Article and photo by Donna Iverson
There are fewer and fewer of them, but eye catching when you spot one. Especially a homemade one with a base of straw, old clothes and a whimsical head. Each unique in its own way.
We are, of course, talking about scarecrows. Traditionally a sign of autumn and the harvest, scarecrows often survive the winter to oversee spring planting. Their job is to scare birds away from freshly planted seeds. Originally, their job was to scare away crows, hence their name: scarecrow.
As you may already know, it doesn't work. Birds, and especially crows, are too smart to be fooled. After a few days they have figured it out that the scarecrow is not a threat no matter how menacing it looks. And even cloth or ribbons waving in the breeze doesn't deter them. Although adding clinking aluminum pie tins might.
But no matter. Gardeners love scarecrows and having a human-like mannequin supposedly guarding the crops makes us smile.
Historically, scarecrows can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who employed them to protect their crops along the Nile River from being eaten by quail. Around the same time, Japanese literature refers to a scarecrow called Kuebiko, a deity of agriculture and knowledge.
In colonial American, German immigrants concocted scarecrows they called "bogeymen," which were dressed in old clothes with a red handkerchief tied around their necks. Eventually, thinking these bogeymen were lonely, the farmers created female scarecrows to keep them company.
Colonial scarecrows were designed to be as ugly as possible and there were contests to rate their appearance.
The scarecrow is featured often in American literature, poems and musicals. Perhaps the most famous Is the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who is searching for his brain. Eventually, he finds it.
In Nova Scotia, a farmer named Joe Delaney began to enjoy his scarecrows so much that in 1984 he created a scarecrow village. Unfortunately, the scarecrow village was closed in 2011 after it was vandalized, someone destroying the 46 scarecrows he had on display.
Making your own scarecrow the old fashion way is fairly easy...all you need are some old clothes and straw to stuff it with. Pumpkins or gourds are traditional heads although a stuffed burlap sack will also suffice. Once completed, tie your creation to a pole or fence near your garden beds. The birds may ignore it but I'm pretty sure neighbors, family and friends will be stopping by to admire your handiwork.