Alta is a country town of farmers and fishermen. Up until recently Alta has had three small town centres to service the small communities of each side of Komsa mountain. Now a new shopping mall with 80 stores has arrived (in a town of only 17,000) and some wonder if it will survive in Alta’s non-consumer life-style.
Still in the city, just a 10 min drive (at 40km/h) from the shopping mall, you will find working farms. Norwegian farms are made to be self-sufficient. Trees for fire-wood, gardens for food and wool for clothes, blankets and decorations. Every part of the farm is used, nothing is ever wasted, it just wouldn’t be smart or Norwegian.
Sheep farms, like ours, don’t need to be big as the sheep are taken up to the mountains for grazing pastures in the Summer and then kept in the barn for Winter. The fields of our farm are mainly for growing Winter food for the animals. The fields are made square by fences but the plough creates an oval shape. The corners don’t go to waste though. They are used for holding injured or sick sheep in the Summer. Sometimes a new lamb is rejected by its mother and these areas provide a nice place to encourage another ewe to adopt it. Trees between the fields are not only used to beautify but to stop wind and create natural fencing. Old wood is always recycled to mend fences. The animal droppings in the barn during Winter is collected and turned into manure to fertilise the fields. The household food scraps are used as a treat for the horses and chickens. Paper and cardboard from mail and groceries are used in the fire – milk cartons, in particular, are folded down, packed tightly into a cardboard brick. A bedroom of the house has been turned into a cold room just by switching off the heater and leaving the window open. The cellar is used for drying meat and storing potatoes. Potatoes are kept to sow for next season. The sheep are used and sold for both wool and meat. And the list goes on.
Nowadays it is common to have a cluster of houses on a farm. There are two main reasons for this: non-farmers are only allowed to live in a farming area if it is still being worked and it is more practical to have houses close together for electricity and sewerage etc. This ultimately leaves good space in-between and you would think it would slow ‘urbanisation’. However, I can see a unique balance starting to happen. Norway is very advanced in technology compared to most countries – banking, shopping, booking flights and doctors appointments are typically done online. On the farm we have satellite TV, wireless internet and mobile phones – even Farmor (70) surfs, emails and txts. ‘Information’ is thriving in Norway. This embrace of technology enables Norwegians to live a modern life while enjoying rural living. I’m sure this way of living will one day become the envy of the city.
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