Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It Was Only a Matter of Time . . .

First--It was only a matter of time until the quilt trail reached Pennsylvania! Colleen Konieczny of Bullskin Township has hung a large square on her barn and a smaller one on her house. She is pictured here with the barn quilt ready to be hung.

Second--It was only a matter of time until the barn quilts made it to YouTube!

The Pratts of Kankakee County, IL have posted a film about the trail in their area. Here is a link:

Monday, June 29, 2009

More from Iowa

Darn--I thought the other photo was bad.
Gonna have to start taking headshots with me!
Click on the article to enlarge.

I have to thank Pat Gorman again for helping me with my trip. Having the press coverage was her idea, and it has brought me quite a few new contacts! Pat is not only a good "handler," as I called her, but a good press agent as well!

I have been working feverishly to get my Iowa interviews transcribed,
as I am hoping to head to Burnsville, NC Thursday. The lady mentioned in the latter part of the news article is from Burnsville. I met her at a barn quilt hanging, and she and her husband have always had a bed ready for me since then..

Other than listening and typing, I met some interesting barn quilters over the phone today. I finally tracked down groups both in Nebraska and Indiana; I also caught up with old friends in Tennessee and made some new ones in Illinois.

Remind me again how long I have to get this project done??

I suppose I had better add a photo of a barn quilt so that those of you who are checking in--and I do appreciate the emails and contacts from you all--won't be disappointed. Since I am headed to Burnsville, the photo is from an earlier trip to that area.

I like this one b/c they replicated the fabric.

Hoping for good weather so that I can get some great photos.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Here is another article about my trip to Iowa that appeared in one of their weekly papers today.

BAD photo of me, but she did a nice job with the article.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iowa Flat

No, the heat has not caused me to lose all sense of grammar. I had an Iowa flat. In 102 degree heat index blazing sun--my rental car blew a tire. I am very lucky that I had taken a slight detour off the highway through Greene County, as they have some barn quilts there. Above left is near Jefferson.

Back to our story, I should have just called Hertz and let them deal with it, but I thought I would change the tire and get back on track. Just when I was about ready to cry (and fry, sitting on the pavement at a convenience store), two knights in shining Chevy arrived and put the spare on. They wouldn't even let me buy them a Coke. I mean pop.

Soon I was on my way to Washington County, where my Iowa journey began eight days ago. Jane and Rosemary are such laid back gals; I was two hours late, but they still made time for me. Jane says she thinks painting barn quilts is good exercise that might actually lead to weight loss. If only the activity weren't paired with the barn quilt cookies that inevitably appear!

We visited with the Zieglowsky's; Mr. Z was busy mowing--these Iowans are of sturdier stock than I am. His wife shared with us some of the history of their property, which is on the patriot barn quilt trail, with all red white and blue blocks.

A storm was rolling in, so we quickly stopped by to see the Wolfs. Their house--a rebuilt barn--is stunning. It has a loft and many of the same features as the original barn. The house was built in the 70's, and apparently the previous owner was quite "mod," as she had this cherry red bathtub with gold fixtures installed.

Yes, I am posting a photo of a bathtub. But it is in a barn, after all.

Tomorrow, it's goodbye to the plains and back to the city. I am ready for my own bed and a smooch from the best dog ever.

Donna Sue says I am going to find the love of my life on a farm with a barn quilt. She may be right, but if so, he's not an Iowa farmer. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, June 22, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

I so wanted to have clear blue skies today so that I could get some photos of the magnificent barn quilts here in Sac County. Well--I got my wish.

Of course, the lovely backdrop to the barns was accompanied by 92 degree heat. This is what I get for saying that parts of Iowa reminded me of Georgia!

Sue Peyton is a trooper. She picked me up this morning and had things very nicely planned. She didn't mind when I took ten minutes to find just the right shot, even if it made us late. She waited patiently as I talked to barn owners about their buildings and asked city-girl questions. And she pretended not to notice when I kept finishing conversations that I had begun with other people earlier in the week. I'm not nuts--just tired.

We began the day talking to three children who had painted a barn quilt for their mom as a Mother's Day surprise. They were so sweet and so proud. There were some touching stories today; I am going to have a hard time narrowing down the material from Sac.

I also got a lot of great photos; it was really hard to pick a couple to post here, as these stunning barn quilts are so photogenic. So I went with a couple that had a shadow in the wrong place.

At one farm, the couple were so pleased to have us visit. Their quilt square is on a corncrib, which happened to have an only slightly scary set of metal stairs up one side. Needless to say, I now know exactly how corn is stored and have seen the elevator at work! I love this stuff!

Below is a photo of the coverings that would be pulled back to let grain fall from the bin above. Amazing craftsmanship that allows these things to be in working condition after decades of use. Yeah, I am kind of developing an obsession with farm structures.

Hot off the Press!

The first article about my trip came out today; here is the link:

Busy day today--toured Plymouth County with the Barkers, who were so sweet to pick me up and show me the area. Of course, when they picked me up, it was raining so hard that the clothes INSIDE my suitcase got wet by the time I got the trunk open! It cleared up only for a few minutes, so I did manage to get a few shots with blue skies.

Mr. Barker provided a wealth of information about hog farming, barn construction, and soil conservation.
I was curious as to how a barn with a rounded roof (above right) was made, and the only way to find out to see it from the inside. So up the slats to the hayloft. I didn't slide over onto the upper floor, as he didn't look strong enough to grab me if I fell. But I saw how the boards were put together to create the rounded structure.
Mary Roder took me on the afternoon tour and sent me on my way. A couple of miles down the road, as I crested a hill, a buzzard or hawk was too busy shredding some roadkill to get out of the way. I wonder if his buddies made a meal out of him.

On to Sac County. Sue Peyton, whose son started the barn quilts there as part of a 4-H project, hosted me and several committee members for dessert. Chocolate pie--yummy. Did I mention about those jeans?

By the time I got to Sac, there was a blue sky filled with clouds that looked almost unreal. So despite my weariness after eight hours of touring and two of driving, I stopped for a couple of photos.

Will be taking the tour of Sac tomorrow. The good news is that I am sleeping in the same motel for two nights. No frantic morning packing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Lessons Learned

I spent my day in Humboldt and Pocahontas Counties, both of which have beautiful quilt trails. I saw some great barns, met some great people, and learned some lessons along the way:

Lesson # 1: Tiled barns are made of hollow brick; they call them tile because the outer surface is glazed. I also learned what a hip roof is, but that may be TMI. At least for now. I was told to become a barn expert, and I guess Iowa is a good place to study.

Lesson# 2: That scene in North by Northwest when Cary Grant goes face down in an Iowa cornfield when the cropduster is chasing him? Well let me tell you--if you go KNEES down in an Iowa cornfield, you might have a nice photo op (see above left), but you will want to change pants very soon. Very soon. And let the others ride in the trunk.

Lesson # 3: If you slow down and pay attention, you will be amazed by what you see. In this case, I was backing out of a driveway after photographing a nice BQ. I looked back and saw the reflection of the quilt square in a puddle. Pure magic.

Resting in LeMars--near the South Dakota Line. I got here too late for the Ice Cream Days concert but might indulge in a cone from the ice cream capital tomorrow. The jeans still fit. Barely.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Go West, Middle-Aged Woman!

To see more photos, look for americanquilttrail on flickr.

OK so it doesn't quite have the same ring to it. But I did make the move from Eastern to Western Iowa today.

I met a woman earlier in the week who owns a greenhouse and orchard (yep--Iowa apples--who knew?) and has begun painting barn quilts. Above left is the one on her barn; she is quite talented. I saw a photo of a butterfly patterned quilt she had painted for a man in a neighboring county. Today I went out to find it.

After a nice visit to the orchard, I set out. Traveling in Iowa is great because the roads run either north-south or east-west. But when your road deadends and the destination is straight ahead--you have to drive in a square! Oh, but it was worth it. No sneak peeks at this beauty--it is exquisite.

Today made me glad that I am out here in Iowa instead of doing this from home.

Finding that one square involved over 100 miles and about three hours, but I still had time to visit Butler County, where I had met with some of the barn owners on Wednesday. The meeting was late, so I didn't get to see many of the barns there.

I passed this house along the way and thought, "OK, these people know what safe is all about!" I remember seeing bank barns--so named because they are built into a bank of earth. And I saw some older sod houses in Nebraska. But this is my first bank house.

Finally--the task for the day, driving westward to the other big barn quilt counties of Iowa--Humboldt, Pocahontas, Plymouth, and Sac.

Humboldt is--I hate to use the word--quaint. Acutally, so many of the small towns in this area are beautifully maintained--no boarded up downtowns like we see in the South! Lovely old brick buildings line the main street in every city center. No litter, no graffiti. And just off Main Street--a Drivein!

At the Back Seat Diner, Friday night is hot rod cruisin'. About 20 or so classic cars--everything from El Caminos (who knew?) to T-Birds filled the parking lot. The owners sit near their cars and one can "cruise" by to check out the car. When it's time to eat, take your seat, read the menu, then pick up the phone on the wall next to your table and order.

Gosh I wish I could make a living doing this.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

High Winds and Spotted Cows


Wow--what a couple of days. Yesterday, we visited Grundy County, where the first Iowa barn quilt trail was created. The barn owners there are still incredibly enthusiastic and proud. When we discussed the fact that about 20 counties in Iowa have barn quilts, one farmer said, "Imitation is the highest form of compliment!"

I finally got to taste the tenderloin sandwich that I have been told is a delicacy in these parts. I don't know what I was expecting, but the phrase "Never eat anything bigger than your head," quickly came to mind when I that huge slab or pork landed on the blue gingham in front of me.

Later in the day, I headed off to Northeast Iowa to visit Fayette County. All of a sudden, rolling hills . . . trees. . . a lot like Georgia! Really beautiful countryside.

I toured the barnquilts of Fayette and met with the barnquilters there. The change in scenery made for some great "round the corner and gasp" moments. Robin, who heads up the barns quilts, was kind enough to offer me a room for the night. She may have regretted it when the storms set in.

I tried. Really I did. It was loud. There was too much wind. So I changed back into my clothes and considered the question--what will I need if this place blows away?? I decided on purse, keys, cellphone. Then I found Robin, who was calmly checking the weather online, and asked, "Are we SAFE?" It seems that we were, as I am here to tell the tale. The most dangerous moment came when I headed down the road and almost hit a deer--see, just like Georgia!

Today started out nasty, with hail and thunderstorms predicted. SO--I headed for Wisconsin! Yep--3 hours over, 2 hours there, 3 hours back. But it was worth the trip. Lynn, of Green County, gave me a great tour and her stories provided the lift that I needed. The first man I spoke to had the "Doves at the Door" pattern in honor of the birds that surround his barn. So now I know that pigeons aren't exclusively urban birds. Sort of dovelike, I suppose.

Later in the day--a big event. Spotted Cows. Yep, I got to watch cows being milked. By a woman, no less! I am something of a country gal, but the largest animal my grandma owned was a goat, and he wasn't much for milking.

that romantic image that you have of the 3-legged stool--not quite. A system of gates and stalls guides the cows in; the back into place like cars in the WalMart parking lot. The work is quick and takes place from below--cleaning, hooking up to a many-armed machine, then opening the gate that lets that set of cows out and the next set in.

Spotted Cow is also New Glarus Brewing Company's delicious beer, which is great with cheese and well worth a trip to Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Where the UFOs land??

No great pics today with constantly overcast skies, but I kinda like this one.

The day started off on a high note--Ruth Ratliff, who supplied beautiful photos for some of the barn quilt committees and their calendars, met with me this morning. She is going to contribute photos of NE Iowa barn quilts to my book! I am so excited; her work is beautiful--what a gracious gift.

Pat, Ruth,and I zigzagged across four counties to meet with barn quilt folks in each. I had my first press interview--ended up talking to three reporters. If I had known that my photo was going to be taken, I would have at least worn mascara!

My knowledge of Iowa has increased; I was surprised when I saw a maple leaf quilt block on a barn and the farmer said that he made maple syrup. I thought that happened up North! Who knew?

One fella proposed a theory about barn quilts--something about their being landing markers for UFOs. I THINK he was kidding . . .

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oreo cows and artful bras

My friend Pat Gorman--who brought the barn quilts to Iowa--has arranged for me to meet with all of the BQ people in several counties. Julie, Nancy, Rosemary, Willa, Jane, Rachel--the women of Washington County--were so welcoming this afternoon. How can you go wrong with iced cookies? Did I mention that I promised myself to lose a couple of pounds this week? Oops.
Ninety-four year old Marie Hora doesn't consider herself a committee member; she is "just a barn owner who likes to paint." I hope to be included in a painting session when I return next week. I have still not put a paintbrush to a barn square! It's about time.

Rachel, the photographer of the group, displayed her fine work and
also showed us the Artful Bras, based on a similar program in South Carolina, that she and some friends had made and auctioned to benefit breast cancer research. Each one has a theme--some sweet, such as this Grandmother's Flower Garden, which is one of my favorites. One was created with watermelon fabrics--protect your melons!

Though it was not a pretty day, we headed out for a brief barn tour, with Julie leading the way in her bright green VW bug. First up--her banded cows, which look like Oreos, as they are black with a white middle. Julie created an original quilt square to represent the cows in her field.

Julie claims that barn quilts can only be properly photographed with "poofy clouds," and I tend to agree. So when Pat and I headed out under overcast skies, I took only a couple of quick photos of each barn. The sky began to clear, then turned blue, then POOF. Picture time!
A nice day overall--if only Pat hadn't left her phone on top of the car and found it in the road in pieces.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Following the Trail from Home

The above photo is from my most recent TN trip. The location is the Joppa Mountain Pottery studio in Grainger County. Really down to earth folks who live and make their living in an idyllic mountain setting.

I have been trying to get back to the mountains of North Carolina since April; every time I plan a trip, it rains. One of the farmers up there says that I am a better predictor than the weather service! But I have had some great phone visits with the folks in Ashe County.

This week I am "traveling" via phone and email.

The trail is expanding more quickly than I had ever imagined. The community of Tillamook, Oregon took up the idea in January; they will have fifteen squares up in time for the fair in August. In Hatton, Missouri , the project started this spring with plans to have a trail of ten in place by September. I have also enjoyed phone visits with folks in Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. And it's only Monday!

Next Monday I will be off to Iowa for a ten-day tour. There are over 300 quilt barns across that state.
Hmm . . . thirty a day?? My goal is not to see each one on a whirlwind tour but to work with extension agents in each county to find the most beautiful barns and the most interesting stories. I look forward to sharing those with you.