Homestead | the old farm and the hour of twilight | Norway

The hour of twilight is when the daylight starts to disappear – before it is completely dark. In the old Norwegian farming society, this was a time for rest.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
Kjellebergstua from Valle in Setesdal. King Oscar II's collection, Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo. | Photo: Axel Lindahl - Norsk Folkemuseum - Public domain.
Kjellebergstua from Valle in Setesdal. King Oscar II's collection, Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo. | Photo: Axel Lindahl - Norsk Folkemuseum - Public domain.

Mother Nature

The old Norwegians followed the rhythm of the day, they adapted to the landscape they lived in and the changing of the seasons. The daylight and the weather were natural restrictions – and the people had no option but to obey. There was a time for work – and a time for rest.

The old house

All through the Middle Ages – and in certain parts of Norway well into the 1700s – the typical farmhouse was a single-storey log building with no windows – a so-called årestue – with just an open fireplace in the centre of the room. There was an earthen or stone floor, and the smoke from the fire would gather in the upper part of the room, before escaping through a vent in the roof – a ljore. The only natural light came through the smoke vent, which in earlier times consisted of a transparent cow’s stomach stretched over a wooden frame – or through the entrance door. Many of the emigrants from Norway to America knew such buildings.

The hour of twilight

During winter, when the daylight disappeared early, people finished their outdoor chores and headed for the warmth of the fireplace. In the light of the fire, they had something to eat and rested for a while before the lamp was lit. For many, this twilight hour was the part of the day that later in life evoked happy childhood memories: maybe the sight of a dear mother darning an old sock in front of the fire – or the sound of the peaceful breathing of a father resting in his bed. In the hour of twilight, there was peace and quiet; no lamp was lit until it was almost entirely dark.

Kjellebergstua from Valle in Setesdal. King Oscar II’s collection, Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo. | Photo: Axel Lindahl – Norsk Folkemuseum – Public domain.

Evening chores

Later, when the lamp was burning, the people started their various evening chores and activities. Father mended a shoe, made a wooden rake or rubbed the horse’s harness with grease. Mother sat with her spinning wheel, turning wool into yarn. Often, she did this during the autumn. After Christmas, she used the thread to weave the cloth needed for the family’s clothing. The old farm and the family living there was a self-sufficient entity. All from the beginning of time – up until not so long ago – this was how the Norwegians lived their lives.

Drawing of Kjellebergstua from Valle in Setesdal. King Oscar II’s collection, Norsk Folkemuseum, Oslo. | Photo: Norsk Folkemuseum – A. Eggen, 1961 – CC BY-SA.

Recommended read: The Norwegian horse and its history

Main source: «Den norske byggeskikken» by Arne Lie Christensen – Pax Forlag AS 1995

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

After a troubled ten-year courtship, the current King Harald V of Norway finally got to marry his Miss Sonja Haraldsen on the 29th of August 1968.
With the birth of the new Norwegian national state in 1814, came big ideas. And one of them was to establish better transportation systems.
Are you hailing from Sykkylven in Møre og Romsdal, Norway? Well, then you might be related to the great film and television icon that was James Arness.
Bondegård is a Norwegian noun that means farm. In informal speech and in many dialects, people only use the single word gård or gard.
Budrått is a Norwegian noun that means the output of milk products on a farm - such as cheese and butter. The word is often associated with what was produced during the summer on the seasonal mountain or forest pasture farm - the seter.
Our foremothers were hardworking and inventive. Here you can read more about how the laundry was done on a Norwegian mountain farm in the late 1800s.
The first Norwegian Buhund breed-standard came in 1926, based on a dog that had evolved, lived, and worked with the Norwegians since time immemorial.
At Easter in 1906, renowned Norwegian photographer Anders Beer Wilse took this series of photos on a trip with a group of friends.
Queen Maud of Norway was born in London in 1869, as Princess Maud of Wales. Her grandmother was none other than the formidable Queen Victoria.
In olden Norway, the farm-animals were sent off to the mountains and forests all summer. With them came a herder to guard them, and a maid to turn their milk into cheese and butter.
With a growing population and public sector, Norway pushed through significant reforms in several areas: public structure and organisation, welfare, health care, tax, policing, public services, and more.
From the early 1800s and well into the 1900s, Norway was a significant exporter of natural ice. But how did they prevent the ice from melting?
This is our second video-slideshow with vintage photos of the Norwegian farm horse. Enjoy!
The Heddal stave church - stavkirke - is Norway's largest remaining building of its kind. It is a woodwork masterpiece, with a history that stretches back more than 800 years.
With this old photograph in my hand I have set myself a task: how much information can I find in Norwegian online archives based on what the photo tells me?
A photo is a snapshot of history - and a story and a history lesson in itself.
During the AD 1970s, both an increased female participation in the labour market, and the green movement, were causes firmly added to the agenda. There was a heightened focus on maternity leave, access to kindergarten, and maternity benefits.
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.
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!
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 this selection of beautiful hand-coloured lantern slides from around 1900, we visit the city of Bergen - and other west coast destinations. Enjoy!

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history