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Friday, 13 November 2009

of olive picking and other autumn jobs

Autumn is definitely here. Above is a photo of a threatening sky above our village. With the sweeping views and our vicinity to the sea, the sky constantly changes. It's much more interesting than the constant blue of summer.

I also love all the mushrooms out at this time of year, even if I don't recognise many of them. This was a particularly nice group below, I have no idea what they are:

This on the other hand I have identified as a Russet Tough Shank with reasonable certainty. According to most sources I've consulted it is edible, but not really worth eating. Shame because we found quite a quantity of them:

We have recently been entrusted to look after an olive grove of a Danish family, who have a holiday home some 20 km away from us in the village of Popetto. It consists of some 30 mature trees. In return for us looking after it we get to keep the olives, any fire wood and we get a small inumeration to cover costs of petrol, any pressing of the olives as well as giving us a bit of extra cash to help us through the winter.

The trees had been neglected for some years, and on first inspection back in early September, it didn't look like we'd get a great yield off the trees this year. So on Tuesday we had decided to take our bikes out there just for an inspection. It seemed easiest to combine pruning with the harvesting of any olives. As you lop off any of the higher branches, you just strip them of olives on the ground, rather than doing this while balancing on the top of a ladder. The olives had turned a beautiful, shiny black and were evidently ready. Now being black rather than green, they stood out much better against the overgrown trees and there were more than we had initially thought. So we decided to get going the next dry day, which was yesterday.

Here by the way a couple of pictures from our cycle up to Popetto at 400 m a.s.l. If you cut out the two photos and stick the top one to the left and the bottom one to the right, you'll have a complete panorama:

As you can see there's snow in the higher mountains of the Apuan Alps and also on the Appenines, I estimate to as low as 800 metres altitude .
Anyway, so Thursday we got started on the olives. We were far to busy getting some progress done and afterwards far to knackered to make any photographic record of this, but we're not finished yet, so pics of olive picking will follow soon no doubt. Well after some 7 solid hours we managed to prune 4 trees to shape and pick all the olives off them.
"How many did you get so far?" I hear you ask? Well, there are different weight measurement units all over the world. The Brits talk of stone, most Continental Europeans talk kilos, Americans pounds and the Italians measure olives in quintale. I have my own in-built measuring unit. Having worked many years in the wine trade I know exactly and instinctively the weight of a case of wine (on average 15 kilos), so everything gets measured around that. One case of wine is quite an easy weight. Remembering that we live on top of a small village, which is only accessible by several flights of stairs, if your shopping or picked produce weighs one case of wine, I have no problem getting it up.
Two cases of wine on the other hand get quite heavy, but if it saves you going twice, you'll carry it up too. Three cases of wine is getting quite tough and you really don't want to be carrying it any distance at all. Four cases of wine is a sure recipe for a hernia. Well on that basis, I lifted up our olives and said to Susan, that's about 1 case of wine worth of olives. Today, as we're having a rain break from olive picking (absolutely miserable today, compared to yesterday's warm sunshine), I cleaned any leaves and other debris from the olives and weighed them, and I was exactly right! Now we only need to pick another 5 1/2 cases worth of olives and we've got enough to take it to the frantoio, the olive mill, to have it pressed for our very own individual batch. Of course we'll leave a bottle or 2 of oil for the owners of the olive grove on their doorstep.

What else has been happening since my last post? Well we planted some red onions and garlic, which is the thing to plant now during the waning moon phase according to conventional wisdom around here. And, oh yes I almost forgot, Mrs Ayak has given me another award, the Dragon's Loyalty Award. As I understand it's been given to me for loyally following her blog and commenting on it. Well on that basis here are my nominees for this award in no particular order. I won't notify you specifically, since if you're not reading this anyway, you are obviously not reading my blog! It is also given to some people who may not actually want it, but if you do, simply copy and stick it on your blog:

For future reference, I do appreciate being given awards, but I think my trophy cupboard is full now and I rather not clatter my sidebar up with numerous awards. Thank you anyway Mrs Ayak

As a final note for today here part 6 (or part 7? Sorry lost count) of our cut out and collect series of amusingly shaped vegetables: the knickerbocker carrot:


Mr. H. said...

I have olive envy, how neat it must be to pick and process them locally. Just how many wine crates of olives does it take to get a bottle of olive oil anyway? It sounds like a lot of work but well worth the effort.

Congratulations on another award! Perhaps you need to put an award box on your sidebar where you stash all of them for safe keeping:) Unfortunately I must once again decline your most generous offer of sed reward as my mantle is much to full of various herbs and assorted vegetables this time of year.

Have you given any thought to creating a Knickerbocker carrot award, now that would really be something worth displaying.:) Thank you for putting a smile on my face each and every time I read your blog.

Oh, and I absolutely love your photos.

Heiko said...

Mr. H, You are absolutely welcome. I knew you weren't going to accept the award (although I do think it's quite pretty), but I wanted to put your blog in anyway, as it's my absolute favourite. So here is to you, the very first ever knickerbocker carrot award for my favourite blog. Feel free to copy it onto your sidebar amongst your other assorted veg. You can also pass it on if you feel like it.

On the olives 10 kg (2/3 of a case of wine, a tenth quintale, a stone and a half, 20 odd pounds...) make between 1 and 2 litres (quarts, 2-4 pints, blah, blah, blah) depending on variety and year. As our neighbours say, if you have bread and olive oil you won't go hungry. Although it is hard work, it's probably one of the few things we grow, which yields more calories than it takes to grow them.

Ayak said...

It looks like your weather is very similar to ours at the moment. We have a few olive trees in our garden but this year they don't appear to have yielded fruit. I'm hoping next hyear will be different. Being a total novice, just a few trees will be sufficient for me to learn what to do with them.

As for the award. Lots of people don't wish to display them...or even accept them. In my opinion that's fine. I think they are good way of giving recognition to interesting blogs, and that's my reason for awarding them.

Ruralrose said...

thanks for the award! the carrot is gross! i drool at the thought of fresh ripe olives, what garden zone number are you there? peace for all

Heiko said...

Hi Ruralrose, I know you've got this climatic number system over your way and I learned all about it, but can't remember anymore. Put it that way, I lived in Southern California for a year once and it was similar, perhaps less extreme in both directions, i.e. no frost in winter and not quite so hot in summer.

Fresh olives of course are no good at all. Whilst they look tempting like this, they are not edible until you have cured them in brine for at least 40 days. In fact our olives from last year only recently started getting really nice.

Mr. H. said...

Heiko! It is I, the long winded American.:)

I spent the day out in the snow trying to get our darn truck running. In between busting my knuckles prying out stubborn bolts I thoroughly contemplated the "Knickerbocker Carrot award."

I was so deep in thought regarding this subject that I am not sure whether or not I will remember where all the nuts and bolts go when I attempt to replace the bad parts tomorrow. But, I did come to a conclusion regarding this award. As magnificent as the Knickerbocker Carrot is in all of its glory...I must once again decline.

You see, in America, there are many rich and famous people...actors and singers and such. Well, one of their favorite forms of entertainment is to take turns giving each other awards regardless of whether or not they are deserving of such things. We have Emmy awards, Grammy awards, country music awards and so on and so forth...it never ends. I find it all rather distasteful.

So, I will stick with my original decision and consider my friends, family, and good health all the awards I will ever need.

My good man, I can't believe I just turned down the Knickerbocker Carrot award...deep sigh.

"Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust." - Jesse Owens

Ayak said...

Mr H: It's a shame you find awards "rather distasteful". I also think it's a pity that you can't decline an award graciously without such a comment. But of course you are entitled to your opinion as much as the next person.

But you might like to consider how much blog awards mean to many bloggers...particularly newcomers. They don't find them distasteful. On the contrary they find them encouraging and an often much-needed boost to self-esteem. And it is of course possible to accept a well-meaning acknowedgment and appreciation of someones efforts without having to display the award. After all..I'm sure there are many modest recipients of Emmys and Oscars who prefer to keep them hidden away in a cupboard!

Please try not to trivialise something which is quite important to many people.

Thank you

Heiko said...

Oops, I didn't mean to open a can of worms here.

Mr. H. no skin off my nose. It was genuinely meant as a token of my appreciation for your blog, but I also do mean what you know (or something like that). I am not a friend of showbizz awards by any means. To me it always feels like a load of back slapping and an excuse to make another few million on a film or hit record. I prefer to make up my own mind whether I like a film or a song or not.

Ayak, I don't think Mr. H meant any offence to anyone. Him and me sort of virtually got to know each other a bit over the last few weeks and it's just a bit of light hearted banter. He did take 24 hours deliberation before rejecting the award after all, which showed he evidently took it quite serious, possibly a bit too serious even.

Right everyone, ready to kiss and make up?

Ayak said...

Heiko: No need for kissing and making-up as I don't think anyone has fallen out? It was just my opinion on Mr H's views. As you said "It was genuinely meant as a token of my appreciation for" his blog...and I think it's just good manners to accept another's appreciation in the manner in which it's offered. It doesn't mean one has to display the award but it's kinder not to denigrate it by inferring that it's "rather distasteful".

So Mr H has expressed his opinion...and I've expressed mine. Sorry to sabotage your blog but I felt I couldn't NOT respond.

And in any case...I'm still very pleased that your first award was presented by me, and that you were very gracious in your acceptance of it. xxx

Mr. H. said...

Ayak and Heiko- Will you consider accepting my apologies for such boorish manners. You are very right to be unhappy about my comments. Honestly, it was all in good fun but I can see how one could find my comments rather mean spirited and ungrateful. I will certainly keep your (Ayak) thoughts in mind the next time I accept or decline such things. My sense of humor could use a bit of improvement for sure. Thank you for helping me to understand the importance of sharing awards on these blogs.

Ayak said...

I tried to leave a message earlier...twice in fact...but it didn't happen...so here goes another try:

Just wanted to say to Mr H...thank you for your very gracious apology and of course I accept. Although I must apologise also if I have misunderstood your sense of humour. So I hope there are no hard feelings.

(Oh and I'll avoid offering you any awards in the future...joke!!)

Very best wishes
Ayak xx