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Notes on the Geography of Norway: Indre Sogn: Photo 21

world pictures Norway: Indre Sogn

Here's a farmstead or cotter's farm in situ. It's the Galdane croft, finally abandoned in 1947, though maintained now as an example of its rugged type, with terraced (and even irrigated) potato fields, pollarded trees, hay-meadows, birch groves, and buildings. The buildings, of pine on stone foundations, include a house of 300 square feet that at times in the 19th century was home for a dozen people. There are also two barns, a goat shed, a smithy, and (on the left) a cowshed from 1814. It's the oldest building of the group.

The croft covered 27 hectares, but most of it was forest, rock, and scree: a mere half hectare was cultivated. Worse, the residents did not own the farm; they rented it from the owners of the Ovre Ljosne farm, six kilometers downstream. In exchange they owed the farm owners a week's labor in spring and another in fall.

Records indicate that in 1865 7 people lived here with 5 cows, 14 sheep, and 10 goats. Hay was the chief crop, but the family sowed 150 kilograms of grain and planted 300 kilograms of potatoes. Because the soil was porous and a rain shadow reduced precipitation here to 400 millimeters annually, the potatoes had to be irrigated. For that purpose, a channel from the nearby Sokni River was cut in bare rock. Because the soil was thin, additional soil was imported and placed on fields terraced to keep the soil from eroding. In summer the livestock were driven for 8 to 10 hours to "summer farms" partly to produce butter but also to keep the animals from the grain and potato fields. To keep the animals fed in winter, trees were pollarded; in addition, weeks were spent in August and September collecting branches. The family also fished for salmon and trout. Still, it was no picnic, and emigration to North America began late in the 18th century. (See"Galdane, Laerdal, Western Norway-Management and Restoration of the Cultural Landscape" by Leif Hauge, in Hilary H. Birks et al The Cultural Landscape--Past, Present, and Future (Cambridge, 1988).)

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