Tuesday, December 16, 2008

mango season is in full swing

I am typing this in the dark, but for a safety kerosene lamp. There is a small fire burning in front of me with margosa leaves (kohomba)to prevent mosquitoes in the verandah that is my living, dining, study and bedroom. For those who know it is open on three sides so the trees around can be seen along with the bird and animal life that inhabits the space outside. This morning a male paradise flycatcher flew across through the interior of the verandah, while I was watching it and its mate flittering around, as they don’t stay in one place for more than a few seconds. These events cannot be choreographed and can only be enjoyed when it happens. It reminds me then that all I have left behind amounts to a hill of beans when compared to this. I digress from what I was about to say, of the latest serendipitous event.

My customers ask me for mangos, as the ones from this area are particularly sweet. This harvest may be less sweet due to the recent rains, which may compromise taste. I asked a boy over the phone if he knew where I could get some mangos in the neighborhood, and his father had overheard the conversation, and told him that his cousin two doors from him had a tree full of Villard that was mature for plucking. It was a tree he used to climb as a boy so it is at least 40 years old. He said he would speak to the cousin about my taking all the mangos and I took my two guys from Raja Ela to Ratmale.

Today is a Poya day and my guys were reluctant to spray the preemergent herbicide on the young paddy plants on a Poya in case insects would be killed, so they were free to come. We took the special gadget we use to pluck the mango and a whole lot of plastic crates to put them in.

When we saw the tree at Tilekeratne’s back yard in Ratmale, not too far from my Kumbuk Pokuna Lodge, it was obvious some invisible hand brought us there today. We got there in the morning, and bar lunch, which was provided by the man who found the mango tree for us, spent the whole day plucking. If one just looks at a tree, it is difficult to gauge how many there are and they were all mature. We filled all our crates with mango and the mango that fell on the ground were not included, and latter amounting to 250 were given to the owner of the tree for himself. The reason is when some of them ripen they are spoilt on one side from the fall. The bruising that occurs cannot be seen when the fruit is only mature. I did not want to risk mixing them and Tilekeratne was pleased with the added bonus for him.

One other point to note is that other people who come looking for mango to pluck, usually are not as selective as us and they just shake the branches so the mango falls, and they then collect them so that when they spray it with carbide to hasten the ripening, the bruising is hidden, but the fruit is not as tasty and spoils after sale. I will sell as is or wait till they ripen in a few days. I have to additionally prevent an insect from spoiling the fruit, by covering the mango, as this pest pierces the fruit and lays its eggs that become worms in the ripe mango. This post harvest preservation is also important to get the maximum quality fruit to ones customers.

I got 1750 mango from this tree (the most I have ever had plucked from one tree at one time in my experience) which with the owner’s bounty yielded 2000 today and there were at least another 200 left on the tree which we could not pluck as our wooden plucking net was not long enough to reach. I would also like to note that climbing a mango tree to pick the mango is pretty dangerous work, and I am lucky to have a person who can do that, as most mangos are not as carefully plucked, but just shaken to the ground. These old trees that are not the budded varieties of today, and are very large and difficult to climb as some branches are dead and will break on a person stepping on it.

I was wondering what I could give my faithful customers as a Christmas gift, and now I have the perfect thing, namely, a seriously generous amount of mango as I cant keep them for long and even though I know I can sell them all for a good profit, I will be happy to give half and sell the other half as I will still make a good profit out of this transaction which will then go to meet the wage bill that falls due on Christmas day. It is something I have been worrying myself as to how I would meet as my other products like milk are in short supply, resulting in a serious shortfall in revenue. I somehow don’t feel that generous towards some of my staff, who contributed to making this year worse than I could have imagined.

Now for the curious who want to know how much I paid for the mango, it was Rs3 each and another rupee for the cost of the labor for a days plucking, not counting my effort in individual washing and transporting to Godagama farm for sale in the shop at an average price of Rs15. One also must bear in mind wastage from spoilage prior to sale of about 20%

At the end of a tiring day, I had my bath from the water tank, and decided to skip dinner and instead write about the ‘serendipitous event’.