Production on the possessions was geared towards self-sufficiency and the sale of surplus products to local markets, the capital city and to markets beyond Mallorca. The type of products produced depended on the conditions of the land on which each possessió was located. Thus, while we find extensive olive trees on the possessions of the Serra de Tramuntana, we predominantly find extensive vineyards and vast expanses of land for cereal cultivation on the island’s flatland possessions.
- Oil production: olives were –and still are–, the crop par excellence of the possessions of the Serra de Tramuntana. That was made possible due to the construction of small, stone hillside terraces, which were used as cultivation areas. The olive harvest started at the beginning of autumn. Women were in charge of gathering those that were already on the ground around the olive trees, while the men would beat the branches to make the remaining olives fall from the trees. Oil was made using the tafonas (olive presses), the majority of which were of a similar architectural construction. The main components of the tafonas were the biga (press), espiga (threaded bar), quintal (weight), esportins (esparto baskets) and caldera (pot).
- Cereal production: the land was ploughed after the Mare de Déu d’agost. The sowing of the crops coincided with All Saints’ Day and the harvest season came at the end of spring. That was followed by the job of batre. This job entailed grinding the crop using a piece of stone called a carretó, which was pulled by an animal. The carretó rolled on the crop to separate the straw from the grain. After the job of batre came the tasks of ventar and erar, which involved throwing the grinded crop into the air so that the wind would carry the straw way while the grain fell to the ground. The grain would then be sieved to separate it from the remaining straw, before being taken to the mill of the possessió for its subsequent transformation.
- Wine making: the vineyard was a very important financial element on the possessions of Binissalem, Manacor, Felanitx and Porreres. At the end of the summer, the verema (grape harvest) began. The women and children would collect the grapes using a trinxet (knife) and put them into coves. Once full, they would be transported to and emptied into portadores (carriers) by traginers (muleteers). The cimalers took them to the carriages and emptied them using the cubell (buckets). Finally, the grapes were taken to the possessió and were deposited in the cup, the place in which the process of making them into wine began. A celebration took place at the end of the verema comprising dances, xeremies (a type of bagpipe) and ximbombes (a musical instrument). At the verema, those present would perform the danza de las vendimiadoras (grape harvesters’ dance).
- Almond production: almonds were collected on the arrival of summer. The work would start at dawn. The men and children would climb the almond trees and shake their branches using rods and sticks to make the almonds fall to the ground, captured in fabric canvases that were placed around the foot of each tree. The women, young girls and older workers collected the almonds that fell away from the canvases, placing them in a paner. At the possessió, the almonds were taken out of their shell and laid out on the porches to dry. Once dried, the fruit was extracted. The almonds were used to make turrón (similar to nougat), desserts, traditional almond cake, almond oil and milk, caramel-coated almonds and many other products.
- Sheep rearing: sheep were common to the majority of possessions and were valued for their meat, wool and milk. Shepherds were responsible for taking them out to pasture, ensuring that none escaped. They used a Ca de Bestiar (Mallorcan Shepherd Dog), a species native to the island that has exceptional abilities for such work. The shepherds led flocks from one area to another to take advantage of the grass and fallen leaves. The sheep would be fitted with a bell so they could be found if lost. During the summer months, the sheep were taken out to graze in the afternoon and were enclosed in sestadors during the sunlight hours, which were shelters where they could rest in the shade.
- Charcoal making: on the arrival of the San José celebration, charcoal makers and their families would climb the mountain to make charcoal. They found a ranxo where they made a sitja (round pit base) using cobbles, which was covered with clay soil. Within the sitja, they made a smaller circle using stones, leaving gaps in between each one so that the air could get in and facilitate combustion. Thick logs were then placed on top in such a way that they created the eye of the sitja, which sometimes served as a chimney. These logs were then covered with smaller ones in an even and concentric manner. The next layer comprised oak branches or reeds, which were then covered with a layer of compacted soil. Finally, the eye of the sitja was filled with small pieces of firewood and it was set alight, spitting out incandescent embers. The mouth of the chimney was covered with a sheet of iron so that the wood would gradually burn over a period of two to three weeks, collecting the charcoal once cool.
Extracts taken from the book VIDA I COSTUMS A LA POSSESSIÓ MALLORQUINA by Bartomeu Vilanova, Mateu Cerdà and Antoni Martorell (El Gall editor)