On the first day the weather was fantastic. The day started early but even so we could hear neighbours in their fincas with their leaf blowers and mechanical tree shakers burring away before we had even finished our breakfast. We decided to start at the gate with one of the bigger trees. We figure that if we do the trees that are visible to our neighbours as they pass then at least they will think we are on top of things. If we flag later and can't finish all our trees they may never know. There is a great sense of solidarity with our neighbours as we work and receive cheery waves, calls of Hola, Buenos Dias, and beeps from passing cars. We are all suffering together, even the guys with the leaf blowers on their backs are complaining that they are heavy, or the mechanical shakers make your fingers buzz by the end of the day. Few of our trees are suitable for any other harvesting method than basic bashing them with sticks.
This is our third harvest and there are a few things that are the same as the previous years. There is the inappropriate jokes about the size of Steve's pole....
Not funny any more but hey it's become a tradition. ... the photograph of me at the start of day one. I actually don't look too different to the other two 'Day One' photo's I have. That's comforting. By the last day of work we are so cheesed off we start singing... this is not a pleasant melodic kind of singing... nor even the soulful 'cotton-pickin' kind ... Its more along the lines of a tuneless One Man Went To Mow...
Once we start all the memories of last years harvest come back. How much effort it takes to dislodge a ripe olive from the branch. Not as easy as you would think. How your shoulders and arms ache. How your back protests at so much bending over. How heavy the nets are.
How wonderful is the smell of the nets and the olives and the dark rich earthiness of the ground beneath our hands and knees while we sort out the olives from the leaves. We are a little too conscientious about this task. There is a machine at the Co-op that sorts the leaves out, we should really only take out the biggest branches, but we both get carried away and actually it is an opportunity to catch our breath before starting on the next tree.
By the afternoon of day two the rain arrived. We were pooped by then and decided to call it a day. But the start of Day three looked promising and so we set out with great gusto only to flag half way through the morning as the heavens opened and we got very wet.
You can't just stop mid tree so you have to at least finish what you are doing and tidy everything away. It's definitely no fun in the wet. Every year we ask for volunteers to help with the harvest, and every year so far we have done it on our own. We understand, most of our friends here have their own harvests to do, and our families come here for holidays... not usually for work... especially at this time of year when the weather is so unpredictable.
We had planned to have a trailer this year. It will cut down the amount of trips to the Co-op and therefore save on time and fuel. Alas when we got to the Trailer shop they didn't have any of the size that we wanted. So now we are awaiting a phone call to say when they will be back in stock. We have been promised that it will be this week but this is Spain and the truth is that shop assistants don't want to disappoint their customers and sometimes they just say what they think you want to hear, or what they hope will happen.
But not to worry. We still have the buckets and flower pots that we have used in previous years and we have been offered the loan of a trailer if ours doesn't turn up before the next weekend. We filled every possible container that we had and two wheelbarrows as well and when we couldn't find anything else to fill we started ferrying the containers down to the Co-op.
Here we are in the queue. Last in the queue actually.
As it turned out we weren't after the lorry at all. We were told that if we got out of the car and chatted with the other farmers we would find out who is the last in the queue and then it doesn't matter where you park your car so long as you watch the guy who is before you so you know when to drive on up to the weighing machine. The Spanish don't queue like we do. But it does help pass the time as you wait. Chatting with farmers whose accents are as thick as you can get is certainly challenging... lots of smiles, nods and apologies for being English go a long way.
This is the lorry with our friend Juan Antonio's olives. You can see the olives spilling out through the grid and onto the weighing machinery below.
And this is ours...
The first year they laughed when we produced the plant pots but they are used to us now. The chap in the little booth remembered our name and brought up the correct information on his computer and gave me the slip of paper that tells us the weight of our olives. 177kg on this trip... we have a lot more to go. It looks like it will be a good harvest provided we don't flag and manage to get every tree done. So fingers crossed for some more good weather and with a lot of hard work it should all be done and dusted by next week. We hope.