Harvest season in the south of France

Just one of 5 olive trees chez les parents

We said goodbye to our new friends this morning.  I can’t speak for D or les parents but I was left with a feeling of longing.  Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic considering how brief the relationship was, but we had spent a good day together and now my new friends are gone.  Our relationship has changed.  Changed for the better, yes, but changed nonetheless.  Of course, we’ll meet our friends again, in December.  By then, our new friends will have evolved.  Like butterflies — but with help from skillful hands — our new friends will enjoy a new life.

In my cupboard.

In glass bottles.

I’m talking about olives and cold pressed olive oil.

D and I spent the greater part of Sunday picking olives with les parents.  It was a new experience for both of us leaving us with aching backs and shoulders and sheer pride at the results.  We turned over 104.5 kg of olives to the Moulin St Augustin this morning.  The St Augustin olive mill used to belong to the Cistercian Senanque abbey (in Gordes) as one of the “three sisters of Provence”.  And they happen to be down the street from les parents.

You don’t need a lot of equipment to pick olives.  All it takes is a little plastic rake (one for each person), a huge net, and containers large enough to hold the olives.  The net is generally square in shape with a split from the centre of the square to one of the sides.  The split is there so that the net can be pulled up to the base of tree trunk and covers the ground as beneath the spread of the branches.

Demonstrating how to comb olives from a tree

The process of picking the olives is simple and you have two options.  You can pick each olive one by one (not a lot of fun but sometimes necessary when in standing on a half wall with nothing but traffic behind you).  Or, you can comb the olives from the tree.  With the rake in hand you simply grab a branch with the other hand and use the rake to comb the olives from the smaller branches.  No previous experience is needed.  What you may need, however, is a hard hat and goggles especially if someone is combing olives from the branches above.  I was pinged in the head several times but the more painful knocks were the olives that hit me square in the eyes.

Quite a haul!

This morning we revelled in our success from yesterday and it was off to the mill before they closed for the lunch hour.  Le papy, D, and I got into the car for the 5 min drive down the road.  We had loaded the containers in the car last night and the car this morning had a light, fruity smell to it.  I didn’t immediately attribute the smell to the olives as the scent was very faint.  At the mill, however, that scent was back owing to the huge bins of olives outside the mill.  When D and one of the workers of the mills emptied container #1 into our bin we were greeted, once again, by a more-pronounced fruity smell of fresh olives.  It reminded me of summertime with the light grassy scent but with a lingering sweetness that you think you know or remember but can’t put a name to.  I wanted to smell each of the huge bins to learn if they all smelled alike but there was no time.  (And really, does le papy want confirmation that his daughter-in-law is crazy?)

Les parents can expect somewhere between 15 and 20 L of cold-pressed olive oil but it will be a few weeks before they can pick up their olive oil.  After numbers were exchanged with the people at the mill and confirmation of a call in early December was assured, we hit the road for home.

Saying goodbye to some of our olives

So, as I sit here with my shoulders and back aching from yesterday’s work, I’m warmed by the fire le papy started and by the thought that luckily les parents don’t have anything more that needs harvesting.  At least, not this year.

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Categories: harvest, olives

Author:Tanya in Transition

I am a woman in transition. I left my job of 13 years to find happiness and self-fulfillment...in France!

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9 Comments on “Harvest season in the south of France”

  1. Tuula
    November 15, 2010 at 8:25 PM #

    How fun Tanya. Never been olive-picking but would love to – what a great experience & something I’m dying to try one day. Le vrai Provence -so cool! Great photos & thanks for sharing your day 🙂

  2. November 16, 2010 at 12:17 AM #

    As I walked home from work the other day, I saw several people harvesting the trees in their yards. I’ve never done this…yet. But oh to have 20 liters of my very own olive oil!

    • November 22, 2010 at 12:21 PM #

      @Delana @Tuula: it’s totally worth the work! My MiL gave me a bottle from last year’s harvest… Liquid gold!

  3. Sinead
    November 18, 2010 at 4:55 AM #

    That is awesome! What an amazing experience. And whoa Tanya, you are a very gifted writer.

    • November 22, 2010 at 12:10 PM #

      Thanks Sinead!
      It was a lot of fun but a lot of work too. But hey, having your own olive oil is worth the work!

  4. November 20, 2010 at 1:49 PM #

    Hi Tanya!
    I found your terrific blog by searching for some real life experiences of Canadians (who aren’t retired and languishing in Provence) who have moved to the South of France.
    My husband and I hope to move there in about 6 months if the job he is interviewing for goes through.
    I would absolutely appreciate it if I could correspond with you from time to time for advice.
    You might get this all the time though and if so, I don’t want to be a bother.
    Enjoy Nice!

    • November 22, 2010 at 12:14 PM #

      Hi Sherri! Well, right now I feel like I’m languishing in Nice but that’s what happens when you have to wait for paperwork to be processed.

      Good luck to you and your husband. And sure, feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I can only answer questions based on my own personal experience. By no means am I completely versed on the ins and outs of moving to/living in France or visa paperwork, etc. But hey, it’s always good to know someone else who has been through similar experiences, isn’t it?

      Take care!

  5. November 22, 2010 at 5:11 PM #

    Hi Tanya-
    Looking forward to getting to know you on the blogosphere. And suddenly, I have a hankering for olives. Hankering? Yeah. Go ahead. Make fun of me…

    • November 22, 2010 at 5:18 PM #

      Now why would I laugh at the word hankering? I use it too!
      Thanks for stopping by Samantha. I read your 7 Letters/blog and, wow! I think that’s all I can say: wow! It’s funny how life works sometimes and, judging by your photos, I think you’ve found a good place. Congrats!

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