A Phoenix From the Ashes
Sænautsel Turf Farm is restored to its original state and style
Once buried in a thick layer of chalky ash from a volcanic eruption, the Sænautsel turf farm has been lovingly restored thanks to the hard work of Lilja Óladóttir and her family. Sænautsel was built in 1843 and its owners lived there until Dyngjufjöll erupted in 1875, covering the farm with ash that can still be seen in some of the uncovered remains of a sheep pen. Lilja has worked hard to get Sænautsel up and running and insists on keeping to the spirit of the original farm. Everything is handmade, often using the same tools that were used at the old farm.
The Way of the Past
Constructed using driftwood found in Vopnafjörður, a town 60 kilometres away, all materials had to be brought in with a team of horses over rough terrain.
Initially, the farm had one house. The people stayed on the upper floor and kept their sheep on the ground floor. This was practical for keeping the sheep safe and warm as well as using the sheep’s body heat to keep people warm but, as the farm got bigger, the people spread their livestock between different buildings, which are open to visitors today.
Lilja has also added a few touches like a chicken coup and a homemade refrigerator that runs without electricity.
Life with a Volcano
This area of East Iceland was especially popular with poorer families just starting out because the land was cheap and gave them the chance to buy a farm and settle down. This led to farms cropping up throughout East Iceland, including Sænautsel.
Unfortunately, the family at Sænautsel had only thirty years of prosperity before they had to flee from their home, leaving most of their worldly possessions behind for five years. Yet, upon their return, they found that their sheep had thrived in their absence and they earned a tidy sum selling them.
Sample the Culture
Today, Lilja and her family raise their own sheep, a cow and chickens at the farm in the summer months while maintaining it as it was before the eruption, donning period costumes as they open the farm to visitors. For 1,500 kr, guests can take a tour of the old farm, sample Icelandic schnapps, smoked meat, made by Lilja and get endless coffee and pancakes with jam whipped up from scratch. Animals roam around the farm and their playful offspring are sure to delight children and adults alike. – KB