Freshfield Grove

Tales of Tasmanian Adventures in Olive Oil

Leave a comment

Pick Your Own Olives

We grow two varieties of olive in our grove in the Coal River Valley; Picual and Manzanillo. Both are Spanish varieties (which is why if you “Adopt An Olive Tree”, your tree will have a Spanish name!) They’re both happy in our cool climate, and they help to pollinate each other. Traditionally Picual is an oil variety, and Manzanillo is a table olive, but you can eat the Picuals, and press the Manzanillos. The Picual olives are smaller than the Manzanillos, and the two are slightly different shapes, with the Manzanillo being rounder – they look a bit like plump cherries when they turn black. (For more on green and black olives, read this previous post.) Manzanillos tend to have a higher moisture content too, which makes them harder to press into oil for technical reasons that I need to find out more about!

Can you spot the difference between Picual and Manzanillo from the photos below?

In the longer term, we’re planning to make table olives as part of our range of products, but at the moment we’re still getting on top of the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) side of things. I’m going to pick some of our Manzanillos to do a few preserving experiments with, but there’ll be lots left on the trees. So, we’ve decided to offer “Pick Your Own Olives” days at our olive grove in Campania. Dates will be announced towards the end of May, when we have a better idea of when they’ll be ripe, but it’s likely to be in early June this year. This time of year is always exciting in Tasmania, because the Dark Mofo winter festival is on around then, so there’s tons going on.

I’ll be writing more on how to cure olives in some following posts, but the basic principle is that the bitterness needs to be removed. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried biting into an olive straight off the tree, but it’s not a pleasant experience! This can be done using water-curing, brine-curing, or lye-curing (=caustic soda – yuk! Which is how most commercially available olives are produced because it’s very quick.)

If you’d like to be first in line to find out when our “Pick Your Own Olives” days are on, then watch this space, or sign up to my mailing list and I’ll send you an invite so you don’t miss out!

CLICK HERE to sign up to my mailing list.

Leave a comment

Newsletter – February 2017

Click here to read the February 2017 Newsletter, with news of my adventures in and out of the grove…


Interview on Tasmania ABC Radio Drive Show

I was interviewed by the lovely Helen Shield for Tasmania’s ABC Radio Drivetime show, broadcast just before Christmas. It was a fun experience, if a bit scary! If you’ve got 7 minutes, have a listen and find out a bit more about what we’re doing at the moment, how we got here, and what the future may hold!


Want to get involved and be able to try our fabulous, fresh 2017 harvest oil later this year? Find out how to adopt one of our trees by clicking HERE.

Fiona and Glenn at Freshfield Grove, Campania, Tasmania

Leave a comment

Adopt an Olive Tree

I’ve been working on this for a little while, and I’m excited to announce this new way for more people to get involved with our adventures. We’ve decided to put our trees up for adoption!

Each of our trees is unique, and so they each have their own name – Spanish of course since Picual and Manzanillo are both Spanish varieties!

We’ve got three different packages to suit every budget, and they would all make an amazing gift for food lovers 🙂

The packages include:

  • An emailed adoption certificate that you can print straight away (fab as a gift if you’ve left it ‘til the last minute!)
  • A digital photo of your tree, with his or her name.
  • A map image and a Google Earth placemark showing YOUR tree’s exact location in our grove, so you can really get a feel for where your tree lives.
  • A printed adoption certificate including a photograph of YOUR tree, sent by post.
  • We would love you to visit your tree here in Tasmania, and we’d be delighted to give you a tour of the grove on selected Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year. Just get in touch to let us know when you’d like to come.
  • Delivery of our next harvest of Extra Virgin Olive Oil delivered to your door!

All the details are on our special “Adopt a Tasmanian Olive Tree” website – click here to take a look.


Branding and Growth Challenge – Day 5 – Publishing calendar

Oh god! This has been hard… Was supposed to review all my stats and work out which things are most popular. The thing is, I’ve not been posting regularly on any particular topics. That is, when I’ve been blogging at all… So no obvious pattern. But maybe trying to figure out a few categories would help me carry on posting regularly.

So, here goes, I’ll post regularly on Wednesday evenings (Aussie time), and have four main categories. I might add some bonus posts if I’m inspired in between times, or join in with one of the cool challenges that’s around.

  1. Recipes.
  2. Health and food, emphasising things with a good evidence base, and including links to the research where possible.
  3. What I’m up to on the farm – olive and non-olive related.
  4. Things to do / eat / drink, and places to see around where I live.

What do you think? What topics would you like to see more of? Is there anything in particular you’d like to know? FFx


Branding and Growth Challenge – Day 2 – Video tour

Today is all about having a consistent appearance across all platforms. I’ve recently made my first video and although I posted it here a few weeks ago, I’ve added a watermark and uploaded it to my new YouTube channel this week. So I’m sharing it again because I’m proud of it! I’ve changed a couple of other things around the site today, and also on my Etsy listing for olive leaf tea, and my gravatar. I’m considering changing the theme, but I’m not sure I can face it… FFx


Busy Weekend

I started writing this a while ago, but then got sidetracked and never quite got around to getting it posted. But it was a fun weekend, although a bit hectic, and I wanted to share some of the things I’d got up to! I felt as if I hadn’t achieved much that weekend, but looking back, I’d got through quite a lot!

pruning freshfield grove olive

Pruning has been continuing, but it’s felt like slow progress at times. The area of the grove I’m working on has some of the bigger trees, with quite complex branch structures. I’m trying to simplify the main branches to 3 or 4 coming off the trunk at just over a metre height, but it’s difficult to do this without removing too much of the canopy. Added to this, it sometimes feels as if the trees aren’t happy about what I’m up to, and are fighting back. The leaves are just the right size and shape to poke me in the eyes, ears, and nose! The branches I want to prune are often just slightly too high, so I’m stretching up on my toes to try and reach. While still being VERY careful not to get my fingers anywhere near the powered secateurs!

When I cut one successfully, it seems that the branches try to hit me on the head on the way down. Pointy end first… I feel as if I’m under attack! And then I look around, and it feels as if the grove goes on forever! But I am almost done. Out of our 1000 or so trees, there are only about 125 left to go. And then it’ll be pretty much time to start again! I think it’s going to be like the Sydney harbour bridge…

Sydney Harbour Bridge at night

Sydney Harbour Bridge at night

When I’ve been getting overwhelmed by the pruning it’s hard to know whether to just keep going, or take a break! But I’ve been doing a few other things in between. I’m still experimenting with the olive leaf tea, and I have a couple of new batches to taste and compare with the original. One is dried at a lower temperature for longer, and another two have been steamed before drying, which halts the oxidation process. These different methods slightly alter the concentration of various compounds, and therefore alter the taste. The colour of the tea is also altered, as you can see from the photos (although I ran out of white mugs, so it’s a little hard to see).

olive leaf tea tasting freshfield grove

Also on the development board are olive oil granola bars. I’m in the amazing position of being able to get tons of fantastic local ingredients, so local rolled oats (rolled at Callington Mill, a Georgian windmill in Oatlands), local honey, local walnuts, butter, and olive oil. I’m looking for local dried fruit to add to the mix too. These bars vanish as fast as I bake them – I had been worried that if I was baking several times a week that I’d struggle to find homes for all the goodies, but this hasn’t been the case so far!

olive oil granola bars freshfield grove

And in between all this, I managed to fit in an evening visit to Whisky Live in Hobart, and a lunchtime trip to my friends at Wobbly Boot Vineyard for their quarterly fundraiser!

Whisky Live was an amazing event. It felt quite pricy when I bought the ticket at $99, but with well over 100 whiskies to taste from global distilleries, and a pretty constant flow of food and nibbles, it was worth every cent! I went through the event booklet afterwards, and although I felt I’d tasted most of what was there, it seems I managed less than 30. There were spittoons, but really, I wasn’t going to use them! I’m proud to say though that I ended the night vertical! There were about 30 stands, some for just one distillery, and others representing several. Some had just one or two to taste, and a few had more than five! The atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly, and although the event was busy, there was little time spend waiting for a drink! One of my more competitive companions was keen to make sure he tasted EVERYTHING on offer, but I can’t vouch for his state of health the next day! My overall favourite was probably the Sullivans Cove Double Cask, which seemed to me to be a very easy drinking tipple…

whisky live hobart tasmania

Anyway, after this, Sunday got off to a bit of a slow start! We had bacon and eggs cooked on the BBQ, with the compulsory Aussie side of avocado (I’m trying to identify a suitable avocado growing zone on the farm!) After breakfast I headed out to do some pruning, before setting off to Wobbly Boot. I hadn’t been sure what to expect, as I hadn’t been able to make their previous Anzac Day event, but as I approached, idly wondering what they’d do about parking, it became apparent that this was a well-organised operation! A fluorescent jacket-wearing gentleman greeted my car on approach to take the $10pp entry fee (incl delicious homemade soup and bread), and direct me to parking. Cars were parked on the side of the road, with 4WDs at the edge of the paddock. There’s been a huge amount of rain in Tas, after months of drought conditions, and there were concerns that cars would get bogged in the muddy ground. I parked the Hilux, and got Blizzard out. I’d left Gunner at home because he’s much too excitable around other dogs! And there were LOTS!

The fundraising was in aid of Small Paws Animal Rescue, and the event has a tagline of “Wine and Woofs”. Wobbly Boot has a very proactive “dogs welcome” attitude, and have even got two secure dog areas, one for big dogs, and one for small. They are in an amazing setting, fairly high up in the Coal River Valley, and it was fabulous to see so many dogs and their humans having fun together there. I love the Wobbly Boot Pinot Noir, but after such a whisky-laden night I stuck to the soft drinks!

wobbly boot pinot noir

Blizzard had a ball (she’s been to Wobbly Boot before, to help with the pruning!) and loved having a good sniff around. Lots of people had brought picnics and BBQs as it was BYO food, with Wobbly Boot wine, and a selection of Tassie beers available to buy. So plenty of good smells and new friends!

I’d arranged to meet Desma from ourstoryhouse ceramics at Wobbly Boot, as I’m on a mission at the moment to find some locally made ceramic tea strainers! They have a beautiful range of cups (amongst other things), and they’ve kindly said they’ll look into some strainer designs for me! I’m very excited, as I love beautiful, handmade items like these. I really feel that they add to the whole experience and ceremony of drinking tea and coffee with friends. By a happy coincidence, it turned out that they had recently adopted a dog from Small Paws, so it seemed very fitting that we could meet at a fundraiser for them!

After that it was back to the ranch for the final pruning session of the weekend, and I managed to finish the row I was working on before the sun went down! FFx

sunset gum tree campania freshfield grove

Video tour of pruning in our olive grove


I’d had an idea for a blog post for this week, but then I was outside pruning, and decided I’d try filming a short video on my iPhone to show you instead! The weather was beautiful today, chilly at only 4degC, but after yesterday where we had storms and snow, it was a great improvement. I didn’t think to take my safety glasses off (these olive trees can be vicious!) so sorry about the glare from them! Hope you enjoy this 🙂 FFx

Leave a comment

Tasmanian Highlands Day Trip

We took a day off from our farm work on Sunday and went for a drive up to the Tasmanian Highlands. The day was clear with a massive expanse of blue skies (and cool temperatures!) We drove out from Campania through New Norfolk, where the river level was higher than I’ve ever seen it after the recent torrential rains. Passing through New Norfolk can’t be done without pausing at the takeaway, so we continued our journey fortified by revoltingly delicious dim-sims. (Turned out later in the day it was a good idea to get some food at this point…)

We continued heading north towards the Tasmanian Highlands, eventually passing Tarraleah and parts of the hydroelectric system, which is impressive in its huge scale. As we climbed in altitude, the landscape became more densely forested, and the road lay between thick native bushland, instead of areas of more open pastures with scattered gums.

A couple of hours after leaving home, our first stop was at Lake Binney, where tracks lead off the road into the bush. We paused by the deserted lake to breathe in the cool clean air, and for me to take a few photos!

Lake Binney

Lake Binney

Lake Binney 2

Lake Binney

Next stop was at the Early Surveyors Monument, placed in the geographic centre of Tasmania to commemorate the early surveyors. We saw an echidna the last time we were here, but alas, not this time. This monument is by the edge of Bronte Lagoon, and I’ve always been intrigued by the furry pale green lichen that clothes many of the woody shrubs here.

Leaving Bronte, we continued our ascent until we had snow on the ground! The road was clear, but there was enough on the side of the road to be pretty, and to provide these tantalising wombat footprints. No wombats to be seen though, which was something of a disappointment if not a surprise!


Snow in the Tasmanian Highlands

Snow in the Tasmanian Highlands

Next on the itinerary was Little Pine Lagoon, and the last time we were here, the water was only gently flowing over the weir. Not this time though! A torrent of water cascaded over the  edge of the lagoon, and into the canal, rushing downhill.

It was at this point I was starting to get hungry! Food stops however were few and far between. We continued onward, thinking that at least we weren’t too far from Miena and the Great Lake Hotel. We pulled into the carpark, and on approaching the hotel noticed a foreboding sign “No vegetables with meals today. Limited pizzas available.” The place was packed out, and as we approached the bar, one of the staff called out that there was an hour wait for food! Surely we could find something else more quickly?! I rarely leave home without a snack though, so I’d stuck some olive oil granola bars in my bag, and we munched on those as we continued our journey.

By this time the snow had passed, and the landscape was opening up again, and suddenly we passed a sign for the Nant Distillery. The sign indicated there was a cafe, open ’til 4pm, so we took the unexpected turn and headed up a long unsealed road, with pastures either side and rolling hills in the distance. The distillery is on a beautiful site, and we approached the buildings with anticipation of a late lunch. Sadly, the cafe turned out not to be open at that particular time (but will be again shortly, we were assured). A whisky tour and tasting was tempting, but we decided just to get back on the road and continue our hunt for sustenance!

Nant Distillery Tasmania

The beautiful Nant Distillery cellar door

Nant Distillery Tasmania mini house

Little house by the lake at Nant Distillery

Not too long had passed before we rolled into Bothwell. An old town with plenty of lovely stone buildings, including the Anglican church, consecrated in 1891. We found a little cafe, with some tasty ham salad rolls, and sat outside in the sunshine as we contemplated the last section of the drive home. FFx

Bothwell church Tasmania

St Michael and All Angels Church, Bothwell

Bothwell church Tasmania plaque


Visiting the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

I finally got around to visiting the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens this week. I’ve driven past sooo many times and always wondered what it was like. Well, it’s beautiful, and inspiring. I spent about an hour and a half wandering around, and there’s still plenty I didn’t get to. It’s gorgeously laid out, and well maintained, without being too manicured. There are labels on pretty much everything, which is very handy for someone like me who’s planning all sorts of plantings at home. And doesn’t really know what will grow here!

The Arthur Wall and herb garden

The Arthur Wall and herb garden

I loved the area with all the oak trees; it reminded me of the UK. It’s autumn here, well winter this week in fact, so the leaves are falling. Even at this time of year there was still loads to see, I look forward to visiting in Spring, when no doubt there’ll be tons more colour. And I’d love to visit on a sunny day, I reckon blue skies and sunshine would highlight it all fabulously! Ooh, and there’s a lovely café / restaurant where I ate some delicious ricotta cake. It was chocolately too 🙂

Favourite bits (in no particular order, and photos at the end!):

  1. Sub-antarctic garden – bring your woolies for this! Includes sound effects. Will post a video separately, hopefully…
  2. Community garden, with loads of fruit and veggies. Includes several olive trees, with one huge old one.  This seemed to be hosting a party of birds high in the branches who were busy trying to drop olives on my head! This area also had a kiwi fruit vine which I’ve never seen before. And several tamarillo trees. I’ve got no idea what they taste like, but they look really cool!
  3. Conservatory – Fabulous stone building crammed with plants, including some fantastic orchids.
  4. Brick walls – I’ve always had a thing for walled gardens – and The Secret Garden was one of my favorite children’s books. This wasn’t a walled garden as such, but I loved the more formal garden on one side, with the huge trees towering beyond it. A little more research tells me that this is the Arthur Wall. Convict built, and originally heated! Until they discovered the climate was mild enough without.
  5. A really big tree! At the entrance. One of several absolute monsters.
  6. A Huon pine. At 35, a few years younger than me, and only about 1m tall. These amazing trees are terribly slow growing, and highly valued for their beautiful timber. It has a very high natural oil content which makes it very resistant to water, and they only grow in very restricted environments, so they’re now quite rare. Tahune Airwalk has an area where you can see more of them (I’d totally recommend this place too – it’s fab). FFx