As summer finally begins to release us from its oven-like grip, we can see that the upcoming harvest should be a good one. Already the Shimlali olives, which always ripen early, are beginning to turn from green to purple. The Barnea and Nabali trees are laden with fruit. In fact, some branches have snapped under the weight of the olives.
Still lots to do, keeping the trees weeded and watered. Some of the trees still need to have the suckers pruned from the base of the trees. Can't wait for the harvest to begin in mid-late October.
A new section of trees were planted over the past 3 years. This year we added the final 45 trees, which were donated by Kibbutz Gezer members, both past and present, in honor of Laura Denola. Laura was a member of Gezer in its early years, and passed away last year.
The trees are of the Picholine variety, which originates in Southern France. I think it will add a nice flavor to the world renowned Gezer olive oil blend.
We usually don't plant trees until the fall, but this coming year is a Shmita year. This falls every 7th year, when the land is left fallow according to Jewish law. Since our oil is kosher, that means no planting trees. So we got them planted a month before the new Jewish year begins in late September. I hope the heat isn't too tough on them. I have to keep them watered every few days until it cools off and the rains (hopefully) arrive.
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.
We finished picking in mid- November, with a final total of 3 tons of olives. Pretty small amount for us, especially following a year with 23 tons. But if it's any consolation, all the farmers in our region had similar yields. Some did not even bother to pick. Jan and Ruth arrived soon after, and we started pruning together with Elan. It has been going well, but then 10 days of rain put things on hold. Yesterday we finally made it back out to the olives to continue pruning. As you can see in the picture, the lower part of the grove got pretty flooded as it does most years. Doesn't seem to cause any problems, since it dries up w/in a few days. The days now are sunny and cool- perfect weather for being outside. The trees seem to like it to. Getting a little winter nap time.
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.
The harvest was long hard work but a lot of fun too. We brought the last load of olives to the press on December 30th. Grand total of 23 tons of olives, about 3 1/2 tons of olive oil. We went right into pruning mode, since our small band of farmworkers is dwindling. It has been going great. Pruning is an art, with each type of tree and each individual tree needing a different emphasis. The basic idea is to cut away shoots from the base and lower trunk, get rid of dead wood, open up the tree to light and air, and keep the branches low enough to pick.
But after a week, when we had pruned about 1/3 of the grove and the pace was going great, the biggest rainstorm we've seen in a while hit and hasn't stopped for 5 days. Temperatures dropped from t shirt weather to winter coats and boots. About 250 mm has fallen in that period, over half our yearly average. You can see in the picture that the bottom edge of the grove near the wadi is under water. This will dry up within a few days, and no harm done. But meanwhile the pruning has been on hold. Today we got a little work done, and hopefully the next couple days before Jan Ruth and Chaz head off to the big world . Great working with great friends. .
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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.