Derecho Scarecrow – Empty Nest by Curt Swarm


Part of our garden this year is doing spectacularly, part of it isn’t.  The peaches-and-cream sweetcorn, Indian corn, “punkins” and tomatoes are doing great, with the tomatoes looking to be the best we’ve ever had.  The bush beans, peas, and cucumbers are not doing so well, with the peas practically non-existent. 

This is the polar opposite of last year when we had so many beans we were overwhelmed, and the tomatoes and corn were struggling.  I’ve never had any success with peas in our garden so their lack of production doesn’t surprise me.  But how can the green beans be so great one year and not the next; and the corn and tomatoes do so well when they were an embarrassment last year?  It’s a mystery to me.  I asked a farmer friend and he said, “It depends on the year.”  So many things fall into that bucket.

I took one of my sculptures, named “Derecho” (after the direct force wind that just about blew Cedar Rapids away last year) and stuck it out in the garden as a scarecrow.  No one seemed to appreciate it except me, so I thought I’d put it to use in keeping the birds and rodents out of the garden.  It may be working, and it may also be keeping the deer away from our little Garden of Eden.  I also think it brings luck. 

One day when I was mowing, a lady stopped on the road and was mouthing some words.  I shut the mower down and took off my noise suppressors.  She hollered, “I like your scarecrow!”  I tried to explain that it was Derecho, after the big wind, but I don’t think she understood.  Which was okay, I just appreciate someone liking my artwork, even if they think it’s a scarecrow. 

When we got back from Yellowstone, one of the first things I did was run out and see how the garden fared during our ten-day absence.  I could see from blown over yard furniture (some of it, like the yard glider, is real heavy) and the rain gauge full of water, that there had been some powerful activity while we were gone.  When I got to the garden I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Derecho was blown over.  Now this guy is heavy!  I mean, I have to use a two-wheel dolly to move him and then be careful he doesn’t tip over and crush me.  I struggled and strained to pull him back up.  He seemed no worse for the wear, although muddy, which didn’t harm his looks any.  How the corn and tomato plants remained upright and proud, I’ll never figure.  But Derecho had done his job, even lying down.  I saw no sign of deer, rodents or bird destruction.   

Ginnie’s sunflowers are doing outstanding!  She got seed from “Our Iowa” magazine.  It’s heirloom seed that produces gigantic sunflowers.  Of the dozen or so seeds we received, eight are standing straight and tall.  We’ll see what kind of job Derecho does in keeping birds away from fresh sunflower seeds.

We are still deep in the learning curve when it comes to Purple Martins.  The Martins did arrive and I thought all was well.  But the sparrows are still trying to get in the Martin house, even though the Martins have taken up house keeping.  Grrr.  I’ve raised and lowered that Martin house so many times and cleaned the sparrow nests out, I’m sick of it.  I didn’t know that attracting and keeping Purple Martins could be such a chore.

We had cousins visit us from Arizona.  One night we were sitting around our little camp fire in the back yard, enjoying the evening, watching the Martins and Sparrows vie for living quarters.  I heard the whistle of a Bob White quail off in the distance.  I imitated the two-note trill, which is quite easy.  It answered back.  We kept this up for a while.  Pretty soon Mr. Bob White appeared in the driveway, and then skedaddled once it saw our camp fire.

Then another Bob White sounded in the distance.  I called it in also.  Ginnie, the city girl, was flabbergasted, having never seen game birds acting in such a manner.  I explained that the quail were probably males and thought my Bob White imitation was another male in their territory and they were going to run it off.

There will be no running us off the Empty Nest Farm.  We are blessed and here to stay.

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, find him on Facebook, email him at, or visit his website at

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