Olives


David Sylvian’s distinctive voice fills the kitchen as, Japan play Deviation, and I wait for the kettle to boil. Suddenly the morning is punctuated with the sounds of people calling to each other over the rattle of ancient tractors and the hiss of pneumatic tools. Our neighbours have come to harvest their olives. Two days ago with strimmers buzzing they trimmed the land beneath the Olive trees. (The Italians call olives, plants not trees). Now the trimmed land is covered with nets and people start to collect the precious bounty.

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Three years ago I helped a friend harvest her olives, it was a cool November day and with olive combs we stripped the fruit from the trees. It was back-breaking work making sure every little green, purple or black olive made it into the sacks. My neighbour’s harvest is on a much bigger scale and is so far removed from the Bertolli TV advert where the people are picking olives by hand, one by one and smiling as the summer sun beats down. They have a noisy machine powered by an equally noisy petrol generator that they clamp to the tree and it literally shakes the olives from the branches. After the tree has been vigorously shaken, a human combs off any remaining olives and stamps around the base to tread-in any soil that’s been disturbed by the shaking machine.

In a week or two we’ll be helping with the harvest up at The Olive House so we’re hoping we’ll get a donation of the oil once it’s been pressed. The Olive House has many more trees than my neighbour so I envisage we’ll collect more sacks than we did back in 2010.

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