Scarecrow Genealogy

Scarecrow genealogy is rooted in a rural life style. The Egyptians used the first scarecrows in recorded history to use to protect wheat fields along the Nile River from flocks of quail. Egyptian farmers installed wooden frames in their fields and covered them with nets. Then they hid in the fields, scared the quail into the nets and took them home to eat for dinner.

Greek farmers in 2,500 B.C. carved wooden scarecrows to look like Priapus, the son of the god Dionysus and the goddess Aphrodite, who supposedly was ugly enough to scare birds away from the vineyards and ensure good harvests. They painted their wooden scarecrows purple and put a club in one hand to scare away the birds and a sickle in the other for a good harvest.

The Romans copied the Greek scarecrow custom and when Roman armies marched through the Europe they introduced Priapus scarecrows to the people there. Almost simultaneously with the Greeks and Romans, Japanese farmers made scarecrows to protect their rice fields. They made scarecrows called kakashis, shaped like people. They dressed the kakashis in a raincoat and a round straw hat and often added bows and arrows to make them look more threatening. Kojiki, the oldest surviving Japanese book compiled in the year 712, features a scarecrow known as Kuebiko who appears as a deity who can’t walk yet knows everything about the world..

In Germany, scarecrows were wooden and shaped to look like witches. Witch scarecrows were supposed to hasten the coming of spring. In medieval Britain, young boys and girls were used as live scarecrows or “bird scarers.” They would patrol the fields of crops and scare away birds by waving their arms or throwing stones. In later times, farmers stuffed sacks of straw, made faces of gourds, and leaned the straw man against pole to scare away birds.

In the United States, immigrant German farmers made human looking scarecrows called “bootzamon,” which later changed to bogeyman. They were dressed in old clothes with a large red handkerchief around their necks.

Native American tribes across North America used scarecrows or bird scarers, mostly adult men. In Georgia, Creek Indian families moved into huts in their corn fields to protect their crops during the growing season. In the Southwest, Zuni children had contests to see who could make the scariest scarecrow.

Pilgrim families took turns guarding their fields against birds and animals, but as Americans expanded west they invented new kinds of nonhuman scarecrows like wooden and straw figures. During the Great Depression, scarecrows could be found all across America, but in the agri-business era after World War II, farmers sprayed or dusted their crops with chemicals like DDT until scientists discovered their harmful effects. To substitute for chemicals, some farmers built scarecrows like whirligigs that revolved like windmills to scare away the birds.

Bacsac

Bacsac is a French company that was born with the encounter between designer Godefroy de Virieu and landscapers Virgile Desurmont and Louis de Fleurieu. Together, they looked for an alternative solution to get round the constraints of the creation of a roof garden in town: difficulties of transportation, excessive weight, but also lack of choice of containers, most of which are often very expensive.

Learn more about Bacsac.

FogQuest

FogQuest is a non-profit, registered Canadian charity dedicated to planning and implementing water projects for rural communities in developing countries. They utilize innovative fog collectors as well as effective rainfall collectors to make optimum use of natural atmospheric sources of water.

They are currently implementing, supervising, or contributing to fog collection projects in eight countries. FogQuest builds upon the experience gained in projects conducted since 1987, which have repeatedly shown the viability and effectiveness of using fog collectors to produce clean water for people in developing countries worldwide.

For more information on FogQuest visit them online.

American Lawn

A pivotal factor in the spread of the lawn in America, was the passage of legislation in 1938 of the 40 hour work week. Until then, Americans had typically worked half days on Saturdays, leaving little time to focus on their lawns. With this legislation and the housing boom following the Second World War, managed grass spaces became more commonplace. The creation in the early 20th century of country clubs and golf courses completed the rise of lawn culture.

Levittown, New York was the beginning of the industrial suburb in the 20th Century, and by proxy the industrial lawn. Between 1947 and 1951, Abraham Levitt and his sons built more than seventeen thousand homes, each with its own lawn. Abraham Levitt wrote “No single feature of a suburban residential community contributes as much to the charm and beauty of the individual home and the locality as well-kept lawns”. Landscaping was one of the most important factors in Levittown’s success – and no feature was more prominent than the lawn. The Levitts understood that landscaping could offset the normal depreciation of a home, adding to the appeal of their developments. During 1948, the first spring that Levittown had enjoyed, Levitt and Sons fertilized and reseeded all of the lawns free of charge.

Lawn monoculture was a reflection of more than an interest in offsetting depreciation, it propagated the homogeneity of the suburb itself. Levittown is widely regarded by scholars as the birthplace of the conveyor belt style, mass-produced suburb that is now quite common. Although lawns had been a recognizable feature in English residences since the 19th century, a revolution in industrialization and monoculture of the lawn since the Second World War fundamentally changed the ecology of the lawn. Intensive suburbanization both concentrated and expanded the spread of lawn maintenance which meant increased inputs in not only petrochemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides, but also natural resources like water.

Front lawns became standardized in the 1930s when, over time, specific aspects such as grass type and maintenance methods became popular. The lawn-care industry boomed, but the Great Depression of the 1930s and in the period prior to World War II made it difficult to maintain the cultural standards that had become heavily associated with the lawn due to grass seed shortages in Europe, America’s main supplier. Still, seed distributors in the United States encouraged families to continue to maintain their lawns, promoting it as a stress-relieving hobby. During the war itself, homeowners were asked to maintain the appearances of the home front, likely as a show of strength, morale, and solidarity. After World War II, the lawn aesthetic once again became a standard feature of North America, bouncing back from its minor decline in the decades before with a vengeance, particularly as a result of the housing and population boom post-war.

The G.I. Bill in the United States let American ex-servicemen buy homes without providing a down payment, while the Federal Housing Administration offered lender inducements that aided the reduction of down payments for the average American from 30% to as little as 10%. These developments made owning your own home cheaper than renting, further enabling the spread of suburbia and its lawns.

The economic recession that began in 2008 has resulted in many communities worldwide to dig up their lawns and plant fruit and vegetable gardens. This has the potential to greatly change cultural values attached to the lawn, as they are increasingly viewed as environmentally and economically unviable in the modern context.

Fog Garden

People have been using dew from fog as a source of drinking water for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that scientists in Chile and elsewhere began measuring the moisture content of clouds and designing structures to collect it.

During the last five years, several groups of architects have been testing small models of fog collectors in the Atacama Desert, a place where it has not rained in recorded history, and fog is the only source of moisture.

Working with the Atacama Desert Center and students from the Catholic University in Santiago, architect Rodrigo Pérez de Arce is overseeing the creation of models for a large-scale complex of structures, The Fog Garden, that would collect enough water to both support a garden and satisfy the needs of a nearby village. This exhibition is the first time these structures have been displayed, and along with sample building materials and documentation, form an archive that is important to artists, architects, and scientists.

Roost Box

A roost box is similar to a birdhouse in that it provides shelter for birds, but it is not intended for building nests or raising hatchlings. Instead, a roost box provides secure shelter from predators, low temperatures and poor weather for multiple cavity-nesting birds. Depending on the bird species and size of the flock, a dozen birds or more may take advantage of a single roost box to share body heat through cold winter nights, greatly improving their chances of surviving harsh weather and sudden freezes.

A roost box looks very similar to a birdhouse, and in fact many birds will use empty birdhouses for roosting even though they aren’t ideal. To encourage birds to roost, a well-designed roost box will have:

  • Fewer ventilation holes to conserve heat
  • An entrance hole near the bottom to prevent rising heat loss
  • Interior perches to accommodate greater numbers of birds
  • Scored walls or interior mesh to help birds cling and climb
  • A hinged side, bottom or top for easy cleaning
  • A metal guard around the entrance hole to deter predators
  • Large dimensions to accommodate more birds
  • Thicker walls for better insulation

Roost boxes should ideally be placed in a sheltered area protected from prevailing winds. If the house gets some sunlight during the day, particularly in the late afternoon, it will retain that heat for a time and be more attractive to birds. Facing the entrance hole south will also help the box get more heat. The ideal height for a roost box varies for different bird species, but the box should be mounted on a pole or tree trunk between 6-15 feet from the ground. If mounting the box on a pole, use baffles to deter predators.

To make your roost box as attractive and safe as possible for the birds consider the following;

Add a second entrance hole to large roost boxes to help birds exit quickly when they are ready to feed or if they feel threatened.

Add a layer of moss or small wood chips to the bottom of the box for better insulation and to make it more comfortable. This will also make cleaning easier.

Paint the box with non-toxic paint in a dark color to help it retain more solar heat. The interior of the box should not be painted.

Choose a roost box with an entrance hole appropriately sized for your backyard birds. A hole with a one and half two inch diameter is perfect for most small birds, while larger holes could encourage starlings to roost, forcing smaller birds to go without shelter.

Add tape or caulk to the seams of the box to eliminate cracks that will lead to drafts and heat loss. Birds can lower their body temperatures ten degrees to conserve energy during winter nights, and even a small draft can become fatal during a cold snap.

A safe, warm bird roost box provides excellent shelter for flocks of small cavity-nesting birds to use nightly at any time of year. While roost boxes are more popular during colder months, if you have a well-designed roost box up all year long, you’ll see your backyard flocks take advantage of it in every season.

Metal Tulip Lawn Chair

This furniture is a symbol of the simpler times that followed WWI. Previously, American designers had copied European steamer chairs, or French bistro chairs.

The first companies to manufacture metal gliders and swings were The J.R. Bedding Company, in Philadelphia and Howell Manufacturing, whose designs were a rage at the 1939 World Fair. One of the first designers to create a chair that was marketed to the masses was Viktor Schreckengost, an eclectic inventor also responsible for the design of metal children’s push cars and bicycles for the recently defunct Murray Ohio Manufacturing Company.

His Beverly Hills model, sold through Sears Roebuck during WWII, can still be found across the country. Schreckengost designed the chair by offering a free drink to all 428 workers at the Murray plant in return for their participation in its creation. Each plant worker sat on the lid of a barrel layered with 8 inches of clay covered with plastic. The prototype was created, the first metal die-cut made, and when the war ended sales flourished.

The joyous optimism of the nation was reflected in the “cool” new color choices: red, lime, lavender, canary yellow and blue. The lines were sleek and modern, much like the polished chrome and tubular steel evident in everything from baby “buggies” to mix masters.