Monday, September 21, 2015

Our first olive harvest - 2015




I cupped my fingers loosely around my tea mug, tapping the tips. Today was the first morning where I needed the cardigan, felt comfortable in the weight of jeans. I looked up at the olive branches poking the bright sky of morning and thought, "Here I am sitting in our courtyard, in Provence and it is a beautiful day." Those words came out of my mind in bold print and I seemed to pull a part from myself for a few seconds as if to check, yes, I am really here and yes, it is beautiful. Just the tiniest of pauses on the stop-watch before life kept rolling on.

My Mom, Linda, was here visiting with her Husband last week. It was Leonard's first trip overseas and I witnessed quite a few of those moments of discovery, some of which were punctuated outright with thought in a bubble statements of delight. 

When they left last Friday morning, I admit that I cried, 46 years old and all. But I love them so much that it is the impossible pull of the heart that an expat knows which works its way on me. Remi is used to this reaction and was exceedingly kind. He thought it best to keep me busy, to have a project to do.

And so we decided to harvest our olive tree.

The grape harvest had been a resounding success and everyone has raved about Remi's jam and jelly. Emboldened, he has decided that we will try to brine our own olives, to make the olives cassées that are such a symbol of la vie Provençale

Last year, the olives had been victim to the same flies and disease that decimated the crops across Italy, France and Spain. We simply swept them up as they fell, soft and rotten, in hopes of arriving before the dogs did. So Remi had research to do in regard to the hows but started by simply pulling the car over in the Alpilles one day and asking an oléiculteur directly.

As we do not wish to turn our olives into oil, the moment is now for the picking. And that is what we did that afternoon with my rhythmically plucking at the lower branches while leaving Remi to perch on progressively taller ladders to try - and fail - to reach the top of our unusually tall tree. We wanted the fruit unbruised, so "combing" the branches was not an option. It was a slow process but as Remi had imagined, it was just what the doctor ordered.

The dogs watched on with growing impatience as our work continued on past their normal dinner time. The light danced through the branches until it warmed into that golden glow that exemplifies this time of year. I dotted around, snapping away with my camera to document yet another "first" of living in this wonderful home. Remi made a joking remark about how normally, as the professional photographer in the family, he should be the one behind the lens! 

The beauty of the sun was rankling him and it warmed me to melt any lingering tristesse

Now, we have our first little harvest. I say petite for half had to be thrown out immediately - according to the olive farmer, the ones that float when rinsed are kaput. The remaining firm green globes have been nicked cross-wise and will soak for the next ten days or so. As Remi is away for work, it is my task to change the water twice a day. Then he will work his magic - he already has very specific ideas for the "sauce" - and we will put up our olives for the winter months ahead.

I might even need to send a jar back to the States as a reminder to my family that they might again be far away but are always right here in Provence with me, right within my heart.












38 comments:

A fan said...

What a wonderful way of keeping busy and getting over good-byes. Best wishes from Germany!

Karena Albert said...

Heather how wonderful to be able to harvest these olives from such special trees in your region!
I look forward to seeing how Remi preserves them after your thoughtful process!!
Have a great week and I am so happy your Mother was able to visit!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena
Painting Central Park

Loree said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Loree said...

Oh, how gorgeous is that light? I can understand your sadness but it seems like you found the perfect job to help you forget just a little bit. Saturday was atrociously hot here but the NW wind has brought cool breezes and I can breathe again.

Judith Ross said...

Oh my, how fabulous! Can they be eaten as is? Pardon my ignorance, but I always have a hard time harvesting that which can be eaten straight off the tree or vine.

Suze said...

Lovely post, thanks. To quote you: "Just the tiniest of pauses on the stop-watch before life kept rolling on."

Very nicely put! I try so to scatter those little pauses throughout my days. They work magic in keeping me aware, engaged and I suppose present.

La Contessa said...

HE looks SO different in EVERY PHOTO I have EVER seen of HIM!Of course, you have never given us a FULL VIEW which would help BUT This is NOT the GUY I Have had pictured living with YOU all these years!!!!HOW FUNNY IS THAT!I missed my slot today.............tomorrow at the shop.......can we try for WEDNESDAY?XOXO
BEAUTIFUL OLIVE TREE..................BEAUTIFUL MAN in OLIVE TREE.

Let's Have Lunch said...

When they're ready for the eating, they'll be the best you've ever tasted.
What a satisfying feeling Heather.
Cheers
Neat xx

ourfrenchoasis.com said...

How exciting, I can remember the first time we ever picked and harvested our own olives, in New Zealand, it was so exciting, there is nothing quite like it, there is something so extremely precious about olives.

robin said...

Wow - that does look like a painstaking process! I can see by the light in the photos that you worked for a long time - love the angles and the patient doggy! You don't have to send any here to us - hard to send, methinks - just tell us all how they turn out!

Joy said...

Lovely photos to go along with your beautiful words! Being an expat isn't always easy! I cried the last time I said goodbye to my good friends too. :)

RebeccaNYC said...

I'll never forget eating the olives a friend had prepared, as we sat underneath the olive tree that had produced them. Such satisfaction! I'm glad you had a good visit with your Mom and her husband, I am sure they share the same happy/sad feelings about being far away from you but loving that your life is so full and beautiful. xo

Heather Robinson said...

Why hello there, you! :)

Heather Robinson said...

I was too Karena, it meant the world to me - something that I looked forward to for months and not it is over in the blink of an eye!

Heather Robinson said...

I was just wondering about your heat there. It is cooler here this week - finally - and not only can I breathe again, I can think again...

Heather Robinson said...

Nope! If you took a bite you would spit it right back out it is so bitter. That is part of what the rinsing process is for - to ease out that bitter flavor before moving on to the next step of adding lemon and garlic in the mix...

Heather Robinson said...

I am so spacey these days that those little pauses just happen of their own accord... :o

Heather Robinson said...

I agree with you entirely! Very handsome man in the olive tree. :) And you are (almost) right as I have only shown a full view of him once in all these years!! Here it is:
http://lostinarles.blogspot.fr/2015/01/remi-joins-photo-society.html
That is one of the deals between us about my having this blog. I definitely, definitely am pushing it with publishing so many photos of him in this post...shhh... ;)

Heather Robinson said...

I hope you are right, Neat. They are looking a little wonky right now - let's hope that improves!

Heather Robinson said...

Not to mention that the health benefits from the fruit, oil and oil from the leaves have been known for their health benefits since the dawn of time...
Even the Egyptians used olive tree leaves to embalm the mummies!

Heather Robinson said...

Sister, can I tell you how much I love that you noticed the change in the light? Only you! You are so amazing. And yep, it did take a while.
Did you like your jam???

Heather Robinson said...

Being so far away from my loved ones is really hard on me, Joy. I am sorry you had to feel that pain too but am grateful that you understand.

And your photography is just gorgeous!

Heather Robinson said...

Rebecca, I thought about your saying that my life is "full and beautiful" a few times since you wrote it...thank you for that.

PS. I read chez Ellie that you went to Japan! I would love to get there one day. What did you think??

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

We return to Greece in two weeks for olive harvest of our first crop and your post has sent me into orbit with excitement over the event - as if I wasn't excited already! Our are oil olives so no worries about preserving them. There is joy about an olive tree, isn't there?

Emilia Tremante said...

Hi Heather,
love that light in your photos. It seems so familiar now. I miss it. Our light, here where I live in Italy, is similar but not the same.
Coming back home was not very easy during
the last weeks. I went immediately back to
school and everything was just a memory too far... Watching the photos bring me back there for a while and I feel better.
I am so sorry I haven't met you dear Heather! I hope to have another possibility.
Wonderful Provence indeed! Truly amazing !
Have a nice evening dear. Bisous Emilia

simpleimages2 said...

Departures brings sadness. Arrival brings gladness.
I remembered people in Turkey and Greece talked about their method of brining olives. They were proud of their olives, always beter than others.
Yours is istill n the making. Waiting has its reward after long hard work.

Stephen Andrew said...

Love these photos and this story. You're never too old to miss your mom. I'm sure it was downright agony to watch her leave. Hope you're spirits have lifted. as wonderful as this time of year is, it's also a season of reflection.
I'm sure that added a little emotional fuel to the fire. Can't wait to hear how you season th olives!

RebeccaNYC said...

Oh! I have been several (maybe 4?) times for work..the Met used to tour there for a month in the summer every 3-4 years. Because of costs, I doubt we will go back again before I retire..I am sad about that. I have so much to tell you about Japan and my impressions that it must wait for when we are together (and a glass...or two...of wine) ...I am hoping for next summer...we are lining up a new place to stay and I'll keep you updated about our plans. But in short...if you ever have a chance to go..GO! It's amazing.

RebeccaNYC said...

And I know about a full and beautiful life. Mine is also full and beautiful, but oh, there are aches and pains that go along with that! (as I sit here aching and aching because I have been sitting on my haunches all night in a hot hot hot costume, singing the most glorious music...but oh my hips and knees hurt!!!! Full and beautiful will be my new mantra) xoxoxo

D A Wolf said...

To be harvesting your own olives... How extraordinary, even if a small one. And it sounds like excellent therapy for your tristesse as you say. It is always difficult to say goodbye to those we love.

xo

Heather Robinson said...

I love olive trees too Jackie and the ones here are also about strength while being supple - some of them have been alive for 1000 years!

Heather Robinson said...

I am so glad that you enjoyed your time here Emilia - I knew that you would and you saw so much! - and hope that it will work out for another time. It is always hard to go back to work after such an adventure, isn't it??
Gros Bisous...

Heather Robinson said...

It should be mine too. :) And I have a feeling that we will need plenty of time to talk - and wine to go with - when we finally do meet...

Heather Robinson said...

And the work is still happening with no clue as to whether they will be edible or not! But it is worth it to try...

Heather Robinson said...

Heehee, well thank you for the fuel for you are right and that explains my quiet mood as of late along with missing my Mom and Leonard. It was brutal to watch them leave, not knowing when I will see them next...but as my Mom says, "We always find a solution once we have been apart too long" and she is right, we do...

Heather Robinson said...

*hug*

penelopebianchi said...

I am so glad to hear this! I cannot think straight.....in the heat and humidity! Montecito has never had heat and humidity like we had for t he last month!

So happy to hear that you "can't think" either!!

There you go!!! Bloggers share like this! All over the world.....and in small places.....kindred spirits! It is an enormous gift!! I talked to you on the phone when Brooke and Steve were in Florida at the book signing! I swear I will meet you someday!

It is all about the "kindred spirits"!!!!

I believe!!

P

Heather Robinson said...

I completely agree with you Penelope. It is always so amazing to me how we find each other...it is such a big world, it should be harder than finding a needle in a haystack...and yet we do!

And yes, I loved speaking to you when you were with Brooke even though I can be quite shy about meeting new people...and now seeing such gorgeous photos of you with our beautiful Elizabeth! That makes for two shared friends...three!! Because you have to meet Ellie too!

It makes my heart swell up with hope. And I am extremely flattered that you read and enjoy what I do here. I remember your loving a photo of a coal grate that I took in Arles that no one else commented on - yes, we see and love the same things.

I really, really hope that you and Elizabeth will think about coming for a visit. Trust me, I KNOW how far it is from California...but it would be so worth it!

With much Love,
Heather