12 January, Janet picking oranges

We have enjoyed the warmest January of our lives, full sun almost every day and only three days when it rained a little. Nice enough for me to sunbathe after lunch several times!

Six of the seven orange trees which I resurrected two years ago are bearing good fruit now, so we have the privilege of squeezing fresh orange juice in midwinter again.

When we bought the quinta four years ago, one of the first jobs I did was to start pruning the olive trees. They are naughty trees. They try to become a bush by putting out shoots at their base and under the branches, and grow vertically strongly.

 However none of this is fruiting wood so it has to be removed before the tree becomes very messy, tall and unproductive. To me, a really good, easily harvested tree is doughnut-shaped. The lower limit is the height a goat can reach when standing on its hind legs, and the highest point is my reach from seven feet up a ladder.

 Once the olive harvest is over and the oil is pressed it is time to begin pruning them. It takes me over an hour to prune one tree. I work for five hours a day in January, which means it takes more than the whole month to do one-third of the 340 trees on the farm.

Over the last three years all the trees on the quinta have been thoroughly pruned once and trimmed later whenever time became available. The once-neglected lanky sixteen-foot plants are now somewhat shorter, wider and more sparse.

It is said that a bird can fly straight through a well-pruned olive tree. As this has happened whilst I’ve been pruning I assume my trees are fine now; my newly-pruned trees are nine feet tall with an open centre. A year later the evergreen olive will have bushed out to form a doughnut shape and will fruit on the new growth.

Three times in the past week different locals – unconnected – have said my pruning is nearly professional or that I really know how to prune well, so I’m very happy to have passed the local street-cred test!