Fall is in the air. The farmers are out combining their crops in the fields, and fall decorations are set out. Mums, pumpkins, and scarecrows add a festive touch to porch stoops. Scarecrows are now often used as fun fall decorations, but did you know they once served an agricultural purpose?
The origin of the scarecrow dates back to the time of the Egyptians. Farmers installed wooden frames in their fields and covered them with nets. As birds would enter the field, the farmer would scare them into the net and capture them.
Greek farmers also used scarecrows. In 2,500 B.C., Greek farmers carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the daughter of Greek goddess Aphrodite. She was believed to be ugly enough to scare birds away from the vineyards and ensure a good harvest. One hand held a club to scare the birds away, and the other hand held a sickle in hopes of a good harvest.
Japan had their own version of scarecrows called a kakashis. This scarecrow closely resembled a person. It was dressed in a raincoat and a round straw hat. Farmers added bows and arrows to make the kakashis appear to be more threatening.
Scarecrows were also used in the Middle Ages in Europe. Their original purpose was to frighten away birds from eating crops in the field. For thousands of years, farmers have tried to keep pests like crows from eating the seeds and plants in their fields. Before scarecrows were around, during the Middle Ages, in England, young boys would walk through the wheat fields making loud noises with wooden clappers to scare the birds away. This was the child’s main job on the farm. They were called bird scarers. When the fields got larger, they started to build wooden stands throughout the field for children to sit in during the day. While they sat in the stand, they would bang pots, make noise, and throw rocks at any animals or birds that attempted to eat their crops.
During the Great Plague, many children died and few were left to stay in the field as bird scarers. Farmers had to be creative and find something else that would deter the pests from the fields. Thus, the scarecrow was born in that region. England scarecrow bodies were made from stuffed sacks of straw and their faces made of gourds. Their bodies were leaned against a pole to scare away birds.
Make your own scarecrow
You can make your own scarecrow for your garden at home! It is a simple process. Garden scarecrows must stand tall in the wind, rain, or heat so they need to be made from sturdy materials. Start with a strong frame. A wooden poll, PVC pipe or metal fence post works well. Be creative and use recyclables to create your scarecrow! Old milk jugs work well to create a head for your scarecrow. You can even paint a face on it.
The next step is to to create a body for your scarecrow. Use old clothes to dress the scarecrow. Fill a shirt and old pants with straw, hay, or grass clippings. Tie the ends of the clothing items shut so the filling stays inside. Colorful duct tape can be used to secure the scarecrow to the frame. Attach an old straw hat or wig to make the scarecrow even more life-like.
Attach noise makers to frighten pesky birds away from your crops. Metal objects and reflective products work well to keep birds away.
Just in time for fall celebrations, your new scarecrow can serve two purposes! First it can add to your fall décor, and secondly it can help keep birds from disrupting your crops.