Valley Grove Tapestries: Tapestry 2, Chicken 1

I have almost reached the point of weaving the Ladies Aid woman in the Stone Church Tapestry. Her figure celebrates the group that was instrumental in saving the stone church for a community hall after the newer wooden church was build in the 1890s.

When discussing which animals have relevance for the tapestries, Valley Grove Preservation Society member Marlene Halvorsen mentioned chickens. It was common for women in the Valley Grove countryside to raise chickens and sell their eggs and meat locally and in the Twin Cities. “These were chickens that were still capable of reproducing themselves and useful to a self-sufficient farmstead, being suitable for producing eggs and offspring that could be eaten,” Marlene noted. It might have been this “egg money” that the Ladies Aid women used to finance the remodeling and maintenance of the stone church.

This is the first of three chickens that will grace the Stone Church Tapestry.

As an aside, I want to mention that this tapestry commission has personal meaning, and maybe this current one especially. I grew up in the Norwegian-American community of Bygland, Minnesota (south of East Grand Forks). I feel like I know the women of the Ladies Aid, and these Norwegian immigrant families.

My Norwegian-American grandmother Eleanor was a lifelong Ladies Aid member. She was strong and entrepreneurial–and had chickens! My mother, who is 91, jotted down some chicken memories a few years ago.

Mom always had a couple of hundred chickens.  She ordered them and they came all cute and little and she kept them in a small house. They had to be carefully watched and the building was heated.  She had only leghorns, no fancy kinds. When they were big enough they were transferred to the chicken  house. I don’t remember feeding them but I certainly do remember picking the eggs. I hated it because they pecked your hands when you reached in.  On Fridays she killed a number of chickens, maybe ten or so. She chopped off their heads and they would continue running around headless. Not a good memory. Then she brought them down in the basement and dipped them in boiling water so we could take the feathers off.  She would gut them and they were ready to take to town, along with the eggs, on Saturday mornings. I remember sleeping in the back seat during this. I could tell what part of town we were in without looking outside I became so used to the route. She delivered to private homes, the nursing home, and some stores as well. She earned enough money to redo the kitchen, I remember it to be about $5000. 

My grandmother Eleanor’s chicken coop, with my sister Terry in front (circa 1958).

There were no chickens around when I grew up. When my mother married my father and moved to his farm, she had one rule for her new role as a farm wife–no chickens!

One comment

  1. It’s a great chicken! I’ve very much enjoyed following this project for the design and weaving possibilities, but also because my ancestors emigrated from Sweden, settled in rural PA and we’re very connected to their church.

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