The Happiest Moment of the Year for a Dalmatian

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November 6, 2018 – Where to find a Dalmatian at this time of year? In the field of course, for the olive harvest is in full swing. 

The olives are calling… 

The longer I live here, the more I notice that some Dalmatian ways of life have become my own these days. And although I am very happy with my continental living near Varazdin these days, the end of October traditionally brings with it one of the most important family bonding experiences for most Dalmatian families – the olive harvest. Dalmatians are rightly proud of the quality of their olive oil, and multiple generations of the same families head to the family field to start to pick the fruit of the trees that will give them their edible liquid gold for the next year. 

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We too would help with each harvest, but this has become less practical with the move up north, but a window presented itself last week with the public holiday for All Souls Day, with Friday also a day off school. A 1,000 km round trip including 4 hours sitting on ferries to pick olives over a long weekend? I was becoming Dalmatian indeed, and my father-in-law, grateful for the help of 8 extra hands, was happy to make sure I looked the part. 

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And although the extra hands did great work, the real star of this year’s harvest was this little tool that he brought to the party. After decades of painstaking hand-picking, this battery-powered gem shook the olives from the trees onto the tarp below, with us holding the tarp above our heads to catch any flying ones, before hand-picking any the machine had missed. It felt a little like throwing a grenade to kill the enemy, then going to finish off any survivors with bayonets. 

Although the machine pick reduced our picking time from 10 days to 2.5 for the 80 trees, meaning we could accomplish all during the weekend, there was a tinge of sadness in this technological progress. The tradition of hand-picking olives is on the decline, but more than that, I realised just how many trees that were being harvested just a few years ago were probably not being picked this year. With the crushing emigration from Croatia and increasingly busy lives of the younger generation, not all young families are now able to help the grandparents in the field.

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The daily marenda – or late morning snack –  with home-produced goodness, laced with olive oil of course. Enough to keep the workers sated until the bigger gourmet event later in the day. I love the simplicity of eating in the field. Wine in plastic bottles, pickled goodness packed in jars and labelled. No airs or graces, just good company and great food and wine. 

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As nice as it is to be out in nature catching up with family, by day three, olive picking can begin to get a little dull. Until one experiences the euphoria of the happiest moment of the year – picking the last olive! Pure bliss.

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This is quickly followed by the second most memorable moment of the olive harvest – the only thing to decide? Meat or fish. 

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Our bodies weary, despite the help of the magic machine, we headed home feeling worthy, and with several litres of extra virgin olive to get us through the winter, and there was a VERY nice surprise upon our return – olive oil from Istria. 

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And not just any olive oil from Istria, but olive oil from Chiavalon, whose oil has been featured in the top 15 olive oils in the world. Amazing oil, amazing story – learn more about Chiavalon and their new web shop here


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