One Big Experiment


The truth is - I don’t know what I’m doing

As I recently told my oldest, “I’m just trying to figure it all out.”

Akin, to that declaration, I also told him and his fiancée, both who just graduated from college this year and who are in their early twenties, “A lot of people around here still refer to you as ‘kids.’ Although, as my children, you are inherently so, I prefer to call and think of you as ‘young adults,’ if only because I expect and want you to figure things out yourself.”

For I believe not only will they not grow unless challenged to think things through for themselves, but the fact is, what we’re doing here is all ONE BIG EXPERIMENT.

Thus, I often don’t have the answers to many of the problems we tackle here at Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms. But the daily challenge is what makes things so exciting to me, because I know we will all grow immensely by it, and that as a result, our lives will be extended in a healthy and happy way.

Two great examples of the great experiment occurred this week.

Yesterday, we received the delivery of a beat-up and barely drivable 1960 V6 jeep. Although we bought it knowing it would be a ‘fixer-upper,’ we also bought it not knowing anything about mechanics or vintage vehicle restoration. Especially daunting not-daunting was the fact that Ernie, the bus mechanic and cattle rancher who we bought it from, told me straight up when he dropped it off, “If only my father-in-law was still around, we could ask him how this works.”

I had asked Ernie what the four different levers were for and he answered frankly, “I don’t know, but you could look on the Internet.”

And, he’s right you know, practically most of what I’ve learned to operate or fix over the last few years that involved a motor, mechanics or an engine, I’ve learned by watching YouTube videos.

And the more I learn and try to do myself, the less daunting this big experiment becomes, which is why I don’t mind the steep learning curve that the whole family is climbing together.

None of us have ever built and managed a hacienda and farm; no one has ever built a duck pond or a highly secure chicken coop or cultivated miles of hiking trails; no one has taken on the task of land conservancy for 350 acres in the high mountain desert; we’ve never lived off dirt roads, with a well and a septic; and neither have those ‘kids’ ever lived in a trailer, with impressive and inspiring plans to become shepherds come spring.

Which brings me to example number two. Last week, we picked up two Pygmy goats, “Luisa” and “Tony Meatballs.”

Prior to their arrival, Enzo and Maddy, built them a shed and a fenced in area. And through a lot of reading and discussions with “the goat lady” they picked up these two kids from, they’ve learned what to feed them, and how to acclimate them to their new home. And through trial and error, we are all learning how and whether or not we should tie them up; how we can keep our dogs from attacking them; and how the goats might eventually come to trust us, despite our barking companions.

Hence, yesterday I walked away from The Shed where we parked our ‘new’ jeep, after futilely attempting to remove the rusty seatbelt bolts that after fifty years are practically welded to the frame now; and after hovering over Enzo and Olivia, as they tried to harness the goats, while continually getting entangled in the messy web being weaved as the kids ran to and fro in the makeshift pen; watching them, at least until I was told to “go away” and to stop telling them what to do…I walked away chuckling and thinking, “I have absolutely no clue how to fix a jeep or raise kids, but geez-Louise I sure as heck I’m going to try to have a good time figuring it all out.”

And should it be misconceived that we’re doing this all by ourselves, let me set the record straight - we’re lucky that we’ve got family and friends who can help us out when need be, who are experienced and knowledgeable and whom we can lean upon whenever experience has us against the ropes.

Not long after the V6 landed on our lot, I was texting my brother who has been fixing and restoring cars for most of his adult life. I also reached out to my neighbor and new friend Peter, because he had told me that he likewise had taken on a similar project some years ago.

He immediately responded, saying, “Ha, looks like a great project! I'd be delighted to work with you on it. My first project was a '73 Toyota Landcruiser. The motor was in pretty good shape. But the body and interior needed a lot of work. I tore it down, repaired, replaced and otherwise refurbished it back to stock.

Just bought my next project about a month ago here in CA. A '65 Toyota Landcruiser. I will ship it to NM, so I can repeat the process with all the knowledge I now have. Not an inexpensive hobby. But very fulfilling, at least.”

His reply, as you might imagine, only stoked the fire. More than ever, I’ve never been as excited as I am now to learn new things and to learn by doing.

Granted, it can sometimes feel slightly overwhelming, but then, I remember how much fun we’re having…