We love establishing traditions here on our young vineyard and we think we've figured out our post-Thanksgiving tradition: picking the ripe olives from our California Mission olive tree and taking them to the Dry Creek Olive Company to be turned into oil. Every fall, the olive oil company in Healdsburg provides a few Community Milling Days, days when people who harvest less than 500 pounds can bring in their olives, combine them with others in a pressing and receive a prorated share of the oil. We’d taken in 85 pounds a couple years ago and received a little over a gallon of oil, which we gave out as Christmas presents. Last year, we suffered an infestation of olive fruit flies. But because of Clay’s diligent work, we were able to recover and had a stellar harvest of 112 pounds this year.
It took us most of the day Saturday to harvest the olives. Clay got our very tall orchard ladder and harvested the olives very high up. I got the shorter ladder and harvested much, much lower down, thank goodness.
We removed the olives by combing through the branches with our fingers and letting the fruit drop to the ground. We used a tarp to catch the fruit, but the olives kept bouncing off. So I lined the tarp with bird netting, which caught the fruit when it bounced. In farming, necessity is truly the mother of invention.
Once that was done, we spent another couple of hours removing twigs, leaves, stems and other assorted schmoo from the collection. It’s important to turn in a clean harvest.
Olives must be processed within 24 hours, either by pressing out the oil or by curing, so on Sunday morning, we drove to Dry Creek Olive Company and submitted our olives for inspection. Fortunately we got the thumbs up and our babies were dumped into the collection bin. We will have fresh Gantz Family Vineyards olive oil by Friday, and plenty to put in stockings come Christmas.