Tomorrow (or the next day if you live in a walled city) is Purim. The time to get plastered while celebrating the survival of the Persian Jewish community. So get those olive martinis ready! I actually got the party going last night with some strawberry daiquiris (since its strawberry season here in Israel), as well as margaritas (since its citrus season as well).
The olive trees are budding, and in the next couple weeks there will be tiny white flowers opening up and getting pollinated. That will be an indication of the potential yield for the coming fall. I've been putting out compost, but besides that it's been a quiet couple months. Soon things will be getting busy mowing and weeding,followed by putting out fly traps, getting irrigation lines fixed up, and cutting new growth from the base of the trees.
This week I also planted 10 grape vines (Cabernet Sauvignon) at the edge of the olive grove. I hope this is the start of an organic vineyard.
December 13th, 2013. Israel is in its second day of a major rainstorm, and snow in Jerusalem and the higher elevations. And at Gezer- is that snow? Hail? Whatever it is, the kibbutz this afternoon was coated in white cold stuff that is something we don't see very often.
After a November that was a continuation of the summer, we have had rain for 8 out of the last 9 days. About 170 mm, which is over 1/3 of our yearly average of 450 mm. And cold too, reaching down to about 5 degrees Celsius.
Two weeks ago we celebrated finishing the olive harvest with our annual olive party. For the 2nd year we held the party in the FUBU, Gezer's new pub. You can see pictures and read a transcript of Jan's version of creation at the Olive Party sidebar.
Before you know it the new harvest season has begun. The Shimlali were especially early to ripen this year, but the volunteers were arriving only around November 1. Fortunately the Habonim workshop, a group from North America (and one Englishman!) in Israel for the year, were happy to come help for a day. It's amazing what 17 people can get done. Thanks Rox for organizing a great weekend. So the Shimlali is all picked and pressed, although the yield is much smaller than last year. Now we are picking the Suri and some of the Nabali as well. The Barnea, which usually has the highest yields, has virtually no olives on the trees. At this rate we should be finished with the harvest in 2-3 weeks. But there's always pruning and other work to be done. Can't wait to taste the fresh oil!
Today is the first day of the Jewish New Year. Here in Israel most things are closed, and everyone is eating, praying, hiking, visiting,and just hanging.
So how does this effect the olive grove? Part of being kosher is not picking olives from trees that are younger than 3 years old. This is called "Orlah". If a tree is planted a day after Rosh Hashana (New Years) then you need to wait an entire extra year before the fruit can be harvested. So this year we wanted to plant some new trees to finish of the new section of the grove with a new variety for Gezer- Picholine, a French variety. So I rushed to buy the trees and get them planted just before the holiday.
So now I'm resting, happy to know the trees are in the ground. Hopefully in 3 years we'll taste their oil for the first time.
Haorgani, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
In addition to selling Gezer olive oil at the Gezer colbo (store), sales through Arye (who sells our oil in gallon containers in Tel Aviv) and directly to customers, we have also started selling Gezer olive oil through HaOrgani, an online organic food store. Check out their website at:
They buy food from different farmers and deliver to customers who order from an online menu. If you contact them, let them know how you heard about them. If anyone has any other marketing ideas, we'd be glad to hear about them.
In the Gezer colbo, we also sell Gezer olive oil soap (plain and with Dead Sea mud), and eating olives from the Suri and Nabali varieties. We hope to begin making our own homemade zaatar. I have started planting wild marjoram, and am looking for bushes to grow sumac. Maybe we'll even grow our own sesame seeds!
Haorgani, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Every few months I read about new research that proves the benefits of olive oil. The latest is from Germany, which claims that even the smell of olive oil increases serotonin in the blood, which makes you feel full. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/is-the-secret-to-olive-oil-in-its-scent/
On a more sober note, this past Wednesday April 24th on channel 10 in Israel the Colbotek show is airing a story about the rampant fraud in olive oil in Israel. Some olive oil that's bottled and used in restaurants is actually some kind of oil that is not suitable for eating!
The segment is available for viewing (for now) on the internet. It's a bit overdramatic, but makes the point. Now we see if someone does something about the problem.
When the Jewish New Year approaches, all across the Israeli (and Mediterranean) countryside the Hatzav, or Sea Squill, begins to bloom. They seem to appear out of nowhere, growing in earth that has been barren and dry for months. The tiny flowers first open at the lower part, and each day make their way up the stalk. Only after flowering does the greenery then appear down along the ground. Quite something. I took this photo in Jerusalem at UN hill ( the Hill of Evil Council).
It took a while, but I finally got Gezer olives jarred, labeled, and into the Colbo (kibbutz store). They taste great, and are naturally pickled using only salt, garlic and lemon. A lot of thank yous are in order. First to all the olive pickers from last year who worked picking, sorting, and pickling the olives. That includes the 5 women from the Habonim workshop who came for a weekend and moved things along. Varda Livney and Peter Rugill collaborated on the label design and printing, and Ayla Livney who helped me figure out a system for getting them into the jars. So far the feedback has been good. A new product is born!
For those of you who haven't been in Israel the past few weeks, it is hot! Even though most of our trees don't get irrigated, those that need it, especially the young trees, really suffer without it. So I've been watering, including keeping the drip irrigation lines repaired. This is also the time to prune the suckers sprouting out from the base of the trees.
I'm already thinking about picking this November/December. The harvest is not large, but it will still take about a month, and then another month of pruning. Ruth and Jan will be back from Norway to help for most of the time, and a young WWOOFER from Philly is coming for 2 weeks. If anyone is interested in coming to work, whether for a day or a week or a month, write and I'll send more information . Spaces are filling up fast.
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I'm Dani Livney, a member of Kibbutz Gezer, and the manager of the Gezer olives. I love it! I also work as a lawyer, focusing on environmental projects and promoting environmental empowerment and education.