Hermano’s reclaimed olive grove

Old olive trees never die, that’s the legend, though obviously they must die at some point. regrown tree2 25-8-13There is one tree, near Tarragona in Northern Spain, which is alleged to be between 1000-1500 years old: 500 years is quite a margin of error in estimating a person’s age! So, 1495 years of productivity lay ahead of our youngest olive trees which are five summers old and have a handful of olives each this year. Olive trees generally reach peak productivity when they are 40 years old, with yield declining after 140 years. Some way to go then. young olive trees 26-8-13Since we moved here, we have seen many neighbouring fields ploughed and laid out with new olive trees [above]. They look forlorn for the first three years, saplings protected in their narrow plastic sleeves, but make an attractive geometric pattern laid out in the neatly ploughed pink soil. In the fourth year, they start to look like trees. In the fifth year they are harvested for the first time. reclaimed olive grove 25-8-13 (2)The other approach to olive farming is to reclaim old trees abandoned perhaps by the previous generation. Hermano, Pablo’s brother [we call him Hermano, brother, in the ancient Spanish way of referring to a brown dog or donkey as ‘Brown’, P always refers to him as mi hermano], has done just this along the Thyme Track [above]. For years we have passed a muddle of ancient olive trees, head-high in weeds and gorse. This summer, though, the parcela [plots of land here is divided into parcelas or parcels] has been transformed. Some judicious pruning at the right time of year, combined with ploughing to reduce the weeds, has produced a functioning olive grove again. Smaller trees are easier to manage, to pick fruit from. Sometimes the pruning looks brutal, but is effective [below]. regrown tree1 25-8-13So the question everyone wants to know, is how much do you get from a tree? The best tree can be expected to yield 40kg of olives, but the average is more likely to be 8-10kg per tree. If the oil percentage is 14% [ie the amount of oil produced from pressing the harvest] this equates to one litre of oil per tree. But oil percentages are notoriously difficult to gauge: it varies from year to year, from week to week during picking, and depends on the quality of the olives at the moment they are pressed. The oldest trees [below] may be as gnarled and knobbly as arthritic knuckles, but they are productive when cared for and most farmers near here are attentive as to newborn babies.ancient tree 25-8-13Thanks to the Mediterranean Garden Society for these statistics, click here to read more about olive farming:-
http://mediterraneangardensociety.org/olives.html#2 regrown tree3 25-8-135 to remember
el hermano – brother
recuperado/a – reclaimed
el margen de error – margin of error
la productividad – productivity
el rendimiento – yieldregrown tree4 25-8-13

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