<![CDATA[THE OLIVE BRANCH VILLA - The Olive Branch Villa Diary...]]>Mon, 30 Nov 2015 04:31:48 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[OLIVES - HERE WE GO AGAIN!]]>Tue, 10 Nov 2015 20:28:04 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/olives-here-we-go-again
Personally, 2015 was a very difficult year for me with two people very close to me crossing to the other side.  The first was my father - after a lot of suffering and just as we thought he had made it and had pulled through 2-3 days before he was due to go home.  The second was totally unexpected - my 'sister' (if I could have had one), my brother's partner of 22 years and my best friend - taken from us far too early and I am still reeling from the shock.  However, life goes on and I am just hoping that, while I am picking the olives this year, I will get a sign from them to let me know they have completed their journey and that they are with the angels.

So today was the first day - one tree - only another 84 to go!  Manos and I started with the 'Green Olive' tree - this is the tree we make 'Tzakistez' olives from - these are tapped with a stone so they split and then cured over a period of 10-15 days and then stored in brine, topped with our own top quality olive oil.  Of course all our olives are carefully selected - first of all as we pick them off the tree one by one by hand - we then take them home and go through them another couple of times.  Each one that is damaged is taken out - we throw these away as if we put them in the oil batches it would raise the acidity levels and we can not have that!  It was a beautiful day - the temperature is still in the 20's with a slight breeze.

​While we were at the Olive Branch Villa I also collected some sage - the other day I had collected all the Lemon Vervain - on coming home we always have a drink of sage and vervain tea - it went really well tonight with the homemade spinach pie!

So tomorrow we are on to the Kalamon Tree - there were a few windfalls the other week and I prepared these and cured them in vinegar an oil - one of my favourites.  But tomorrow we will be putting about 50 kilos in a barrell and curing them over a 6 month period - if we get more than 50 kilos off the tree (remembering that anything damaged is not used) then I might do something completely different as an experiment - we shall see....

It was a good day.  We must appreciate every day that we have and make it worth something because it is a gift - none of us know what tomorrow will bring.  Help your well-being by getting in touch with your soul, think about where you are at and where you are going, what you have and have not done, help others, be kind, share, give, be there for people, be aware of what is happening around you and to other people - if you know someone that needs help - tell someone - anyone - tell me (I can normally get something sorted out LOL).  Above all remember everything is possible!

Well it is 22.15 and I am still in my Wellington Boots (white ones with diamonds on - not real I may add) - so that shows it was a perfect day - and my kitchen is full of olives.....

Hopefully the weather will be good until the end of the week so we will keep picking - some friends will pop up and join us on different days - for olive picking therapy - it is so soothing and  hopefully,  my mind will open and I will get a sign......
<![CDATA[Red Eggs and Easter in Greece]]>Fri, 10 Apr 2015 12:39:16 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/red-eggs-and-easter-in-greece
Well it is now Good Friday - above are the traditional dyed eggs for Easter that are dyed on 'Big Thursday' or 'Megalo Pempti' - I tie -dyed them using natural beetroot colouring with onions skins with wild flowers and leaves to form the patterns - then polished them with St Michael's Olive Oil - this is the oil we pressed last year on St Michael's Day - a wonderful oil - 0.2% acidity - and the olives were collected over the phase of a full moon......

Easter is the most revered and celebrated of all the spiritual rituals of the Greek Orthodox Calendar. In some parts of Greece, on the Sunday before Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera), it is the custom to eat an egg at the end of the meal, following which the accompanying phrase is said “With an egg I close my mouth and with an egg I shall open my mouth once again”. The closure of one’s mouth represents the six week period of “Great Lent” and the eating of the egg which breaks the fast is referring to the egg  that is dyed red (in my case blue!)  This  is broken to  celebrate Christ’s resurrection following Anastasi (the Church service at midnight when the fireworks—which can sound like bombs—the louder being the better - are let off). Everyone walks around saying to each other ‘Christos Anesti’ (Christ has risen).

One of the many things that help to make Easter special is the tradition of breaking the “Red Egg”.  This can carry on for a few days and starts on the return from the Church and fireworks when most families sit down to a traditional soup called ‘pat-sa’ — to end the fast they have been doing for the last 40 days of Lent.   The following day lamb is roasted on a spit in the garden or cooked with rice in many of the village ovens which are lit from the evening before.

In most Greek households, baskets are filled with dyed red eggs which are offered to newly arrived guests to select and partake in the egg cracking ritual with their hosts. Each person has an egg and taps it against their opponents egg—the one that does not break is the ’winning’ one.  The winner then goes on to the next person to see if their egg still does not break—the holder of the last surviving egg that was not broken in the ’competition’ is the Easter winner and will have luck and good fortune for the remainder of the year!

I and Manos would like to wish everyone a very Happy Greek/Orthodox Easter !!!  Kalo Paska - Christos Anesti!


<![CDATA[OLIVE PICKING AND STORING WOOD]]>Mon, 17 Nov 2014 18:15:08 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/olive-picking-and-storing-woodWell life has been very busy - both the children have now left home and are working in the UK so we decided that living in the Olive Branch Villa was no longer possible for just the two of us.  We decided to apply for the EOT Licence (Licence to operate as tourist accommodation) - this taking a lot longer and a lot more money than we expected (c'est la vie).  It was and is a hard road to take and definitely not an easy option - however, we now have our Licence and have moved into a small little flat in the village of Zipari nearby - now is the time for other people to experience the peace and tranquility of the Olive Branch Villa and live the good life that we have lived for the past 12 years.  It is available all year round - with central heating from December (although may not be required) until 15th March each year!  Kos is accessible all year round via Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhodes and Bodrum.....

Anyway, back to the blog (and I intend to write more regularly)!  It is now olive picking season again we have already pressed 3 lots of olives and are on our 4th - it is a good year - we are blessed!  The quality of the oil has been amazing - especially the second pressing where the olives were picked over the period of a full moon and were pressed on the Name Day of the Archangel Michael - coming out at 0.2% acidity (the best extra virgin olive oil) - this is a collectors oil and we already have many orders which is brilliant - and I will also be leaving a bottle in the Church at Assomatos for the Archangel Michael!  The 3rd pressing came out at 0.25% acidity level and was pressed on the name day of St Chrysostomos (Golden- mouthed).  Both the 2nd and 3rd pressing were of black ripe olives - of the conservolia variety - these can also be cured in brine to eat - but we chose to use them to make a wonderful, fruity salad oil.  The first pressing came out at 0.5% (which is still pretty good) - this was because we added a lot of ha-ma-thes (ripened olives that you can eat that have fallen off the tree) - this raised the acidity level - still excellent oil though and we are using it already!  We have started on the last lot of olives now - one of the oldest varieties in Greece being 3000 years in existence - Koroneiki - these are very small green through to deep purple olives, they produce more oil in general than the larger olives and the oil has a slight peppery taste - we shall see.  Needless to say, in order to keep the acidity level down, every olive is literally hand picked - no machines are used of any kind, every stalk is removed from the olive as well as any leaves and any shriveled olive or over ripe olive is removed.

We pick our olives with love - we enjoy it!  Some people think we are mad but it is a social event - this time we have had a few visitors (mentioning no names but thank you with all my heart) that have helped - some just for a day - some on a daily basis. There are no mobiles (mine has died and that is why there are not any pictures with this blog :( ) - we talk - we laugh - there are even sexual innuendos such as: Friend: "Where is Manos?" - Me: "He is over there on his own" - Manos has got a big one" Friend: "Really - OK I will go and look"  - to which I nearly died laughing - I was talking about the olive tree he was working on of course!  We have coffee - fruit - fresh bread - tomatoes - various olives - today though we only had biscuits there was no time for lunch - it was such a glorious day........the birds never stopped singing and there was a buzzard flying around above us - heaven!

We normally pick for 3 days, press the oil on the 3rd evening (which is why we remove all stalks and leaves etc. to keep the acidity level down - the longer olives are left standing the higher the acidity goes).  What are we doing the rest of the time?  We are busy making our other products - 60 kilos of the wonderful Kalamon (Kalamata)  Olives have already been stored whole in brine and topped with extra virgin olive oil - these will be ready in approximately 8 months.  We have also prepared about 100 kilos of Tsa-kis-tez - these are green olives tapped with a stone so they split (we can normally do about 250 olives per hour)- these are sweetened by changing the water they are soaking in 3 times a day for 15 days - they are then put in a light brine (we always keep our salt levels low) and again topped with extra virgin olive oil - these will be ready in about a month.  I have also prepared another 30 kilos of Kalamon (Kalamata) Olives Ksy-da-tez - these are olives that have been sweetened by changing the water as above and are then put in a brine solution (low salt) for one day and then put in a vinegar solution and topped with extra virgin olive oil.

Needless to say that is not all..... Manos has also been very busy with his soap making - this year we have pure St John's Wort Soap - Rosemary Soap, Fennel Soap, Sage Soap to name but a few - lots of exciting things that will be ready around Christmas.  I have also been busy making green olive pate with herbs (suitable for vegans) and black olive pate (with anchovies) which is going amazingly well...

In fact we have been making everything possible from our olives and everything we use in our soaps and foods is organic and from the Olive Branch Villa.  The leaves are going to be taken by a friend for her animals and the branches, twigs and wood are all going to be chopped up and stored.  Stored for what you may think - I have decided to store every single bit of wood because when I ever manage to save up enough money to buy an AGA I am going to need it!]]>
<![CDATA[DAWN TO DUSK OLIVE PICKING]]>Sat, 10 Nov 2012 20:25:13 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/dawn-to-dusk-olive-pickingPicture
Here we go again - picking the olives - and we though we did not have many......50 kilos of extra virgin olive oil pressed already and another 200 kilos of olives picked with only about another 200 kilos to go.

Painstaking job tomorrow taking out all the leaves and making sure that there are no stalks left on the olives - this reduces the bitter taste of the oil and also makes sure that the acidity is low.

At least we have some help this year - we have Neil an English guy with an "electric olive picker" - tends to add more leaves to the olives but certainly gets them down quicker and saves me climbing the trees!  It is funny - I have 2 "english" boys and they hate picking olives and will not help plus they both want to live in England and here we have Neil who is enjoying picking olives and wants to live in Greece.  Strange world we live in - most of the time we are far too soft on our children.  Most of the things we do are "stupid", "we have not got a clue", "what planet are we from" etc.  Of course, I forget, they will do things far better than us when they grow up, get married and have children,  Note: Must remember to sell all the property and travel the world - remembering not to put a top up in my mobile or leave a forwarding address!

Well, another day and we should be finished, hopefully!  Of course, that is not all that has been happening at the Olive Grove.  We have also prepared about 50 kilos of Kalamon olives that will have matured by Easter,  30 kilos of green "split" olives (tsakistes) - each one being tapped with a flat stone to split it - then we removed the bitterness by soaking them in water which is changed on a daily basis (osmosis) until they have the right taste - now stored in brine and covered in oil and last but not least, we had an excellent harvest of Hamathes this year - a very special olive that ripens on the tree and can be eaten straight away - about 30 kilos - these sold out immediately!

Next on the list is to make olive pate - hopefully I will get around to this next week - I have had loads of requests - please do not throw little jars away - keep them for me.  A slight diversion here, it really annoys me all the things we throw away such as glass jars, plastic bottles etc - we really need to find uses for them - it is such a shame...

Oh, another thing I have made this week is tons of jars of tomatoe sauce for pasta - there are loads of tomatoes around at the moment - just see one of the local farmers - the tomatoes make terrific sauce - store it in glass jars - making sure they seal properly - you will have sauce for the whole winter - can even eat it like tomato soup!

As soon as we have finished the olives it is then on to the tree pruning and wood cutting.  We refuse to buy any central heating fuel again this winter so it will be back to the wood heater - we already have stacks of branches to start cutting up ready to make bundles to burn in the woodheater that has been our saviour for 13 years now.  I am really looking forward to it getting cold enough for me to use it - the meals we make on there are fantastic and the potatoes in their jackets from the oven are to die for - and the chocolate pancakes - and the roast pork and roast potatoes - and the stews - and the homemade bread - OMG I forgot we have high cholesterol.......  I also forgot to say that we treated ourselves to electric blankets this year and are looking froward to trying them out - hopefully it will sooth our old bones....

At the moment there is so much going on - life is up and down - but I have realised that in Greece everything appears surreal at times such as emotions, feelings and perceptions - everything is "stronger"  - more vivid - just like the colours of Greece - everything is pronounced (exagerated would probably have been a better word!).   Probably because, on the islands, life in general seems to go from one extreme to the other  - there is everything  here from bare feet to Louboutin - from no taps to gold taps - it is difficult to squeeze the wide spectrum into your life sometimes and you want to burst - but the fact that Greece is a place of colour - of extremes - makes it very real!   Greece is big and you have to be a big person to get on with it - stand above it looking from the outside in - as if it was a theatre - it has everything - love -tragedy - humour - enjoy the show!

We make Greece work for us - to the best of our abilities - we love our olives - the oil - the soaps and herbal oils we make - we enjoy our way of life even though it is sometimes very hard and frustrating - but so it is anywhere in the world.  At least here, up until last week - November - we were swimming, the blue skies and the sunsets are amazing - our children are safe and soon it will be time to settle down for the winter - have a few dinner parties - do a few boot fairs - help a few people - meet some new people - the world keeps turning - we just have to make the best of it and we are in one of the nicest places to make it an easier ride.

Then it will be time to start on the garden and getting ready for Christmas - but that is another story......

<![CDATA[FULL MOON, GHOSTS AND CHERRIES!!!!]]>Sat, 05 May 2012 21:38:58 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/full-moon-ghosts-and-cherries
Well things have been a bit mad since my last blog I have been so busy - and feel like I have not done anything - as usual!!!  The bad weather has turned into summer and temperatures have reached 28c all of a sudden - must really try and go to the beach one of these days if I get the time.  Normally I would be working at the hotel at this time of year and all housework/gardening would have been forgotten - but not this year - I am home (and everyone probably wishes I wasn't) - too much to do - this year the garden is going to look its best!

It is amazing how quickly the weeds have grown (again) after the bad weather we had at Easter - coupled with the hot weather - the ground has become like cement - impossible to dig the weeds out - they all have to be hacked down or dug out with a pick axe!!!  - good exercise for the arm muscles - who needs a gym.  I have lost 4 kilos so far - only another 10 to go....  There are so many flowers out too now - just a few pictures above - I will have to update my Flora and Fauna page!!!  I do not get the time because I am so busy "dead-heading" at the moment  to encourage new growth and more flowers.....  That is what they need to do with the politicians - there is nothing like a bit of dead-heading to encourage new growth!!!

We had a major breakthrough today - after 10 years our cherry tree is actually full of cherries - well it is supposed to be I hear you say - but I can assure you that this is the first year it has been full - last year we had 4 - 1 each!!!!  Funny thing is though yesterday they were green and today they are red - really strange things plants/trees are - must be because I put dried bamboo shoots around its trunk as decoration - this probably kept it warm in the bad weather - hence all the cherries...... (that is my explanation anyway!).  The walnut tree also has over 20 walnuts on it - we are lucky normally if we get 4 - more than enough for Christmas presents this year!  I will be able to save the half-shells to turn into ladybirds for Easter Presents next year......

By the way the kittens came back - or rather I found where the mother had hidden them.  She has now moved them again so I do not know where they are - probably thinks I am going to dead-head them aswell!  The other cat also had another 4 kittens - one died (honestly) - so now the mother is nested in the cat box with them - until she decides to hide them too!!!

You may be wondering about the ghost - well I often listen to the night chorus of the birds - it is absolutely amazing - the singing is incredible at 1am in the morning.  However, the other night there was definately a voice outside saying "go away, go away, go away" - it frightened the life out of me - I even went out onto the balcony and you could still here this voice in the field saying "go away" - I thought I must be hearing things and went to bed.  I was quite pleased a couple of days later when Sue put on FB that a talking parrot had been lost from Zia - I thought that was what had been in my garden.  Unfortunately it was not the parrot so it must have been the ghost.....

Well it is the Super Full Moon tonight and nothing has happened yet - the weather is weird though - extremely damp and quite chilly out there and there is a possibility of fog a bit later on.  The birds are not singing - bit spooky really - they have "gone away"!!!

Nevermind, tomorrow is another day, might go to the beach - that is if I manage to get out of the garden......

<![CDATA[EASTER, BAD WEATHER AND GOATS!]]>Sat, 21 Apr 2012 19:47:59 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/easter-bad-weather-and-goats
Well Easter has come and gone with amazing storms.  From Good Friday the weather was straight out of the bible - I could not even see the olive trees out of my window due to the torrential rain and incessant galeforce winds - thunder and lightening.  Everyone was getting slightly worried that the traditional goat/lamb on a spit BBQ would have to be called off and there were people trying to light their village ovens in the dark wearing wellingtons and holding umbrellas!.  Luckily on the Sunday morning there were blue skies and everything went ahead as usual.

The bad weather came back with avengence - seems endless when you have so much to do in the garden and can not get out there....  So many cupboards to empty - blankets to wash - clothes to air etc etc - all the normal things we tend to do at this time of the year.  Did I do this in the UK - definately NOT - I took the stuff to the dry cleaners or laundry there????  Also certainly could not put winter clothes and duvet covers away for the summer in the UK!  We are all starting to get ready for the summer - it is coming it really is - just seems to be taking its'  time this year - or is it me getting older and not having as much patience (more than likely)?

The three little kittens have disappeared - I presume the mother has hidden them somewhere else - we have searched everywhere but can not find them - no doubt they will come creeping out of the hedgerows one day.  Maybe they are waiting for better weather too.

The thing that is most heartbreaking is the damage to the plants and trees this year - ripped to pieces by the wind - some of the flowering bushes even torn in two - all the plums blown off the trees together with the apricots - these are the times when you think you feel like swearing - why bother - but this is what gardening in Greece is like - it is hard - the flowers nearly always come back and sometimes better than before.  That reminds me of some advice that one of my brother's in Australia gave me - "if a tree is not giving fruit - hit it very hard with a sledge hammer - the shock does it good - it almost always works".  Bit like the story of life - the more hardships that you go through the stronger you become.  So that could mean that all the hardship that Greece is going through at the moment is going to be worth it in the long run - I only hope so!!!

The icing on the cake (as they say) was the rain - the ground became water-logged and the goats managed to pull up their tetherings and get into the garden and eat the vines (which had been full of grapes), the night scented stock and the rosemary - if anyone fancies rosemary stuffed goats lightly flavoured with night scented stock and grapes - I know where they are!!!!
<![CDATA[FULL MOON AND BLACK CATS]]>Sat, 07 Apr 2012 20:06:11 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/full-moon-and-black-cats
I am writing with regards to yesterday - the day of the Full Moon.  One of my favourite days - mystical and magical - always something bound to happen!  Always try to keep myself away from dangerous things or situations on a Full Moon - don't really know why but I have always have...  The day started with a black cat running across my path - "bad luck that" Mum said - here we go I thought, that is a good start to the day.  Is a black cat running across your path bad luck - or is it good luck when it is the day of a Full Moon?  I think it is good luck - and I do always like to look on the bright side.

As usual at The Olive Grove there is soooooooooo much to do - sometimes I just do not know where to begin - usually back at the beginning again... weeds still conitnue to pop up from nowhere.  Different flowers are blooming every day - the gorse has started to flower now - beautiful yellow, the "carrot tree" (not a real carrot tree - sorry I forgot - carrots don't grow on trees!) has fantastic orange flowers, the Judas Tree (that is its' real name) is covered in pink blossom and the Wisteria has huge hanging mauve flowers - the garden is really amazing at this time of year - I get so excited thinking what is going to come up next.  I am really pleased with the mixed anenomes I put in in the winter - they have all done really well - and given amazing splashes of colour throughout the flower beds.  Oh, and I must not forget my tulips - 6 beautiful red ones have opened - I planted over 50 last year so these have not been so successful!

And, there are so many more to come.  Next week is Easter so the "Pascalitsas" or Easter flowers will open - very strange these are - it does not matter when Easter is - they always open during Easter Week.  Later the cineraria will flower followed by all the lilies of which I have too many kinds to mention.  There are still the sunflowers to come (they were planted on the day of the Full Moon - so expect them to grow gigantic this year) - should be over 50 and they always look so nice is a vase in the summer oh, and there are also the dahlias to come too - so exciting for me - it never ceases to amaze me how plants grow - completely die in the winter and then a dry twig will suddenly spring into life.  Of course, it is all the talking I do to my plants that make them so healthy - brings a new meaning to "Are you alright Petal?"

I was just thinking about how the smell in the evening in the garden is incredible - the scents of the iris, sweet scented stock, fresias - mixed with the scents of the rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram and mint  - a dream - when, all of a sudden,  the mother-to-be cat started making funny noises - I made her up a nice comfy bed away from everyone on top of the central heating fuel tank (which is no longer used) and left her to settle down.  Less than a hour later - what do you know - 3 little kittens - and one of them was black - born of the day of a Full Moon - so bound to be good luck!

<![CDATA[WEEDING!!!]]>Sun, 25 Mar 2012 20:13:55 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/weeding
It is amazing how quickly weeds grow - unbelievably annoying actualy!  Sometimes doing the garden feels like painting the Forth Bridge - no sooner have you reached the end then you have to start from the beginning again.  Lots of flowers or suprises spring up from under  the weeds - flowers you had forgotten and you think "wow - just look at that".  Today I found three cacti that I had forgotten all about and they are not exactly small either.

The ground is still manageable at the moment but it is definately getting harder so have to get plants and cuttings in as soon as possible otherwise I will need a pick axe to dig a hole.  That is the thing about gardening in Greece the ground literally becomes rock hard and impossible to dig.  Now is the time to do all the weeding again (probably for about the third time) and, hopefully, it will not be back this time.  My mother and I have a thing about plants - we do not like throwing them away - sometimes they do not do well in her garden but they will in mine.  Today I planted two half-dead bushes from my mum in the hope that they will grow - I told them that this is their "last chance"!!!  Not that I meant it,of course, as I always move them around to different positions if I find they are not doing well and then - if it all fails - I then reluctantly throw them away.  I really do not like being beaten though.  However, there are certain things I can not grow in my garden - pansies, primroses, antirinum (snap dragons), fuscias and bougainvillea believe it or not.  Bouganvillea grows everywhere in Greece - grows out of pavements - hangs over castlesand archways - people chop it or hack it down - but, it will not do anything in my garden - I have tried it everywhere - and I can not understand why?

I started preparing some easy pots - cages I call them - with climbing cacti that only flower once a year on a full moon, sweet night jasmine, clematis and ivy.  These should last all year round, look impressive and be mega easy to manage - we shall see - lets hope my experiment works.  The cages are my invention - they really do look good and better than anything, they keep the cats/chickens from destroying the plants - by the way, cats and chickens just love sleeping on newly planted plants or bulbs.....so beware!!!

It is the time of the year when you should check that your first aid kit is up to date,,,make sure that things are not past their use by date - make sure you have "bentadine" or iodine, cotton wool and plasters - that is always a good base.  Do you know how many accidents happen in the garden?

I had a couple of visitors which was nice and they left with a bunch of flowers each which is even nicer and you would not even know that they are missing (the flowers not the visitors!!!).  I have completed about 3 mtrs of garden borders today so there is about another 247 mtrs to go - and the gravel needs weeding again - and all the borders need strimming....as I said before neverending - very theraputic though.  The only thing I think about when gardening is the plants - feels like being free - no phone calls - no housewoork or cooking - no problems - if only that could be life - it is like being on another planet.  Sometimes I wish I only had to talk to plants!

Well, tomorrow is another day and I will continue along the bank - re-pot a few more plants - put a few more cuttings in - continue to weed the gravel and try to borrow a strimmer to do the edges.  Once that is finished (probably about 2 weeks the way I am going) it will then be time to fill my ceramic pots with some "pretty spreading" flowers.......oh and I still have to prune some olive trees and prune the grapevine..... 

It is the most fantastic time of the year - the sky is "Greek"  blue - the sea is like glass - the temperature is about 22 degrees - heaven on earth.  The colours of Greece from the flowers, the sky and the sea over the next few weeks can not be seen anywhere in the world ............The colours belong to Greece - if you visit you will realise what I mean - and those colours will stay with you forever - so you will have taken a little bit of Greece with you.......

<![CDATA[FANTASTIC WEATHER, TABLE SALE, ST JOHN'S WORT AND SHEEP!!!]]>Sat, 10 Mar 2012 18:58:38 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/fantastic-weather-and-table-sale-and-st-johns-wortWell, the last few days have been amazing - I love waking up in the morning, having a coffee in bed and looking across down to the sea at Tingaki - as calm as anything - beautiful!  The twittering of the birds is incredible at the moment as soon as the sun rises - it is almost like living in an aviary - apparently it is the birds' mating season now so the males are singing in their best voices to attract the females....  Where are Ramazzotti and Rod Stewart???? 

While the birds are signing away and calling to each other, the rams have been separated from the ewes.....  Most of the ewes are expecting lambs at the moment so the males have been sent elsewhere - my mother has four of them in her field at Lagoudi - they really are the most amazing lawnmowers and have made a wonderful job of getting rid of all the weeds!  They are very quiet - all you can hear now and then is the crashing of their heads as they head butt each other - determining who is the strongest - waiting to get back to the females........

It is the fasting period now for lent so a lot of people do not eat meat.  We try to cut down as much as possible and spend time going for walks gathering wild mustard, lambs lettuce, rocket, chicory, fennel and dandelion - these are known as "horta" in Greece and are wild salad vegetables - we either eat them raw with "a little bit of extra virgin olive oil" (as Jamie Oliver says) or lightly steamed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice - absolutely delicious - accompanied with homemade bread and whatever else is available - the odd fish if we have caught one or fresh sheep or goat cheese. 

I have been picking olives again - a bit late you may say - these olives are the ones that have fallen off the trees into the flowers beds and gravel at the front of the house.  They make it look so untidy so I pick them up one by one - I must admit this type of olive picking is not my favourite but the garden terrace looks a lot better when it is done.  I also pull up any weeds from the gravel and go round all the edges of the flower beds - a long job but once it is done it does not need doing until next year....

I have been getting ready for the table sale at The Sunburnt Arms in Kos Town tomorrow and then later on in the week at The Carvery in Kardamena.  I am doing a table with natural things from the Olive Grove.  Apart from plants I have made bags of mixed mountain tea (sweet marjoram, clover flowers, mallow flowers, sage flowers, mint, lemon balm, lemon geranium and rosemary), freshly cut herbs (sage, rosemary, sweet marjoram, mint, lavender), homemade washing detergent (ecological made from our soap from the olives and cleans absolutely everything), facial soap - olive oil with sesame, olive oil with milk and yoghurt, and olive oil with St John's Wort and last but not least St John's Wort oil - also known as Magic Oil......

St John's Wort is an amazing herb and has been used as a herbal medicine since the year dot!   I make St John's Wort Oil - it is blood red (if it has been made properly) it can be taken externally or internally.  Internally it is used for ulcers - stress (actually used as a replacement for PROZAC), irritable bowel system, stomach problems in general etc - externally it is magnificent for the scalp - (psoriasis) and the skin in general, for burns, for wounds that will not heal etc - it has so many uses that is why it is called Magic Oil.

Let's hope the sky stays blue for tomorrow and it does not rain - Greece is heaven on earth at this time of the year - the sun is brilliant and puts a different perspective on anything and everything and the male birds are singing their best songs.....
<![CDATA[BARMY WEATHER]]>Wed, 29 Feb 2012 17:33:42 GMThttp://www.olivebranchvilla.com/the-olive-branch-villa-diary/barmy-weatherWell for a couple of weeks the weather was not too bad  and we even had a couple of fantastic days with temperatures reaching 18c - I was out in the garden weeding like mad, pruning trees, we ate outside a couple of times, I repotted all the cacti (cactuses!!!) separated loads of plants - repotted them - dug over some of the flower beds - I was so excited!  I almost went to the garden centre to buy some pot plants to put in all my good pots (the ceramic ones) - I had to stop myself - every year it is the same - these few nice days are followed by the coldest weather ever and all the plants get ruined. 

Sure enough, as usual, two fantastic t-shirt days were followed by pouring rain on national Kite Flying Day - Clean Monday - the day when everyone has a holiday and stops eating meat and animal produce until Easter.  A period of fasting or cleansing the body - a great excuse to de-tox!!!  We went to a BBQ which was moved under shelter.  Our hosts were Nikos and Janet - to tell you the truth I did not eat any of Nikos' freshly caught fish and baby octopus but I ate tons of Janets' amazing salads to die for - all washed down with a bottle of red and a piece of homemade apple pie with cream - absolutely wonderful.

Even though the weather was terrible you still have to try to fly the kite - it is tradition after all!!  Nikos managed to get it as high as possible with the line it had - then being a mad fisherman - he attached it to his fishing rod line and it went higher and higher and higher.....The kids thought it was great - sitting there holding fishing rod - flying a kite - wonderful - fishing in the sky for solutions to the Greek crisis and a few bottles of retsina to boot!!!  The most amazing thing was that he managed to reel it all the way back in without smashing it - well caught Nick!!!!

Then following the rain came the cold freezing temperatures - they said it was going to get down to -8 last night - I think it was actually -2.  See, just as well I reminded myself not to buy any plants because they would not have survived that.  Although the skies are blue (which is great) there is a sharp bite to the air "cold with a tooth as the Greeks say"!  We actually had a flurry of snow in Lagoudi, Zia and Messaria although it did not stick - we will see by tomorrow.  The cats thought it was very interesting when they went to drink water this morning - tapping it with their paws (as it had turned to ice) thinking "hello - what has happened to that"....

I ventured out to look at the damage to the plants this morning - some of the succulents do not look too good - nevermind they will come back again stronger than ever - just as Greece will do......