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Archive for September, 2018

Part of our garden, rocks, shrubs, herbs and olive trees not to mention the pines – some of which grow mistletoe or have squirrels drays in them.  It is in this environment that my wife insisted she had a garden of sorts. Lack of water decreed that it should be mostly bulbs and drought loving plants so here’s how we go along.

Lots of weeds, an angle of the forest  and a couple of sculptures..

As most of you who follow me know we live on a small olive in the middle of a forest with wild boar, wild goats and other animals. This is not a great problem for me but for my wife and her small flower beds it’s a bit like painting the Fourth Bridge you get to one end and have to start again at the other.

The garden is only one part of life up here the olive trees and the odd almond tree not only keep me busy but tending the olive trees is a full-time job.  I have plenty scattered through my bit of forest but around 30 on fairly flat terraced land which I can easily reach and look after.  Being in my 70’s plus not having agricultural water I have no intention of farming on a grand scale – it does not pay – but I look after enough trees to produce our own olive oil for the table for about 6/8 months of the coming year.  So I thought I’d talk about them properly from our perspective no quoting statistics or things like that, just observations on my own trees plus a bit of history. Thus forgetting about the commercial growing of olives this is how we grow and make our own Olive Oil.

On my little tractor to collect wood

The trees on the finca are very old, some are around 1,000 years old with bases that have, over the years and with encouraging new growth, been in the ground for centuries. It is well documented that the romans grew olives in this part of the country the fact that terraces were built along the side of the now long departed river that once used to sprout from the side of the masa and run down to the river Ebro. It also shows the ingenuity of their engineers and that they had slave labour as the terrace walls are not only still standing centuries later  but are deep and well-built.  Every now and then the boar will disturb one trying to reach grubs and the result is a collapse that offers an insight into history.

It was the same with the trees. Olive trees are an interesting subject, before we owned the farm I did not realise that they flowered. Every year the trees turn from a deep green to a creamy green as the flowers open.  There is no perfume but the bees are very busy, as the flowers die off you begin to see the olives forming.

Before trimming and Sam’s garden built round it this tree in all its glory

Today they have machines which can grasp the trunk of the tree and shake it collecting the olives in a large bag which then passes them into a truck a bit like you see the combine harvester doing.  Our trees however are to wide and solid for this plus the terraces are only big enough for a man and donkey.  The other point is years ago to get more olives from each tree and make picking easier they would do several things. First they would split the trunk into three so eventually they ended up with three trees instead of one.  Secondly they kept the middle of the tree open so light could get in there.  Thirdly the trees were kept to a certain height for ease of picking.  As time went on people let the trees grow a bit taller and made A-shaped ladders to reach the olives on the upright branches.

 

You can see here how large and tall they can grow if not farmed.  When we arrived here this tree was like a huge Oak tall with growth around the base so much so that we didn’t realise there were actually three trunks.  So I set to and lopped them halfway up then let the branches sprout leaving a few branches to produce olives.  I have to say that it still needs to be pruned again climbing a ladder to cut the branches so we can get at the olives is a risky business at our ages.

But olive trees are a hardy bunch, they have to be up here.  They put down long roots to find water  80 mts down is an underground river and I know that some trees put roots down a lot further than that.  So they have over the centuries found the water,  but they also have to fight the bugs that live in the ground some of which attack a tree from the middle eating it away they then turn into large black beetles which lays eggs in the ground near a tree and so it goes.  The result is that the olive tree will repair itself even when the centre is hollow and this can be a little daunting when hit by lightning, however  the roots may be burnt but the tree still goes on.

And this is just the start, so here

the introduction.

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc  –  Author

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