The Little Engine that Couldn’t
So if you have been have been following our journey you may of noticed our trusty campervan hasn’t been making much of an appearance lately. Well the poor thing hasnt been enjoying the cooler Tasmanian climate like we have, so we bit the bullet and decided to give the old girl an overhaul before winter sets in entirely. The engine is getting a total overhaul which is taking about 3 weeks or so and ALL of the money we had saved is going entirely to the caus. C’est la vie. This would probably be horrible news to most people but when you’re on the road and you have nowhere to be and no real timeframe or deadlines weve learnt that these kind of set backs just open up new opportunities. which is exactly what happened…
Hey Why Dont We Learn How to Make Olive Oil?
These were Chris’s words as we sat in the Deloraine Deli perusing ads for potential farm stays. For anyone unfamiliar with the farm stay concept, the basic gist of it is you help out at a farm with any work which needs doing in exchange for food and board. We had been camping in a park near the Deloraine mechanics for a few nights now so when Chris came across Lentara Grove’s ad needing help with their olive pick, the decision between -5 degree nights in the park or hot showers and home cooked meals was an easy one to make. So off we went to our new home to learn the art of making olive oil
Lentara Grove is a boutique olive grove just outside of the township of Exeter in the beautiful Tamar region. It is the passion project of Martin and Sophie Grace who live on the grove with their two young sons, Oliver (coincidence), and Indiana. Joining them are their goats Honey and Ari, some beautiful faverolles chickens and from what I can tell, most of Tasmania’s wildlife. The house nestled among the grove and has an inviting feel which is comprised mainly of a variety of Tasmanian woods, good wine and good robust conversation. We were made to feel part of the family and settled into our new digs very quickly.
The first thing we learned as far as farming olives go is that an olive grove is very pretty. Groups of the ancient tree in rows ads something quite beautiful to the landscape which gives that Mediterranean kind of feel not unlike a vineyard. We were put to work the afternoon we arrived to start picking some table olives and moseying about the grove is quite a pleasure. If Chris’s romantcised ideas of fruit picking were crushed by apple picking, they would be realised at Lentara Grove
Olives are picked two different ways, electric wizz-bang rake device for oil olives and by hand for table olives. Martin and Sophie have about twelve varieties of olives, some better for table, some better for oil and some that are fine for both. Chris and I challenged ourselves each day to identify the different varieties and learn their names, I’m not sure how successful we were, lets see what I can remember…
The first olive we picked for table were the Manzanillo. The Manzanillo are a spanish variety which are best picked black and are nice and big and fleshy. The Manzanillos are very distinguishable on the tree as they look like lovely, juicy, round cherries Also picked black were the Hardy Mammoths which shared similar qualities though were a bit pointier in shape. We spent alot of time picking Frantoios which are a Tuscan variety. Frantoios are a very popular oil variety though we were also picking them green for table. The frantoios kind of look like green peanuts on the tree. Other olives we picked for oil were the Correiola and the Pendolino. The Pendolinos are a beautiful variety where the trees branches droop down kind of like a willow (or pendulum if you will). Thats about all I can remember for now, though if you need to know anything about any variety Martin is your man. Martin is a passionate botanist at heart who is a wealth of flora fun facts.
The fun part. All of the olives destined for oil are processed on site the day of picking. Martin and Sophie have a hi-tech oil processing setup which consists of three main parts, the de-leafer, the hammer mill, and the centrifuge. The de-leafers job is pretty self explanatory, though they are so serious about the quality of their oil Martin and Sophie make sure olives go into the machine pretty much leafless. This is achieved prior with a blower vac and a bucket.
Once washed and de-leafed the de-leaf machine carries the olives via an Archimedes screw into the hammer mill. The hammer mills function is to mainly grind the whole olives into a sludgy paste. It is this process which separates the oil from the olive. Next, the sludge is transferred to the final stage which is the centrifuge. The centrifuge part of the process is a little disappointing as you cannot see what is going on inside the machine but basically what is happening is that the sludge is spun at a million miles an hour separating the oil. Pure oil comes out one side, waste comes out the other, and there you have it liquid gold.
I’ve never really had fresh boutique olive oil before and I must say it is a whole different ball game to your run of the mill supermarket olive oils. So much flavor with each olive variety giving its own unique delicate pallet. It has definitely opened up our eyes to the possibilities. Speaking of possibilities its no secret also that olive oil is also good for the skin and Sophie and Martin have started successfully diversifying into olive oil based skin care products which is a natural fit.
So like I said at the start, this is probably something we wouldnt of experienced if our car didnt break down. The saying goes “the best way to get to where you need to be is to not know where youre going”, though I think in our case the saying may go “the best way to get where youre going is to break down”. We are very fortunate and very thankful to have been taken in by these guys and very stoked to learn all we did. One thing Chris and I have worked out with this whole experience is that where ever, and whenever we settle down one day, we hope to have some kind of rural life with a little farm of our own not unlike Sophie and Martin’s. Tasmania has definitely inspired that in us I think. We are now thinking we will spend the rest of our time on the road learning as much as we can, and finding as much inspiration as we can, as we learn how other familys live their lives. This trip started because we didnt want to settle down. Our goal of the trip was to go out and have some fun and see Australia. Well the trip now has a new direction, as we travel around it will be with open eyes, planning out our agricultural future.