We Can Do It

Ava Panzarella (photo courtesy of: Sarah Panzarella)

Everyone has potential. By not recognizing it – by not living up to it, we chip away at it, piece by piece. The more we chip, the harder it gets to restore it. We can still realize it, but it takes longer and is harder to reconstruct.
Not all potential is alike. I may have the potential to be a writer, farmer, artisan or other creatively related occupation, but even though I think it might just be a cool profession, there isn’t one ounce of potential in me to be a rocket science. That doesn’t mean I cannot become a rocket scientist, it just means that the odds aren’t good to begin with, and the amount of intense work I would have to do to get there just might not be worth it. In other words, I have to be true to myself. I have to know what will ultimately work for me, and what won’t.
To determine what potential you have, you first need to do a self-study. Ask yourself four questions: 1) What do you like to do? 2) What makes your heart leap? 3) What ignites your passion like a Papa Noel bonfire on Christmas Eve? 4) What do you instinctively do well, even if you can see there is room for improvement? Once you have answered these questions, then you will have a fairly good idea of where your potential lies, and where to begin working. I may like rocks, and can come up with quite a few things to do with them creatively, but that doesn’t mean I want to be a geologist. My heart leaps at the idea of being a real estate agent – mainly because I love houses and architecture, but the time involved in actually selling properties would take too much time away from the things I love the most. My passion? Well, let’s just say I won’t be listing your house anytime soon, because I am not giving up my passion for my family, my farm and my creative leanings to show you a house on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday.
Be prepared. You may very well have several answers for each question. What you want to watch for are the same answers to all three questions, or a way to blend them all under one umbrella. I like to farm. My heart leaps when I am on my farm. My passion can light up ten bayous across the state when I am engaged in projects around the farm.  So, I know, with dedication and hard work, I will one day live up to my potential to be a full-fledged farmer. But I also love to cook, bake and preserve food. I can’t help but write, as words, sentences and stories are always playing games in my mind (even if writing some days has to take a back seat to everything else that is going on). I enjoy weaving, knitting, crochet, making soaps, candles and doing other crafty things. I love working with animals, and some days I just need a good dose of hard, heavy work to make me feel like I have accomplished something. When I lay all those things out, it is clear to me that all of those things fall under one umbrella – and that is living a simple life. I can live it. I can work it. I can harvest it, can it, then cook it up. And when all the dust settles, I can write about it. You just can’t get any better than that.
But, even so, it isn’t only my potential that I need to be concerned with. I also have to consider the potential of my land. On our farm, we have a vegetable garden, cows, chickens, a couple of beehives, a few herbs and a grapevine. My dream is a huge garden and a sizeable orchard, and at least several plants or shrubs of every small fruit that will grow here. I dream of extending my chicken coop to accommodate twice as many birds. 100 head of cattle wouldn’t hurt my feelings, as well as heritage hogs and some great quality wool sheep. That is all fine and good, but unless I want to spend large sums of money, that isn’t going to happen. As for the garden, our soil is extremely sandy. To build it up to where it needs to be, I would have to spend thousands bringing in literally tons of organic matter for any garden much bigger than the one I have. As for the chicken coop, I could probably scrap enough material to build it larger, but where would we put it? Every square inch we have is already dedicated to something. To shift, move and re-fence would be cost and time prohibitive. Hogs are still a consideration, as I already have a space that was dedicated to them once, and it wouldn’t be hard to rebuild that area. However, wool sheep? Uh, have y’all felt the heat and humidity here in northwest Louisiana lately? Without an air conditioned barn, I would kill any wool sheep we tried to raise from heat exhaustion. And unless I win the lottery, I won’t be counting on an air-conditioned barn any time soon, either.
So, I balance my potential for living a simple lifestyle against my farm’s potential, and have come up with workable plan. I may not be able to grow 70 tomato plants, but the one’s I do grow get a lot of one-on-one attention, which helps them to produce more. I am learning to work with companion planting, so instead of a single row of carrots, I have them nestled in between tomato plants. It’s too small to grow everything at once, but the perfect size to have a spring/summer and fall/winter garden. When I want to do a trial run of something, like winter wheat, I can scrap enough lumber to build a large raised bed in the area where I originally wanted the large garden. If necessary, I could do two or three raised beds, and have enough compost to fill them up. Or, I could do a slow version and just pile in dirt, manure, grass clippings and leaves in each box, and leave it to break down over a year or two.
As for the chickens, my coop may be small, but I still have a little room to expand. Instead of raising 100 meat birds at once, I can raise two different groups – one in the spring, and one in the fall. I have enough eggs from the birds I have to supply our needs, some to sell and enough left over to pull a few in the spring and fall to hatch out. I can also grow a few greens to help supplement their standard fare of scratch grain and laying pellets. That might be a bit more costly and difficult if I had a larger coop. Plus, clean up only takes about two hours, instead of a whole day with the size coop I dream of having. Where the cows are concerned, I am following the Apostle Paul’s sentiments, and learning to be content. The sheep? Trust me – I can find a website that sells wool for spinning. Besides, I still don’t have a spinning wheel yet, so I have no need for the wool.
It’s been a journey, and I know I will be on this road for a while. But I have the potential to make this farm a success, and know how to balance what the property can handle with how wide I want to stretch my wings. And I am happy with the final outcome. It may take me the rest of my life, but I will eventually live up to my potential. And without a doubt, I will have a blast as I travel this road.