Friday, January 18, 2008

citrus season

January 16th was my father's 80th birthday, instead of being in Colombo with him and other relatives, I spent most of the day visiting neighbors in the village of Ratmale (see so see what I could buy from them and also reserve for future purchases in the coming weeks.
As is always the case, I have no idea when I come what and how much I will leave with. So one household had green chillies, another had a fruit called Aatha, and then I went to visit the paddy field across a raging river where just a log thrown across suffices as the bridge. This was the field where I used to stay the night with the farmer two years ago, protecting his crop from rampaging wild elephants. This time he is alone, so he is up most of the night by a fire to keep him warm from the cold nights. When I slept there, I did not need a mosquito net as there were no mossies and I also recall having no problem sleeping in the bed made of long thin sticks and a mat over it.

As I was passing an acquaintance on a bicycle, I stopped and asked him if he had oranges, as I recall picking over 600 from a tree at his place once. He said he did have mature oranges and to go to his home, where his wife would accommodate us. After buying the mature ones, by first having to pluck them, we reserved the others for next time when they are mature, and then were told to go to his sister's not too far away to pluck from her trees which were not only mature but also ripe. We got a few hundred from that house where there were many fallen being over ripe.

At another house, an acquaintance said we could pick his limes next week and at another we asked for 50kg of lime. When we went to collect they had plucked 78kg. I just had to buy the lot as that is what is expected.Once when the villagers knew I was looking for lime, I got 500kg, I had to take the lot not to offend them, I could bathe in lime with that amount!! Then I knew to ask for a specific amount, now I know to ask for less than I need!!!

This whole process of collecting, and at each of their places being offered tea or orange, and making small talk is all part of the experience, but an expensive way to collect produce for sale per se.


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