Forests and the earth’s bounty

Forests and the earth's bounty

The majority of Southern Savo is covered in forest, from which the people in the region have taken wood for fuel and construction materials. They have picked berries and hunted animals in it for food. The people of Southern Savo sowed their first fields in the forest, as the slash-and-burn technique was quite characteristic of the region. This technique has been part and parcel of Finnish life for thousands of years already.

When using the slash-and-burn technique, trees in a specific area of a forest are felled and then burned. The burnt area is used to raise crops for 1, 2 or even 3 seasons. This technique consumed an enormous amount of wood and the government tried to put a stop to it, as it was concerned about the forests running out. Even in the beginning of the 19th century, this was still the predominant technique used by the residents of the region for their livelihood, although arable farming gradually superseded it as the century went on.

The Liehtalanniemi Museum Estate in Puumala

An active connection to the past prevails at the Liehtalanniemi Museum Estate in Puumala, as it has preserved the traditional farm infrastructure with its group of old grey buildings, its patches of field, its old slash-and-burn forests and grazing pastures with their traditional structures.

The estate is still run using traditional methods. Old species of useful plants are grown and animals are kept at Liehtalanniemi. The museum portrays the era of self-sufficiency at the beginning of the 20th century when Liehtalanniemi was home to a threeperson family whose main source of livelihood was farming and fishing, which is the same way that many residents of Southern Savo with limited means provided for themselves.

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Both Southern Savo and the rest of Finland were completely dependent on growing grain crops long into the 20th century; therefore, the years when crops failed often saw famines occur. Exactly that happened in 1866–67, etc., when an enormous number of people starved to death or succumbed to disease. The authorities attempted to level out the effect of bad crop years by establishing granaries where grain was stored in good years and loaned out to people needing it in bad years. Nowadays, many of these granaries in Southern Savo have been converted into local museums.

The Haukivuori Museum in the town’s municipal granary

The Haukivuori Museum is located in downtown Haukivuori, in the town’s old centre. The museum was opened to the public in 1962. The Haukivuori Local Heritage Society has been in charge of it since that year.

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The most important farm animals arrived on our shores already in prehistoric times. Cows arrived in Finland no later than the Bronze Age.

Before the 19th century, there was little stock farming in Southern Savo due to problems feeding the herd in the winter, etc. For instance, how could enough fodder be stored for the long winter ahead? When Finland became part of Russia in 1809 and the border between the region and St. Petersburg vanished, stock farming became quite a profitable business, as there was a huge market for dairy products, especially butter, in St. Petersburg and many a family in Southern Savo grew wealthy making butter for export.

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