Friday, November 25, 2016

Olive harvest at the Mas de la Fourbine



Last weekend, my friend Judy invited me out to her olive farm, the beautiful Mas de la Fourbine, to partake in the harvest or récolte. She had extended the same offer to me last year, as well as to our mutual friend Ellie, but neither of us were able to attend. With Ellie's recent passing, it has glowed as a missed opportunity in my mind, so I was determined to ratify that in fine form on both of our behalves.

I think that we are all a bit tired, non? So for once in a blue Supermoon, I am going to keep my verbiage simple and let the photos walk you through. That is appropriate, actually, as the act of plucking off olives for hours on end is such a zen action that even I was able to faire le vide and coast on just the contentment of being a part of something connected, joyful and strong.

"How many trees are there, Judy?" I asked as we headed out into the grove. "Well, supposedly 700," she replied. "Why supposedly?" I queried. "You know, you start counting and get distracted at 369 and it isn't like you are going to start all over again..." I see. It is such a low-key attitude that pervades the mas and I can tell you it is a welcome change from the faux modesty held at other such domaines in the stunning Alpilles, ones that could make Marie Antoinette and her Petit Trianon foible-ees blush. This is, after all, a family affair.

Judy's son Nicholas, dit Niko, runs the affairs of the farm along with his lovely wife Robin (also an américaine, she is an accessible Gwyneth Paltrow). But their children, Olivier and the tiny Juliette or Juju, are not to be underestimated for their harvesting abilities. Well, if not that for that exactly then for their nearly stoic ability to entertain themselves in the fields for hours in that lost art of "Oh, just go out and play" that so many of us mastered in our youth. Juju would sit on the tractor and sing an endless repetition of "the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round" until someone was able to distract her and Olivier wandered from picker to picker. 

On the second morning of work, the echoing boom of gunshots could be heard and Olivier approached me with wide eyes. "They are bad guys." "Who?" I asked, "the hunters?" "I don't understand why...why anyone would want to hurt the animals" he responded with a shrug so gentle and such sincerity that I had to will myself to not tear up. "Yeah, I don't agree with that either," I allowed. "I am going to get them all to my house...and then lock them up...in the dungeon...and let the monsters eat them," he proposed after careful consideration. "That sounds like a great plan, Olivier." He nodded stridently and walked away. I love that memory.

I did the easy bits, made even simpler by a netted wheelbarrow or brouette placed under the branches of the trees. All I had to do is pluck, aim and fire with occasional raking for the clumps that Judy likened to brushing Juju's unruly hair. For the bigger or more fruit-laden specimens, large nets were placed around their bases and an Edward Scissorhands-like machine shook the branches fervently until the black orbs toppled into the nets. Eventually, all of the days winnings were stacked into containers and loaded onto a trailer (along with the Princess in a Parade waving Juju), which was pulled by a tractor throned by the men of the family, which in turn was towed by a finicky 4x4 steered by Robin, whose smile shone through our mutual fatigue enough to light up the last of the evening sky. 

Judy and I slowly made our way to the bergerie or barn where faithful Loulou was waiting with a tail wag. All in all, we picked something in the neighborhood of 300 kilos a day. It has been a good season at the Mas de la Fourbine and the liquid gold of their olive oil will continue to flow on the fortunate tables of family and friends throughout the year. I felt grateful to have participated in a tradition that is as ancient to these hills as the Roman times and deeply appreciative to have set a former lack to right, all while perhaps doing a bit of good in the process.




















I am hoping to do another post on the property itself.

For those of you whole celebrated yesterday, I wish you a belated Happy Thanksgiving. It has been a really challenging year for so many of us and yet there is still so much to be grateful for...

Thank you for being here,
Heather



36 comments:

  1. Harvesting olives - a Provencal adventure if ever there was one! Reminds me a little of the Christmas tree farm here, which is in full swing today! Loving the Van Gogh trees and the simplicity of the task - I'm glad you had this respite of getting in touch with Mother Earth. Plus friends, kids, a dog - sweet! Yes, much to be thankful for, including you and your lovely images and words.

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    1. Happy Birthday Sister! I love you so much.

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  2. How many days did it take? Two? And when the trees have been shaken, are all the olives gone, or does the process have to be done several times?
    Was Olivier named before or after they got to the Mas de la Fourbine?
    There's a gigantic olivier in front of our house (on public property), and a little guy comes by each fall with sheets and a ladder and picks the olives. Waste not.
    Did you watch Fillon and Juppé last night? Interesting.

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    1. Well, I have a lot of questions to ask. But no, I did not watch the last Fillon and Juppé debate. I watched "The Crown" instead. ;)

      I think that the harvest took about two weeks.

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  3. I have always loved picking fruit and harvesting things in my past and find that, in spite of how great the physical demands were, there was a serenity found in one's thoughts then.

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  4. What a great description. I've read others not nearly as poetic, or informative. And those darling kidlets! An excellent way to spend a day.
    Is their oil for local use only, or do they sell it elsewhere? I'd happily use something like that, knowing it was produced with such care.

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    1. Judy does sell her oil. She doesn't have a website up yet, but if you are interested, then please email me at the address here and I would be more than happy to put you into contact with her. It is the real deal. :p

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  5. Oh I was waiting for that post eagerly! Thank you for sharing this experience.

    Looking at the pictures I remember the gentle evening sun, that special light of "Les Alpilles" and I remember what the olive oil from that area tastes like. Delicious!

    And hey, I am definitley team Olivier when it comes to " La chasse"

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    1. I know you are.

      I wanted you to see these photos as I felt that it was a good baby step forward to take so many photos of people. ?

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  6. I helped pick olives a couple of times, on a very small scale in kind of a weird spot next to the road. I enjoyed it! I would have thought this was bit early...... What a gorgeous day!

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    1. No, actually, quite late for the area! The co-operative has been threatening to close.

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  7. What a wonderful and beautiful experience. I'm glad you were able to do this.

    Have a lovely weekend dear Heather ~ FlowerLady

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    1. Thank you so much, kind Flower Lady. And the same for yours that is ahead...

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing. The pictures are beautiful and earthy.

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  9. Love that you had this getaway with good friends! I would gladly work for olives as I adore them!
    Good times with good people...good for you! Mwahs, T xx

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  10. What a great experience with some very fine friends! Happy Belated Thanksgiving! Yes, there are many things for which to be grateful!

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  11. Hunters and harvest. Same here in Greece. There is something incredibly wonderful about harvesting olives. . .we did ours a month ago. I obviously have missed a segment of your life? You had just learned to drive in the US and now you are in Provence??

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  12. Ah .. the positive invigoration associated with us embracing nature .. and you've conveyed the experience beautifully, Rocket!

    Olives - 1
    Hunters - 0

    Mahalo et Merci for sharing! B

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  13. I have read several of Helen Drinkwater's books about the olive harvests but have never seen the process....
    such a lot of work! I use and love olive oil, serve olives on my cheese platters and adore tapenaude...
    thankful that there are dedicated Olive growers around the world to supply all our tasty habits!

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    1. I love that series! Such happiness in them even amidst the challenges. And yes, it IS a lot of work. Nothing to be taken for granted! ;)

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  14. This was fascinating and educational at the same time. Sort of reminds me of when use to harvest pecans. Janey

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  15. What wonderful way to spend a weekend:working hard in the olive farm with friends.
    I did not realize olive berries come in different colors.

    I love the photos. O, the innocent and happy children's faces.

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    1. Aren't the children beautiful? And yes, there were at least three different types that I harvested, if not more.

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  16. I would so love to do this!! Such beautiful photos! I like the plan to lure and reap the hunters. One of my first crusades was the ivory trade and I wrote a similar plan on a make your own book project in 2nd grade. My teacher called my mom! Hope you had a lovey weekend!

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    1. He was so earnest, SAJ; it gave me hope for the future of mankind.

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  17. Wow, what an experience, and so rich with tradition! Sounds like a wonderful couple of days of good old fashioned manual labor!

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  18. How glorious!! Wonderful pics xx

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