The day breaks and there is a slight chill in the air. It’s enough to make you reach for a jumper until the sun has made it’s journey high enough into the sky for it’s rays to banish the chills and warm you through. I love autumn in the valley with it’s beautiful days of clear blue skies and temperatures averaging in the low to mid 20’s. Yet there is something comforting about being able to curl up under the heavy blankets in bed of an evening as the temperatures drop and reminding you that it is indeed autumn and winter is just around the corner.
Autumn is also the time for one of my favourite rituals of the year – the Olive Harvest. The first of the autumn rains signals the start of the annual harvest which this year in the valley was underway in earnest at the start of November. From first light to sunset all over the valley families head into their orchards and the ground around the trees is laid with coverings ready to receive the green, purple and black fruits.
It’s a family activity often seeing several generations of a family out together to tend to the picking. The older or less mobile can be seen sitting on the ground under the tree sorting through the olives, putting aside green, blemish free olives for pickling, and removing the leaves and unwanted debris. The ground is also careful scoured for olives that the tree has already dropped as no olive is left behind. Surrounding the tree will be several members of the family gentling teasing the branches with their fingers to release the fruit and there is a steady rhythmic plopping as the olives hit the canvas below.
The young guys of the family nimbly climb their way to the tops of the trees, perching precariously as they reach for the highest branches and relieve the tree of its bounty.
The use of ladders is reserved for perhaps the more sensible pickers, their egos intact and with nothing more to prove or just perhaps the memories of falls in previous years is enough to stop them climbing the branches!
Once the tree has been stripped bare the canvas sheeting is gathered up and the olives poured out into waiting crates or bags.
The end of the day sees the crates being picked up and deposited into the back of a pick up ready to be taken away to the olive oil factory for processing. Read my post here about the olive harvest from last year for more information on the processing of the olives into oil.
And what’s a post without a photo of Alia. She loves getting in and helping in her own little way!
Unfortunately this year I didn’t get to help out Atef’s family pick the olives. The crop was very light on this year due to the hail storm that hit back in May (read about the freak storm here) and the picking was finished within 2 days. These photos were taken in the orchard just up the road where Alia and I love to walk to of an afternoon. The orchard is owned by a lovely family and I was more than happy to lend a hand picking a olives from a few trees given how much enjoyment we get out of being able to spend time in this orchard.