I’ve lived what most people consider a crazy life. I built my house all by myself with minimal external help and zero experience with any form of construction, I went to France to work as a raft guide with no experience on small, steep, cold, technical rivers and no knowledge of the French language, I moved to Colorado for my paramedic training prepared to live in my van with no money and no job possibilities when I returned to Canada…. and there’s a long list of other examples. But I’ve always taken on these challenges with almost no degree of nervousness at all. My motto is “if it can be done, it can be done by me”.

Yesterday though, me and a few of my buddies took my truck and 16′ flatbed trailer to pick up my new maple syrup evaporator. Last year I tapped 120 maple trees and made about 80 liters of syrup with my small hobbiest evaporator. But this year I decided to step it up and tap 1000 trees with a new (used) evaporator. My previous evaporator was 2’x6′ but my new evaporator is 4’x14′. My maple shack is only 16′ long! My new evaporator is made of cast iron and stainless steel with about 1000 pounds of firebrick. The chimney is 12″ in diameter and 30′ high. I completely loaded the truck AND trailer and still only had collected about a third of the equipment. Every piece involved with this equipment can only be moved by a minimum of 4 people.

Tasks ahead of me include: tearing down a wall of my sugar shack so I can get the evaporator in there, finding 6-8 friends to help me move it, rebuilding the shack so it is 8′ longer, cleaning all the old mortar off of the fire bricks, figuring out how all the pieces fit together again, cutting holes in the roof of the shack to accept the smoke chimney and 2 steam chimneys, lifting the 30′ long, 200 pound chimney into place, and connecting the evaporator to the 1200 gallon sap holding tanks. Then I have to figure out how all this stuff actually works! This is all before I even consider making syrup.

To do this I have to learn how to tap 1000 trees and run the lines (using gravity only) back to the shack. Anyway, all of this to say, as I was looking at and loading all of this stuff, I finally felt nervous, anxious, stressed and overwhelmed by the challenge ahead of me. And I have to admit, I didn’t like feeling this way very much!

Luckily experience has taught me what I need to do… Just like building the Ark, I can’t think of the entire process all at once. “I’ll NEVER be able to do all of that!” Instead I have to break the challenge ahead of me into manageable tasks. First I need to focus on collecting the rest of the equipment and bringing that shack wall down so we can get the evaporator into the shack. On September 25th, I’m hosting a trail race here where I’m sure I’ll be able to secure enough guys to help me move the evaporator into the building. And that’s where I need to stop thinking! Those 2 jobs are big ones, but with my plan, they’ll be easy-peasy.

The stress and anxiety being caused by this challenge is new to me and although I don’t like it, I have to admit it’s a little bit exciting. It’s kind of like a suspenseful movie… I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what will happen next! I certainly expect to learn a thing or two along this journey, and if I come across anything I think will benefit others, I’ll share it here.

Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 9:37 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So you had a few moments of what many of us have through our lives? The stress and anxiety do trigger adrenaline and it can be ‘exciting’ and some people do get hooked on it. It really is about how you deal with it and not what happens. Enjoy your posts very much.

  2. Mike,
    Good post.
    I don’t have the similar challenges to you, but in the same way as you when faced with a big challenges or a very busy day where you really want to get alot of things done. I think of two things: 1/ One step at a time and make sure you eat and drink (i.e. my AR back ground, but it works) 2/ Even though it’s very rewarding to strive to get things done on time, there is no need to stress about it. I think about things that are really important in life, my mind then settles and I get things done under the assumption that you are still eating and drinking:)

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