We try to get together for dinner every Friday. And since Friday is Friday, the obvious choice is our new national Friday-dish: Tacos. As always, there is a lively discussion over dinner.
Malene used to work at Rosendal Barony for many years, and a lot of the time she was tending to the sheep. "Maybe that is an idea? To get a handful of sheep?" I suggest. Jon Gunnar, the eldest son, is totally dismissive to the idea. There will never be one single sheep on his farm!
"It is a pity," I say. "After all, we do own a mountain just beside the farm, seeemingly very suited for a couple of sheep to roam around.
Stone age sheep, for instance, might be able to stand their ground against the lynx, which sometimes roams around in the same mountain."
"You own a mountain?" Malene is eager to know. "And where is this mountain?" Hans is a bit surprised by the question, and I point at Eidsfjellet (Eide mountain, which, btw, is called house mountain on the old local maps over the area).
"It is right over there!" Malene is really surprised as she glances up at Eide mountain. "Aaaaaah", she says, in a very condescending tone. "So THAT is "the mountain". I see. Back home that would barely qualify as a hill."
Hill, mountain, whatever! No matter what, Eide mountain is very well suited for hiking. For a real westerner it might not be steep enough, but on the other hand, it is right outside our house.
And there is no doubt that Malene takes advantage of the Eide mountain as her preferred everyday hiking ground, on every occasion. For picking berries, for photo safaris, and for exercise.
One day Malene is out hiking in "Eide hill", she discovers an old grass field. A secret grass field? It stretches out over many square meters, and someone, a long time ago, found it worthwhile to grow grass on this field. Maybe one hundred years ago? Now it is overgrown with birches and alder, but it is quite evident that once this was a grassy field able to feed several cows and other farm animals.
The whole family seizes the opportunity to take a look, young and not-so-young. Even Malene's parents, who are visiting for a week. We strive up the hill, all the way to the secret meadow. Djeez-Louise, this is steep. Rebecca (8) loudly informs us that she regrets her part in this hike, and her grandmother (involuntarily) mimicks the sounds of the leaky bellows of an old accordion. How the heck can anyone come up with the idea to cultivate a piece of land at this particular place? Did they transport the animals up here, or did they carry the grass back down? How come we have never heard about this meadow? As far as we can remember, Gudmund has never mentioned it.
We are standing in the green half-light and looking around, quite astonished. This is one big chunk of land! There can be no doubt that Malene is right, this is a meadow, a cultivated piece of land. This is all so very strange!
How can we restore this to what it used to be? Is there any point?
What is the best way to travel back and forth to this meadow? An ATV (fourwheel)? On foot? Should we start a project to build a road, so we might eventually reach it with a tractor? is this possible and realistic? And ( I am just throwing this in there): perhaps we have enough projects for now?
Also: who on earth decided to cultivate this piece of land? When might that have happened? Let us do some thorough reading of my father-in-law Gudmund's history of the farm.
Gudmund never fails us. Under the heading "Cottage Allotments on the Eide farm" we find the story of the cotter Andreas Henriksen Halbrendt. And this is an exciting story!
On the sea shore South-East of the Eide farm there was a cottage allotment inhabited by Andreas Henriksen Halbrendt. He was a sailor who was born in Førde in Sogn and Fjordane and he was married to Olina Johnsdatter from Agdenes. The allotment had a small piece of land capable of feeding some sheep and some goats.
He was a very skilled fisherman, but he also sailed with bigger boats. He cultivated a small piece of land far up in the hillside of Eide mountain, and people used to tell stories about him carrying manure in a homemade rücksack up to this meadow. People in the village were not used to this type of transport, which is why Hallbrendt's efforts were at the center of attention.
Andreas Hallbrendt is probably the only person in our village who ever dug for gold. There is a small round hill just beside the house where he lived, and he was convinced that this was an old burial gound (it has the shape of a viking burial ground). This hill is now registered and taken under laws of special protection."
Andreas Hallbrendt died in November 1915 with no descendants. The meadow he must have cultivated about one hundred years ago, or a little more, maybe 120 years ago.
Really a working guy, this Andreas. Not worried at all to walk up the steepest hills, obviously. But bear in mind that this was also a westerner. Maybe 120 years ago, he too sniffed condescendingly about the people of flatland who boasted a mountain which was, in reality, a mole pile.
It is very strange indeed that more than one hundred years after Andreas Halbrendt put down his rücksack and quit his transport of grass from the secret meadow, another westerner unearths it. Moreover, Einar, our youngest son, just moved to Sogndal to take up a permanent position as a teacher. That is just some very few miles from Førde, to the East. It feels like we are making a gobelin on this farm, embroidering back and forth between pictures, times and signs.
Andreas Henrik Henriksen Halbrendt, from now on we will remember your name, for sure. And 120 years ago, perhaps you we standing in this exact spot, resting after an especially hard day of clearing land, and gazing at the fjord, down from the modest mountain, Eide mountain. Just like we do today. And you looked at it, and you saw that is was good. I bet you were thinking that "This is really beautiful".
Because it is. It was and it is.