CREATE A JUNGLE OUT THERE WITH MEBERG GOURD NOVELTIES
Near Moundsville, West Virginia _ If you want to turn your home landscaping into a jungle wonderland, Mary Meberg’s unique gourd animals may be just what you’ve been looking for. Last year’s crop of Lagenaria Sileraria (sic) (hardshell gourds) yielded gourds with long necks twisting this way and that to inspire a herd of giraffes large enough to populate a fantasy African Savannah. Imagine a giraffe in your home garden, its feet surrounded with ornamental grasses and day lilies. You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood.
If you prefer the homey quality of a backyard barnyard, consider pigs and chickens on the edge of a pumpkin patch flanked by short red mushrooms with polka-dotted tops or the natural brown color of tall pointy mushrooms in a bed of salvia and delphinium surrounding a deck. Stake out a bluebird house by the railing. Plant a few geraniums in gourd pots to create a mobile deck arrangement.
“Every year I add new items to my array of collectible gourds,” Mary says.
You have to see the variety of shapes and sizes to believe what Mary does with nature’s bounty.
“I probably use 10,000 gourds and I’m proud to say everything we use is locally produced. We have a 30-acre farm and do some growing, but we commission Amish farmers from Pennsylvania and Ohio to grow most of what we need. We provide the seed and get the gourds back ready to palette dry them.”
It takes about nine months for gourds to fully dry out depending on their size. During the drying cycle the moist interior creates a perfect environment for mildew and many home growers throw out their gourds when they see the mold forming on the outside.
“Mildew isn’t a problem. When the gourd is fully dried, I submerge them in warm water. You don’t even have to add soap although I might sometimes. Let them soak awhile and then scrub the mold off with a metal scrubby. You’ll find a beautiful smooth surface underneath. Give them a short re-drying time and you’re ready to let the shape guide what you make of it.”
Mary’s gourd ladles and pitchers are safe to hold drinking water and her birdhouses, which she paints to resemble cottages, have a back door for easy cleaning.
“I taught our five children to be involved in gourd craft but none of them have followed us into this farming vocation. The two youngest boys are finished college now and have worked with us on the shows we do.”
This year, Mary will teach a children’s class in giraffe making at the Shaker Woods Festival.
“When the children complete their giraffe, I invite them to come into our booth and see the display. We get a lot of ‘ohs’ and ‘aws’ and ‘wows’ when they see all the animals.”
In addition to animals and household implements, Mary will have an assortment of fall decorations including costumed scarecrows with gourd heads.
Find the Mebergs in booth 146.