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Report from the Greek Hovel 9 – Foti and I go into the Olive Business: hard Manual labour begins

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 14 July 2014

According to my new best friend Foti the Greek Hovel yields about half a tonne of olives a year. But we have plans to expand that greatly.  There are a couple of very low yielding trees that will perish once we reach the burning season and post-harvest, in December. And there are some gaps where we can plant new trees. 

But more importantly the trees have been neglected for years and need some TLC. That means applying manure in December post the harvest and pruning them back now. And so at 8 AM this morning Foti and a friend arrived for work and I insisted that I joined them. The friend headed off in one direction with a saw on a long pole and Foti grabbed a small handsaw and olive axe (a small axe about a foot long) and strode off in the other direction. I followed Foti glad that any snakes disturbed would meet him first.

Given that Foti speaks no English and me very little Greek communication is an issue. He speaks to me in Greek and I reply in English with neither of us gaining great knowledge from the conversation but in a strange way we understand each other completely. And so I watched the master to learn the science of olive tree pruning.

Essentially you hack away the sprouts at the base of the tree and then small branches and sprouts higher up so that all growth is focussed on the best and strongest olive bearing branches. There are already small olives showing. After two trees I grabbed the axe and started to do my bit. I axed, Foti sawed. Gradually I got the hang of it: be brutal, if in doubt chop.

The good news is that I managed four hours of hard graft without a drop of water, before my arm felt like it was falling off and I retired to head off to the hardware store for supplies. The other good news (please note to those arriving in August) was that we encountered not one snake.

I am sure that Dan Levi will regard it as wimpish to manage only four hours but it was 38 degrees by 10 AM and olive pruning is hard graft. And thanks to Foti all the trees are now pruned. Next jobs: shower & eco loo construction, humanure pit construction, more rubbish removal (tomorrow night) and then onto clearing the thorny bushes of which there are many. I had a vague thought about seeking assistance on that one from goats. I shall keep you posted.

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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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