Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Several years ago, when crows kept stealing the vegetable seedlings from our gardens before they even had a chance to grow, I asked my husband for a simple, no-kill solution. His remedy was centuries old, but just as effective as ever – a scarecrow.
When I heard the racket coming from his shop, however, I knew this bird-scarer would not be a couple of 2x4s hammered together. No, he came out smiling with a man-sized mannequin that would frighten the daylights out of any critter contemplating sprouts for dinner. Now, that’s how to make a scarecrow. Clothed and with his pantyhose head in place, our scarecrow took on a personality, which of course, warranted a name. We called him “Woody.” For years he kept the squirrels, rabbits and crows at bay. If you have never made a scarecrow, you will be surprised at the fun and how well they keep above-ground pests from pilfering your produce.
My inventive husband, always seeking ways to improve perfection, decided to remake Woody recently, adding more motion and sound. We now have “Woody the Action Scarecrow,” who rotates like a weather vane and dangles wind chimes to startle the stealthiest crop robbers.
Not only does Woody stand guard day and night looking ominous, he spins in the wind with a warning sign as a sail. Since we do actually like the furry and feathered creatures that surround us, the sign instructs them to simply stay outside our garden. For the critters that cannot read, owl eyes on the sign backside illustrate the message clearly. Swinging from Woody’s other hand, chimes made of electrical conduit ring like old school bells.
My husband used scrap PVC pipe and elbows, woven wire, plywood and metal pipe to fashion this new action scarecrow. Meanwhile, I assembled Woody’s head of pantyhose, pillow innards, buttons and three-tone yarn. Of course, a scarecrow can be made of any materials on hand. Even something as simple as a plastic bag tied to a stick will work – for a while. My husband’s version, though, has proven to last and keep deer and crows out of the garden for years. It is also lightweight and easy to move around the garden. Plus it’s an awfully cute addition to the backyard.
How To Make a Scarecrow Body
Roll pieces of 2” x 4” x 3’ woven wire around a 3” piece of PVC pipe to form legs. Cut the wire long enough to leave tabs to tie leg seams. Also cut the leg bottom wire strand off to create tabs which later binding the legs and torso. Tie the edges together with the tabs and wire ties. Remove the PVC pipe.
Cut one piece of woven wire to roll for the body. Ours has a 36” waist so the wire was cut about 38”. Tie the back edge together. Set the torso on scrap 1/2” plywood and trace around it. Cut it out. This forms the bum bottom. Drill four holes in the bum near the edge to later attach the torso.
Set the legs on the underside of the bum to mark where to drill holes for all the wire tabs except two. These two tabs will be bent over the edge of the torso later. Do not attach yet.
On both sides of the torso top, cut the top strand so the shoulders can be rolled over. Bind with wire ties.
Cut one piece of 2” schedule 80 PVC pipe 17” for the shoulder pipe. Drill a 1” hole into the center (not through both sides). Place through the torso, evenly spaced on both ends and with the drilled hole pointing down.
Measure the distance from drilled hole to the torso back. Drill a 2” hole in the bum the same distance as the shoulder pipe hole and evenly spaced from each hip.
Push the bum into the torso bottom. Bend over the tabs. Thread wire through the drilled holes to secure it. Turn the torso upside down and insert the leg tabs into the drilled holes in the bum. Bend over the tabs. Bend over the two remaining tabs on the outside edges by hooking them around the torso wire.
Cut two 20” pieces of 2” PVC pipe for arms. Attach to the shoulder pipe with 2” (22-degree) PVC elbows. Cut two 6” stubs of 1 1/2” PVC to form wrists to slide into the arms. Drill a hole through the arm bottom and wrist to insert a screw. Slide a 1 1/2” (22-degree) elbow onto each wrist to form hands (later hidden by gloves).
Cut a 40” piece of 12-gauge wire to form the neck and attach it to the back of the torso with tie wire. Attach the head by tying the pantyhose ends (explained below) to the inverted U-shaped wire. Secure with additional wire ties. Bend the neck bottom over the torso wire.
Cut a 4’ piece of 1/2” rigid pipe for the center rod (backbone). Insert a dowel rod plug into the top of this rod to allow the torso to spin freely. Cut a 4’ piece of 1” rigid pipe to create a telescoping rod. This pipe is pounded into the soil 2’. Attach a U-bolt to adjust height.
How To Make a Scarecrow Head
Cut off three pantyhose legs. Insert the legs into the first to form a triple thickness. Tie a knot 6” from the toe. Stuff with filler. Make the head larger and longer than normal. The face will compress when eyes are added and the high forehead holds a hat in place. After filling, tie off the bottom of the head, leaving the long tail for tying onto the body.
With marker or paint, draw a nose, remembering to keep a high forehead. Attach shiny button eyes by sewing all the way through the head with upholstery thread or fishing line, pulling tight. At the back of the head, tie the thread to a washer or curtain ring. Draw or stitch a mouth. To stitch, pull the thread tightly through the head. Draw on ears. Cut yarn hair and attach to the knot on the head. Attach the head to the body as explained above.
Put Your Scarecrow in Your Garden
Insert the center pipe into the larger pipe driven into the soil. Allow enough space for your scarecrow to spin without hitting any plants. Dress your scarecrow as desired.
Finally, stand back and admire your new friend. Be prepared to laugh yourself silly as you welcome your action scarecrow to the family and occasionally startle yourself in the garden.
For more detailed instructions with photos and a video, please see our blog. For more fun scarecrow ideas, check out this Mother Earth News scarecrow contest slideshow from 1989 or this spinning scarecrow from 1980.
Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.