Inside the farmhouse, our sister is helping get supper on the table . Our grandmother dishes up applesauce made with Baldwins from the tree down back. We’re happy to come in from our hay fort for roast pork and the promise of pie for dessert.
After supper we troop upstairs to say “good-night” to our great-grandmother who has just put out a pan full of “orts” for the half-wild barn cats. Back downstairs, we make our plans for the next day. After a breakfast of doughnuts, we’ll try to catch those elusive cats.
We’ll pull on our rubber boots and slide around on the field ice. Maybe elderly Mr. Hanchett will walk past on his way down to the village store. We’ll say “hello,” then duck behind the stone wall to giggle at his slightly obscene last name.
My sister and I stand over the floor furnace, our flannel nightgowns ballooning out to capture the heat before we dash into the unheated bedrooms. We all jump quickly into bed and burrow down under woolen blankets and handmade quilts. My grandmother’s quilts, made from scraps of fabric, keep us warm that cold winter night. The quilts also have stories to tell when we study the patterns: “Here’s your Easter dress.” “Oh, here’s the dress I was wearing when I fell off the swing in second grade.” “Didn’t you knock out a tooth?” “It was already loose.”
Many years have passed since those happy days on the farm, yet time has failed to dim my love of rural buildings and handmade quilts. The growing barn quilt movement tells me that I’m not alone in this fascination. Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio, wanted to honor her mother and her Appalachian heritage with a painted quilt motif on her barn. The idea was taken up by a committee in 2001, resulting in a series of barn quilts forming a trail for visitors to follow. The quilt barn trail idea spread to neighboring Brown County, then to Tennessee and Kentucky. Within a dozen years, trails have appeared in 45 states, making this the largest grassroots public arts movement in our nation’s history. --by Phoebe Beebe