Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Valdres Summer Mountain Farms
On an island in front of the hotel, I found some trees growing on a peninsula so narrow that the roots stretched out to the lake. Pat commented that I would title the picture something like my search for my roots. I said "roots enroute to roots", and she cringed.
Ola proposed this morning that he drive us to see the farms located high in the Valdres mountain areas used by the local farmers. He said that we should be able to see and feel the way of life up there, and not be worried about driving. He said it would be a shame if we didn't spend some time in the mountain farms.
Ola's credentials as a mountain farm guide could not be matched. One of the generation of young Norwegian farmers encouraged to pursue an education, he trained at an agricultural college near Oslo in his youth. Returning to Valdres, he worked for the farmers organization which improved farming practices and supported their businesses. He also ran his own family farm for many years.
As he drove us up and down public and private roads criss-crossing the many mountains surrounding Valdres, Ola had trouble identifying the names of only a few of the hundreds of farms we came across. His carefully chosen route, enlightening and fascinating narrative, and completely responsive answers to our questions, was another unique experience of a lifetime. It is clear that this man loves his region, loves helping those who want to learn about it get the best adventure from it, and has a lot of fun being in it.
Coupled with helping us understand the farming communities, and the annual pilgrimages from the lower farms to summer fields in the high plateau, Ola helped us get to know the mountains. Not in general, very specifically each major mountain. From many views and elevations, each one was revealed in spectacular beauty. To help me grasp the dimensions of the Vang territory within the Valdres region, Ola designed the route to provide us with an unbelievable panorama of views of (and from) the mountains surrounding Vang. He helped me understand where those who can call themselves from Vang lived throughout their year, and where they walked to be with the mountains they loved.
Looking at land that might otherwise be perceived as arid, rocky, and infertile, he wanted us to know how important all of the land was to our ancestors. They used each elevation, and its seasonal capabilities, to maximize the family's farm survival. Standing on a hill, he said that he thought neither he nor I would be standing here today if it weren't for these mountains. I understood it deeply in my soul.
Ending the day at a church in which his own family lay buried on the grounds, he provided us private entry to let us look through a bible on the alter printed in 1642. Brought to the area by a common ancestor of ours, and signed by one of my ancestors who was a priest in the late 1700s, it added the perfect finish to our first ancestral adventure together. Over dinner tonight, we made plans to continue those adventures in both Norway and the U.S.
Here is a link to all of the photos we took today: Valdres Summer Mountain Farms