Yes, this is a picture of me picking olives. The ladder doesn't look too safe, does it? The one above is of David unloading them at the coperativa.
We spent yesterday picking the first of the olives. The Levante wind was blowing, some of the olives were fat and ripe and we were afraid we might lose them. We picked around 35 kilos from 3 trees which we took to the local cooperativa. To earn the status of extra virgin oil the olives have to be taken to the press on the day of picking and reach a certain acidity level. Ours were fine and resulted in 5 litres of oil, the first of the season. We still have 26 trees to pick, which will probably be ready for harvesting in a couple of weeks, and can yield as much as 600 kilos before we're done. It's going to be a bumper crop this year as the trees are heavy with fruit. Despite the drought this summer, we had rain in the spring when the fruit was being set, and again in the autumn to swell them. I love olive picking. It's great fun. The big boys with a thousand trees or more in their groves use machinery to do the job and it's serious money. But we hobby olive pickers do it by hand. We don't shake the tree like that lovely old woman in the advert, nor do we bash it with sticks, although I suppose that's one way of doing it. We just run our hand down a branch and knock the olives into the bucket below. It's a most satisfying sound. We also put nets under the tree to catch the fallen ones. Of course you can get neurotic about picking every last olive, and the most luscious ones,like blackberries, are always just out of reach, so ladders and some tree climbing is called for. Yes, I have fallen out of an olive tree, and knocking over the bucket and spilling the olives is another hazard. But it's a day of exercise in the sun, more fun than going to the gym, and at the end of it you've produced something that is actually good for your heart. We invite friends round to help. Some actually volunteer , and everyone looks forward to olive picking day. For their efforts they get a couple of litres of extra virgin oil, and a good lunch of course. Anyone still sober enough after lunch can carry on picking for a little while longer, but then in the late afternoon or early evening, we take the crop to the press. It may not be a particularly cost effective method but it's less work, and much more fun.