Ah September. Back to work, back to school, back to renovations, and the month where frantic harvest preparation begin.
Inside the “house”, The Builder and his team are back, working from Too Early o’clock until Tea Time, with only a brief pause at 1pm for lunch and a little lie down. With shortening days, and the sun lower in the sky, we are becoming more and more aware that we live at an altitude of 1,000 feet, that cold nights are rapidly approaching, and that we still have no windows down stairs. This is beginning to alarm us, but thankfully The Builder has declared the weather cool enough to use the concrete mixer, and so things are starting to happen. Of course, The Plumber is holding things up again, as now that summer fever season is behind him, he has entered tonsillitis season …
And so we wait for The Plumber.
Outside, we desperately need to mow the vineyard and the olive grove, so the tractor has broken down, and the mower has broken. To our utter astonishment, Friendly Mechanic answered his phone at only the third attempt to contact him, and rushed straight round, as he was passing the house on his way home to lunch. Normal service has now resumed however, as he agreed that as per our initial thinking, the tractor had indeed broken down, and that it requires spare parts to get it going again. Having made his diagnosis, he left for his lunch, promising to return with the parts “the very next day” two weeks ago, never to be heard from again.
And so we wait, for The Plumber, and for Friendly Mechanic.
Even more worrying is that The Dreaded Fly has returned to the olive grove. Last year, we had a tiny crop of olives, from 30 trees, which was wiped out completely by The Fly – this blog post last year described what goes on when The Fly arrives in your grove – it’s far too depressing to re-type, so I’ve included an extract below:
This ghastly creature is a form of fruit fly (remember those drosophila from your biology lessons?) that feeds exclusively on olives. They are less than five millimetres long, but once in a grove, they wreak absolute havoc. Mummy fly makes a little hole in an olive (lots of olives, actually), and lays eggs. Each egg becomes a pupa, which eats the olive. Best case scenario is that you will harvest before the egg hatches. In this case, all that will happen is that bacteria will colonise the hole in your olive, causing it, and consequently your oil, to taste rancid. Extra virgin olive oil is not permitted to taste rancid. Option two is that the pupa will eat your olive, hatch, become a fly, and lay its own eggs, thus infesting more olives. There is, of course also the option to leave your olives on the tree once infested, but then the fly will really go for it. Pupae will hatch, multiply and infest even more trees, and those olives that fall to the ground will provide the perfect habitat for pupae to survive the winter, so that they can come back in even greater numbers next year, in the hope of scoffing your entire crop
This year, we have a magnificent 126 trees bearing olives, and people waiting to buy our beautiful, organic, extra virgin olive oil from Sabina. We could, of course, spray insecticide to obliterate The Fly. But that would also obliterate all our lovely bees and butterflies, as well as our newly gained and hard won organic status.
Instead, we have implemented Plan B. Plan B is nerve-wracking, but also quite fun. Plan B means that we have had to set aside our plans to go plastic free, and to drink less alcohol. Plan B involves force feeding ourselves, and all of our guests, a nightly Gin and Tonic, with the tonic coming from little bottles, which we then partially fill with a stinky (REALLY stinky, in fact) cocktail of chopped anchovies, ammonia and wine vinegar. The bottles are then decorated with lots of yellow, and hung in the sunniest part of the tree, to fester, and thus to attract The Fly, who we hope would rather die in our traps than happily munch its way through our precious olives. And with 126 trees bearing fruit this year, we need to drink a lot of gin.
So, if you ever find yourself in Sabina at aperitvo time, pop round. You can drink whatever you like, as long as it involves tonic!