1. Introduce yourself: your name and where you live.
Alison Carroll, Joshua Tree.
2. What made you move to the desert (and how do you cope with the summer heat)?
We had been visiting Joshua Tree when we lived in SF, and being from the East coast, it was like coming to the moon. There’s something really magical about having an unobstructed sight-line - it’s very clearing, mentally. So, when we started working for ourselves, we soon realized that we didn’t have to spend all of our energy on LA rent, and found, what we think is the worst house in the best neighborhood. We then spent 2 years building it by hand to make our little oasis in the desert. As for the summer heat, we typically spend July and August on the East Coast in Maine.
3. Tell us about Wonder Valley?
We’re an olive oil company founded by Jay, my husband, and myself in late 2014. We believe in the holistic power of extra virgin olive oil as the foundation to a healthy diet and the key to radiant skin. All the fruit is grown in Northern California - our trees are in Lake County. All our production is out there, but we have a shop and studio here in the desert (61943 Twentynine Palms Hwy).
4. What’s so special about your olive oil?
It’s a blend that changes year to year. Unlike most olive oil production, our technique is to harvest the fruit when it’s really underripe, so they’re mostly green when we’re picking. It’s definitely more labor intensive - we get a lower yield, but what we get is a really vibrant, alive oil that’s more peppery, more herbaceous, greener. Also, the more robust an oil, the higher the concentration of polyphenols, which make it such a superfood antioxidant. The flavor is really dynamic and interesting (and the bottle is completely plastic-free which I’m really proud of).
5. Aside from the olive oil, is there anything else you’re working on?
Yes! At the forefront along with the oil, is our Wonder Valley skincare line. I started becoming obsessive about the holistic benefits of olive oil and how it’s really one of the oldest beauty ingredients. So, I started making a face oil with other plant extracts that I used to just make for friends, and then it snowballed into a one-off product. Now the formula has been improved upon, and we have a face oil, body oil and facial cleanser. It’s all so lovely, potent, unisex and completely natural. I then have a separate business called Al’s Big Deal, which is unisex all-cotton domestic-made jumpsuits, based around the idea of workwear you hardly work in. We’re also partners of a hotel in New Mexico called El Rey Court. It’s a very beloved and iconic 1930s adobe motor court, in downtown Santa Fe, on what was the Old Route 66. It was such a fun project that we are always fine-tuning.
6. Is there anything you miss about living in a big city?
Sure! There’s definitely a magic of spontaneity that happens in big cities, like you bump into someone and the day shifts. Whereas here in rural places it’s much more intentional, where you have to make dinner plans with people in order to see anyone. There are also cultural elements that are hard to replicate. And I miss restaurants and sometimes would love to be able to order sushi or great Thai food, instead of cooking all the time!
7. What’s your go to home workout?
I do a lot of physical home projects, like right now we’re digging trenches and we’re putting a shade structure up, so that all takes it out of me! I love yoga, and we hike a lot!
8. Being such a foodie, what does your typical breakfast, lunch and dinner look like?
Nothing’s typical these days! Breakfast I’ll always have a little pot of tea, usually a green tea or English breakfast tea with a bit of milk. I like eggs and gluten free sourdough. Lunch is usual a big leafy salad or grain bowl. Dinner, we have definitely been more indulgent, just because it feels like a nice way to decompress and have treats, so something like fried chicken or homemade pasta. It’s a bit more social and my husband will get involved, so it’s a great way to connect with him.
9. What's your daily uniform?
Usually a jumpsuit. I have some great vintage men’s army pants too that I love wearing with a fitted t-shirt-the ones from Filthmart in LA are my favorites. I also have friends with lovely brands, like Dôen, who make really wonderful comfortable dresses.
10. What book are you reading at the moment?
The Overstory, it’s a collection of short stories that are beautifully written. Each story has trees or forests that play a pivotal role, so it’s very connected to the natural world. I’m really enjoying it.
11. Where are you dreaming of travelling to once lockdown is over?
I’d like to go to Puglia, Italy to see olive country there, that would be magical. I’d also love to visit small coastal towns in Norway, as I appreciate a lot of their architecture and cuisine.
12. What is your most guilty pleasure?
I guess drinking a little bit too much! Or sometimes vegging out and watching movies and clocking out a little early.
13. Current mood?
I’m hopeful. And I feel grateful that we’re still in business even with our shop closed and our sales channels not being available, and that we’ve been able to keep our team employed. I’m grateful for the desert more than ever, it’s such a blessing to have so much space. With all that’s going on, my mantra has been not to swim upstream, like every day how can I give myself a break, be a little more tender with myself or be more patient with someone who’s maybe having a harder time, or a bad day. Thinking that way has made it easier for me to embrace challenges, rather than sit with the discomfort of this grey area we find ourselves in.