Scarecrows were really hard to find as I drove around southern NH last weekend. Most scarecrows were the store bought variety rather than home grown, which seems to be a sign of the times. People are spending more time on their computers (guilty) and that leaves less time for fun projects around the home.
My kids are grown, have homes of their own and like many busy homeowners, priorities shift and where decorating used to be a treasured family project, it's now at the bottom of the list. While there are many benefits to going online and sharing our stories, our memories and more, we need to also consider how we protect and continue our cherished traditions like Halloween.
Scarecrows Role on Farms
Scarecrows once played a key role on the farms that made our country great. Today we might not think about where our food comes, or how it's production has changed over the years but scarecrows used to line the fields after crops were planted, to discourage birds like crows and sparrows, from eating the seeds or young crops before their roots were strong enough to resist them. Scarecrows aren't found just in America — the Japanese have used scarecrows for more than a thousand years (learn more about scarecrows).
While the photo (above) shows a wonderful mermaid dressed for Halloween, most scarecrows have been human figures dressed in old clothes, mostly ones outgrown or worn out by family members. Another great place to find clothing for your scarecrows is the thrift store, where you can get a shirt, pants and even shoes so all you have to do is stuff them with straw and a pole to keep them standing tall.
Scarecrows Bringing Neighbors Together
More recently, scarecrows have been used to decorate our homes for Halloween. They're human figures which makes them inviting, as if someone was sitting on the front porch and waving to neighbors as they stroll or drive by your house. Our houses are big, imposing structures built to provide a cozy warm home inside … but our houses collectively make up the neighborhoods and communities where we live.
When we buy or build a house, in addition to schools, shopping and major roadways, we look for a neighborhood, a town where we expect to find other families like our own. Our choice of community is important and yet, we don't get a handbook on how to contribute and enhance our neighborhood after we move it (or if you have this, please share with us).
How does your neighborhood build a strong community?
Building Scarecrows Builds Strong Families
There's so much more to Halloween than decorating the front door with scarecrows, pumpkins or this year I've started seeing spider webs too. Building a scarecrow, carving a Jack-o-Lantern and decorating your front door are all great family activities. There aren't too many children in my neighborhood (one of the disadvantages when down sizing to a condo) but I wonder what would happen if I collected all the ingredients to make a few scarecrows and went out on the street — would some neighbors, especially ones with children join me?
Alternatively I volunteer at an after school program called New Outlook Teen Center, in Exeter, NH. Maybe I should go there and help others start their own scarecrow traditions, as my way of keeping these memories alive passing them on to the next generation.