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Thursday, 12 November 2015

OLIVE PICKING TIME

It is olive picking time here. This year the crop is excellent, the trees heavy with olives, compensating an appalling 2014 when freak hail storms destroyed the lot
The terraces are a hive of activity. Work starts at dawn and continues until dusk, when, if you have the misfortune of driving along our winding roads, you will inevitably be held up by a three-wheeler truck or two put-putting slowly along, loaded up with sacks of olives and empty drums on their way to the presses. 
There is a constant noise of chainsaws in the background as the wood is turned into logs for the winter stoves and plumes of smoke rise up from the terraces as bonfires burn whatever is left over.
When I first came to live here, the olive harvest was another family occasion, a joint effort, similar to the bottling of fresh tomatoes in the summer. To some extent it still is. The men would be up the ladders or in the branches of the trees, cutting them down or shaking them vigorously to make the olives fall. The women and children would all be down below, either bent in two picking the olives up from the ground, or sitting removing them from the branches before putting them into the sacks.
It was a pretty thankless task, hard on the back and tough on the hands, but the end product more than compensated. What can be better than a chunk of fresh bread dipped in your own olive oil?
Nowadays it is still hard work but not quite as bad as before thanks to  the nets strung beneath the trees automatically collecting the olives as they ripen and fall. There are also nifty electronic strimmers that strip the olives from the branches making the work more rapid and somewhat easier on the arms. Once harvesting is over, the nets are rolled back up and left hanging between the trees ready for the following year.
Talk is all about olives at the moment. Football has been pushed into second place!

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