[Day 19, Sunday, July 12, 2000]
Peg & Keith Wheeler's Norway trip report, Summer 2000
Jørpeland & Skiftun farm
We slept in a bit longer than normal -- we must have been more tired that we thought. Over a late but leisurely breakfast (we were rather waiting to see if the weather would clear) we decided it would be best not to go by boat, even though his boat could handle it, it wouldn't be fun with wind and rain threatening. Kristian made a phone call to alert the Skiftun folk that we'd be coming by land.
Before we could leave, Kristian had a small chore to take care of in preparation for a job he had the next day. He had to unload his "Ox" from his custom built tilt-trailer and put the custom racks on the trailer in order to haul firewood tomorrow. Now this Ox is a bit hard to explain -- even with a photo we can't do it justice. This is a Swedish manufactured device that runs on tracks and powered by a small gasoline engine. Sophisticated hydraulics operate and control its various functions. With the little dolly trailer Kristian has built and with his other modifications to this machine, he can walk it into the forest, winch out and load small firewood logs and bring them out with less impact on the forest floor than a man's footprint.
< Kristian's Ox, trailer & truck with part of their home showing in the background.
It was now time to pile in the car, all four of us: the girls in the back and the boys in the front. We took off in a generally northward direction toward Skiftun via the main Ryfylke Road or Highway 13. We use the term "generally northward direction" advisedly as you don't go from here to there in a straight line in this beautiful country --- this is not Iowa. This has to be one of the world's most scenic highways and we stopped at many of the points of interest. Driving along the water, we come to Tau and skirt around the town and make an eastward turn. The landscape changes from coastal to inland agricultural and then deep valley. We travel along a rock bluff on the left with long, narrow and dramatic Tysdalsvatn lake on the right. The rock bluff rose straight up into the fog high above. We stopped to appreciate it from the outside the car. No picture could capture the scale and perspective. It was like trying to take a picture of a redwood tree in the fog.
Changing directions to northwest, we went over the summit. We have now entered Hjelmeland kommune. The rain was letting up when we stopped at an ancient stone bridge and a restored grain grinding mill. The latter was similar to the one at Slogvik, this one complete with grass roof. Next we passed extensive sand and gravel quarries which have been a major industry in the area for many years. These alluvial deposits, dated from prehistoric time, are used locally in a fairly new roof tile factory and is an important ingredient now for concrete used in the off-shore platforms as well as other construction projects. The town of Årdal brought us to the coast again. From here the road climbed and zigzagged up into the hills, past beautiful mountain lakes, and then down again into the community of Hjelmeland. Here we had to wait only a short time to catch the ferry to Nesvik. While queued up for the ferry, Aud Marit dashed into the store and bought some delicious strawberries. It appeared we would not be able to get on the ferry because so many cars and trucks were ahead of us. This was, after all, a major highway with a lot of tourist and commercial traffic. When the ferry opened up its jaws, several lanes of vehicles were all swallowed up neatly and efficiently. Rumbling out across the Jøsenfjord, we were unloading at Nesvik in very short order.
Here Highway 13 and the rest of the traffic heads in a northeasterly direction along the fjord while we head north along a quiet, paved mountain road. We can see pleasant, green farms down below us on the water's edge to our left. We come to the turn off to Skiftun where a small valley slopes down to the sea with steep rock bluffs defining the southern edge. Kristian had been here a couple of years ago on a quest for information for Keith. At that time, he had met the people and taken photos which he sent to Keith showing him where Savat Oddsen Skiftun and his daughter, Bergitte, lived during the 1500's. These, too, were Jacob's mother's ancestors. Bergitte's son, Holger moved west to Lindanger where we had visited on the yellow dot day previously in Tysvær. Remember? Test next Friday.
A delightful older couple with twinkling eyes met us on the porch and invited us in for coffee. Of course, coffee meant sandwiches and cake, and that was very nice. It was not long before talk turned to the history of the place. Olav pulled down the bygdebok of the area and proceeded to show us that the farm had been in his wife's family for 400 years. Yes, she and Keith were probably related but we didn't delve into to this. We were told that the house we were in was built around 1890 with materials from the older house which was built "way before the 1860's." The archeological finds in the area had indicated it had been inhabited since 600 AD. The entire valley had been one farm until 1600 and it contains 60 målen (approx. 15 acres) of cultivated land with a total of over 1000 målen (250 acres).
Disclaimer: we don't know for sure what a mål is, but our best guess based on a Norwegian bygdebok and some conversions we have done, gives the figures above. Even if we are way off, this will give you an idea of the proportion of cultivated land to total land. We don't think this is an unusual proportion in this beautiful but rugged terrain. Also remember that much more land could be used for other things like grazing and timber production.
Our conversation with Olav continued while Olga prepared coffee and sandwiches in the kitchen. Kristian was translating. Olav, like many Norwegians, deeply appreciates history and times passed. He took us into an adjacent room and showed us a beautifully painted chest in pristine condition. The colors of the rosemaling design were still brilliant and the date said 1822.
< Skiftun chest
He brought out a large richly painted round wooden box with the year 1831 painted on its side. We adjourned to the kitchen and had a lovely traditional meal while everyone continued to talk about the old ways and the old people. Afterward, Olav took us out to his "museum."
< Skiftun stabbur with Kristian, Keith and Olav
This is a beautifully restored "stabbur" (store house on pillars) complete with a sod roof. The inside was filled with wonderful old antiques, all lovingly preserved and displayed. To list just a few, there were chests, one dated 1804, another cabinet also dated 1804, ancient leather bound books, a model of a sloop, cream separators, irons, hand tools, wooden pails, round wooden containers, baskets and a spinning wheel. We spent a good deal of time here admiring these wonderful pieces of history. Taking over a dozen photographs, we still probably missed some of these gems.
< Peg inside the stabbur with her find. (Her antique dealer mother would have died to see all of these artifacts.)
In the back of the stabbur was yet another building, more modern, the front of which was used for functioning farm equipment. Here, in the back, we were shown antique farm implements such as plows and harrows pulled by horses in the old days. Of particular interest was a steel wheeled apparatus that had a series of small pitch forks attached to a gear driven cam. This piece of equipment, with the farmer sitting on the steel seat above, was used to turn the hay as it lay in rows in the fields to dry.
It was time to say "adjø." Leaving them with some Chico almonds and an American flag, we took a last round of pictures on the front porch.
<Olga & Olav Skiftun.
Kristian drove us down to the water's edge so we could get a view of the farm from this perspective, and then it was time to head back to Jørpeland.
Skiftun farm as viewed from the quay.>
Back across the ferry, over the mountains and through the town of Årdal, Kristian took us to the "Årdal gamle kyrkje" (old Årdal Church). Their oldest daughter had been married here. It dates from the 17th century and is considered one of the "most striking Renaissance churches in Western Norway." There are three segments to this building resulting from extending it as it became too small. They just cut out the end wall and added on. Rather plain on the outside, the painting all over inside was richly ornate and had a long history. Apparently there were several noted church painters of the era and historians have their theories as to which one did this painting. Cameras were not allowed so we were unable to take our own pictures of the 10 prophets on the ceiling or the richly decorated walls, pews and pulpit. We walked around the grave markers outside in the yard and returned to the car to continue our drive. (For an on-line photo: http://www.fjordferie.no/kyrkje.htm Sorry, we couldn't find inside pictures on-line.)
The weather continued dreary and drizzly as we drove back over the next summit. As we entered Mølands Valley, Kristian suddenly pulled the car off the road and onto a turnout, stopped, and got out announcing that we were going to pick blue berries. Here in a lush, green forest, were scattered wild blue berries. We picked a few handfuls to take back. The plants were surprisingly small and low to the ground, but this was a fun experience.
Even though Jørpeland is a fairly large and growing bedroom community for Stavanger, it does not offer much in the way of nightlife or restaurants. There was a very nice Chinese restaurant in town that the Velle's could recommend, so we all went there and had a very pleasant meal. It seemed a bit strange to see a Chinese person speak Norwegian, but I guess thinking that makes us the strange ones --- you can ask for chopsticks in any language.
Afterwards a nice drive from town up along the Jørpeland River took us by the power plant that was no longer in use. There was some evidence that a Pelton Wheel had been used, at least at one time. [Check out the Jørpeland River site hosted by a local school project: http://enis.nls.no/jus/rivers/Default.htm ] When we returned to their home, Kristian showed us a video of one of his inventions -- a device that cut poles into firewood lengths and split them. One of Kristian's hobbies is cutting firewood, but more than that, he is intrigued with automation. He has developed two versions of this device and is now working on the third. It was amazing the speed and efficiency that a large chunk of tree was turned into split firewood. While he would like to see this unit manufactured, and put to use, he is not particularly interested in making money or gaining fame from it. (How un-American!)
*** To be continued. *** [Hope the increased number of photos has not caused any loading problems…?]
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