Last week, we were finally able to get up to The Olive Hill, to see how it had survived the harshest winter in recent memory. But first, because we had our son with us, we took a little trip to visit the Ulivone, aka the oldest olive tree in Europe. We were excited to see the tree again, having seen it once before in the autumn, on our wonderful day out learning about olive oil production and tasting, with world renowned expert, and long time Sabina resident, Johnny Madge. The tree dates back to Roman Times, and is justifiably famous for its great age, size and continued productivity.
Just before our visit last autumn, Ulivone had lost a sizable branch in a recent wind, but was otherwise healthy, as can be seen here.
Now as you know, dear reader, this winter we have been learning lots and lots of theory about olive trees, in the hope that when we finally own our 400 trees, we will be able to look after them appropriately, and produce many litres of fabulous olive oil. And one thing that we have learnt is that one should never, ever, prune before cold weather, as the “wound” will not heal in time to prevent cold from entering, and then killing the tree. Clearly, poor Ulivone had done some autumnal “self pruning” last year, and, according to its owner, had suffered catastrophic, possibly fatal damage when the “Burano” (Siberian wind) struck this February, bringing with it snow, and temperatures of
-12 degrees. Which is why Ulivone now looks like this.
The tree’s rather depressed owner introduced scary new words into our vocabulary as we looked at the tree: bruccia di gelo, sta morendo, and non sopravviverà .
Chastened, and remembering that our Indispensable Neighbour had chosen to prune our trees last autumn, we headed up the hill. As we had feared, we were met with a sorry sight. To show you the olive trees nearest the house would be too depressing right now. Our fear is that having been pruned hard in the autumn, they are suffering the same fate as Ulivone, and are dealing with the catastrophic effects of ice penetrating their open wounds. The citrus trees have also suffered horribly. It’s early days, but we are hopeful that they, at least, will recover. The fruit, which we had hoped to collect and turn into marmalade is gone, leaves are lying shriveled on the ground, and the lemon tree has all but disappeared, but all hope is not yet lost, and although it may take several years, with a couple of years of TLC, they may yet bounce back.
So for now, all we can do is watch and hope.
Keep your fingers crossed for a gentle spring.