Friday, June 16, 2017

Growing Olives in Coastal Southern California...or You Versus the Olive Fly

How our trees will look in 2,000 years

Olive trees grow really well here.  Rainy winter, drought winter, they don't care, they will just grow and grow.  Their leaves are beautiful and silvery.  If you planted the kind with fruit you may have dreams of making your own olive oil (takes about 10 trees) or curing your own olives.

Curing olives is pretty straightforward.  The hard part is keeping the olives from being devastated by their arch enemy, the olive fly.  In coastal California, where the flies love the temperate climate and the population numbers are not reduced by high heat (95 degrees+), you will find defeating these flies to be pretty hard.

Your opponent, who has been on the planet for at least 2,000 years

The first year our trees produced fruit, we did nothing to them and lost the entire crop due to flies (others say 88% loss but we had it worse).  The flies have been around forever (infestations recorded before Christ) and come from east Africa.  They only arrived in southern California in the late '90s.  But they have been really successful.  The good news is that the flies don't hurt the tree.  That is the only good news.

Most of the information I have found has been geared toward commercial growers. I write this post to help other residential olive lovers in their quest to defeat the olive fly.  I have developed a deep personal hatred toward this creature.  This is a gross understatement.

Any neighbors or vacant lots that have uncontrolled fruiting olives are a major liability to your crop.

Your first indication of a problem - the stings

The lovely offspring

The main ways to control the flies and try for a better crop (damage #s are from Sonoma, which is much hotter):

1.  Mass trapping (thought to reduce damage to 30%)
-Sticky traps with pheremones (31-36% damage)
-Olipe traps (easy to make, 33-66% damage)
-McPhail traps (31-36% damage)
-Magnet OL (13.6% damage)

2.  Spraying (thought to reduce damage to 3.6%)
-Naturylate GF-120 (spinosad) is an organic chemical that is now legal in CA  (1:4 ratio with water)

3.  Coating (thought to reduce damage to 1.6%)
-Commercial growers use a fine clay spray to coat the whole tree

4. More ways
-Harvest early when olives are green
-Pick and get rid of any fallen fruit and get rid of it.  It can re-infest your tree.

What we have tried so far:

Our arsenal

1. Sticky traps with pheremone hung in the spring through summer

Effectiveness - caught a lot of olive flies but still noticed a few stings as of June

2. Olipe traps with torula yeast bait

One per tree, 3 yeast tablets in each trap

Effectiveness: Unknown, started in June

3.  Spinosad

Once a week we spray a small part of the tree with Naturalyte spinosad fruit fly spray

Effectiveness: Unknown, I really don't know if this is helping or not

It's a little too early to tell anything.  I will update this when I have more information. It seems that a realistic goal may be 30% damage.  Wish me luck.

Here are some helpful links:,%20Hannah.pdf

Monday, May 16, 2016

Portugal: People, Port, Pastries


This question came up a lot. Follow-ups included, “Are you of Portuguese heritage?” and “Are you going to Spain, too?”

No and no.

Portugal fascinates us. Why did we go? Maybe it’s because no one ever talks about it, we tend to root for the underdog, or because it’s cheaper and less crowded than other Western European countries.

We found this hugely underrated country charming with no tourist hordes. Castles, cloisters, whitewashed villages, ancient Celtic sites, Manueline and Moorish architecture, hilly towns, far flung colony influence, squat widows dressed in black, wild beaches and rivers, dino prints, fighting monks, good wine, great people.  Trip report here.

Cabo Espichel, south of Lisbon

Procession for St. Elmo, patron saint of fisherman, Porto

Citana de Briteiros, near Guimaraes

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Too many figs and lemons?

What to do when your street is overflowing with figs and lemons?  Try canning fig jam.

Easy ingredients: Figs, lemon zest and juice, and sugar.  You can jazz it up with spices/herbs like cinnamon, ginger, and rosemary.  I keep the skins on and seeds in and quickly blast it with the hand blender at the end before canning.  Great with pork.

Recipes abound online or use Tessa Kiros' version in Twelve on page 279.  It's slotted for September but with Southern California weather, early August is yielding good figs.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Movies Set in Italy

Some are great films, some are just beautiful shots of Italy in mediocre attempts at filmmaking.

Under the Tuscan Sun
Much Ado About Nothing 
Stealing Beauty
Tea with Mussolini (San Gimignano)
English Patient (southern Tuscany)
A Room with a View
Up at the Villa
Life is Beautiful
Quantum of Solace
The Last Victory
The Best of Youth (and elsewhere)
Light in the Piazza
The Affairs of Cellini
Virgin Territory (based on the Decameron)
Letters to Juliet
Portrait of a Lady
Prince of Foxes
Where Angels Fear to Tread
The Triumph of Love
The Night of the Shooting Stars
The Gladiator
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
New Moon

Bread and Tulips 
Dangerous Beauty 
The Italian Job (2003)
It Started in Naples
Casino Royale
The Tourist 
Everyone Says I Love You
From Russia with Love
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Vampire in Venice
Death in Venice
Brideshead Revisited
Don't Look Now

Cinema Paradiso
I Cento Passi
The Godfather Part III
Mighty Aphrodite (opening)
Stanno Tutti Bene (later elsewhere in Italy)

Three Coins in a Fountain
Roman Holiday
La Dolce Vita
Angels and Demons 
The Bicycle Thieves
Caterina in the Big City
The Secret of Santa Vittaria (Anticoli Corrado)
Eat Pray Love

The Beaches or Lakes
Enchanted April (Ligurian coast)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ischia) 
Il Postino (Naples, Bay of Naples, Sicily)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Lake Como)
A Month by the Lake (Como)
Caro Diario (Aeolian Islands and Rome)

Matera (a unique locale)
The Passion of the Christ
Christ Stopped at Eboli

Other or I'm Not Sure Where These Were Shot!
Agata and the Storm
My House in Umbria
The Name of the Rose
Ciao Professore (Naples)
Novecento (Parma)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stolen First Editions by Galileo and Copernicus Headed Back Home

Photo courtesty of

I can't believe they thought they could get away with this!

1,500 books stolen in four months... 

Shame on you Library Director, Marino Massimo De Caro!

Now the 16th and 17th century treasures are headed back to their proper home at Girolamini.  Well done.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Visions of sugarplums danced in their heads...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Vernazza is well on its way to full recovery from the 2011 floods.  You can keep abreast of its progress and donate to help restoration efforts at or on FB