Norway – A water-wheel grindstone on Stalheim River

Nobody has yet calculated how much energy—millions, billions, of horse-power—runs to waste, commercially speaking, among the Scandinavian mountains. Probably Norway’s water-power is sufficient to run all the factories of continental Europe, but only the merest inconsiderable fraction of it is forced into any utilitarian scheme for industrial activity. Farmers do, however, avail themselves of some of the numberless opportunities to get their lumber sawed, their oats and barley ground into coarse’ meal, and their tools sharpened. Right here a little mountain brook is captured as it comes racing down to jump into the river; one slender portion of the stream, diverted into that sluiceway of planks, is now turning a heavy grindstone. The little old mill itself looks as if business were not very lively, but it is picturesquely suggestive of the way people live close to Nature. Froude, the English historian, wrote once after a tour through this country : ___

“I confess for myself that, sublime as the fjords were, the saw-mills and farmhouses and fishing-boats, and the patient, industrious people wresting a wholesome living out of that stern environment, affected me much more nearly.”

A prosperous farmer living on an isolated farm needs a mill of his own almost as much as a barn of his own to save him the necessity of carrying grain twice over a steep, hard road. In old times such a farmer was his own blacksmith, too, having a forge of his own ready for need. Saw-mill, grist-mill, blacksmith-shop, cloth-mill, tannery, carpenter and joiner shop—a whole group of such establishments in crude and primitive, but practically effective form, made up the old-fashioned farmer’s establishment. Now modern innovations are creeping in more and more. The women weave less homespun stuff. At Stalheim’s Hotel, a few miles farther on, they use wheat flour grown and ground in America !

We are on our way to Stalheim’s now. There is a stolkjerre waiting for us in the highway up at the left. The telegraph poles gleaming here and there among the trees lead the way—wherever they go one may safely follow, sure of reaching some hospitable shelter.

The road gradually mounts higher and higher above the river and comes out on a plateau overlooking a long valley—one of the most celebrated valleys in Europe. Be sure to look up our fifty-fifth standpoint on Map 7, not far from the two previous positions. See—the red lines indicate definitely that we are to look down a narrow valley towards the upper end of one of the Sognefjord’s long, crooked inlets.