The Alpacas who eat Christmas trees

And also carrots!

Hello! Welcome back to another edition of the newsletter. I hope your Christmas was lovely.

I used to enjoy Paul Jarvis’ annual State of the Union newsletters. He inspired me to write a couple of my own. This past week I received a newsletter from Huma Qureshi detailing her list of achievements for 2020, in spite of it all. It reminded me of my own annual reviews and I started compiling a list.

  1. We moved to Derbyshire! The culmination of 12 years of dreaming. If ever anyone should ask me where I see myself in five years’ time, my answer now will be very different. Who knows! Five years ago I had absolutely no idea, no thought, no concept that my current life was anywhere on the horizon. That’s the unpredictable nature of life.

    Did I dream it into being? I’m not sure. I think it’s a combination of defining your dreams and taking those first steps to make them real. Some might call the move to leave my dayjob in April 2019 irresponsible. But, in hindsight, I can see that it was a leap of faith, a commitment to a possible future. I’ve always found that these moments are catalysts that put in motion various cogs and wheels that launch you on to a new path. I really had no idea what I was doing back in April 2019. I was simply responding to a nudge, an urge to grasp life with both hands.

    The massive letting go of 2020 wouldn’t have been as easy and maybe not even possible if I’d still been working at a conventional dayjob. I had the time and space to release the past. It was a line that needed to be drawn so that I could end one chapter before beginning a new one. Sometimes I can’t believe quite how much I sold, donated, recycled, shredded or burned. It made room and created headspace.

  2. I recorded two and a bit series of the podcast. I did it my way and on a shoestring. I discovered, despite not being a fan of phone calls, that I loved thinking out loud. Just me and a microphone. I talked to 24 guests altogether and was amazed by each of them. I learned so much from our conversations. A number of themes ran through the episodes - writing, the Hero’s Journey, resilience, forging your own path and overcoming challenges.

    I relaxed into it and series 2 was less edited and polished but allowed the conversation to flow.

  3. My newsletter evolved throughout the year. Originally a monthly missive, it somehow changed to weekly. I’m proud of my consistency and I truly enjoy writing these emails. I read a few old newsletters to Chris a couple of days ago. It was great to re-live some of this year’s moments.

  4. One of my biggest joys has been reading more. Over the years I seemed to lose the knack for it. I think my head just became full. Embracing a gentler pace has definitely helped. Decluttering also made a big difference. I haven’t counted how many books I’ve actually read this year. Goodreads tells me I’ve read 4 but I know it’s more than that. I’ll try to work it out and report back! Do audiobooks count?

    I still do my childhood trick of having umpteen books on the go at the same time. My Mum could never fathom how I kept track of them all but I just picked them up and started where I’d left off.

  5. This was the year of letter writing. I was a prolific letter writer in my teens, and at other stages in my life. I had a few penfriends and a couple of other people I regularly corresponded with. Looking back, letter writing was probably an introvert’s phone call replacement!

    I’ve always loved snail mail. I am tuned in to the clink of a letterbox. In Chorley, I heard the postman arrive in our close before I saw him.

    A combination of factors made me write more. A new adventure to document. Enforced downtime. Less face to face connection. Plus the aforementioned headspace.

    The pleasure of one or two new pens, combined with some favourite ink and the newly discovered Pigeons meant that I spent many happy hours writing.

  6. I wrote a few other things too! Although I had hoped I might be more creative, I did manage to have a couple of articles published online. There’s another completed but not yet out there.

  7. I took a lot of photographs. I documented my life. I captured memories. They’re my visual diary that remind me of all the things we did throughout the year.

  8. I waited. There are times when we move forward and times when we stand still. 2020 was, for me, as I’m sure it has been for many others, a year of being in the void. That holding space, the buffer between an ending and a new beginning. A period of contemplation, a space for getting your ducks in a row, the crucible where new ideas are forged.

    I made plans. I spent a lot of my time journaling, jotting down possibilities, outlining projects and dreaming about what comes next. These notebooks will be the foundation on which I build my life in 2021. It’s already begun, and I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

What would be on your list for this year? What good things happened in 2020, what did you achieve, what were the positives?

I barely know what day of the week it is at the moment. Days merge into each other and I lose track. This morning, Sunday, we started our day as we often do, listening to music on Alexa.

Then, as I was getting ready, I put on a podcast.

I have a digital subscription to Gardeners’ World magazine - I’m starting to plan, on paper at least, our garden here in Derbyshire. In the most recent edition there was mention of a podcast.

I’ve been listening to this episode with Monty Don: the health benefits of gardening. I was already really enjoying it and then Monty talked about a period in his life that was resonant of so many of the Follow Your Bliss interviews - when he experienced his own moment of perfect bliss. I had to rewind and listen to that bit again. If you love gardening, I think you would enjoy this episode.

Afterwards, we headed out to get some milk and visited the Milkbot in the 24 hour shop at Yeldersley Farms. Chris and I made some short videos for our Instagram Stories. I love discovering these quirky little gems around Derbyshire. Businesses getting creative about how they sell their produce. We like having the opportunity to support the local businesses too. As you probably know by now, I love cows, and I just like the idea of knowing exactly where our milk comes from.

Then we went to feed thinly sliced carrots to some Alpacas.

Only about 10 minutes away from our new house, I’ll definitely be going back to see them and take more carrots. Apparently, they enjoy Christmas trees too!

The next time I send a missive, it will be 2021! I wish you every happiness in the New Year and hope that life takes you in the direction of your dreams.

At lunch time, Chris and I were talking about the new house. We had been watching You’ve Got Mail and I had described the bookshop for Chris. I talked about the walls and walls of wooden bookcases, the vintage look, the fairy lights and the magical vibe. He said he wanted my summerhouse to look like that. I hesitated. But Chris said, it’s now or never. And it’s true. All those dreams we have, everything we want to do, don’t hesitate. Do it now.

Until next time, thank you, as always, for reading my newsletters and sharing this journey with me.


Explore the Peak Park

Before we came to Derbyshire, Chris and I spent a lot of time searching for local videos on YouTube. We wanted to find out about the area. What was there in Ashbourne? What places were nearby for us? There were a few short clips but most were not very informative. I decided there was a gap in the market!

As I thought about what I might do, the ideas evolved, and became more than just making comprehensive videos about the different towns and villages, but also featuring local artisans, makers, producers and farmers.

I’ve already approached a number of local businesses and farms, asking them to be part of my video podcasts. I have a notebook full of jottings and lists.

There are lots of other similar social media accounts promoting the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales. I’m hoping to make my angle different by telling the story behind the businesses and, as with Follow Your Bliss, show how a pivotal moment led them to alter their future.

This story behind this film is exactly that. A beef farmer who, quite literally, put his herd out to grass and followed a completely different avenue. Now producing oat milk, this is one of the local businesses I would love to feature.