Photo article: Burning the frigana at the Greek Hovel with George

Tom Winnifrith Wednesday 25 February 2015


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George the olive picker is back in my life and there is no end to his talents. I tried to set frigana on fire and failed abjectly. George gathers a pile of dried frigana – the stuff I slashed last summer – or olive branches from the harvest and whoosh! We have a bonfire. In fact he must have started about 25 as we moved up and down the terraces. 

George starts the fire and then he, his son and I would gather all the detritus from that terrace and the one above and throw it on. With the detritus half cleared George moves on to start another fire and the son and I finish clearing that little area.

It goes without saying that George is the fastest worker. He reaches into a pile of branches and twigs and gathers an enormous bundle which he lobs onto the fire. The son has no gloves and also reaches in in a fearless manner but being a young person appears to get a call or text that he must answer on his cellphone about every ten minutes. 

And there is me. I left my cellphone charging in the house but approach a bundle of branches and leaves with some trepidation. I am mindful that the snakes are in hibernation ad I know where they tend to sleep. What would a sleeping snake do if I disturbed it or, god forbid, picked it up? And so I tend to chuck on rather smaller piles.

There is also the fitness issue. George has the stamina of an ox. His son is less used to manual labour but has youth on his side. And there is me. Climbing up and down the terraces and bending down and reaching up for five hours has left me exhausted and I awake this morning with my body aching all over. But there is no rain forecast and so once again I shall be heading up to the Greek Hovel shortly.

There are small shoots of frigana appearing all over the place and the odd stem and branch we missed last year. It is nothing like the jungle I met last summer and hacked away with pleasure with my strimmer thinking bad thoughts about Bulletin Board Morons as I chopped away.  As such there is a sort of pleasure when one sees old dead frigana ablaze, with the flames reaching out and burning off some of the new green shoots. It feels almost like poetic justice. 

I can see that there will be light frigana cutting this summer or perhaps some poisoning as I treated myself and bought a new heavy duty poisoning backback in the autumn. The war is not over but I feel like we are at early 1945. The enemy is trying to fight back but it is very much on its last legs.

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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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