Provence sabbatical day 16 – green gold

Today’s the day for Patricia. We collect the olive oil that’s been pressed from her grove. It’s rather impressive, the trees yielded 287,5 kgs and after tallying it up, we counted 37,5 litres of olive oil.

The Mudster is behaving surprisingly well, despite us not having done anything to the clutch. It still takes lower than it should, but he’s allowing us to change gears with relative ease. Patricia is very sporting, and hops up into our chariot. In these winding roads, it’s lovely having a passenger who also enjoys driving slowly. And not getting glowered at because you’re driving like a snail. It’s too beautiful a countryside to speed!!
The process of pressing oil at Le Moulin de Pascaline

Le Moulin de Pascaline is a delightful little drive into the countryside, and I could even engage low gear! Yeah baby. The proprietor was exceptionally helpful, considering they’re closed on Saturday mornings. He and Patricia handled the nitty gritty, and we loaded up the olive oil. As Patricia is of Greek descent, I can only imagine how much this must mean to her. In fact, all olive oil in France originates from Greece …
In the village … a celebratory drink

Naturally we popped into the village to celebrate! Before we made it to du Cours, Patricia knows the owner of the little antique store, whose trinkets catch my eye every time I walk past. A lovely reason to make our acquaintance. Ooh, this is a dangerous place … my magpie eye landed on a number of things. Sidsel, Kirsten and Maggie were at the usual table, this time with Jean-Michel. Nice to hear more French being spoken. Slowly it’s getting absorbed.

“Honey, could you have a look?”
Marcel comes upstairs and is surprised at what the tiles have revealed. What was left of the flooring support, has crumbled away. No wonder it was so wonky!! And it was only going to get worse.
So on Monday, we’re going to get some reinforcing gauze and concrete. I’ve got to say that I’m enjoying expanding my repertoire as a DIY-er. And having a live-in building foreman is priceless!

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 😉

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?!?