Thursday, December 31, 2009

Warm Quilts in the Cold Snow

Here I am all snug and warm on a dreary New Year's Eve, working away at my final chapters. I am also looking forward to serving dinner for a few friends.

A couple of folks mentioned that they would like to see some photos of barn quilts in the snow. Not too many people venture out into the cold to photograph barns, so the few snow photos that I have are already earmarked for the book!

But a quick email to Clayton and Carolyn Pratt of Kankakee, Illinois, and a beautiful winter snow barn photo landed in my inbox! I visited Kankakee in October; a great tour and a barn quilt potluck--it doesn't get any better than that!

Yes, that really is a barn--George Bingley's barn, with the Flower Basket quilt; the photo was taken by Mr. Bingley. For more info on the barn and this trail, go to

You will also see links to the YouTube videos about their project--check them out!

I have some more winter photos coming--stay tuned. And please do drop a note to let me know that you stopped by.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Home for the Holidays

I have been fascinated for a while by the possibility of capturing barn quilts at night. This photo is of one of the most often-photographed barns of the original Adams County trail--the Double Lemoyne Star at Goodseedfarms in Peebles, Ohio.

The photo was taken by Stephen Boehme, the owners' son--if you can't quite tell, there is a pond in front of the barn, the double image is a reflection. I just love it because it has holiday lights!

Being home for the holidays will give me time to get the book wrapped up. Hmm didn't mean to include a corny pun, but since it came out that way, I will leave it!

If anyone is interested, I created a calendar with some of the photos from my journey this past year. I don't have a means--or the time--to sell them directly, but they are available at

All the best to you

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ain't No Sunshine Where She's Gone . . .

Yes, I know--this photo isn't exactly consistent with my title. But this is what the Moon Creek Farm would have looked like if I had been there on a pretty day. Photoshop made it just right for a picnic!

I have been looking forward to returning to Eastern Tennessee for quite some time. I keep planning trips, but each time I am slated to go, it rains. This time, I was joining a group for a bus tour, as I wanted to document that experience. Roy Settle, who heads up the quilt trail in the area, had been kind enough to reserve a spot for me, so off I went.

It didn't pour--just a bit of drizzle off and on, so the day was a success. The tour started in downtown Greeneville, TN, where a park ranger played the role of President Andrew Johnson, who was a resident of the area. He regaled us with stories of "his" youth and time in Greeneville. I didn't know the president had been a tailor; a story was told about his having made a quilt for the mother of a gal he wanted to marry. Apparently, it didn't work out, but still--it was a cute quilt story!

Downtown Greeneville is just beautiful--lots of restoration and preservation of historic buildings. We saw a couple of quilt blocks there and then boarded the bus.

Speaking of cute quilt stories, Mary Grace, the tour guide on the bus is such a great storyteller--both of quilt lore and family stories. We hardly noticed when the bus headed down a road that was about a lane and a half wide!

First stop was the farm where Samantha Blankenship raised chickens for her 4-H project. That's her upper right with her mom, the quilt made for Samantha by a family member, and the quilt block made by kids at an elementary school.

That's one of the things--wait I mean two of the things--I love about this particular quilt trail. One is that a lot of schools have been involved in painting the quilts. The other is that many of the quilt blocks correspond to an actual quilt.

On their are many photos of barn owners with their quilts. You will also see that a wide variety of community groups participated in the project. And hey--while you're there, buy a couple of raffle tickets for that gorgeous quilt! It's a great fundraiser, and although I have already bought the winning tickets, by all means, try and prove me wrong!

Back to the bus--there really was something for everyone. Barn owners brought out quilts (on the bus if it was drizzling, outside if not)--which were much admired.

Everyone got out to ask questions at the Rural Resources farm; I missed the talk because I was busy taking photos and then got suckered into this goofy photo op by Barbara Webster. Yeah, that's me. Why couldn't I be the flower?

Our final stop was the Walnut Ridge Llama farm, where the beautiful Maple Leaf quilt was brought out for show and tell, and the llamas were the hit of the day. I bought a pair of llama fiber gloves; I never buy souvenirs, but just this once.

After the tour and lunch, I headed over to Roy Settle's office and looked through his photo files for a bit. The entire time, I kept thinking,"Hey--an early day. The football game starts at 3:30; you can watch at least the second half." I wanted to make sure I looked through all of the photos but really did want to get to my room and kick back for some Gator time.

I finished up, got to the motel, got good and comfy, and then realized SIGH. It was Friday.

Monday, October 12, 2009

By the Time I got to Woodstock . . .

By the time I got to Woodstock, I had seen about 800 quilt barns! Hard to believe, but true. And still--when I round a corner and see a great barn with a beautifully painted quilt, I say to myself (aloud, mind you). Oh, WOW.
Yes, I really did go to Woodstock today--actually Bethel Woods, where a gorgeous arts center and amphitheater sits next to the Woodstock site. I was only 20 minutes away, and I had heard that the museum was worth a visit. Indeed it was--a great reminder of my early childhood, both the things that were important to me and the things that didn't make my radar at the time (I was born in '60). Great artifacts and info about the Woodstock Festival itself.
My flight was delayed by about an hour and a half. In some airports, that might allow time to get into trouble, but in Newburgh, New York, there wasn't much to do but type. Maybe I should go sit at the airport every day; I got a lot done!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another Frost-y day

I became fascinated today by the rock walls that crisscross the woods and fields here. Why walls to mark one's boundaries? The best answer I could get from a farmer is that the rocks were there. They had to be moved before fields could be plowed, and they were readily available.

Despite my being an English teacher, I don't tend to think in poems. But the walls are everywhere--some looking as if they were erected just yesterday, and some like the one above, becoming one with the terrain. So there was Mr. Frost in my head again:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun.

Yeah, I get thoughtful at the end of a long day.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed, though, as the camera--my camera at least--doesn't see the fall colors as vividly as my eyes do. Ah, well. You will have to visit for yourself.

And if you are still trying to figure out why it's called Neversink--good luck. No one seems to know! But it's a beautiful place with an interesting history, which is going to be fun to write about.

The Road not Taken

The first line of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” I thought of that yellow wood as I drove down this road yesterday. And I had to get a literary reference in there somewhere.

A nice, smooth flight today to Newburgh, New York. Looking down over the Hudson River Valley from the air, I saw huge expanses of orange covering the hills. Who knew that leaf-watching from an airplane could be so much fun? A lot of the hour and a half drive was through “tunnels” of trees—mostly golden but some stunning reds mixed in. The landscape seems meant for barn quilts. I love this red barn; it is on Beaver Dam Road—hence the critter in the center. I forgot to ask where the dam is.

I’m staying at The Blue Hill Lodge--quite an unusual spot. The front building is a small deli and restaurant; behind that is a package store, and in the rear, a long building with four cozy guest rooms. It was the first time that I ever had my motel bill rung on a cash register with my soda! I didn’t tip; she seemed to understand.

Dave Moore is my tour guide; I met him and his wife, Phyllis, for a while this evening and found out about the Neversink Renaissance project, which includes the barn quilts but has brought together volunteers to improve the entire community. They have achieved so much and still have plans in the works.

The perfect end to the first day of what promises to be a great trip: Gators 13, LSU 3. Slow game. But victory nonetheless.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Georgia on My Mind

Believe it or not, there is a quilt trail--a downtown walking tour--in Powder Springs, GA, which is about 45 miles from home. Today was a beautiful day, and I had the day off to take care of some other business, so I finally made the trip.

What a sweet little town; I can't believe that in thirty years of living in Atlanta, I have never been there. It's small--only a dozen or so businesses in the downtown area. But it would make a great afternoon getaway.

The quilts are mostly painted directly on buildings; within a five-minute walk, you can see ten of them! Great traditional patterns, many in "full quilt" layout, rather than just a block.

The Grandmother's Flower Garden above has always been a favorite pattern. I inherited my grandmother's scrap bag, and I made a quilt in that pattern, incorporating some of the fabrics she had saved from her old dresses. It is my favorite for covering my feet during the winter.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blogging from 41,000 feet

Today was a puffy cloud day for sure. I slept late and then headed out to see a couple of the barns that we didn't get to yesterday. The Maple Leaf is on the type of barn that I love--well kept but weathered. I didn't get to meet the Currys last night, but I enjoyed my visit to their faRNMNN Wooh--major turbulence there. Decided to leave that in just for effect.

Joyce Wheedon is really proud of her barn quilt--the schoohouse and flag on the right. Jerry Legan, a quilter (yes, men do quilt) who is on the Kankakee committee designed the quilt for the Wheedons. Joyce enjoyed it so much that she created half a dozen smaller ones for her window boxes and garden. And yes, that is the natural sky--almost surreal.

After driving by to see the carnage at the Doud barn tget ytp ,eety (more turbluence--worst I have been through in many years. Paradoxically, struggling to type this is helping to keep me calm.)
Oh, yes--the carnage. From the drunk driver. What a shame.

Last week I bemoaned the fact that I had missed the Chili cookoff at Stone Mountain; I am so busy lately that I keep missing the fun stuff. Today as I took the back roads towards Chicago, I passed through the village of Grant Park, where the Oktoberfest celebration and antique car show were taking place. Had to stop--I found myself at an Oktoberfest chili cookoff! I guess everyone loves a competition, and a "kraut cookoff" wouldn't really do.

As I walked towards the park I could hear live music; I expected country or bluegrass but as I got closer I heard a pretty darned good rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden." You just never know. I hung out for a bit and would have bought a really cool pumpkin planter if I didn't have such an aversion to checking luggage. The festival was a great way to end my trip--an hour of relaxation before heading back to city life.

Thankfully, we are descending through the clouds and the air is a bit smoother. That also means that "all electronic devices must be turned off."

Kankakee County

I couldn't think of a more creative title for this post; I think my brain is overloaded again--what a day. And evening! I finally got to meet Clayton and Carolyn Pratt, who are responsible for my coming to see the Kankakee barn quilts. Under cover of umbrellas in morning drizzle, we stopped and saw a couple of barns on the way to see the Solecki farm, where I met the homeschool group and their art teacher, Pat Alcorn.

These kids have created two really extraordinary quilts--the Golden Wedding Ring behind them in the photo below and the Lone Star at Pilot Grove Farm. Both employ the trompe l'oeil style--to create a three-dimensional effect. Yes, these are really paintings on flat sheets of wood!

After a fun visit and photoshoot, it was time for lunch at the much-acclaimed Blue's Cafe--yes, there was pie! Holly Froning--the Energizer Bunny of the committee--joined us from there, and the tour continued.

Though I have seen hundreds of barns, there is always something new. Today it was the Diefenbach barn, whose front wall was removed and dragged forward so that an addition could be built in between. Clayton Pratt took photos of me and Carolyn and Holly with Mr, Diefenbach, who then proudly handed Clayton a camera so that he could have photos of his own. As Clayton pressed the shutter, I heard the strangest sound--film. Mr. Diefenbach was very proud of his 1980s camera that had traveled the world!

We stopped at about eight more barns, including the North Star pictured below. I didn't get to meet the owners, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that they have a sense of humor.

The main event was a gathering of the barn owners and committee members at the Rosenboom farm for a potluck. I promise, it's not all about food. Food will not even be mentioned in the book. But yeah, there was some good eatin' tonight.
The barn has been converted into an entertainment facility, with a banquet area upstairs and all kinds of nifty farm gadgets on display.

Mr. Rosenboom had loads of fun showing me various odd-looking items and asking, "What do you think this was used for?" There was a hog oiler, a corn drier, and a kerosene lamp cleaner that looked an awful lot like a folding whisk. Each time I was stumped, Mr. Rosenboom found something new for the City Girl to ponder. About the time he explained to me that what looked like a giant pair of pliers really was called an emasculator, it was time to eat.

About thirty people had gathered, which meant that there was enough food for a hundred. I heard great stories of collaboration between agencies and individuals, but mostly I heard the enthusiam that feeds this project in every place I have visited. One farmer was nothing short of giddy as he described how much he enjoyed his quilt. Even the woman who woke up in the middle of the night to find that a drunk driver had plowed into her barn was in high spirits. Of course, the barn quilt was unscathed.

It's two AM, and I haven't even talked about night time photography or restored tractors. It was great to be me today, but now I have to rest.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Racine in the Rain


It's great to be back on the road--though it was a wet, chilly, and often crowded road today! I flew into Chicago to visit Racine, WI and spent almost as much time in Chicago as I did in Racine! Is every highway in American under construction?

I had a great time with Kathi Wilson--we had an instant rapport and were laughing and making fun of each other about an hour after meeting. I guess that's a good thing. We visited some really well-preserved barns; some of the owners had documentation unlike any that I had seen before. This photo is of the "barn raising" at Rose Hill Farm.
Look at those guys just standing up on the upper beams!
The owner also had great pics of the ladies-- all dressed in white--watching from the porch of the farmhouse.

This veterinarian's medicine cabinet, found in one of the barns, is a slice of history--a couple of the products dated back to the 1930s! This barn was nicely preserved, with each of the original pegs visible. It also had a basketball court in the upper level for the grandkids!

At the last barn we visited, the owner had researched her family's property so thoroughly that she had found a chart detailing how much hay, buckwheat, corn, and butter the farm had produced in 1860. Over 300 pounds of butter--let's hope that they sold some and didn't use it all to make Danish Kringles.

The foot-long oval of danish--a local delicacy, I'm told--was so yummy. I think I gained half a pound just from the smell. I found it amusing that the bakery had used the nutrition information sticker to close the bag. Let's see--12 servings, 235 calories each . . . I ate a chunk and gave the rest to Nita--the owner of the guest house where I am staying.

As I left Racine, Kathi gave me a copy of a documentary film that was made about their quilt trail. The filmmaker followed Kathi throughout the project and interviewed all of the barn owners and other participants. The highlights are purported to be Kathi's feeding an apple to Amigo the donkey and her singing in a silo, which she claims has great acoustics. Another barn experience for me to try. I look forward to watching the DVD.

Tomorrow I am touring the barn quilts of Kankakee County, IL, so I drove on down this evening to be ready for an early start. Of course, it took me two and a half hours to reach Riverview Guest House, but when I did, I received a friendly welcome from Nita and a gift basket from the Visitor's Bureau. I feel so pampered and appreciated.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Too Busy to Blog!

I was filing my photos from the weekend trip and realized that I didn't mention my day in Athens County! Paige Alost of the Visitors Bureau treated me to breakfast (yeah, yeah, more about food). John Lefelhocz, the artist who designed many of the quilt squares in the county, joined us.

Athens has some traditional blocks, but their focus is more on highlighting the features of the county. "All Roads Lead to Athens" represents the convergence of highways in the county and the many smaller roads in the county. It really does look as if the roads are coming together!

The barn on the right is the "Brickwork Block;" Clay is an important natural resource in the area.

Paige and I also stopped by the Dairy Barn--both to see the magnificent barn and its block which replicates the cupolas on the barn and to see the Quilt National Display. This year the show features art quilts. I really liked this one--"Paris--Wish you were Hair." The display didn't list the quilters' origins, but I am pretty sure that this gal is from the SOOUTTHH.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Full Circle

Today more than one circle was completed. Right now I am at the Athens, Ohio University conference center. The hotel restaurant is where Donna Sue and I met with Ohio University Press to discuss the contract for the book almost a year ago. Shall I just say that I drank a toast to the occasion tonight?

When I began this project last fall, I left Donna Sue here in Athens and spent the night in Gallia County, Ohio, at the Niday farm. The next morning, I crossed the river into West Virginia and had my first taste of what this year would bring, as Mollie Yauger showed me Mason County's first few quilts. Today I returned and spent the day with my first barnquilt tour guide. Mollie showed me their more recent work, including the Grandmother's Flower Garden above.

One of the first quilts I made was a Flower Garden that includes some fabrics from my maternal grandmother's scrap bag. It's one of the few quilts that I have made and kept for myself; the pattern remains a favorite.

Other than near collisions with a runaway Amish horse buggy and a leaping deer (that's three in two days!) Mollie and I had a great visit.

This morning, Nancy Stoepker of Roane County, West VA introduced me to the barn quilt gals there and showed me a few of their efforts. My favorite, though, is the one above that was painted by an 88 year old lady who just didn't want anyone to do it for her. She did have to accept assistance with the hanging.

Back to the Prescott farm. Missy and Pete Prescott bought a farm in Roane County--where Missy grew up--and found a Groves family cemetery on the property. Turns out that Missy's great great grandparents were buried there. Even more amazing--and the reason why this is a "full circle" story--those folks are also Donna Sue Groves' great great grandparents. The first barn quilt in Roane County was hung on the barn at the appropriately named Destiny Groves farm.

The Spell is Broken!

Sunny skies and barn quilts. I had forgotten how lovely they are together!

Back in Ohio this weekend--this time in the East. I started in Columbus last night. I think the folks at Budget Car Rental made a mistake--they gave me a Jeep! Woo-hoo, 4 wheel drive!

It was already getting dark as I headed to Coschocton. A couple of interesting sights.
One I spotted literally from a mile away. A big basket. I mean A BIG BASKET. Turns out it is the headquarters for a basket company--there are actually offices inside of that thing!

I have seen many of the bicentennial barns in Ohio; they are ubiquitous (my students' current favorite word). But this one lit at night was especially nice.

Now if I can just figure out how to get a barn quilt with the full moon in the shot. What a fabulous moon last night! But no luck. This new camera takes great pics in auto mode but doesn't allow for much fancy stuff!

My hostess last night and guide for this morning--Ann Cornell--has quite a few Amish neighbors. There were only a couple of near Jeep and buggy collisions. Those darned horses get going fast downhill! I am often accused of mentioning food too often, but hey--when was the last time you had French toast made from French bread? I suppose if I mention the cobbler for lunch--oh, never mind.
I found out a couple of things about Llamas. First, they are very friendly. Second, they are good at keeping wild dogs away from sheep--apparently because they want to be friends, which the dogs find somewhat menacing. Finally, when one of your llama pets dies, his hair can be woven into a rug. We saw a very nice brown mat named "Pepe" today.

Oh, and they are proud of their barn quilts. At least this guy is.

Harrison County has a nice variety of barns and mostly traditional patterns. Lots of bikers, too. The winding roads and rolling hills are filled with motorcyclists. I think there needs to be a barn quilt motorcycle tour!

Monroe County was a highly anticipated destination--other than Miami, the only spot where all of the quilts are hand painted on the barn surface. I didn't get to see as many as I would have liked, but they really were a treat.

Poor Pete and Melissa Prescott. They offered me a place to stay, not knowing that I would show up at 10:30 PM--the middle of the night for farm folk! Their farm is known as Destiny Groves and is very special to Donna Sue Groves; more on that tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Champaign, Anyone?

That's Champaign County, Ohio, where I spent most of Sunday. My tourguide--Tina from the Visitor's bureau--showed me some of the more interesting barns and introduced me to their owners. My new favorite barn has a dodecahedronal (that's 12-sided, y'all) area in the rear with horse stalls that are kind of triangular. I climbed on up and saw how the hay could be dropped into the stalls from above--pretty cool.

I also saw a couple of barns that had writing or pictures created by using different colors of shingles on the roofs. How cool is that tractor??

On the way back to Dayton, I couldn't resist swinging through Miami County for another bit to catch a few barns that I had missed. Another gloomy day weather-wise, but there were definitely some bright spots. Of course, as I drove to the airport at 6 PM--gloriously blue skies with my favorite "poofy clouds." I'm kind of getting used to it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Weekend in Miami

I got a bit worried when the pilot said, "We are beginning our descent into Daytona." But I had seen the Ohio River just moments before, so despite his verbal blunder, I knew that I would be landing in Dayton and heading to Miami County, Ohio.

I had planned to spend Saturday seeing the quilts, but I noticed that if I used the back exit to the airport rather than using the interstate, a couple of barn quilts were on the way to my hotel. Was there any other route to take? Above right is the pride of Ohio--the fella there looks pretty proud of his surroundings! The pattern on the left is "Tippecanoe."

Kay Hamilton of the Travel and Visitors Bureau arranged for my rooms at the bureau's expense--a hotel--that's with an H. Woo hoo!

Kay and I had a terrific time-- except that long walk down a roadside hunting for the camera bag that I had left on the top of the car. Just when we were ready to give up, I looked at the photo I had taken when I stepped out of the car, walked until the view on the horizon matched that on the screen, and there it was!

Judy Rose of El Sombrero restaurant in Troy treated us to lunch. Don't guess I could fill up a bunch of three-ounce containers with their salsa and fly them back to Atlanta in my ziplock bag. I can buy more shampoo, but that salsa! If you ever happen to be anywhere nearby--GO.

El Sombrero is also the spot to meet Rafael Santoyo--the artist who has painted all of the barns here. Unlike most, he stands on a ladder or on scaffolding and paints directly on the building. I hope I got a good interview--I spoke through an interpreter and recorded his responses to be transcribed by my friend Terra, who has generously offered to help with that part of my project AND speaks Spanish. Photo of Rafael is from the MCVB.

Rafael says that he is not an artist because he did not go to school. Check out this detail!! Princess feathers--one of my faves of the day.

In the non-barn quilt category, we saw a lock that was supposed to have come from a lockbox on a stagecoach and, as always, met some great farm animals. The guy there on the right is a Scottish Highlander calf. Who knew a cow could be cute and cuddly?? Granted, his mama has horns. When she tried to cuddle, things got a bit dicey.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I had to do it!

I promised my students last year that we would paint a "trailer quilt" to go on the outside of the "mobile learning unit" in which I teach. We never did get around to it, but I remained convinced that I needed my own painted quilt.

SO--I painted one inside the classroom on the wall--6 by 6 feet in the school colors of gold and purple. It's prettier in person--they always are.
The funny thing is--not a single student has asked me what it is. Go figure.

BTW if you have tried to comment in the past and were asked to create an account, I think I changed that setting so that anyone can comment. Took me long enough . . .

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.