It’s been a long time. In Greece, things often move very slowly even if there are no global pandemics going on.
About two years ago, around the time of my youngest son’s birthday, August 6, 2019, I became aware of a plot of land for sale in Central Greece that had about 65 olive trees on it. I was advised the plot was about “2 Stremma” – or the equivalent of half an acre – and possibly could be had for the equivalent of about $3,000.00 CAD. It ended up costing a bit more, but I was willing to pay.
I was very intrigued about the possibility of purchasing it. Recently, someone asked me, “Ian, Why would you want to buy that olive grove?”
Sometimes I despise “why” questions – there could be an infinite number of valid and correct answers to any “why?” question, but one can sense that the interrogator isn’t really interested in all of them, but rather one that will either suit their mind’s projections, or an answer that will give them reason to explain how much of a fool you are.
So I simply answered, “Because I wanted to.” That answer to any “why?” question generally shuts people up – it’s not what they are expecting but it is truth.
The fact is, there were many reasons in my mind, and many more I can think up if you want to listen, as to “why” I was intrigued and interested in purchasing a 1/2 acre lot of an abandoned olive grove.
One idea that struck me was that maybe I had the possibility of purchasing a wee piece of land in “old Europe” that would be mine. It might not grow in value, but something intrigued about me about the idea of that.
Then, there was the idea of having something – a piece of land, that perhaps on it’s own, or with some other small accumulations, I could pass on to my sons. I have a rational sense, but also a romantic sense, and back in 2019, I had the romantic idea of when I die, my sons learning that they now were heirs to some small plot(s) of land in Greece. To me, that was a kind of a “cool” idea to be able to make happen.
There was also the idea that I like challenges and experiences – it could be enjoyable to learn about olive trees, and I love physical work outdoors, and agriculture in general. I could go on and on, about the “whys” for trying to purchase this wee piece of land – and any answer I might give could be equally criticized. For me, all of my reasons joined together into a question to myself: “Could I find a way to make this purchase happen?”
It Took A Long Time
For various reasons, including COVID – getting the deal done took a very long time – 2 years to be precise. Greece has some very odd regulations and practices as well, and part of this include requiring a “contractor” who creates the contract between buyer and seller of property. There was also a requirement to get a survey of the plot done, which had a 30 day expiry on it – but which was extended by the government due to COVID related issues and the fact it was very difficult to get all the necessary steps completed within the 30 days.
Finally, on August 6th, the birthday of my youngest son David, the deal was official.
The Work Begins
A few people told me I should wait until the spring to “clean up” and cut down the weeds. As you can see from the photo, the olive grove has obviously been abandoned for quite some years, and weeds almost as high as me had overtaken it. I was told that come spring 2021, I would have to spend time cutting down new growth, so I might as well wait.
Except, I had time and energy now, and any work I did now to cut through years of abandonment would mean less time, in the spring. And now that I owned it, I didn’t want people who might walk by it, to think this Ulster Man from Canada would simply leave the work to the spring – and it was some abandoned olive grove he owned.
So, I got at the work. Thankfully, in addition to the scythes that had been used 50 years ago, and the not great quality rakes, I did have access to a gas powered trimmer – but the manual was missing and the parts did not seem to be right…. we spent a lot of time trying to figure it out.
After getting some advice, and many hours of not actually working but trying to figure out the gas trimmer, my companion and I were finally were able to spend some hours – under a hot blazing sun when it hit 41C – clearing weeds, raking old dead fallen and even trimmed branches that had been simply left on the ground and now covered with thick weeds. What a mess it was!
Many told me I should not work in the afternoon – “the summer sun is too intense in Greece…” – but honestly, give me water – and a goal, and I’m fine. I have worked in the sun and high humidity in Ontario, and the hot summer sun in Alberta, and Alabama… and I’m still alive, and have great memories of accomplishing things. I actually love the challenge and the work which seems odd to some.
The weeds in this olive grove were incredibly thick. I have no idea what most of them are – other than they can grow very tall and choke out olive trees. There are some really nasty ones – that ironically, I also like – blackthorn and wild blackberry – but not when choking out olive trees that I hope to maybe harvest olives from, some day.
When I finally got the gas powered trimmer to act reasonably as expected, trying to cut through the thickets and bramble was no easy job – even under gasoline/oil mix power.
I have to thank my companion, Kiriaki, who spent a great deal of time with a rake, and pulling out old branches, as we both worked in the sun at 41C, taking water breaks, but with a big goal to get things done. We did not complete all we wanted or hoped to do, but we got through a lot – perhaps about 2/3 of the plot. This photo doesn’t really show all that we accomplished; perhaps I’ll have a chance to take better ones later:
It was a joy to watch the breeze hitting the lower branches of the olive trees – perhaps the first time in some years they had felt free with air and wind against them.
In the next few days, I hope to head back up and finish the job which will include getting rid of the very thick in places, blackthorn that has overtaken much of the eastern boundary. That will take much more than a trimmer – chain saws and gas powered pole trimmers will be needed.