Scarecrows in My Garden

By Cam Mather

Nature abhors a vacuum.

I discovered this here at Sunflower Farm many years ago. Any exposed, unoccupied soil will have weeds sprouting within days and be covered in a week. If we get any rain during a summer fighting them becomes a full-time endeavor.

And so it was that nature stepped in to fill the void shortly after Morgan the Wonder Dog left us. Within two days of Morgan’s death there were deer prints in the garden. If we were just growing food for ourselves this would be an inconvenience. If we were just growing food to sell at a market, this would be an annoyance. But now that we are running a CSA and have committed to grow food for a dozen families, it’s kind of a big deal, in a very bad way.

Morgan was obviously doing a great job of keeping the wolves (or deer in this case) at bay. During nice weather he preferred to sleep outside and we’d often hear him barking during the night, sometimes a long way from the house. During the hot summer months he slept most of the day and I think it was because he was up most of the night listening for disturbances in the force.

I am prepared to camp out in the garden if necessary but I’d hoped to not have to do it this early in the season. First off because the bugs are still bad and I’ll need to be in a tent. Secondly because I’m so darn tired. With the summer heat we’ve been experiencing since the spring I’ve been forced to get up early (5 a.m.) so that I can get into the garden to accomplish as much as I can before it’s too hot. And since it stays light until almost 10 pm, I don’t get to sleep any earlier. Spending the day in the garden wears me down and it’s nice to sleep in a bed to try to recover. It’s a small luxury I appreciate.

Our new dog Jasper isn’t quite ready to sleep outside on his own just yet (or at least we aren’t ready to ask him to do so.) So I decided to go to “Plan B” before I dug out my high school-era pup tent. If I can’t be in the garden 24/7, perhaps I could put something out there that looks and smells like me to scare the deer away. I decided to make some scarecrows.

I hammered in a tall post and applied a cross-piece for arms and added some pants. I was glad to see my old gardening pants finally getting reused. They are nice light cotton ones that I bought about 25 years ago. I sewed them when they started to tear and eventually I resorted to duct tape on the spots where there wasn’t any material left. Of course I couldn’t part with them even after they were past the point of no return because they held such sentimental value. When I was living in the city I always wore these when I went to garden centers to buy plants. When you wear green pants at a garden center people ask you questions. Since I had once worked at a garden center just after high school, I would usually attempt to provide an answer. “Oh impatiens, they’ll be with the shade loving flowers…” that sort of thing. I still experience this at our local Burt’s Greenhouses when I’m there. And now when I wear a red shirt to Canadian Tire I also get asked questions (since their employees all wear red shirts.) Being asked questions about hardware has helped me to move up Maslov’s Need Hierarchy towards self-actualization!

In terms of my scarecrows, I also decided that some noise and light might help so I hung aluminum cans and pie plates from the arms. I must say, our scarecrows look kind of creepy, in a Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” sort of way.

A while back I blogged about the original “Woman in Black” movie. It was a creepy movie because the woman in black just kept appearing. I built these scarecrows and I know that they’re there, but they keep scaring the crap out of me! I’ll have zoned out while weeding or watering and then stand up without my glasses on (which I often don’t wear in the garden) and suddenly there’s this guy standing over in the other corner of the garden. “Where the heck did he come from?” Hair stands up on the back of my neck. My fight or flight response is triggered … Oh yeah, the scarecrow.

The deer came to the garden on a night of a full moon. I know deer sleep at some point because I see where they carve out hollows in the snow on our property. They have a few places like under a bunch of hemlock trees that they seem to like. But I guess in summer during a full moon they stay on the move because it’s cool and after dusk the bugs let up. So I wasn’t sure how well Scarecrow man would work in the dark. Now if they can navigate the woods and jump my fence, I’m assuming their eyesight is good enough to spot a scarecrow.

Then I had a brainstorm. A few winters back Michelle bought some battery-powered LED Xmas lights for me to wear when I dressed up as a solar-powered Christmas tree in our local Santa Claus parade. So I dug them out and now Creepy Scarecrow Man is adorned with LED lights so he glows in the dark! As if he wasn’t macabre enough now he glows.

Jasper and I go out for a walk just before bed and look for deer. We pee outside of the garden, which I’ve read discourages deer, and I blow a whistle and make a lot of noise to give the deer fair warning they’re not welcome in the garden. At some point I know I will forget Scarecrow Man is there and the shock of suddenly coming upon him in the dark will be the big one that finally ends it for me. “Death from Scarecrow Shock.”

I’ve also begun playing a radio in the garden. I have a small, battery-operated radio and so I leave it on, at full volume. Sometimes when I wake up during the night I can hear the murmurings of someone talking. Then I remember the radio.

So far it all seems to be working. We haven’t spotted any more deer tracks in the garden, so apparently the scarecrows are doing their job. Our corn is almost ready though, which means the raccoons are waiting for just the right night to get into my garden for a corn roast (although they won’t bother with the roasting.) At least I’ll have my scarecrows to keep me company out there!

Please Note: These photos were taken more than a month ago just after we installed the scarecrows. The gardens are much further along now….

7 Responses to “Scarecrows in My Garden”

  • Glee Bohanon:

    I love your hat.

  • Connie Murray:

    Be sure to move the scarecrows around once in a while. Otherwise the deer will simply get used to them and saunter by on their way to your delicious all-you-can-eat-vegetarian-buffet! And deer don’t nibble, they devour!

  • A couple of years ago I was on my knees weeding the farthest out raised bed and gradually inching my way to its far end when I began to get a creepy feeling. I imagined a bear in the yard, but didn’t see one. (Bears have been seen on our road and we once saw evidence that one had been in our yard.) By the time I got to the end of the bed I was totally creeped out and looked up to see what was hovering over me. It was the composter!

  • Although my garden is “deer” fenced I do use a radio during the day to ward off coyotes while my birds are free ranging. It seems to work. Maybe you need a stuffed coyote with glowing red eyes. You can’t sleep (not sleep) in the garden and work all day too. You will kill yourself. Everyone has limits. Even ADD people.

  • Jeff Marchand:

    Cam , you need to stop working in the garden. Your clothes are hanging off you. Oh wait!

  • Gerrit Botha:

    Very creative! I hope it works until Jasper is ready.

  • Cathy:

    What no boots! Stuff some weeds in those scarecrows and beef up their muscles or they might be confused with Cam…

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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