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Sami Raninen

The agricultural work began in spring. The fields cleared on the clayey areas on river banks and by the sea were ploughed with ploughs pulled by a horse or oxen. Peas and beans were sown first. Barley, wheat, flax, oat and rye were sown in late May or in early June. A field that had been cultivated for a long time could become barren in spite of fertilisation. In that case the field had to be left fallow for a long time and during that time it could only be used as a pasture or a hayfield. New varieties of rye and wheat that were not sown until Autumn were introduced in the Middle Ages. At that time farmers switched over to rotation of crops. A large part of the fields was left fallow and cultivated alternately.

In addition to fields grain was also grown in burn-beaten areas farther away from the abode. Cultivating by clearing and burning-over woodland was based on burning broadleaf forest and mixed forest with a broad-leaved majority. The ashes and the changes in the soil caused by heat provided the nutrients that the cultivated plants needed for the next two seasons. After that, only hay could grow on the area and it was used as a grazing ground or a meadow until it had again reverted to forest. The same area could again be burn-beaten after twenty or forty years. After felling of trees the area was usually burnt in two consecutive summers before the first sowing. The latter burning (called “viertäminen” in Finnish) naturally took place in spring or in early summer if spring grain was going to be raised on the area.

One of the important events that took place in May was the driving of the cattle to pasture. The cattle was allowed to wander around guided by herders. Cows, sheep, goats and horses pastured on fields and meadows and simultaneously also manured them. Before new hay and grain grew the animals were, however, driven to forests or taken into suitable islands were they could pasture. Forest pasturing had the risk of the cattle getting lost or killed by predators. The cattle was taken back home for the night so that it could be milked. Fields and meadows had to be surrounded by a fence in order to protect them against animals. These fences had to be repaired every year.

In addition to farm work, people also had time to go hunting. Capercaillies and black grouses were hunted in April and May during their lekking-time. Long tailed ducks and eiders were caught in archipelago in early spring. Eggs of water birds were collected from nesting boxes built specifically for this purpose. Fishing was, however, the most important form of activity. In April different species of fish came to shallow waters to spawn. For example, pikes, perches, bream, ides and Baltic herrings were caught with nets, seines, weirs, fish spears, hooks and lines and fish traps.

Fishing equipment were usually in need of repairing after the previous fishing season. Fixing them as well as doing other precision demanding handwork became easier as the daylight increased. Women began to weave fabrics out of the threads that had been spun. They also participated in the hard agricultural work and fishing.


  • Vilkuna 1935.
  • Vilkuna 1990.
  • Vuorela 1975.
  • Soininen 1974.
  • Talve 1990.


summer fall winter spring

Introduction | Research | People | Tools