Provence sabbatical day 5 – beekeepers and olive groves

Back in ’99 when Marcel and I first started getting to know each other, we discussed a gazillion things, like the things we’d love to do. On my list, was the romantic notion of picking olives and grapes in France or Italy. So when Patricia told me about hoping to achieve 300kgs to have her own pressing, I couldn’t resist offering my help. She’d organise the picnic, and I’d get fresh bread in the morning.

The alarm clock went off far too early after another night of insomnia. But I thought of the day ahead and got up, splashed my face with icy water, grabbed one of Pen’s hats (she wears them so well) and trundled down the lane.

I couldn’t get over the light. It was all sparkly as sunshine mingled with frosty air. The Pentax worked overtime, as I stopped every two seconds in my attempt to do this magical place justice. I took “the other route” Pen showed me, and got myself a little “lost” – best way to discover a place – and then found my way to the market. A bunch of organic veggies … for EUR 8! Wow. Locally grown, and yummy (writing this after dinner).

A beekeeper asks me something in French. I apologise and say I’m learning French. He says, “which language do you speak?” A British expat who’s been living here for decades. He was a mechanic and gave that up 6 years ago. His story gets interesting, when another client rocks up. Turns out she also speaks English. I giggle for ages at the number of expats; and trudge back up the hill … I wanted to get fit again πŸ˜‰

I dropped off the veggies and went for my bicycle. Flat front wheel!! Argh. Pump doesn’t work. Try the new one we got yesterday. Helps a bit, but as soon as there’s weight on the wheel … flat! Argh!! I leave the bike out for later and start walking. The roads can be very narrow. When we arrived last week, getting the big Renault van (and trailer) past this farmhouse was quite tricky. I considered myself lucky to be in Muddy Boots with his gammy clutch. Ha ha.

By the time I arrive, Patricia and Phillipe have already started. Being used to manual labour (installing laminate flooring with my honey) I expected a tough day ahead; seeing the electric fork, I almost felt cheated.It took longer to set out the sheets than to get the olives on the ground. So to make me feel better, I tried the little plastic forks that are used for manual picking. Bah, didn’t work for me. Hand picking was better. We took stragglers off the trees, and from a small olive tree on a big hill. That made me appreciate the fork a whole bunch more.

We worked really well as a team. I was expecting netting, but apparently the plastic sheets work better … guessing they don’t get caught in the underbrush. Handling them is like volumes of tulle on an over-sized wedding dress. We giggled a lot as we disappeared under them to funnel the olives. We managed to collect 4x 25kg buckets!! Great feeling. The olive trees have done their bit, and we’ve done ours.

Around 1-ish Patricia and I fetched the lunch goodes. Her home is gorgeous; something Hollywood would ADORE to get their hands on. But then again, this whole valley is so inspiring. It’s very difficult not to fall hopelessly in love. We felt very privileged with short-sleeve weather, fresh bread, camembert, pate. A lovely, lovely experience. But it didn’t end there … and got back into moving sheets and gathering olives. I left around 4-ish before it got too cold or dark.

Patricia, thank you for helping me cross off this bucket list item in such style and fun. But I suspect this won’t be the last day of picking olives?!?