Homestead | bringing home the winter hay | Norway

On the historical Norwegian farm, winter feed for the domesticated animals was a precious resource. Sometimes it was harvested and temporarily stored far away from the farm.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
Bringing home the winter hay. | Photo: Anno Domkirkeodden cc pdm.
Bringing home the winter hay. | Photo: Unknown - Domkirkeodden cc pdm.

In some parts of Norway, you find 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 and is far more complex. There were often small farm units scattered across mountainous regions, and along steep fjord edges. In many places, 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 stone, and otherwise improved the soil quality.

Read also: Norwegian food history | milk from the domesticated animals

The livestock

The earliest livestock fended for themselves outdoors – both summer and winter – finding their food like any wild animal. However, as the millennia passed, they became more and more dependent on their human masters.

The Norwegian winter is usually long, cold, and dark. At some point, the farmers started building animal sheds as protection against both frost and predators.

In parts of the country, the indoor season lasted from late September until late May. Sometimes even longer.

Bringing the hay home

The farmer had to secure enough animal fodder for the winter – by utilising 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 or in haystacks.

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 sleigh on the snow.

In the main photo above, we see a moment of everyday history, where four life-giving loads of hay have been brought safely back home, from the outfields to the home barn. The photo is taken at the Skaug farm, in Brøttum, Ringsaker, Hedmark.

Bringing home the winter hay. Taken at the summer pasture location of the Freng farm - at Sjusjøen, Ringsaker, Hedmark, Norway. | Photo: Unknown domkirkeodden - digitaltmuseum.no 0412-02327 - public domain.
Bringing home the winter hay. Taken at the summer pasture location of the Freng farm – at Sjusjøen, Ringsaker, Hedmark, Norway. | Photo: Unknown – Domkirkeodden cc pdm.

Read also: Norwegian railway history | the pioneer era 1851-1868 | Norway

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