Spring is Here!

Winter is definitely gone and Spring is here! We can certainly see this in the D’Oliva orchard as the trees come alive with new growth.
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Of course everything else in the orchard comes alive too! We are nearly done with weed control for the season. Thankfully (or unfortunately) the work was not as bad this year because of low rainfall totals.

The pesky olive fruit fly becomes active about now and is a challenge throughout the olive growing world. Last year we lost at least 1000 pounds of olives to the little pest, so we’re trapping early and taking extra precautions this year.
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The gophers and squirrels also become active. They can harm a root system to the point of killing a young tree. So we’re being vigilant!

Good things come alive as well! It’s routine to see turkeys, deer, coyotes, and other wildlife near the orchard (thankfully outside our eleven foot fence).

It’s a birders paradise with raptors soaring overhead, the owls hunting in the early evenings, and plovers making their nests in the shade of our trees.
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We’re grateful to see the orchard thriving this Spring. The early buds on the trees are plentiful so we are looking forward to another great harvest. Even our younger trees are loaded.

So the 2014 harvest looks promising! We have our wonderful 2013 (silver award winning…ahem!) oil still available. You can place your order here.

I look forward to hearing from you!

D’Aun (and all the orchard critters)

First Competition = First Award!

We can’t believe it! D’Oliva Olive Oil is still young, so until now the quality of our oil has not been publicly recognized. But we recently submitted a bottle to the California Olive Oil Council competition. Along with many other producers, we were judged for quality, taste, and overall excellence.
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AND WE WON A SILVER MEDAL!

Can we shout that again? Our very first competition, and we won a silver medal!

There were endless smiles and shouts of joy in the office when we received the email notification. It’s so great to know our hard work is being recognized by outside experts. We always knew the oil was good, but we’re thrilled to see others agree!

Now is a good time to stock up. It will certainly go fast with this new recognition! You can use this form to send us your order.

While you’re at it, be sure to pick up some of our other products like our beautiful new bar soap, our estate harvest in half gallon bottles, or the last of our (also wonderful) 2013 Late Harvest oil with a slightly softer flavor profile.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks,

D’Aun

Order Soon for Christmas!

We have a new and updated order form. It has all of our latest products, including gift wrapping options. Take a look and order by December 17th if you need your oil shipped, and no later than December 22nd for our last pickup day of December 23rd.

Here’s the order form: 2013 Order Form

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2013 Order Form!

You can open the 2013 order form here:

D’Oliva Order Sheet

Please print or download, fill it out, and email or fax it to the contact info on the page.

Thanks for your order!

 

 

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Harvest 2012!

Wow, what a harvest it was for D’Oliva Olive Oil! The trees were looking good all summer, and as young trees we expect a steep upward curve in production in these first few years. Roy and I estimated about 1000 pounds (compared to 280 last year) and we planned accordingly.

Empty yellow lugs waiting for olives.

Gulp…we were a bit off! At the end of the day — and I mean literally the end of the day with the sun down and the temperature dropping — we had harvested over 1500 pounds! This is far beyond any expectations for a olive grove that only has 200 3-year old trees and 125 2-year old trees. And the olives looked good, with a nice blend of green and black coloring.

My daughter Rachel and I wearing our “belly buckets”

The day began with an 11 AM to 3 PM timeframe for harvesting. Our faithful crew of friends and family pushed themselves hard to get all the olives harvested, and even then we had to leave a few behind. What we thought would be a charming Prosecco sipping afternoon turned into a long work day!

But it sure was fun with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. There is something joyful about being in an orchard with your friends. We’d catch up on each others lives, sharing lots of laughter, joking with each other about overlooking a branch full of olives, and simply enjoying the outdoors. We had old friends, new friends, young friends and friends of friends. Our youngest helpers Zoey and Zeke kept everybody smiling, as they always do. Even our four legged friends Sadie and Rico ran freely (though they didn’t help a bit with the harvest). It was simply pure fun.

Zoey and Zeke helping their Mom Julie and friend Kathy.

As the sun set and the last of the olives were brought in from the grove, we handed out a few awards for closest guess to the total harvest weight. We opened the Prosecco and enjoyed Italian style appetizers as we shared stories of the day. At one point we realized we might not have room in Roy’s truck to handle all of the olives, but he was able to figure that out (thanks Hon!).

The next morning the alarm went off at 3:30 AM and we headed up to Petaluma to mill the olives. We were lucky because we were the first to arrive just before 6 AM, so our olives were the first to be milled that day. They told us there would be oil to taste in about an hour so we waited anxiously to see how it would taste. We were rewarded for the wait — our first sips were wonderful! The oil was buttery at the beginning, followed by a spark of pepper at the back. It’s too early to know how the final taste will settle in, but the start was fantastic!

Talking to the mill operator.

Now the big question was how many liters of oil would be produced from the 1500 pounds of olives. Roy guessed low at 15 gallons. I was more optimistic at 25 gallons. But once again this crop surprised us with over 38 gallons of oil! It’s a huge yield and I’m excited to have an inventory like this! It will be fun to share it and I’m thankful that we can sell much of this and offset a lot of costs.

Roy and I drove home with the “liquid gold” in the back of the truck. I pulled out my calculator and went to work on how we could possibly have harvested so much, and how it became so many gallons! Roy jokingly said something about Jesus and the loaves of bread, and it has that feel to it. The 2012 harvest has been a huge blessing and one we will remember a long long time!

Thank you all who helped out this year. Many came to help and I am thankful for you all!

Here are a few more photo highlights, with special thanks to Rachel Goble Photography for the best ones below!

The competition board.

Friends harvesting the tree as they catch up on life.

In my happy place!

Helping Julie with the harvest.

Friends and family.

Somebody had to do the heavy lifting.

At the end of the day, the harvest is huge, and ready for milling the next morning!

Fresh olive oil pouring into the D’Oliva fusti!

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil

I recently finished Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. It has become a renowned book in the olive oil world because the author has done a brilliant job of researching, documenting, and then revealing the crooked side of the olive oil industry. It really is a groundbreaking book.

Mueller starts in Italy and explores how the unregulated world of olive oil has been corrupted. Rancid olives are imported from nearby countries, run through nasty treatments to make them tolerable, and then bottled in Italy. They are sold as “extra virgin olive oil from Italy.” Which is wrong entirely; it’s not extra virgin, it is often not olive oil, and it’s not from Italy.

And it’s not just an issue in Italy. Virtually every olive oil producing country has this problem, including (according to Mueller’s description) issues of false labeling and fraud in the Los Angles basin. To be fair, he makes clear the problem lies mostly in Europe. But the USA is not immune.

Other shortcuts include bottling others types of oil and then selling it as olive oil. This can sometimes lead to health issues as people dip their bread in a toxic goo. The authorities know about such practices, but they seldom see it as a significant health threat, so it isn’t monitored.

The theme of the book is threefold. First, there are a lot of shady practices happening around olive oil. Second, those practices are undermining public perception of what good olive oil tastes like, thus reducing the motivation for producers to create high quality products. Third, the result is ridiculously low prices, forcing out the small operator who wants to make a premium product.

I suppose the fourth theme is that this could all be stopped if regulators paid a tiny bit of attention. They monitor virtually every type of food production, yet somehow olive oil gets overlooked.

The bottom line is consistent with what I have been saying to friends for a long time: do your research, expect to pay more because the cheap stuff is probably awful (or downright dangerous), and don’t be seduced by fancy labels or “made it Italy” branding. Also, like good wine, your palate needs to learn the taste qualities of good olive oil. Take the time to learn.

One thing I enjoyed about the book is how Mueller celebrates the history of the olive. My husband Roy underlined the story about the Roman senator who said of the inhabitants north of the Danube River, “They lead the most miserable existence of all mankind, for they cultivate no olives and they drink no wine.” Yet another fun line from Mueller reads, “Cookbooks, like history, are written by the victors.” It’s clever writing, engaging, and easy to read.

I launched D’Oliva Olive Oil because I love great food, love to garden, and love people. More than just a mass produced product created for maximum profit, each olive tree is nurtured by hand and inspected weekly. This philosophy is the antithesis of the underworld that Mueller reveals in Extra Virginity.

Thankfully, there are a lot of great olive oil producers and good people in the industry. Mueller explores that in detail, often mentioning places and people that I have visited or met. He talks about the growing number of people committed to changing the industry. It was fun, exciting, and challenging for me to read!

This is a good book. It’s well written, timely, and has a whole cast of characters: old sun scorched farmers, corrupt government officials, dangerous international con artists, creative restauranteurs, and more.

Ultimately, it’s about the simple olive. As one reviewer said, the earth’s most poetic food has found its storyteller.

Our Second Harvest

We had a great time with friends and family for our second annual harvest last Saturday. The weather cooperated with crisp Fall weather without rain or wind. It couldn’t get any better!

D'Aun on the right with her friend Jen Weaver

Like last year, the olives were hand harvested, placed in belly buckets, and then put into lug boxes. These were then weighed and recorded. This year we tracked the production per row and will begin building a database to compare annually.

By the end of the day we had 282 pounds! Kris Weaver and Diane Jordan won the contest for guessing closest to the total weight harvested. All of the volunteers celebrated with the traditional meal of bruschetta and prosecco.

On Sunday we took the olives to The Olivina mill in Livermore for their community milling day. Our 282 pounds were far and away the most brought in by anybody, so the milled oil is over 90% from our olives! Unfortunately, we are not able to offer any of it for sale this year because it is all being pre-purchased by friends and family.

Thanks to all of the volunteers who helped with the harvest. It was a great weekend and we look forward to next year!

Carla and Steve McRee.

Dale Wolford; hiding from the camera?

Greg Weaver was one of the hardest workers.

Anna had young legs that could handle the lower parts of the trees!

Some folks worked harder than others!

Using the belly bucket.

Roy with one of the first lugs to be weighed.

The total harvest, all weighed and ready to go to the mill.

The harvest table.

Our olives waiting to be milled on Sunday.

Olive Oil Makes You Happy!

Everybody can use a little more happiness in their life. As it turns out, research is now showing that olive oil can help!

The SUN Project in Spain has finalized studies that show a healthy Mediterranean diet can impact not only physical health (which seems obvious) but also our mental health.

Here’s an article published by the good folks at the Olive Oil Source that goes into more detail about the findings: Olive Oil Makes You Happy. It’s not only encouraging, it’s logical…two things that are not always consistent in long term research reports!

So any way you look at it, we need more extra virgin olive oil in our diets. Eat well, and be happy!

D'Aun in a happy place -- the orchard!

Jamie Oliver Loves Olive Oil – Especially on Pizza!

Last week I attended a UC Davis Olive Oil Center seminar about the production of premium olive oil. It was a good event that was well attended.

One of the presenters shared this fun video of Jamie Oliver and his passion for olive oil. I thought it was great and decided it would be fun to post here. He obviously loves olive oil, and hopefully someday he’ll love D’Oliva Olive Oil!

Look How They’ve Grown!!!

Look at this!  The small trees in the background were planted last October, and the big tree in the foreground was part of the 2009 planting (ignore the big eucalyptus trees in the far background).  All the rest of the 2009 trees are equal in size to the one in the foreground. It’s amazing to see the size difference in just one year of growth!

Those little trees will begin to grow rapidly this summer. It will take a few years to catch up, but before long we are going to have 325 really large trees!

All of the trees are doing well this winter. I sprayed with an organic copper application to prevent peacock spot, which can appear on olive trees and eventually harm them. A new ATV mounted sprayer was a big help.

We assumed that the first pruning of the older trees would happen this winter. But my orchard consultant, Sean McEntire, advised me to let the trees grow another year. Next winter might be a busy one!

I want to keep this post short, like I hope the winter will be, so I’ll save more updates for later.  For now, I’m really looking forward to Spring and watching the new trees begin to grow!

Our First Harvest!

When we planted the first 200 trees in October 2009, the experts and consultants all told us that our first harvest would be 2-3 years away.  Perhaps even four years.

But nobody counted on the perfect growing season of 2010, or the significant rainfall, or the cyclical nature of olives that produce in massive abundance from time to time.  Or the overexcitement of new farmers!  All of that came together in an unexpected way, and suddenly we have a harvest.  A small harvest, of course, but a harvest nonetheless!

The day of the harvest began with a challenge:  who could most accurately guess the number of pounds we would harvest?   Ever the optimist, I wrote 300 lbs onto the white board as my guess.  Attempting to balance the high guess with a low one, Roy wrote 90 lbs onto the whiteboard.  That became the high and low ends of the estimates, and others chose numbers in between.

A dozen eager volunteers arrived on a cool overcast day.  Each of us put on cotton gloves and rubber boots, a few wore a belly bucket, and others carried a yellow plastic lug into the orchard.  With the trees still small it was an easy process to harvest the olives, and the entire job was done in about 45-minutes.

As we brought the olives together into a single lug, it became apparent that we had all overestimated this first harvest.  Even the low guess was wildly high.  A total of 25 lbs was harvested this year.  We jokingly sent people back into the orchard; there had to be more!  Folks were laughing as we picked one or two stray olives off an otherwise bare tree.  In the end, it was still 25 lbs of olives.  Perhaps that’s a bit disappointing, but then again we were excited to have anything at all this first year.

By mid-afternoon we had the Prosecco open and bruschetta served.  As with all good D’Oliva parties, we spent more time eating, drinking and talking than we did working!

The following morning Roy and I awoke early and headed to The Olive Press in Sonoma.  We met our consultant, Sean, who had harvested his trees the day before as well.  Joking that we needed him to bring the forklift over to pick up our olives, we ceremoniously added our small harvest to his larger haul.

D'Oliva olives mixed with Sean's harvest.

There were the usual hiccups and problems with milling, but it was fun to watch as the olives went through the elaborate process and became beautiful golden green oil.  Sean was nice enough to sell us 5-gallons of the oil (our 25 lbs of olives would have only produced about a quart).  As we headed away from the mill, Roy quipped that if we could find a way to scale the turning of 25-lbs of olives into 5 gallons of oil, we might actually make this business profitable!

Our 5-gallons being sealed and marked.

The first harvest was small, but it taught us a lot about olive farming.  Just going through the process was great and will help us prepare for the larger scale harvests of the future.  Plus we get to bottle some of the 5-gallons we brought home from the mill, which means I can experiment with labels and bottles.  All of it is a learning process — and so far, all of it is a great deal of fun!

Thanks to everybody who helped!

Olive Harvest in Italy

Last month my husband Roy and I visited Italy and spent a few days on a small farm in Umbria. Rob and Janina Cushman, two wonderful people who share our passion for great olive oil, own Le Mandorelle. With 12-acres and about 300 olive trees, the Cushman’s operate at a scale that is similar to D’Oliva.

As luck would have it, we arrived the day the olive harvest began! I jumped right into the harvest. We used hand tools to pull the olives onto large nets. I wish I could have helped more, but we arrived late in the day and wanted to get a tour of the whole farm before nightfall. But it was fun to help even just a bit!

When the tree was bare of fruit, we would then gently roll the netting and gather the olives. Rob and Janina harvested about 350 kilos from twelve trees.

The next day was opening day for the frantoio (an Italian olive mill). We took the olives in and watched them go through the mill. What a fully Italian experience this was, with fresh bread toasted over an open fire, and then drenched with the warm, freshly milled olive oil! It was quite a crowd with the owner of the frantoio, his staff and family, other farmers… lots of people showing up for opening day.

Rob was anxious to see how much oil would be produced from the 350 kilos. It is an especially large crop this year, but that often means a lower oil yield per kilo of olives. Sure enough, they had about a 9% yield, which is traditionally low.

But wow, what a great oil! Rob and Janina honored us with a bottle of their precious oil, which we now have at home. It is simply delicious! Spicy and very green!

Naturally, we had a large dinner the day of the milling, with fresh olive oil and the Cushman’s wine from their own grapes. A marvelous evening!

After our stay at Le Mandorelle we headed to Tuscany. We saw several frantoios and went into one, but it just wasn’t the same as our experience with Rob and Janina. It was a reminder that producing olive oil is more than just farming – it is friendship, laughter, celebration, and hope all rolled into an orchard of trees.

Thank you, Rob and Janina, for making our Umbrian experience truly memorable. Roy and I can’t wait to go back! But even better, we can’t wait to have our first harvest at D’Oliva!

Janina in the kitchen.

Rob in the mill.

Planting Day!

Celebration Dinner!

Getting started! Each tree variety to its new location.

Sadie loving the broken water line!

In the short history of D’Oliva, the biggest events thus far have been October 10, 2009, when the first 200 trees were planted … and yesterday when the last 125 trees were planted.  We had a great time as about 30 friends and family spent the day digging, planting, laughing and celebrating.  Under the watchful eye of my orchard consultant, Sean, and the bemused eye of my golden retriever, Sadie, all 125 trees were carefully given a new life in the orchard.  Hopefully they will be there for decades – even centuries – to come.

Planting a new orchard is an expression of confidence.  There has to be confidence in the future to plant something that takes years to produce.  Even beyond a hope in the future, it takes confidence that the soil will sustain, the rains will refresh, and the sun will nurture the trees for years to come.

Yesterday was the kind of day that builds that confidence.  A beautiful day of sunshine, mild weather, and great fun.  Topped off by an evening of incredible food prepared by my friend Carrie and great wines chosen by my husband Roy.  Good friends, loving family, gorgeous weather, a day in the orchard, gourmet food, delicious wine … truly a California version of la dolce vita!

Welcome to my D’Oliva Olive Oil blog

Welcome to my D’Oliva Olive Oil blog! I’m excited to have this website up and running at last. Hopefully it provides the background and information about D’Oliva that you want to know. But if you have ideas on how to improve it, please let me know. More recipes? More information about olive oil? More background information about how this crazy idea began? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As for this blog, my hope is to update it whenever there is interesting news about D’Oliva. It should be a fun forum for sharing stories about planting day, harvests, and all the other challenges of starting a small farm. I’m also hoping that my family will join in and perhaps be a guest bloggers every now and then!

Thanks for your interest in D’Oliva. And don’t forget to leave comments if you have thoughts about the website, or even ideas about what you’d like to read about in this blog. Thanks!