Saying Goodbye to Fenton Ranch

Saying Goodbye to Fenton Ranch

2 years.

It’s the longest we’ve spent in one place since we embarked on our life less ordinary in 2011.

So basically an eternity.

New Mexico–the 15th state we’ve collectively lived in–unexpectedly stole our hearts. To get even more poetic and cheesy, we were mesmerized by the spell cast by the land of enchantment.

Justin & I accepted this job as environmental educators for Manzano Day School‘s Fenton Ranch in the spring of 2016. We were going to teach for 5 weeks, then be on our merry way. The location and job was site unseen for us and I remember Jamie, the program director who hired us, saying, “Fenton Ranch is not what you think of when you think of New Mexico.”

Five weeks of the spring session and we were sold. We would return for another 6-week session in the fall, which happened to also be when the school was in search of a new property caretaker.

“We don’t stay in places very long,” we told the school administration. In a pinch, they said they’d take what we’d give them.

So we committed through the spring of 2017, left temporarily during the summer for our speaking tour, and returned through the fall/winter/spring, bringing us to present day. Our departure day is today, June 12, 2018. Funny how a 5-week commitment turned into 2 years.

As we have detailed, we signed a contract to work for Leave No Trace. The job on the road will last through October, so it was really an either-or situation. We couldn’t be property caretakers when we would be gone from the property more than 3.5 months of the year. And there was no way we were going to pass up on the Leave No Trace gig. We were ready for new challenges and to test ourselves out of our comfort zone. After all, we call ourselves modern-day nomads, so having an address for longer than 6 months should be a no-no.

But it is a bittersweet departure.

We are going to miss the Manzano Day School community. Really, there is no better set of dedicated and passionate teachers in my book. We are going to miss the school children. The school’s core values of integrity and respect were more than evident. And what better classroom than the outdoors? Sharing our love and passion for the outdoors is our forte. We will also miss the parents of the kids. As chaperones to Fenton Ranch, we really got to know a few over and over again and now they are friends.


We are going to miss the Seven Springs community. There are only a handful of people who live up here year-round (most are summer homes). We’ve penetrated small communities before and know you have to tread lightly as an outsider. Well, you can’t imagine meeting a more welcoming bunch of people here.

We are also going to miss the landscape. Jamie was right. There was a time when we thought the Southwest was nothing but desert. But rising above the state’s north central desert, the ponderosa pines, douglas firs, blue spruces and aspens fill the Jemez Mountains. We had endless exploring opportunities in our backyard in the deep canyons, valleys, meadows and springs contained by rocky outbursts of wooded volcanic tuff formations.


We are going to miss the wildlife. I acquired a new hobby of birdwatching here, especially with all the birds of prey we had around (owl, osprey, hawks, even a lone eagle!), and of course the plethora of hummingbirds (whose buzzing I will forever associate with Fenton Ranch).

As for the bigger guys (bear, bobcats, coyotes, elk, deer). The only one we missed out on was the mountain lion, but we seem to have a resident bear in the Seven Springs Community this spring!

We will miss our 200 square-foot cabin. Perfect amount of space for us, an amazing view and the sound of our backyard stream, hummingbirds, owls and bullfrogs out the winds. I will especially miss the smell and warmth of our wood stove during the winter months.

And Gibbles. How could we forget her? We will probably miss her the most. She’s just the coolest cat (and we’ve had and fostered A LOT of cats). What cat do you know that goes hiking and allows 30-something kids to run at her. She is the queen of Fenton Ranch. And I do hope the new caretaker will let her continue to live here and continue to rule.

I actually don’t want to rule out the possibility of coming back some day. Of course we say that about all (most of) the jobs/places we’ve lived. Maybe we’ll return to the island where we were property caretakers? Maybe we’ll return to Wallowa County in Eastern Oregon? We say it, but so far we haven’t returned anywhere.

This is one of the MANY things I love about our life. We test out places beyond a weekend getaway. And while we don’t get too attached to places, people or things, we fall in love almost every single time.


9 responses to “Saying Goodbye to Fenton Ranch”

  1. Tina Vigil says:

    I feel so privileged to have met you and spent a little time with you both! We share some fun memories! Thank you for helping me, as a new MDS teacher, adjust to the experience of Fenton overnights. I loved it and you guys were a big reason I did. I hope to stay in touch and see you again!!! Take good care of each other always!

  2. Patricia Stevens says:

    You share a beautiful life that we mortals could only dream of!

  3. Jessie Kraemer says:

    Thank you for taking the time to do thoughtfully say goodbye. You will be missed. You made an positive impact in this community. It sounds like you have wonderful adventures ahead.

  4. Christine says:

    You guys will be missed! It definitely won’t be the same without you guys up there but we are so excited for your next adventures! Can’t wait to read your next update! Safe travels.

  5. Jamie La Vigne says:

    I think you’ve left your mark! I hope Fenton Ranch will be a part of your lives again. It truly is a special place!

  6. Mom i. Phoenix says:

    Lord be with you, Sacred Heart guiide you!
    Always in my thoughts and prayers and forever in
    our heart❤️

  7. Mary says:

    I found after about 20 years that I wanted an address and that nomading no longer worked for me. But I still miss it, sometimes. And yes, Wallowa County would be a great place to return to.

  8. Misti says:

    Aww, bittersweet! But another adventure awaits. I wish we could have visited you while you were in NM but maybe another time!

  9. Julie says:

    Beautiful post for time spent in a beautiful place! You certainly made a positive impact and will keep wonderful memories with you from your time at FR. We’re excited for you two as you embark on your next adventure.

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