A long wet summer has passed and our first frost of the fall is almost here. All summer the gourds have grown under a thick layer of vines and leaves. When I look out over a field of gourd plants I see very few gourds. It’s very hard to know how good of a crop is really there. The first hard frost kills all the vines and leaves, leaving the gourds totally exposed. This is the first time you can see what all the planning and hard work accomplished.
It is so exciting to walk through the fields after a frost. I see all the neat products these gourds could become. I stop at every interesting variety and assess the yield and quality. I pick a couple and break them open, hoping to find a nice thick hard shell and dark mature seeds. Hoping to find the bottom side that sat on the ground all summer disease free. Then it’s on to the next variety to repeat the process all over again. Sometimes I’m very disappointed and sometimes amazed at what I find. I wouldn’t have it any other way, it just wouldn’t be as rewarding if there wasn’t a surprise waiting.
The most exciting field to check is our seed and test plot varieties. Here we grow several hundred true varieties and new test hybrids. Our new test hybrids are created when we breed two different varieties of gourds together to get new and unique variations of shapes and sizes of gourds. Here I get to see for the first time if the ideas my daughter and I had to create new sizes and shapes worked. Out of hundreds of test hybrids, I’m looking for the one or two really good ones. It’s all worth it to find just one new awesome variety. In a really good year there might even be two or three. The vast majority are dead ends. No problem- we will just try new ones next year. For now, I have a whole new gourd crop to harvest and get ready to be crafted next year.