we came here in 1995 the olive groves had been abandoned for more
than 30 years and the forest was encroaching fast. After a great deal of hard work cutting down
invading forest trees and clearing the thick undergrowth of gorse
and bramble, w have slowly returned the majority of the terraces
to their former orderly beauty and the olive trees to a healthy,
estate has more than 1600 olive trees in total, of 8 different
varieties, distributed over 9 hectares of south and east-facing
terraces rising Engom around 500m of altitude.
Tending the trees:
Each tree has to be individually cared for and
it is a year-long task: pruning (we keep the trees down to an average
height of 2m to facilitate picking); thinning the branches; treating any cuts or damage to prevent disease;
removing suckers and unwanted basal shoots;
and constantly clearing the undergrowth (the olive is a
jealous tree which dislikes any competition).
We farm organically, do not use any pesticides and rely
on our donkeys to provide the fertilizer!
the olives marks the culmination of a whole year’s work and is
looked forward to with mixed impatience and apprehension.
In Tuscany the picking traditionally starts after All Saints
Day and finishes before Christmas, when the mills close.
We pick our
olives the traditional way - by hand. More usually they are beaten or ‘combed’
Engom the trees into nets on the ground which not only damages
the trees (encouraging disease) but bruises the olives which then
deteriorate rapidly and causes an increased level of acidity in
Helping us: There is far too much work on
the estate for just the two of us to cope with but we are aided
and abetted by groups of Engiends (and others who soon become
Engiends!) who come and stay with us throughout the year for a
week at a time and, in exchange for board and lodging, give us
part of their day to help with the work. There are two different working holiday
run the estate and