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2019 Winter Update
Due to the prolonged drought, we have not harvested olives for our extra virgin olive oil this year.
Olives in brine from our 2018 harvest are still available, but no oil.
We are hopeful that conditions will improve for next year.
2019 Autumn Report
In the summer report of 2018, I recall making mention of the drier-than-usual conditions. Little did I know that that trend would continue through the year until now, when we are still in drought. Any farming activity east of Wilson's Promontory has been a struggle – in particular the dairy sector. In our case, the olive trees appear quite healthy, but the fruit they produced was so small, we have decided to not harvest this year.
For those interested in statistics, our total rainfall for 2018 was 430mm, and during January, February, March and April this year, our monthly rainfall figures have been 9mm, 19mm, 40mm and 21mm respectively. Our long-term annual average would be upwards of 700mm!
On a more positive note, we have sold out our supplies of extra virgin olive oil, but still have healthy quantities of our manzanillo olives in brine. Last autumn we also purchased a new mulcher (flail mower) which has eliminated the environmentally unfriendly activity of amassing prunings into bonfires. It has also saved me a lot of time.
Hopefully my next report will be able to acknowledge soaking rains which will be so much appreciated by our local area.
2018 Summer Report
Some early summer rains were very useful for preparing the grove for what has turned out to be a fairly dry summer season so far. So often the summer storms that affect northern Victoria seem to drift along the Murray Valley and fail to affect southern Victoria. The major drying factor in our part of Gippsland is the prevailing easterlies or north-easterly winds that quickly suck any moisture out of the ground.
Despite the above, although 2018 is expected to be a lighter year for our fruit production, there are still reasonable numbers of Corregiola, Manzanillo and Hardy's Mammoth. We are looking forward to building on the success of our gold medal oils of last year, and again producing a top quality single varietal Hardy's Mammoth extra virgin olive oil.
2017 Spring Report
This year at Devon Siding has been our best ever: over 3,125kg of fruit, 565 litres of extra virgin olive oil, an average yield of nearly 18%, and 3 gold medals and 1 silver medal from the 4 oils which we entered in the Australian Olives Association's International Olive Oil and Table Olives Competition. At this competition there was an international judging panel and extra virgin olive oil entries from Argentina, Chile, China, North America, New Zealand and of course, Australia. There were 212 entries in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil section from Australia alone.
It was wonderful to receive the recognition for our Frantoio, Frantoio/Manzanillo and Frantoio/Corregiola oils, but the highlight for us was the very high scoring Hardy's Mammoth single varietal oil. We have been waiting patiently, and sometimes impatiently, for this variety to produce the volume of fruit to warrant its pressing as a single variety. Equally pleasing has been consumers' positive appraisals of this variety's fruity and floral characteristics.
Can 2018 match this year? Spring has been kind to us so far – some good early rains, and now some warmth.
2017 Autumn Report
After a very quiet 2016, where little fruit was available for pressing, and only small numbers of olives there for pickling in brine, this year looks very promising.
For the first time, our Hardy's Mammoth trees are heavily laden with fruit. At the time of writing, the trees' branches are drooping with medium to large red olives. Historically, these have been our first olive variety to be picked, and again this will be the case for our oil pressing.
The Manzanillo olives have been earlier than normal in their ripening. Both red and black olives have just been picked and are now in brine, so they will begin to become available later in the year.
The majority of our picking will again be Frantoio and Corregiola, and these olives are just beginning to change colour. We expect to be picking through most of May and early June.
This year we expect to have Extra Virgin Olive Oil in our traditional Frantoio / Corregiola blend as well as a single variety pressing of the Hardy's Mammoth. Our bottle sizes will continue to be 100ml and 500ml, with the addition of 1 or 2 litre tins. Our olives in brine will again be in 200gm glass jars, as well as in 2kg and 4kg plastic buckets for our restaurant customers.
2015 Spring Report
In our part of South Gippsland, Spring has been an uncharacteristically dry season, with only 58 mm of rainfall up to the 22nd November. Underscoring this point has been the recent bushfire which burnt to within 3km of our grove. In planting an olive tree along our driveway, a crowbar was required for most of the digging. However, despite the prolonged dry spell, there has been a surprisingly good flush of flowers on many of our trees. The overall coverage of blooms on the grove has been a bit inconsistent, but our Hardy's Mammoth trees seem promising.
For the first time, we decided to enter our Frantoio / Corregiola blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil in this year's Australian Olive Association national competition. We entered it into the Class 3, Robust style oils, and were delighted to receive a silver medal. This was very encouraging, and if the season's Hardy's Mammoth production is sufficient, we will probably submit it for judging next year.
Our new line of 100ml bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil have been selling very well, particularly as wedding gifts, Tourist Information Centre souvenirs and hampers. The 500ml bottles and jars of olives in brine continue to be popular with our regular stockists.
2015 Autumn Report
Once again we have been very busy keeping up with orders for our extra virgin olive oil and Manzanillo olives in brine. The world continues to shrink, as evidenced by the bombardment of emails reaching us from China, imploring us to either exhibit our oil or sell it. That is not going to happen, as we are very happy with our grove of 600 trees, and don’t want to get any bigger.
At the time of writing we have begun bottling our 2015 Frantoio, Corregiola and Hardy’s Mammoth blend of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Although we may not have had many extremely hot days over summer, our minimum temperatures were above average, and we were able to harvest over a ton of fruit. With an average yield of 19.4%, there are over 200 litres of oil to bottle. Much of this will go into 500ml bottles, but a significant quantity will go into our 100ml sample / wedding gift bottles, as they seem to be very popular.
A few weeks ago we were visited by the Yinnar and Community Garden Group who were keen to see around the grove, and pick some Manzanillo olives with the intention of marinating them in brine as we do. The weather was perfect, the company was very friendly, and the day was a great success. I’m half expecting another “Open Day” of some sort to be on the calendar next year.
2014 Spring Report
What a hectic year it has been. Following a lengthy trip overseas in the later part of 2013, the workload in getting on top of all the jobs around the property was considerable.
Our harvest in June this year was small - particularly for the pressing of fruit for our Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The quality was excellent, so we would have loved to have had much more. However, it did present us with a new direction for our oil. We were approached by a couple who were wanting local produce as bomboniere (wedding favours) for their up-coming wedding. This meant finding smart 100ml bottles and redesigning our text and colour scheme for our labels. We are very pleased with their excitement at the product we have been able to create for them.
Fortunately the quantity of Manzanillo olives was good, so we embarked on pickling them in brine and selling them in 200gm jars, as well as in 2kg tubs for a local restaurant. The sales of our olives in brine have been very encouraging, so the relatives may not be getting as many for Christmas gifts in the future.
Half the grove was pruned quite heavily in August, and our spring has been relatively dry at 164ml for the Sept - Nov period. Every year we have to contend with spring storms and strong winds, so our fingers will be crossed for a good harvest in 2015.
2013 Summer Report
What an extraordinary change of weather we have had with the arrival of summer. In November we were sloshing around in gumboots. Now we are irrigating our trees as only 24mm of rain has fallen between 20th December and 20th February!
In Spring the grove had masses of flowers and the fruit set has been good with all our varieties used for oil, i.e. Corregiola, Frantoio, Hardy’s Mammoth and Koroneiki. Again, there appear to be good numbers of Manzanillo olives too. For those who like to pick their own fruit for pickling, our Manzanillo olives should again be available in May.
This year we have decided to sell some of our Manzanillo olives in 300ml jars. They will be prepared in a brine solution. At this stage we are hoping that they will be available beside our extra virgin olive oil in our regular business outlets. The other exciting piece of news is that we are anticipating producing our first unblended Hardy’s Mammoth extra virgin olive oil. Keep your eyes open for the subtle addition to our customary label. This oil should be an aromatic, full -fruit flavoured oil, offering a less peppery alternative to our traditional blend.
2012 Spring Report
At long last the ground is drying out! In our part of South Gippsland, winter and most of spring has been very wet with several violent storms. Several mature eucalypts were uprooted during the wildest weather. Visitors to the area can still see the worst of the damage below the Yarram water storage and treatment plant on the Tarra Valley Road.
Despite the fact that many of our trees have struggled during the prolonged wet season, there are reasons to be optimistic about the forthcoming crop. My latest inspection of the grove revealed that our Corregiola, Frantoio, Hardy’s Mammoth and Manzanillo trees are carrying masses of flowers. This would add weight to the theory that many trees put greater energy into reproduction when they have been stressed. I also noticed a healthy number of bees visiting the flowers. We are fortunate to have a nearby neighbour who has a couple of hives, and I have been assured that bees will travel several kilometres in their search for food.
If the fruit-set is good, if we receive a couple of good rainfall events during summer, if we can avoid any disastrous storms, if the birds stay away and if our pickers are happy with the lunches we provide, then we should be able to supply all our customers with their Extra Virgin Olive Oil requirements for the up-coming year. For those who like to pick their own fruit for pickling, our Manzanillo olives should again be available in May.