Village Life #1

October 1, 2009

There is an olive tree just beyond our back door on a small piece of village land.  The land itself is a the dead-end of the donkey track that runs through the village and past our house.  In time we hope to adopt the piece of land, clearing the weeds and rubble and adding some seating and the like.   Until then, and since we moved in, we’ve been waiting with interest to see who owns or rents the tree.

Olive trees are a precious commodity here and often, if people don’t have space for their own tree, they rent one from someone else.  This tree is a good, healthy, mature tree and had been harvested last year so we knew someone would be around eventually.  Here in Cyprus olive harvesting starts as early as September and continues for a couple of months depending on the weather, the location of the tree and whether the desire is for oil or green olives or black olives.

The olive tree

The olive tree

Someone we met on our travels once asked us if our tree produced green olives or black.  Both, is the answer.

The olives start green and eventually turn black.  If they aren’t harvested by then they usually fall off the tree.  Until we arrived here, and rented a house with its own tree, we didn’t realise either.

Anyway, MrOliveHarvester appeared recently in search of this year’s crop.  Rather than walk through the village and up the donkey track he clambered up from the derelict plot below.  That would be the derelict plot full of other folk’s rubbish, some rats and a snake or two.  Suddenly the longer walk doesn’t seem too bad!

Curious to see what the noise was we popped our head out of the back (donkey/pomegranate/used to be front) door.  Having said “hello” in Greek and consequently used up about 25% of our combined Greek vocabulary he made the optimistic assumption that we must be able to speak the language – otherwise why would we have moved to the village?

Happy in his logic he proceeded to explain, in fluent Greek (actually, Cypriot … but that’s an explanation for another day) about his tree and how his olives looked this year and so on and so on.  Body language, gestures and context can give a fair indication of what’s going on, though the specifics can be trickier.

He then went on to explain how the olives should be treated.  Wait until they are fat with oil … pick them … use a heavy stone and a firm base (aka the wall) to crush to show the stone … then rinse them and soak them in a brine solution.  From previous research we knew some of this so were able to follow a little.  MrOliveHarvester appeared to be advocating soaking them and changing the water three times, but it could have been every three days.

Before he left he stuck his head through the kitchen window and gestured for a container.  When we checked back later the container was full of fat juicing olives for us to deal with … if only we knew the water needed changing three times or every three days.

A little language can be a dangerous thing :-)




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