Saturday, 31 January 2009

I think I spoke too soon!

As you know we have had 4 days of t-shirt weather, but today, although the sky is blue there is a cold wind blowing and the forecast for the coming week is much of the same. Seems to be part of a northern european weather-front coming here again...we usually have good weather in January and expect it to be wet and windy in Feb and March but this year has proved to be the exception.

The almond blossom is coming out, the hills around us look like they have cotton wool balls on, from white through to pink.

Another mill trip today, although less kgs because we had a strange mix of trees. Some small with less yield, some enormous but old and difficult to reach and with a lot of dead wood and so not many olives for the size of tree. Sometimes you feel like you spend more time moving nets than you do harvesting. When you consider each net is 8m x 5m (and we have 3 to move) and then they need tying/pegging to a tree or post so the olives don't roll off, each time you move tree you also have to move your sacks, saws, chainsaw, buckets, sticks, water bottles - it's hot thirsty work - dog and his blanket (his contribution to the day is to watch and sleep) and at the end of the day all the sacks have to be taken up to the car. We were carrying them but now pull them directly up the bankings - shorter route and less strain on the legs! I was going to call this post "the olive harvest weight loss plan" as I have needed to tighten my belt and after almost 4 weeks of harvest have lost at least as many lbs.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Back to normal

the weather system that brought in all the strong winds moved away overnight on Tuesday, unfortunately for Lauren and Luca it went towards Italy which is where they were flying to. Since then the sun has come back out and we have been harvesting in blue skies and sunshine. When we have a car load, we do a trip to the mill, 231kgs on Tuesday,and 220 yesterday.

A few photos from today, me (obviously!) half way down a banking trying to get the olives without sliding too far down, under a very large olive tree at full stretch trying to clear a branch and John on his way home from work at 5.45pm (note the lack of rush hour traffic!)

Monday, 26 January 2009


Wednesday was breezy so it was a firewood day, trimming the pruned branches down for logging and moving nearer the area where we want to make a new wood store, then in the afternoon we went with the chainsaw to cut up a dead almond tree that came down in the first snow. In just 1 hour we had enough logs for about a couple of weeks which we then stacked on the terrace for using. Thursday, yes more olives, 9 sacks this time, about 225 kgs.

Weekend was fiesta, the sun shone as it always has but with a chill wind as well. Church service at 1pm, followed by a buffet and some amazing locally made wine,(or beer and soft drinks) coffee with friends afterwards, siesta and out again for the evening session at 11pm till about 3.30am. Sunday started with lovely clear blue skies and sunshine but by mid-morning it was drizzling. We had decided not to stay for Sunday as we had lots to do here.

This morning started off cold, so we decided to do house things till it warmed up, but then the wind started up again and it is blowing round the house - if feels like it's coming down from the Sierras but is actually coming up the valley from Cadiar. Monty seems bothered by the winds, he keeps running outside and sniffing the air, sometimes barking, I suppose he can smell and hear things from a long way off.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

onions, peas and beans

We planted 300 onion sets first thing this morning which hopefully will grow big and fat by the summer for storing, also about 100 more peas (we have already put peas in at the end of September, October and November) and a 4th planting of broad beans and then we went olive harvesting again. John went off to the mill with the olives, that weighed in at 284 kgs.

We have lunch every day under the trees in the sunshine although at the end of today there was a chill wind blowing and we were glad to stop. A weekend off coming up as it is Yator's fiesta.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

following on from Friday...

we did another 4 sacks on Saturday morning - probably about 120 kgs - and are going down to get them cleaned and weighed in the morning. Some of the trees are laden, accessible on flat land and easy to harvest. first we pick the ones within reach, then Luca and John go up the tree with sticks to knock off the top olives and Lauren and I do the same from the ground. She likes tree climbing too but not as high as they go!

Trying again with the remaining pictures from Fridays post - hopefully they'll load today.

We have had a day off today, went to market this morning and did loads of washing this afternoon which has all dried in the sun. The weather is now as we expect at this time of the year - blue skies and sunshine.

We had 8 of us here for dinner last night, 1 Spanish neighbour, 3 English friends, 1 Italian (Luca) 1 American (Lauren) and the 2 of us. Quite a mixture, but good practice for our language skills. Luca also speaks Spanish having spent 8 months in Tarragona.

Off to do a Roast Beef dinner, Lauren is having a lesson in Yorkshire pudding making tonight.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Wwoofers weekly

A quick update on our week with Lauren and taken of Luca picking olives from the tree in the front garden, the first Sunday afternoon when we went for a walk to Yator, Lauren picking olives on Monday, transferring the olives from the net to a bucket, loading the car to take to the mill on Tuesday (237kgs), outside the caravan on Wednesday after work when they had picked some eating olives and are getting them ready for soaking in brine, cleaning the leaves from the net after picking at the end of Thursday afternoon and lastly a view across the 'breakfast-orange-juice' tree towards Sierra Gador with some snow on the top still.

We took another 245 kgs down to the mill this morning and have picked about 130 kgs more today. We all ache in strange places but are getting fitter and have lovely soft hands!!

They have chosen to stay in the caravan so they have more privacy and have created a cosy home for themselves - it's now called The Love Shack. (for those that don't know, that's the title of a song)

Problems with uploading pics tonight.. hopefully better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Olives, olives and more olives!

We took 237 kgs down to the mill in Yator yesterday evening and have filled 4 sacks today (about 140 kgs) but from very large overgrown trees that needed huge branches taking out first before we could even get up the tree to start picking from the inside. Lots of firewood and trimmings today, tomorrow should be easier trees to pick so more kgs to take for pressing. The sun is shining and it's warm enough in the sun to work in a t-shirt although the snow is still up on the hills.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

More snow, no harvesting.

We woke on Thursday morning to snow falling, not too much, just enough to lay on the ground and it continued all day although it didn't lay any more. But when we woke yesterday it was to a total white-out, several inches of snow as far as the eye could see, even towards Ugijar which doesn't always get snow. Unfortunately for us, we had arranged to go to Almeria to meet our wwoofers that are helping with the olive harvest. So John set off, thick packed snow every where, cars stranded on the far side of Cherin as the access road from there to the main road leading down to Berja and then on to El Ejido was too slippery for them to get up. It took 2 hours 15 minutes to get there and the same back (normally 1 hour 30) But they all got back safely in time for lunch and that afternoon we took them out for a walk around the land, up to the fuente etc. Lauren is American, from Little Rock, Arkansas (she went to dance classes with Chelsea Clinton) and Luca is Italian from Parma. They met when she was doing her Masters at university in Parma. They have come down on the train, Milan to Barcelona, then on to Almeria. So today we started another tree and guess started to snow again while we were eating lunch. We have abandoned work for the day - they are making a home from home out in the caravan, the coffee pot is on, the laptop is connected, the i-pod is playing and they are very cosy. John is in the kitchen making dinner, something hot and spicy I hope. Hopefully we will be able to get on with work tomorrow, more news as time permits.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The hills are alive....

with the sound of chainsaws! yes it's olive harvest time again and sometimes it's easier to prune branches that are too high and then pick off the olives rather than struggle to knock off the olives with a stick or try and climb the tree to reach them. Also some trees are too compact to climb so pruning is the only way to pick. We have done 2 trees over Monday and Tuesday, the first one was huge, provided 70kgs of olives and about a week of firewood for next year, all the green trimmings were taken by Juan from Yator (his family have a flock of goats and sheep) for animal food, the second was all pickable by hand from ground level and didn't need any pruning, but only produced 20kgs of olives. We took them to the olive mill in Yator this evening, they were cleaned (a sort of leaf blower) washed and weighed, we then got a chit to keep until we have taken in all our harvest and then we hand in all the chits when we have finished for either oil or money or a combination. Unfortunately this year is only paying out about 40 cents per kilo - last year was 80 cents. For oil, you need about 8kgs to produce 1 litre. So we have either earned 36 euros or got about 10 litres of oil. We have lots more trees to do in the coming weeks....

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Happy new year!

We had a quiet night at home, went outside to watch the midnight fireworks and then watched the UK celebrations on tv at 1am. Apparently there was a "do" for Noche Vieja (new years eve) in Yator with free drinks but we didn't find out till yesterday! By all accounts it was very quiet, and also cold - no heating in the village hall :(

We are starting our olive harvest this coming week, hopefully the weather improves. It's been trying to drizzle today, the clouds are down low and it doesn't look too good. Some locals have started their olives, they have walked across from El Golco - about half an hour walk - they have land here in Montenegro. There's only a footpath linking the two, but it's a lot further round by road.

Update on the sourdough bread.....we are going to try again when the spring comes, the temperature is up and down too much at the moment. It needs a constant temperature to grow well (21 apparently is best) so in a sunny window is ok, near the fire is ok, but during the night it's too cold. Although the starter grew, it took much longer than we expected and when I wanted to prove that for dough, couldn't get it to froth up no matter how warm it was. We never have the house at 21 degrees (unless of course it's July and August and we'd love it that cool then!) but come May or June it should work. So it's back to making the usual dough, that never has a problem rising.