent discussion between some of our city moguls here, that by 2050 at our current rate of growth, we would have to start shipping water in to keep the community growing. I see all kinds of problems with that, especially given that fresh water is going to be one of the limiting factors for the world in the near future (Learn more at the Stockholm International Water Institute). Perhaps we should be looking at controlled growth and living within our means rather than uncontrolled growth and scrambling for resources that might not be available. We need to have everyone living on this planet more responsibly, not just a few of us.
I am a maker--crafts, DIY, garden, upcycling, instructional design--I am always designing and making something, be it a new recipe, new knitting pattern, a class for compliance training or landscaping a flower bed.
I am also a collector and curator of vast amounts of information that interests or inspires me. I have a growing collection of DIY, crafts, and recipes on Pinterest.
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