Harvest tales

Today a company in Temecula is processing our olives, turning the fruit into oil. At least I think they are. After a weird false start at 7am this morning – they were/are behind on jobs; they had no equipment ready to unload the olives from the two 700+ pound crates I delivered; the poor schmuck running the olive milling machine told me we might not get ours done until Saturday, at which point the olives would be ruined, and so on. Disaster appeared imminent. But then the owner of the place called me and smoothed things over. I know the owner, Alex Prestifilippo, and he’s a good guy. Serious entrepreneur, winemaker, restauranteur, foodie, chef, etc., so with his promise I think things will be fine. But for a couple of hours I thought we were screwed. The few other people I know with olive processing machines in the area were busy doing their own crops, so there’s no way they’d fit my 1200-ish pounds in on zero notice. Olive processing is slow work, even with modern tech.

Yesterday’s picking went well enough. We left a LOT of olives on the trees because our crew was too small to possibly cover the whole grove – we didn’t even touch about half the trees. I have cleverly sized the olive grove to be too large for a comfortable hobby and too small for a real business. Well done, self. But we did our best, and I was stunned at how hard it was for me to do the physical work this year. My fitness really took a dive in 2023, and a full day of actual work on hillsides made that abundantly clear. By the end of the day I had muscle cramps all over and just collapsed into a recliner. A humbling experience.

We’ll see if it was all (mostly) worth it tomorrow morning when we go to retrieve our oil. I have some worries about that, as we have more damaged fruit in this batch than in any previous year – a lot of olive fly damage, and with the smaller crew we didn’t sort out the bad ones as we have previously. It may give the oil a bad taste, but we won’t know for a while. Hope for the best, as there’s zero we could do about it.

Having thought about it all in the clear light of day today, I’m not sure we’ll do another olive crop. It’s not something that brings me joy – it’s more of a big obligation/task that I’ve created, and with the limited runway I have ahead, why do it? Leave it for the next owner of the property, whoever/whenever that might be.

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