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Day 1 of the Greek Hovel olive harvest 2022

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 7 December 2022

My plane from Manchester was almost an hour late. That meant that poor olive harvester T, back for his second stint, had five hours to kick his heels at Athens airport but at least he was able to buy supplies for the day ahead. Foot to the floor and with the roads almost deserted we hit Kambos by 10.30 and thought we’d stop off for a quick drink in what was once Miranda’s. Schoolboy error number one.

Greeted by old friends we ordered a modest bottle of rose but as we polished it off immediately another landed at our table thanks to one old friend. Consequently we arrived at the hovel a bit later than expected and feeling a bit less sharp than we might have hoped for. The keys were on the window ledge by the main entrance thanks to mad lefty L. Everything looked tidy and I set up the battery charger. Schoolboy error number 2.

I forgot to link it to the actual battery. Thus with the dial not flickering when we got up at 7 as planned, I had to take it into the village and wait for the hardware store to open. By the time my error was explained to me and I was back at the house it was nine and the battery for the 3 metre rod which is my olive twerker was not ready until 9.45 by when, with mats laid out, we started the harvest.

Among my friends in the taverna the prior night was my business partner Nicho the Communist who gave me strict instructions about not cutting branches otherwise he would kill me. Of course, I did cut branches overhanging the pool or on trees right by the barbed wire fence. You simply cannot lay down mats in such places. I am sure Nicho will understand and won’t kill me. The skies grew darker as we worked and the thunder grew louder and I worried about the wisdom of holding onto a metal pole should lightening strike. So I allowed T to most of the twerking. But it was hard seeing olives to twerk so dark were the skies. And then it started raining very heavily indeed so we agreed to join mad lefty L and his Mrs for a quick lunch in Kambos

I handed over an unread copy of the Observer and a 1kg Shropshire blue which pleased them both. They were on the sauce we were not. The rain stopped and we carried on harvesting and emptying mats into the grill which separates leaves from fruit until almost five by which time it was very dark indeed. The scores on the doors: 14 trees and about two and a half 50 kg sacks which should net 14 litres of oil which these days might make me 70 Euro.

On day two, with an extra hour and a half in the morning and just 30 minutes for lunch and only modest rain forecast, we hope to do better still. But the harvest looks good ands to maximise it we need a worker, an Albanian. But there is what Nicho terms “an employee problem,” that is to say some of the Albanians have disappeared. Even mad lefty L made a joke about Dover.

However, this evening as we enjoyed grilled pork in what used to be Miranda’s I bumped into P, the Albanian who had done some pruning here this summer. He seemed keen to talk and promptly bough us another, unwanted, second 500 ml bottle of rose which it would be rude to refuse. Through a nice Belgian lady for whom he also works, we had a three way phone chat and maybe I have got lucky. I relayed this to Nicho the Communist but he seems to have fallen out with this Albanian and I may not get to hire his services for a couple of days after all. It is all rather confusing.

T and I are prepared to go it alone. With a full day tomorrow our target is another 20 trees. The yield on the trees is not amazing but it is not bad. We are making progress.

As for the wildlife diversity, as we drove back up to the hovel tonight an enormous owl swept down from the trees and flew away faster than the car’s headlights could track him. Happy hunting to him.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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