WOODWARD -- Dana Franks' newest hobby "has taken on a life of its own."
But she couldn't be more thrilled.
It started out innocently enough. Franks and her husband Rod have had a home garden for about 4 or 5 years.
Since they stared, the garden has only grown under Rod's green thumb and it has continued to expand and include more varieties of fruits and vegetables from tomatoes and carrots to spinach and eggplants.
In 2009, the big addition was gourds.
Franks said her husband talked to a friend who suggested gourds.
"I thought we'd get maybe 4 or 5 gourds," she said.
But when they grew 10 times that, she said she learned "just how prolific gourd plants are."
Franks said she also decided to grow gourds because she was interested in painting them as a hobby.
"It started as something for me to do when the snow is flying and I can't ride horses," she said.
But beyond keeping her busy on cold winter nights, Franks said she thought it also might be a nice activity to keep her busy when she retires in a couple of years.
"I don't want to retire and sit around and mold," she said.
However, the hobby has thrown a few curves her way.
First of all she planned to start painting the gourds last winter, but learned "it takes a year for them to dry out."
"So my barn last year was all full of gourds," she said.
But then after waiting for a year until "you can hear them shake," Franks said she learned her next big lesson about gourds.
While the gourds were drying out in her barn, they were also molding.
"They are nasty when they come out of the barn," she said.
So before she could start painting the gourds, Franks had to go through the laborious process of cleaning them.
"I spent many hours out under that tree in the shade this summer washing and cleaning out gourds," she said pointing out the window to her front yard.
To protect herself from the mold on the gourds as she cleaned them and from the bleach which she was using to clean them, she said she wore goggles and "heavy-duty rubber gloves."
"That was the most difficult thing, getting them clean," she said.
"But after that, the fun begins," Franks said.
The gourds speak
And what fun she has had.
"I'm in the playing stage right now," Franks said.
Although she has only really started the painting process in the last 2 months, she has already experimented with a variety of designs, from candle holders to centerpieces to even keepsake boxes, all made out of gourds.
She gets a lot of her ideas from the Internet, which she says "I'm on all the time" looking to learn more about gourd crafts.
She has even gotten her husband involved to help carve the gourds into various shapes and to make the cutouts for the candle holders.
"He has a steadier hand than I do; so I draw the design and then give it to him to cut out," Franks said.