In 2006 Penny & I purchased a 10 Hectare (24 acre) finca of olive groves in the curve of a barranc in southern Catalunya. It had an ruined flour mill that we planned rebuild, live in and use as a "Casa Rural" guest house. We sold our house in England and a year later on a cold January day we drove down to Spain laden with everything we could carry. Unfortunately, despite all planning permissions having previously been approved, the local water authority refused its permission with no appeal, so plan B was brought into effect.
Our monthly diary of our move to Catalunya is at The Water Margin
Our olive groves were a derelict wilderness when we purchased the land. The finca had about 950-1,000 olive trees as well some carob and almond trees, although all of them were very overgrown and totally unproductive.
We built a barn on a terrace behind the mill and started restoring the olive groves with a view to producing our own olive oil. It was slow hard work, as the trees were extremely overgrown and needed a lot of pruning to get them back into a productive state. The local olive farmers all told us it would be at least three years before the trees would start to produce collectable quantities of olives, so we knew we work in for a hard slog.
Terrace by terrace, we cut back the overgrown branches and basal sprouts. Counting the rings on the biggest branches showed they were fifteen years old, giving an indication of the lack of work the finca had endured.
By 2010 we managed bring about 350 trees into a olive bearing state and that autumn we produced a small quantity of extra virgin olive oil which we gave out to friends and family as a taste test. They all loved it, so we had the confidence to continue with our plan and worked even harder at pruning the trees and bring more terraces into a production.
Since than we have worked hard to bring more trees into production and to prune the existing trees to produce the olives we want.
By 2012, we had cleared and pruned all the olive trees on the easily accessible larger terraces and started working on the hillside terraces at the back of the finca. By 2014, we had pruned over 850 olive trees and thanks to the weather they produced 10,000 kilo's of olives.
Martin & Penelope Hale
Our Olive Oil