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”.

90 thoughts on “The Olive Tree”

  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. 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. 🙂

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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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