Sicily – The Great Grove

50 Olive trees.

Technically, Anne & Doug own 60, but there are only 50 on this section of their property.
Doug has shown us all the things that we need to get done today, and the olive grove is the first big thing on the list. The olive season isn’t too far off kicking off, and when the trees do get heavy with the fruit, the branches that are too low will literally kiss the ground. It is actually pretty impressive.

Olive Grove-1

We start the morning the with the mandatory cup of coffee, overlooking the mountain view in front of us. Absolutely amazing way to start the day, and I still can’t get over how honestly amazing this place really is.

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We put our boots on, and get the work underway.

We’re pretty confident that we can nail the olives, plus all the other stuff that needs to get done by the end of today.

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We start pretty light, consulting Doug every now and then to make sure we were on the same page as him when it came to taking certain branches that we were unsure of. Soon enough though, we were well on our way, powering through the cuts like a boss. We developed a system where I would power ahead of Bec and just take all the main branches off, and she’d come through after and trim up all the smaller things and pile them all up.

Olive Grove-6

We reached the end of the grove, and there was one of the old neighbours who made the effort to come and try to speak with us. Over the course of our time away, trying to speak with various languages, we got pretty good at speaking charades. So, if worst came to worst, and there was no common language at all, we could do the whole two syllable sign on the arm and go from there.

Not with this guy though…

Anne had warned us about people like him.

They’ll speak to you as though you’re fluent in Sicilian or Italian, which in a way is a compliment. Once you express that you cant speak that language, instead of resorting to signs and non-verbal communication, they’ll just talk at you louder in the language that you don’t understand.

This was exactly one of those instances.

You could tell that he was very adamant that he should be giving us a few pointers, and being that he was more of an old bloke, I was more than happy to take his olive pruning advice. If I could understand it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand it, so I wasn’t able to take his advice. I signed to him that I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say.

…3 different ways.

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Nothing was getting across, and each time, he would just talk at us louder, still pointing to the olive trees, still motioning a saw with his hand. In the end there was nothing I could do, other than just get back to work. Yeah, I felt a bit stink, but this bloke just kinda stood there, all hunched over and waddling around the place and he kept staring at me.

I get nervous when dogs stare at me, let alone old Italian men who know I can’t understand them. That is when it gets weird. We ended up just working, and he kinda went back to doing his own thing. Certainly was an odd experience to say the least.

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Anne calls us up to the terrace and tells us that she has got us freshly squeezed orange juice. This stuff is the nectar of the gods. Bec and I are dead keen, so we down tools, and head up stairs to get this liquid gold into our mouth holes. Doug and Nick have headed into town to get some more stuff for the sewer pipe, so it is just the two of us. I pour the drinks into the two cups for us, and it slides down into our bellies like a treat. I finish mine, and promptly pour myself another.

I am half way through this cup, enjoying this amazing view yet again, just on a casual Tuesday, and then Bec says to me, “Ahh… Billy, I think this was also for the other guys”. I look at the jug, and run a quick algorithm to figure out wether there was, in fact, enough for everyone.

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There was, in fact, enough for everyone.

I look at my cup to see if it is going to help the stock levels if I pour the remaining juice back into the jug. The short answer is no. The long answer is that I was a fat hoe who just drank a whole heap of orange juice that I shouldn’t have. I looked to Bec. I knew there was no way I could redeem this situation. I had drunk too much orange juice, and now Doug & Nick were going to have to split half a cup.

I knew this wasn’t acceptable.

So the only logical answer?

Drink it all and plead ignorance. What they don’t know wont hurt them anyway, right? Hopefully, anyway. I sit in my guilt and shame, and then wash away my sorrows with the gentle taste of Sicilian blood oranges. On another note, I’m sorry Anne & Doug. Kinda dogged you guys on that one…

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We stop faffing about and get back into pruning these olives. There was this one particular row that was really thick, and left to grow however it deemed fit for what seemed like quite a while.

When we came to this part, not even Doug was confident to call the shots, so naturally, when you don’t know, you ask a local, and that is exactly what we did. Nick, the local builder has been working with us throughout the week, and being that he is born and raised Sicilian, he was all over it.

A little bit too over it.

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Nick, The Sicilian

We were already being a little bit over ambitious with the cuts we were making, but Nick was on a whole new level. He just stood there in his really nonchalant manner, pointing and saying to us “This one”
“Cut this”
“Cut this here”
By the end of it, the tree was savaged and both Bec and I were a little unsure of how intense this was really meant to be. I mean, the tree was thick, yeah, but by the time we were done with it, it probably sat in the least dense 10% of the trees in the grove. It was pretty damn crazy. A few hours in, and Bec and I are realising that the pruning isn’t going to just be a casual couple of hour long job.

This thing literally took us all day to do. It was mental.

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By the time we reached the end of all the pruning and needed to start the burning, we had a pile of olive branches that was heaped, and ran for a good 10 metres or so. It was actually a massive amount of burning that needed to be done. Nick jumped straight onto it, and we’re glad that he was doing it. We weren’t able to bring him the olive branches fast enough. It was unreal.

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He would just grab as many olive branches as was physically possible, and throw them on the fire all in one hit. Being that they are an oily plant, they just lit up. Within seconds the roar of the flames were deafening, and the crackling of the oil in the leaves was like a swarm of crickets in the night. Nick just kept piling the fire higher and higher, and Bec and I were suitably impressed with how much he would chuck on in one hit, and there were never any drawbacks to it.

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I’ve been conditioned to ensure that the area around the fire is completely clear, so as to avoid a bushfire.

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This is sweat

In this instance, the flames were reaching into the plants nearby. Seriously. These plants were all super green, though, so there wasn’t much threat of them catching alight, but we are still a little dubious. Nick is the only one who isn’t fussed at all, but I guess that is a good sign.

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We end up bringing the day to an end, and settling in for the night.

A movie tends to be the ritual at the moment, but before we get stuck into that, we decide to teach Anne & Doug a game called Perudo. We were taught this with Gez, in Wales, and we have since taken it around the world with us. We teach the guys the rules and explain how it is pretty much like poker with dice.

They get the hang of it pretty quickly, and a little too quickly for our likings. We get a flogging. Anne’s strategy is “Ah. What the hell!”, and Doug’s strategy is “Let me run my algorithms”. Doug plays conservative, and Anne plays wild. This certainly made for an interesting game, and there were multiple times when the game got pretty damn intense.

We have a guts full of getting owned, so we decide to throw on a movie for the evening. This time, we had a success, Passengers. Very good flick. Do rate it. If you haven’t seen it, do it. It certainly gets you thinking about the decisions that Chris Pratt’s character has to make and whether his decision making was actually morally ok or not.

I’ll leave that with you.

Everyone heads to bed, and I stay up to blog. I’m up till nearly 5am, and it gets to the point that I know I have my eyes closed, but I cant open them back up, and then I will just snap them back open some how, and get my life back in order haha.

I end up going to bed once all the images have been exported for the blog.

Come back for the next story,

Billy

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