Saturday, August 30, 2014

A quilty quest

Today my mom and I spent a lovely Saturday following a barn quilt trail in Oxford County. There's a great site for Ontario barn quilt trails that includes maps and an explanation of the blocks tied into that area's history. It was really fascinating.

The trail started with Right Hand of Friendship, chosen because the people of the predominantly rural community are welcoming. This quilt was on a shelter for the horses out in the pasture.

Next was Path Through the Woods, symbolizing the dense forests the early settlers of the area had to tame. They created roads from paths through the woods, felling thousands of trees to establish farms and villages. The county's motto is a nod to the hard work of the first settlers: "Labour Conquers All Things."

This block is called Cock's Comb because a rooster and chickens were an essential part of a settler's belongings. A cow and her baby came to check on the interlopers.

This barn was actually a business. One that really seemed to like brown. Not all the quilts were especially inspiring colourwise, nor always in a scenic setting. This one is called Arrowhead Puzzle, honouring the area's First Nations. Oxford County was home to many First Nation villages, including a sprawling Iroquoian one not far from this spot dating back to 1,400.

And not all the barn quilts were on barns. Roads to the Station commemorates the coming of the railroad to the area.

New Water Wheel sits near a creek that powered a nearby pea and barley mill built in 1878. Now it's an inn.

Patch Log Cabin represents the first building in Tillsonburg, a two-room log cabin.

Gotta love a classic churn dash block, especially on this great old red barn. I love the faded cow paintings on this dairy farm barn, complete with cat.

This Envelope Motif block represents rural mail delivery finally coming to the township in 1911.

This Church Window was on the site of the African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, founded by free Blacks who made their way here as early as 1829. Feeling accepted and safe here, the area became a terminus for fugitives travelling the Underground Railroad.

The Grist Mill block sat on a tranquil mill pond, not far from where a mill was built in 1807 and the constructed in 1845 still stands. This area attracted Quakers, free Blacks and escaped slaves.

This barn quilt, and barn, was probably my favourite. The block is called Weathervane because being able to forecast the weather was a talent many settlers developed. Early barns were decorated with a weathervane and lightning rods to help. I loved the bright colours on the quilt and door against the rusty metal roof and grey building.

Tobacco farms are still plentiful here. I'm not sure why, but I've always liked the look of the drying buildings. There's something about their roughness that's appealing. Or maybe the uniformity, especially when there's row upon row. I guess those boring, sterile-looking white ones in the back are the new generation.

This quilt - Tobacco Road - goes perfectly with the rust-coloured shutters and deep green walls. Some of them were so suited to their spot.

Some of the barns were definitely less bucolic. This one is called Corn and Beans, because the four brothers owning this farm grow traditional crops of corn and soybeans.

The Wagon Wheel stands in front of the historical society, representing the journey of early Quakers who settled in the area.

This Friendship Block honours two families who came to the county together among the original settlers.

Another classic block, Dutchman's Puzzle was perfect for this apple farm established by a couple from the Netherlands in 1956. Many Dutch settled in Oxford County as early as 1946.

Finally we found the Farmer's Daughter barn quilt - a pop of colour on a pretty boring barn.

I spotted something I've never seen before - a field of millet. This stuff looks like something out of Dr. Seuss' imagination. Weird.

We had to stop to get a picture when we saw this field farmed by Mennonites. It's not too often anymore you see straw stacked like this using only elbow grease and rudimentary farming equipment. Now that is some tough work, especially on a hot and muggy day when we were very thankful for the a/c.

It was a lovely afternoon driving through the countryside. We saw the barn quilts, picked up a few things we didn't need but couldn't resist at a lovely fabric shop, enjoyed a tasty lunch at the cutest little restaurant and just had a wonderful day together with so many serene views.


  1. It was a lovely day......a little warm but loved the peacefulness of the countryside, the quilt panels and the company. Lunch was good too!!

  2. Lovely lovely! the Dutchman's puzzle reminds me of the CBC logo