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A Farm in Sideby

The writer takes us on an imaginary visit in the 1870's to a farm in Sideby, the southernmost parish in Österbotten. In those days the farm house and buildings formed a square around a central yard with the main entrance through a gate. There were still wild animals in the area and with this arrangement of buildings the farmer was able to reach other parts of the farm without having to leave the safety of the compound. The main farm house was large and consisted of four bedrooms - two at either end of the building, with two large central rooms separated by an entry hall. One of the large rooms contained the dining table and also some additional beds.

The external walls of the house were of long vertical boards joined with laths. The corner boards and window frames were usually painted white and the rest of the building was washed with red color. At right angles to the main house on the left stood the grandfather's cottage which consisted of a main room, bedroom and hall. Next to it was the shed for tools, stable with fodder and a woodshed.

To the right of the main house facing grandfather's cottage across the yard was the flour shed, food shed, a gate to the fields, woodshed and the cart shed. Opposite the main house across the yard was the meat kitchen and behind it was the cattle shed, a gate leading to the animal yard, and a food barn. On the other side of the animal yard stood the boiling barn (used for preparing salpetre), a room for storing tools used for brick making, and a room for the hay-wagon. Next to it stood the pigsty. Swine smell and cannot be kept in the cattle shed.

At a proper distance from this building complex were the sauna, potato cellar, smithy, windmill and grain storehouse. Because of the fire risk, the grain storehouse had to be sufficiently away from the house containing the fireplace. Only unground grain was kept in the grain storehouse.

Now let us enter the main house. It is quite roomy. In the corner to the right of the door stands the big fireplace with open grate. Over the fireplace is an iron hook from which hangs the key to the grain storehouse. On the pot stand hangs a large pot with water for cooking porridge. The pot was purchased in Sweden and was shaped like pots made in Finland.

To the left of the entrance door stands a big curtained bed. Along one wall is a bench and two sleeping berths. In the corner to the left is a little bench with two covered wooden containers. From them hang two wooden cups with beautiful ornate handles. In one corner of the room is a beautiful cupboard with pearl-covered doors. On this cupboard lies the family Bible on a separate stand. Over this cupboard is a little bookcase.

A big dining table stands in front of the room. In front of the table is a long bench. At each end of the table stands a chair. At the master's end of the table is a big stately wall clock attached to the wall. In the middle of the long wall opposite stands a large decorated basin shelf with three shelves at the bottom for the stoneware dishes and four shelves above them for plates. Between this basin shelf and the farther corner stands a high bed. The bed has a beautiful high-turned back. The paintings on it are artistic and hand printed with the date framed in a flower wreath in the middle of the back, a work of art itself.

Between the basin shelf and fireplace is the fireplace bench with room for pots and wood. On the wall next to the basin shelf is the spoon bench filled with 18 wooden spoons of which 10 are lacquered and 8 unpainted. Under the spoon bench are a dozen half-liter tin bowls hanging in a row. Here and there among the large furniture are strong well-built chairs. In the ceiling are long poles used for storing dried bread (hardtack). The floors are covered with rag rugs. Such is the interior of the main house.

The family consisted of a father, mother and nine children. The mother and father slept in one of the back rooms with the smallest children. The other back room was used as a guest room. The farmer's full-grown daughters slept together in the high bed. The sons slept on the long bench. In the curtained bed snored the farm hand, and the maid servant slept in the front room.

The master's end of the dining table is by the clock. He always sits there at mealtime. Beside him, on the bench, sits the farm hand and then the boys who sit according to age. At the other end of the table sits the mistress of the house, and on the nearest bench, the older daughters sit according to age. The maid eats at the fireplace bench so that she can also take care of the fire and the pots.

There was a stool next to the master's chair and we asked what it was used for. The mistress was somewhat embarrassed and said: Our cat Massin and our dog Moppe always sit there. The dog and cat have always had their given place and their traditional names.

We notice that the wall clock has an especially fine cabinet. The works and clock face were purchased in Ilmola from the clockmaker Ala-Könni, but grandfather got the cabinet when he was young. It is the custom here in the village to purchase the clock works and then the best carpenter on the farm makes the cabinet. So not one clock cabinet resembles another in the village.

Now we stop in front of the family Bible. It lies here all week. On Sunday morning at 9 o'clock the master lifts the Bible with its stand to the dining table. Then everyone sits and listens to the Sunday text from the Bible. In the little book cupboard are the following books: Arndt's Book of Homilies in black leather binding; New Testament of Fjellstedt's Bible; a collection of sermons by J. H. Roos; a tale of a Norwegian youth who was converted; Genovena; a number of religious publications; also ten psalmbooks, bound in strong leather. On the back of each psalmbook the master has marked with ink the initials of the family members.

We stop at the covered wooden containers and open the lids. The mistress hurries over and invites us to drink. In one is a blend of buttermilk and water. There are cups nearby and you thirstily drink. In the other there was sourmilk (probably filbunke). The children poured some in their bowl and ate bread with it. Children always have to eat when they feel hungry.

Later we were well informed of the outside work by the farmer. A great deal of work and care goes into the farm. Reclaiming the land and cultivating the ground is managed according to old established customs. The Sideby dialect with its ample dipthongs is pure and beautiful and easily understood by a stranger. Maybe the direct sea connection with Sweden had an influence on the language.

By Frans Teir from "Den Österbottniska Byn"

Translated by June Pelo

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DATABASE of IMMIGRANTS from Ostrobothnia, Finland

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