Photo by Melody

The Scarecrow: Its origins and creative ways to make your own

By Stephanie Boles (josette63November 7, 2008
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As a gardener I find the scarecrow is a delightful and practical addition to my vegetable garden. And I am not alone; the scarecrow is an accepted method of scaring away birds the worldwide. It is also a familiar symbol of the fall harvest. With the harvest season upon us, I thought it would be interesting to research the history of the scarecrow. Herein are tidbits of scarecrow history, humor, and ideas to create your own unique scarecrow.

Gardening picture
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Photo by ardelfin

Photo by Allen

 


Some scarecrow humor

Why did the scarecrow win the Nobel Prize?
Because he was "out standing" in his field! [1]

What is a scarecrow's favorite fruit?
"Straw" berries! [2]

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Traditional scarecrows at a Korean Folk Village

The history of scarecrows

In my research, I learned some surprising facts about the origin of the scarecrow.[3] For instance, farmers have been making scarecrows for more than three thousand years to guard their fields against flocks of hungry birds. In history, scarecrows were made and used along the Nile River to frighten away flocks of quail. My imagination runs wild at the thought of Egyptian scarecrows. Why not make an Egyptian "mummy" scarecrow and create an entire harvest display theme in its honor? Your neighbors would be in awe of your creative skills.

If you are a student of Greek history then you may know that the Greek god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite were a starting point for the Greek scarecrow. Indeed, the Greeks created carved wooden scarecrows akin to Priapus, the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite.

Instead of making the traditional scarecrow for your harvest display this season try something entirely different. Take a note from the Greeks and the Romans and create a scarecrow replica of Michelangelo's Statue of David. The statue is a beautiful sculpture completed in 1504, during the Renaissance period. (Depending on your neighborhood, you might put clothes on your "David" so you will not offend the neighbors with the 'artwork'.)

ImageThis photo shows the Japanese scarecrow. Wikipedia.org defines the Japanese scarecrow as one who cannot walk, but knows everything of the world. [4]

If you like Japanese design or have an oriental-themed garden and want a harvest display, go oriental. Perhaps you'll be inspired to create a group of Japanese scarecrows dressed in traditional garments amid your garden. Passersby will stop and gawk at this unusual twist on a harvest display!

ImagePhoto by sioda at morgueFile.com.

And now, gather the children close and prepare yourself! It is time for the story of the bogeyman.


There once was a German immigrant who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. He had trouble with crows that brazenly ate the corn seed in his fields. The farmer created a scarecrow to frighten away the crows. He named the scarecrow "bootzamon", but he called the bootzamon by its English name, "bogeyman." Mr. Bogeyman worked hard for the farmer but was sad. He was all alone while guarding the farmer's fields. "Sniff, sniff." Mr. Bogeyman cried. The farmer, while tilling in the fields one day, discovered the scarecrow crying. The farmer whipped out his handkerchief and mopped up the tears which tumbled down the scarecrow's painted face like large boulders. To the farmer's dismay he realized Mr. Bogeyman was lonely. And so, the farmer created a wife for Mr. Bogeyman. She was christened "bootzafrau." He called her by the English meaning of her name as well. "Here is your bogeywife, dear Mr. Bogeyman," the farmer announced on the day he set the bootzafrau in the field. There were no more tears on the bogeyman's face after that.


And here ends the tale of Mr. Bogeyman and his bonnet bedecked bogeywife. Yes, they stood happily ever after in the sunsets of the farmer's cornfield.

The above photograph is a good representation of the bootzamon and his bootzafrau. Whether your scarecrow is created along the lines of the German witch scarecrows of long ago, or the bootzamon and his bootzafrau created by the German immigrant farmers from the 1800s, it will be an exceptional addition to your harvest display or your garden. Even if your scarecrow does not frighten away the crows, it will be admired. Who does not like a scarecrow?

Additional scarecrow names

Technically, a scarecrow is a mannequin placed in crop fields or gardens to frighten away crows. German immigrants called their crow-frightening mannequins "bootzamon" and "bootzafrau. Other cultures have distinctive names for their crow-frightening mannequins as well. Daniel Defoe is generally thought of as the first English novelist to use the term "scarecrow", in his 1719 novel "Robinson Crusoe." Here are some additional names for scarecrows:

Scarebirds
Jack-of-straw
In Scotland the scarecrow is called "Tattie Bogle", also spelled Tattybogle
In Sommerset, England the scarecrow is known as Mommet
Hodmedod, meaning "with hat and stick" from Berkshire, Isle of Wight

Image
Image

Cover of
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900

Dorothy meets the cowardly lion.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900

Scarecrows today

Scarecrows are not used in crop fields as often as they once were. More effective and often high-tech ways of deterring birds have been developed. One such way is to employ bird netting in the garden. Some gardeners hang pie tins in trees to discourage birds. Crows, however, being cunning and adaptable birds often realize that the pie tins are a ploy to discourage them from entering the garden and enter it regardless of the tins. There are those who believe that our modern methods of bird control have not proved more effective at deterring birds than the use of scarecrows. Their thinking is that it is better to use the modern methods of bird control in conjunction with the old ways.

Scarecrows have been used in literature, movies and songs. Author Peter Haining, in his book "Scarecrow Fact and Fable", published in 1988 by Robert Hale, wrote, "His image has proven irresistible to writers from William Shakespeare to Walter de la Mare as well as to film makers since the dawn of the silent movie." My favorite scarecrow is the scarecrow from L. Frank Baum's tale of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". The story was made into a film and released in 1939 as "The Wizard of Oz" and in it, the scarecrow was immortalized as a beloved friend to Dorothy; he was played by the actor Ray Bolger.

A popular method of using scarecrows nowadays is in harvest displays and fall decoration. You can make a scarecrow or buy pre-made ones at craft stores, department stores or party supply stores. The scarecrows are created in many styles, from the humorous to the macabre.

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Photo by mmsz at morgueFile.com

Scarecrow festivals

There are numerous scarecrow festivals in the world, too many to list in this article. Suffice it to say, scarecrow festivals are exciting and enjoyable events for the entire family to attend. One such exciting festival takes place in the Yorkshire Dales of the U.K. There are over one-hundred life-size scarecrows at this festival. The scarecrows are made in the traditional ways by the locals. You will find the scarecrows placed throughout the village of Kettlewell in Wharfedale during the festival. There are exciting scarecrow festivals in the U.S. as well. St. Charles, Illinois has been celebrating the scarecrow with an annual festival for twenty-three years.

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Fall Harvest Display


How to make your own scarecrow

Fill a pair of old pants or overalls and a shirt with rags or straw. Make certain the scarecrow is realistic when you have completed stuffing it. Tie off and tuck the shirttail into the pants so the straw will not fall out. Add a stuffed pair of gloves for hands or tie off the cuffs with twine and tuck them into the pant pockets to simulate hands. Create feet by poking the ends of the pant legs into the tops of an old pair of boots and arranging the legs. Fill a nylon stocking or a burlap sack and paint a face onto it to create a head. A stick works well as a neck. Simply attach the head to the stick by inserting the stick into the head and tying it off with twine. Then insert the other end of the stick into the scarecrow's shirt top. Cover the neck with a bandana. Add a wig or mop top and you have hair. Top the head off with a hat. You can mount the scarecrow on a post and place it in the garden or yard. The scarecrow in the photo above was made for a harvest display I created. I gave him leaf eyes and a pinecone mouth, and wrapped a leaf garland around his neck to add a touch of fall.

I hope you enjoy creating scarecrows for the garden as much as I do.
Happy scarecrow making.



Footnotes
[1] Jokes and riddles
[2] Yahoo Kids Jokes
[3] The History of Scarecrows account was compiled from Grade 3 with Mrs. Nelson
[4] Scarecrow

Links
Dave's Garden Forums
Scarecrow books at Garden Bookworm
A Celebration of Scarecrows You will find scarecrow crafts, facts and stories here.
Scarecrows History in the United Kingdom

Scarecrow Festivals
Yorkshire Dales
St. Charles, Illinois

Photo Credits
Thanks to Allen, ardelfin, mmsz and sioda at morgueFile.com for the generous use of their photographs
Wikipedia.org public domain photos
Wikipedia.org photos by Isaac and FG2
My garden

Image Pleasant gardening

 

 


  About Stephanie Boles  
Stephanie BolesStephanie is a Floridian, transplanted to Missouri and married to a Missouri farmboy. She is a mother who enjoys the farm, teaching Sunday school, working as a church musician and a freelance writer. She spends a large part of her time helping the DH on building/remodeling their house. She designs the gardens and her DH helps to landscape them. She makes old fashioned bed dolls in her spare time. She is currently working on a historical romance book series. The first book of the series will be available for purchase in spring 2010. Book 2 in the summer of 2010.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Japanese Scarecrow madbrushpainter 0 6 Jun 22, 2010 8:10 AM
Enjoyed this one libellule 0 5 Nov 7, 2008 10:20 PM
Adorable! KyWoods 1 6 Nov 7, 2008 10:18 PM
Great phicks 0 3 Nov 7, 2008 9:03 PM
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