Well they’re borrowed sheep actually, but very exciting nonetheless! And they’ve inspired me to return to this blog, from which I’ve been absent for a while.
I have to admit that over the last few months I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by what we’ve taken on. We’re still very glad we have, and we love our farm and olive grove, but we haven’t been able to devote as much time, energy, or money to it as we’d hoped.
We didn’t harvest in the end this June. There wasn’t a lot of fruit on the trees and I think there were multiple factors behind that. I was kind of upset that we didn’t get to go through the whole harvest – press – bottle cycle again, because we learnt so much last year, but I think it was a blessing in disguise really. We’d put a couple of weeks aside as we did last year, and ended up using the time to prune instead of pick. That means we’ve now got about three quarters of the grove pruned!! (Only 250 trees to go…) The pruned areas look so much lighter and brighter, which will hopefully give the trees a chance to fight off the scale and sooty mould that we’ve got in some of the more sheltered parts of the grove.
But the grass and weeds along the irrigation lines were still rather out of control. We mow the rows using our tractor and slasher, but that leaves the irrigation lines to get really overgrown. I don’t mind them looking messy, but the tall grass gets in the way when we’re pruning and harvesting.
The standard practice in most agricultural industries including olives, is to use glyphosate as a weed-killer. I’m not necessarily planning to go for a certified organic approach, but I’d prefer to minimise chemicals if possible. Anyway, I’d become resigned to the fact that we were going to have to spray, largely because we’re about to start a fertiliser and soil conditioning programme (of biological soil conditioners, chicken manure, and seaweed). While this will make our trees happy, it’ll also encourage the grass to grow. Even more! Something Had To Be Done… I started trying to find someone to help with spraying, but was having trouble because many of the trees were too overgrown for a spray to get to the ground!
And then the farmer I’d gone to for advice offered us a flock of sheep! He was able to put up a temporary fence to separate the grove from the adjacent barley crop, and we’ve got about 100 ewes and lambs in there, happily munching away. It’s a win-win. The sheep are not only eating the grass, but also the suckers, and the leaves from the low hanging branches. We reckon it’ll take another week or so before they’re done. It should make pruning the rest of the grove much easier, and we can get going with the fertiliser too.
I’ll try not to leave such a long gap til the next post! See you soon 🙂 FFx