Garden-variety terror pays off as children scare up winners Piney Run naturalist helps with scarecrow creations

June 28, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

American Indians used them. So did ancient Egyptians.

And today, three Carroll County gardens sport brand-new ones made yesterday by children in a workshop at Piney Run Nature Center.

They're called scarecrows -- or scarebirds, or scarevarmints -- because, if they're made right, they can frighten any critter out of your garden.

Any critter except a groundhog,that is.

"The whole secret is to have something that moves on your scarecrow," said Elaine Sweitzer, park naturalist and chief scarecrow-stuffer.

Arms should be left dangly, she said, and strips of tinfoil attached to the scarecrow's pants legs can help.

But to really keep marauders on their toes, she said, "pull your scarecrow up, maybe once a week,and move him to a different part of your garden."

But she added that "groundhogs can't be fooled. . . . They're just too smart."

In a brief talk followed by an expedition into the woods to scout for fallen branches for use as braces, four budding naturalists picked up outdoors tips.

They learned how to skip rocks and how to make a toad's throat glow in the dark (feed it lightning bugs). Sticks, leaves and feathers in hand, the young naturalists returned to the nature center after their excursion to begin assembling their masterpieces.

Lorna Mahler, 7, selected an elegant pair of black stirrup pants topped with a flowered cotton blouse for her scarecrow's wardrobe.

Her brother, Hans, 9, took the opportunity to recycle his favorite Cincinnati Bengals sweat shirt, which had reached mandatory-retirement condition.

"I'm going to have the weirdest garden," mused their mother, Valerie Mahler. The family lives in the Sykesville area.

The session produced some prize-winning scarecrows.

Tim Beith, 10, of Randallstown, won in the "scariest" category.

His scarecrow sported fangs and horns and lurched menacingly.

It also carried off the "largest scarecrow" award, which was only partial consolation to his mother, Nancy Beith, as she wondered how to fit the creation's 7-foot frame into the family's Chevrolet Nova.

Lorna's scarecrow was named "sexiest."

"OK, Lorna," her mother said as the scarecrow's bra size increased. "She looks kind of buxom."

Dressed in a green jump suit and sprouting sassafras leaves for hands,the creation of 8-year-old Janna Ridenour of Mount Airy was named "most beautiful."

Hans' Bengals fan was named "most original" scarecrow.

A good scarecrow can even keep marauding opossums out of a cantaloupe patch, said Ms. Sweitzer, who added that she likes opossums anyway.

"She likes ticks," said Valerie Mahler, "so you've got to put that in perspective."

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