Olive the things I love

img_0259.jpgDec 2nd 2007
Mild winter’s day. Breezes combing the canyon after a nightlong rain. I know this means olives will have showered the bottom of Dogbark Lane.
Can’t just run down and do that–too much waterproofing (think: horse, barn door), window-insulating to do here at Taj Mahovel, not to mention general clean-up.
Bubble wrap this year, quite fetching. If you squint it might look like glass brick. Literally window-dressing.
No more seeing out those windows for two months. It’s the first year we’ve done this. Might not be such a great idea, just to keep the house warmer on less wood. Seasonal Affect Dis’d people like me might…suffer.
Makes you think harder about one’s selfishness in the presumed Paring Down us rich folk ought to voluntarily be doing….
After bubblewrapping windows, we tidy the back food cache… a metal cabinet that has listed to one side…after this I’m free.
That cabinet deserves its own essay.

Our now damn well insulated hovel is starting to feel like an ordinary California home in winter: not cold, owing to some heating source that takes winter’s edge off. And contributes to the problem with that ozone hole, that problem with the melting snow cap.
This baking warmth (woodstove heat is different than forced air) makes you want to stay inside..snuggle under comforter, burrow into book.
Ah, yes, book. I have to create one. AUGHHHH.
Must fight the urge to just flop, read on the couch on a sleepy Sunday after 2 hard hours of chores on a not-big-enough breakfast (bread pudding, I’m sure it’s in here somewhere, innit?)

I race down the street au velo forgetting bags, but at least I have my square basket.

I give Ted (owner of biggest olive tree in neighborhood) a present of two pounds of the 06 cured olives.
He tells me where to find that length of PVC pipe he cut me, 9 feet worth, to swing at the branches.

COOL.
Now I can be a Mycenean Vase Model as well as performing Provender Pilates in the middle of the (thankfully) somnolent street.
The action more resembles Crouching Dragon, Leaping Lizard, the female stick-waver.

Twenty pounds of fine black olives later (half an hour), I patrol other streets and find another ten lbs total, but scattered up and down a four street area, huddled in gutters and smashed mid-street. The good ones are gathered…i wonder why it’s not back-breaking to be constantly stooping and collecting. This takes another half an hour.
In another year or two, neighbors will associate me with Beginning of Winter, it’s becoming such a ritual…Hope it doesn’t scare anyone.
Reminds me: after dark last week, in a local dumpster, a young woman who is there already, turns to look, and exclaims: “I saw you in that movie!!”.
Funny. We gab, then disappear back into the night…
But the daytime gathering…there is more:
The feijoa place past the Geek St. bridge…
I am well-rewarded. Collect and pedal home; this will have been today’s exercise. Exactly a mile on bike, and about a quarter mile if you count the up-&-down of all that stooping- straightening-stooping-straightening-stooping.
Here’s a picture of my hauls (see above).
Hell that doesn’t look like a five gallon bucket does it ?
It is.
The kitchen rug’s easily 3 feet wide…
Hmmm. Well, shouldn’t keep that nice rug there. It’ll get ruined (this is day three for that nice orange dove to keep the peace from the busiest floor in the hovel. Not practical, but again,it was getting “Throne Out” and the queen of glean had to haul ‘er home and give ‘er a place to lie.
About curing the olives:
Take a cup of salt, pour into a gallon of water. Make as many gallons you need to have all olives covered.
This is the salinity you want for the first week or so. Then double the salinity for the long haul (about 6-9 months) by adding another cup per gallon. I then leave this alone, I NEVER change the water.

Over time, a greenish white ‘doily’ of mold will overlay your soaking olives.
Fear not, there is no harm in’t.
I cover my five gallon bucket with a big pie plate, something beveled, reasonably un-knockoverable.
Mind there are animals that wouldn’t mind having them, even in this salty form, and bitter as they are. All the olives I don’t pick up get eaten by squirrels, rats, etc. They don’t mind the bitterness one bit. in fact, just last week I found a shopping list the raccoons left for me!

So…just put the bucket of free food you just salted away (heh) and make a note on your computer or something “Check olives in May!” Worry not about botulism: this is an AEROBIC environment (oxygen available to solution).

By May, start to de-salt a few pound’s worth, by soaking in fresh water changed daily til it’s perfect salitiness for you. I start testing mine after 4 months cuz who knows, maybe I’ll like them like that..more bitternes, which I like, if you start eating them earlier than 9 months.
OH WAIT I forgot to tell you to throw flavorants in. Like fruit. Or herbs, spices. Let yr imagination wander.
Here, there are ten tubs, so I can vary flavors. Some tubs get four or five lemons cut in half. Remember where we live these are all on trees, they are free.
Or put fennel in (clean carefully, being a roadside weed).
Or piles of garlic (that you get at Costco, I guess, because my garden garlic is ‘too good’ and too fresh to pckle).]Or even branches of rosemary, thyme,whatever… be brave.
I haven’t thrown bananas in….
There will be hints of this in your finished product and oh yeah once I put in about a half pound of black peppecorns cuz they were being Throne from the nearby Spaceway….bargain!!
OK, now you know how it’s done, a la Wombat.

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3 thoughts on “Olive the things I love

  1. Sounds like your Beginning of Winter olive gathering ritual would be easier if you had some olives growing in your own yard. I’ve been thinking about planting some olive trees in my own yard, or maybe even using small olive trees as houseplants. This past weekend I found a real good source for Manzanilla olive seedlings at LindsayOlives.com (the website for the company that makes Lindsay Olives). They even donate proceeds to a nonprofit that plants fruit-bearing trees for impoverished communities, which I think is a real nice gesture for the holidays.

  2. Amazing story, I had no idea olives grew in places in the US. They don’t, to my knowledge, here in Virginia.
    And no, it doesn’t look like a 5 gallon bucket. My thought was a small bowl on a nice placemat! The scale is certainly deceiving in that photo. Fun tale, thanks,

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