Thursday, 26 July 2012

A while since I have posted..

Last week my gorgeous old friend Winnie came down to the grove for a girl's overnight.  She had wanted to help with a pick and press, but we suffered time constraints, so only did some bottling and gardening at the blue house.  The bottling was a great help.  We have a couple of hundred litres of Arbequina - a delicate spanish variety, which urgently needs to be in bottles.  It isn't a good keeper - it is low in polyphenols, which makes it soft and palatable, but not long lasting.  It was fun labelling and sticking and capping together.  And the gardening at the blue house was good too. We planted potatoes, broad beans, beetroot and spinach.  I am not sure how well we will do, as we have a squillion birds (maggies, crows, silvereyes, galahs, 28 parrots) which will delight in destroying anything that sticks its head above the ground.  But the anticipation is good!

And today, Thursday 26th July,  I am back from a successful pick and press couple of days.  Tania the energetic got up early and had picked nearly 100 kilos of Mission before I got to the grove yesterday at 9 am.  We stopped at 123 kgs, which wasn't very many trees.  I am keen to get some Mission before too late.  The fruit we have picked to date is very mild and I would like something with a bit more kick for contrast or perhaps for blending.  I am wondering if we will enter in the Royal Show competition this year.  You need to present an oil that is better than average, well balanced in all aspects - fruitiness, bitterness and pepperyness.  My Arbequina and Koroneiki are sweet and gentle and need a bit of  'tiger' in them.  Entries close soon, so I will need to make some quick decisions.  I got over 22% yield today, and the oil was tasty.

 On a  very cheerful note, daughter Meredith's new shop has sold a lot of our oil in the last couple of weeks - go Meredith!

Monday, 9 July 2012

The day of the contract harvesting

The Simca harvester unloaded

Tania and Kye counting out oil buckets

The harvester shaking a tree.  It only shakes for about 20 seconds, but you can feel the ground trembling under your feet.  It is a highly manoevrable vehicle, capable of spinning on the spot.

Not easy to see, but the hydraulic oil squirted out of the hose on the right

Full bins.  They take 350 kilos of fruit.  I was concerned by the amount of leaf, but Mick assured me that this was quite normal for mechanical harvesting.

Loading the bins onto the truck for the trip to Preston Valley Grove, where the fruit was pressed on Saturday 7th July.

Mick Ryan from 'Preston Valley Grove' came up with his equipment on Friday  6th July.  I had been worrying about this exercise for some time.  Not just the expense, but the Koroneiki are not an easy olive to mechanically harvest, as the fruit is small and difficult to detach.  And I also had no idea how much fruit I actually had.  I said to Mick that the bearing was a bit patchy, and maybe the 368 trees would average around 10 kilos of fruit each, so perhaps 3 tonnes in total?  And then at a 15% yield we would expect about 450 kilos of oil.  So we would need about 30 buckets (20 litre capacity) to be safe. In our 'Murphy's Grove' inimitable style, things did not run perfectly smoothly.  That which could go wrong did go wrong.  First Mick blew a tyre en route, which made him an hour late.  Then it rained buckets,16 ml in two hours, first wet day in about two weeks. (And I was standing in the rain indicating which tree to harvest next, a drowned rat in a not-very- Dryzabone). Then, after about 100 trees, the Simca Harvester blew (very loudly) a hydraulic hose.  Not only did the fruit in the catcher have to be thrown away because of contamination, but Mick, who always has spare hoses for every contingency, this time had left the relevant hose back at his grove.  He offered to come back the next day, but as we already had over two tonnes from only a third of the trees I thought it politic to call it quits. The oil has been returned to the grove in 26 buckets - over 460  kilos of oil at a 22.3% yield.  So my estimates were wildly inaccurate.  The bill is $1805.90, and that is probably discounted because of the glitches.  Is it more economical than manual harvesting? Not if you have lovely relatives doing it for free.  If you are paying $18 an hour to a picker, maybe it is.

Rescuing the blown down trees - the photos I promised

An eleven year old pickling olive (Californian Queen) blown over after a wild June storm.  Half its roots are still in the ground which makes me hopeful we can save it.

Simon the gardener took a chain saw to the foliage, leaving only a skeleton.

The tree is hoisted back into a near vertical position, and tied with a restraining rope though without its superstructure it is unlikely to blow over again.

The soil gets filled in around the roots and we give it a good soak. (Fortunately also we have had heavy rain since doing this, which will help with the root establishment.)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

cleaning up the storm damage

I was down at the grove yesterday with Simon, who usually keeps our garden at home under control, but who has been coming down with me to help with the heavy work lately.  Our job was to cut back all the trees which have blown over in the storms in early June, and if possible, to stand them up again to see if they would recover.  I have managed to do this with smaller trees in the past, but wasn't sure about these, as they had been over for a month, and were BIG trees.  We managed to do 8 or 9 - lost count.  There is still one to go, which somehow we didn't see.  The big day on the chain saw left me really weary - I slept in till nearly 9 am today!  I feel so decadent saying that.  Only problem is the day is now more than half over and I have barely started my 'to do' list.  I have taken some photos so you will understand what we were doing, but of course I have left my camera down at the grove - I think it is sitting in the ute.  So the photos will have to wait.  I'll be down again tomorrow, with husband, as the long awaited contract harvesting is going to happen.  I'm now worrying about containers to put the oil in!