Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Earlier this month I took time out from the frantic last preparations for the café opening to go with the kids and visit some friends of ours who were in the last stages of harvesting the olives from their groves near Lygourió. Even though I've seen how it's done on TV, we had never actually joined in, so it was an opportunity I didn't want to put off until next year.
Needless to say, the kids had an amazing time. I really enjoyed it, too, even though I din't help that much because of my back.
It's common for families here to have olive groves for their own supply of oil and, if there is any left, they can sell it or give it away if they choose. When the middle of November comes around, everyone in the family, from old to young, knows it's time to start the olive harvest.
Large cloths are laid below the trees and then, with special 'combs' and ladders, the trees are stripped of their fruit. Usually some pruning of the trees takes place, too. Once all the olives are on the cloths, they're carefully lifted into a large 'sieve' which allows the leaves, which have also fallen, to be sorted out and the olives fall through into the sack below.
Once all the olives are harvested, they're taken by truck to the local olive press. The owner of the olives agrees in advance to either pay with money for the pressing of the oil or to give a percentage of the oil that is pressed to the mill owner, who, in turn, sells it. The smell emitted from the mill as olives are being pressed is one you either love or hate, but you certainly know you are in an olive producing region at this time of year! The smell is unmistakeable!
We only spent a few hours with our friends, including a break for some hearty bean soup to give the workers their energy. During the hours we were there, three trees were stripped and the fourth one was just begun. As you can imagine, it is hard work. But well worth it! The kids came home excited, exhausted and very dirty!