Harvesting olives

2007 Olive harvest complete

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Milo surfs the net!
Our first proper olive harvest (last year) was a year of highs and lows – the lows were finding out for the first time just how much work the olive harvest is, how steep the terrain is, and picking in some really awful weather! The high points were that we actually DID it (the only ex-pats here who have done so), and milled them at a traditional olive press, producing some of the best, smoothest golden olive oil we ever tasted (we call it “Yunquera Gold”).

Our second olive harvest (2007) was quite different.

Again, it was a lot of work, especially when done by just the two of us – 15 days in all!

Plus, like everyone else in the area, our trees were hit by the dreaded “hongo” (general term for fungus), rendering affected olives dry, with no oil, and therefore not worth picking. Some whole areas were hit by the fungus, with not a tree worth picking.

Not to mention that as usual, the extreme winds of January took their toll on our remaining healthy trees, just after we had picked up our first press (175 litres of wonderful oil).

We had imagined that we would get a small second press, as the trees looked pretty good in the remaining sections, but in the end, our second spell of picking only yielded 120 kilos of olives – not enough to mill, so we ended up selling them to the mill owner for 40 cents per kilo. (For you money-conscious people, that works out to a pay level of about 40 cents per hour for each of us over the second round of picking!) Luckily, this rather poor crop coincided with our “fallow” year for olives – normally you have one good year, followed by a poorer year.

Our 5 month old boxer puppy, Milo, relieved the tedium of picking. His best game was to “surf the nets” as we pulled them from tree to tree. Now, as you might imagine, pulling 2 10 metre long nets up a steep, rocky slope is rather difficult in itself. Add to that a 20 kilo dog, and the whole thing just becomes that much harder! Funny for awhile, but it soon becomes just too much like hard work!

Our tactic was to have one person keep the puppy amused, while the other person grabbed the nets and literally ran to the next tree, trying to get them in place before Milo arrived. This eventually evolved to “one person holds Milo by the collar while the other runs with the nets”.

No wonder we lose weight during olive picking!