Welcome To the Enchanted Valley!

 

Hello Friends!

What do you know, here I am back at this blog again!
Life has been kind of insane lately. Things that I never expected to happen are happening. It’s scary, it’s painful, it’s raw, it’s real, it’s beautiful… and it’s totally Wild..

I always thought that someday I’d be the old woman of the canyon, stirring pots of soup and making pies in my beautiful wood stove oven, my kitty cats climbing on my shoulder. Drinking tea in my outdoor kitchen while I watched the sun rise through the mist. Gazing at those cliffs every day of my life, feeling like the luckiest lady in the world. Walking the same paths, noticing the same plants, seeing the same birds and lizards and bugs and skunks hopping and crawling and waddling around, and feeling so glad to see every little creature that shared the canyon with me.

But what was starting to happen there in the canyon is that I was feeling too lonely, and a little bit restless. Maybe it’s just a typical mid-life crisis. But for the past year, I’ve been fighting it. I’ve been trying so hard to make everything ok, and convince myself that if I could just love myself enough, maybe I could quit feeling like I needed to be around more people, and NEW people, singing and dancing and sitting around outdoor fires. Shopping at farmer’s markets. It might seem silly, but these are the things I felt like I was missing the most. But also, just being around little kids, and old people, and feeling like I was part of a larger community than just my family.

But, I tried as hard as I could. I really, really did. And I just couldn’t shake it.

So, to make a very long story short, I’ve ended up here, in this beautiful valley in Southern Oregon that is truly some kind of magical oasis. It’s just 16 miles from the border of Northern California, so it has the weather of California along with the fertility of the North West. When I walk the streets here, I see chestnut trees and blackberry vines, wild rose bushes, and acorns that are about 4 or 5 times the size of the ones in the canyon. There’s rosemary flourishing in so many yards, spilling over practically onto the sidewalks. There’s grape vines bearing really fat grapes that I can smell from many yards away.

I really, really love it here. It’s totally magical, but in a very different way than the enchanted canyon. I miss New Mexico hugely though. I miss the crazy blue of the skies, the feeling in the air, the weather there, the lay of the land and the very unique kind of wildness that that place has, where it’s really easy to feel like you’re in some kind of old Western movie. And of course, I miss the canyon.

I miss my enchanted kitchen and its perfect, curvy countertops that Wolf made with his own, beautiful hands. I miss the river and the cliffs, and my little dock patch, and the wild mustard and the tiny acorns we have there that are so much more flavorful. Really, I miss every little thing there so much. I miss my giant school bus closet with its ridiculous amount of clothes, I miss my solar refrigerator, I miss my knives and my wooden spoons and my 12 bins of fabric for the sewing projects I hardly ever seem to be able to make time for. I miss my Singer treadle that used to be Wolf’s grandmother’s. I miss the rocking chair that I sat at the table in the outdoor kitchen. I miss my darling kitty cats… sooo much.

And it kind of goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, how much I miss my family. It’s really hard to even go there in my mind without tears welling up in my eyes. Even in my happiest times here, already, at any point in time I could go to the park and bawl my eyes out at how hard it feels to be separated from them. It’s crazy to love and miss people so much, and yet to know that it really is better for all of us for me not to be there.

It’s just not right for me to be with people I love so much, and yet to feel the least bit ambivalent about being with them. It doesn’t honor them, and it doesn’t honor me. It’s really hard to deal with this. I want to have my cake, and eat it too, but life just doesn’t work like that. We have to make choices. And for every choice we make, there is a price. Sometimes the price just seems to difficult or high to pay. But what is the alternative?

More than anything, I don’t want to become the old, bitter, resentful woman of the canyon. Really, I can’t allow it. The canyon doesn’t deserve that, and neither do I, and neither do my most beloved ones. But I think it was seriously in danger of happening, if I stayed.

So here I am, taking the leap of faith. Of all the places in the world I could have gone, I picked this place because I trust Wolf so much. From all his years of traveling and performing in his Deep Ecology Medicine Shows, he felt strongly that this town I am in, Ashland, Oregon, was the place where I would feel most welcomed with open arms, and feel safe enough to be myself to my fullest– singing and dancing and finding my own way through my days. A place where people often leave things unlocked, where folks you talk to on the phone that you haven’t even met yet, call you “Love”. As in,”Thanks for calling, Love!” It is a place full of sweetness and kindness, open arms and open hearts. Singers, dancers, artists, and musicians. People that, even after only 5 days here, I am starting to feel really are my tribe.

Simple Joys of a Wild & Messy Life

I want my blog to be a fairly accurate reflection of the person I really am.

An important part of who I am a devoted kitchen tender, who much prefers to go to bed at night without any dishes left in the sink. Harmony and beauty are things I value very much, right up there with joy and satisfaction. Focus is another thing that’s important, but very hard for me to accomplish.

My original vision was to keep this blog focused on the food, and not so much on me, or my life, or the way I see and experience the world. But I’m seeing that I want it to feel more playful, more true to the imperfect person that I am– and less “I’m trying to be a serious food writer that shows nothing but pretty pictures of perfect food”.

The cookbook I’m writing will be focused on just food. (at least I think so!) But this blog, starting now, (actually I think it started with my last post, and I just didn’t know it yet) will include all kinds of other stuff, along with the food.

It’s kind of scary, feeling like I’m opening up other aspects of myself to potential criticism. It’s like inviting my mother for supper in the middle of monsoon season, when I know there will be flies in the kitchen and I will be running around like crazy with buckets of water and she will be shaking her head, wondering what she did to deserve such a strange creature for a daughter, and what she might have done wrong. Read more

How to Get Out of A Food Rut, #1

The thing is, I really like my food ruts.

Because a lot of the things I most love to eat, I cook all the time. There’s hardly two weeks that go by in which I haven’t made nearly half of my favorite things having to do with potatoes, tortillas, acorns, eggs, mushrooms, and wild greens. But I don’t want to make these wonderful things, slowly, become less fun to eat.

So, number one in my Getting out of a Food Rut series is to:

Cook for just ourselves, once in a while.

Maybe you live alone, and this doesn’t seem very helpful. But even if you do, are you really cooking for yourself? What I mean by that, is, are you really paying attention to your very own, particular, strangest food preferences and paying some homage to them, as you’re cooking for yourself? Read more

Welcome to Our Kitchen!

Hi, I’m Elka!

I’ve spent the last few decades doing all of my baking of the family’s breads, cakes, and pies in a rustic, solar-powered kitchen with a hundred year old woodstove. Standing at my porcelain sink, I gaze at a river flowing beneath ancient volcanic cliffs. Ravens preen in a nearby crag. Skunks waddle up to greet me at the compost pile. Besides baking and my usual days full of tending, I’ve been harvesting wild greens and acorns, canning preserves, and doing some teaching too. I also love to slow down for tea time, any time of day!

Recently I’ve also become a student of our handmade horno (an outdoor wood-fired bread oven made of clay) and been reveling in the joys of our (fairly) new outdoor kitchen. I love to bake, stir, chop, and wash dishes with the wind on my face and my feet on the earth. I love cooking with fire, with rain drumming on the tin roof above me! And several of the wild plants that I harvest grow only a few steps away from the stove! 

For me, cooking with wild foods is not an occasional hobby, it’s an everyday part of my life. The plants and other foods I use the most grow all around me, and are mostly very common weeds. Every single week foods like stinging nettles, lamb’s quarters, dock, grape leaves, and london rocket mustard make up about half of our vegetable consumption. In the colder months, we cook with frozen, pickled and dried greens we put up whenever they’re plentiful. We try to use and shell at least a few pounds of acorns every month, and incorporate them into everything from tea to breads, butter, stir-fries, chocolate desserts and gnocchi. Read more