The boys are doing Scarecrow Week for school right now. We made these little guys yesterday. It was nothing fancy -- just a craft stick for the body, a popsicle stick for the arms, a little wooden shape for the head, and then some scraps of felt, buttons, and straw. I didn't have any straw or raffia, so I shredded up some cornhusks. Neil, being the cat lover he is, couldn't resist the leopard print felt when he saw it. Nathan, of course, had to make some fancy 3-D hat. Mine is just the dorky one in the middle. I don't always make crafts with them because I usually like to read to the boys while they're working on theirs, but I made one yesterday. Today we're making scarecrows out of paper towel tubes. Speaking of scarecrows ...
Did you know the first recorded scarecrows came from Egypt? They were built of wood along the Nile River. Farmers would place nets on the wooden frames and then would scare the quail into the net, which they then brought home to eat.
Early Japanese scarecrows were often set on fire. Farmers would hang old rags, meat, or fish bones on bamboo and light it on fire. The stench kept the birds away from the rice fields.
During the Middle Ages, farmers often placed animal skulls on top of poles to keep birds away from their crops. They believed scarecrows had special powers and would protect their crops from diseases.
In Medieval Britain, children were used as human scarecrows. They were called bird scarers and patrolled the fields with a bag of stones to throw at the birds. After the plague, farmers couldn't find enough bird scarers, so they stuffed sacks with straw and carved faces in gourds to make scarecrows that stood up on poles.
Native American Indians also used bird scarers, but they were often adult men. They would sit on a raised wooden platform and would shout or howl if birds or animals came near their crops. Seneca Indians would soak their corn seeds in a poisonous herb mixture that made the crows fly around crazy, scaring away all the other birds.
Farmers still use scarecrows today. In India and some other nations, they still use humans as bird scarers. Many farmers use contraptions like whirligigs that spin around the air like windmills. Some farmers use a shiny ribbon that shimmers in the sun. Others use automatic noise guns to scare away the birds.
How about you -- have you ever made a scarecrow?