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FARM NOTES – Multi-tasking revisited, useful farm word

By Tom henry

My bias against smartphones can be dated to the time a pig extracted one from my pocket and took off. He toothed it for awhile then dropped it in the muck, then his friends stomped it in. No amount of cleaning ever got rid of the odour, so it was thereafter called a smellphone.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike smartphones, not least of which is the way they geld what would otherwise be pleasant meandering conversations. With a smartphone, the answer to any question can be realized within moments. So not only do you have someone interrupting a conversation to haul out their smartphone and stab in a question (i.e. Buff Orpington—origin) but in the response you have the equivalent of a technological know-it-all who has every answer to every question—right now.

We all know how much fun it can be to hang out with a know-it-all.

In the family I was raised in, some of the best dinner table conversations were about things we knew little or nothing about, but which we were all keen to comment on (not a wonder I became an editor). It was not unusual for six or eight of us to voice opinions at the same time. I don’t know what we would have done if someone could have definitively provided an answer.

Asked them to leave immediately, I imagine.

So much for my concerns about smartphones. According to recent reports, the folks at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, among others, are concerned that multitasking with electronic media may lead to a loss of IQ. In some cases, they say, multitasking is worse for you than smoking marijuana or losing a night’s sleep.

It may be true, or not, but there is a whiff about this research of thinking something, or some situation, is unique when in fact it is not. It could be argued that all of us suffer a loss in concentration, and maybe IQ, when we multitask at anything. I mean, you try having a deep thought next time the neighbour’s bull breaks in with your herd, the well pump quits and the mother-in-law calls to say she needs horse hay, pronto.

There was a time when multitasking was a talent to be admired, not derided. A homemaker of my mother’s generation was celebrated for her ability to, in the course of late summer afternoon: can jam, prep for the evening school committee meeting, take tea to an older, ailing neighbour, wash the kids’ dirty dungarees in the roller washer (“Jimmy, get your arm away from there!”), water the dahlias and prepare dinner, including dessert.

No one thought to give an IQ test to my mother before and after such days and, if they did, they wouldn’t have cared whether her IQ had ticked up or down. The success of her day, and of days for others like her, was based on how much she got done, and how well she did it.

It could be argued that multitasking, with or without electronic media, is what humans do best. Cows eat grass, bears eat berries, but only humans can talk on the smartphone, drink from a cup of scalding hot coffee and open a farm gate at the same time.

Useful farm word

My wife discovered that there is a word—petrichor— to describe the pleasant smell that often accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Too bad that it has such an ugly sound to it, especially for such a pleasing sensation.

Petrichor was coined in the 1960s by two researchers who combined the Greek word, petra, meaning stone, with ichor, the bloodlike fluid of Greek gods. The smell apparently comes from oils that plants produce in dry periods and which are released into the air by moist soils. There’s a note in online discussions of this word that some scientists believe the scent appeals to humans because our ancestors relied on rain for survival. I know I find the smell deeply satisfying.