Practical farming in Norway in 1815 | The month of March

If the weather has been mild in the days leading up to the old Catholic Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, then be sure that the frost will return.
A winter-sledge decorated by Peder Pedersen Aadnes. | Frode Larsen - Nasjonalmuseet - nasjonalmuseet.no - CC BY.

Lorentz Diderich Klüwer: In 1815, Norwegian farmer and army officer Lorentz Diderich Klüwer published a pamphlet on practical farming. In this post, we retell some of his farming advice for the month of March. | Klüwer lived in Verdal, in the region of Trøndelag, and his teachings may be influenced by the local geography and climate. | When his pamphlet was first published, Norway had a population of around 900,000, with 90% still living in rural areas.

Fruit trees

March is when you should cut away any dry or broken twigs and branches from your fruit trees.

As soon as the ground frost allows it, loosen the soil surrounding their roots, but be careful not to damage the bark or the root system.

On the young trees, lengthwise on the trunk, use a knife to make a fine cut through the bark. This will make the trunk grow thicker faster.

More firewood

Just like in January and February, March is a good month for cutting and preparing your firewood, now for the coming autumn and winter.

When collecting scrap wood (kipveed – kjipved – kippeved), take only damaged, fallen, dried-out, and rotting trees, or trees standing too close to a neighbour for either of them to grow properly.

At this time of year, the wood is easier to cut and split, and a grown man should be able to prepare two fathoms (favner) of scrap wood a day – and stack them in piles to dry in the forest; to be collected later in the year. [One favne is roughly 2 x 2 metres, with logs that are 60 centimetres long.]

A grown man should also be able to complete 15 loads of regular uncleft firewood from healthy trees per day (stokkeved).

[We note that Klüwer distinguishes between firewood gathered from scrap wood and firewood cut from healthy trees. The household on the old Norwegian farm needed a lot of firewood throughout the year, and unless the farmer had access to large areas of forest, he would try his best to use any available scrap wood as much as possible, to save on the healthy trees, needed for housebuilding etc. Households that did not have a forest of their own, may have had the right to collect firewood in other people’s forests, but then often scrap wood only.]

Brew your beer

If you did not already in February, now is the time to brew your beer.

To extract any unwanted taste coming from the hops’ yellow dust, rinse the hops in water for one day. Drain the water away and throw it out.

When making beer, use ice or snow instead of water from your regular water source – but boil the meltwater well. Mix in only top-quality hops.

Boil the hops in a mix consisting of fifty per cent water and fifty per cent wort (vørter); this gives you a tasty beer.

Malt made from rye gives you the best result. But make sure that the rye does not turn sour during the malting process.

Time to buy iron

March is the month for buying the iron that you will need in the forge and otherwise on the farm, and the number of iron nails needed for the season.

Plough and harrow

In March, check and mend your plough and harrow. Those who have spares of these two tools are in luck, because if you do not and they break, you will lose valuable time during the spring work in the fields (våronna).

Grind your grain

March is the month for grinding as much flour as you can to tide you over the summer.

March is also the time to make all the flatbread that the household needs until the autumn. The longer you store the flatbread in your food storehouse (stabburet), the more economical it will be, without losing its good taste.

Winter-sledges

When you put your winter-sledges into storage, check them well and see if they need new wooden runners or shafts, or new runner irons. Repair the sledges at once, to have them ready for use when the winter returns later in the year.

Leave the iron rivets used when fastening the runner irons a bit loose, until nearer the time when the sledge is to be used again.

Prepare for fence making and mending

March is the month for preparing the wood rails that you need for making new or for mending old fences.

Cut the suitable timber – and split the logs at once. Do not leave this until later in the spring, when the wood becomes more stubborn to cleave.

If you haven’t already, stock up on fence poles too. The most durable type of tree to use for this purpose is the juniper (einer).

If you do not have access to any juniper, then get fir trees (grantrær: myrstuer, bergstuer) growing on the outskirts of bogs (myrer, morasser) or on barren rocky ground. Such poles will last you more than double the time, compared to poles made from wood grown in more fertile soil.

A grown man should be able to cut 240 fence poles per day, bar shaping their pointy ends. However, make sure to sharpen the poles’ ends at the earliest opportunity.

In March, also collect trunks of birch, ash, and elm; wood well suited for making rakes and other farm tools.

Prepare you horses for spring

With March also comes the time to prepare your horses for the heavy work of spring.

Feed and groom them well – and give them a bit of salt daily. To clean their mouths, also give them some hard, dry rye to chew on.

Cloven hoof worms

In late winter, the cattle often get worms in their cloven hoofs. You will see that the animals feel uneasy when standing upright.

Clear out and clean their hooves well, then wash them with vitriollud (possibly oil of vitriol or sulphuric acid) – and lastly: rub the hooves with warm tar to completely eradicate the worm problem.

Winter rye

The following process should work in a good year: If you have ashes from well-burnt rye straws from the previous autumn – and want to attempt to sow winter rye to be harvested in the coming autumn, then mix your seed with the rye straw ash, and spread the mix out onto the snow covering the designated field.

Tight clothes

As prescribed for the month of February, take good care of your health and body.
Do not wear tight clothes, as they prevent the sweat and the heat from the body from escaping – and thus leading to the cold weather harming your body.

Klüwer, L. D. (1815 – 1972). Bonde-Practica. Verdal, Norway: Det kongelige norske videnskabers selskab – Kraftfornytt. | MNR.00041

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