Sunday, March 1, 2009

What do you call this? Where can I buy one? Where can I buy 100 of them?

These are the questions Anand and asked as we searched the back streets of Hosur on Saturday. We’ve been looking for a solution to how to best close the ends of the drip tape laterals. We originally folded over the ends and held the fold in place with a small sleeve of the drip tape material itself; however, the water pressure slowly worked these loose. We tried taping the fold in place with electrical tape; this worked better, but when we stretched the lines tight, even the taped ends slid open over time. We finally just tied the ends shut—that’s quick and easy, and works nicely for attaching the ends to a stake or a wire to keep the lateral stretched tight—but it’s a real hassle every time you need to open the end of the line to flush the laterals. So Peter did some investigating in the catalogs of American drip irrigation companies, sent me some pictures, and Anand and looked around for a local substitute. We settled on plastic buckles: they’re the right size and shape. We salvaged a busted one from a pair of my shoes, tried it out on the drip tape, and then set about hunting for more. After several false leads and many more blank stares, Anand and I finally found our way down a narrow alley to a shop selling cell phones and offering schoolbag repairs. The two brothers who owned this establishment were rather confused by our request, and did try to interest us in cell phones instead, but after a lengthy explanation by Anand, they produced several tubs of salvaged backpack parts including quite a variety of plastic buckles. We brought out our drip tape samples and soon all four of us were trying different buckles and configurations. Our best results came from running the tape through, around, and back through ladder locks, the buckles on the straps of backpacks that let you tighten them with a quick pull. We purchased enough pieces to repair a hundred broken backpacks, and headed back to our pilot sites to try them out in the field. So far the buckles are holding firm; they’re much easier to tighten in order to keep the laterals taut and straight, and they’re simple to undo when a lateral needs flushing.

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