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Monday, March 22, 2010

Out of Ashes

The last weekend in February brought our annual Batty Binder's retreat. Each year, we haul our quilting supplies, more food than an army can eat (although we were MUCH better this year and had lots of healthy snacks), our bedding and various supplies to the local Girl Scout camp. There, we settle ourselves in for a weekend of sewing, talking, having fun, sharing, quilting...and general fun. About 25 of us were here this year and once again, it coincided with an area Quilt Shop-Hop.

I, however, had resolved to settle myself in and just quilt. No shopping for me as I have far too many yards to use up. Here, you can see Gwen working away. I loved that she has yellow quilting gloves which matched the piece she was working on almost perfectly.


Here, you can see some of our projects hanging behind us as we finished pieces. The two purple projects on each end (a stack and whack dahlia and a Turning-Twenty Simply Sashed) are both mine. The dahlia is going to be a gift for my mom and the turning-twenty is an Easter gift for my daughter--grandmother and grand-daughter share a favorite color.

While most of the weekend is usually full of lots of fun, we did have a pretty gut wrenching occurrence this time. One of our members, Debbie, has a "hobby farm"--in other words, the main source of income is from working off the farm. Debbie's husband wants to try to maintain the farm life. This means that Debbie is the one who provides most of the livestock care. She has pigs, chickens, cattle (primarily her daughter's 4-H projects) and sheep. I usually talk to her about the sheep as we used to raise them when I was growing up. Lambs and piglets are usually born in the first months of the year. I asked Debbie how things were going as I assumed lambing would be in full swing. She told me that she had a sow (mama pig) who had just given birth to 13 piglets (normal litters are about 6-9) but that one of them was stillborn and two died soon after birth. Evidently, the sow had been in labor for a couple of days but it wasn't obvious that she was, nor that she was in trouble.

The sow developed and infection and had to have antibiotics. The last week of February had been snowy, sleety and slippery. Debbie had fallen while going out to the barn to give the injection one night and as she has arthritis in one of her shoulders (at the ripe old age of about 50) she was afraid she wasn't going to get back up. I sympathized with her and with the fact that the piglets now needed special care.

At about 12:30 am (yes, A.M), Debbie got a horrifying call from her daughter who is the same age as mine. Their barn was on fire, and that's where the $750 calf for her daughter's 4-H project was along with other livestock. It was sleeting and we knew that there was black ice out. One of Debbie's friends drove her the hour back home. Meanwhile, we were all stunned and terrified for her. We were unsure if her husband was home. All I could think about was the barn fire I had witnessed as a child. In the country, obtaining water is often difficult and pumpers usually have to haul it to the location of the fire. In addition, volunteer fire departments can be at some distance from the farms. Barns are filled with highly flammable hay and straw and when animals are involved the consequences are horrifying.

I was worried about her daughter, because I knew that when I was 17, I would go into the fire to try to save the animals with no thought to any personal danger. We prayed. We were subdued. We waited. At about 2:00, Debbie called us. One third of the barn had burned, and they only lost one piglet. None of the other animals were injured. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Debbie then said "Tell Lisa that we now have six piglets staying in the bathtub." Because the temperatures were about freezing, they piglets had to be kept warm somehow. Debbie's solution was to take them inside and keep them in the bathtub.

I was worn out and said to one of the women, "Now piglets in a bathtub. That needs to have an art quilt." I then went to bed. At about 4:30, I awakened and heard the sound of a sewing machine running like crazy. I wondered about it, but went back to sleep. When I finally got up, I discovered that a group of these talented ladies had made Debbie a special quilt to remember this all by.
Here is the new little wall-hanging of the piggies in the tub. We goofed and put one too many in, so I put a halo around it which you can't see here. The curtain is actually a loose piece of fabric which sways out.

What's on the shelf?





But of course! Hog wash!



Several of the ladies stayed up all night to finish this in the hope that Debbie would come back to pick up her things. She didn't and so we are going to give her her present at our next meeting.








Here's Deb Neff who spearheaded it and stayed up the entire night. Never ever sit down and fall asleep in a chair when you are at a quilting retreat as you just might end up decorated.

Even if one has a "hobby farm", the loss of a barn and its contents sets one back quite a bit. Debbie had to find temporary homes for the livestock she couldn't squeeze in her other outbuildings. Rebuilding will take some time. We hope that maybe this fun little quilt will help take the sting out.

3 comments:

Vivien said...

Glad to hear Debbie's okay and that some portion of the farm can be saved. What a great quiltlet for her -- I especially love the hog wash. That kind of fun comes out best in the wee hours.

Your two pieces look lovely. Please post close ups!

Shady Character said...

What a story. What an expression of love and support!

Farm boy that I am there was always the spectre of barn fires hanging around when I was a kid. Mostly it was in high summer when if you put up the hay too wet it would spontaneously combust. I remember my father pointing out burned barns when we'd drive to wherever and the sound of sirens in country usually meant one of two things--a fire or a PTO accident.

Anyway, the pigs in the tub are adorable and "Hog Wash" is inspired. Clearly the Batty Binders are a force to be admired.

Michigoose said...

Vivien...I just got back from my friend's house longarming the turning twenty...I did what I think is a horrendous job overall, but it IS done and it is a good first time...I keep on saying "this is a working quilt this is a working quilt..." no doubt it will be dragged from hither to yon and be abused, so it's ok...it's from me.

Shady: You are SOOOOO right. My first thought was heat lamps for the lambs and piglets at this time of year...lightning strikes were another biggie. Most of the people in my neck of the woods never had the spontaneous combustion from the hay...they were very careful about that...

Yeah...PTO accidents are the worst. I had a friend who lost her mother at age 2 from an augur/PTO incident. Another lost her mother to a tricycle geared tractor (Farmall) which rolled over on her...It's not for nothing that farming is labeled one of the most dangerous occupations.