Housesitting, Housesitting in Spain, Life of adventure

The Olive Tree

This ancient tree holds a particular segment of our hearts and a significant part of our earlier lives together.

Within the span of a few years from early 2001, we had planted approx 500 trees and yes the rows were all spaced out correctly by the Squire [below photo] on a small lifestyle/orchard in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand.

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With dreams of having our own olive oil press and creating a unique boutique label, we started to develop the grove.  As with some goals, not all come to fruition.  This was one of them.  Though what does dampen the disappointment of not completing this dream is seeing that the olive trees we planted are still producing and their owners are selling the oil at the farm gate.

With still an avid interest, I was excited to see our method of harvesting been done by a neighbour just down the road from where we were housesitting.

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The harvesting that I am referring to is the manual method of shaking the tree with a hand or motorised rake.

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A few days later, on a Sunday morning, a hive of activity was happening around the valley, and I went in search for a closer look.

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“Más Fuerte,” says a local man to the guy next to him, who is swinging the long bamboo pole along the sides of the whippy branches, rather than directly hitting the stems,  the next minute a hail of dark olives descends to the ground. Amazingly he dislodges the ripe fruit from the tree without damaging the young buds that will form next years crop.

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He then enlists the help of a mechanical tree shaker to speed up progress as the other men continue to thwack away at the vibrated branches. After they had darkened the dry soil around the tree’s stumpy trunk with a circle of glistening dark purple olives, they then rake the fruit into piles and shovel them large hessian bags.

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Unfortunately, that is where my onlooker participation leaves the story. 

It was now lunchtime, and the men dropped tools and grabbed their bags that were hanging in the tree and proceeded to enjoy their packed lunches sitting underneath a large olive tree.

With a chat from a young lad who I found spoke a bit of English and with my knowledge of the process, I gathered that this lot of olives will no doubt be taken to a local to a co-operative plant to be pressed.  This is very family orientated than big business, which is very similar to many Olive Growers back in New Zealand.

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One of our olive trees, the leaves look so much greener than the Spanish ones!

Our experience with our olive grove years ago was carrying buckets over a few fences to a neighbours orchard [which they have now sold].  This couple were doing their orchard the organic way, and, very generously allowed us to press our olives in their shed.  The form of pressing was by hand not a sizeable powered machine.  It required mulching the olives then laying them onto mats which would be put on top of each other [approximately 5 layers].  These were then pressed together by turning the vice handle a fraction very slowly forcing the oil to ooze out the sides of the mats, into a large funnel, which then trickled into a large vessel on the ground.

We were small-time growers, and so were Chris and Peter.  Just significant enough in the early stages to have enough olive oil to last a year and still be able to give some away.  It was a pleasure to have our homegrown oil to give away, let along sell.  As it signified a reward for all our hard work.

Some facts about the modest olive:

It uses and a few fun facts:

  • Food preparation
  • Fuel
  • Preservative
  • Medical
  • Cosmetic
  • Religious Unction – The Bible, the Torah and the Koran are all full of references to the olive
  • The oldest olive tree in Spain is approx 2000 years
  • Olive leaves a natural wedding confetti
  • It’s a symbol of peace
  • The most significant type of olive tree is referred to as a Donkey Olive
  • The Olive is a fruit, not a vegetable
  • The oldest olive tree is on the island of Crete
  • Colour depends on ripeness, green, reddish, and black.

The Olive Tree

Some useful links for more information:

 

I will leave you with an old Spanish saying: “Olive oil cures all ills”.

89 thoughts on “The Olive Tree”

  1. What an incredible achievement – hats off to you both!

    I never would have thought Olive trees would grow in NZ – even in the north island. Well done and an amazing effort.

    Here in southern Italy, Olive trees are grown in everyone’s backyard it seems, just like the massive veggie patch. And why not, fresher and better for you than store bought produce. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, there are quite a few olive groves in the North Island as well as the South Island. In parts of the South the olives do better due to the lack of humid. Love the big vegetable patches and where we can buy fresh vegetables straight from the garden when we go to the local markets. 🙂

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  2. Wow.. that’s amazing! I have never had an opportunity to see a Olive Tree and you have your own grove ☺️☺️ It’s a great initiative to plant trees and I’m glad that your number is 500+ and growing substantially. Great work.
    Cheers, Charu

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  3. Loved this. I was completely fascinated with the olive trees in Cyprus and came back with so many pictures of olives and olive groves! No idea why – probably something to do with not being able to grow such exotic things here in the Great White North!

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    1. Thanks Ruth, pleased to hear you enjoyed it. I can understand your fascination with the olive tree, there is something about it. No doubt why a olive branch is used as a sign of peace. Yes, it would be quite hard to grow them up North in Canada. Though having said that, we have seen olive trees surrounded by snow, which won’t stay around as long as the snow in Canada.

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  4. A fascinating tree and story, Suz! Some of these facts are very interesting as well, like the olive being a fruit (I think it should be a category of itself, as it doesn’t appear to be fruit or vegetable to me. :-)), and that the color depends on its ripeness. I had no idea! How come your dream of becoming successful olive growers (as in creating your own brand) didn’t succeed? Not enough land and trees? Not enough interest? Happy to read your NZ grove is still doing well.

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    1. Basically the reason why we sold up is I was having to do all the work (not that I mind physical work, I love it) due to the Squire having a back disability and being medically retired. We wanted to do something in life together. Lucky we got out of it when we did as the property market dipped as it does!! Living the good life is like owning a boat its a bottomless bucket when it comes to money!

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  5. Wow, your own olive grove! Deeply impressed. We always have at least 2 kinds of olive oil on the go. A supermarket one for cooking and something special for dipping bread, sometimes combined with balsamic vinegar. Which reminds me – it must be lunchtime now!

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    1. Thanks, Hayley. The trees in perfect lines help the mowing in between. Especially when I was driving the tractor 🙂 The Squire loves things to be done correctly and I noticed many Spanish olive groves are done the same. I would hazard a guess it would be due to whether or not they are to be mechanically harvested!

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  6. I remember seeing olive trees for the first time in Spain and being amazed at how old they could be while still producing. Now, 55 years later, I live in Mt Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand, and our streets are lined with olive and fig trees in honour of the many Greek families living here. I like the kindly method of harvesting! Sometimes I preserve a jar or two. Thank you.

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  7. Today I’ve eaten olives, cooked with olive oil and walked past our olive tree. The poor thing doesn’t produce any fruit since it grew too tall to be kept indoors, but I love the silvery leaves. One of my recorders is made from olive wood and it’s beautiful to play.

    When I was a child, the only use we had for olive oil was to warm it on a spoon and pour it into our ears when we had an earache in the winter. You could only buy it in chemists. I’m glad we have better things to do with it now.

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    1. Thanks April for sharing your day with olives. Funny thing is this week we haven’t eaten that many. No doubt we have overdosed on too many in the previous few weeks. Many people have olive trees just for decoration as they are a lovely tree without getting anything from them. If tea is your thing you can harvest and dry the leaves for a herbal tea.

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  8. How deeply wonderful that you grew olives and pressed your own oil. I remember when we had our Cheese business that we imported olives and olive oil from my parents’-in-law’s village in Provence. There was a small cooperative in the village and all the local growers brought their surplus to the press. I have never tasted better oil or olives …. Happy days. This delightful piece was so interesting as well as stirring happy memories … thank you 🙂

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    1. Thanks Osyth, and for sharing your personal experience with the wonderful olive oil. I like people like you!! The obvious reason is that you made cheese!! We are both big cheese lovers. Life is not worth a grain of salt if cheese is not in the household 🙂

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  9. So interesting! I love everything about the Olive tree & their fruits. The oldest being 2000 year old? Wow stunning. You planted all those trees that’s so great!! Sorry you didn’t get to fulfill your dream in that instance but you can be so proud of the trees you planted & it must’ve been amazing to see them giving fruit 😃👍

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    1. Thanks Sam 🙂 Well, if that dream had come into fruition we may not be doing housesitting. So, we are happy with how life is developing for us. Oh yes, we did have more trees, though when I was learning to use the tractor are few of them got knocked over!! Most of the planting was done after work or during the weekends! Not sure where we found the energy! Chocolate perhaps? 🙂

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  10. I love olives and olive oil, but I’d never given thought to where the oil comes from. We are so far removed from our food that its great to see where it actually comes from!

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  11. Once again an interesting blog Suz and with your knowledge of the olive trees and their particular uses it would have been fascinating for you to explore that olive grove.

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    1. Thanks, Jan, and yes it was. We both love the Spanish way of life!! The place always reminds me of you and Nana popping in on the way to see Mum. We had some good times and some hard times on that property. Mostly good memories of leaving it a better place than the one we brought!!

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    1. If I have it correct I think many of the small growers combine their oil with others. Believe it or not much of the oil heads over to Turkey and that’s where it gets complicated as much of the olive oil is blended with other oils. For the life of me I can’t find where I read that, which is annoying!! Buying at the farmers gate is done in most countries, I love it, as it cuts out the middle man, though it would only be pocket money [usually tax free] for many.

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  12. Wow, you certainly have had a varied and interesting life Suz! It must have been lovely (in some ways) to see the olive trees being harvested in this way. I certainly learnt a few things about olives I didn’t know, so man th thanks for enlightening me.

    Hope all is going well, I really must catch up on my reading of your blog. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deb, yes we have tried our hands at a few things. Rolling with the punches and making the most of what life throws at us 🙂 I love olives and the tree, it’s calming effect I love, so walking around the groves was wonderful. Hope all is going well for you and not long before you head on over here 🙂

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  13. Not all Olive Oil is created equally. I certainly appreciated a good quality Olive Oil and used to always purchase the labels from small home grown Olive Grove farmers. I appreciated the fact that it was always very labor intensive and therefore didn’t mind paying premium for a great tasting oil.

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    1. Thanks Linda, yes most supermarket brands and much of the oil sold here is not olive oil. It is usually a blend of various oils. The difference is good quality oil that has been looked after and stored correctly is palatable . Thanks for commenting Linda good to see you here, so to speak 🙂

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  14. How lovely to have planted all of those trees and written such beautiful words. And now you are traveling through Europe. It reminds me of a saying, “Many of our dreams have floated out to sea but the tide has brought in new and unexpected ones.” Thanks for the warmth of your post.

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      1. My father when i told him about this taster – he came from Italy the taster- dad said he knew Italians were mad. Spit out a decent red and yet swallow raw oil! Fascinating stuff though olive oil. They did an experiment on the BBC a year or so ago to try and identify why the southern european and esp italian life style meant it was one of the healthiest. They concluded it was because their diet had more raw olive oil in it than others. Not the sun or the veg or the pace of life but the oil.

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        1. Good story Geoff! The people on the whole do seem to be happier, I think it is a combination of all the above you mentioned and a passion for their country? We were trying to recall ever seeing an aggressive looking person on our wanderings, we couldn’t. Yet back in NZ and other countries it is hard not to see them.

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  15. A really interesting post. I’m nor a fan of olives to eat but olive oil is always in our kitchen cupboard. I’ve never really thought about the process so this was really enlightening.

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    1. Thanks Ritu. I think that blight you are referring to is similar to “peacock spot”, that many NZ growers had or still contend with, some of the spots can be seen on the olives in the last photo! Humid weather and some olive tree varieties equals problems!

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