Homestead | how machinery changed the look of the farm | Norway

When the industrial revolution brought machinery to the Norwegian farms, it didn't just change the old working methods, it also changed the layout and look of the farmland.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
The summer pasture farm of Fagerliseter, located in Nordmarka, Ringerike, Buskerud, Norway. Photo taken in 1928. | Photo: Anders Beer Wilse - Oslo Museum cc pdm.
The summer pasture farm of Fagerliseter, located in Nordmarka, Ringerike, Buskerud, Norway. Photo taken in 1928. | Photo: Anders Beer Wilse - Oslo Museum cc pdm.

A patchwork of fields

When we travel through Norway’s agricultural landscape today, we often see large, undulating fields, with well-sifted soil. What most of us do not realise, is that before the industrial revolution, the view was very different. In many regions, the typical farm consisted of a jigsaw of smaller patches, often with large boulders scattered around, embedded in the soil.

Debris from the ice-age-glaciers

Most of the Norwegian landscape is covered by tons and tons of boulders, stones, pebbles, and sand. This is debris once dropped by the thawing ice-age-glaciers. In some places, the debris is still visible on the surface, or it is mixed in with the soil. And every winter, the frost pushes what seems to be an endless underground supply of stones to the surface, even in fields that have been cultivated and cleared for centuries.

They planted around the boulders

The historical farmers did not have the tools nor the power to remove the largest boulders from their fields. So, they simply planted around them. In fact, it is said that the large stones were a significant benefit. They absorbed the heat from the sun during the day, and kept the plants warm at night.

Let us use the above photo as an illustration

The main photo above is from a forest-summer-pasture-farm in 1928. But let us use it as an illustration of what an early Norwegian farm might have looked like. The houses will have changed over the millennia – and instead of grass, pretend that there is Stone-age-wheat or -barley.

As late as in the early 1900s

On some smaller and self-sufficient farms, you could find fields looking like this as late as in the early 1900s. Fields that had fed generation after generation.

The industrial revolution changed everything

A bit simplified, we can say that the industrial revolution came in two major waves in Norwegian agriculture. The 1800s and the early 1900s brought new and sophisticated horse-drawn farm-machinery. To be effective, the new tools required larger and more levelled-out-soil-surfaces. The farmers worked hard to merge smaller patches – and to get rid of boulders and other debris. With the invention of dynamite in the 1860s, they had yet another tool at their disposal.

A second wave – with powerful tractors and bulldozers

The second wave of development came after World War II. The tractor rapidly outperformed the workhorse, and powerful bulldozers reshaped the landscape to make it more efficient. Improved field-drainage-methods were also implemented, and made more land suitable for cultivation.

Look for old forgotten fields

In museums, we find old buildings and tools. And in the libraries, we can read books about the old world. But the layout of the old farmland is more difficult to see and get a feel for today. When you are next out walking in a rural landscape, look for clues. Maybe you will see traces of old fields that are long since deserted; evidence of activity that stretches far back in time.

Suggested next read:
Skibladner | Norway’s oldest paddle steamer still in service

or:
Oslo | is the capital city of Norway

or:
Facts | the second longest coastline in the world | Norway

Main source: «Vår gamle bondekultur» by Kristoffer Visted and Hilmar Stigum – J.W. Cappelens Forlag AS 1975.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

Do you have trouble sleeping? Here are some examples of how the old Norwegians used Mother Nature’s very own remedies to cure their ailments.
The horse no longer roams wild in the Norwegian landscape. But it still has an important place in the Norwegian psyche.
With the Bronze age came a new and important phase in human history and development: mankind learned how to make tools and other objects from a metal they called bronze.
Like all buildings on the old Norwegian farm, the stabbur had a clear purpose: it was a building designed for the storage of food.
On 9 April 1940, German forces attacked Norway in the early hours of the morning. The Norwegian armed forces attempted to stave off the attack, but they were in no way prepared for this monumental task.
The old Norwegian farming society was a self-sufficient and balanced world. Coins and notes were all but an alien concept.
In Norway, the pizza appeared as an exotic newcomer in the 1970s. But bread topped with foodstuffs is nothing new in Norwegian food history.
Kløvhest is a Norwegian noun that means packhorse. Well into our own time, the Norwegians used horses to help transport goods through a challenging landscape.
When humankind first appeared in the Norwegian landscape – sometime after the last ice age – the search for food was their primary motivation.
Oslo is the capital city of Norway. It was founded in AD 1048 by the Viking king Harald Hardråde. Historically, the city is also known as Christiania or Kristiania.
Are you looking for a Norwegian-to-English dictionary that includes old-fashioned words and dialect words? Then Einar Haugen’s book is your best pick.
In 1997, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway came to the Norwegian Sami Assembly with an essential and overdue apology.
Magne Løvstuen and his family adopted this moose calf after saving it from drowning in Lake Mjøsa.
Watch some lovely vintage photos of mankinds's many good friends.
In this video-collection of historical photos, we reminisce about the dairy cow on the old Norwegian farm. We recommend that you watch with the sound on. Enjoy!
Some claim that porridge is the oldest hot dish in the Norwegian diet. Was it to our ancestors what bread is to the modern family of today?
The first half of the 1900s came with a momentous change to Norwegian society. The old ways of the ancient hunting and farming culture were rapidly dying.
Uekte and ekte are Norwegian adjectives that in one context means illegitimate and legitimate - as in a child born outside or inside a marriage.
When I was a boy, it was the workhorse that pulled the heaviest weight in agricultural life. And this had been the reality for as long as anyone could remember.
The oldest wooden buildings in Norway are almost 1000 years old - like Urnes stave church in Luster. How come these buildings do not rot away and disappear?
After the end of World War 2, the Norwegians all took part in lifting their country well and truly into the 20th century.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history