The notorious MAPpers

27 11 2018

Making a plan with the blender

Zimbabweans are famous, some would say notorious, for being able to Make A Plan. You could say we are champion MAPpers.

When Zimbabwe was Rhodesia and under sanctions for Ian Smith’s UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) from Britain, ingenuity thrived – it had to as precious little could be imported – so the tradition of MAPping was developed. We are no longer under sanctions and just about everything is imported thanks to the regime of the ousted Robert Mugabe who mismanaged the economy so effectively that very little is now produced in the country. The new government of Edison Mnangagwa has shown itself to be even better at spending money we don’t have so we are still furiously MAPping. The photo above is my effort for today.

1. The fertilizer. We use single super-phosphate fertilizer at the nursery as the supply for phosphorus in the coir growing medium. It’s much cheaper than the soluble forms so it’s mixed into the coir after the former has been expanded and washed by means of a locally made drum mixer. Because the cells in the seedling trays are small, a powdered form of the single supers as it’s known is preferred to ensure that it’s mixed uniformly into the coir so some will end up in every cell. The powdered form of the single supers is no longer available but I did manage to buy  some of an imported granular version which is more normally used for field applications as the granules are easily and uniformly distributed by machine. So I had to get creative with a blender/liquidiser.

2. The quantity. This is more important than one might think. Two of the plastic tubs seemed to be about right. More than this and the fertilizer was too heavy for the blender and it got hot and took a long time to shatter the granules into powder. Less and a large proportion of the granules were knocked out of the way by the blades and didn’t shatter.

3. The end product. Not as uniform as  the bought powder form of single supers but it will do.

4. The blade speed and time. The slowest setting for a minute worked well as did the highest speed for 30 seconds. It was interesting to watch the granules flow up the inside of the glass and then back down to the blades in a slow motion vortex. Not sure what this will do to the blades long term. They are not naturally very sharp but the single supers is quite dense and will definitely wear them down quicker than the average soup for which the machine was intended.

5. Cocoa. Essential drinking on a coldish, wet day.

Yes, the exercise was effective MAPping but it’s not viable for a lot of fertilizer – I think there’s another 150kg or so to do. I will have to ask my landlord, when he gets back, if he thinks a hammer mill (normally used for milling maize) will do the job. I did ask the ART Farm manager if he thought it would work but he was sceptical. There’s no rush – we are not remotely busy.

Ah, I nearly forgot, why do some consider us notorious MAPpers? Because instead of getting onto the streets and protesting about the appalling bad governance we just get on with Making A Plan to survive.

The long day

22 08 2012

It was not a good start. I lay on the highly polished, dusty and therefore treacherous floor and wondered if I’d broken my arm. I hadn’t but there was a bit of a haematoma on the back of my hand that I thought I could sort out at lunchtime with some ice.

The next stop was the shadecloth factory where they’d quoted me the wrong price – it turned out to be just more than half the price I’d heard, or thought I’d heard, on the phone. This could be a good day! The shadecloth was offloaded at work and  Kharma was ecstatic, as she always is, to see me home for lunch. By the time I’d got to the fridge to find the ice the haematoma had gone from small to half tennis ball size and was excruciating. I phoned the doctor and got an appointment straight away. Kharma gave me the “I am a dejected dog” look as I sped away from my briefest lunch ever. They can really turn on the pressure if they want to!

“We are going to have to cut this on open” Simon said.

“Why?” – this was sounding like a very bad idea to me.

“Normally I’d leave it but you have those two abrasions which could be a source of infection and a haematoma is an infection waiting to develop”.

“What about a needle?”, I bargained.

He considered this option for a moment and then went and got a big one. I am not squeamish but this was one procedure I was not going to watch.  I left shortly afterwards with my right hand tightly bandaged and a script for antibiotics should the haematoma become infected. I was back 10 minutes later to retrieve the script I’d left at the reception. Now I had to get out to a fertilizer supplier out of town and pick up a tonne of fertilizer. It was time to look for some air for the back tyres of the pickup.

The first filling station: I knew they’d had an air hose but they were undergoing renovations and it was no longer there.

The second filling station: “Sorry no power!” the attendant said, shrugging his shoulders. A generator stood idle in the corner.

The third filling station: “Sorry but this one doesn’t work. Try the filling station back there” the attendant said. I finished my indigestion rich pie and drove off.

The filling station back there: There was air in the air hose but I couldn’t get it into the tyre. It seemed the valve on the delivery mechanism was faulty.

The fifth filling station: “Reverse in here” the attendant” called. I did.
“How much diesel do you want?”.

“I don’t want diesel, I want air” I replied wondering if this was a Monty Python skit.

“Oh, I thought you said diesel, the air is over there” he indicated a tyre and wheel balancing outfit across the street. I thought about pointing out the dissimilarites between “air” and “diesel” but my patience had failed and I knew of another filling station close to where I was going but I doubted that it was the type that had a compressor. I was right.

“How has your day been?” said the well dressed lady at the fertilizer company office.

“Dreadful” I said and recounted the tyre pressure saga in compressed format.

She shook her head and said “This place is a disaster”. Then I told the story to the clerk in the payments office.

Tony rang from work. “There is a problem with the plough – the bearing on the tail wheel has seized. Can you get another in town?”. I was nowhere near town but the bearing needed to be got so I copied down the details and phoned the company.

“Yes, I have the bearings but they are not sealed” the sales clerk replied.

“That’s not a lot of good for the purpose I want them for” I commented.

“But I can sell you the seals” she added hopefully.

“Why don’t you just give me the part number of the bearing and I’ll get it elsewhere”. This was becoming a farce.

“I can’t do that over the phone” she replied. I could think of no sensible reply so burst out laughing. This was just amazing!

I parked the pickup in the warehouse and watched in admiration as the workers loaded the 50kg bags of fertilizer having carried them on their head from the pile. In front of me there was another pickup truck loading 10kg bags of fertilizer. They were also being carried one at a time on the heads of the laborers. I suppose it is easier to walk five times to the pile than carry five in one go.

It was past 4 p.m. by the time I got to the tractor spares outlet where I found the sales clerk whom I’d phoned. I asked about the bearings whilst she wrote down the part number. They were $6 each for the unsealed bearings, $7 for the seals or $5 for the sealed bearings which they did not have anyway. I got the required part number and dashed to a bearing specialist nearby. They had the right bearings at $34 each! The salesman was emphatic that the seals, if indeed they were sold separately, could only be factory inserted. By this stage I was beyond arguing so I paid and just managed to beat the rush hour traffic back to work.