In 1893, new laws made it possible for farmers in Avasjö to divide the communal fields and forests between them. Instead of having all the village’s cattle in the summer farm Ol-Tomas, they had their own summer farms. Anders ”Ante” Persson and his wife Johanna Svensdotter had to find a new summer farm for their animals. They built the summer farm Antesbodarna, about five kilometers away from their main farm.
On the farm, they mainly had mountain cows and goats. The milk was turned into butter, cheese and a thick, gel-like sour milk. A popular cheese was called ”gneka cheese”. It was a cheese you cut into cubes and put in coffee. Once you’ve drunk a few cups, the cheese was chewy and ready to eat. Maybe the farmers had learnt to make this particular kind of ”coffee cheese” by some of the Sami women who used to tend to the cattle on the summer farms in the area. On the summer farm, Northern hardbread, ”tunnbröd” and whey butter were important parts of the diet. They were both easy to store for a long period of time. A typical dish was porridge made from barley flour, eaten with milk and lingonberry jam.
Johanna was apparently a women with a strong mind. During the haymaking period, she walked back to the main farm to ensure that the workers did everything correctly. She quickly walked the five kilometers on the pathway — and of course she was knitting as she walked. Being idle was frowned upon.
Johanna’s strength contributes to Antesbodarna even existing today. During the 1940s, the profitability of summer farms sunk drastically. It became cheaper to send the milk to the dairy in Åsele instead of turning it into butter and cheese on the summer farm. That is why in 1947, the summer farming ended. Now, Antesbodarna could have faced the same fate as many other summer farms in the area. During the Second World War and the post-war years, many summer farms were taken down and turned into coal that was sold to heat the big cities. But, Johanna refused to sell the buildings and the summer farm still stands — one of few in the area.
Instead of being turned into coal, the summer farm cottage was let out to forest workers during the winter. How cold they must have been in the house, with the thin walls lacking insulation! In 1963, the forest workers locked the cottage door and left. Now, the summer farm was abandoned for years.
When the cottage door was opened again, decades later, it was as if time had stood still. Packages of sugar and flour were left on the shelves, together with bottles containing ”something strong”, jars of medicinal pills and ointments, chocolate boxes… In the drawing of the kitchen table, an unexpected treasure was found: a plate of butter.
Ingegerd Danielsson, who’s a great-grandchild of Ante and Johanna, was one of those who dared to smell and even test the butter that had been left for over half a century. ”And I’m still alive”, she smiles. The cold temperature of the cottage and the saltiness of the butter has probably contributed to preserving it so well. The butter is still in the same drawer, but is now protected by a glass cover. ”During a guided tour, an older gentleman unfortunately refused to believe that the butter was real, so he poked his finger into it. If it’s ruined now, it’s probably from bacteria after that.”
Together with forestry company SCA which owns parts of the grounds, Ingegerd Danielsson, her family and the communal organisation of Avasjö has restored the cottage, taken down shrubberies and cut down trees. Now, oxeye daisies have found their way back to the once overgrown pastures.
During the summertime, a summer farm worker stays on the summer farm to tend to cows, goats and a stream of visitors. The visitors are welcome to visit the cottage on guided tours, and can enjoy the environment with a cup of coffee and something sweet on the side.
Don’t forget to check out my advice for visiting a summer farm before you.