Yet Again

August 5, 2012 Comments Off on Yet Again

I received a fine lesson in the importance of concentration. Yet again.

As a new volunteer on the farm, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. Some due to genuine misunderstandings, others to overconfidence.

What happened last night was pure stupidity on my part.

We milk Koko, the family cow, twice a-day: once in the morning, once in the evening. One of my hosts pasteurizes the milk in the morning while I attend to other tasks. In the evening, it’s my turn to pasteurize.

Pasteurization is a simple process. Bring the fresh, filtered milk to 69 degrees, stirring regularly throughout. Once the thermometer reads 69 degrees, put the pot of milk into a sink filled with cold running water. Stir frequently until the temperature drops to 20 degrees. Store the milk in the fridge.

Easy, right? Not if you’re me.

As the pot of milk reaches the proper temperature, it’s important to clean up any unused or dirty implements. The bucket used to collect the milk needs to be washed and disinfected with diluted chlorine. The strainer and cheese- cloth used to filter the milk need to be properly washed (and in the case of the cheesecloth, sterilized).

I do all of this in the kitchen, which, in the evenings, especially around dinnertime, is abuzz with activity. I can hardly focus in this kind of environment. I like to think of myself as a multitasker, but I’m really not. I only produce quality work if I concentrate on one thing at a time.

However, this, I’m quickly learning, won’t cut it on a farm. There are so many pressing items to accomplish on a daily basis. Often at the same time. If you’re not a natural-born multitasker, farm life will force you to become one. You will gain the ability to give equal attention to numerous things out of necessity.

I shuffled between checking the thermometer in the pot of milk on the stovetop and disinfecting the bucket. I thought I hadn’t missed a beat. Until it came time to place the pot in the sink filled with cold water. I placed the pot in the sink and ran the faucet. Cold water flooded into the pot filled with milk, not the sink.

I ruined the entire pot of milk. It instantly became animal feed.

My host was disappointed but assured me it wasn’t a disaster. She then advised me how essential concentration is in order to run a successful farm.

For me, it’s not simply a matter of becoming an excellent multitasker. I admit that I need to work on listening carefully to others’ instructions. Even more important, I need to be fully present. Only then will learn how to focus and be industrious in a stressful environment.

Whatever lesson in concentration I receive next time, I hope it doesn’t involve another ruined pot of milk. I mean, do you have any idea how hard it is to milk a cow by hand?


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