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Saturday 14 February 2015

There be oil...or, a visit to an olive oil processor...

Yesterday I accompanied Helen our host here at Olive Grove Farm, in Trujillos, Spain to the olive oil processor that she uses for her crop of olives. We went to see Jose at Milino Gumeil, a processor that has been operating at the same site for over two hundred years...well not Jose exactly but his ancestors....
As soon as you arrive the first impression is cleanliness.. there was not a scrap of dust or debris anywhere, everything is pristine.

 Milino Gumeil Olive Oil Processors
We start the tour looking at the ancient plant that was once used here. Housed in a large side room at the front of the plant are a series of olive presses that were installed in 1803!  In 1803 Spain had just 'sold' Louisiana to France, Charles IV was ruling Spain and there was a pause in the Napoleonic wars..
Four years later France had invaded and installed a new head of state and the English Duke of Wellington was leading the allies trying to defeat Napoleon in the Peninsular wars...I imagine Jose's ancestor's were busy pressing oil while this mayhem went on around them.

 Here are a series of olive presses that were operated by water power.  Similarly to how cider is traditionally made, the olives were washed and laid in layers on mats and stacked into 'towers' under the presses. When pressed the oil run out into channels and collected in a series of subterranean tanks.

One of the old subterranean oil tanks
There were/are a series of eight tanks and the oil passed from one through to eight as it gradually lost its sediment and became purer.
Below ground is also a series of large water tanks, 3 metre diameter by 5 metres deep.
Jose, the proprietor of the Olive Oil Processing plant and Helen, the owner of Olive Grove Farmhouse where we are staying.
After seeing the historical part of the plant we were then taken on a tour of the current operation.
Starting at the point where the olive farmer delivers his/her trailer load of freshly harvested olives including leaves, twigs and stones. The trailer load is tipped over the grid below and the debris is separated from the olives. The olives are weighed and logged against the farmer's account they are then washed and a 1kilo sample taken for analysis.
 The freshly picked olive crop is deposited here over the grid

 With twigs, leaves and stones removed the olives are moved along conveyer belts to be washed.

 The I kilogram sample is mashed and warmed here

A  sample from each load is taken to the lab where it is processed to identify the oil content.  Typically you would expect 20%-25% yield so 100kgs of olives would be expected to 23- 25 litres of oil.
 A centrifuge is used to extract the oil
The now washed olives are now fed into a machine that bruises and breaks the olive skin and stirs them for 25 minutes or so before they are transferred to another machine where heated water is added.

 Grinding, bruising the olive skins

 The  olives are mixed with heated water and form a mash

 The first separation of the oil and water
The olives undergo two cycles of this mash/heating in this processor's before the oil is collected into racking tanks to allow the oil to stand and sediment to settle.

A series of racking tanks
Storage tanks
 The finished product, virgin olive oil is stored in enormous stainless steel tanks, 45,000 litres in each tank.
 Olive pips being removed from the mash

The olive pips are a waste product that is now being used as a heat source with many households installing pellet boilers that burn the pips.

A barn set aside to store the olive pips before they are sold.
The residue of the 'mash' is sold on to other processors that extract the last of the oil chemically.
It was a very interesting tour around something that is not normally part of my day to day life and I am grateful to the lovely Jose for spending the time and Helen for making the effort to arrange the visit and accompany me.
Just one last thought...be aware that the olive harvest in the Mediterranean has been very poor this year so olive oil prices are about to rocket, and with that in mind I bought us a 5 litre supply.

We have a date...

It seems we have our date for the crossing of the Wash now, 1st June is the favoured date provided the weather conditions allow.  Three of the boat crews are currently out of the Country but when we all get back we have arranged to meet in Nottingham and travel in convoy up the R. Trent and then on to Boston.  There are four boats set to make the crossing together from Boston in Lincolnshire to Wisbech in Norfolk.   I am really looking forward to this summer's cruising, bring it on.

Friday 13 February 2015

Small village, long tour....

Yesterday, a damp overcast February day here in Spain we took ourselves off rather sharply, on the road before nine when I am normally ensconced in a very comfortable bed at that time, to deliver our car to the local garage.  The handbrake had not been operating effectively and in a land of very, very steep hills it badly needed attention. 
We met the mechanic Antonio who speaks no English.  Our dozen words of Spanish might be OK for ordering a coffee and saying hello but they were not going to cut it trying to explain the failings of our car's braking system so we were presented with Antonio's desktop computer and Google Translate; we were cooking with gas now!  Antonio, understanding what was required, told us to come back in two hours.  With no transport we were now obliged to fill the next two hours so we went walkabout in a very small village and drank several cups of cafĂ© con leche (coffee with milk) at the local bar.

 Our distination, the village of Frailes

 The chequered pavement that stops and starts, sometimes with handrail, sometimes with eight foot sheer drop, sometimes four feet wide and sometimes merely two feet.

 An example of a village fountain there being any number about the village

 Typical street scene with all the houses opening directly on to the street,

One of the Frailes bars/coffee shops/restaurants and our coffee stop after our village tour.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Finding another part of the Vias Verde

A bit of a chilly snap at the moment but the sun is out after a couple of days of rain.  The damp weather makes it impossible to walk the olive groves with the two dogs, unless of course you are happy to return with 6 inches of cloying mud under your boots and I am not...
Having discovered another point that gives vehicular access to the defunct railway line that is the Via Verde Aceite de Oliva, the Olive Oil Green Way, we set off the other day to drive to the town of Alcadette where below the town is the former old rail station.

The track bed passing the Alcadette rail station
Ticket office

 We have just crossed another via duct

A view from the Olive oil way

 Yours truly making use of my new Jensen Button McLaren cap

Lots and lots of miniature irises in bloom
Lunch break..
Joe sharing his mandarin with Fletcher...

I go out for a drive around

Joe was busy doing his Spanish homework - we are taking Spanish lessons - I was restless.  I had walked the dogs, cooked lunch and then decided that I would go out for a drive, the dogs decided that they would join me as they couldn't be arsed to learn Spanish..

I tend to just point a car and turn off wherever I fancy, I get lost, I get unlost and I make discoveries.  Setting off I headed out through Frailes, the village we had had lunch in on Friday, and continued through the village on increasingly narrowing roads until I took a left hand turn and headed up, up and away - we were going mountain climbing!

We wound constantly upwards with a single track road, hairpin bends, occasional bridges and plenty of protective Armco barriers to stop you plunging over into the abyss.

 I met quite a lot of these chaps wandering about on the track

 A herd of cabra, goats, checking the grass on the other side of the fence...none of which looked particularly green!

Around another few miles of tight bends and we start to descend again before it's up again across another range of hills.

A road with a view

 See what I mean about the road

 More sheep, slowing down...

The sheep are wearing bells

Another view before I join a bigger road and traffic...well two or three cars anyway
I drove through the town of Castillo de Locubin and then Alcala la Real and then back to Trujillos having decided that I wouldn't retrace my tracks on this occasion..

Monday 9 February 2015

Harvesting olives or twig trembling

This is a local woman, known as The Goat Lady, who lives in the village of Trujillos and owns olive trees below the Cortijo ( farm house) where have been staying.  The appellation of Goat Lady is because she keeps a herd of the beasties, and a fine herd it is, but no one actually knows the woman's name.
The Goat Lady turns up the other day in a newish Mitsubishi truck and unloads her nets and her motorised twig trembler/wobbler and sets about harvesting the olives on her trees.

 The nets are spread below the individual trees and the long pole on the Stihl two stroke engine is used to stroke the branches and loosen the crop of olives.

The olives are then gathered and bagged up ready to be transported to a local processing plant of which there are many.  This week sometime Joe and I are going to visit an olive processing plant to see what it entails.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Jerez de la Frontera

Jerez famous for Sherry, Horses and Flamenco is only a couple of hundred miles from where we are staying; So being a person who knows a thing or two about culture and history, I went off for a couple of days with friends Trevor and Avis to see some men drive extremely expensive cars very quickly.

The Circuito de Jerez is better known for MotoGP as F1 cars do not race there.  It was a bit of a gamble going there for the first F1 test as the weather was not looking too good and there is no knowing when and if the cars will be on track, but it was cheap to get in.  In fact it was so cheap the Jenson Button/McLaren baseball cap for herself cost more than the entrance ticket  Apparently a 2013 Alonso Ferrari cap was not good enough.. (Herself editing now: You bet it wasn't good enough, he tried to fob me off with Ferrari, I don't think so!)

I borrowed one of Madam's many cameras for the occasion and took some video footage (literally my feet several times) as I don't have a clue how to use the thing.

Anyhoo here is what I salvaged:-

Jerez circuit

Unloading the bestest, latest Sauber fresh from the gravel, watched by...

Felipe Massa!!

Torro Rosso being serviced in the pit lane
Torro Rosso
Carlos Sainz Jnr.
Filipe Massa
Kimi Raikkonen
As an F1 fan it was really good to be able to see the real thing...if only testing ...and despite what is said on the box, the new cars are NOT that quiet! I saw a few bods with ear plugs.

Sunday 1 February 2015

With 2016 in mind...

Well, we are rather enjoying our winter in Espana, so much so that we are now thinking about what we might want to do in 2016.  So on Thursday we travelled south to the Costa del Sol and the town of Nerja (ner-ha) to meet an estate agent and have a look around the towns just outside the resort town of Nerja, Frigiliani and Torrox, that sit in the foothills above the coast.  We will fly out at the beginning of December to have a look at properties and get a contract in place....this time for twelve months, Yes, we are going to try a year in Spain and then decide what we want to do in the future....
 First stop, the beach with the two dogs after our two hour drive from Trujillos

Two VERY excited dogs...BEACH, yippee

With the dogs 'comfortable', we headed off to find the estate agent and went through our list of questions and came away knowing that what we required was do-able and that we needed to return later in the year to find and finalise..
Next stop lunch.

With the two boys at our feet we settled at a pleasant restaurant and ordered lunch al fresco
 Seafood pizza, rocket and parmesan salad, beers and water...AND, sunshine!!

Post lunch, another visit to the beach with the dogs and then a drive up into the foothills to have a recce of the area we are thinking we will be living in 2016.