Hatching Free Range Ideas

The Olive Harvest Festival, part romance part reality

In Big Fun!, Friend's doing cool stuff that you can share, Let's eat, Wandering on September 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Sevillanos, as big as your head

We went to the Olive Harvest event at the Texas Olive Ranch last week. . . all week. Before we went, I watched the trailer to the documentary in development on the Texas olive oil industry. It made me cry (that’s not really all that difficult, but still. . . ). The trailer is nothing but romance, okay, some hard romance stuff, but still very romantic. I thought, “We too could be olive ranchers and drive the wild olive to harvest.”

I drove through the 2 hour long empty space south of San Antonio to get there [Carrizzo Springs] with romantic movies playing in my head the whole way, my car’s a/c contributing to the  movie theater experience.

I arrived the night before the real event and drove along row after row of heavily laden trees about 10 feet high. There are 40,000 of them. Row upon row.

The trees are overflowing with olives, green olives

The South Texas Sky mounded clouds above them. I drove to the pressing shed; the hosts poured cold wine. It smelled of olive oil, really great olive oil. It doesn’t have air conditioning. The dogs lie on the cool cement floor; I considered it.

Eric arrived in his 1980s conversion van. Since it had no road a/c, we went to the motel and jumped in the pool and took a shower and drank water and did whatever we could to rehydrate Eric.

We camped on top of a hill with a 360 degree view and a lovely breeze, after sitting in the clear evening breeze and watching the stars.

The following day the Harvest Event began, right about the time I was scuttling madly about looking for a tree, a bush, anything to hide behind to pee. Did I mention that unless you plant a tree or a bush, they’re pretty hard to find?

The day broke 100 degrees, before noon. There’s a large aquifer here but no water on top of the ground, except for the olive trees. The water smells of iron and sulfur, if you can find a tap.

We watched parts of the harvest and walked the rows of olive trees having been warned 53 times to watch out for snakes. I had on my snake flip flops; it was too hot for shoes. Olives are flat out beautiful and these spoke of abundance.

Looking directly into the harvest bin

That night there was a gourmet dinner in the field with music, just enough to show on the film. Everyone was done and done in about 10. The next day we picked a bucket of ripe olives to brine. The ripe olives are warm in your hands from the sun; the green less so. It made me think that blind people could pick out the ripe olives. . . but then there’s the snakes.

We picked these for brining

The ripe olives are now on their first week of brining; they will go for three or four. The brining removes the bitterness, although if you bite into a really ripe olive in the orchard, you can taste the rich, ripe olive taste beyond the bitterness. You spit it out after you taste it and you say, “Ahhhh.”

The area is depressed and dusty and hot, hot, hot. You can see for miles. It’s flat and sandy, with just a little bit of clay to make things slick. It took me half an hour to wash the mud gumbo off of my car after they got it unstuck from the mud left from the drip irrigation. Not quite up to the axles. Everyone drives pickups. I drove a Volvo station wagon. Now you say, “Ahhhhh.”

A beautiful shell of a building in Crystal City

It’s a magical place, more Tim Burton than Walt Disney. I can’t wait to go again. I’ll bring skirts instead of jeans; I’ll wear flip-flops instead of boots. I won’t go into the fields where snakes are (I saw no snakes, just one dead tarantula). I’ll camp in the van again, with the same holey bucket to pour iron and sulfur water on my head in the middle of a day over 100 degrees.

I won’t imagine myself in Italy and I won’t try to figure out how I too can be an olive rancher. Instead, I’ll get a place in Ruidoso and invite them up. And they’ll bring that incredible olive oil that is like drinking butter and pepper and something else. And we’ll pretend we’re in the mountains in Spain or Italy.

They come in all colors, at once


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