Yesterday, I went to the olive grove/farm of Roxanne and Nico Derni. They produce olive oil, in addition to small amounts of tapenade and figue vinaigre, but they are mostly olive oil people. They lived in Wisconsin for most of their adult career lives, and decided to retire to a quiet, french town of Salon de Provence to bottle their own olive oil. Yesterday, I saw the magic happen.
I went to the grove with a few dear friends to explore this opportunity that had been presented to me. Steven, The owner of Liberty Heights Fresh (where my lovely sister works) had hooked me up with Roxanne when he discovered that I was to live in Aix. He was actually traveling with his dad, and we got to spend the day together on the grove. We arrive and Rox tells us that two will go into the grove to help Nico and one will join her to make lunch. She chooses me to make lunch so we can chat and catch up a little, and we create a wonderful lunch of amazing french rolls, butter and saucisson, jambon cru, et jambon. Then some clémentins de corsica and for the after bit a big thermos of coffee. yum yum yummmm.
We go out into the fields and eat lunch with my friends and all those working and then I get to work with everyone as well. First we group teh olives that have been shaken off the tree by Nico, and then sort out the big stems and leaves. Then Steven goes along with the blower and sucks out all the smaller leaves. We then follow and case the olives by putting them in crates for Nico to take away on the tractor. next we pick up teh nets and carry the crates to the tractor. Mind you this is a grove of nearly 1400 trees, so this doesn't take 4-50 minutes. We were out there from 11:30 to about 6. But it was so good for the body, mind and soul, I wouldn't have rather done anything else on my Saturday.This property where they live, is literally idyllic. You look out upon the rolling hills of Southern France, over the rows of olive trees, to the rows of almond trees, then to the ancient roman walls built into the hillside. I will never forget that day as long as I live. In addition to the activities, as well as the setting, my comrades left nothing to be desired. Steven was interjecting quips about olives and food and places to go and intermittently asking us questions about Aix, to then proceed to inform us about favorite drinking games. Nico was full of smiles and laughs as he had free labor and happy ones at that, though he did want to kick the Australian out....for obvious reasons.... (BOGES). Though, Caitlin and I were adding real flavour to the situation with our heart (or maybe gut) wrenching renditions of Christmas carols and Disney favourites. Robyn, as always, was just the perfect company for this occasion as she lends her knowledge of agriculture and wit to our new profession of olive harvesters. Yes, we're currently looking for property to buy.We also were fortunate enough to snag a taste of the raw olives...
We ended our fantastic day with some olive oil, tapenade, and cured olive tasting that was one of the most enjoyable situations I have thus experienced in France. I learned so much, and enjoyed myself to the fullest extent. And then! Only more festivities to come as the bât 4 crew hit the town as the cast of Peter Pan....Halloween 2009: Too good to be true.
Claire Winter Gorton
Song: "Upon encountering the crippled elephant" by Clap your hands say Yeah
(not the right song...but it is not on youtube...the right band though)