Robbie LaFleur, 2022
The tapestry oak tree spreads its branches wide, a symbol of continuity and history. When a storm swept the Valley Grove grounds on September 20, 2018, it took down a magnificent bur oak that had shaded congregation members since 1862. The great oak might have been there for a hundred years when the first church was built–perhaps the stonemasons relaxed under its branches during their breaks.
The Valley Grove Preservation Society is nurturing oak trees in 50 acres of oak savanna prairie. With restoration, the land beside the churches resembles the landscape that greeted the immigrants who built the stone church.
Historical Norwegian tapestries often included borders with animals and birds. This new tapestry border includes wild and domestic animals well-known to residents around Valley Grove.
Pocket gophers are important to the prairie landscape. When they dig tunnel homes, they work the soil. Gopher mounds provided a receptive surface for perpetuating the prairies. (Read also: “Valley Grove tapestries: Pocket Gopher.”)
The Norwegian immigrants settling around Valley Grove Church would have recognized the badger; the European badger found in Norway is very similar.
Coyotes are also known as brush wolves. Their numbers also dwindled in the last part of the 19th century, but have been increasing recent decades. (Read more about badgers and coyotes in “Valley Grove Tapestry: Badger, Coyote, Poland China Pig.”)
The first Norwegian immigrants might have enjoyed the antics of river otters. Otters were hunted for their fur until they disappeared from the area. With help of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, they are returning to the streams of southern Minnesota.
White-tailed deer were also hunted out of the area by the late 1800s. Through the passage of game laws and effective natural resources management in the 1900s, deer returned to Minnesota and the Valley Grove area.
The Norwegian pioneers would have seen jackrabbits frequently on the oak savanna, but with the conversion of prairie to farm fields, it is unusual to see the high-hopping rabbit today. The Norwegian settlers would have seen foxes leaping, too, up to 15 feet in a single bound (Read more about the fix and jackrabbit images in “Valley Grove Tapestries: Working on Animals.”)
Beavers (the largest North American rodent) were common in the streams of the Valley Grove area.
More blog posts on the Oak Tree Tapestry
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