Norway - Young farmers of the Nordfjord country
( Originally Published 1907 )
It is nearly eight o'clock in the evening, and cloudy besides, which accounts for the somewhat poor light.
The young man with the short, many-buttoned coat, and the sheath-knife tucked in his belt, is Thor Eide, an excellent guide and a capital fellow for a companion on a hand tramp. The girl is his sister, and this is the house where they live.
Standing close by the sod roof, as we do now, we can plainly see the edges of the big sheets of birch bark that form the lining of the roof, next to the boarded rafters. That tall pole is for the display of a signal flag to certain boats on the lake below. Thor Eide is one of the best-known guides in this vicinity, and is kept busy with strangers during the tourist season, but he works on the little home farm at other times of year.
Those low wooden wheels with the skeleton plat-form attached, constitute a hay-cart. A considerable load of hay or grain can be transported with its help from a field to the barn. The tall, slender stacks are grain, drying according to local methods. After being cut with a sickle, the grain is gathered up and tied in bunches, then the bunches are impaled one after another on tall stakes—one such stake down there on the slope between us and the water has not yet received its full quota to hold for the drying. Beyond the grain stacks we can see one of the long, fence-like hay-driers.
The house is just an average country cottage for this district ; you see it is built of heavy planks, not simply logs. The big cracks are protected on the in-side with a board sheathing, so that everything is snug and warm in winter. The house consists of a small entry-passage, two fair-sized rooms, and a loft above, the steep, sloping hillside allowing space for a sort of basement at the farther end, below the living room, for doing the heavier work, washing, and the like. The greater part of the furniture is home-made, out of pine and spruce wood. The beds are box-shaped affairs, somewhat shorter than an English or American bed, two sides being practically part of the wall of the room, and the other two sides supported by a post set in the floor. (Some houses have a cupboard or wardrobe closet built to fill in the space between two beds, which then practically occupy alcoves in the room.) Benches, chairs and tables are usually of unpainted wood. Sometimes a table is fastened by a hinge to the wall and supported when in use by one or two braces. If not needed, the braces are taken out and the table folds down flat against the wall, out of the way. The cooking is done in kettles hung over an open fire, or on plates of sheet-iron set over beds of glowing coals.
In old times housekeepers used to strew the floor of a clean-swept room with finely broken twigs of juniper, but that custom is now nearly obsolete.
Most of the clothing worn by the young people is home-made ; only Thor's cloth cap, and silk neck hand-kerchief, and the stout shoes worn by both were bought for money. This is the young girl's Sunday gown ; the gay brooch with its dangling pendant, the bright embroidered bodice and that elaborately trimmed apron are details of costume which she might consider extravagant while about her housework, though the general style of her dress would always be pretty nearly what it is now.
These particular young people do, of course, make friends among the summer tourists who come to see the region round about. Except for that, it would be a life with only a small circle of acquaintances and very little variety. Farmers hereabouts seldom have large families, and, small as the farms are, the work is so exacting that no large margin of time remains for visiting and holiday making. On the whole it would seem as if youthful spirits had not much to feed on in the way of social pleasures, yet people do seem to enjoy life and get a good deal of satisfaction out of the process of living. One of the best means of understanding how life looks from the standpoint of such young people, is, doubtless, to read Norse stories by Norse writers. A good many stories of country life are accessible in English, and it is doubly interesting to read them after one has seen the country as we are seeing it now.
Would you like to see where Thor Eide sharpens his haying tools and that sheath knife at his belt? That we can do at a spot only a short distance from a neighbor's house. (See 65 on the map.)