Norway - Pretty Norwegian girls tending cows and goats
( Originally Published 1907 )
Direction—We are facing northeast. For seventy miles or so beyond that bleak horizon line there are no farms, only desolate heaths and silent lakes, where fish and wild fowl and wandering herds of reindeer have things pretty much their own way. Surroundings—Immediately around us are pasture lands where other cows and goats are nibbling the short grass.
These girls live at Roldal, several miles away down the mountain ; we shall presently see the village from which they came. According to the universal custom in this part of Norway, they have come up here to spend the better part of the summer, taking care of the cows and goats and making up butter and cheese on the spot, in order to leave untouched all the available grass in fields near home. The winter lasts so long that farmers have to plan with the wisest foresight and thrift, in order to provide enough fodder for the live stock. Perhaps these women-folks may take turns going down home now and then for a brief holiday, but oftener they stay several weeks at a stretch, and friends come up on Sunday for a neighborly visit.
The rude stone hut at the left is a storehouse where butter and cheese are kept until it is time to go down home at the end of the season. In old times such a cabin served as a temporary home also, but these are prosperous people, and that little timber cottage now comprises lodgings and dairy. Every-thing is bare and plain to the last degree, but scrupulously clean according to farmhouse standards. There is a stone hearth on which a roaring fire can be built for scalding these milk-buckets, for cooking oatmeal porridge, or for keeping the place cosy through a hard storm. The bedsteads are bunks built into the side of the room and furnished with beds of hay or straw.
Norwegian people are famous for their hospitality, and never more so than at a place like this. Over and over again travelers have told about the kindly reception given to strangers who came tired and hungry. The baggage brought up from home weeks ago included plenty of fladbrod (bread of oats and barley in thin cakes), bacon and coffee; milk, butter and cheese are naturally plentiful. The work is con-fining, for the cows and goats must always be watched to prevent their wandering off into dangerous places, and the labor of milking is itself no small matter, preliminary to churning and cheese-making; however, these young women have probably brought knitting or embroidery with them to fill available scraps of time. The animals are called together at night by yodeling somewhat as Swiss cowherds do it, and by blowing on long horns made of birch bark. One such yodel has been put into English in this wise :-
"Come children all
A walled yard or corral is set off close by the house, in which the animals are shut up over night.
Du Chaillu, the author of the Land of the Midnight Sun, gives a pleasant account of his own visit to a saeter like this years ago, and the generous kindness with which he was treated. Norse writers of country stories almost always tell more or less about life at a place of this sort ; it is a nearly universal experience of farmers' daughters, for even those who are so well-to-do that they are not obliged to share in the work like the "picnic" part of it, and often join the others for the fun. Bjornson's Synnove Solbakken has an interesting chapter where Synnove and Ingrid come up to a place like this. Boyesen's Gunnar gives a charmingly poetic account of the long climb up to Ingeborg Rimul's saeter, of the work and the strange fascination of out-of-door life so far up on the heights.
Mrs. Tweedie, who wrote A Winter Jaunt in Nor-way, had a desire to see what such a place would seem like in the dead of winter, and persuaded some obliging Norse friends to get up a cold-weather picnic for her benefit in a saeter farther east in this same province. The experience is worth reading.
Leaving the saeter girls at their work you go on now down the road which they too will travel at the end of the summer, with the cows and goats and the accumulated stock of dairy stuff. In three-quarters of an hour or so you reach a turn of the road where every traveler pauses to look off. Find the place on Map 5. It is marked 31, and the red lines, as we see, indicate an outlook of several miles, including part of a distant lake.