It is very provincial here, very peasant and very quaint. Apart from wheelie bins, TV aerials and electricity cables it is all very much the same as it was during the Franco Revolution. The houses are the same. They still use mules to carry the olives at harvest times although more and more land rovers are being seen. But it is the mules that can only be used where the olives are growing on the sides of hills or when it is wet. I’ve been olive picking. Dire work. But then most harvesting is.

Van Gogh: Olive grove with picking figures

You have beaters and picker uppers. The women are the picker uppers. Women go in under the tree on all fours, picking up every fallen olive. Then the men put nets around the trees and beat the branches with sticks. The nets are picked up and the olives are poured into baskets and these are emptied into the sacks on either side of the mule or into the trailer. When I was olive picking it was very wet and the mud stuck to my boots making them very heavy. When my espuerta was full, I had to get up and trudge up hill to the mule to empty it. It was so heavy and I am only small and I had to heave the basket to head height almost to empty it. One day it was particularly cold and started to snow. A used oil can was filled with coals from the fire in the house for us to warm our hands. Mine were so cold I couldn’t feel them and when I took my rubber gloves off my fingers were so swollen it was no wonder I was having difficulty moving my fingers! “Marianna, rapido! Rapido! Una Olivia, Una peseta!” That was Fernando, the man who sells his beds to the French, he said: “Marianna, quickly, one olive, one peseta!” What I didn’t know then was that the longer the olives were on the ground the more deteriorated they become and the oil in them would be useless. The olives are stringently tested for their acid ratio. Extra virgin has to have a ratio of 1% or under. Virgin has to be between 1 and a half%. Anything else is called Rubbish oil and has to be purified by intense heat and in days gone by was only fit for lampante oil (lamp oil). Now the heated rubbish oil is used in cooking as long as it has been treated. But it has very little if any nutrient quality in it. Martos, the nearset town, takes in most of the rubbish oil and the whole town is constantly smoky and has a strong smell of fruity olives. The smell is not too unpleasant, the constant smoke is. So Fernando was worried about the purity of his olives and his pocket. He would get less money if his olives went to make lampante oil.

One thought on “Olives

  1. Is this a monet??? Lovely picture and I think it can be left but it seems the women are picking off the tree which just doesn’t happen! I picked up the stick they use for hitting the branches to have a go when I was picking olives and was laughed at!!! Still I got some down and didn’t ruin the branch or the olives. It is considered a man thing, women have to go on their hands and knees.

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