It has been surreal, November 2015 and I have had to cut the lawns at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, so deliciously warm are the days the grass is still growing, and I am dressed at best only in a pair of shorts. Mornings I awake to golden sunshine and azure skies, glorious autumnal tints on the woodland on the far side of the Chiascio valley, and roses in the garden in new bloom and bud, it is unseasonally warm. Not that anyone is complaining, for we are all out up trees harvesting olives.
After last year’s non-harvest when the trees were blighted by a damp summer and the olive fly resulting in no oil it is so good to be back at the olive trees. We pick by hand. Coming from the north of Europe where the olive tree is seen only in florist’s displays I never thought to be spending my November days climbing high into branches and combing olives through my fingers. I pick with friends, we pick in the same way olives have for centuries and maybe millennia been picked, using just our hands. It is a beautiful satisfying work, the brrrrrrrrrr….. of a branch loaded full with olives being stripped and the fruit falling into the net below. As ever here, silence and peace only punctuated by birdsong and our chatter as we gossip and put the damaged world to rights, I have a sense that this is the way it has always been, life can still be good and honest.
We have a good harvest this year, though not all the trees are full, some are even devoid of olives, but others laden, there are plenty of olives and our first appointment at the ‘frantoio’ or olive mill in Gubbio is booked for tomorrow.
By tradition when we return from the frantoio with our new oil we light the fire, toast the local Umbrian unsalted white bread and douse it liberally with the new piquant intensely green oil, bruschetta never tastes better, away you overly-priced overly-marketed designer oils, bruschetta never tastes better than on this evening, made from your own oil picked by hand and cold pressed. With this year’s heatwave I am asking myself if it will be different, the fire not lit, no it cannot be some traditions just have to be upheld, we will toast merrily.