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The Downfall of Multitasking

As a farmer and mother of two young children, multitasking is a mix of survival and success.  Even if I were not trying to manage a seasonal farm, all households require a certain element of multitasking to ensure that everyone and everything keeps moving along.  The problem with multitasking is when the number of tasks becomes too much but you haven’t realized it yet.

This spring, I came face to face with this problem and the saddest part is that it didn’t just happen once; it happened three times, in short order, all while boiling down Maple Syrup.

We have a row of old Sugar Maples here that we have been tapping since we arrived on site.  Jarod built us a boiler out of an old oil tank and we have produced anywhere from 15-25 litres of liquid gold each season.  We cannot expand further in this venture due to the limit of trees so we boil syrup the old fashioned way; we hang buckets, carry full sap pails and boil slowly over a roaring fire.  We are reasonably pleased with our results and we are always happy to share the best batch with family and friends.

This is where I ran into trouble this year.  I boiled over 3 (yes 3) different batches and lost us a few litres of that precious product.  Not only is the loss of syrup hard to admit, it carries a feeling of defeat because I felt like I had it all under control…until I didn’t.

In my defense, it was time to pick my daughter up from school, or my son up from daycare, or to cook dinner for the family.  These are all important and unavoidable tasks but they distracted me at the precise moment when sap became syrup which, when ignored, became a lava of foaming sugar that rose up and poured over the boiler creating a golden puddle in the leaves.

Had I been able to take the boiling blinders off, I would have simply removed the pans from the boiler and finished it later but in the name of multitasking and trying to ‘just get it done’ I pushed it all too far. And then I did it again….and again.

I finished this syrup season a little bitterly, and I was not sad to pull taps, wash buckets and put it all away.  In fact it might have been the quickest clean up I have ever done since I generally dislike having to wash all the pails.  But if I take and honest look at my situation I can admit that I was just trying to do too much.  Sometimes, we need to respect the process and not rush it, sometimes it is ok to sit and watch the kettle boil.