Norway is a mountainous country with only small areas of arable land along the coast and in the valleys. The coastline is long, with fjords cutting deep into the land. The Gulf Stream provides a better climate than could otherwise be expected in a northern country. Still, the growing season is short, and the soil unproductive during much of the year.
Transport along the coast and to inland areas used to be difficult for much of the year. This made it necessary to rely on conserving almost all food for later use. Farm animals were usually slaughtered in the autumn: the meat would keep better during the cold season. The harvesting of foods from the ocean, lakes, forests, and mountains was also seasonal. Fish, game, and wild berries had to be conserved for use during the rest of the year.