<<< HOME
Here is the official story of our 2009 extra-virgin olive oil harvest in Crete. There are many photos, so if you have a slow connection please be patient. You may be amused by the incredible tale of the earthquake and the exploding chocolate goat. So now make a cup of tea while the files download ... and enjoy!
The mountain views that dominate our olive oil farm.
Welcome to Crete!

This is what we see every morning when we wake up.

Our Saint Basil Olive Grove is dominated by spectacular south views of the White Mountains - home of the famous Samaria Gorge.

The

The olive farm - view of Villa Selene and Villa Fos
In the opposite direction, the scenery reminds us of the Derbyshire Peak District National Park.

Crete is very green and lush in the wintertime - yet that is a blue November sky! Daytime temperature is typically 19 - 25 degrees centigrade, although it does get cooler at night so there is no need for airconditioning at this time of year.

This is a view of the North Grove (4.5 acres) with two of our five villas Selene and Fos in the middleground. Behind us is the South Grove of 1 acre.

(The tree on the left is not an olive!)

Preparations for tomorrow's olive picking
John (right) has a leisurely chat with neighbour Giorgos (left) in our favourite kafenion in the nearby village of Gavalochori. Giorgos advises we need to invest in some new equipment this year to make our harvest more productive.

For some daft reason, John has decided to give up alcohol, which is why he is holding a bottle of fizzy water. Poor boy...we shall see how long this fad lasts...

Traditional olive picking tools
Tools of the trade. We stock up on extra equipment. See the three beating sticks to the right of the photo? Each has 4 or 5 prongs, made of plastic so as to be gentle on the olives. The trick is to 'gently' swish the branches from side to side or 'brush' down the length of each branch to encourage the olives to fall into nets laid on the ground.

(Originally, olive farmers used a simple wooden stick to hit the branches and dislodge the olives - not very effective!)

The two wide 'scrapers' on the left are for separating twigs from the olives after they have fallen into the nets.

Two eager olive pickers ready to start the day
Ready for action. Marcus (left) and John (right) start the day early. Note the wellies - despite 22 degrees and bright sunshine the ground is wet with dew.
We use pointy sticks to encourage the olives to fall into our nets
Soft green nets are spread around each tree to catch the falling olives. These nets are the best because they are not liable to be caught by the wind - they have small holes in!

Go whack 'em, gently, boys.

Olive picking protective headgear as fetchingly worn by John
John models the lastest 'must-have' headgear this autumn.

He discovered the hard way after getting thwacked in the eye by a rogue olive branch. More than 'ouch' and a lot of squinting, this required a visit to the local health centre followed by a course of antibiotics. (Glad to report he is now OK - no lasting damage.)

Learn from his foolish mistake and ALWAYS wear protective eyegear.

An olive farmer at work - not in traditional dress
Stylish headgear also enables optional teeshirt to be worn as sun protection.

We told you it was hot!

Andy and John enjoy their olive picking repartee.
Make like a tree!

Andy (left) holds a broken branch upright so John can whallop it with the pointy stick.

Mark the Olive Picker, picking olives
Mark turns grovelling into an art form. No, he is not counting the olives one by one (or is he?).

We THINK he is removing leaves and twigs. But there again, he could just be having a rest.

Collecting the raw olives in nets
John, Andy and Mark practice the time-honoured tradition of 'The Olive Net Shuffle'.

The full net is lifted and carried to where the main batch of olives are stored. Participants usually step on the net and fall over each other's feet in the struggle to manoeuvre the net into position. It is accompanied by much cursing and squeals of 'YOU ARE STANDING ON MY WELLIE.'.

This is never a graceful spectacle.

20kg of freshly-picked olives
The trio finally manage to deliver their haul to the olive holding area.

Time for another break, chaps...?

Our olives are very green because this is early in the picking season. Green olives make a more peppery oil.
...no chance! There is more where that lot came from. (A lot more.)

This particular load on the ground we later discovered weighed around 320 kg. About 8 sacks.

Outside Villa Asteria after a hard day's work
Mark and Andy with yet another catch. Very often, while hauling those nets, you will feel as though you are a fisherman ... er... fisherwoman ... fisherperson.

Oh heck, do we have to be so politically correct? 

No, this is Greece, remember.

Hooray.

Olive picker's lunch consists of bread, tomatoes,onion, dolmades, feta, olives (of course) and some wine
ok, NOW you can all sit down.

Lunchtime in the olive grove consists of fresh locally sourced tomatoes, onion, feta cheese, dolmades, cucumber, olives and crusty bread drizzled in ...olive oil (of course).

That yellow jar is full of home made piccalilly. (Thank you, June).

While Mark and Andy cheerfully quaff the red wine, you will notice John eating an apple. Or is he smoking a pipe in a laconic 1950s sort of pose? Either way he still refuses to drink alcohol.

Our ladies say Andy is much too handsome to be an olive picker
"I'm An Olive Picker ... Get Me Out Of Here."

Andy emerges from the jungle.

Andy at work bagging up olives... Marcus is not...
A rare photo of Marcus (right).

As Official Olive Harvest Photographer he usually remains invisible. But at this point in the trip he has just discovered the delayed exposure setting and is determined to get his money's worth.

Andy with our labour saving device for fast-filling olive sacks: a bucket without a bottom.
Andy demonstrates how to fill a sack of olives. Not so easy single handed. But with the clever addition of a 'bottomless bucket' that sack is a cinch to load up.
Our olives are the small and hardy type, ideal for oil. So far they have proved very resistant to attack by pests.
A typical mix of olives in various degree of ripeness. Lovely as they look, don't be tempted to chew on a raw one. Even at harvest time they can be very bitter.

The variety is the famous 'Koronaika' olive, indiginous to the Apokoronas area of West Crete. Apokoronas is pronounced: APO-KOR-ONAS with emphasis on the middle 'O'

This is counter to the natural English pronounciation where we would emphasise the third O.

Maybe that's why the locals can never understand us when we ask for directions home...

Relaxing by one of our pools.
Marcus overseeing the workers.

Although we are only two and a half kilometers from the sea at Almyrida, we are also overlooked by the spectacular 'Lefki Ori'.

By Christmas these White Mountains will be capped with snow.

And so will Marcus if he does not move by then.

Here are just 5 of our 36 olive sacks collected in November 2009
All finished in this neck of the woods. (North Grove, East Side)

Those 5 sacks represent the haul from just 4 of our 200 trees .

Finished for the day. Ready to take to the olive oil factory
All packed up and ready to go.

All we need now is someone with a big truck. A Very Big Truck.

...now who do we know...?

Andreas backs up his lorry.
Andreas arrives. On time as well!

And he has remembered to bring his Very Large Truck.

How useful.

It's a 10 km drive to the oilve oil factory, but those hairpin bends test out vehicle to the limit.
The Andreas-mobile doesn't look quite so large from this angle.

On the way to the olive oil factory we have serious doubts as to whether Andreas will make it.

The truck is carrying nearly one and a half tonnes of raw olives (36 sacks). We worry lots more when we see the tyres bulging, and copious plumes of black smoke at every gear change.

Those hairpin bends result in much wobbling and shaking. That's us, not just the truck!.

We wonder when Andreas last serviced his brakes...

No we are not parked. We are driving through a sea of pink things.
Phew! we make it to the main town.

But there are yet more obstacles to negotiate.

(Why are they pink???)

At last. The olive oil factory.
We have reached our destination: The Olive Oil Factory

There are many different factories to choose from, each with their own methods and standards of equipment. We chose this one because they achieve traditional results with modern machinery - no chemicals, no significant heat, only pressure and centriguge to extract the oil. We have had very good results in previous years.

Not all factories are the same!

The factory workers kindly unload for us.
This is the first time Andreas has been here. Being fluent in Greek he had a long chat with the workers and was very impressed. His official verdict? 'These boys give a good vibe'.

That's cool enough for us.

Other farmers' olives.
Although the factory is high quality, the oil it produces can only be as good as the olives it receives. This is the queue, waiting to be pressed, and some pallets are full of sweaty olives that look more than a few days old.

This is why we personally deliver our crop and 'ride shotgun' while our bags are processed before our eyes. We arrive with our olives early and are allowed to jump the queue so our bags are not waiting in the heat...

Olive oil making machiney
This is the 'input 'end. All shiny clean and stainless.

It reminds us of some fiendish device used in a James Bond movie.

Now, where can we find Dr Evil?

.

Olive oil machinery all clean and tidy
This is the 'output' end. It is where the lovely green oil is poured into cans for us to take away.
Our sacks of olives are ready to be processed first
Ready to go!

Our sacks steady John as he shivvers with excitement...

...in they go!
Bags are opened and the contents poured into the hopper.
Our olives on the conveyor
The conveyor takes the olives to an air blower where twigs and leaves are separated. They are literally blown away out of the factory via two long horizontal pipes This natural waste is then mulched into agricultural compost.
Our olives get a good bath
John watches the olives washed in fresh water. No water is recirculated between batches to ensure absolute cleanliness.

(His eye still hurts from being hit by that rogue branch.)

The Greeks say: 'we smash the olives'. This is what they mean.
The olive mash.

Despite the rather unpleasant looks, it smells wonderfully green and fresh.

Marcus keeps a watchful eye on the entire olive oil making process
The bizarre sight of Marcus sitting on a sofa in the middle of an olive oil factory, watching strange machines suck and blow and squeeze and whirl.

Howver, a man can only take so much and this activity becomes very boring. A more interesting distraction is required...

The olive factory shop where you can buy everything to do with, er, olives.
... the Factory Shop! The perfect place to spend an idle half hour...

...let's look inside...

Shoppers' delight. And good prices too
.. an Aladdin's Cave of wondrous things. This place is part shop, part museum of ancient olive production technology..
Hand-made olive soap. But we're not sure if this is made locally or bought in. Does it really matter?
Tradtional gifts, perfect for presents to take home.
The ancient raki still. Raki is a traditional Cretan firewater made from grape squishiing after the main juice is turned into wine.
Here's an old raki still. Probably highly illegal even when it was in use.
No he's not drinking tea. That's OLIVE OIL in the cup!
At last! Our oil is ready!

As advertised, it is delightfully green and fragrant.

Mr Greek Man kindly offers a cup.

Nice of the olive oil factory owners to lay on a spread for us.
The factory owners thoughtfully lay on fresh crusty bread, tomatoes, lemon and sea salt. Plus a bottle of village wine of course.

(You know the wine is authentic if it is presented in an old plastic water bottle!)

"You do it like this...."
Mr Greek Man ceremoniously removes the insides of the tomato and the lemon, before stirring into the fresh oil (5 minutes old!) .

Yes, at this stage the oil does look like pondwater but that is because it needs several months to settle.

However, the resulting taste is magnificent.

It is everything we expected and more.

Hearty congratulations all round!

You can taste this yourself if you join us on an out-of-season olive picking holiday at our villas
So good that John goes in for seconds.

He is still not tempted by the village wine.

However, since it IS compulsory to drink this wine, Marcus more than makes up for John's self-inflicted abstinance.

The final result. Many, many litres of olive oil from the November harvest.
And so we return with many hundreds of litres of the freshest unfiltered, unblended extra-virgin olive oil from cold first press.

Now all we have to do is ship it to the UK.

Exactly how many litres? To give an idea of scale, those gray pumps are more than 1 metre long!

And there is more where this came from...

Are you still waiting for the story of the earthquake and exploding chocolate goat? OK we confess we made that part up. But nothing else. In fact there are many fabulous yet true tales we could tell you but have no time left. However, if you join us for the next harvest we may reveal all around the camp fire. By then we may have persuaded John to drink a little raki again... Thanks for reading this far.

To return to HOME PAGE, click the Saint Basil image below.

.

Back to Home Page for Olive Oil and Olive Picking Holidays in Crete, Greece

Saint Basil Olive Grove, Almyrida-Gavalochori, Apokoronas, West Crete, Greece

Telephone us in the UK: 0161 929 8787

(+44 161 929 8787 if calling from outside UK)

...