Today Madame took me to her sister-in-law’s olive grove to help with the season’s harvest. It was only a ten minute drive outside the city but the countryside was beautiful and had a great view of the mountain chain. Francoise, the sister-in-law, actually owns a bed and breakfast with a terrific little property and two dozen or so olive trees in the back. All of her children, her children’s children, cousins, friends, neighbors, siblings showed up to pitch in, so it was very much a community activity.
We immediately got to work picking the olives. I actually had no idea what an olive tree looked like before this. What you do is just pick every olive off the tree, no matter the color or ripeness, and throw it onto the net on the ground. The net is then collected when EVERY single olive is plucked and put into a bucket. About ten people work on a tree for half an hour, which three people climbing to the top and pushing down branches to be picked. It’s an incredibly flexible tree, so it was absolutely normal to get slapped in the face with a branch several times. It was very cool to think of how many of centuries of people did the exact same work.
We worked all afternoon and then had a big community dinner. It was almost reminiscent of Thanksgiving; after a cold fall day, everyone ate and drank together as kids ran around and laughter filled the house. It was a very cool experience that not a lot of people will have, and I’m very grateful I got it.