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Plymouth County Barn Quilts

Ahlers Barn: "Windmill" 22558 K49, Le Mars.

Throughout 2012 is taking you on a tour of Plymouth County Barn Quilts.

A tribute to family history is the intention behind the barn quilt on the farm of John and Debra Ahlers. The farm became a century farm in 2008 when the quilt was raised. The quilt was part of the back drop for a large celebration including generations of family, as the farm has been in the family since 1908.
Debra says her son Daniel created the "Windmill" design after the family decided they needed to tear down their 68 foot landmark wind mill that stood on the land for years.

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Ahlers shares the symbolism surrounding the details of the quilt.

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The steel that's around the barn quilt frame came from the legs from Debra's father's windmill.  The building that the quilt hangs on is the oldest structure on the farm, now used as storage for equipment, it was once a corn crib.

Ahlers says that Plymouth County residents aren't the only people who visit their quilt.

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If you have a barn that could use some sprucing up, let the Le Mars Arts Council walk you through the barn quilt process. Folks on the committee would be happy to help you pick out a pattern. Information including maps and a list of barn owners are available at the Le Mars Chamber, ISU Extension Office and the Arts Center.

 

Westergaurd Barn: "Pale Star" Intersection of C12 and K22

The second barn quilt to color the countryside of Plymouth County went up on the barn of Carl and Colleen Westergaurd near the intersection of C12 and K22. The quilt was put up in 2006, and the barn was originally built in 1915 by Ben and Minnie Borchers.

Colleen Westergaurd said the family chose the design called "Pale Star" to paint on their quilt.

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Westergaurd's two oldest daughters painted the quilt as part of a 4-H Project.  
The Westergaurd's decided to participate in the Barn Quilt program after having seen other quilts driving to Ames.  At the time they put up the Pale Star, only one other quilt existed in Plymouth County.

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There are now estimated to be 50 or more quilts in the county when you include the smaller "Welcome Quilt" designs.

 

Harrington Barn: "From There to Here" 26705 170th St, Le Mars.

In 2009 the quilt "From There to Here" was hung on Vernon and Karen Harrington's barn in rural Le Mars.  The quilt features German and American flags surrounding a heart in the center and pays tribute to Vernon's great-grandfather, Peter Reese.  Reese immigrated from Germany in 1874 and purchased the land the quilted barn stands on today.  Vernon says the barn was built sometime in the late 18 to very early 1900's.

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Currently the barn is used for storage and is inhabited by farm cats.

Karen says that they became interested in the Barn Quilt program after traveling around Iowa and seeing the quilts on other barns.

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The Harrington's are proud that the buildings and land has been passed down in the family, and the plan is to keep it that way.  Preserving their rural life heritage is important to them, and that's one of the reasons creating a barn quilt and supporting the program has been a priority.

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The quilts design represents generations past, was created by current generations, and is intended to stay for the generations to come.

Plymouth County Barn Quilts Background

The celebration of agriculture through art...go for a drive and you'll see it all over Iowa.  Barn quilts starting popping up in Plymouth County beginning in 2006.  Ruth Barker has been part of the program promoted and developed in conjunction with the Le Mars Arts Center and Plymouth County ISU Extension.  She says that the idea originated in Adams County, Ohio.

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After a tour of those barns, Ruth began working with Kathy Moore at the Arts Center, Carol Schneider of Plymouth County Extension and a committee of others to help farmers in Plymouth County find patterns, and even people to paint.  There are many quilts in the county that have been done by area 4-H Groups.  Since 2006, more than 50 have been painted and put on barns, sheds and even houses throughout the area.  Ruth says the quilt idea is meant to enhance old farm buildings that have been well taken care of.

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Barn Quilts measure 8' by 8' and if you have a smaller space on a home or other out building that is "square" worthy there are also 4' by 4' Welcome Square patterns.  Folks on the committee would be happy to help you pick out a pattern. Information including maps and a list of barn owners are available at the Le Mars Chamber, ISU Extension Office and the Arts Center.  The Arts Center also has  information on their website.

 

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