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A Day in the Country: Barn Quilts

A Day in the Country: Barn Quilts

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

Finally, it’s summer. School is out and vacation is in sight. Whether it's a two-week holiday, four-day weekend, or just a day trip, a short break from day-to-day life can be so refreshing.

Red_barn_2 This was the only barn I saw with two blocks on it.

Earlier this week I got away for an afternoon, on country roads in Washington County, Iowa, where I went to take pictures of barn quilts. These large wooden squares are painted to resemble quilt blocks and affixed to barns. The displayed blocks may reflect a quilt owned by the farm's family or simply be a design they find appealing.

Meadow_Flower_block_2 This Meadow Flower block is on the barn in the photo below.


Barn Quilts sign A few of the barn quilts had "official" signs like this one.

The first barn quilt was displayed in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio, and since then whole communities have jumped on the bandwagon and created barn quilt trails, complete with maps noting barn locations. (According to Suzi Parron, who wrote Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement, there are more than 7,000 known individual barn quilts, and Wikipedia says there are some 43 different barn quilt trails.) Barn quilts build community and highlight historic architecture. Indeed, many wooden barns are falling into disrepair and being replaced by metal buildings. It’s easy to understand why farmers might prefer this low-maintenance alternative, but seeing the well-cared-for wooden structures is a real pleasure.

Corn and quilt block barn This barn is adorned with a quilt block AND an ear of Iowa corn.

I spent a lovely few hours checking out the barns and taking in the sights along the way. It was a lovely, blue-sky day and I enjoyed seeing tidy gardens and clothes flapping on the lines. The communities I visited have a sizeable Amish population and I slowed numerous times to pass buggies at a pace that wouldn’t kick up dust. IMG_8974 Miller_barn_2 It was definitely a break from the pace of my everyday life and every time I stepped out of the car to take a photo, I’d hear the wind rushing through the grass and the corn, and songs of red-winged blackbirds. (And there might have been a stop at a quilt shop along the way.) Such a relaxing day! Blue_block_2

Century_Farm_2 This barn has the date 1893 above the quilt block. A sign in the yard noted that it's a designated century farm—the land has been in a single family for 100 years or more.

When I got home it occurred to me that I didn’t even need to leave my street—two houses within a block of mine have painted quilt blocks on them. (But I'm glad I had a mini-vacay, nevertheless.) Julia's_house_2 Russell's_house_2 Do you have a barn quilt trail near you? Let us know where it is, so others can find and enjoy them!

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