During our drives on Osterøy, Jan has pointed out the special construction of many of the barns we can see from the car windows. During our recent visit, we stopped to take a photo of one of them.
Constructed of wood, stones, and twigs, it looks like many farms I’ve seen in my life … except for those branches. In pointing out the limbs before, Jan has commented on how long these natural building materials last. After capturing the image, my curiosity was piqued. Just what IS it? I put on my research hat and had some fun with Google.
This technique is called “cladding.”
– Just what is cladding? From Wikipedia: Cladding is the application of one material over another to provide a skin or layer intended to control the infiltration of weather elements, or for aesthetic purposes. Cladding does not necessarily have to provide a waterproof condition but is instead a control element. This control element may only serve to safely direct water or wind in order to control run-off and prevent infiltration into the building structure.
– What types of cladding are there? Many types! Information about metalworking, fiber optics, construction, nuclear fuel, boiler, and siding are linked from here.
– What material is used in the type of cladding we see on the barns of Osterøy? A little back story: There’s so much about Norway that was foreign to my North American eyes when I first moved here. For example, although the swans were familiar, the different varieties of birds have utterly captivated me. But the trees, bushes, flowers, and plants I see around me in this part of the northern hemisphere are similar to those that grew in “my” parts of the States. One of those is the Juniper tree.
The material used on the barns is juniper: In Norway, juniper foliage is used in cladding, a traditional method of insulating barn walls from wind and rain. The process is tedious, but well-constructed juniper cladding can last for decades.
– Why is it used? I read that Juniper keeps the lashing rain out, while permitting drafts that keep the hay dry.
– Interesting! More information, please? From “The Ecology of Building Materials” by Bjørn Berge: The juniper is cut around midsummer, since that is when the twigs are toughest and the needles most firmly attached to the bush … Branches of about 50 cm in length and 1-1.5 cm thickness are cut and woven between horizontal battens at 20 cm intervals so that each branch lies inside one batten and outside two, forming two layers outside and one layer inside each batten … The wattle work is pushed together with a hammer to make it tight. Finally the wall is trimmed. At first the cladding is green; in time it becomes brown and dark grey, and after 30 years so much moss may grow that it becomes green again … Juniper cladding is particularly good, and has had a functional lifespan of between 50 and 60 years; and even up to 100 years in the western fjord landscape of Norway.
To end these thoughts on cladding, I thought I’d share another part of Osterøy: the historical farm area of Havrå. From Wikipedia: Havrå or Havre … is a cluster of farms along the southern shore of the island … Havrå is one of the very last and best preserved of the common farm clusters on the western coast of Norway. Havrå was the first cultural environment to be protected … [by the] Norwegian Cultural Heritage Act. It was not connected to the national road network until late in the 1960s. (In other words, it was only accessible on foot or by boat until the 1960s.)
I share this because, of course, there are many examples of cladding on the buildings. We haven’t visited yet, but I’ve seen it across the Sørfjorden through the car window when we’re driving on E16:
Here’s another “across the fjord” image that I found online, this one from the perspective of looking across Sørfjorden towards the mainland. It gives you a better idea of how steep it is:
Seeing its remoteness and location on a steep mountainside helps me appreciate the strength and dedication of the people that, hundreds of years ago, saw this area from their ship on the fjord, transported the tools and material necessary to carve out a slice of the rocky and steep terrain, brought the animals and materials necessary to stock their farm, and founded a successful place to sustain life.
But it’s even older than a “modern” farm; loosely translated from this page: Pollen analysis of samples taken show that there were crops in the area 3500 years ago. Findings from the Stone Age show that human activity in the area is even older.
Fascinating! And just another incentive to get out there and see it for myself. In the meantime, here are a few other cladding images I found online from this historic farm area of Havrå:
(Here is where this part of the world is located on the map.)