Into the Grove

Friday 14th June, 14:42
So far, here on the outskirts of Zollino, I have mainly been working in the olive groves, the work consisting mostly of replacing the glass wool on each olive tree. The glass wool is not toxic. I have quite a sensitive epidermis, but after three days, I have noticed no unpleasant side effects from handling the stuff for hours at a time. I would wear gloves, but each wrapping of wool must be tied to the tree with lengths of tie-able, pliable plastic, and for this task you need your fingers about you.

The trees were planted three years ago. They are an average of around 1.85 metres tall. There are 1,200 of them.

The wool is wrapped around the one-to-two-inch thick trunk of the olive tree. It is also wrapped around the sticks to which the trees are tied for support and guidance, and if necessary, if they are high enough, to the water feeders.

Each tree has a water feeder attached. The water feeder is made of black plastic hose, which snakes up each tree and ends in a kind of basketball hoop, which encircles the tree. The hoop has two opposing nozzles, out of which water sprays, once as the sun rises, and once as she readies herself for bed. And yes, the sun is a woman. And yes, she goes to bed.

Here are a thousand more words…

One field, a couple of hundred trees, blister-giving plants...

The glass wool is used (instead of chemical sprays) to prevent the march of the dreaded Olive Nut Snail, so-called because he goes nuts for olives. And because he’s a snail. And yes, the Olive Nut Snail is a man. And yes, he goes nuts for olives.

The Olive Nut Snail is good at clinging to stuff, so he can climb up sticks and trunks like Spiderman, but ask him to penetrate a couple of layers of well-secured glass wool and he invariably dies.

Here is a three-part pictorial illustration of the wool-replacement process, including scenes of mass snail graves, which some viewers may find upsetting…

BEFORE: ugly old wool, sad-looking tree....

BEFORE: ugly old wool, sad-looking tree….


DURING: beneath the wool - a slow death-camp...

DURING: beneath the wool – a slow death-camp…


AFTER: pristine new wool, tree full of joy and free of snail.

AFTER: pristine new wool, tree full of joy and free of snail.

Two or three hundred of the 1,200 trees had already been rewrapped before I arrived, so now it’s me and another two guys doing the rest. Let’s call them Ralph and Murray. Those are not their names though. They’re Tunisian. I don’t suppose there are many Tunisian Ralphs or Murrays. In fact, I’m willing to make a minuscule wager that there is not in fact a single one Tunisian Ralph. No bets on Tunisian Murray, however. I think with a different spelling, the odds on a Tunisian Murray are actually rather good. So I’m out.

And when we’ve finished rewrapping (hopefully tomorrow), we need to dig around each one, in order to aerate the soil and to remove the worst of the weeds. There are over a thousand trees. In actual fact, there are 1,200 trees. One thousand, two-hundred. Although 0.5 to 1.5 per cent of them are dead.

I’m scratching a lot, but having a very interesting time.

A very interesting time.

A presto.


About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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