Just like last year, I spent a few days picking olives and with every olive I remove from the tree a bit of happiness fills my soul. I can completely understand why some Umbrian can´t talk about anything else. When I could make a living out of this, I would not hesitate for a second.
This year I had the pleasure of being invited to a friends´place and help them pick their olives and it only made me more certain: you can never have too much of a good thing. One big advantage was that their field was more or less flat, so it was possible to use two hands instead of needing one to cling to the trees.
The second good thing was the height of their trees. They had been pruned the previous year, which, of course, meant less harvest, but very healthy trees. My friends´father told me that the Umbrian say a pigeon should be able to fly freely through a good olive tree.
He also taught me how to grow the olives the biological way. Of course, olive trees too can suffer from a fungus that attacks the trunk and he showed me how to remove it and cover the wound. He also told me that, at the mill, he even askes the preceding farmer wether he used pesticides to fight flies or not. If so, all equipment has to be cleaned before he has his olives pressed.
After three years of experience I can now tell apart the different types of trees and the way the olives grow. I have learned how much easier and faster it is to remove the big black ones that grow in clusters, but I also know they mostly contain more water, so the best olives are the smaller ones that hang solitarily on the branches.
I have learned how to stretch out the net to catch the olives and how to block it at the end so the olives won´t run down the hill and get lost. Our `own` field is located on a very steep hill, that allowes every tree to catch the sunshine, but makes it quite hard to work on.
It also makes it difficult to reach the higher branches while standing on a slippery net, with thorns all around and an occasional viper showing up. Climbing a tree, trying not to fall or look down (eeks) and stretching for a few more olives that will certainly make the difference is a calling, not a profession.
And after having resisted all those inconveniences.. the next tree is waiting. Still, every time I reach for the first branch of new tree and see the olives collected at the lower end of the net..it is pure happiness.
Let alone when you can finally make an appointment at the mill. It is very exciting to watch the weight on the scales, to guard your olives when they´re pressed.
Imagine the thrill
you feel when the first trickle of oil appears. And finally, to count the number of cans. And it is a bit sad when you watch the last drops of oil dripping from the tap.
Tasting the first spoon of oil is an amazing experience. The sharp taste that cloggs your throat for a second... and suddenly, you know why you took all the trouble, why your back hurts, why your hands are dirty and full of thorns... because it was worth it. Can´t wait for next years´ harvest.