Friday, May 15, 2009

Green Gold in the Bank

In autumn, after the grapes come the olives. One weekend a year we join a group of vineyard workers and their friends in a secluded valley near the coast. Hidden amongst the vines is an orchard of 100 olive trees.

People begin to arrive in two’s and threes as the sun peeks over the hill. Long ribbons of hessian are laid under the trees, ladders set up for those who like to climb and picnic baskets collect on the ute that holds the olive bins.

Laughter and gossip soon begin to filter through the trees to the accompaniment of the plinging music of the olives as they strike the ladders. Picking olives is a little like milking a cow, each branch stripped from top to bottom. European men have a saying: ”A woman, a donkey and an olive tree, the more you beat them, the better they be.” I don’t subscribe to that myself, but some of the men do use plastic olive rakes with wide tines.

There is a delightful sense of community as groups form and reform as the hessian is lifted, the olives poured into crates and we move from tree to tree. The children help with the lower branches and chase the dogs up and down the rows. Morning tea brings us all together to sprawl on the grass and discuss the merits of this year’s crop.

The owner of the orchard receives a tithe of 10% of the oil produced and we earn oil on a pro rata basis for the hours worked and pay a few dollars for pressing and bottling.

It is a gentle activity, unchanged since olives were first eaten. There is a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that in one lovely morning we have picked enough olives for oil and pickling to last us the year and saved a crop that would have been otherwise left for the birds to eat.

1 comment:

  1. mmmmmmm! nothing like olive oil lovingly picked with your own hands. we are surrounded by beautiful fresh west australian olive oil everyday and make lovely things with it


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