Monday, December 31, 2007

may you all get most of your wishes for 2008

Kirimatta Handiya Kade
Kirimatta, Godagama, Meegoda

saturday lunch

Gamini holding the catch of the day from our river in front of our cabin, which we had for lunch. His son Geethika is looking at the antics of his dad.

dawn brakes over the beautiful fields, makes this sacrifice worthwhile

world food program that feeds the fat farmer!!!!!!

The photo shows some of fellow neighbours getting into a neighbors tractor trailer to get home from the central distribution depot of the food.

The readers of my musings will no doubt now know that every day in my life if both unpredictable, different and sometimes once-off. Sunday was no exception. The 5.30 drive was so that we could get through the day. First on our way we saw who discovered our previous night's mischief in order to safeguard our fields. Then onto Ratmale, 10miles away to a chena cultivator farmer friends. He showed me what the rains had done to his papaya cultivation and we could sympathize as I was also a victim.However he had also lost the best trees that survived the wet weather to an elephant just pushing it down the day before. It is amazing how resilient they are amidst all this hardship.They were wondering loudly whether this was all worth their while.

I went with them to the field that morning, so I could get the green chillies, capsicum, and tomato I wanted to as well as picked the limes from his lime trees for my customers the next day. I therefore got no papaya from them. I then made a quick pit stop at my jungle property in Ratmale ( and went up to the tank, as it had spilled over due to the rains.So this was thie highest level I would see. The good news is the farmers here can now plough the fields twice this year rather than the once they did last year, as this tank is rain fed and not channeled from other water sources.

I then had to go to the pola (Sunday Fair) in Hingurakgoda, to get supplies for the week, and was appalled that I had to buy rice at 65/- a kilo as all my paddy is now over.

Later along with hundreds of farmers I had to queue up for our entitlements in kind for our work in cleaning up the irrigation canals that supply our fields. The payment for this work which is voluntary is made in kind by some scheme with the assistance of the WFP and other aid bodies. The enriched wheat flour was donated by the EU and each person received various amounts of food in the form of rice, flour, sugar and dhal, in proportion to the work performed.

Our entitlement was 15kg each of Rice and Wheat Flour, and 1.2KG Sugar and 1.8KG of Dhal.

The funny part was that I gave a ride to some of the people I had fought with the day before (see article below) in my cab back to the village with our provisions.
I need to add a PS in that at that late hour, the men sent their wives to collect the entitlement, as they had there date with the moonshine seller to make sure their daily ration of the needful is consumed. No wonder the world food programme is giving in kind to ensure if the breadwinner is an alcoholic the wife and kids dont starve.

I then had to pack my food and leave after dark back to Godagama arriving there after midnight, all by myself this time, so I could be ready for my Monday sales delivery to homes, of this produce I grow,transport and buy from my friends, the other known farmers. Now its 31st night nearing midnight, I go home to bed to face another day on the farm.

A week is a long time even in farming (not only politics)

The photo shows the way the water reaches my property from the pipe, and this is taken around mid night that day when the water was flowing rapidly once our dead of night operation was carried out.

Only last week that is up till Christmas day we had 14 days of continuous rain, which killed more than 200 of my papaya plants as the root system rotted. My paddy (rice) fields were not flooded and so were fine. On Saturday, Dec 29th my fields began to crack, with the sunshine that came since, and the water that had been sent through the irrigation canals from the Minneriya tank (large lake) did not reach me. I needed water to fill the fields, so that I could spread some much needed fertilizer to help my rice plants grow healthily.

The intricate irrigation system from the tank is by way of gravity fed system of main canals and sub canals into the fields. The water that feeds me and my neighbours is a tributary sub canal from a main canal. I am at the end of this sub canal. So often if the water flow is not adequately sent from the sluice in the main canal I do not get any water after all the people ahead of me take their allocation.

I went to investigate if I could get some water by diverting and shutting off some of my neighbors supplies with their consent. At one neighbours pole,(water pipe that feeds his fields) I followed the water to his field, and was horrified that all the water ( a substantial amount) was going through his field straight to the river. I made a big stink at this neighbours field, saying that neither is he using the water, nor letting his neighbour who desperately wants water have it, and let the people around know the score that it was not morally right, even though I had no legal way of stopping his water entitlement at the moment even if he is misusing it.

The locals (as I am a newcomer having only arrived on the scene 15 months ago)did not like it one bit when I was dressing down their neighbour. I stood my ground as the locals benefit from my being there, and all of them were paid handsomely to transplant the paddy but now are not letting me have water to ensure the transplanted plants are well nursed, implying there was some cussedness mixed with envy.

Such as it may be they got the message that I was not going without a fight and was not afraid of anyone, I sleep in open veranda while they all sleep inside locked houses!!!

On a practical note that night, one of my staff Gamini and I at around 11pm, prepared an improvised contraption,(see photo below of Gamini making it in the dead of night by lamp light) and went up to the main channel to artificially increase the level of the water so a larger volume would flow into the our canal and I partially,shut some of our neighbours water pipes so I could get the necessary water before daylight. This is the time that all the alcoholics in the area are asleep, they wake up around 1am from their alcohol induced stupor so we could carry out this job in relative safety. Of the neighbourhood dogs bark, but the neighbours are either asleep or watching TV.

This being successful we had to spend the next few hours in the dead of night, ensuring the channels of water that go into each of my fields was getting the necessary water so that we could carry out our work in the morning. It was after 2am when we were able to get any sleep that night.

This is a true life drama enacted by desperate farmers risking their skins, every day in some part of the country in similar situations when appealing to reason fails, and drastic measures have to be adopted.

Of course I still had to be up at 5am to get on with my work of getting my supplies to take to town for the next days sales, and saw on our way out, that our scheme had been discovered and the contraption was removed to ensure free flow and accordingly no flow to us, by which time we achieved our goal if only for that day!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Chuty Nangi's birthday

My neighbour across the raging river is Wije. They have 4 offspring. The eldest had a baby and is still in hospital as the child got an infection in the Baby room of the Polonnaruwa hospital. The second girl has a 4 yr daughter and the last two twins, are Chuty Nangi and her brother Malli.
These two had there 21st birthday on the 21st of December. Due to the child's illness they did not want to celebrate the birthday. The son is in the Army and is in active service, and so chuty nangi was upset no one took notice of her b'day. So we on our side of the river, despite the incessant rains decided to do something about it. We bought a cake and lit candles and took balloons and made her day. The photo above shows the family as mentioned above and below shows her blowing her candles. She at least got a b'day to remember.

X Mas Greetings

Our family group photo at our Aunt's after lunch

Monday, December 24, 2007

The river that runs by my property

The river that runs by my property is called Minneriya Oya. It has water flowing perennially as it as a result of a leak of the Minneriya Tank. So with this extraordinary rains, the excess water from the paddy fields as well as some water from the Tank flows into this river which at my property is less than two KM from the tank. Overnight on Saturday night the continuous rain raised the level of water,so when I woke up (my bed is in the verandah) the water was all around me. It is a once in a lifetime feeling.

The whole village trooped in to my property to gaze!!! as they thought my place was under water. One old lady said she was 10 when in 1957 the Minneriya Tank burst its earthen bund and flooded the villages below and washed away many houses and many lives were lost. Since then she says, like clockwork there is a flood every ten years, recalling other great floods in 1967 and 1997 and said that this is another one of those in 2007.

I have built my cabin right on to the property line as denoted by the boundary stone just in front of the verandah, denoting how accurately the surveyors in 1935 surveyed the land and gave the 5 acre blocks to the farmers not encroaching on the river reservation which takes account of the flood stages of the river. They knew then and it is accurate today, the level of the flood plain that does not encroach on to the property itself, thus affecting the farmer adversely. I know it is a small point but it is worth remembering these pioneers of a bygone age that settle communities with property granted by the government to irrigate and cultivate new lands.

the week that was in Minneriya

Sorry folks for the delay in transmission, as I have been very very busy and did not have time to come to Colombo to blog. Well one of the events of the week was the 14 days of rain non stop in Polonnaruwa that left some places flooded and mercifully all the tanks (the lakes) full in the area. This means that the farmers will have enough water for the paddy fields that have been cultivated.

Those who know my place and the river that runs in front of my verandah will appreciate the photos of the water level that had risen so much that it was only 6 inches from the floor. It was nice as three sides of the verandah was under water and it was like being on a boat.

Friday, December 7, 2007

this is how it happens in Sri Lanka

One thing that surprises me in Sri Lanka is the amount of gold people wear on their person, and I thought it was rather odd when people have little of anything still have a little gold jewellery on them. Of course one hears daily of the snatch thieves coming on motor cycles and pulling the gold chain from an unsuspecting woman walking down the road. I don't wear or have any gold but I just realized how useful it could be.Maybe I should buy some gold for an event such as I am to relate.

I suddenly found myself in Polonnaruwa yesterday with insufficient funds to pay those who are transplanting my paddy today and tommorrow. I also miscalculated how many people it would take and how much it would cost. I have noted earlier my current situation of nothing in the bank. When I mentioned this to my man Friday, Amila (actually man Monday to Friday)he said "don't worry, I will pawn the gold chain I am wearing and get you the money". He promptly went to the bank in Hingurakgoda and returned with Rs 15,000 being what he received from the bank. I will no doubt redeem the pawned item before the end of the month, somehow, but I was amazed how useful this little gold on his back was for me.

I am told that most people in the country, constantly pawn their jewellery for emergency cash for unforseen events. They use jewellery as the currency for these eventualities, as savings only leads one to spend and redeeming a pawned item is more likely to happen than returning the savings into an account.

This is financial planning Sri Lanka style and thank you Amila from a potentially embarrasing situation for me!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Merits of transplanting paddy

Thursday, December 6, 2007 is the day, my rice nursery is being worked on to remove the small plants to transplant the next day. I sowed this nursery on November 17th. Back in the 70’s all advice was to transplant paddy to increase yield, as it will give space for the plant to grow and maximize the yield. There were transplanting machines, and methods leaving a gap in rows to enable ease of weeding. Today almost no one does this. They all say it is too costly as we have to use non existent labor to do so and the yield improvement does not warrant this extra expense. In Japan everyone does, When I visited Japan in May this year, every filed was transplanted and they have a greater labor shortage than we have. No doubt they use transplanting machines, but remember the farmer himself works his field with no additional labor.

The photos show 8 ladies in the neighborhood who are preparing the bundles of plants for transplanting. They were saying that even the knowledge of how to do this is dying as now one transplants citing cost even though yield improvements offset the planting cost.

Perhaps next time I may not be able to find 8 like this to do the transplanting and have to resort to the now familiar sowing method as I do not seem to be able to even locate a transplanter.

The bundles of paddy plants in the nursery awaiting transplanting

A close up view of the plants showing how they are tied together

Friday, November 30, 2007

The week that was

A typical view of village Sri Lanka, my neighboring fields taken on Friday 30th November 2007

We are almost in December 2007. Time has really flown. I have had to hold the fort at Raja Ela as Sudath my man Friday there has had to go to his village to sort out a major personal problem as his wife who has just returned from the middle east after four years, does not want to be with him anymore.Her excuse is that he has taken another woman, and I know for a fact that in the past three years he has worked for me there has been no evidence whatsoever of that. So he has made police entries trying to forbid her from going back as the children are with his wife's family, and he at least wants custody of them as he is the only parent in the country, but the wife's family who are dependant on her for their well being want to pack her off at whatever cost so they can live off her and blame him for non existant indiscretions! and use the excuse of taking care of the kids as the reason for her going.Anyway so much for that I can do little to solve his problem excapt that I need him desperately as I have to transplant my paddy next week at the latest and have to prepare my fields. I spent a whole day myself weeding my bandakka beds as otherwise I may not be able to salvage that. So there is an awful lot of work to be done in the fields with not much time left.

I returned to Godagama yesterday with coconuts and rice. For those who know prices here, a coconut now retails for 40/- and the 5 varieties of rice I brought are as follows. My Rosa Kekulu samba that now retails for 60/-kg by Rathu Kekulu Samba which is also 60/- and my par boiled red samba that retails for 65/- a kg.I then brought Sudu Kekulu Samba that retails for 60/- and Sudu Cora Nadu which retails for 55/-. All this amounts to over 60% increase in the space of two months which is unbearable for the majority of this country who survive on three rice meals a day and is very much their staple. Bread of course has gone up more and with a coconut also a staple in the diet for both curries and sambol, I do not know how one lives.

My calorific intake is barely 1000 a day and with my bottle of fresh milk a day I am able to survive on what I grow.

All the fields in Sri Lanka are beautiful now fully planted with rice and I hope there will be a bumper harvest this season so the prices will become more affordable. I did allude somewhere as to one of the reasons for the price increase, and it is shameful how a few can take advantage and get away with such behaviour unpunished. Why not they are government ministers who no one dare criticise.

SK Subasinghe the JVP MP for Polonnaruwa has made the criticism in Parliament, but as they have no clue how business and oligopolies work, don't seem to attack the problem in a solvable way, as his criticism sounds more like sour grapes and jealousy rather than one which can clearly show conflict of interest, and therfore illegal as opposed to just profiteering from opportunism.

Must dash, King Coconut delivery in Colombo on Saturday and then more king coconut searches around Meegoda for Monday delivery. Then Saturday afternoon to Kitulgala, to Paradise Farm, to review operations and this time actually walk around the 90 acre estate to get a better understanding of what is grown and what more can be practically done soon to improve revenue; returning Sunday night.Back to the 7 day treadmill.

three long years and counting! will life get better?

Photo today, three years have made a difference! hasn't it?

Today November 30th 2007 marks the 3rd anniversary of my return to Sri Lanka to live permanently. Those who attended my farewell party at 70 Addison Road, Holland Park in Kensington on Nov 28th 2004 will more than appreciate the contrast in life style. I was living in the most expensive neighborhood in the world per sq ft. where hardly a house sells for less than 10mill pounds, with billionaires, royalty and rock stars for neighbors. I left my job as the country manager in the UK for Dilmah Tea and had given over 6 months notice to that fact, so it was not a sudden or hasty decision.

I had just returned from a road trip in my Jaguar XJ6, a day earlier via Euro tunnel to France, Switzerland and Spain as a final flourish to finish a generation of living in England and the USA since 1971.

The security situation in Sri Lanka with the ongoing civil war was never an issue with my decision to return. All the years away since 1971 Sri Lanka has been beset with war first with JVP then with the LTTE. I just wanted to live a life that was as far different to what I was used to so I could both appreciate how the majority of Sri Lankans live and if there was anything I could learn from that, I would only benefit. I have yet to achieve a balance and the work is not finished. What I have is a unique insight into life that few have the privilege of knowing and I expect to write something about this in my perspective. I have a level of knowledge of some ground realities that either politicians or people in better circumstances don’t appreciate.

Also remember that barely three weeks into my arrival the December 26th 2004 Tsunami, the worst natural disaster ever to hit Sri Lanka, occurred.

Today I just returned from a week at my now usual residence, Kumbuk Thuduwa in the village of Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda in the Polonnaruwa district. The property was bought for $6000 and the house both living quarters and kitchen built for less than $2000. I don’t have electricity or plumbing, but somehow manage to attain a level of satisfaction I have not found anywhere.

My current account balance is only Rs500 and my savings account balance is just Rs250,
with nothing in overseas accounts and no investments or deposits of any sort. However I have to work 7days a week, to grow food in two locations, buy food from neighbors, then transport them carefully and sell them both in my shop in Godagama, Meegoda and at homes and small fruit shops in Colombo. This enterprise cannot be carried out alone, and I have to pay wages to 12 people, which means that 35 mouths are fed as a result of what I do, sadly I cannot measure the quantity of moonshine consumed from this payroll due to the very high level of alcoholism here including my workforce.

I am down to a weight I wished to achieve of 11 stone, the lowest I have been in over 20 years. However this is probably more due to parsimonious eating habits and manual work, rather than being on a diet. I generally eat only what I produce, and hence hardly ever have any type of meat, sodas, or ice creams, cakes and junk foods, all of which I used to live on in my past life. This has not been easy at all, and I would be lying if I said I don’t long for that, and especially Japanese food, namely Sushi which I used to eat often. Arguably that is the most expensive food in Sri Lanka, and have been fortunate to be invited out for a few of such meals.

I have never worked harder in my life for so little, meaning, I have not had the luxury of earning anything for myself personally as yet. I know that human beings are adaptable and can make adjustments in lifestyle to suit circumstances. What I had not bargained for was the level of unpredictability of harvest and sales due to the weather factor. I feel I have had to face all the problems one could imagine. I have had cows die due to unusual illnesses, I have hundreds of banana trees fall due to excess rain, I have had my coconut and king coconut trees go into an annual hibernation period, I have had loads of vegetable beds constantly dying of disease, before any yield, other vegetables infested with worms, as I don’t usually put pesticides and weedicides. To add to the woes almost 5 months of continuous rains in Colombo affected the sales of King Coconuts, my main crop, not consumed by Sri Lankans in wet weather.

Most of all I had not countered on the fact that the workers on the farm in Godagama were so unproductive, partly as a result of years working for my father, who had not run the establishment as a viable venture. I have singularly failed to change their habits and only staff I have recruited since my return carrying the extra load. It is almost impossible to get rid of this staff, waiting instead till they melt away!!!

I have had to rely on my workhorse vehicle, my only means of transport, the Tata truck with a one ton capacity for all my daily activities. I have purchased it on a four year lease, and therefore there is a further year of payments, but the problems I have had with this vehicle have also lead to high repair costs, and bear in mind it has done over 90K kilometers in the past three years. It does not have air conditioning or even a radio let alone a CD player.

On a positive side, I have built a large water tank with over 100 cu ft and a unique shop in the farm in Godagama. I have built the basic infrastructure at my main home in Raja Ela, which is still a work in progress, with a bathroom planned for next year. I have also built a unique forest lodge on the borders of a National Park, is about 4 months and about $5,000 away from completion if I can raise the funds, which is an ideal place to base oneself if watching and studying elephants is one object or total relaxation in the middle of the jungle is another. See the web site www, for information on that property. All this therefore has kept me very busy. The construction costs in Sri Lanka are going up so fast that I am glad I have completed the bulk of my construction activity.

Especially considering the miniscule investment I began this venture with,, I have achieved a miracle. It has essentially been achieved, by my living on air and nothing else, working very hard with little time to relax has been quite a sacrifice and has been worth it.

On the down side, on a more personal level, by living a poor peasant’s life I was hopeful of meeting a soul mate to share my life, and have singularly failed in that regard. There have been a few near misses, which looking back have been blessings in disguise. I am of course ever hopeful of getting lucky at some point though I don’t know, when that will be!!!

I have not yet achieved break even status, and in order to fill the shortfall in my cash flow, I have had to do a supplementary job as an advisor on farming and financial matters, at an Organic farm in Kitulgala and find export markets for their unique organic green tea. I am also looking into the feasibility of establishing an export processing establishment for the export of fresh fruit pulp to customers in Europe.

In conclusion my initial goal of living only a peasants life in Polonnaruwa was not achieved, though I think I would have been happier at that, as I would probably have had a better quality of life with much less stress than now. The main stress I have is the management of people, a very Sri Lankan problem. However the fact that my efforts keep 35 mouths fed, with mine having the least to eat! Is still an achievement in itself. If I have laid the foundation for growth of the business, whereby I can run this operation on auto pilot and still achieve my desired goal, albeit a few years later than anticipated that would then be all worthwhile. I am in the unique position of having a ready market but my problem is the lack of supply, most entrepreneurs have the product but not the market.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Kiri Amma Dana

When I arrived home at midnight after another hectic day on 20th November, frantic preparations were under way in the kitchen and the newly put up firewood kitchen outside the main house on my farm in Godagama.Firewood kitchen put up during the day will kept till it falls down! so I can continue to cook with firewood as the price of a shell gas cylinder has now jumped to Rs 1313. People who know about the gas cylinder cooking will be amazed when I say my last one lasted 5 months, when my sisters house hold uses more than two a month. Anyway it goes to show how rarely I cook or more correctly proof of how rarely I actually eat. I am now down to my target weight of 154lbs I was brought up on labs so I dont know how many kilos that is, but more to the point I am at my lowest weight in over 20 years.

I digress!! the preparations were for the Kiri Amma dana ( almsgiving ) Those cooking were Menika, Caroline, Anula, Seetha and Nadeesha.I was so tired, my room is opposite the kitchen, I fell asleep while the all night cooking was going on, and was woken up at 4.30am on Wednesday to partake in the proceedings.

This dana is given for all sorts of reasons like warding off evil spirits and driving out curses and runs of bad luck etc. My cattle herd has had numerous problems for a few years, and we had a dana last year too. This dana was held for blessing our cattle herd and wishing we will have a prosperous enterprise with a good milk yeild. In the last month we lost our oldest cow, the grand mother of my herd, one of my staff who broought it claims it was over 30 years of age and he went with my father to bring it from some place. Most of my herd are her grand kids and great grand kids. We artificially inseminate all the females with sperm provided by the government vet who always claims it is from the best stock from New Zealand, but I have my doubts bearing in mind the lousy milk production!

Anyway I lost a calf the other day, a day another new calf was born. To cut a long story short, we reserve two coconut trees for this event.We don't sell the coconuts from this tree and instead dry the coconuts and get oil from it to light the lamps for the dana and to make all the food preparations. I was told that after the dana we may sell the coconuts once again. What a relief as I am having a bad time with very few coconuts on the trees at this time of year and the coconut prices in Sri Lanka reflecting this shortage at a high of 35 to 40 rupees for our large ones.

All the food for the dana was made from my produce, except for the sugar and cashews used in some of the rasa kavili, the kiriya I think it was. The kiri bath or milk rice was my rosa kekulu samba grown by me in Polonnaruwa, the kavum was with my rice flour and my coconut oil.The ambul kehel was also mine.

Once all the food preparation is made all very fresh, they are ready to receive the kiri ammas. I dont know what it takes to be a kiri amma, but I will find out and let you know next time. I think you have to be a mother of a certain age and have your credits at the temple!! to make you worthy of conducting such a ceremony and partaking in it.

Amila went in the cab and picked them up at around 4.30 as all this ceremony is performed before sun up.It was all performed in my dining room, cleared of all the furniture.

The pictures above will show the stages. There were seven ladies all dressed in white cloth in a fashion of taking sill at the temple on poya days.First they are seated in a row along the wall on mats. Then a large banana leaf is placed in front of them and the various items of food are laid on the banana leaf by the ladies who cooked the meal.There was the kiri bath, then the kiriya, then the kavum and finally the kehel. All this can be seen in the photos.Then a parcel wrapped in a brown paper bag was put in it was a washing soap and a body soap. Also panduru (offering) of 2/- coin was also placed on the leaf. Then the coconut oil lamps are lit and all the staff of the farm and me included, kneel on a mat and the pirith chanting takes place for a while. All the pirith is chanted by memory and it seemed all of them knew their lines. This went on for at least half hour.

Then once that is over, they get up and are given a pahan thira dippd in coconut oil, which is then lit, which they hold and pray for all good things to remain and all bad things to be extiguished and then in a flash put the flame out into a bowl of water.

After that the head who performed the main ceremony, blesses us with coconut oil rubbed on to our foreheads and the proceedings conclude with all the food and items given wrapped into a bag and given them to take home, just as dawn breaks.

It was interesting that this was on Wednesday morning and on Thursday my father had arranged for a cow to be brought from up country namely Hatton, which was a 18 bottler that immediately doubled my milk yield.

Sadly as he always puts the cart before the horse, I have to find double the food to feed this animal at a time I am finding difficulty feeding the existing ones.My plan was to tackle my herd as the final of my development plan as the building needs to be extensively renovated, and my father oblivious to the practical side of taking care of animals is now demanding that all the unproductive ones are disposed of at any cost to make way for the productive one.This like bringing the airconditioner before the electricity is connected and then expecting it to cool the room immediately.

I still had not found an external market for all my existing milk, so finding the market for this extra will be an added issue to contend with, when my immediate problem is how to meet payroll on Sunday 25th November which is pay day and tomorrow Saturday, a poya day holiday. Saturday is a day I depend on for the best income for the week from the farm shop which under normal circumstances would have given enough to meet the current shortfall reqd. for the payroll.

So this is this week's excitement.Actually I spent the whole day Thursday, visiting a tea and rubber estate in the Ratnapura district that is making compost, to partially substitute high cost chemical fertizer in the tea plantations, and Friday was spent selling my King Coconuts, where demand was less than expected owing to tomorrow poya holiday when all the shops I sell to are closed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

finally a tractor

Loading the tractor on the back of my pick up for the maiden ride home! Actually it is a 12 horsepower Jinasena Tractor under the Agrimec brand name and is made in China. THe cost new with the discount was Rs154K or about $1350. It can plough quickly as one sits on it and drives it and the rear wheel spins controlled by the feet. Of course the ultimate would be to have a trailer to hook it to so I can haul the various from A to B but that is for another time. Of course this is all on borrowed money!! that has to be repaid!!

I drove to Polonnaruwa on my own on Thursday November 15th after delivering my weekly King Coconuts to the Golf Club in Colombo and the usual assortment of kades along the way.I dropped my report on the account of my visit to Paradise Farm in Kitulgala the previous day, to the owner of the 90 Acre farm on my way back to my farm. Getting off to an early start on Friday I went with three to the Jinasena office and with their manager went to Welikanda to pick up the tractor. We had it working shortly on arrival and the next day, started ploughing my paddy field ready for my paddy nursery sown later on that day. After the first ploughing of a few fields, as tradition would have it a crowd of boys took the tractor to the Minneriya Devale to get it blessed by the Minneriya deviyo on the bund of the massive Minneriya tank that supplies the water to my paddy field. I guess that is apt in that it is this water that feeds my soil.King Mahasen built this tank a long time ago and is the lifeline of the farmers in my area, I don't know how many acres are fed by this but I would hazaerd a guess and say at least 100,000.

Of course I am the only person who has this hood at the moment as I lucked out on seeing it at the dealer who had got the first ever trial sample which I bought and now the driver is screened from the sun. As a result a lot of heads turned at seeing this tractor with a sun shade!!!

I got back on Sunday with my weekly produce, and I also had to climb the mango tree to pluck the mangoes as my man had to go home urgently on Friday as his wife had come from a 4 year stint as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia. That is another story about the outcome of that visit!!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Kitchen Party people photos

The older crowd!! with young Ranga

The lads who are always together supporting each other in work and play

Her parents are looking for a husband for her and she is very choosy!!

The two ladies who did most of the cooking

Corn on the cob

I have mentioned earlier the problems I have with my customers in selling corn on the cob. Well I decided this time to try another method, by selling locally to the local shop that boils this and serves it to people to eat on the way. So we are all after plucking the corn, cleaning it so any that are attacked by pests are separated and dried and sold as corn seed to be cooked or made into poultry food and the good ones sold to the shop for boiling and serving.

Jumbo Peanuts

One of my farmer friends a few doors away planted some jumbo peanuts and I got a few Kilos to eat and to keep to grow at the right time of year. He obtained 135 rupees a kilo for them after drying with the shell. We cooked them by frying in a pan with sand not oil, this ensures an even temperature without the shell burning. Once sufficiently heated we de shell it and voila the scrumptous peanuts no money can buy. See the plate I gobbled down a few days ago. I have never tasted better peanuts!!

This is my single largest source of income

Selling King Coconuts is my largest revenue source at the moment. I brought 700 King Coconuts today to Colombo and the Golf Club bought 300 the balance are sold like in the photo which shows Amila setting some bunches at the shop opposite the Colombo University Campus on Reid Avenue earlier today, Saturday the 10th.

Another angle of the kitchen lit with a generator


Hope this says it all a couple of photos of the dinner at the kitchen opening with those who helped build it many of them vlunteers!!!
one photo is from one end of the table and the other from the other end. The tall green plastic glass is mine with king coconut water, the real glasses are the others who were served beer! We worked it out we can seat 13 comfortably at the table including me at the head.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


My old kitchen

I go tomorrow to my place in Polonnaruwa after a whole day of selling in Colombo. We leave usually around 9pm arriving in Polonnaruwa about 2am if we have a rain free run. As you may know we have been cooking out in the open on wood fires for want of a kitchen. I have finally built a kitchen where we can actually cook without getting wet and where we even have a sink with running water. In fact I have gone from no kitchen to having the largest kitchen in the neighborhood, and with plumbing to boot. Of course the shramadana from the neighbours in pooling their resources helped maybe because they are expecting this to be the village kitchen!! not just mine! Yes I still don't have electricity but that is for the future!

It was built at lower cost than most kitchens in the neighborhood as it is built with a coconut cadjan roof and devoid of walls, open on all sides with the roof being held up by pillars made of plastic piping filled with concrete. I will post photos of the new facility when I get back, as I expect to be there till Friday night.

Hey you avid readers!!!! interact will you!!!!

From the various chats I have with people, I am beginning to discover that the circle of people reading my blog is widening and I am pleased with their reaction as many find some of the snippets interesting to read. However very few are willing to make the odd comment either for fear of offending me or worried that someone else reading their comments will think them an ace durrrrr!!!

Don't worry you lovely people all over the world give me some inspiration and if you are worried at being found out just leave them as anonymous comments. That is better than no comment.

While I seem to have an interesting life it is the hardest job I have ever had to endure like being on a treadmill working all the hours that God gives, not even to put food on my table, but to put food on every body else's table. Some encouragement will be nice.

Give the French a cheer

My friend Morgan, had her christening for her son Fragan a little while ago today at the St Lucia's cathedral officiated by a French priest Fr Dion a fairly elderly man. There were in attendence both Morgan's parents and her husband Amory's sister and family. Sri Lankans still accounted for at least 50% of the 40 or so gathered at the church. Tamzyn your absence was felt and I stood in for you!!!

It is interesting to note that she got her wish to live in Sri Lanka as her husband has developed a new business in buying and exporting organic foods to supermarkets and stores in France.

I have been invited later today to have dinner with them at the Galle Face Hotel, but I cannot drive my pick up(Tata Cab) as it is considered a lorry and a security threat, I have to find alternative means of transport leaving the pick up outside the zone. Who said even an evening out in Colombo for a farmer from the outskirts is easy to attend!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

renewal of the high security zone permit

Today is the day our three month high security zone permit expires and I sent Amila to renew it to the Pettah police station with what we were earlier informed was the required information.When Amile arrived there, he was told they need an additional letter from me the registered owner of the vehicle in Sinhala requesting an extension of the permit, in addition to a formal letter as the owner of the enterprise which is requesting this extension. So Amila takes the bus to my sisters to get the letter which I had already prepared. I drove him as far as Slave Island from where he took the bus as my vehicle is not permitted to go any further. Apparently he got there at 4pm but they said they don't accept requests after 4pm implying per their clock it was a minute past and we have to come tomorrow to give it. I have to go to Kitulgala tomorrow so we can't do it and the permit expires today.I don't live in Colombo so it is even more difficult to conform to their requests. It is amazing how cussed law enforcement is in Sri Lanka as they feel we have to be beholden to their behaviour, only they can exercise!!

We in Sri Lanka suffer a lot at the hands of law enforcement irrespective of race, as they have become a law unto themselves and are no longer servants of the state. I was checked by an army soldier at a checkpoint when I was bringing produce a few days ago and he went so far as to go through my clothes bag and take out my binoculars and check the sights to see if it in deed was one and opened the battery chamber of my flashlight to see if there were batteries and in the process broke the spring. He probably had never seen a flashlight like that!!

Such is life in the battle zone where the battle is really for the rights of the innocent not that of the terrorist who still gets their way.

still working on my kitchen

the saga of my kitchen continues as I am still waiting for the finished product before the heavy rains come. It is looking good but not yet finished. Here are photos of Rohitha and Ranga hauling clay bricks to the work site. I hope to begin cooking in the new kitchen on November 6th by throwing a candlelight dinner to all who helped construct it.It is all fire wood cooking and I am looking for some one with knowledge of how to build an oven which will run on firewood where I can bake.Something that is not done in the villages except in bakeries.

Monday, October 29, 2007

produce I brought from Polonnaruwa yesterday

Some may wonder what I do in Polonnaruwa. Sadly it is mostly work growing and foraging for good produce to satisfy my very fussy customers.I returned by myself late last night from Polonnaruwa as Amila was off for three days. So I had the added task of doing the work he also does on top of mine.

I managed to sell some excess corn in the Hingurakgoda pola, on Sunday morning. This was the first time I had sold produce in the pola.

My list in my vehicle I brought down and some of which I brought into Colombo today for sale were: 5kg Bitter Gourd. 4kg Lime, 150 Corn on the cob.15 Cucumber,1kg Aubergine,1kg Capsicum Chillies, 5kg Ma Karal,5kg Watakolu,20 bottles of coconut oil from my coconuts and poonac residue for my cows, 120 Oranges, 12kg Kolikuttu Banana, 34kg Woodapple, 25kg Manioc, 156 Coconuts, 30 Free range eggs, 350 Villard Mangoes,9kg Amberalla, 20kg Onion, 93kg of my own Red Parboiled Samba Rice, 96kg of White Kekulu Nadu rice, 53kg of home parboiled White Nadu, 15kg of rice bran for the cows, and about 150 Corn Plants after the cob was removed, to be given to the cows in the farm in Godagama. In addition this morning I purchased 30 Pineapple and 10kg Papaya from a neighbouring farm.

This is an example of my product list I bring down weekly from Polonnaruwa, surprising you as to the range of my products.

Monday, October 22, 2007

rain rain

It rained all day in Colombo today. What it did to my business was shattering. It was difficult to transport in the rain and worse still was that I could hardly sell my King coconuts, my main product in the market and people in Sri Lanka dont drink thambili when it rains.

So I return to the farm with a lot of unsold King Coconuts. All my well heeled friends tell me to make King Coconut wine. Will I then fall foul of the authorities accusing me of making moonshine!!! Now you know what people do in desperation when they try to make an honest living and acts of God and sometimes man prevents them from doing so!!!

Well I will make an attempt again on Wednesday to sell King Coconuts and hope by then the sun will shine. As I noted in an earlier comment, the weather has played havoc this year with my King Coconut sales as Colombo has been very wet. I have been at this business now for three years and this year I have experienced the worst weather.


Due to the recent family wedding my brother and sisters were together for a fleeting moment from their busy and separate lives. Here is a photo of all of us and another of Harin and myself taken on October 20th 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

my kitchen floor where no woman dare tread!!

It just took me half a day, and the help of about 10 local lads and the mason to lay my concrete kitchen floor, complete with putting the polythene on the ground and laying the cement, sand and rock mixture on top and then cementing the surface to get an even texture. I was amazed at how quickly a task like this can be done especially when one puts one's mind to it and have a willing workforce who did this more as a favor than for reward, as a pay back for my helping them. I also bought them lunch and they had plenty of king coconuts to sustain them and a lot of banter to keep everyone amused. I expect all the kitchen work to be complete by the time I next go on Wednesday, including the kitchen sink with running water and the firewood stove for our cooking. I will take a kitchen table and chairs I have in a store room to finish it off and we can finally cook a proper meal and eat in a civilized manner instead of finding a bed to sit on to have our dinner. We can all now actually sit in a dinning table in the kitchen and have the food served direct from stove to table. What luxury for us who have hitherto been cooking in the open for over a year. The rains having just arrived means this is a timely move for our general well being and peace of mind.

See below the section of putting up the cadjan roof, for info about the collective effort in finishing the roof. This now sounds very much like the village kitchen and looks like I will have to host a weekly luncheon for all comers in my spacious and for locals the most amazing style of kitchen they have seen in their lives.

What is funnier still is that there is a distinct separation of the sexes in Sri Lankan villagers and in this case the kitchen, the purview of the woman is now all male and for males only or put it another way the only kitchen in the village where males are allowed or actually only males cook and where only they gather!!! What am I saying?

In the context of the village. any woman who comes to the kitchen alone will be considered a loose woman!! such are the subtleties of life.

Images of this week's produce from Minneriya

Friday, October 12, 2007

my most recent product list and prices

This is the price list of products that I brought for delivery to homes in Colombo on October 8th 2007

King Coconut each 15/-
Coconut large 27/-
Coconut small 22/-
Papaya perkg 60/-
Oranges(mine) each 8/-
Lime 500g 40/-
Ambul Kehel perkg 50/-
Seeni Kehel perkg 60/-
Ambun Kehel each 12/-
Kolikuttu each 10/-
Freerange Eggs each 15/-
Kehel Muwa each 15/-
Gotukola(val) bunch 25/-
Kathurumurunga bunch 15/-
Thampala bunch 20/-
Rampa/Karapincha bunch 10/-
Rice- Red Samba perkg 50/-
My Rosa Samba perkg 50/-
Rathu Kekulu perkg 45/-
Sudu Samba perkg 50/-
Tomato 500g 50/-
Karavila 500g 40/-
Murunga 500g 30/-
Wambatu 500g 50/-
Bandakka 500g 50/-
Thibbatu 250g 40/-
Pumpkin 500g 30/-
Meemin Wattaka each 40/-
Cucumber each 25/-
Kekiri each 15/-
Corn on the cob each 8/-
Polonnaruwa Onion 500g 30/-
Green Chillies 100g 20/-
Ginger 100g 20/-
King Coconut Oil 1/4bot100/-
Forest Bees Honey 1/4bot175/-