For people who can’t be bothered to read this page. Just read this one line.
Is your olive oil organic? Yes, it is probably the most organic oil you will ever taste.
Why our olive oil is not officially organic.
Products which are organic generally have a higher price because being organic has higher costs. We decided it would be a good idea to get organic certification so that we could sell our olive oil at a higher price. We paid our 160 euros for the first year to the certification entity. Around 5 months later the man who came to inspect the land came to visit us in a big gas guzzling Land Rover. He said it was not necessary to even look over our land. He said that he would never come unexpectedly to our farm, he would never jump over the fence to take a soil sample. He could give no advice about organic fertilizers and where to obtain certifies organic fertilizer. Basically as long I as I keep paying the fees I will get organic certification.
To me this is a system open to fraud and the organic certification does not certify anything. If you buy organic produce you just have to trust the producer. For this reason I gave up the idea of becoming certified as officially organic.
Why our olive oil is actually organic
Our olive oil is actually super organic we are vastly more organic than most organic olive oil. Here are the reasons why:
Non mechanical picking.
We pick olives by hand there are no noisy petrol driven picking machines.
Organic Fertilizers. We only use organically certified fertilizers based on animal manure.
We do not use any pesticide whatsoever.
Bee friendly meadow system.
We don’t plough around the trees. In the spring the olive grove is ablaze with wild flowers which attract bees and butterflies and many insects. We do not use any weedkiller.
No burning of prunings
From time to time you may have to put up with a neighbour burning tree branches after fruit trees are pruned. This releases Co2 into the atmosphere and the smoke is a pollutant. Here we use a wood chipper which creates several tons of mulching material which we use on the vegetable garden. Most of the carbon is incorporated into the soil. In addition to saving water, improving soil, combating pests and stopping weeds, wood mulch actually reduces the release of a nitrous oxide which is a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Several website explain the many advantages of mulching: Link 1Link 2
I decided to buy a shredder or a wood chipper. When we prune the olives and other trees we have a lot of waste branches that are too small for firewood. We normally burn them. Olive branches have a lot of oil and they make a massive very hot fire. It is a shame that all the carbon that has been captured from the atmosphere is returned so quickly as carbon dioxide which is a green house gas. The idea of buying a shredder is so that the waste wood is turned into useful compost and mulch. The shredded output of the shredder is ideal for spreading around the garden to suppress weeds, keep the moisture in and keep the worms happy.
The shredder is quite good. So far we have used it with olive prunings and poplar branches with a diameter of up to about 3cm. The shredder comes with a small metal bar in the middle of the exit chute. I think this is due to safety to stop anyone putting their hand down. It caused a lot of blockages because once a small twig had been blocked it rapidly stops any more material from being ejected. Once I had removed this small metal bar the blockages were less frequent. At the end of this video there is actually a blockage caused by pine needles. When there is a blockage it takes a couple of minutes to unscrew the 13 milimetre bolts, unscrew the expulsion chute and clear the blockage. Blockages happen when too many leaves or pine needles are put in at the same time. This machine is not designed for lots of small leaves it, prefers long straight branches.
When almonds are ready to pick some of them have a green casing or husk attached to the almond. Some of the husks are brown and easy to remove and some are more firmly attached. The best way of removing them is with an electric dehusker. The Almonds are poured in the top and the clean almonds come out of the chute into a container. After dehusking the almonds are left in the sun for a final drying. The husks can be used as a mulch or even as animal fodder for goats or horses etc. A dehusking machine costs about 800 euros and uses about 750 watts. We usually manage to dehusk the almonds using solar power.
The dehusking machine is quite noisy and the people working closest use ear plugs. The big thing to remember with a dehusking machine is not to switch it off when there are still nuts inside. You have to wait until you can hear that the nuts have all passed through before switching off. If the machine stops with nuts inside it is difficult to restart. You have to switch the machine off and then turn the flywheel backwards manually. Then the machine is switched back on again and the flywheel is give an extra push with a foot. This can be quite tricky.
After picking the grapes we have to crush the grapes to allow the liquid to escape from the skins and also to separate the stems from the grapes. Many years ago the whole process was done by hand or by foot. The grapes were put into a big container and they were crushed underfoot. This would be a lot of work for even a small vineyard like ours. For this reason we use a detemming and crushing machine. Our machine uses about 600 watts so as long as the sun is shining we can use the solar panels of the house to power it.
It is at this moment that we have to measure the sugar content of the must. This is the best way of knowing what the final alcohol percentage will be. We use a refractometer to do the measurement. It works a bit like a prism which reacts differently to light (by giving a reading on a scale) depending upon the amount of sugar that is available in the sample.
When the must (grape juice) comes out of the machine it drops into buckets. We then carry the must to the 200 litre plastic drums. After a couple of days the yeast from the skins of the grapes will start to ferment the sugars. This is called initial fermentation which lasts a few weeks depending on temperature and other factors. It is in the initial fermentation that the wine gets the color from the skins. In the wine made in the video below we allowed the wine to stay with the skins for about 4 weeks. This is probably a little too long and the wine picked up a bit too much tannin from the skins. This year we will press the wine (separate the skins from the liquid) sooner.
To make a water slide you need a slope with enough gradient to make you slide easilly but not enough gradient to reach dangerous speeds and have problems stopping. Here we use two colums of straw on either side of the run. On top of this we placed a lot of cardboard from IKEA furniture onto the straw to protect the sliders from stones. The cardboard was then wetted.
We found some bubble wrap and some black plastic which is normally used for planting crops through. We had continuous supply of water running down the slide and washing up liquid was added to further reduce the friction.
The water slide in action
There are many different techniques for using the water slide. The best method was using a piece of plastic under the body because the contact of clothing on plastic generates friction. The best speeds were attained by going on the back and then leaning back. It also helps if your friends give you a push at the start.
Emily on the water slide
It would be better to have a steeper slope for the forward diving position.
Making and using a water slide can provide endless hours of fun and hilarity.