Endangered cows and a mountain dairy

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In the old days, that is untill 1950 or so, the Norwegian farmers were dependent on their summer mountain farms. In a country with so little land suitable for farming, every farmer had to send the livestock to the woods or the mountains during summer. All the grass near home had to be harvested to winter feed. Then came fertilizers, pesticides and modern remedies. The small farmhouses in the mountains were not needed anymore. Some of them just vanished, some are made into holiday cabins, and a few are still used in the old way. Some weeks ago I went to visit a milkmaid who really loves the old traditions: animals eating healthy grass and herbs, and processing by hand the milk into cheese, butter and sour cream.

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This was in the western part of the country, and the road up the steep mountains was long and winding. Even going through a farmyard, but then it was only nature for miles and miles. Since Torbuvollen summer mountain farm is just next to Dovre-Sunndalsfjella National Park.

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The milkmaid was in this case 60 year old Stein Brubæk. He used to work as an executive for years, but got tired of paperwork and office life and started as a farmer. Luckily his parents had a farm, included 15-20 old houses, the barn from 1765. They are now repaired and prepared for what he sees as modern, smallscale farming. And that includes a summer mountain farm. Since the summer is short 850 metres above sea level he stays there only about two months. But this is his pride: to practise the old traditions for food production that he has learned from the old milkmaids.

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Sara Draxl is a helping hand from Tyrol. Every summer Brubæk get an intern from Austria, a country he admire from its success with mountain farming and its investment in agricultural education. So he gets students who knows the crafts.

Sara Draxl, Østerrike, praktikant

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Our government tells the farmers to get more animals, to get bigger farms. Brubæk do the opposite. He has only 8 cows and 25 goats. And his farming business is doing fine. That is processing every drop of milk himself (with some help), and selling everything at farmers markets. His cows are not only few. They are also of rare and endangered Norwegian breeds, milking less than the ordinary cow. Above he is with Brunett (vestlandsk fjordfe) and Blidros (sidet trønderfe). There are more photos from Brubekken Gårdsmeieri in my photo gallery.

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Stein Brubæk og røroskua Blidros

 

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65 thoughts on “Endangered cows and a mountain dairy

  1. Beautiful photos and beautiful story. I love seeing people go back to the “old ways.”
    I live in the US desert West. It takes about 10 or more acres to graze one cow. To me this is totally crazy.
    Cattle should be raised where there is plenty of grass and streams for them to drink from. The ranchers here let their cattle live on whatever they can find to eat, then ship them off to fatten up right before slaughter. I think this is the wrong way to do it!

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    1. I don’t know anything about desert grazing, but from what you say it sounds meagre. No animal should be fattened up before slaughtering. It sounds they didn’t have a good life.It least they can roam “free” outside, no winter inside. Thank you for your comment, Emilie.

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  2. An amazing story, and the countryside is so idyllic. I like the weeds growing on the roofs, and that he looks too tall for the buildings. 🙂
    The cheese and other products would be delicious. I assume you tasted/bought some?

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    1. I was going to buy some, but then my dog got sick and I suddenly had to go to save his life. So I didn’t see the work in the dairy (this time), but I have tasted his cheese and sour cream before. That’s why I went there, to see how it is produced and to tell about it. Thanks, Draco.

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    1. Harder work in one way maybe, but as I understand much more satisfying. And more people want food produced on natural, local resourses it seems. The animals roams free in the mountains all day, it is certainly very good for them. Thanks, Gunta.

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  3. Lovely pictures and story Bente. Its wonderful to see the old Norwegian architecture and the countryside, and so encouraging to know that people can make these small, personal farms really work. Every time I see your photos I want to come to Norway – maybe next year!

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    1. Healthier for animals, man, and consumer, as he told me, and I could believe him. I think gras fed animals that can move around is good. But more expencive of course. This is a summer mountain farm, only used for summer, and the summer up there only lasts two months. But his main farm is also old and run in the traditional way.

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    1. Then you have to go to a Norwegian farmers market, L’Ébouriffée. Or to other farmers markets. I guess small farms in other countries produce similar butter and cheese, but probably not sour cream. Or you can go to this far away summer farm during summer. Thank you.

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  4. Uhh! Bente. Jeg får hjemvé. Og så er Norge ikke engang mit hjemland 🙂 Det er helt vildt gode billeder. Både af landskabet og vejen ind mellem fjeldene, og af livet på gården. Billeder fyldt med atmosfære. De vækker minder fra Tafjordfjella og Åndalsness. Nu ryger jeg helt af sporet: Morgenmaden på Åndalsness Vandrehjem er den bedste jeg nogensinde har fået. Fisk, pandekager, lækker ost …jeg glemmer det aldrig 🙂
    Mange gode hilsner til dig,
    Hanna

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  5. A wonderful series of photos of the old farming life, Bente. I have great admiration for any people returning to crafts and farming methods of the past. One of my Uncles was the last person in our southern island state of Tasmania to use draught horses for ploughing the fields.

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  6. awesome pix, Bente… btw, we loved the Norwegian cheese(s) – even though we live in France aka “cheese land”… and we purchased that “special knife”… 🙂

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  7. Dette er helt til å få hjemlengsel av, Bente. Flott artikkel og helt herlige bilder. Skulle gitt mye for en brødblings med gjetost akkurat nå! 🙂

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