Weekend farming in the tropics

15 11 2010

Saturday. I get to work at 07h45 when a customer wants to talk to me about buying some tobacco seedlings. We chat for a while and then I go back home to try photographing the flowers I was collecting. It doesn’t work for some reason – too much light reflection or something. I get back to work at 10h30 to find that we have dropped a phase on the electricity supply and the pumps won’t run. I am vaguely concerned as it is already hot and there was power at my house when I left home (we are on the same grid). I assume that someone will phone ZESA (the supply authority) and get on with work using one of the working phases to run the computer.

By noon the sweet potatoes are wilting and there is no sign of anything happening on the power front. I have a look across at ART Farm and can see the sprinklers working and I know they use a 3 phase-powered pump. It’s time to panic a little so I go across to the golf club which shares a transformer with us. They are also on 2 phases. I point out that their MCB (miniture circuit breaker) is tripping because the circuit is drawing too much power not because there is anything wrong with the MCB. We suspect there might be a loose fuse on the transformer, something that has happened before and phone ZESA. They promise to send someone around. I go home to wait – I need to know how long it is going to fix the problem and tell the duty foreman to give me a call when the team arrives. I cancel going into the Gallery Delta to chat about life and other issues and drink wine and eat cheese.

At 2p.m. I call ZESA. A team is definitely on the way, they have to fix another fault first. I call again at 3.30p.m. and at 5p.m. and get the same answer. The person on duty takes my cell phone number and promises to keep in touch but I am very sceptical that anything will happen before Sunday.

Sunday. I wake up with a blinding headache that even the strongest coffee and paracetemol will not cure. At 07h30 I go into work to see if by a miracle the ZESA lot have done something. They have not so I phone the faults centre and get another person who has had no contact with yesterday’s duty officer but he promises to send a team forthwith. I have a sense of deja vu but it is another hot day and I must do something about the now very wilted sweet potatoes in case nobody arrives or maybe they do and then the power goes off anyway. I instruct a supervisor to bring the small diesel pump over to an emergency water tank. The pump has not been run for some time so the supervisor checks the oil, which he has topped up, while I am checking the water suction. It looks like there might be too much oil on the dipstick but I am otherwise occupied. The engine is started and water sprays out the socket union (pipe join) and oil sprays out the top of the engine. My cell phone falls out of my shirt pocket into the mix of mud, oil and water. I flick it away in annoyance (with some bad language) and Kharma, who is standing behind me, takes offence. There is no socket spanner set in the Landcruiser to get the oil drain plug out so I have to go home to get one. I get back and we do a complete oil change anyway. I wipe down the cell phone and it is still working.

We connect a hosepipe from the pump to an irrigation riser, effectively putting the water into the system the “wrong” way, connect the drip system and start the pump. The duty foreman in the meantime has phoned ZESA again and they insist a team is on site at the transformer. They are not so the foreman goes to the golf club where he suspects they might be. Sure enough they are there so he takes them to the transformer. By the time I arrive at the transformer they have tightened the errant fuse holder and are performing a few other checks. They finish the whole operation in about 10 minutes. All electric pumps are running by 10h30 so I go home for a late breakfast and tend to the headache which is tormenting me.



3 responses

16 11 2010
Big Blister

Tense as it was, the response time seems to be an improvement over a couple of years ago…?
Never forget the possibility of fixing a drowned cell phone by putting it in the freezer.

16 11 2010
La Canadienne

Ohhh, no wonder you were grumpy when I tried to connect~ perfectly understandable now.

I dunno BB,re response time; it seems same old, same old to me.

17 11 2010

Bon anniversaire Andy,
mes voeux les plus sincères

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