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Alison of Wonder Valley

       

Meet Alison, the mastermind behind our favorite olive oil ever, Wonder Valley.

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Having taken up residency in Joshua Tree we couldn’t help but ask her some questions about what life in the desert looks like and how she ended up pursuing her dream. Read on to get a glimpse into what it means to truly go rural. You might just start planning your escape from the city.

Where are you from? I’m a Jersey girl, grew up in a small town called Lawrenceville next to Princeton.

Where do you live and what do you do? I live in Joshua Tree, California with my husband & partner Jay. We collaborate on Wonder Valley from our high desert headquarters. We also are knee deep in rehabbing our 1959 homestead house ourselves, tucked against boulders that border the national park. It’s been a full year of taking it back to the studs & redoing everything. We also restored a 34 foot 1951 Vagabond trailer that’s our home for now. Outside of the house & Wonder Valley, I freelance in production/editorial/and design work.

Can you please give some history as to your career? In the past, I’ve worked as a food buyer, stylist, in professional kitchens and as marketing director for the California Olive Oil Council. My interests lie in food and agriculture and design. Developing Wonder Valley has been a culmination of these passions.

What led you to the desert?

It’s a place we’ve been drawn to for a long time as place to reset and to find inspiration. After we were married here we got serious about making this our home full time. The desert here is at a unique time that is full of good change and good opportunity.

So many of us dream of living remotely yet never do it. What was the process like for you to come to the decision to move? There are so many small yet beautiful rewards come with living this close to nature. At this time in my life it felt very easy to ‘choose rural’ and make the move. I was ready.

What does a day in the desert look like for you? Wake up and make tea, meditate, then plan our day over breakfast, usually fresh fruit or a frittata from our neighbor’s farm fresh eggs.

We split our day between physical labor & studio work. The early half of the day is labor on the house, which right now is a lot of woodworking. We break for lunch in the trailer and the second half of the day is the studio time, filling Wonder Valley orders, designing new products and managing development, working on freelance projects. In the evening, we’ll take a break usually for a hike into the BLM land behind our home with our dog Lefty. Before the sun goes down we’ll water all the plants and do some landscaping when it’s cool out. The land was untended for 5+ years, so a big project of mine is reviving a 20-year-old pomegranate tree and setting up a grey water system. Usually we have dinner at home or meet up with friends for a cocktail at the saloon.

Do you have a community that you are close with? I’ve found in the past when living in remote areas you often create community out of human desire for relationships. Is this the case for you? Has your sense of community changed since living there.

We are a lot more social since moving to the desert. It was amazing, we showed up and found this exciting community of people not unlike us; couples usually working for themselves creating some type of art. We do fun small town stuff; we go bowling, have a weekly breakfast club, go to the drive-in movie theatre. We throw parties, dinners, concerts to bring everyone together, townies and visitors. We are very rooted here and every day feel grateful to call this place home.

What are your favorite things about your life in the desert? Has your relationship with nature changed in any way? The small daily rewards; it might be a flower blooming on the end of a cactus you planted or seeing a family of baby quails. Or how great it feels to be working in 99-degree weather after a month of 105. I feel very present here and in tune with the natural rhythm.

What is something that has surprised you about making the move?

There’s something incredibly exciting about dealing with the challenges of living in a place like this. The limitations push you to be more resourceful and creative, things you would have previously outsourced or passed onto someone else, you take on out here. A place like this makes you self-reliant.

Has living in the desert impacted the way you eat? The way you exercise? Yes & no. I don’t have a great local butcher shop, and I eat a lot less seafood. But I have a nice local health food store & access to a great farmers market. I cook almost all of our meals. The problem comes when its 3 pm and you forget to eat and nothing is open or you’re bored to death with the few options you have. Hanger is an issue in a remote area.

Are you good friends with the UPS delivery man? The mail doesn’t come to the house so I’m all about our post office and go there daily. Iris is my girl.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to make a big, juicy change in their lives, like you did?

With a big change, jump headfirst and don’t wait. Strip back any expectations of what’s ahead. And a strong, healthy body = a capable, focused mind. Be extra good to yourself during times of change.

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