Given that we'd had 2 disastrous harvests we decided to bite the bullet and tackle the trees. What do we mean? - take one (or several) of our many chainsaws to them. Don't panic!! We're not cutting them down but at somewhere between 4-6m tall they are not manageable without a squad of people on hand to look after them.
So, Paul got some local advice and the general upshot was, unless you're a complete moron you won't kill them so cut them to the size you want and just got for it. The tricky bit comes in the next 2-3 years when you have to prune them and decide which branches to thin or cut out. Ok, we did have a little practice the year before when Paul tried out two different method on two different trees just to see which worked better (oh and we did attend a little curse) and frankly there was no difference whatsoever so he was quite confident in his butchery. The thing is it doesn't take too long to cut the tree back but it takes about 3 times as long to clear up after yourself and stack the logs! Still, he managed a mammoth 60 trees. This is fantastic given that you only have a small window of opportunity for this type of work. It has to be done after the last frost and before the trees enter the growth phase - 3 months if you're really lucky.
He wouldn't let me come to the farm while he was doing this. He wanted me to get the full impact when he was finished. When he finally allowed me to see what he'd been up to I was speechless. Nothing had prepared me for what I was seeing, even though I knew what he was doing. It was like armageddon! I struggled to say how well he'd done when it looked so devastating. I was excited and gutted in equal measure.
Before the summer was over the cut trees were already growing at a crazy rate. They look almost back to normal just shorter! Another 60 to do next year. It's so exciting seeing the way they spring back into life. It's almost how a good haircut can make your hair feel thicker.
I now understand why the olive is the tree of life. I do love these trees. They are amazing.