This past weekend I had the honor of attending the very first Little Creek Women’s Retreat at Battle Creek Ranch in Montana. The retreat was hosted by Caroline, the owner of Little Creek Montana. When I was still on social media, I followed Caroline on Instagram and was instantly inspired by her passion for raising grass fed lamb and beef on her ranch in Townsend, Montana. When she announced the Little Creek Women’s Retreat in her newsletter earlier this year, I just knew I had to go. What I didn’t know was how profound of an impact that the retreat would have on me.
We all arrived in Bozeman on Thursday, and after everyone was accounted for we hopped into the trucks and made some important pit stops at the local feed store and the local pharmacy/liquor store in Townsend. After that, it was off to Battle Creek Ranch! Upon arriving at the ranch, we got settled into our respective cabins and then quickly gathered for cocktails and to get to know each other. We then went down to check out the flock of sheep where we met the infamous Floof the Great Pyrenees as well as Yoko the ewe and Charlie the ram lamb. We also snuggled some of the bottle baby lambs. We ate a delicious dinner, had more drinks, and sat outside under the stars and talked about anything and everything. We all went to bed pretty early that night after a long day of travel.
On Friday morning, we got right to working the sheep. Together in teams, we herded sheep into a sorting pen where we learned the proper way to flip sheep so that they are comfortable and in a safe position to be assessed. Heather from MT Cross farms also joined us, and she and Caroline were both so willing and enthusiastic to impart all of their knowledge onto us. They answered all of our questions and taught us all so much. We spent the greater part of the morning sheering, trimming hooves, checking parasite load, checking body condition, and administering any medications as necessary. The first few rounds of sheep were slow going as we all were learning our new skills, but after a while we worked in pairs like a well-oiled machine, and before we knew it we had worked all of the sheep. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed caring for the sheep. I had never been around sheep before, so they weren’t really on my radar for our own farm. After working with them for a few hours, it became completely apparent to me why Caroline loves her sheep so much, because I loved them too.
After we were done with the sheep, I joined Caroline to go round up the horses from the open range pasture. This was one of my favorite ranch tasks since I have been deeply missing the presence of horses in my life, and I was thrilled that Caroline let me tag along with her. We rode a four wheeler out to where the horses were grazing and moved them back to the barn where we caught them and got them all tacked up and ready for the afternoon trail ride. While one group went out riding, my group baked our own personal loaves of focaccia bread and another group felted wool. After our afternoon activities, we ate yet another incredible meal and then headed off to the rodeo in Townsend. We spent the night watching the rodeo, talking and laughing amongst each other, and we even found some amazing bedazzled hats from a local crafter.
Just when I thought that nothing could top Friday’s events, Saturday arrived. I was up early (still stuck on East Coast time) and was able to catch the sunrise over the mountains. Talk about a way to start the day. I also helped feed hay to the sheep and then went with Caroline to round up the horses for another day of trail rides. Once we got the horses, who were walking as slowly as they possibly could, we tacked everybody up and another group went out for a ride. Once they took off, I unexpectedly had the chance to learn the fundamentals of roping! I have been saying for a while now that I want to get into roping once I finally have horses of my own. Of course I will always have an English horse to jump around with, but I definitely want to get more into Western riding and everything that goes along with it. Naturally, I was horrible at first, but I got to the point where I could consistently rope the mounting block which was definitely a win for me! I’ve already ordered my own header rope and plan to keep practicing at home. No goat will be safe.
The groups that weren’t riding spent the early afternoon baking more bread, felting more wool, and continuing to bond with each other over some delicious white wine. It was definitely a feel-good afternoon. After lunch, it was my group’s turn to horseback ride which was one of the moments I had really been waiting for! I rode Bucky the buckskin – the perfect horse who did everything that I asked of him all afternoon. We rode up the mountain, through the open cattle range, and down into the canyon of the ranch where Battle Creek runs through. After crossing the creek, we ascended back up to the cabins. Once we got to the cabins, we ended up going back out on the horses to move some cattle up and over a ridge to a different grazing area. Although this was a very abbreviated version of a cattle drive, it was incredible and so fun to be a part of. I’ve always wanted to take part in a legitimate cattle drive so I was extra excited to be able to unexpectedly participate in this activity. Once we moved the cattle to their new grazing area, we headed back to the cabins on the gravel road through the rolling hills. The entire ride was absolutely breathtaking, the scenery was unreal, and I think I can speak for the entire group and say that we all felt so alive.
Once we got back to the ranch, we untacked the horses and turned them back out. We then packed into the truck and headed into White Sulphur Springs where some of the ladies went to take a dip in the hot springs and the rest of us went next door to Bar 47 and enjoyed each other’s company with some cocktails. Eventually, we all convened at the bar patio and the only sound in the air was a resounding happy buzz from everyone talking and laughing. That small moment served as such a representation of the trip: so many women from different backgrounds with different stories and different personal intentions for the weekend all meshed together so seamlessly. It was a powerful moment. After spending some time at Bar 47, we hopped back into the trucks and headed back to the ranch for our final family-style dinner where we toasted to everyone who came together to make this trip what it was. After dinner, we gathered inside for a “talent show” where we laughed and reminisced about all of the quirky things that went on over the past few days. Caroline gave us beautiful Little Creek bronze bracelets and came up with a funny award for each of us – mine being the ranch hand award. We sang, laughed, and cried (happy tears) until it was time to go to bed.
Sunday morning came and it was time to say our goodbyes. With tears in our eyes, we slowly started parting ways as small groups left to go back to Bozeman to catch their individual flights home. Those of us that had later flights helped wean the lambs from the ewes, and we also loaded the lambs into the stock trailer so they could be taken back to their permanent residence at Little Creek. Sadly, it was finally my turn to leave, so I said my goodbyes and walked around the ranch one final time to take in all of the sights, smells, and sounds. Sitting in the airport waiting for my flight, it felt like the whole weekend was a dream. I knew going into the trip that it would be fun and that I would learn a lot, but my expectations were far exceeded.
It is impossible to put into words the way that I felt at the end of the weekend. The best way to explain it is that I felt so full of joy and inspiration after meeting and bonding with such an incredible group of women. Each of us was so different, yet we were all so similar in our desires to learn from each other, lift each other up, and to grow together. It was truly one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had. We worked sheep, we rode horses, we moved cattle, we baked bread, we felted wool, we laughed, we cried, we sang, and I can’t forget to mention that we ate so many incredible from-scratch meals. I left this trip with great new friends and connections, new knowledge, a nourished soul, and a completely bursting heart.
Our long-term goal for our own farm is to raise grass fed, ethically cared for animals for meat. We had always thought that we would raise cattle or maybe even pigs, but this trip really opened my eyes to what the future of our farm could hold. Because of the baseline experience and knowledge I gained from Caroline and Heather while working with the sheep, I can confidently say that sheep will most likely be the livestock that our farm raises and uses to produce meat in the future. The Little Creek Women’s Retreat is an experience that has undoubtedly shaped me and helped me find a vision for our farm in the future, and for that I will be forever grateful.
Huge thanks to Caroline and Justin, Heather and Van, Rebecca, Christina, Teresa, Paige, and the entire Richtmyer family for providing us with an experience that was more impactful than I could have ever imagined. Much love and gratitude to you all.
“I want a house with a crowded table and a place by the fire for everyone. Let us take on the world while we’re young and able, and bring us back together when the day is done” – The Highwomen