Nature Conservancy raises two quilts on vintage barns

The Nature Conservancy has raised two new barn quilts on its Morgan Swamp properties near Rock Creek.

A quilt with an original “Lake Effect” design was raised on a snowy day last winter and graces the barn at the conservancy’s campus along the Grand River and accessed from Callender Road.  The most recent of the quilts to be raised went up March 25 on a barn on Footville-Richmond Road. It features a beaver design.

The conservancy purchased the farm because it would expand their holdings in the Morgan Swamp Preserve. The farm was previously owned by the late Eva Heidecker and had been in that family for decades.

Karen Adair of the TNC said the group plans to keep the primary barn, which has the quilt on it, and restore the balance of the property to “a natural condition.”

Adair designed the quilts with input from TNC staff.

Beaver Lodge pattern on The Nature Conservancy's Footville-Richmond Road barn quilt acknowledges the animal's role in creating the Morgan Swamp.
Beaver Lodge pattern on The Nature Conservancy’s Footville-Richmond Road barn quilt acknowledges the animal’s role in creating the Morgan Swamp.
Lake Effect is the name of the barn quilt on The Nature Conservancy’s Grand River Campus.


“The images were based on two of the most iconic characteristics of the Morgan Swamp Preserve,” she said in an email. “The beaver design was inspired by (a) picture I took at the overlook deck platform on Footville Richmond Road, just to the west of the (barn) quilt. Beaver have played and continue to play an important role in shaping the swamps of the Grand River lowlands.

“Similarly, the lake effect snow that Ashtabula receives has an impact on the types of forest communities found in the Grand River lowlands. Many of them, like some found in Morgan Swamp, are more typical of northern climates, so Morgan Swamp represents the southern edge of these more boreal communities’ range,” she wrote.

The quilts were painted by Adair and Nathan Randolph.

The large, former dairy barn, on the Callander Road property was adorned with a barn quilt last winter.
The large, former dairy barn, on the Callander Road property was adorned with a barn quilt last winter.

Adair says TNC was an early adopter of the barn quilt movement in Ohio, starting with the conservancy’s Edge of Appalachia preserve in Adams County, birthplace of the barn quilt movement.

“We see these quilt tours as a great way to participate in our local tourism and get people to know who we are and what we do,” Adair says. “…we do plan to do more all over the state as opportunities arise. If we acquire more barns in Ashtabula County along public roads, I’m sure we’ll try to do more quilts. They are a lot of work, but they’re really fun, too.”


The Moses barn

The Ohio Farmer magazine of May 18, 1907, printed a story about what was then the largest barn in Ashtabula County, built on the farm of William N. Moses of Dorset. If any reader knows what became of this barn, please contact the steering committee.
The following is what Mr. Moses wrote about his barn.

Last fall I finished building a new barn which has attracted a great deal of attention. It as built differently from any barn in the county and perhaps in the state. It is 40 x 60 ft., 9-ft. basement, 18 ft. to plate, and 23 ft. from the top of plate to peak, making the total height 50 ft. It is 41 ft. from hay floor to peak. The barn is only 40 ft. wide but it takes an 18 and a 16 ft. rafter to reach one side of the curb roof. The rafters are the same length except the lower ones have 2 ft. projections. The lower pitch of roof is 2/3, and the upper is between 1/3 and 1/2. Thus, it will be seen why the barn holds so much above the plate.

The truss is the part that is different from other barns. The bottom of truss is only between 3 and 4 ft. wide, so is not out in the way. The whole barn is open, open from peak to floor and from side to side with the exception of a truss 3 or 4 ft. wide and about 4 in. thick. The steel hay track is fastened on collar beams 2×5 spiked to each pair of rafters to about 3 ft. from peak, so the hay falls about 38 ft. to floor.

My floor is matched maple. The barn is all floored except 1/2 of driveways 14×20. I drive in on a level and let the hay fork take the hay up, as it is better than pulling a load up a hill to top of basement. This is where you gain by building on level ground. After haying, I put temporary joists in and rough boards, and run straw in so I have no waste room. The large doors are 14 ft. high so I can run straw carrier on floor easily.

There is a granary in one corner, up above. 14 1/2 x 17 ft., grain spouted below. There are 33 windows and two shutters. The eight transom windows and 15 basement windows are hung so as to swing open for ventilation. The siding is No. 1 yellow pine, matched, and planed on both sides. The roof is red cedar shingles. I made a mistake in not using slate, as I paid $3.60 for shingles and the work of laying them would bring it up to about the price of slate.

The basement is cement under all stock. I also made the bottom of manger in front of cattle rounding so I can pump water in and water them in bad weather. When they are through drinking, I pull out the plug and the water runs through a tile under the wall. The wall is stone up to the top of ground then two rows of barn tile. They are larger than house tile, and have a partition in center.

My fed boxes for cattle are made on side of manger. The manger is hung on iron pins set in 4×4 in. posts and swings up over to feed grain and swings back to form side of manger. No chickens to roost on our feed boxes this way. This barn was built by S. Mellinger of Ashtabula County, who has built several barns after the Shawver plan, and he says it is far ahead of any other truss he ever built.

The estimated cost of the barn, including labor of myself and team, board, etc., was $3,300.00. I also wired the barn after the cage plan for lightning protection, using 70 rods of twisted wire the size of barbed wire, but without the barbs. I used 1/2-in. iron rods, 6 ft. long, for ground rods, 12 in number: also 1/2 in. rods for points, sharpened at the blacksmith shop, four in number. The wire is stapled to the building, no glass being used.

What’s it all about?

An old barn holds many stories; the Barn Quilt Trail is designed to preserve them and honor the heritage of our county.
An old barn holds many stories; the Barn Quilt Trail is designed to preserve them and honor the heritage of our county.

At the heart of Ashtabula County’s Barn Quilt Trail is a celebration of our county’s great agricultural heritage and the farm families who have worked so hard to feed our nation.

For example, did you know that in 1849, Ashtabula County led the state in cheese production. Our cows and dozens of little cheese factories turned out about 25 percent to of the cheese made that year.

We also made a lot of butter here. There was a time the butter from Ohio was so bad it was called “Ohio grease.” But the farmers, fair board and agriculturalists at the state level worked together to raise the quality of our product.

Barns and silos are all we have left of those days when small farms, 10 to 30 milking cows, provided their contribution to the county’s fame. The Barn Quilt Trail Steering Committee is committed to saving these heritage barns by offering grants of up to $500 per barn for new, 8-by-8-foot barn quilts. Steering committee members will soon be fanning out across the county in search of these barns and talking to owners. We want to add at least a dozen heritage barns to our trail this year. Will you help by nominating a barn? Simply send us an email and we’ll make the contact.



Painting classes offered

Painting a barn quilt that is 8-by-8 feet can be intimidating, but it need not be. Whether your quilt is 2 feet wide or 8 feet wide, the principles are the same. So why not start out with a small quilt and work up to the big one?

Chris Angerman, a co-founder of the Ashtabula County Barn Quilts Trail, holds painting classes at the Conneaut Community Center for the Arts. These classes will start in April and go through September. The student completes a 2-by-2-foot barn quilt during the class, which is for two days, two hours each day.

The class fee INCLUDES the 2-by-2-foot MDO board already primed, plus all the paint, brushes, tape and other necessities needed to produce a beautiful quilt for your home. Chances are, as you have driven around the county, you’ve seen some of these on houses. Most likely they are the homes of the students who have learned under Chris Angerman at the center.

These quilts are not eligible for inclusion on the trail, but many of our barn quilters have started with a small one like this before moving up to the exterior, larger sizes.

Both day and evening classes are offered for your convenience.

To register, call the community center 593-5888, or you can send an email.

Grant applications accepted now through April 30, 2015

The Ashtabula County Barn Quilts Steering Committee is accepting applications for barn quilt grants now through April 30.

These grants, up to $500 each, are being made available through the Steering Committee to owners of heritage barns in Ashtabula County. Other recipients that could qualify for these grants include historical buildings, museums, libraries and modern barns with strong visual appeal and in high traffic locations.

The Civic Development Corporation of Ashtabula County is funding the project, which will provide grants for at least 12 new barn quilts this year. Up to $500 per quilt is available to help owners purchase the materials paint the quilt themselves or hire a contractor to paint and install the quilt. The barn owner must comply with painting, construction and installation standards adopted by the committee and agree to maintain the quilt for at least 10 years. The quilts will be listed on the trail and in the 2016 Visitors Guide.

For more information, download the application and criteria sheet here in pdf form, or call 576-3768.

Quilts already installed or in process are not eligible for this program.

Artistic Woodworks

jeffThe Ashtabula Wave, an online newsletter, has a feature story about Jeff Scribben and his Artistic Woodworks business.

Jeff serves as technical adviser to the Steering Committee and has painted at least 10 of the quilts on the trail. His craftsmanship, hard work and willingness to take on some tough tasks, including hanging our first 8×8 foot quilt, have been a huge blessing to our steering committee.

Jeff and his wife, Rachel, have four children. They volunteer throughout the community in a number of ministries and nonprofits that are making a difference in Ashtabula County. He recently took the huge step of going into business full time, that is whatever time is left over from his volunteering work and part-time job with Habitat for Humanity.

Visitors Guide features barn quilts

visit guideThe Ashtabula County 2015 Visitor’s Guide has just arrived, and it features a lovely Williamsfield Township barn sporting a new barn quilt!

The Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which publishes the guide, has included the county’s barn quilts on its covered bridges and wineries tour map. The Barn Quilts Steering Committee looks forward to working with tourists and the ACCVB this summer as we welcome our guests to this new tourist attraction.

The guides are available at the ACCVB office on Austinburg Road, and at participating members throughout the county.


We’re on the map, in the book

Ashtabula County’s Barn Quilt Trail will be part of the 2015 Ashtabula County Visitors’ Guide map that directs tourists to our wineries, covered bridges and other attractions.

We thank the Convention and Visitors Bureau for including us and devoting a page to the trail in the guide. The steering committee of this all-volunteer project has worked hard to get the trail up and running in 2014; in 2015, we will work on promoting the trail and expanding it to include more heritage barns and sites, and more large quilts.

In the near future, the committee will announce competitive grants available in 2015 to purchase/build/paint 8×8 foot barn quilts on these heritage sites.

Meanwhile, enjoy the more than 40 quilts that are already on the trail. If you have guests in from out of town this holiday season, be sure to share the quilt locations with them by having them visit this site and download our beautiful, new map!

Also, the steering committee recently learned that our trail will be included in a new book by Suzi Parron, who wrote the original barn quilts book (Ohio University Press). A photo of the Graham Road/Benson family quilt has been selected for the book!



burkholder2Barns and Thanksgiving go together like turkey and stuffing.

Come to think of it, barns are probably even more emblematic of Thanksgiving than turkey, because they represent the storehouse, the bounty, the sense of having come full circle the fourth Thursday of every November.

A year ago this Thanksgiving, Ashtabula County did not have a Barn Quilt Steering Committee. Co-founders Chris Angerman and Kathy McCarty were pitching the idea, dreaming and researching, but the trail seemed years, rather than months, away.

Thanks to a group of very dedicated volunteers, the trail is a reality. More than 30 quilts will be on the Visitors Guide map when it is printed in January 2015. We have a quilt on a covered bridge, and plan to add more. We have quilts at art centers, on gift shops way out in the country and on garages where grandpap fixes the bicycle, sharpens the lawnmower blade and paints another barn quilt. We have one at an apple orchard that’s been around for nearly 90 years, and on a winery that is a leader in Ohio’s wine industry. We have them in just about every corner of the county, and we are working with property owners throughout Ashtabula County to add more in 2015.

Our steering committee has pitched the concept at 4-H carnivals, historical society festivals and fish fries. We adopted the Graham Road Covered Bridge for the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival and raised more than $700 by selling hot dogs, cider, popcorn and apples. This money will be used to promote the trail and perhaps sponsor quilts at public locations. Because we have to earn every dime we spend, the committee is quite frugal with its funding. BTW, thanks to the Ashtabula Arts Center for being our fiscal agent.

While we are giving thanks, I must recognize some folks who really made it happen for us at the Graham Road Covered bridge event. Thanks to you, we turned a profit and got a lot of attention:

  • Jeff and Rachel Scribben, who made sure we had hay bales, coffee pots, camp stove, tables, chairs and so much more. Without you and your lovely family, this event simply would not have happened. Thank you also for being our technical adviser and helping us get that first 8-by-8-foot quilt hung on the bridge.
  • The Benson family, which came out in numbers for the quilt dedication, provided cake for the crowd and assisted with the installation. That quilt is on that barn thanks to the farm equipment that was provided, and the expert operator, Susan Benson. Thank you!
  • Our musicians, Bob Turner from Ashtabula (actually, Preston County, W.Va., native who took the wrong turn and ended up here); Andre Debevc, who made our Sunday  morning so enjoyable; and the bluegrass group from Trumbull County. You guys were awesome!
  • Bob Benson, who was at the bridge earlier than any of the volunteers, setting up the power cord and making sure we had everything we needed. Bob, I hope to have one-half the energy you have when I am 92!
  • Carl J. and Cossette Feather. Although not members of the committee, they donated their time hauling firewood from Austinburg and a fire ring from North Kingsville so we could cook hot dogs over a wood fire. Actually, it was they who cooked the dogs, both days, with help from their grandson and granddaughter-in-law, Aaron and Kristi Feather, and great-grandson, Mason, on Sunday. Thank you for your expertise and patience, for being able to handle multiple dog orders at one time and cooking them to order.
  • Scribblers Coffee in Geneva gave us a generous donation of coffee! Thank you. It made the mornings bearable; that first pot at 7 a.m. Sunday was especially appreciated by the volunteer who slept in his car at the bridge Saturday night!
  • Cold Springs Orchard, Austinburg. The cider was perfect, as were the apples! Thank you for sharing your gifts of the land with our committee.
  • Covered Bridge Gardens, Jefferson. The Prochkos brought a special popcorn blend to the table for our event. Our guest loved the popcorn, and the birds appreciated the lost kernels!
  • Spouses of the committee members, who gave up our company on a beautiful October weekend in order that we could make this event a success.
  • The Ashtabula Arts Center, for handling our proceeds and expenses as fiscal agent.
  • The Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau, for supporting us with printing, banners and a table!
  • The Covered Bridge Festival Committee, for allowing us to sponsor the bridge. Thank you Ginger for all the hard work you and your group put into this effort.
  • Visitors who stopped at our bridge, gave a generous donation for a hot dog, bought merchandise and took the time to learn about barn quilts.

We, as a committee and individuals, have much to be thankful for this November. We are blessed beyond measure to have come together and become friends through this group. We often hear of a lack of cooperation or vision in Ashtabula County. That has simply not been the case with this group. We were determined to make this happen, and each person contributed their skills and resources to making this vision a reality.

Why not consider becoming a part of our effort?

Buying a barn quilt

You don’t have to build and paint your own barn quilt, although we highly recommend it because the activity can create family memories and add another layer to your story.

That said, there are numerous sources for ready-to-hang barn quilts. For those who want a customized barn quilt — a specific pattern or color scheme — Artistic Woodworks (855-2459) offers a complete barn quilt service, from design to installation. This cottage industry is based in Ashtabula County and its owners, Jeff and Rachel Scribben, serve as technical advisers to the steering committee.

Ash/Craft Industries in Kingsville Township offers ready-made quilts in their garden shop. Please note that in order to be on the trail, your barn must have a barn quilt of at least 4×4 feet.

You may find builders advertising barn quilts on Etsy, eBay or Craigslist. Please make sure that, if you want your barn and quilt to be on the trail, you confirm that the quilt you are buying meets our standards for priming, materials and paint. The steering committee reserves the right to reject any quilts that do not meet those standards.

Ready-made quilts are typically less expensive than customized products, and there is a reason for that. Consider the extra work that goes into making a custom quilt. The artist first meets with the client to discuss the barn’s story, nail down a pattern and select the color scheme. Rarely are all the colors in his or her stock of high-quality exterior paint, so a trip to the paint store and tinting of one more cans of paint are required. This paint is expensive, typically $15 to $20 per quart.

There will likely be phone calls and visits during the painting stage as the artist keeps the client informed of the progress. And delivery of the barn quilt, even installation, may be offered as part of the sale price.

With ready-made or stock barn quilts, the artist reduces his or her investment in time and materials. This often results in a reduction in price of 25 percent or more.

A barn quilt, like any piece of art, is an investment. Having a custom quilt with a unique color scheme that tells a story specific to the barn is akin to buying an “original” piece of art. Purchasing something that is ready made is like buying a print of the original.

Every consumer’s sense of value is different; to some, the 25 percent premium for a custom quilt is a bargain. For others, it is a deal breaker. That’s a gray area the the steering committee cannot address. However, because sustainability is essential with any tourism attraction, we will make certain each barn quilt meets our criteria for inclusion. Beyond that, the decision is yours.