Hacking the Olive Groves of Umbria

Olive Grove

Have you ever watched Escape to the Country or Grand Designs where some lucky couple relocate to a remote village running their very own olive grove and thought ‘that looks idyllic, I’d love to do that’? Well think again, it’s bloody hard work. After a week working in the olive groves of Montecastelli I can confirm that it’s not all mincing around in the sunshine and pouring fancy drinks.

A change in the weather

We were well into our fifth week working on the hillside of Montecastelli in Umbria when suddenly without any warning the sun came out! After days and days of continual rain and sub-zero temperatures (I may be exaggerating the temperatures a little but it was very cold) we awoke to blue skies and something we like to call warmness. Shocked and a little wary we tried to ignore it but when inside decorating jobs became outside gardening jobs we had to face it full on.

Our first full day working outside was spent in Gordons olive grove basically tidying up after he and Gary had been pruning the previous day. The remnants of thousands of short back’n sided olive trees littered the ground, maybe not thousands, so we both set about raking and tidying. At this stage Jo got diverted into some flower planting type of thing that I really didn’t understand which left me and Gordon to get rid of the mess. Riding into action on his trusty red tractor like James Hunt after a particularly heavy night out, Gordon and I set to loading over 20 trailers worth of dead olive branches.

What would happen to all of this olive waste I hear you ask. A bonfire? No chance. In this area of Montecastelli they are not allowed outside fires as it’s classed as natural woodland so everything needs to be disposed of carefully in an organised way. Gordon throws it all over the edge of the ravine! It’s his ravine of course so no problem but I suspect it may be slowly filling up. Our day outside working in the sunshine was exactly what we needed. It’s great to get some fresh air and some sun on your face, it sort of refreshes you doesn’t it?

Visitors to Casa Baldelli

Over the following weekend Gordon and Gilly had some friends visiting from the UK so in preparation for their arrival we found ourselves moving bedroom. Our previous room was more suitable for the family, they had a toddler and a baby with them, so we moved across into the centre of the house. Probably a bigger room but with the bonus of an ensuite it seemed even more comfortable.

Over the weekend we tried to keep out of everyone’s way and found a sunny spot down by the barn to sunbathe and relax and do a whole lot of not very much at all.

Night out in the Wrangler

Very kindly our hosts had put me on the insurance for their little Wrangler Jeep so we decided to take a jaunt down into town to get visit the pizza restaurant. So it’s left hand drive with a very odd pedal-handbrake and the road down is only one car wide with lots of sharp corners but we set off with extreme confidence. With Jo leaning out the window for added road-width information I took it easy careering down Montecastelli hill. Simple. The tricky bit would obviously come when other drivers got involved, other Italian drivers with their particularly Italian driving skills and attitudes. Our short drive into town was spent with at least one local car right on my bumper and often several other locals getting irritated at the idiot doing 20 miles an hour.

Wrangler Jeep

Made it safe and sound and even parked without any serious accidents, or any non-serious ones for that matter. Table for two per favore and we were soon noshing on amazingly delicious pizzas and supping on local white wine and beer. Our pathetic attempts at Italian managed to get us through the ordering process and paying the bill so not too shabby. The drive back was a little more stressful however as it was dark and the Italians seemed to have even less patience in the dark. Ignoring all of them in my rear-view mirror we made it home alive. Great night out at our new favourite pizza restaurant.

The Montecastelli Open Invitation Sharpshooting Tournament

Our daily pool matches continue and our ball-potting skills do not seem to be improving one little bit. Occasionally a world-class shot in off a couple of cushions occurs but it is generally a complete fluke as the next shot tends to be hopeless. It seems to us to be one of those games where you make a great shot then a terrible one but have absolutely no idea what you did differently. We must be improving surely. (hope you all noticed the acronym for the pool championship?).

Olives Olives Everywhere

Once again the past couple of days have been spent gardening and olive tree trimming. Jo and Gilly seem to have been planting the worlds supply of potted plants in the worlds supply of plant pots all over the property. They all look fabulous, whatever the flowers are called, but I suspect it may be a never ending job with more plants turning up every other day. Meanwhile I have been down in the lower olive grove doing a whole load of pruning. Now you may not seriously believe that they have trusted me to cut their valuable olive trees with a sharp implement but I think I’m doing okay so far. I don’t really know what I’m doing but with a little guidance from Gordon I feel as if I am getting better and better. At the end of today there did appear to be a line of olive-tree-looking olive trees so that’s a result.

Apparently, and here is a fascinating olive factoid, it takes 5 kilos of olives to produce 1 litre of olive oil. That’s a hell of lot of olives isn’t it? Not sure how many trees that equates to but it must be a grove or two (however big a grove is).

Anything you want to know about olives now just ask ………………………….

07/04 – 11/04/2018


  1. Good luck to you in your new venture. I hope the hard work pays off and your dreams come true. You are an inspiration to all of us still doing the daily grind!

    Liked by 1 person

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