I was so excited to find out our friend who owns Calagrana was harvesting her olives and needed help. I had a couple of reservations as to whether I could hold up to the physical effort (not as young as I used to be!) but thought the opportunity was too good to pass up.
We didn’t leave Umbertide until around 11AM so they had been working a couple of hours. The olive grove is way up on top of the mountain spread out around a lovely casale (big farm house) owned by Ely’s English friend. Ely and Alberto tend to the trees and manage the harvest and production and share some of the oil with her. A win-win situation. She had a neighbor helping her plus a couple of other pickers and the gardeners of the grounds. Her neighbor had brought what Ely called a basher. It had long tines which vibrated in different directions. You lifted it up into the tree to get at the high branches and it shook the olives down.
We helped spread the big, green nets to catch the olives and put up stakes to hold up the down-hill side so the olives wouldn’t roll off. We hand harvested the lower branches. There was a mixture of black, fully ripe ones and green ones. The mixture makes the oil more flavorful. We worked until about 1:30 and had to leave because my Italian class was at 2:30. Also we discovered that you must dress in layers as the morning is very cold and by noon it is hot in the sun while working (we were baking). Dress like an onion, Ely said. We told Ely we’d come back tomorrow (properly dressed this time) to help finish up and accompany the fruit to the mill for the crush. Here are some pictures:
You place the metal stakes at the downhill side to catch the rolling olives.
Bin full of olives. The leaves need to be mostly removed from the box.
After you knock them all off the nets are gathered and the olives are rolled into one spot, then dumped into the crates.
Ely and Luther hand picking while Catarina works the “basher” on the opposite side.