Ladies of the Sea Block #8 – Olives anyone?

Here is my latest completed Ladies of the Sea block featuring an Italian fishing ship.

Ladies of the Sea #8. Olives anyone?

Ladies of the Sea #8. Olives anyone?

Think Italian. Think Olives. Think Italian olive oil. Thus the olive wreath twined around the Italian fishing ship. Yes, great olive oil comes from Italy but I am a bit partial to California olive oil. Here’s why.

My nephew, Conway, is a California olive grower and along with a buddy, Adam, operates an olive harvesting business. Last fall I had the pleasure of visiting during olive harvest where Conway, Adam, and their crew (mostly other nephews and niece, Katie) introduced me to modern olive harvesting.

Olive fields, Northern, CA

Olive orchards in Northern, CA

Olives ready for harvest.

Olives ready for harvest.

Black, purple, green – they all get harvested at once. The greener the fruit the stronger and more pungent the oil. The riper fruit (black) produces a bland or washed out flavor. There are three major olive varieties, the most common is Arbequina. Asclolana and Koronieki are the other two, but don’t put them to memory because they all look pretty much the same.

The harvester straddles the rows of trees.

The harvester straddles the rows of olive trees.

I rode with my nephew, Andy, who said all you have to do is keep the harvester lined up with the trees. Yea, right!

Imagine Andy's legs are olive tree trunks. As he harvester passes over the trees the trunks enter where Andy is standing.

Looking inside the harvester. Imagine Andy’s legs are olive tree trunks. As the harvester passes over the trees the trunks enter right where Andy is standing.

 Inside the harvester flexible hoops vibrate shaking the olives from the branches.

Inside the harvester flexible hoops called, bow rods, vibrate, shaking the olives from the branches.

The olives fall onto a tray at the bottom of the harvester.

The olives fall onto a shaker pan at the bottom of the harvester.

The olives are transferred to a conveyer belt located near the rear of the harvester.

The olives are transferred from the shaker pan to a conveyer belt located near the rear of the harvester.

This row of buckets rotates collecting the olives from the tray and carries them to the top of the harvester.

A bucket conveyer rotates, collecting the olives from the conveyer belt near the bottom of the harvester and carries them to the top of the harvester.

At the top the buckets empty onto a conveyer belt fixed into an arm,

At the top, the buckets empty the olives onto another conveyer belt fixed into a long arm that extends off to the side of the harvester.

The long arm reaches to the hopper, a separate piece of machinery driven along side the harvester.

The long arm reaches to the Gondola, a separate piece of machinery driven along side the harvester. The olives fall into the Gondola. When it is full the olives are off loaded into a waiting hopper trailer and  hauled to the mill.

Harvested olives, aren't they beautiful?

Harvested olives, aren’t they beautiful?

Hi Katie!

Gondola driver. Hi Katie!

After I rode for a few rows and asked a million questions Andy said, “Are you ready to drive Aunt Barb?” I traded seats with him and took the wheel. In spite of all the vibrating going on inside the harvester it’s a pretty smooth ride! When I finished my row the harvesters prepared to move on to another field and I headed over to the California Olive Ranch mill to see the unloading and crushing operation.

At the plant the trucks are emptied from the bottom into a grate.

At the mill the trucks are emptied from a hopper at the bottom of the trailer. The olives are dropped through a grate.

The olives are shuttled to the pressing room by conveyer belt.

The olives are shuttled to the pressing room by conveyer belt.

Inside the pressing room (off limits to visitors) another conveyer belt takes the olives to another hopper where they are weighed. The grower gets paid by weight. The harvesting crew gets paid by the acre.

The fruit is washed before going to a hammer mill where it is pulverized. The pulverized mass – skins, pulp, pits and all, goes to a malaxor where a mixer gently massages the olive goop. The massaging causes the oil to rise to the top. The pumice, or olive mass, goes into a series of centrifuges where the majority of the pumice gets separated from the oil.

Within 90 minutes from harvest the oil has been pressed and piped into huge holding tanks.

90 minutes after harvest the oil has been separated and piped into huge holding tanks.

Look at those tanks! And they are filled with olive oil!

Look at those tanks! And they are all filled with olive oil!

At the far end of the hall, off limits to visitors, is the bottling room. I could hear the tinkling of glass as labels were stuck on the dark green bottles and they were sent down the line to be filled with olive oil. The air was filled with the peppery scent of fresh olive oil. Yum.

After pressing the remaining pulp is shuttled to this bin.

The remaining pulp or pumice is shuttled to this hopper via a pipeline.

The pulp and crushed olive pit mush, called pumice, is loaded onto trucks, hauled off,and turned into cattle feed. Meanwhile the bottled oil is shipped to stores all across the United States.

Look for Californian Olive Ranch oil in your stores! I may have harvested one or two of the olives in your jar!

Look for California Olive Ranch oil in your neighborhood store! Who knows, I may have harvested one or two of the olives that made the oil in your jar!

And that’s how California olives are harvested and turned into olive oil. Pour some in a dish, add a dash of spice, and dip a piece of fresh baked bread into it. And thank a California Olive Grower!

A handful of California olives!

A handful of California olives. (Hand model is my nephew, Conway!)

Conway with his boys, taking a break from olive harvest.

Conway with his boys, future California Olive Growers, taking a break from olive harvest.

One thought on “Ladies of the Sea Block #8 – Olives anyone?

  1. I think the applique is stunning! You do such beautiful work, Barb. And, I had no idea about how olives were grown and/or processed. Very cool!

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