In some parts of Norway, you find undulating and relatively flat landscapes. Here, the historical farmland was easier to clear and cultivate. The climate was well-suited for crops meant for both human and animal consumption.
However, in the larger portion of the country, the reality was far more complex. You would find small farm units scattered across mountainous regions and along steep fjord edges. With a climate significantly more demanding.
Throughout the centuries, women and men cleared new land and settled in these less hospitable locations. With boundless energy, they cut down trees, built their houses, removed tons of rock, and otherwise improved soil quality.
Originally, the livestock fended for themselves outdoors – both summer and winter – finding their food like any wild animal. However, as the millennia passed, they became increasingly dependent on their human masters.
The Norwegian winter can be long, cold, and dark. The farmers started building animal sheds as a protection against both frost and predators.
In parts of the country, the indoor season lasted from late September until late May.
Bringing the hay home
The farmer had to secure animal fodder for the duration – and utilise all available resources.
Dried grass – or hay – was the main feed – gathered from natural and man-made meadows in the surrounding landscape. It was cut and dried during the summer – and usually stored temporarily on location – in small and simple outbuildings.
The reason for this temporary storage could be the distance back to the home farm – and difficult terrain in between.
There were hardly any roads to speak of, and it was easier to transport the hay using a horse and a sledge on the snow. However, the journey had to be done before the snow got too deep. Otherwise, it would become a difficult task.
In the main article photo we see a moment of everyday history, where four life-giving loads of hay have been brought safely back to the home farm from the summer pasture location of Åstadalen. The photo is taken at the Skaug farm, in Brøttum, Ringsaker, Hedmark.
Read more about Norwegian history in Norwegian food history | milk from the domesticated animals