They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, we were in desperate need to find a better way to harvest our seven olive trees in time for Trattore Farms' Community Milling Day last Sunday. For the past years of olive harvest, we've shaken the limbs or stripped the olives by hand, and then chased the ones that rolled or bounced off the tarp we'd laid down to collect them.
There had to be a better way.
While there are many tools for large-scale olive farming, we were finding it difficult to find anything to help our little operation. One tool that we did pick up this year, an olive rake that allowed us to rake the olives out of the trees, did make the process go faster.
But we still wanted to prevent the raked-down olives from rolling or bouncing off the tarp into surrounding dirt and grass. This year I decided to try a better method. I strung a rope through the grommets of the tarp to create a bit of a lip, which prevented the olives from rolling away. Then I laid weed barrier cloth on the tarp, taped up the overlap and stapled the perimeter to keep it in place. The softer cloth successfully cut down the bouncing when the olives fell from the trees.
Clay had his own invention inspiration. A lot of small leaves and twigs fall with the olives. In the past, we took hours separating bucket after bucket of the fruit from unwanted debris. This year, Clay made a screened frame. We dumped the olives and greenery on the screen and placed it over a large fan set on just the right level. Because the leaves and twigs are lighter than the olives, the fan blew them off, leaving us a clean batch of olives ready for the press.
Our inventions worked like a charm. It took just 12 hours for the two of us to pick and clean the olives from two large trees and five small ones.
On Sunday we drove to Trattore Farms to participate in the Community Milling Day they host every year. We had some long-awaited rain, but it didn’t deter us or our neighbors from bringing our olive harvest in for pressing. This year, as in recent years past, the olive fruit fly has been a big challenge in our area. Due to Clay’s determined efforts to control the infestation in our trees, all our olives were accepted for pressing. In a week, we’ll have over 2.5 gallons of lovely olive oil. Our friends and family will see something special in their stockings this year!