“The thing that makes Clementine Ranch so special is the people who volunteer and run this place. As soon as you step foot into it, you can feel [the love that everyone has for the animals],” Kylie Wack, volunteer at the ranch, says.
There is truly something special about Clementine Ranch, an animal sanctuary for around 200 different animals including pigs, chickens, cows, emus, goats, sheep, horses, and much, much more. Just like Wack says, there is clearly a feeling you get when you first open the gate and step foot onto the ranch. It feels as if you have entered a completely different world. The people who run this little world are Rob Fenn and Lindsey Armstrong, and they are each as uniquely unconventional as each of the animals.
The Beginning of a Lifelong Dream
“Rob and I always had a dream where he would have a recording studio on some land, and I always wanted to have an animal sanctuary later on in life,” Armstrong says.
After first volunteering with the sanctuary for a couple of years, Fenn and Armstrong had a conversation with the owners. They wanted to take over the sanctuary and buy the land.
“At the time, I just wanted to be surrounded by animals. People were really disappointing me,” Armstrong admits with a chuckle.
The previous owners agreed to give up the reins of the sanctuary to Fenn and Armstrong, and what was supposed to be a year or two transition turned into a couple weeks. All of a sudden, it seemed, they had more than 200 animals to take care of with no instruction manual or anything.
Things were rocky at first. The starting point was different than what they thought it was going to be. However, they never gave up.
“Both of us are kind of stubborn,” Armstrong admits. “But even more than that, the animals are our babies. The priority has always been and always will be them. They come first.”
She continues, “People always wonder how we know all of the names of the animals, but it’s because they are just like little humans. They each have little personalities, and you get to know them. You just can’t give up on them.”
That motivation is what drove and continues to drive Fenn and Armstrong. After many lessons learned and leaving the past in the past, last November is when they were finally able to have a well-oiled machine up and running.
“[The animals] are happy and healthy, and that’s what matters,” Fenn says. “And it’s hard sometimes. I don’t think I ever pictured myself doing something like this before.” Even with the rocky start, “it’s been good for us to just focus on the future now with plans for a greenhouse, recording studio, and more.”
Volunteers Help Make The Clementine World Go Round
With the ranch near Salt Lake City, it makes volunteering a lot easier. People are able to come out once a week to twice a month.
“So many people have started developing relationships with the animals, and they start to see the process of how animals end up at sanctuaries,” Armstrong explains.
There is a big need for sanctuaries. Clementine Ranch tries to take in as many animals as they can, but they end up having to turn away many that they wish they didn’t have to.
“Just to have people realize that [need] and possibly be encouraged to adopt an animal is amazing,” says Armstrong. “Creating awareness is an important thing. But that’s what is great about volunteering—it gives people an opportunity to be around animals.”
Many volunteers develop deep relationships with the animals.
“Some of my favorite memories on the ranch are spent with a turkey named Suzette, listening to music while lying in the dirt giving scratches. I also just love giving all the pigs belly rubs and watching them tip over because it feels so good,” Kylie Wack says.
Charity Rippen, another volunteer, also has some great memories with the turkeys and pigs.
“I had no idea that my love for the turkeys would ever be what it is today,” she says. “There’s a special girl at the farm named Basil. I remember feeding her and her turkey buds one day, and I kind of stared at her for a moment and thought, ‘Hey, maybe this girl wants some love.’ I sat next to her and just started petting her back, gently. Within a couple minutes, she laid down next to me, and we just sat quietly in the sun as I rubbed down her neck and back.”
She continues, “That small moment was monumental for me. It brings me tears just thinking about it. Basil wasn’t supposed to be here. She was destined for slaughter, and Clementine Ranch saved her. Now she gets to live the most beautiful life, and I get to be a small part of it. It’s magical. Another favorite memory was the day I realized one of our big farm pigs, Pumba, likes to race. Now whenever I feed him, I ask him if he’s ready to race, and together we run to what I call his ‘room’ for breakfast.”
The thing about Clementine Ranch is just how easy it is to lift your spirits and escape the “regular world.” Rippen explains, “I thought that hanging out with dogs brought me joy…and they do, big time. But times that by 200 when you are working on the ranch!”
Erica Oliver, another volunteer, shared this experience:
“I was having a particularly hard day, I was insanely busy at work, things were going wrong left and right, and by the end of my work day I was absolutely exhausted. It was farm day and I did not want to go. The long drive and the hard work after such a long day was just not appealing to me that day. I was silent the entire drive, just resting and trying to prepare myself to continue working that day. The second I stepped into the ranch and saw the roaming goats come running, my entire attitude and energy shifted. I got so much love from so many that day. It was almost like they knew I needed it more than they did.”
Oliver’s favorite animal on the ranch is Sven the cow. She loves him so much that she calls him her “heart cow.”
“He’s a protector and a lover, and I have never seen a cow who loves chin scratches as much as he does,” she says. “There is no better feeling of receiving love from an animal you never expected could show love. There is a sheep at the ranch named Abbot, and I remember the day vividly the first time he approached me on his own. He just leaned into me like a hug. In my head, I could just hear him saying, ‘I’ve missed you, now scratch my butt.’”
Sadly, Clementine Ranch had to say goodbye to Sven when he recently just passed away.
A Typical Day on the Ranch
Volunteers arrive at 9 a.m. That’s when they go to their different sections and start watering and feeding. That will usually take around three hours. After that, there are many more things to be done. Fenn usually handles the seed order, taking inventory of what is in the shipping containers, and more of the business end of things.
“Cleaning up poop never stops,” Armstrong laughs.
Fenn gets up anywhere between 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. and completes his job at home before the sun comes up. Armstrong will get up around 7:30 to start getting ready for her day at work. On a good day, when Armstrong gets home from work and there are no struggles, the two of them will do a final walk around the ranch to make sure everything is okay. Lastly, Fenn will usually make dinner, and the two of them might have a chance to wind down to watch a movie. However, that is on a good day. On a day with more difficulties, things happen differently. Volunteers may not be able to show up, emergencies happen, and other unplanned events occur.
As far as expenses go, everything that is donated goes straight to the animals. Right now, there is about $6,000 that goes to feed every month along with whatever medical expenses there are. Some months, there are not any medical expenses while other months there are quite a lot. However, even with the donations, Fenn and Armstrong still put up some of their own money to keep their dream alive.
The hardest part about running the ranch is when the animals have lived out their lives and they pass on.
“The thing about that is we’ve just got to tell ourselves that they’re living their life out here. It is just part of the process, but that’s something that is still very hard to get used to,” Fenn says. “There are some that you really get attached to, and it’s hard when they pass on or when they get sick because animals are like babies. They can’t tell you what’s wrong. So trying to figure out what is wrong is a process.”
Life Outside the Ranch
Even though the ranch is very exciting itself, Fenn and Armstrong both lead lives outside of the ranch that are also inspiring. Armstrong is a disc jockey on KBER 101, and Fenn is a professional photographer who captures moments on tour with many different bands.
“I always loved radio. I used to play radio as a kid. I would record music from the radio on a tape and then pretend I was a DJ and playback everything, but I never thought that I could do something like that [for a living],” says Armstrong.
Her last semester of college, she had to take an interning credit. She found an opportunity to intern at a radio station, and she fell in love. She even continued to intern there after she graduated. In 2008, the recession hit, and the radio station had to let people go. As an intern, Lindsey would fill people’s positions on air. Eventually, she would be able to have a full-time on-air position at the radio station that she grew up listening to in Tampa, Florida.
One day, she got a call to come to Salt Lake City to start at a station. As soon as she landed in Utah, she could feel a big exhale of relief and just knew, deep down, that she should be here. Since 2014, she has been on the airwaves in the Salt Lake Valley. She currently hosts the 10:00 to 3:00 show Monday through Friday on KBER. She also hosts a show in Indianapolis and in Minneapolis where she records remotely from Utah.
At 35 years old, Fenn had finished with the bar business and was living in his mother’s basement. He knew it was time for a change in his life. He wanted to start a Rolling Stone-esque magazine that would have a radio station attached to it. He hit up a friend he knew from Warner Brothers and asked for a photo pass to a Sevendust tour in order to start capturing pictures for his magazine. He borrowed a camera from a friend from the Salt Lake Tribune and hit the road. A week later, he was in the pit during an Avenged Sevenfold, Papa Roach, Buckcherry, Saving Abel and Sevendust show.
“I went into the pit and acted like I knew what I was doing. The worst picture you’ve seen someone take on an iPhone at a concert was better than anything I took. You couldn’t even tell who I shot,” Fenn laughs.
He was a little discouraged, but he liked being that close to the stage, so he thought might as well try again. When he got home, he didn’t look at the pictures for a few weeks.
“When I did, they looked pretty good,” he says. That’s when he knew that he wanted to do that for a living.
Now, after years of touring with bands, Fenn plans to put a recording studio on the ranch’s property.
“I always wanted a [recording studio] out in the middle of nowhere. People could come out and make an album the right way,” Fenn explains.
He says that he took inspiration from the Queen album that was also recorded on a ranch. He plans to have not only touring acts record there but also local high schools.
A Special Namesake
When Fenn and Armstrong first started the ranch, they wanted it to be something special.
“When we were trying to come up with a name, it was actually Rob who suggested Clementine Ranch,” Armstrong explains.
Clementine was Armstrong’s cat, but she was even more than that. Armstrong likes to say that she was her soulmate just because of how special she was to her.
“He just validated to me just how special this place was going to be and how much she meant to me personally,” she says.
Armstrong adopted Clementine when she was living in Florida. She was part of a hoarding situation that made national news with more than 700 cats living in one area. The Humane Society took all the cats in and rehabilitated them for around three months. Eventually, they held a big adoption event.
“We all got in a van at the Humane Society in Gainesville, Florida, and they took us to the warehouses to go look at the cats,” Armstrong recalls. “As I was getting out, the driver said, ‘I think you are going to find your cat right here in this building.’ So, that was the first building I went into, and Clementine was the first cat I looked at.” Her initial name was Deborah, but Armstrong knew that didn’t suit her. She was a tiny, orange cat, and Clementine was the perfect fit.
“She was just so important to me and had been with me through so much. There was a time in my life when I thought the world was just too much, but I knew I had to stay for her,” Armstrong recalls.
In fall of 2019, after Clementine had suffered from kidney failure for a couple of years, Armstrong had to say goodbye to her. However, she lives on through the special and important work that Fenn and Armstrong are doing at Clementine Ranch animal sanctuary.
Clementine Ranch is a 501(c)(3). If you would like to donate, or if you would like to volunteer at the ranch, please visit clementineranch.org.
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