Immigrant Pastor and 13-Lined Ground Squirrel

I always warp my small copper pipe loom for a tapestry when I travel. We were in Maine in September, at a family home of my husband’s–isolation with a different landscape.My travel tapestry this time was part of my continuing fascination with abstracted tapestry faces. It also celebrates a balmy evening in August when I visited two country churches on the National Register of Historic Places near Faribault, Minnesota. Along with a cemetery and 50 acres of surrounding land, they are maintained by the Valley Grove Preservation Society. Board member Gary Wagenbach told me the churches are on the highest point between Minneapolis and Chicago.



The smaller stone church was built in 1862 by Norwegian settlers, and the larger one in 1894. I especially liked the spare space in small stone church. All the restoration work has been impeccably executed. The views from each window were gorgeous.

Photo from the MN Department of Natural Resources website

Talking outside the stone church, I saw a charming 13-lined ground squirrel! Information I found online claims they are found all over the state, but I swear I didn’t see them in northern Minnesota on the farm–not the pretty striped ones.


In the entry of the larger church there was a composite photograph of pastors; stern-looking, bearded men. I snapped a photo, randomly, of one of the gray-haired clergy. In my small tapestry, I experimented with abstracting his face. The eyes worked well; The mouth and nose, not so much.

Several of the settlers around Valley Grove Church were from the Hallingdal region of Norway, which led me to review some old tapestries from that area.

A tapestry from Hallingdal in the collection of the Norse Folkemuseum. See details here:

The Norwegians were fond of filling in all the background areas of the old tapestries. Diamonds, and diamonds within diamonds, are often found, so I added one to the small pastor tapestry. In this one I noticed a few small flame-like motifs I haven’t used before. I added a couple. The v-shaped border on one side of the small tapestry mimics an inner border on the Hallingdal piece. The stylized plants in the small tapestry are typically Norwegian, and a nod to the beautiful setting of the old Minnesota churches.

In the end, I was pleased with my pastor’s abstracted face, and I have a physical memory of a lovely trip to Maine and to the Valley Grove churches.

And RBG too! Thank you and rest in peace.





  1. Robbie, I am very familiar with the 13 lined ground squirrel . I have two of them who live in a wall next to my house in Roseville. They come out every morning to clean up after the birds. They are not afraid of humans. Sometimes they get locked in the garage and what a mess they make. I named the friendlier of the two “Hadley” after an old friend from North Dakota. Thanks for your good work. Corky

  2. Looking at those bucolic country churches reminded me of my father’s congregations and churches in southern MN when I was a young girl. People would oftentimes pay him for the work he did for them that went beyond the Sunday services, with produce from their farm or fresh eggs or chickens to put in our freezer. Simpler times, less politics. But I must say that my father did not look as stoic or stern as that pastor in the photo!