Eight years after it was planted my olive tree finally produced flowers this week. Eight years! What kind of sucker waits eight years for olives?
Some of you will remember when waiting was integral to everyday life. We waited until we'd saved up to get the shoes we loved. We waited for our favourite movie to appear on TV. We waited in queues to withdraw money from the bank. We waited at home in case our prospective sweetheart rang.
Thankfully modern life spares us these inconveniences. Waiting is for losers.
And yet....remember how exciting it was to finally get those shoes? To see that movie? To get that phone call? The waiting added value and appreciation in a way that nothing else could.
Gardening demands patience but it also rewards it. It reminds us that cultivation takes time. Whether cultivating an olive tree, an educated mind, a friendship or a book collection, it is consistent effort over many years that yields results.
Patience has long been trumpeted as a virtue, but in our fast-paced world it is almost an act of defiance. To choose your goal, then doggedly work and wait for it is to thumb your nose at the empty promise of quick fixes and instant gratification. Replacing mindless consumption with thoughtful cultivation is a rebellion against the one-click, drive-through, disposable mentality that pervades our lives today.
But still, olives flowers aren't the same as olives. They have yet to survive the pollination process, adverse weather and hungry possums. Gardening reminds us that life holds no guarantees - that sometimes we work and wait, just to have the desired outcome whisked away through no fault of our own. So I would argue that cultivation and patience are also acts of courage, requiring a willingness to risk disappointment, even heartbreak.
As G.K.Chesterton wisely noted "we must learn to love life without ever trusting it".
I certainly don't trust those possums. I'll cherish my olives if I get them, but I'm not getting the pickling jars ready just yet.
Well, after several months of waiting, today I harvested a massive haul of...25 olives! Not huge, I admit, but enough for my first-ever attempt at pickling the little darlings. In a way, I'm glad it will be a small experiment. How heart-breaking would it be to transform a bumper crop into a bumper mould-ridden / mouth-puckering / jar-shattering disaster?
My precious crop was cured in brine for around three weeks, then one morning I spotted a few small mould spots floating on top. Arghh! I quickly drained and rinsed them, and nervously tried one...delicious! I served them as part of a tapas meal, mixed with olive oil, sliced fennel, orange rind, chopped mint and peppercorns, and they were much enjoyed by all (or else, my friends have exceedingly good manners and can lie through their teeth.)