another inspiration

At the beginning of this month I shared gratitude for the inspiration I've found from some very courageous and creative women who are following their passions and making dreams a reality.  Because I'm in the process of making my own dreams a reality, I'd like to continue to share more of what and who inspires me throughout this year.  I hope these inspirations will inspire you as well.  I'm so very grateful for encouraging stories of passion, bravery and hard work.  I think they help us all to believe that dreams really can come true.  And with that faith, that belief in possibility, maybe we'll be able to work a little harder and not just dream our dreams, but live them as well.

Have you ever watched the British TV show All Creatures Great and Small?  I've always loved the James Herriot stories.  My mom read them to me when I was a child and I watched the show when I was small, too.  As a child I loved anything with animals (and still do) and when I was in my vet phase (as in, when I grow up I want to be one), anything about vets.

with Phil and a goat

As an adult I brought the videos of the show home from the library and Matthias and I spent a weekend watching episode after episode and I was hooked all over again.

A few years later I stumbled across a book called The Olive Farm.  I'm not sure where I first saw it, but when I noticed who the author was, I was totally intrigued.  The author, Carol Drinkwater, is the actress who played James Herriot's wife in All Creatures Great and Small.  She is absolutely delightful in that role, and the story of how James awkwardly woos Helen is so charmingly portrayed that the audience can't help but be smitten right along with him.  So, when I came across a book written by the woman who played Helen, I wanted to read it partly for that reason alone.

publicity photo by Michel Noll provided by The Orion Publishing Group

Simply put, the book is the story of how Carol Drinkwater and her to-be-husband buy and restore a dilapidated Olive Farm in Provence.  Provence, with its olives and fields of lavender, holds a special allure for me, making the book even more attractive.

front walk at my house in Cleveland, lined with lavender and catmint

Carol Drinkwater writes about her lifelong dream of having a house by the sea where she could write and friends and family could visit, a place of solace and activity and creativity.  She writes of finding Appassionata, a ruin and former olive farm, falling in love with it, struggling to purchase it and of all the challenges of bringing it back to life.  Carol, a city girl, spent her adult life traveling and acting, while all the time dreaming her dream of a home by the sea.  She spent childhood summers at her mother's family's farm, but had no farming experience and really no plan to embark on a farming life before being captured by the spell of Appassionata.  The purchase price of the farm was much beyond her budget and as an added challenge, she spoke very little French at the beginning of her adventure.  And yet, she and Michel not only purchased and refurbished the house, but also cleared the land and began harvesting the olives, producing top of the line olive oil from their small piece of land.

Her story, simply summarized like that is both staggering and inspiring.  Her series of books is so readable, enjoyable, lovely.  They are full of description, beautiful language and her unique point of view.  They follow her life through its ups and downs, challenges, heartbreaks and her perseverance through it all.  They are also well researched, weaving history and culture and natural history with her own private story.  I devoured the books.  And I made Matthias read them, too.  We read them aloud together, and then we discovered the audiobook versions, read by Carol herself.  Listening to an author read her/his own book is always such a pleasure for me and when that author is also an actor... These do not disappoint.  One summer, as Matthias and I worked on laying a checkerboard patio in our backyard, we dragged a stereo outside to listen to The Olive Farm as we worked.

the patio in progress, summer 2005

Tales of Carol and Michel's labor kept us company and helped us to ignore how hot and dirty and tired we were.

the finished patio that same summer

3 years later in the Spring

this past summer, viewed from the opposite direction

Although we were living a very different story in a very different place, we could relate to a couple taking a vision of beauty and making that vision real.  And I think we need that.  Not just Matthias and I, but everyone.  We all need stories we can relate to, stories that make us know we're not alone.  Stories that give us hope and assure us that we're not foolish for following a vision or a dream.

Carol's story might seem a bit glamorous and far-away, but I think that even though in many ways I cannot relate to her experiences, the fact that a woman without experience and with limited means and abilities was able to follow her dream and work hard to live a life that she wanted to live, going at times against common sense, is so inspiring.  I think we need stories like that, no matter where they might be set or who might be living them.  But I also think that we need stories that make the world just a little bit smaller.  Stories that bring the wonders of something like an olive tree, so foreign in the US Midwest, to life for me.  I'm grateful for these stories.  Grateful that people are living them and grateful that people are telling them.

Get a taste of Carol's story in this interview on The Book Channel:

And if you take a look on Carol's website you'll see a video there about the upcoming documentary that she's working on about the journey she took around the Mediterranean to learn about the olive tree.  It sounds like it will be wonderful.


  1. Anne, I don't know if you realise this but you are an inspiration too! Your patio and garden are beautiful. I can't wait to read the trilogy of stories by Carol Drinkwater and look out for her documentary too.

  2. This is really fascinating, Anne. My husband, daughter and I watched ACG&S when it was on years ago, then recently started up watching again! (back then, my daughter named her teddy bear "Sigfried!")
    How amazing that you discovered this book by Carol Drinkwater about an adventure similar to your own!
    By the way, that patio and yard are fantastic! How creative and lovely!
    Why do I have a feeling that you might one day write a wonderful book about your own journey?

  3. I always enjoy when you talk about making your dreams a reality! And I also like when you share your inspiration, always inspiring to me! I'm working towards the same goal (making dreams become a reality) and it's hardwork, so after I read your posts I always feel better afterwards! And your patio is lovely.

  4. Oh wow! I'd forgotten all about our sunday evening ritual of watching ACG&S! I must have been about 7...I LOVED that program!! Anne, you have such a wonderful way when you write,it transports me to another place :).....I can TOTALLY imagine you writing a book about your journey living your dreams.......x

  5. Dearest sweet anne, this is such a beautiful and very inspiring post! I love your garden and your story so much and more. Thank YOU for sharing Carol's story with us too! Soo uplifting! Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you!

  6. You are all so kind and encouraging. Thank you so much for being so supportive and uplifting. You cheer my days and push me to work a bit harder.

    I'm glad to have sparked memories of ACG&S. (Judy, love that your daughter named her bear Sigfried!) I hope you can find copies of the books and that you enjoy them as much as I did.

  7. I went to the library this morning and found The Olive Season. If you loved ACGandS you would enjoy reading Katrina Kittle's newest novel, The Blessings of theAnimals. She is a Dayton author. A friend recommended
    Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden.The first one---The Journey by Mary Oliver reminded me of you and your new journey. I love
    your photos, your postings, and the joy nature gives you. Reading your blog
    is something I look forward to daily. Thanks for sharing.


  8. Thank you, Susan, for the book recommendations and for your kind words! Hope you enjoy Carol Drinkwater's book.

  9. Hello Anne,

    I have just read what you have written and I would like to say a big thank you for sharing my journey and for passing it on to your friends and readers.
    My website is full of Newsletters and updates on what I am now doing, including the very exciting documentary TV series we are currently filming, inspired by two of my books, The Olive ROUTE and The Olive TREE.
    Life is always full of possibilities and colour if we keep our eys open, as you and Matthias so obviously do
    And I love your patio! Imagine, you were creating it while listening to one of my books on your stereo system. I shall definitely remember that next time I am in a recording studio
    Good luck with your blog and a big HELLO to all your readers
    By the way, there are now SIX OLIVE books in the trilogy!!!!


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