The best way to go about it is to go about it.

By | June 12, 2011

As mentioned last post I had to start building a tea nursery, but I hadn’t seen any drawings or concrete plans about how it should turn out. So I asked first, and they gave me the global dimensions. I then quickly drew something up in blender, my favorite 3D open source application (check some of my blender doodles here: thelowlander.wordpress.com), and confident that I knew how to tackle the issue, I went to inspect the site of the old tea nursery….

The dimensions I used were basically shaped like a box, with a flat ground… The old tea-nursery stood on a hill, that had two different levels… Bye bye plan… So I had to rethink some things. Initially I had the idea to level the floor first, which would be a lot of work. Besides, a lot of the old (dead) tea-plants still sat in their original plastic bags and due to the rain had sort of merged with the floor. I didn’t want all that plastic trash to disappear in the soil (and it would be a lot harder to dig through it), so they would have to be removed. I didn’t look forward to it, but I figured that the best way to go about it was to just go about it. So I started to empty the bags, put the dirt back, and put the plastic bags in the trash. Chandima, one of the security guards came to help me. It took us two days to clear out all the plastic. I figured we didn’t need to really level the whole place, as we didn’t have enough sand to make the low part higher, and digging away from the higher part would make it possible for a small landslide if there was some heavy rain.

So I decided to just keep the levels that were already enforced, and go back to the drawing board. It didn’t need much alteration. The tea-nursery consisted of four big sections. The first and second one would be on the high level, and the third and fourth would be on the low level, which was approximately 30-40 cm lower. I designed the 3rd part to just be 30-40 cm longer, so it would “bridge” the levels, and the fourth part would stay the same. Jan (one of the founders of Hellabeem) went shopping for metal pipes, and I started welding. It was tiring and troublesome. They do not have the same kind of equipment like we do in the Netherlands. I had no welding gloves, but painting gloves, which surprisingly never melted on me. There were things like fuses in power plugs popping, no matching power cables with plugs because of the weird old English system, no proper grinding discs (one broke and went flying) I used cotton bags to cover my shoes because I didn’t want to accidentally burn them. When I needed a tool that was in a workshop/shed/office I had to find someone with a key to let me in. The battery of my welding mask became empty, there was no spare and it couldn’t be found in Sri Lanka.

I have to admit though, that I went there with more of a “this is a holiday” attitude, and not with my dutch workaholic attitude. I think I spent between 4 to 7 hours a day working, and at a slower pace than I would back home. After I gave up on their “big” welding machine because there were no power plugs to move it, I ended up using a very cheap welding machine that had to be used on a higher setting than the machine indicates to just get some juice out of it. Not too high though, because once the pipes start to accumulate some heat it would be too much and you just end up burning through the stuff. It was difficult welding. There was not a very good way to align all the pipes and make sure every angle was correct. Manually saw, grind to fit, use some feet and heavy objects to keep everything in place, and quickly “stitch” it so you can weld everything together. The thing was 15,6 meters long and lay on the floor. Not quite like welding some smaller pieces back home at waist level with a proper welding machine :). It took 9 people to move it to the location for the tea nursery. I ended up using a small mask you had to hold with one hand and the cheap welding machine. I’m not awfully proud of how the welding came out, there is some sludge in it, but it is solid and won’t break easily (I hope). The first part was the most difficult because of all the little problems. The second one (4th part actually, the outside) was done in just over a day and I just didn’t get to finish the third part, because I would leave for Nuwara Eliya. Chandima will finish the last one, and connect the pieces together. Next post will be about a trip to Yala in the weekend. But now there are some photos to enjoy:

The tea-nursery as it was last year.

The first draft.

The tea-nursery as it was 2 weeks ago.

The second draft.

Emptying the old tea-bags.

Begin welding.

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