The summer farm Bastberget is situated close to the town of Mockfjärd in Dalarna, or Dalecarlia. Can you imagine the noise when the cattle was moved? The animals from the villages around Mockfjärd first had to take the ferry over the river and then walk for just shy of 20 kilometers. The first known mentioning of the summer farm is as ”Bastemon” in the middle of the 16th century, although a barn house that has been moved there is believed to be as old as from the year of 1303.
During the golden period of this summer farm in the end of the 19th century, as many as 600 animals made the journey to Bastberget each summer. At the time, it was the biggest summer farm in all of Scandinavia. The main road through the farm was three kilometers long, equalling about two miles!
The summer farm area of Bastberget was so large and sprawling that it was divided into five farm villages: Berget, Börsbuan, Hebuan, Lindbuan and Åsbuan. An impressive amount of buildings that still remain give us an idea of what the area must have looked like. Even if the houses have been converted into summer houses, many of them are still owned by the same families as before. Some of the grey wooden cottages are richly decorated with details with beautifully painted patterns, mainly on the doors. Despite the fading colors, they show how splendid the houses must have once seemed when the decorations were freshly painted. Behind the doors, many houses hide original interiors with painted details. Apart from the private cottages, the mountain farm area still has a few houses that are used by the entire community. For example, people still gather in the baking house from 1933 to bake buns for the communal work days.
Most recently, the farming activities were run by two real powerhouses: Greta and Ralf. When they couldn’t keep it running anymore, several families joined together to form a ”cow team” to keep the spirit of farming at Bastberget. They learnt how to make cheese, how to cook whey butter and how to store the special cheese called gammelost, or ”old cheese”.
The stinky cheese gammelost is ”ready in time for the moose hunt” in the autumn, although some people save it even longer before they taste it. For a long time, this cheese was the one most commonly made at Bastberget, but taste preferences have changed. Inspired by a woman who run another summer farm, the cow team has started to create other types of cheeses made from unseparated milk — milk with the cream still left. This cheese has been more popular with modern taste buds.
Today, the cow team consists of eight families taking turns to care for the animals a week each. During this week, the family takes care of and milk the cows, as well as turn the milk into milk products. Normally, the major part of each family’s milk products are used for the own household or to give to relatives and friends. Sometimes, a small part is for sale. Signs by the cottages reveal the products they offer visitors to buy: butter, whey butter and fresh cheese flavored with caraway seeds.
Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic basket to enjoy Bastberget, as there’s no normal visitor or café organisation. Many come to enjoy the large Midsummer celebration. During the summer season, the Bastberget community also arranges a few events, such as cultural events, church service, and a haymaking feast. At the latter, visitors can also visit a few cottages, taste summer farm products and homecooked food, and purchase local crafts.
The area of Bastberget and its unique cultural environment is preserved thanks to the cows, the haymaking and the work of the cow team. Maybe cow teams is a possibility also for other summer farms where one summer farm owner finds it hard to do all the work. It is a cooperative way of working that isn’t unlike the summer farm teams of the olden days.
Bastberget doesn’t have an organized visitor’s organisation. Visitors are welcome to walk around in the communal area on their own. Bring a picnick basket! And don’t forget to check out my advice for getting a successful and pleasant Swedish summer farm visit.