We’ve been here in central Sicily for over a year, and we’re getting ready for our second harvest. The weather is changing, hot in the sun, but it’s finally cool in the shade. I find it’s only when I reach full cycle with a season, particularly winter, that I realise that I’ve actually been somewhere for while. It’s that going back to school feeling. What’s more, in nigh on 40 years (not quite) I’ve lived in 6 countries, the first 3 had nothing to do with me, my parents moved us. The last 3 have been my choices, and I’ve usually been out of the UK for a year or 2, max 3. Hence changing seasons being meaningful indications of how long I’ve been in a given place, rather than say, which PM is ‘running’ the country, volcanic eruptions, my age….
This time last year, we had no idea, borrowed a couple of nets, and plastic combs on poles. Mimmo turned up with a big stick and showed us how he literally wolloped olives from the tree. Out of our 16 secular trees, he wolloped the only that had actually had a lot of olives. The rest we picked by hand. The 20 year old trees at the top of our field hand a handful of olives in total. We were finished by 130pm, which was lucky as I had baby Rosa on my back, and Elio was with his Great Aunty. 2014 was a bad year, warm winter, wet spring means way too many mosche oleare, the olives’ main pest. An easy year for us as beginners, who I repeat, knew nothing. We put our 50 kg together with said Great Aunt’s 80 kg and even that wasn’t enough to get it milled. Mimmo put ours in with his, and we managed less than 20 litres.
This year feels different, not least because all of our trees are drooping heavy with bright green olives. But mainly because we feel we know something – we’ve done the olive pruning course, the olive oil tasters course, spoken to more agronomists than I care to remember, read books, asked a million questions, bought our crates, 20 no less, and our own nets, invited and are expecting friends from UK to help us. Let’s hope it’s a good year.