In June 2022 the two families descended upon the grove intent on picking as many olives as we possibly could. We had a few reinforcements in tow, and along with our battery powered harvesters we started the two-week picking process.

Our trees are still classified as juvenile, which means they’re not quite ready for a machine harvester. Machine harvesters grip the tree by the trunk with a tractor attachment and shake the entire tree with the olives falling into a large net spread around the base of the trunk. Because of their age, our trees don’t have the same root-base as older trees, so a machine harvester would rip them right out of the ground… which means we have to pick our olives by hand!

Well, not quite. We have these great battery powered harvesters that are large poles with soft plastic fingers that oscillate, and are perfect for displacing plump olives. You just stick the fingers into a cluster of olives on a tree and they generally leap into your net.

Before we get going with the harvester we first need to set up the net to catch the olives that fall. The net sits on the back of the quad-bike and has a 4m radius, which is great because it catches all the olives, but it makes it very heavy to manoeuvre!

After picking 4-5 trees of their olives we collect all the olives from the net and put them in a large wooden crate, ready for the tractor to pick up. We’re fortunate to be next door to the same person who presses most of the olives in the Wairarapa, so he comes over with his tractor and collects our crates when they’re full.

It’s all rather hard work, but the saying that many hands makes light work is very true. We’ve got a couple of people on the harvesters, a couple managing the net and the quad, and all of the kids standing by with their small buckets ready to collect the olives from the net.

It’s hard to complain about sore arms and tired bodies when the kids are running around effortlessly and working as hard as they can. Maybe it’s the novelty of it all, or maybe its because they’ve been promised a hot chocolate and a pie from The Clareville Bakery for lunch.


I don’t know if you’ve ever tasted a raw olive, but it’s one of the most bitter things you can possibly put in your mouth. It’s hard to imagine how anyone thought that pressing the oil out of them was going to be a good idea – but we’re not complaining.

Watching our olives go from bitter fruit to delicious oil is an amazing process. Once our crates have been collected their contents are tipped into the press which kicks the whole process off.

First the olives are tipped through a blower which separates the olives from any leaves and twigs that might have made their way into our piles, and then they’re put through a cleaning process. Once clean they go through a giant masher (forgive our lack of technical terminology here) that turns the olives into a pulp, similar to a green lump of mashed potato. The mashing process lasts for a while, just to make sure every bit of oil has been released by the olive’s flesh.

The final step is for the pulp to be put into a centrifuge which separates the oil from the rest of the mashed olive (otherwise known as the pomace), and then the wonderful greeny-gold liquid pours from the machine, through one final filter, before being stored in our giant drums.