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Seeds for Thought By Cheryl Hughes

I’m mad at my gourds and it’s not their fault.

This summer, I planted gourds in our dog pen, as well as a few tomato plants and a small row of peas.  We haven’t had a dog for the past few years, and even when we did have one, they rarely stayed in the dog pen.  The pen is quite large, because it was built for bird dogs, back when Garey bird hunted, and bird dogs need lots of room to move around.  The pen has a sturdy chain link fence around the parameter, so it’s an ideal place to put veggies that you don’t want marauding packs of squirrels or raccoons to get to.  I planted my gourds there because it would give them a large area in which to vine out along the chain link fence.

I’ve had a fascination with gourds and their lush verdant vines since I was a kid.  When we lived at Mt. Washington, my stepmom would plant dipper gourds in the dirt on the other side of our front porch wall.  The porch was walled in about half way up from the floor, and wooden support pillars, connected to the front eave of the roof, gave the gourds ample space to vine up, around and across the open area, forming a green, gourd-filled screen.

My mom raised dipper gourds.  That was also my intention, and therein lies the problem.  I planted dipper gourds, at least that’s what the seed packet said they were, in two languages, I might add.  I ordered the seeds from Amazon, because I didn’t want just ordinary dipper gourd seeds, I wanted the jumbo version.  I carefully read through the descriptions of each packet of seeds for sale then decided upon a variety from the Ukraine.  They were described as rare heirloom Lageneria dipper gourds.  

When the seeds arrived, they were in a packet with instructions printed in Russian, as well as an attached set of instructions in English.  I followed the instructions carefully, and I was so excited when the little plants peeked their heads through the ground.  I checked daily for those little tendrils on the vines that latch onto whatever is nearby, and I when I found one, I directed it toward the fence, so it would latch on and begin to climb.  

The first blooms were beautiful, although I did notice they were large white blooms, not large green blooms, as described on the seed packet.  I dismissed it as a “lost in translation” mistake on the part of the transcriber.  Finally, little gourds began to form.  As they grew, I noticed the shape of the gourds was bulbous on both ends and thinner in the middle.  “Maybe, that’s just the way they start out,” I told myself.

Well, they are well into week ten, and they are definitely not dipper gourds.  I’m pretty sure they are bird house gourds, albeit jumbo ones, but nonetheless bird house gourds.  Each time I go to the dog pen to pick peas or tomatoes, I get mad all over again.  I try to enjoy the vines—they are a sight to see—but I can’t get past the large plump bird house gourds hanging where the dipper gourds should have been.

I had such plans.  My granddaughter and I were going to dry the gourds and make actual dippers from which to drink, so I could show her nature’s utility.  We were going to paint them and put hangers on them for display.  We were going to give them as gifts.  Now, all we can do is carve out huge oversized bird houses for buzzards or crows on steroids.  It is such a disappointment.

You know, next year, I think I’ll go to Walmart and get a packet of good old American dipper gourd seeds.  They won’t be jumbo size, but I really don’t need any more seeds that are too big for their britches.


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