Harvesting olives

Olive harvest 2008

Article text
Ann and Chris set the nets out
After 10 long days of olive picking, the 2008 harvest was completed on Monday the 21st of January!

We actually had one day of help this year, from friends who run a beer company on the coast (www.thelittlebeercompany.com) - not only did they work manfully all day long (on a Sunday even!), they even brought the beer! That day, we 4 picked a record number of sacks of olives - an incredible 5 sacks, approximately 200 kilos! Their reward? A hearty lunch cooked in the campo (salad from the garden plus patata frita con huevos y salchichas), plus some homemade goodies to take home - chutney,
jam and ketchup!

Thanks Chris and Steve!

All other days it was just the 2 (or, rather, 4) of us. The dogs were amazingly helpful - yeah, right! We decided right off the bat NOT to allow Milo to 'surf the nets' as he did last year - he now weighs about 80 pounds, and we could not imagine dragging him PLUS the nets up and down our steep land! Not to mention the fact that his partner in crime, Fitz, would almost certainly join in! Our efforts to stop this mostly consisted of throwing rocks for them to chase down the hill - luckily, as boxer dogs true to their nature,
they never tired of the game.

All olive growers in this area struggle to get help to pick - the wages are pretty low (50 euros a day, approx US$70) and the work tedious, especially as many growers also pick the olives which have fallen off the tree (we don't do that).

Additionally, for those growers who sell the olives rather than oil, the price is very low - only 35 cents a kilo. So one man must pick a fair number of olives to pay for his labour! We prefer not to hire labour, as our goal each year is to at least break even with our agriculture.

The picking went more quickly this year, due to our patented new technique! Rather than laying the nets up and down the rows, we laid them along the rows, side-to-side. This meant we could usually quickly drag the nets from tree to tree, and not empty the olives from the nets until the nets were too heavy to drag. The result? We saved 5 days over last year, which was a real bonus! Plus,
it was much more motivating to have full nets to empty into the sacks. Why didn't we think of this before?

For the most part, even the weather cooperated this year. Although we did have strong winds that stopped picking for a couple of days, the olives were not blown off very much this year - due, I think, to the better health of the trees. It was cold several of the days, but an equal number of days were gorgeous - real tee-shirt weather! I can't tell you how much better it feels to work on days like that, rather than picking in cold, misty weather as we have in some years!

The quality of the olives this year was fantastic! If olives can be described as beautiful, these would be - large, perfect shape and shiny black. Not a hint of the dreaded 'hongo' that so harmed many of our trees last year. We were sooo glad - last year, it was very demotivating to have to skip trees because the olives were not of sufficient quality to pick.

As well as the olives being such good quality, so it follows that the oil is, too! The acidity is the lowest we've ever produced, even before the olive sediment settles - less than 1% acidity already! It will continue to improve as the oil clears, which usually takes a couple
of months.