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  • Writer's pictureAlex Subrizi

Ripe under rain

Updated: Nov 18

It's been pouring, in stretches, three days on. We were promised this; we know better than to bank on such predictions. But when blessings arrive skepticism softens. The indistinct song of water on roof tiles, paving stones, and leaves lifts the mood and soothes the soil underfoot, cracked still, hard and wanting more.

Our trees, at least those hundred or so that have benefited from two years of judicious pruning, are... pretty loaded! A veritable embarrassment of riches given the weird weather and moaning and groaning at most every coffee and farm supply shop I frequent. Apparently something went generally sideways in the pollination phase this year, and only those farmers that assiduously sprayed and re-sprayed their trees are getting much fruit. Those far-sighted cultivators aside, many of the rest say they are not bothering to harvest at all. Don't believe any of this, except maybe the bit about scant pollination (a particularly nuanced topic when it comes to olive trees).

We fertilized the soil around each of our trees this past March and aerosol-fertilized their leaves in late June. Beyond that, we applied no pesticides, no soaps, no copper, no other treatments, and our olives look good. Nice color, good volume and hardness. This rain is late, but rain a week before harvest is better than rain a week after. Soon we'll knock and pull onto the ground whatever fruit our trees have borne and press our new oil. Until then, I'll be donning my blundies and clearing the bases of the two dozen or so of our bushy-but-still-healthy lower grove trees that have substantial crop.

Postscript October 24: The below somewhat grainy 40-second time lapse video shows 40 minutes of weeding and mowing to clear a particularly thorny and overgrown patch of earth at the base of one of our lower grove trees. A clean and clear base is important for harvesting because the nylon tarps that sit under a tree during combing (or shaking) must hug the trunk to prevent fruit from getting lost in the surrounding grass. In the video I'm using secateurs and a sharp, folding hand saw for brambles and thick undergrowth that's too tough for a weed whacker, alternating with an electric mower for the softer vegetation left over. Some trees can be cleared with minimal manual work followed by a couple of passes with a weed whacker (the tree in the video was an extreme case). When working with secateurs, I sometimes take time – see final seconds of footage – to trim larger shoots crowding the inside of the trees canopy, as these don't bear fruit and make harvesting harder.

Soon after I finished clearing this tree it began to rain again in earnest. We've seen 40mm of rain in the past week, and are glad for it. Luckily the forecast for the weekend (and our harvest) is sun 🌞

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