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The Broken Jar

September 30, 2013


My heart sank.

Not again!

I spent last weekend listening to BYU lose to their rival University of Utah for the fourth time in a row and canning tomato and pear sauce. (GIGO: Garbage In Garbage Out.) This weekend, BYU beat up on a way overmatched Mid Tennessee State team and I was canning grape juice. And it was breaking my heart.

Ever had to fire someone? Someone you worked with and mentored and did everything possible to help succeed? Or, maybe you didn’t fire them. Maybe you did everything right, trained them, gave them opportunities to grow, praised and corrected them when needed and they left to go to your competitor.

Either way, there’s a real sense of loss when a valuable team member is no longer with you. The reason it’s so hard to let those people go is that we have invested so much of ourselves in them. I had to fire a system administrator that everyone in the office loved working with. Unfortunately, after months of mentoring and training, he just couldn’t do the job. (You’re Fired! Fireworks in 3…2…1)

This is what made the crack sound.


It’s a broken jar. It broke during the very last phase of the canning process. It took a quart of the sweetest Concord grape juice you’re now never going to taste, with it. And my heart really did sink when I heard it break. See, this isn’t just a quart of grape juice gone, it’s hours and hours of work that now means absolutely nothing. No sense getting mad. It wouldn’t do any good anyway. But, I am very disappointed over it.

Come with me for a brief recap of what went into this broken jar.

Every year my aunt, who lives in Salt Lake City invites us to come up from Utah county and pick grapes. Last Saturday the weather was perfect. About 45 degrees when we left our house, but quickly warming up to a nice comfortable 68. Six of my children aged 10 to 13 went with me. We spent about 3 hours and harvested about 6 bushels of grapes.

(Not all of them are in this picture)

The grapes were ripe enough that they were falling off the stems as we picked.


We lost about 20% before they made it into the bins.


At this ripeness, they wouldn’t last very long before they started to mold. (No, they don’t ferment without a bunch more work, and I don’t drink wine so that wasn’t attractive anyway.)

The first step in the canning process is to wash them.


Next, you load them into a steamer.


And then they take about an hour to process. From that, you get about a gallon of juice.

Next, it goes into jars and gets lids and rings, and then into the canner.


Once the canner gets a head of steam then it’s another 14 minutes of processing.

Then, they are set out to cool.


Finally, you remove the rings, pack them in boxes and put them in the storeroom for special occasions throughout the year.


So, when that jar broke, it wasn’t just the 14 minutes of processing that was wasted. It was also the hour of juicing, the washing, the hauling, the trip to Salt Lake and back, and the time for the 7 of us to pick them. Those six bushels of grapes will yield about 60 quarts of juice, or about 15 gallons. That might sound like a lot, but consider my kids love it and I have 8 kids at home and two adult daughters who still like to raid their parents’ pantry.

The real point is that when we put a lot of work into something, it’s that much more disappointing when it doesn’t turn out.

Honestly, I’m much more upset, even years later, about having to fire our system administrator than I am over a few (4 so far) quarts of juice going to waste. And just like I do every time I fire someone, I can’t help but think about what I might have done differently. Since 7 quarts go into the canner, and the juicer only produces 4 quarts per cycle, some of the jars end up sitting for an hour. They cool and then when put into the canner with hot jars, the temperature change is too great.

At least that’s what I think is happening. I’ll make a few changes and see if I can eliminate the failures. I think that’s what we have to do as managers, as well. I’m still not completely convinced of what I could have done differently with the system administrator either.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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From → Team Building

  1. Toad permalink

    Do you have one of the rubberized canning racks?

    • Nope. Our steam bath canners have a wire rack. I think the pressure canners have a wire mesh, or something. But, no rubberized racks.

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