Myrmelk | means milk buried in a peat bog in Norwegian | Norway

Myrmelk is a Norwegian noun that means milk conserved in a container buried in a mountain peat bog, left there for herders or others to drink at a later stage.
A wooden milk-container that could be buried in the peat bog. From Olen, Alvdal, Hedmark, Norway. l Photo: Emir Curt - Anno Glomdalsmuseet cc by-sa.
By LA Dahlmann

Pronunciation

Myrmelk

The grammar

A compound word made up of: myr + melk | noun | can be both masculine and feminine | the indefinite form: en myrmelk – or ei myrmelk (a myrmelk) | the definite form: myrmelken – or – myrmelka (the myrmelk).

In some dialects, milk is mjølk rather than melk.

What does the word mean?

Myr: means a peat bog or wetland.
Melk: means milk, in this context milk from the cow or the goat.
Myrmelk: means milk stored in a container buried in a peat bog for conservation.

More on the historical context

Off to the mountains

In the olden Norway, the farm-animals were sent away from the home farm every summer, to graze in the mountains and the forests.

The seasonal summer pasture farm

At the seasonal summer pasture farm – the seter, there was a simple shed for the animals and a simple cabin for the milkmaid and the young herder girl or boy.

Often far away

The summer pastures were often far away from the home farm, sometimes a day’s walk and more.

Milking twice a day

Throughout the summer months, the milkmaid milked the cows and the goats every morning and early evening. During the day, the herder took the animals out to roam and feed in the surrounding landscape. The milkmaid spent her daytime making cheese, butter, and other products from the milk.

Placing milk in the peat bog

Before returning to the home farm with the animals in the autumn, the milkmaid sometimes collected milk in wooden containers and buried them in a nearby peat bog. If she buried them deep enough, the milk would not freeze when the temperature dropped below zero. The lack of oxygen in the bog kept the milk fresh. Due to the oxygen-free conditions, the milk could be stored for months, even years.

Extra provisions for the traveller

She left the milk there as provisions for hunters or other travellers who visited the location later in the year or in the following spring. With milk available on site, the travellers needed less food in their rucksack. The milk together with some flour or grain made a filling porridge.

Glass bottles

In more recent times, people used glass bottles rather than the old wooden containers.

Sources: Nasjonalbiblioteket nb.no | Einar Haugen’s Norwegian-English dictionary | Det Norske Akademis ordbok | Bokmålsordboka and Nynorskordboka.