“My father used to have a lot of work in the first months of the year”, João said. Meanwhile he is busy with a saw in his hands. It’s the end of February and it’s time to cut back the ancient olive trees.
Our harvest has failed tremendously. Not one olive was saved from the new trees, planted in 2008. March 2014 was a cold, wet month and the olive flea didn’t help. It’s a shame! The old olive trees we have are mostly for fun nowadays. Such an ancient tree is lovely. But if you want to harvest olives, then you need to cut them back properly. And that’s a real métier.
João learned the métier from his late father. In the first months of the year (January to March) his father used to be busy cutting back the olive trees at many farms, ‘quintas’ as we call them in Portuguese. Nowadays the olive business is almost inexistent at the Portuguese Silvercoast ( Costa de Prata). Most farmers transferred to pears and apples. We are lucky that João, a fit seventy-two-year-old, likes hanging in our old olive trees to cut them back and prepare them for the future. Other villagers were scared to ruin the trees, because you really have to know which particular twig needs cutting back. “Doing it well is an art”, we hear everywhere.
In the meantime the old trees kept growing and nowadays they block the view I know so well from my youth, when we could see miles away from the porch. Besides, we would love to see olives grow on the trees from the era of my grandparents. While João remembers good old days he keeps sawing twigs and branches from the tree. Rapidly, the view I remember so well pops up: from our mountain ridge we can see the mountains of Serra do Candeeiro.
As João descends from one of the trees he says “Within two years you are going to enjoy a nice full tree, with a lot of olives!”. I hope he is right… But even if we will not harvest olives in the future, we have the magnificent view back!