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Photo article: day 0 and 1 of the Greek Hovel olive harvest 2023

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 6 December 2023

By way of context, olive production across Greece will be half what it was last year. Spain and Italy are far worse. As a result, olive oil which I could sell at the village press for little over 2 Euros a litre in 2021 could now be sold for almost 10 Euro a litre. The problem is, of course, that while some farms are not down by much, others  including mine, have suffered a catastrophe. I reckon we will be lucky if we get a fifth of our 2021 harvest. However…

Heroic T on hi third harvest and newbie J making his debut, both readers of Shareprophets, flew from London arriving shortly before my flight from Manchester at  around one in the afternoon  Sunday: day 0 of the harvest. By nightfall, five thirty, we were at the Greek Hovel. The Motorway from Athens airport to Kalamata was almost empty and we zoomed down here.  We had a look inside the hovel, dumped our stuff and headed off to what was once Miranda’s but these days has a new owner every nine months for supper  with a few ouzos and beers we ate well for 24 Euro. Bargain.

The current owners, like all previous owners do not enforce the smoking ban, the wood burning stove kept us warm but the place was rather empty of the usual clientele. I shall come to this in a later entry.

Sunday night saw an amazing thunderstorm. Sheet lightening was everywhere, the lights flicked and so loud was the thunder that I slept very badly, notwithstanding my 4AM start earlier that morning in Wales. It was a magical storm and I feared that rain would stop play on the Monday before we had even started. That is why I am allowing twelve days for what I knew would be a short harvest: rain can stop play for several days. But in the morning the sun was shining and I was working in a T-shirt as the temperature rose to c 20 degrees.

Monday morning saw us inspect the trees. Those around the house ranged from poor to what in a good year would be deemed almost average. Those further afield were far, far worse. But those around the house at least merited putting out mats and attacking with a twerker. You can see below, T tweking and J watching and learning on the job.

Why are the ones around the house better than those further away? I think it is down to me fertilizing them as only a man can do in the summer and also pouring pails of water onto them.
This was always going to be a bad year for me on the bad year good year cycle. But the heat and lack of rainfall in the spring and early summer was the killer. I see that trees close to the village which are watered with hosepipes are looking good. My friend Nicho the Communist growled yesterday that I was “making mistakes” and that he needed to teach me what to do. I do not doubt that he is right about my general incompetence and, I am all too aware that the trees were not pruned which will not have helped the yield. But I am pretty sure that the water/yield correlation has a lot to do with it.

On day 1, Monday, cutting branches from the trees around the pool which will have been watered every time someone jumped in and created a splash, and twerking a few nearest the house, I estimated that we managed to harvest 70 kg of olives which might just yield nine litres of oil. We shall see what the final scoreson the doors are. Monday night saw us venture to the restaurant of Thomas in the main square of Kambos, of whom I have written before. Suffice to say we were the only customers and thus he greeted me even more warmly than usual. The food was good, a pork steak for each of us and with the usual drinks that was 33 Euro.

A quick Metaxa at the Kourounis taverna run by lovely Eleni and it was back up the hovel for aother Metaxa or two, kind guests having laid in a couple of bottles for me. Then to bed and preparations for battle the next day.


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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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