November 15, 2009


Hello, Wachter gang.

You know that great olive oil we like so well? What do you think we did today? We went to the farm where they grow, harvest and press that. The weather was incredible and it was a perfectly peaceful kind of morning. It was just the kind of thing I love to do best. We drove up to the mountains bright and early. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful everything was.

On the very top of this hill, can you see the village? That is Mineo. If you go to google maps you can find Mineo and zoom in to see the town. (Thank Miss Hope for teaching this to me). I hear it is home to the best Cannoli around. I will not be leaving without trying that out. Maybe Pa will take you all to get some Cannoli after lunch today.

A view of the valley coming down from the top of the hill where the olive trees are.

The first thing I had to do was borrow some shoes from Mariska since I didn't pack any tennis shoes.
This is Emilio, owner of the Olive farm. He came back to Sicily after traveling the world for 25 years to fulfill his life long dream of running this farm.

This is Emilio's father, Salvatore. He is 76 years old and still climbing the trees to pick olives!

This is Kiki. She and I became friends since I didn't have a partner. She worked extra hard picking olives and putting them in the buckets.

This is Mariska, originally from Switzerland. She met Emilio when she was on vacation in the nearby village of Mineo. They settled down about 15 years ago on this farm to raise their son and daughter. Emilio said, although, he traveled the whole world, it was always his dream to come back and tend the olive trees he loves.

This one that was our focus today, is "only 500 years old"

unlike this one which is 1500 years old. He says he never replants. New trees would not be ready for harvest until after he retires. According to him there are olive trees here that have been around since Jesus time! Can you each find a verse in the Bible that talks about olives, olive oil, olive trees or olive branches?

Look how interesting this bark is.

Emilio climbing the tree to get the ones at the top. Olives can be removed by shaking the branches carefully, raking them or using your hands.

Look how beautiful! Like this they are not tasty, at all. They are very bitter and unpleasant to eat.
Once they are on the ground we must be careful not to step on them and damage the fruit while picking them up.

Look, even Gabriel got into the action.

Ok. So he was asleep, but he did carry an olive in is back pack most of the day.

The key to good olive oil, according to Emilio, is not to have all black (too ripe) or all green olives. By weight, in a good year, olives will produce one fifth oil. This year was too wet and they will be getting far less per kilogram than the average. They will earn only 2,5 Euros for each liter produced. They live a very simple life to support this way of life they love with such a small profit.

The olives will all be harvested in the next two months. Before we headed back down the hill, I found the perfect spot to sit and see all the views surrounded us. I could have sat there all day.

This is a view of the roof of the house from above on the hill where we come down from the groves. Aren't these roofs gorgeous? Between the roofs and the thick walls, the houses stay impressively cool. It is often cold indoors even when it is hot outside.

This would be a fig. I always wanted to see a fig tree. While you have your Bibles out, why don't you look up figs and fig trees, too.

Mariska was so kind to allow me to walk around her house and examine the beautiful detail work.

I was really taken by the tile, brick and slate work throughout the kitchen. The ceilings were high with beautiful beams.

Emilio did all the work here himself in just three months. Once they had their paper work they knew they wanted to be done before the olive season started. How is that for determination?

This house is very small by American standards... less than 1000 square feet. But this family of four lives here happily and simply and entertains large groups like ours quite regularly.

The gate up to the olive grove. It took 4 1/2 years to get the permits to work on the house. In that time Emilio built the walls, gates and steps as well as tending to other work that needed to be done outdoors.

When our work was done, we settled back at their house for dinner, Scicilian style.

The majority of the cooking is done in this outdoor kitchen. Here Mariska bakes 18 loaves of bread at a time.

Dinner was a little different than how we would serve. First antipasta of cheese, olives, smoked meat, sundried tomatos, eggplant and bread.

Next, was pasta with tomato sauce and a little bit of beef that cooked in the sauce for about two hours. The next course was a simple salad of lettuce, carrot, cucumber, onion and garlic topped with their vinegar, olive oil and fresh ground salt. This was served with the tiniest pieces of sausage that is made in Mineo.

Have you ever seen after dinner coffee served this way? Notice no cream, either. It was thick, rich and strong. Just the way I like it. The plastic cup threw me off for a few seconds. It was served with bites of cake made with pumpkin and coconut and little nibbles of something like gum made from the prickly pear I showed you a few days ago.

This is the store room and work room.

The vats of oil

Do you see the old fashioned way to make tomato paste?

These crates are the fragranced olive oils that we use for our bath and skin.

Yes, there will be some delicious things coming to you in the mail!

These are the beautiful packages Mariska is getting ready for the holiday sales.

Oh, my dear children. I know you would have delighted in being here with me today. You would have filled the buckets quickly and enjoyed all the delicious food they served us. Allen, you and Emilio could have talked forever, I bet. He has traveled so much and yet shares our simple views of life, God and family.

Until the olive oil comes home, I will be thinking of all of you.





  1. that is so cool! I love olives and olive oil. It broke my heart to see those yummy olives being scraped into the garbage in your last post! ;)

  2. What an awesome experience. Great pictures to document it all. THat dinner sounded so good, but I definitely would have needed cream in that rich coffee:)

  3. Girl.. I am trying SOOOO hard not to sit here and read about your trip and NOT be jealous!! What an amazing time you are having!!!

    Enjoy and be blessed!!

  4. What an amazing adventure! It looks breath taking, and wonderful. Have a great time, Kat!

  5. Wow Mom! That sounds just like what you wanted to do in Italy! At dinner we will work out the questions you asked and get back with answers for you.

    Love and so happy you are having a great trip!

  6. Oh! How I wish I was there! This is an incredible experience. I so enjoyed reading about it. :) You look so fresh and pretty in the photos too. <3

  7. This looks like such a neat place. I'm glad you are doing well and getting to see so many wonderful things.

  8. Dear Mama,
    Nana says:
    "Would you believe breakfast?"
    "You can talk about normality till the olives come home. What is normal? What is home? What are olives?" 10 brownie points if you can guess what movie that is from. ☺
    Sam says:
    "I love you so much!"

    Emma says:
    "I love you and I want to re-do our kitchen like theirs!"

    Ellie says:
    "Wow. Can I see Mama?!"(she really did say this after seeing the pic of you in the orchard looking at the view)

    KK says:
    "I bet the bath oil was Miss Mariska's idea. She is Swiss after all..."☺

    Deut. 6:11
    "And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not,and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyard and olive tress, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full:"

    Romans 15:12
    "And again, Esaias said, there shall be a root of Jesse, and He shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust."

    Isaiah 11:1
    "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:"

    Jeremiah 24:5
    "...Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captived of Judah..."

    Israel was often pictured by a fig tree in Scripture. Hmmm... makes you think...
    The Italy Survivors(almost)

  9. Hi, Kat~

    I just love following you along on your journey. It's almost as good as being there! :> )

    You look so wonderfully relaxed sitting there, looking down at the scenery!

    But you look the most happy while you are holding sweet, little Gabriel! :> )