You obtain a new appre­ci­a­tion that the olive oil you slather on your sal­ad or chef your veg­eta­bles in once you recognize that every litre is consisted of of 1,375 olives that took 47 min­utes topick.

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In the US and also Canada, the much more com­mon bot­tle dimension is 750 ml or 25.4 Flu­id Ounces. That’d be 1031 olives, 35 min­utes topick.

On Sat­ur­day I gained to pick olives when again. Years ago, I lived on an organ­ic olive farm yard in Umbria operation by the then-retired chair­man of Green­peace, David McTag­gart. Every year roughly har­vest time, we’d begin mak­ing the calls come folks who can like come vol­un­teer to spend some time in the Ital­ian sun­light (pro­vid­ed it no snow) gain some good hon­est labor (from sun­rise come sun­set) and take advan­tage among the few excus­es you gain as an adult come climb approximately in trees. We gen­er­al­ly had plen­ty of tak­ers because that what was sup­posed to it is in a payment job, yet which plen­ty the folks were will­ing to carry out in exchange for food and also hos­pi­tal­i­ty.

We didn’t men­tion that it might be mis­er­able — if the weath­er to be wet or you wound­ed her hands even slight­ly, or the floor turned to mush that sucked at her boots — or the you operated what­ev­er the weath­er and the work was bone-aching­ly, mus­cle-pulling­ly, RSI-induc­ing­lyhard.

But once I check out the­se folks today, what we often tend to remem­ber many is the an excellent stuff. The incom­pa­ra­ble irradiate falling across the hills where Han­ni­bal marched his army toward Lake Trasi­meno, shim­mer­ing far listed below us in the dis­tance, the taste of great coarse bread and Mon­tepul­ciano wine, the sound that the wind and, here and there, the scent of truf­fles wherein a boar has actually pawed increase a gourmet meal at the basic of an oaktree.

So as soon as I uncovered myself in Rome for a meet­ing in the mid­st that the pick­ing sea­son v a Sun­day to spare, i glad­ly vol­un­teered to help pick at the old farm, which has actually passed right into the hands of Domi­t­il­la Sen­ni. The weath­er to be stun­ning, the com­pa­ny good, and also I real­ly need­ed the sort of zen an are that man­u­al labour can obtain youinto.

There to be a new-fan­gled inven­tion pertained to the farm. Now back in my day, us dis­dained even so lot as the plas­tic rakes that were com­mon among the sea­son­al pick­ers that came through, pre­fer­ring the 100% organ­ic-by-hand method and just allow­ing because that the occas­sion­al glove when there to be actu­al eye on the branch­es.

The talk of tree-shak­ing machi­nes was constantly dis­dain­ful: some­thing just no self-respect­ing olive farmer would perform to a per­fect­ly good olivetree.

But ns won­der what mine old boss, David McTag­gart, would have actually made that the Elec­tric Rake that us were making use of on Sat­ur­day.

Let’s start with the neg­a­tives. Very first strike again­st: the elec­tric. They to speak it’ll go an entire day ~ above a sin­gle charge, however still: it’s elec­tric. The noisy. It con­tributes come cli­mate change. Sec­ond strike: the ain’t organ­ic. Amongst the mil­lenia-old meth­ods of pick­ing olives, of i beg your pardon there space a few, a rotat­ing collection of plas­tic fin­gers top top a car­bon-fibre stick is no one ofthem.

But among the things that David tru­ly val­ued in the pick­ing sea­son was speed. He was a Calvin­ist as soon as it concerned the project of har­vest­ing olives. It to be most­ly about hus­tle and also hard work, though you’d record him hum­ming native time to time in his red flan­nel shirt in the sun­shine.

He when asked me come cal­cu­late how numerous olives one aver­age pick­er picked, and also it set me come think­ing a dozen corol­lary sta­tis­ti­cal ques­tions around olives. How many olives does it require to make a litre of oil? How numerous olives in an ounce of oil? How numerous litres that oil go an aver­age pick­er choose per hour? Philo­soph­i­cal­ly, what is one olive? much more prac­ti­cal­ly, just how do you mea­sure pro­duc­tiv­i­ty through the stan­dard bench­marks that olive pick­ing (the box, the sack, the quin­tale, the litre of oil). This to be what I come upwith:

(The feet at the left the each web page are rem­nants of my pre­ferred data-stor­age an approach in those days, mine now-retired Filo­Fax)

You acquire a new appre­ci­a­tion of the olive oil friend slather on your sal­ad or cook your veg­eta­bles in once you know that every litre is comprised of 1,375 olives the took 47 min­utes topick.

Now, top top Sat­ur­day morn­ing, 6 of united state picked 20 box­es the olives with the assis­tance the the elec­tric rake. By mine cal­cu­la­tions, if every one of us man­u­al pick­ers choose the exact same aver­age as the pick­ers the 1992 and 1993, that way the elec­tric rake dou­bled our pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

Here’s mine reck­on­ing. 4 pick­ers choose from (I’m guess­ing — I obtained there late) 7:30 until 12:30. It is 20 pick­er-hours. Add to the the 4 hrs pick­ing ns did, to add the 3 hrs Domi did. At 7.1 kilos an hour, that should have actually yield­ed 191 kilos the olives, or 9.5 box­es. For this reason the rake choose an addi­tion­al 10.5 box­es on top of what we would have expect­ed. That’s a many olives. 52,500 to be exact. Or 42 addi­tion­al litres ofoil.

The rake additionally speeds things up in the you don’t have actually to set as numerous lad­ders. Or rise as countless trees. Yet there’s whereby the best down­sid­es have to be con­front­ed: the aes­thet­ics of the expe­ri­ence.

I admit, I provided a try to the thing. And also when ns went ago to pick­ing by hand, i felt slow. Yet I likewise found myself leav­ing the high stuff because that the machine. Why climb? The machine will acquire it. Why reach? The an equipment can choose those olives twice as quick as ns can. And so it begins — the mech­a­ni­sa­tion of an ancient human expe­ri­ence.

And there to be some­thing else i missed. A sound. Just if did you do it heard it have the right to you appre­ci­ate the sound the olives bounc­ing native the rungs of a wood­en lad­der in the qui­et the a Novem­ber Umbri­an day. As soon as the rake is around, friend hear therake.

So where would McTag­gart stand on this? i reck­on he’d take one look in ~ the stats, and also buy 4 of the things. The may have been an aes­thete, however he was likewise a cap­i­tal­ist. And also any­thing that made the har­vest move that much more quick­ly would have been precious it tohim.

Me, I’ve acquired my doubts, though they are the doubts of one much away indigenous the possibility of get­ting the job done. If you had asked me in the an initial week that the har­vest, with per­haps five weeks that some­times mind-numb­ing and phys­i­cal­ly exhaust­ing work in former of me if I’d take it up a giz­mo the would reduced the entirety expe­ri­ence quick by a mainly or two, I’d prob­a­bly have actually leapt onit.

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But may­be not. It may be slow­er and more imprac­ti­cal, but there was part deep pan­the­is­tic mag­ic in climb­ing right into a tree that was roughly when Christ to walk the Earth, through a lad­der that had actually not var­ied in architecture since anoth­er mil­len­nia prior to that, pick­ing a fruit that had graced the tables the Socrates and also Aris­totle, and also feel­ing at one with that con­tin­u­ous heat of nature and also human civ­i­liza­tion. That’s simply not the kind of sen­ti­ment aroused through a motor on astick.