In late October, the officer’s club organized a trip to pick olives on a local farm. The season was at its peak, and trees were heavy with darkening olives. We decided to go along, mostly because I’ve wanted to go olive picking since we moved here, and this was really our last chance. We planned to only stay for a few hours, because we couldn’t fathom that we’d be much help in the grove with our two little ones.
The farm was just outside Mineo and owned by Agrippina and her husband Franco, who runs a butcher shop in the beautiful hilltop town of Mineo. There were about 20 of us there, including some little children, and the whole atmosphere was very carefree. I wondered how long it would take before we were sweating and miserable, as I’d heard that olive picking is no walk in the park. Agrippina, however, informed us that olive trees only produce olives every two years. Last year 100 of their 125 trees produced olives. This year… only six. Only six! That sounded manageable. How long could six trees take for 20 people to pick?
We headed down into the groves and got a quick tutorial. We could either pick the olives by hand — as Elliott is doing on the left — or we could rattle them out of the trees with long- or short-handled rakes — like the ones our pediatrician is using and has stuck in his back pocket!
Lena enjoyed helping out after some guidance… and she probably picked more than I did!
I did have a sleeping baby attached to me, though. And camera duty.
It was easy to slow down in the warm, dappled sunlight… only to be roused again by the furious pace of our Italian hosts.
As we picked olives, we tossed them down onto green nets laid out under the trees.
When one tree was finished, everyone helped shake the olives onto one net…
… and then picked out all the stems, leaves, and debris from around the olives.
We then funneled them into crates to be transported to the olive press. It’s dirty work, especially if you like sticking your fingers in your mouth!
The group moved quickly from tree to tree, but it still took a couple of hours to pick all six trees.
The group is dwindling…
Elliott and Lena found a peaceful spot under a tree.
And then Gil woke up and wanted to join in the fun!
When all six trees were picked, we walked back up the hill to Franco and Agrippina’s house, which is over 100 years old and looks out over the valley. On long tables under old pine trees, they served wine and grilled meat from Franco’s butcher shop, and we contributed side dishes. The meal was delicious and–for some of us more than others–well earned! Afterwards we ate Italian pastries and sipped limoncello and espresso before the drive home.
A relaxing day… especially considering we were sort of working!