Everyday that I’m in Sweden is a very special day, but here’s one that especially special! But first I have to tell you what a fäbod is and it’s significance to the Anna Lena story.
In the 19th century, farming was a way of life for most people in Sweden. During the summers, they needed to let the grass in their fields grow up for hay that they could use to feed their livestock during the winter. Therefore, they couldn’t let the livestock graze in the fields around the farm. So, the animals were taken into the woods to forage during the summer. Every farm in the village had grazing rights to certain areas in the surrounding forests. Small cabins and barns were built and the area was called a fäbod. There might be from five to fifteen families together at one fäbod. It was the responsibility of the young women in the family (and sometimes the old grandmothers) to take care of cows during this time. Their duties included milking twice a day, making cheese and butter, turning the cows out in the morning and bringing them back in the evening.
When I was a girl and asked my grandma why her mother (Anna Lena) left Sweden, the answer I always got was, “She didn’t like taking care of the cows!” It wasn’t until my first trip to Sweden that I learned about the fäbod and that was probably what she was referring to. It was a lonely place for young girls. It was also hard work. And Swedish people had a lot of superstitions about things that lived in the forest! I always wished I knew more about Anna Lena and the fäbod.
Only last summer did I learn that my cousin Torsten knew where our family fäbod was! In fact, he and his cousin still own the property! This summer he was kind enough to take a day off from work to take Sally and me into the forest to see the area where Anna Lena would have spent her summers caring for the cows!
There was a lovely meadow. Torsten explained to me that the cabin that belonged to our family had been torn down many years ago. Now there are just two people who still have cabins at the former fäbod. This is one of the cabins.
This one was built in 1885, just one year before Anna Lena came to America.
Torsten and me. His grandfather and Anna Lena were brother and sister.
We peeked in the window. I took a photo through the window, and while not a great picture, I was delighted that it turned out at all! Inside was the typical built in bed from that era and the corner fireplace. I imagine the inside of the cabin Anna Lena stayed in looked much the same.
I love the square logs. Can you imagine hewing them by hand?
In the wonderful, traditional Swedish style, Torsten brought coffee and pastries for us to enjoy midmorning!
And to top off our day, I got to see the old fashioned method of haying. I had seen this on my first few trips to Sweden, but I didn’t see it anywhere the last two times. I thought perhaps no one did it this way anymore.
It used to be that you would see lots and lots of poles like this in the middle of all the fields. This is how they were “stored” for most of the year, as they were only used after the hay was cut and it needed to dry.
Here you see what they look like when they’ve been put together in an A-frame configuration and the hay pitched over the rails to dry!
Did I mention I love it in Anna Lena Land?