Harvesting Olives Solo on Mali Iz: Some Epic Musings

Total Croatia News


Olive oil is in the Dalmatian blood, and the olive groves come calling each Autumn. While for many, this is a very social affair, bringing extended family and friends together for a few days of picking in the field, some do it solo – and have plenty of time to put together some very impressive statistics. 

I met a very cool guy called Joe this summer. He was incredibly helpful and was the man responsible for me arranging the New York Times to interview the Mayor of Hvar Town over THOSE signs, a story which travelled to all corners of the globe. 

It turns out that not only is Joe an extremely good writer, but he is also based on the island of Iz, an island I have no idea exactly where it is located (but am thinking near Zadar) and one which is not one of the tourism hot spots. We have chatted about him writing for TCN, and I was very glad when he agreed, especially when he suggested his first topic – the joys of cleaning a Dalmatian water cistern. Just one look at the photo made me realise that this was a story worth waiting for.


And I did wait. And wait. There was no deadline for the story, and the site continued without this delightful island addition, but after a while I enquired when the piece might be ready.

“Hard to write during olive season,” came the reply.

Aha. So that was that. I have been helping with the family olive trees for over a decade, and the pick does not take more than a week. It was not the first time I had been disappointed by the Dalmatian work ethic. Joe had obviously decided against doing the article, but preferred to hide behind the olives rather than tell me directly. I was ok with that, and I left him to his olives, resolving to get in touch for a cold one when I was in the area and discover exactly where Iz was. 

And then, several days later, I saw his Facebook status report on November 21, 2017, which kind of puts olive picking on Hvar with friends and family into some kind of context. Olive picking and wood collecting for winter, Iz-style. Solo. I reproduce the status update in full:


How does one measure an accomplishment?

20 days spent picking the few olives left after 1 epic summer drought

14 Granny Smith apples posing as “lunch”

140-ish hours

240 or so kilometers crossed on foot, reaching 121 olive trees haphazardly scattered across 14 different locations on the island

3 tanks of gas

14 liters of fuel mix for the chainsaw

1 accidental mouthful of aforementioned fuel mix (I keep it in a water bottle)

4 liters of chain oil

1.5 weeks of harvesting marred by intermittent rain

6 loads of incredibly filthy laundry

1 busted exhaust pipe


6 zip ties holding together my clutch aligner lever

Dozens of branches snagging my clothes and skin, culminating yesterday in a stumble that almost tossed me onto my whirring chainsaw

1 winter’s worth of firewood, cut and drying

1 olive leaf directly in the left eye, making my contact lens crinkle and leaving me picking like a pirate the rest of the day

1 chainsaw chain

12 pounds less on the scale

2 inches off my waist

1 serious muscle spasm yanking my right shoulder blade towards my spine

1 pair of headphones, dead

1 righteous mustache and a red Coca Cola hat making me look like Super Mario picking olives

4 editors not sending me to hell throughout the process

Which measure offers a sense of accomplishment? None. I simply endured epic toil to see these 350-ish kilos of small, malnourished yet glorious olives. I just feel, after all the hell, a sense of contentment like none other.


I salute you, Sir – one hell of an achievement. The all-important quantity of olive oil is not yet known for the local practice is to soak them in sea water for a week before they go to press.

If anyone would like to help Joe with his little harvest next year, I am sure he would appreciate a little help – it sounds like an incredible experience. 

And now, with the olive picking out of the way, when can I expect my article on the water cistern, young man?


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