From a farm from the Middle Age to a manor house – agriculture now and then

Stokke Nedre was for the first time mentioned in writing in 1364, but the farm is significantly older than that. In Norway, the period of time following the year of 1350 is considered as the late Middle Age, and the plagues kept on ravaging until 1660. The population decreased drastically, but the farmers that survived the epidemics where in many ways met with better conditions when the plagues were finally over. Due to the many deaths, there was plenty of land to take, and the tax to the king, the church and the landowners sunk significantly. The norm in the society was being self-sufficient, and one did not cultivate more than one needed in order to survive.
The horse had a pivotal significance for the cultivation of the soil at Stokke Nedre until the first tractor, a Case 1929 model with iron wheels, was bought in 1935. The tractor with its tools is still standing in the barn. This was a huge step forward for cultivating the land as it took over for the horses tasks.
Nicolai Forseth bought the bankruptcy estate Stokke Nedre in 1866. The farm had at the time 58 decares cultivated land, 106 decares pasture and 59 decares of swath. Thanks to his and his sons enterprising, the area of cultivated land had in 1920 increased to 156 decares. He also brought out a significant amount of timber from his 1200 decares of forest. By the end of the 1800s, Nicolai Forseth constructed his own dairy at the farm. The cattle produced milk, that later turned into cream, butter and cheese.
Throughout the times, there have been both good and bad times at the farm. In 1669, it was written that the soil of Stokke Nedre was hard to cultivate and generated small amounts of grain. Martha Stensrud was worked as a milkmaid at the farm until 1951. She has explained that drought often caused poor and reduced crops. The year of 1947 is described as the “great year year of drought” in the history of Norwegian agriculture. The expression “drought nerves” demonstrates the psychological impact the farmer experienced, as he in vain walks and waits for the rain.
Nicolai Forseth cultivated linen, hemp, barley, rye, mixed grains, peas, potatoes as well as fields of clover and timothy. He had horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. These animals were a part of the farm until 1975, from where the farm mainly operated with cultivating grains.
Stokke Nedre today
Today, the farm consists of 191 decares of cropland and 1400 decares of forest.
The farmer has, as always, to rely on weather conditions from spring to the time of harvest. With the irrigation system and the irrigation trolley, that can be dragged out on the fields, the consequences of dry summers are to an extent reduced, but the crops will nevertheless be reduced. Some of our fields are cultivated ecologically, whereas some are cultivated conventionally.
There are few animals left at the farm. The guests can have a good time with the frisky and curious goat kids, as well as the kind and cuddly lambs. The hens provide fresh eggs for breakfast. The hosts find it crucial to be able to offer local food of great quality that has not been exposed transportation. Hence, organic vegetables, fruits and berries are cultivated in our fields and are used when serving meals.

Martha Stensrud tells us from her time as a milkmaid at the farm:

«Following dry summers, the amount of food could be insufficient to last the whole winter, and we looked forward to the first opportunity to let the animals out for pasture.

One year, spring came late, and we had to take off straw that we used for isolation in the roof of the barn. The straw was mixed with syrup that came in barrels. This combination kept the animals alive until the snow melted and the pasture became green again”.

The good life in the country side

Before the time of the tractors, workers in the old farming communities had long breaks due to the fact that the horses had to rest as well.

As the bell rang to signalise that meals were ready, the workers came to a set table and traditional home cooked food. After the meal, they usually took a nap while the women made them coffee before they went out to work more in the fields.

It was hard work from the morning to the evening.

In 1809, the infant mortality rate in Norway was close to 40% of all babies born alive.

The country side had access to better nutrition comparing to the cities, and the same applied to hygiene and living conditions.

Maybe the long work days at the farm were worth it after all?

Did you know that…

”Sveiser” is an old expression for a male cattleman. The first cattlemen came to Norway from Switzerland during the 1800s. Their job was to take care of cattle and other farm animals, and to make the most out of the milk by conserving it in the best possible way. They did this by making cheese and butter, as well as producing other dairy products.