Sunday, June 01, 2008

Winter Harvest

The beginning of June and we're nearly at mid-winter. Our sorely needed winter rains alternate with warm days filled with sunshine, so kids, snotty with colds, run about in T-shirts and bare feet all day and have to be coaxed into warm tops and slippers as the sun goes down and we light the fire.

Farm is really too grand a word for our small-holding, where our main crop is unlimited space, views and fresh air, but it has been time overdue for my winter harvest of olives. Each time the rain swept in from the North West I kicked myself for not having stripped the one tree that has been nursing a bumper crop, lest the olives be wasted. Luckily they're a hardy fruit.

Olives from one of my five trees. The trees seem to take it in turns to produce a crop - they are all different varieties, only now I've forgotten what they all are.

Last year I had just one jarful of olives, this year a whole colander full. Today I looked up ways to pickle them on the internet and ended up deciding that the way I did them last year sounds the best: soaking them in pure water, changed daily for 10 days, then in a brine, changed weekly for four weeks, then leaving them in a brine solution for several months to improve in flavour. Other ways involve caustic soda, which doesn't sound so great.

Then I just have to decide what herbs to put in with them and we'll have our own wonderful olives. Rosemary and garlic, or shall I try to match the wonderful lime dressing that we buy from our favorite Olive Boutique, except I should have picked the olives green for that one...

My 2 year old lemon tree has four big lemons on it too. This is the first tree that has really thrived here on a little patch of clay. The sandy soil of the rest of the farm is too dry for them. I'm really hoping this one will grow big enough to supply us with lemons all winter.

And the mulberry tree that I mourned, its roots eaten by moles, that had sunk at least a foot into the ground at a drunken angle, has suddenly put out new leaf and thinks it's spring again, with embryo berries on it. The one remaining root was enough for it to make a come back. We'll have to see whether we get midwinter mulberries ripening on it!

Our strawberry plants have reached the end of their lifespan. We need new stock, as last year's harvest was barely enough to feed the family and make a few pots of jam. Three years ago I was drowning in berries. The vegetable garden and new strawberry area is being turned over now. We need to get the new plants in now, for them to have any chance of producing properly in the spring.

If only we could bottle our view with a dash of sunshine, then we really would be on the way to being a proper farm and I wouldn't have to feel apologetic when people ask what we farm and I reply that we really just live here and grow a few strawberries, which we only sell when we can't eat any more ourselves!


  1. Well done for growing olives. I believe they can be temperamental!

  2. Wow - a colander of olives!! I, for one, am impressed and even more so that you are going to pickle them yourself. Are they big or small? Look quite big from the picture, like queen olives.

    We have three little butternut plants this year and some chillies, so will see if we actualyl harvest anything...

  3. Fresh olives! Oh, I miss those...we had two trees growing up...and it was a favorite treat. The rosemary and garlic version sounds fabulous :)

  4. Hi Kit, would love to get in touch with you, but can't seem to find your e-mail address.

    Would you please pop me an e-mail at henre[at]winecountry[dot]co[dot]za

    You can go here to see what I do:


  5. Man those things are huge. Wanna grab one out of the picture.

  6. Hi Kit,

    beautiful olives! Your harvest in the different seasons certainly keeps you busy.

    I am impressed! (For some reason I'm comparing your farming to that attempted by the father in The Poisonwood Bible... the only similarity however is that its the same continent!).

  7. I love reading about what's going on in your part of the world. Here in Portland, Oregon, USA, we have a chilly summer starting, lots of rain, strawberries coming in, peas and flowers galore. No olives, ever.

  8. Those olives look beautiful. What a treat to be able to make your own mix. I am very jealous.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!