When I discovered this realm it was as if I’d been called; as if everything about it was a dream dreamt but only subconsciously remembered. I longed to live and learn and grow here, and just plain absorb the wisdom that emanates from every cliff and crag.  elk hunts new mexico

The Gallina mountain valley is a unique pocket of fertility amid the semi-desert terrain of most of New Mexico. It’s a haven that used to supply its people their every need, and still does to a degree-to a greater degree if the Forest Rangers don’t catch you.

There are rich, beautiful National Forests and BLM lands everywhere, as throughout the state. Yet rural residents of New Mexico usually exist at below poverty level, when just a few generations ago, every need was supplied by the land, and hard work.

Still, the Gallina valley is blessed with several precious river waters that sluice the village in flowing acequias (a-say-kias), sustaining the verdant rolling hills and fields of the village.

Our niche in the Gallina mountain valley of northern New Mexico is a life apart, literally. The closest Wal-Mart’s is an hour and a half drive one-way. That’s also our closest pharmacy. A two-hour drive will get you to the closest decent hospital or doctor, or Sears or furniture store, or photo developer or movie theatre. One bank serves a circumference of 200 miles.

There are no phone companies, Hobby Lobby’s or drive through fast-food restaurants in Gallina and the surrounding villages. In fact, there are only two places of business in these villages. But there is no lack of churches and liquor stores.

Many of us women make our own barbeque and spaghetti sauce and the like, and can it along with wild orchard fruits and our veggies. I’ve never tasted a sweeter fruit than the cherry-sized wild plums and apples in the village, or the local choke cherry jelly. The wild asparagus fields are a closely guarded treasure.

Residents don’t run down to the store or drive-through to grab something for supper. Almost daily the beans are pressure-cooking and the red or green chili already on the table beside the fresh, steaming tortillas.

Most cooking is done from scratch. One day I ran out of the breadcrumbs I had dried to make stuffing for a wild turkey dinner and a friend sent me a sack she had on hand. Not only had she dried them herself, but began with homemade rolls she makes every week. Her dried homemade breadcrumbs made the most flavorful and the best texture of any dressing I’ve ever made.