Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Hardest Year

I found a site today called

Two journalists have been traveling around the country collecting the stories of folks who are dealing with seemingly insurmountable difficulties.

Their most recent story is about Donna Sue Groves, originator of the barn quilt concept. Last summer, she was laid off from her job with the Ohio Arts Council; a month later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been fighting for her life since then.

That's her in the photo; imagine being able to smile with all that she is going through. Thanks to John and Julie for allowing me to use it here.

Here is a link to her story; if you are like me, you will find a lot of other compelling reading there.

It's now one year since I met Donna Sue and began this project.

Donna's hardest year has been one of my greatest. A year spend in the fulfillment of a dream. Bittersweet.

BTW, If you'd like to send Donna a card, please drop me an email (address at left). She needs all of the encouragement she can get just now. I won't post her address here but will send it by return email.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Had to Do it!!

A full week without driving backroads seems unnatural to me now.

Yesterday I felt the calling and headed up to Watauga County for a couple of hours. They don't have a lot of quilts, but the scenery is grand. I do like this sunflower variation; The green of the roof, the boards, the pattern--nice combo.

I met the "Barn Quilter," Bruce Ball, who has a blog that talks about all of the goings on in BQ world. I have met so many wonderful people online; it is always great to put the human face with the name on my screen.

Today--more perfect weather, so I headed off even further to Ashe County. Some really fine work from what I saw.

Of course, it's not a complete barn quilting day without an incident. First, I sat on a bee. It must not have seen me coming, as it only stung a little.

Then I rounded a curve and saw a turtle in the road. Poor fella was going to be roadkill any second! As I picked it up to set it back in the grass, I noticed its nose was really long and pointy. I quickly sort of shoved him in the right direction just as his neck extended. I didn't know they had snapping turtles in North Carolina. Poor fella indeed.

The day ended on a relaxing note with dinner at the Websters. Fresh raspberry ice cream! Their farm is home to some beautiful birds that seem to only exist in books. Two on the same feeder--an almost neon yellow Goldfinch, and an Indigo Bunting--just as beautiful as the name.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Well, there is SOME good news . . .

1) I am having a great time here in the mountains--very relaxing, getting a lot done.
2) They charge only $40 for towing around here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We're Off!

We're off to the mountains for a couple of weeks. Did I mention that Barbara Webster is ultra-fabulous? If not, consider it done.

I mentioned to her that I really needed to get away and settle in and write. Within 24 hours, she had arranged for Gracie and me to enjoy a two-week stay in a cabin here in the hills of North Carolina!

I plan to take a couple of day trips during this retreat, and if I have Internet access, I will post a bit about those. If not--see you in August!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Few Good Men

Traveling the quilt trails is always a pleasure. But generally, I travel in the company of women. Just as most avid quilters are women, most avid barn quilters are female.

But Tuesday, Gracie (see--another female) and I spent a great couple of hours with Don Hart. It was nice to spend time with someone whose voice is deeper than mine!

We ran a bit late in the morning, but Don's group had saved me a triangle to paint. Yep--that's me, putting paint to a quilt square for the first time! Gracie helped, too. As she ran back and forth between the painters, her tail became coated with yellow paint! If only we had some canvas nearby . . .

Don had some great stories to share; he does a lot to promote barn quilts around the region and has the kind of enthusiasm you would expect from someone who started last week--not a couple of years ago. And there was crab rangoon for lunch! Life is good on the quilt trail.

Late afternoon, we headed down to Rockcastle County. It was a bit hard to find the log cabin where Christopher Robbins makes brooms, but it was worth it to find a nice guy to take us on the tour. They have some really unusual squares; even their take on the maple leaf (above) is a bit different. And I resisted the urge to ask him whether he heard a lot of Winnie the Pooh jokes as a kid.

Last day on the trip--Lebanon, KY, where we met with Chris Hamilton and saw one of the most interesting squares of the week--the airplane quilt. What a great story. I only got to see a couple of barns because it was raining. Mother Nature must have known I was on my way to Eastern Tennessee.

There is something about Eastern Tennessee and me. The first time I visited in Spring, it rained. A few weeks later, it was supposed to be a beautiful day. I headed for Johnson City. Rain. Same thing in May.

We were slated to visit this Thursday; I checked the weather online; the forecast--rain. So we headed home a day early, a bit disappointed but ready for some rest.

I checked the weather Thursday afternoon. Total rainfall for Eastern Tennessee--1/100th of an inch. Go figure.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Traipsin' Woman

Yesterday, I toured Ashland with Nancy Osborne, who has been involved in the KY projects from the first. We went through the downtown area to see the blocks there and to the floodwall where two very important squares are painted. For those--like me--who don't live near a major river--a floodwall is a long retaining wall between the river and the city. The wall provided the perfect surfact for quilt squares in a community with few barns. The Salute to the Veterans is pictured above.

We also stopped off at the local museum, where the many country music legends native to the area are honored. One of the important early figures in folk music is shown below; I hadn't heard about anyboy traipsin' in a long while! She is an Ashland native, born Jeanette Mary Francis de Assisi Aloysius Narcissus Garfield Bell, but known as Jean Thomas. Google her--great story!

I wish I could have stayed for lunch with Nancy, but nope--off to Carter County, where rainy weather hindered my barn watching a bit.

In between showers, I saw my first mule quilt block and coaxed the eightyish woman who navigated ever so slowly with the aid of a walker to shuffle up the grass hill to pose in front of the barn with her quilt. It's a true Kodak moment photo, so I feel only slightly guilty. Wait till you see it!

On to Morehead. As we were checking into the motel, Gracie almost pulled off of her leash trying to chase something. Normally she is pretty good at stopping when I tell her to. OK those of you who know her can stop laughing now. At any rate, I have now seen a skunk up close, and guess what--it ran away!! Whew!
Today--AHHH . We didn't have to pack up and move. And we toured only one county--Rowan.

Betty and Gladys are the true champs of barn quilt touring. They rode in the car with me and Gracie. That meant Betty sitting in front of Gracie (lots of smooches on the neck and barks in the ear) and Gladys next to the pup, being slobbered on and continually thwacked with a tail that has been known to clear a coffee table in one swoop. The kindness of barn quilters still amazes me!

Some great barns here--Kentucky is starting to rival Iowa! The one above is called "Dilithium Crystals." Yes, that is an actual pattern, and no, I didn't know what the heck it meant. But I do now.

Traipsin' on . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zig Zag

The fences kind of reflect what I have done the last couple of days. Today I visited Hardin County, where they have got some really gorgeous blocks, such as the Lone Star above.

I didn't get to see as much of Hardin (or Lewis, when I arrived) as I would have liked. I spent a couple of hours with a nonagenarian (when was the last time you got to use that word?) who has a great story behind her barn quilt. She also--with the aid of the largest magnifying glass I have ever seen--carefully copied for me her complete genealogy, including dates and places of birth and death, going back to the early 19th century.

As we say here in the South, "Bless her heart."

Wishful Thinking

Saw this sign along the way. I thought perhaps they had some kind of morning cure for overindulgence. It took me a few minutes to realize that it was the entrance to a movie theater. I need to get out more.

Misplaced Modifier

When I emailed the extension agent in Grayson County, KY, I told her, " I would like to come to the area and meet with some of the barn owners for a couple of hours." The wonderful women of the committee there were told that I wanted to meet with each barn owner for an hour or two. So they scheduled one interview for 11, one for 12:30, then lunch, and so on. Oops.

What I SHOULD have said was, "I would like to come to the area for an hour or two and meet with some of the barn owners." Shame on me. If one of my students had written it, I would have caught it! But the ladies were gracious and put a quick tour together.

Cathy, who was nice enough to allow Gracie the pup to ride with us, told me about an organization called It's a site where those who bike cross country can find hosts with whom they can spend a night. What a great concept; I think we should have one for quilt barn hunters!

Over in Breckinridge, I heard the extension agent ask the chamber of commerce rep, "Do you think she should go see that tall lady?" I thought that was odd until I learned that the woman's name was Taul. Saw a great signature quilt--not uncommon in cloth quilts but the first I had seen on a barn.

Finally, Jennifer in Meade County proved to be the perfect hostess to end the day on a mellow note. She even remained composed when Gracie chased a turkey. I ran after her--gotta save my baby who almost ate a fellow canine yesterday. I had pet chickens and saw many a stranger get spurred; I can only imagine the damage a turkey could do!

That was kinda funny, but when I rushed Gracie into the car to escape impalement, she jumped into the front instead of the back. I had left the camera lying there, and--SCRATCH. I got on the phone to my friend Jeff; he looked online and found that toothpaste or cigarette ashes are sometimes used to polish out scratches. I don't smoke, and I guess I use the wrong kind of toothpaste. So this morning I was at Best Buy before they opened.

I love my dog. I love my dog.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Yesterday I saw the wonderful quilts of the Civil War trail in Dover, TN. The first quilt that they painted is an absolute masterpiece. Don't get mad, those of you who have created masterpieces--there are others. But a 16 by 16 intricately painted quilt--it took a year to complete--was almost overwhelming. They are unique in that they paint only full quilts instead of squares. One of their barn quilts is pictured above. As usual, not my best photo of the day.

On the way north to KY, I drove about 20 miles near my very first barn quilt. (above left) I had to stop--the place where all of this began. And there was Belenda Holland--out back of their house where I found her a year ago!! Of course this time she was relaxing rather than hanging laundry. She changed my life simply by taking a few minutes to speak with me and tell me what her barn quilt was all about. I am not sure I would ever have begun this journey if not for her.

We had a lovely time; Gracie and the Holland's pup were running around chasing each other and having great doggie fun. After about an hour, Gracie decided to attack! Not sure if she just got tired and didn't want to play anymore, but it was ugly. Took three of us to get them apart. Luckily, neither was seriously hurt.

Hint for the day: never stay in a motel that offers truck parking. Never.
Gotta go--bloggin' from the Golden Arches and the first of three appointments is coming up.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On the Road Again . . .

Yeah--cheesy subject line, I know. But here I am on Day One of a 10-day trip. And there was a Texas connection today, so I didn't think y'all would mind.

Check out those longhorns; I turned around after photographing a lovely Sunbonnet Sue quilt, and there they were--just grazing along!

I had the pleasure of visiting with the Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail ladies today. They have done an extraordinary job of creating whole quilts instead of single blocks. Zoom in on the detail on the Mariner's Compass!! I had a difficult time deciding which one to post; this is one of the finer blocks, but the others photographed better.

Ten of us gathered at the Cracker Barrel. For those of you who are following my carbohydrate consumption--you know who you are-- no, I did NOT have pie. Actually, my fave CB carbs are dumplins, but we had work to do. Besides, Gracie--the barn quilting pup--is along for this trip, and she was waiting in the car.

Now before you think I am a bad doggie mom, I leave Gracie in the car with the engine running and the air on. She is the sweetest dog in the world--was quite the hit on the front porch of the Cracker Barrel after we all met--but I feel sure she wouldn't let anyone but me open that door. Hope I don't have to find out the hard way that I am wrong!

Ruth Dyal--the tourism director and one of the orignal committee members here--and fellow committee member Barbara Tolleson took us on the tour of their quilts--each one very different, and all pretty darned spectacular.

In TN, the Resource Conservation and Development offices help to pull the various counties together and encourage new ones to join. The ladies of Jackson and Fentress Counties are ready to go! I look forward to following their progress. Kathy Daugherty of the RC&D describes quilters as "the original recyclers, since they used everything." An interesting characterization and the perfect way to tie these projects to her work!

I have to admit that I like motels. Nothing better than eating canned salmon with capers and not having to take the trash out the next day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Iris and Lavender

Kind of a theme today; the block on the left is one that I stumbled upon on the way to reshoot a block in Madison that I had seen last year when the trees were bare. I passed this beauty on the way. The iris is lovely; it's a bit hard to see because I just had to get the mountains in the background. Click to enlarge; it's well done, I think.

I have been dying to see the dragonfly block since seeing it in the brochure a year ago. Today I got my chance. What a stunner! It graces one of the buildings at Mountain Farm--an organic farm where lavender and blueberries grow (pick your own!) and goat's milk soaps are made. It's not on the way to anywhere, but when we were there, a steady stream of folks passed through. Both the lavender (my favorite scent) and the laid back atmosphere were welcome after a morning of work. Well worth a visit.

I have one more big trip planned, and then a "writer's retreat" to wind up the summer.
What? Back to work? Who, me?? Oh, my!

Happy 4th to all!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Out in the Field

Yep, that's me--on the job photographing the latest block in the Mitchell/Yancey quilt trail--Summer Sun.

Other than the rather lengthy conversation with a highway patrolman, the trip to Burnsville was uneventful. First time I talked myself out of a ticket in years! Gosh it felt good, though I hated leaving Barbara Webster waiting.

For the unitiated, Barbara is the force behind the quilt trails of Mitchell and Yancey Counties in NC. And when I say "force"--let me tell you, she is truly a force of nature. 136 blocks up to date, and more in progress as we speak! She mentioned that I might join in some painting tomorrow, but when I saw how intricate the quilt is, I demurred.

Barbara and I stopped in to see Ray Miller, who shared a lot of local history with us. New education--railroads and sawmills. The circus story will have to be on hold for now. We also spent some time with "The Wagon Man," so called because he takes visitors on wagon rides. His farm is pictured above. No, the cow wasn't friendly--just ready for milking! There is also a horse to the left side; if you click and enlarge, he will be staring right at you!

Barbara is a wonderful hostess. After a meal of fresh veggies, she gave me a tour of their gardens; I found out how garlic grows (yes, Suzi's farm education continues) and ate raspberries right off the bush.

What a refreshing break from the heat and humidity of home. Anybody want to buy a house in Stone Mountain? I could live in these mountains. I really could.