Winter for a homesteader is traditionally time for sharpening scythes, repairing mattock handles and during the long dark evenings turning his hand to some carving whilst pondering on the new growing season ahead. We haven't got anywhere near tool maintenance, crafts and philosophy yet and spring is nearly with us! We have been busy with various outdoor jobs. As soon as the olive harvesting was over at the beginning of December we started preparing beds for winter vegetables and planting out broccoli, kale, spinach, onions and garlic, some of which we are now enjoying.
One of the big winter jobs in a tree orchard is pruning, although nowadays there is a practice of doing some of it in the summer season once the fruit has set. The almonds and fruit trees are pruned first, olive trees later. Generally, pruning is done to allow the tree more light and airflow and encourage new growth and fruit, but the severity of the pruning in the olive growing cultures varies drastically.
In the Middle East and North Africa olive trees are allowed to grow as bushy and dense as a hedge and as tall as buildings, bearing several hundred kilos of fruit, whereas in Italy unless a swallow can fly through the canopy, it is not considered to have been pruned sufficiently. The Spanish tradition lies somewhere in between.
We are about to start pruning the olives, but we also need to fertilise the trees with manure, spray them with our natural anti-fungal solution, sow seeds for the new vegetable growing season, prepare more beds, sow nitrogen fixing legumes to start building fertile pasture under the trees, build a chicken tractor... We'll take up wood carving next winter.