November signals the beginning of the olive harvest and this can last until January if there's a big grove with a big crop. The spring rains for 2016 were meagre and over early so that the normal summer drought started in April and has not been properly broken yet, so we had olives dropping off the trees from early September.

There is nothing one can do about these unripe, not-good-for-oil olives, except to sweep them out of the way, or make soap out of them. So it was with great relief that on November 1st we began picking with two stalwarts from the village - massive pruning and then picking would be more accurate. The trees are 8 - 10 metres tall and straggly with age, they bore olives way beyond the reach of the most cunning equipment designed for picking and so branches were cut and the main trunk brought down to between 5 and 8 metres. 

 

Two old olives that need to be pruned.The one on the left has had some branches lopped off so we could collect the olives and pruning will be completed when we have gathered some folk to help - the central trunk that is reaching for the sky needs to be taken down in stages until it is about 6 metres tall.

The tree on the right will be pruned in many stages. The very top needs to come off and then the tree must have time to sprout on either side before it is reduced further. This tree did not bear this year, like all the other very old olives that have not been pruned with care.

This is an example of a badly pruned old olive. The central trunk was reduced too much in the pruning, there was no allowance for sideways growth and so the new shoots, now 10 years old, have not yet borne olives.

There are others like this on the farm and some did bear this year - not the crop that will make people stop in their tracks, but they did bear. This means there is hope for the others that were pruned in this way.

These two trees are in the process of being pruned down from the 10 metre height into an umbrella shape that will make picking olives feasible. Both bore this year and so they will be quiet in 2017 - olives generally bear biennially.

What we need now is soft rain so that the groundwater can replenish after this 7 month drought.