Every year, sometime in May, our friends Valda and Richard gather their friends and family to help harvest the olives on their organic farm. People come and go throughout the day, staying for an hour or the whole weekend. They walk up the hill through the avocado trees, clip on their picking aprons and run their fingers along the heavily laden branches, stripping the fruit and a few leaves as the olives tumble into the open pouches. The trick is to empty the apron before the load becomes too heavy and the velcro at the bottom opens of its own accord, empyting five kilos of olives onto your feet. The empty crates stacked against the tractor gradually fill as we move along the rows of trees.
Morning tea is a sumptuous spread of cakes laid out on a floral tablecloth on the tray of the ute. We all stop to soak up the view of rolling hills stretching away through the Scotsdale Valley, then return to picking, our fingers sticky with chocolate icing.
Lewis remembered exactly where the biggest, juiciest Kalamata olives were last year and insisted on picking those first. The pride he took in the crate he managed to fill with the help of his Dad was beautiful to see. Last year I picked with Quinn on my back, but the walk up the hill was as far as I was prepared to carry him this year. We went for a drive down a bumpy gravel road instead and I parked the car - with sleeping child inside - between the olive trees so I could pick at least one apron full of olives before we walked back to the farmhouse for soup and sandwiches.
Richard takes the olives to a press in Frankland where the fruit is crushed and the oil siphoned into old wine bottles. There should be enough oil to see them through a year of cooking, and everyone who helped to pick gets a bottle for their kitchen. It is such a lovely way for us all to connect to our food, community and land. Every time I open that bottle of oil I am transported back to our day picking on that sunny, green hillside.