Monday, November 24, 2008

Olive Harvest: Part III

In which I realize this little job has been dragging on way too long and if we don't finish today, it won't happen for another week...thus, we decide to get serious and be done with it.

As so often happens to the Great Procrastinators that we are, we made this decision just a little too late.

Here's a photo of the mountains up the valley...

Yep. That's snow there on the top. Of course that is much higher than we are, we didn't have snow. But, it is an indicator as to what's happened to the temperature in general. It fell much faster than our olives did. F$%^&ng cold. Brrrrrr....

Let me remind you what the weather was like when we STARTED this project...

No one to blame but our-lazy-selves but it still hurts.

Of course, I must add here again that cold is pal Jay in Minnesota spent his weekend putting an ice skating rink in his back yard. Different kind of cold.

Back to Maberga...

SO THEN, last night there was a rain storm to end all rain storms. This has two implications for the olive harvest:
1. The trees were covered and dripping with ice cold rain water this morning, making the one by one, individual picking that much more enjoyable (sarcasm).
2. Whilst picking the ice cold dripping wet olives one by one, individually the mind wanders to what would have happened last night in the wind/rain storm had we had nets under our trees. Yep, mother nature offered to do most of the work for us...had we done that prep-work. Realizing this adds to the picking pleasure (more sarcasm).

Oh, I forgot to mention (what should have been "Olive Harvest: Part II.5" had I written it yesterday), that the chopping limbs off to pick them didn't really work as planned. (No, Mette, David didn't cut down the whole tree - however, as you mentioned in the comments, that would have made the picking much easier next year). The chainsaw method would have worked like a charm had we actually picked the olives when we cut the branches off instead of putting them on the side of the house where they sat for four days with the olives shrivelling up. I'm no expert on these things but common sense would tell me that shrivelled olives render less oil than non-shrivelled ones. I did include the few I picked yesterday in with all the you think the people at the olive press will notice?

Anyway, back to Part III -

David decided to employ the "beat the tree" method today since I was on the only ladder and was wearing the only work glove I could find in the house (NOT the only PAIR, just ONE - luckily it was the right hand. Honestly, some times I wonder how we are able to feed ourselves). Also known as "the big stick method", the "beat the tree" method is the one where you, well, beat the tree with a big stick.

Then the olives come tumbling down into your neatly lain nets, and there you go!

Olive harvest finished!

Can't wait to see how much oil this will get us. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Olive Harvest Part II: Day 3

In which David joins me in the trees....

Over breakfast I laid it out straight for David, "Dude, are you going to help with the olive harvest or not? If the answer is no, I'll just stop working myself now because doing it alone, the olives will go rotten before I'm able to pick them all."

David, "yeah, ok. I'll help."

As EarleinDenver astutely pointed out in the comments yesterday, nets usually are involved in picking olvies. For the past two days I've been picking the low hanging branches, thus being able to stand on the ground (no ladder or tree climbing required) holding the basket in one hand directly under the branch (no nets required). But today, David and I were going to have to go up to find olives.

We debated the nets and decided it was time to lay them.

Neither of us like the nets. They are unwieldy and get stuck in every thing. Ours also have lots of big holes, rendering them, well, useless. Plus there's that allergy that David and I both seem to possess for prep-work. You know, like taping the trim and laying plastic before painting or knitting a swatch before starting a sweater.

Our neighbors don't seem to suffer from the same affliction...

Check that out! I've never seen such neatly places nets.

Here's what David and I did..

Let's look at the neighbors again...

That's just incredible. It seems that they believe, like EarleinDenver that the olives magically fall into these nets because after spending the morning placing them, they left - no picking. If this works for them, I'll do the net thing better next year.

At about noon, after recovering from the astonishment of the neighbors nets and realizing that even if the olives just dropped into our expertly placed nets I'd still be picking the olives individually but from the ground, I climbed into the tree. I wasn't that high up so I still held the basket, still picking the olives - individually, by hand, one at a time, still trying not to think about how long this was going to take.

David rambled out and joined me. He climbed up high with a basket and started picking - each olive individually, one at a time, by hand.

We weren't really chatting, we were just picking - each olive individually, one at a time, by hand. After about 20 minutes David hopped out of the tree. Saying nothing he headed for the shed.

He must have been, like me, calculating the time this was going to take, pondering alternative methods to get this done. Because he came back from the shed with

his chainsaw.

Dude knows how to get the job done.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Olive Harvest

After weeks of rain which was sorely needed, has made everything green and fresh, and has restarted the spring (aka: our water supply), we are having glorious weather. Blue skies with a warm sun and just a bit of a chill in the mornings and evenings...perfect autumn weather.

And, like some kind of divinely orchestrated plan this weather coincides with the exact week the olives are ready to be picked. Yep, it's that time of the year when we get to be in the fresh air, hanging from the trees harvesting baskets, buckets, burlap bags of beautiful olives that will become golden oil that will make every meal we prepare delicious.

Sounds romantic doesn't it?

Yeah, well, it's not. The romance is gone for me.

Here's the reality...When the sun has taken the chill out of the air you go out to the nearest tree with some form of a receptacle and, well, start picking. There are different ways to coax the olives from the limbs into your basket. Some people bang the branches with a big stick then collect the fallen fruit off the ground - imagine it's your turn at a huge pinata filled with just one kind of candy that you can't eat. Some people rake the tree - imagine brushing burrs out the long hair of an enormous child. Personally, I perfer picking them one at a time.

45 minutes worth:

It's a slow process. Very slow. It's one of those experiences I have (rarely these days) when it's painfully obvious to me that I'm not from around here. I don't know how to relax, enjoy it, appreciate it, understand it. I find my brain doing American mental gymnastics. I try to stop it but I just can't.

"There must be a more efficient way to do this. There MUST be. People have been doing this for millenia, hasn't anyone found a more efficient way to do this?!"

"If I pick 5 handfuls a minute. And it takes - wait, how many handfuls to fill that bucket? Ok, a guesstimations, roughly ONE MILLION handfuls...let's see..that means it will take roughly...F#*&^^! A LONG F)&^&* time to fill that bucket!"

"There must be a more efficient way to do this. Why hasn't anyone found it yet?"

"If I get roughly 5 liters of oil from a burlap sack of olives, and it takes roughly 10 buckets to fill the sack and it takes roughly A MILLION handfuls to fill the bucket, and it takes roughly 12 seconds for each handful...that means the 20 drops of oil that I dribble on one piece of bruschetta takes roughly...OH MY GOD! WHAT AM I DOING?"

more ruminations about the olive harvest to come...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Check this out! Can you see it? That's the view from out patio looking up the valley. There's a rainbow in there. I had a puzzle exactly like that when I was a kid. Weird, huh? The real thing is better.

A little shameless self-promotion...if you find yourself in the southern Wisconsin area any of the weekends between now and Christmas, do stop by The Christmas Barn.

It's an artisan fair highlighting the work of "local" artisans. Among other hand-crafted treasures you can find maberga designs jewelry. The nice ladies organizing the event stretched their definition of "local" to include a girl living in Italy, making jewelry with glass beads from Venice. I guess they figure, as I do, if you've ever lived in a house in Elkhorn that was t.p.ed*, you are dubed a local for life no matter where you go or how long you've been gone.

Buy a lot of stuff - good folks making some beautiful stuff. They even have yarn - beautiful Alpaca yarn. I know because I have some of it. I've even met the alpacas it came from. Nice alpacas.

* for you second language English speakers, "t.p" stands for "toilet paper" - normally it is a noun, but can be used as a verb when it invovles teenagers throwing it in the middle of the night in the trees of a friend's house.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

It's finally happened...

Maybe with that title some of you are expecting a blog about our new president in the US? Sorry. I'll leave discourses about that for others who are more eloquent and better able to capture the significance of the this event.

Instead, I'm going to write about these

Any of you who've known me in the last 12 years will recognize them as my prefered winter footwear. That's kind of a gentle way to say that I've been wearing these boots every day October to April for the past decade (plus 2 years). I love these boots. Love them.

At about year 6 I started asking myself when I dug them out for yet another season, "should I retire these? I've been wearing them every day of every winter for 6 (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) years." Then, every year, I'd put them on and say "f^#& no! I love these boots." When the boots celebrated their 10th birthday I asked myself, "10 years, a decade, wow. Are they out of style?" My response, "who the f$&^ cares! I love these boots."

Some of you readers may remember when I thought about putting them to rest after a young Ruffino decided he loved these boots, too...

But again, "f*&^ no way! I can deal with that little chewed bit. I love these boots."

The last couple of years I haven't even bothered to polish them any more.

Doesn't that scuffed look just add to the beauty? These are good boots.

So, last night I got all dressed up to go to a dinner party. It's been so easy for the past 12 years, no fretting about which shoes to wear! Just like every other evening for all these years, I put on my boots and ran down the stairs ready to go.

Hmmm...something doesn't feel quite right...

Oh drat! It's finally happened.

PS. I finished this...

it's beautiful. the yarn is awesome and soft and a wonderful color. The neck and the sleeves are just as I like them...long. And, it's going to friend Ellen. That's ok, it's my pattern, I can make another one. (If any of you want the pattern, just ask.) Wouldn't it look great with my boots? Oh, wait...