Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Greece ~ A Time of Harvest, not Halloween

The olive harvest season officially got its start in this part of the Greek Peloponnese on Oct. 26th, St. Dimitrios name day. At The Stone House on the Hill, harvest took place a few days later on the day commonly known as Halloween back in the States. (I am happy to report the U.S. hasn’t yet exported that holiday to this region; there wasn’t a ghost, goblin, costume or party anywhere to be seen).

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Here, the olive and its harvest take top billing this time of year.

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I’d been envisioning this harvest since last December when we purchased The Stone House on the Hill with its olive terraces that slope down the hillside on which the house sits.  There are 15 olive trees on the property some estimated to be a 100 years old, plus one we planted after taking ownership.

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My daydreams about the event (thanks to Frances Mayes and Peter Mayle whose tales of  Tuscany and Provence inspire such adventures) had us harvesting under blue skies, surrounded by friends, drinking and eating and making it an event worthy of a book about our lives here in Greece.   Reality quickly set in:

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The wind didn’t just blow the weekend of our harvest, it howled. We had to interrupt harvest for an hour to allow a rain squall to drench the trees and ground. No singing like Zorba. No eating like Frances. No drinking like Peter.  It was work. Hard work. (But you know? It was also fun!)

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We’d had the good sense to hire our gardener and his wife to assist us since we didn’t have the slightest idea of how to harvest olives. Ares and Donika came with equipment loaned to us by our friend Yiannis who runs the family restaurant at the foot of our hill and who also owns 1,000 olive trees.

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We had some of the easier tasks: Joel hauled the cut branches -- from which we had beaten off the olives -- to the burn pile. While Ares ran the automated olive-shaker-offer and cut branches, I helped beat those fallen branches so that the olives were released onto the enormous nets spread below the trees to catch them.  Donika and I would then get on our hands and knees to sort the smaller branches from the olives. We’d all roll the nets and put the olives in the burlap bags.

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The grove, like the house, had been neglected for the past few years – trees hadn’t been trimmed, olives not harvested and weeds grew as tall as the grove’s terrace walls. So even the TLC we bestowed in recent months, we didn’t have a bumper crop but that didn’t detract from the fact it was ‘our’ olive crop and we were in Greece harvesting it!

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It took a full morning to harvest our small crop. We were ready to quit but to begin preparations for next year’s crop Ares returned in the afternoon for the first round of trimming the trees. They’ll get another cut in February.

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That afternoon at 5 p.m. we watched our olives become oil. Let me tell you that in life’s magic moments, this ranks right at the top of the scale! That’s our crop I am standing next to, we were the next order up:

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And then there they went! Within minutes our first harvest had come to an end. . .or so we thought.

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I posted a real time report on FB Saturday evening while we were at Yianni’s restaurant for dinner. But a few hours later we got a call saying they’d sent us off with the wrong oil (mysteries of oil production) so the next morning we returned those two cans and left with our olive oil:  4.5 gallons of oil (shown in the photos below).

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A number of you asked after seeing the FB post about what one does with that much oil.  There are options of selling it to the processor or leasing out the grove to others who will manage it, harvest and then provide you a portion of the oil. We didn’t produce enough this year to worry about it.

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The proof is in the pudding they say. . .and let me tell you, this oil is nectar of the gods! Wish all of you could sit around our table breaking fresh loaves of bread, cutting chunks of feta cheese and smothering both in big servings of olive oil.

Hope you’ll return for more tales from our adventures in Greece.  We appreciate the time you spend with us and look forward to your comments!  Safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

35 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your first harvest!

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    1. Thank you and hope you'll return often to TravelnWrite . . .and someday let us know who you are!

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  2. Jackie and Noel, so you can now add farming to your list of accomplishments. You can now stop bragging about it as all you do is make us feel all the more inconsequential, and ever more envious of the wonder lifestyle you are living! There can be nothing more important than being a farmer, because without them, humanity cannot exist. Just the thought of dipping bread into my own extra virgin oil just makes me salivate

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    1. Next year Iain you can come help with the harvest and dip your bread into that fresh pressed oil. Between Sue and Don and us we can give you plenty of opportunity!! Thanks for commenting ~ hope to see you again in Greece one day!

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  3. You couldn't pop over the valley and give us a hand could you we're going to need all the help we can get! Throughly enjoyed reading your article on the thoroughly enjoyable annual harvesting. I love this time of year and all the excitement that bringing in the olives entails, you can even smell it in the air.

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    1. I just told Iain in the comment above that we'd all invite him to help with harvest. In fact, he could still help you this year, couldn't he? You are so right about the smell of the air and the sounds of harvest - this is simply the best time to be here!

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  4. Congrats on your first olive harvest, Jackie and Joel!! Kudos to you for all the elbow grease you exhibited to make oil out of olives! I did it once, years ago, and I swore I'd never do it again - it was THAT exhausting! But, as they say, and as you yourselves can now testify to, every ache an pain (and taste), is worth it, right?

    Enjoy!!! Kali orexi, kai tou hronou!!

    xo
    Poppy

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    1. Thank you Poppy! It was a good workout that day of harvest - didn't know if my arms or legs would fall off by the end of the day but you are so right, every ache and pain is more than worth it!! Thanks for your words, as always they are appreciated. Hugs, Jackie

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  5. I love this so so so much, Jackie. :-) We have four fledgling olive trees that won't be producing anything for awhile, but seeing your harvest today makes me smile so big. :-) I loved your less-than-fairytale descriptions. Most of these "idyllic" things are seriously hard work, aren't they? But that doesn't make them any less wonderful. XO

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    1. There is something wonderful about seeing the fruits of one's labors, isn't there, Krista? The day I wrote this post, I saw yours about the 175 or some such astronomical number of bales of hay that you two had put away for winter and I thought to myself, "Now that REALLY sounds like work!" Take care - so glad you enjoyed the post. Those four trees will be producing before you know it. Hugs, J.

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  6. Somehow everything tastes better when you grow and harvest it yourself, doesn't it? We live in a row house in the Netherlands, yet I love being able to walk out to the back garden and pluck an apple off a tree. And we had our first grape harvest this year, from a vine I planted a few years ago next to the front door. It only produced 5 jars of jam, but who cares? I grew and made it myself! In Spain, my father-in-law used to harvest olives from an abandoned orchard near his house and make it into scrumptious oil just like you did. What a treat it was!

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    1. Oh Rachel, I can tell you understand the joy of it all completely! Congrats on that first grape harvest and I bet the jam you made is simply the best! What a wonderful place to live, a row house in the Netherlands! Sounds idyllic!! Have a great week ~ Jackie

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  7. What an amazing day to pick olives and then take home the oil.

    I love all the experiences you share.

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    1. Thanks so much. Glad you are enjoying these two old boomers as we have our 'final fling' as we call it in Greece. It was pretty darn amazing to watch our olives being made into oil!

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  8. Congrats, Jackie! You'll be a pro by the next harvest.
    As I was reading this, I was thinking of my cousin's first attempt at making coconut oil from coconuts. A long process but the oil is nothing like what we buy in the supermarket.

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    1. Ha, ha, ha Marcia. My big take away this year is not to walk across the nets and squish the olives. . .afraid my learning curve is still heavy on the 'lot more to learn' side of life! Glad you are finally able to comment here - I've missed being in touch. And just mention of that coconut oil made my mouth water! Hugs, J.

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  9. Loved seeing this aspect of Greece. I remember seeing the olive harvest long ago. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

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    1. Elaine, glad this brought back some travel memories for you! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

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  10. ...and, don't you look adorable, standing by your crop !!
    How much fun this all must be for you and hubby. Just think...YOU OWN OLIVE TREES....amazing...and in GREECE to boot. So glad for you to be living this dream.
    xoxo

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    1. Gotta admit, BJ, I was as excited as a kid at Christmas for our first harvest. I hope it never becomes routine in my mind!

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  11. I was sitting breaking bread and dipping it in the oil and scoffing it with fetta in olive oil too - virtually - while I read your post. Fantastic. Can't wait for more Jackie,

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  12. That's got to be very satisfying, literally enjoying the fruits of your labor! Congrats on the first of many harvests!

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    1. It was an amazing experience - finally having done something where you literally see and taste the fruits of your labors unlike our old 'dress-for-success-sit-at-a-desk' old lives. Thanks for stopping by Amy, I always love seeing comments from you! Have a great week.

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  13. That is truly eating local at its finest. Will you perhaps be giving some away as Christmas gifts if you return to the States by then? Everyone will be hankering to come and visit your Stone House on the Hill to see your olive grove.

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    1. We've been discussing the logistics of bringing oil back to the states, but we plan to take a side trip en route back and our routing is through Paris. Not sure how popular plastic bottles of liquid (although olive oil) packed in the checked bags will be. Could be a whole other blog post in the making!

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  14. I really fond of the interesting writing method which you have followed in this post! You have arranged all the points very clearly and convincingly. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. Keep on sharing!

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  15. Hi Jackie! WOW! There is nothing like growing and producing something from your own plot of land. I'm sure your oil is amazing. I sample my fair share of Spanish olive oil when i was in Spain a few years ago. I plan on doing the same this winter in Spain and Portugal. I brought back a couple of cans of the golden nectar, and enjoyed every drop! BTW, if your thinking of mailing any around the world I'll send you my address :)

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    1. Actually it would be great to mail it around the world but I am not quite sure how to accomplish that, Nancie. We may end up needing to enjoy it here as part of this world's experiences.

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  16. There was no singing like Zorba? Oh no! But it sure does sound and look like fun. What a wonderful life you've chosen in Greece. I'd like to imbibe in some of your olive oil sometime. Don't be surprised if I show up during a future harvest. :)

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    1. Harvest has been an amazing time around here this year Cathy as the weather has been summer-like with sun and blue skies (which they tell us isn't normal) so if you come remember to bring your flannel shirt, work gloves, jeans and rubber boots (or you could buy them here of course) ;-) and start lifting weights now to prepare for the experience! Thanks for dropping by!!

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  17. This was so exciting to read! I imagine how exited you guys were when all of these was happening. So, they send you home with less oil than what you were supposed to get?

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  18. Dunking fresh bread in fresh olive oil sounds like a feast for the gods and knowing that you contributed to the main attraction has to give you a warm glow! As a city girl from the US whose food used to come packaged and displayed in the Super-Plus stores I never really thought about harvesting an olive crop or learning how the oil is processed. Now that we're in Portugal I'm looking forward to seeing an olive harvest, wine making, how cork is harvested and buying our own fish freshly caught from the sea. It's nice to feel a bit closer to nature and the seasonal rhythms!

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  19. It is indeed nectar of the gods, or as I call it liquid gold. Congratulations on your first harvest and to many more. This is one of my favorite activities every winter I love how pretty the olives are, all round and purple almost like grapes. And the smoothness of the leaves... don't get me started I can go on all day.

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