These past few weeks have been a whirlwind! We took on the two biggest events we’ve ever done: being a vendor at the Red Ants Pants Festival in White Sulphur Springs (run by one of my role models, Sarah Calhoun) selling Little Creek ranch goods, and then shortly after hosting our very first women’s retreat.
Today was the first day I’ve been able to sit down, take a breath, and reflect. I feel like I’m still trying to play catch up and wrap my head around everything, but I hope that this blog post can paint even a small picture of just how incredible it felt to be a part of such fun and meaningful events this month. Onward!
The Red Ants Pants Festival
Just a bit of background on the festival and the Red Ants Pants Foundation: With founder Sarah Calhoun at the helm, they work to promote women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities. The Red Ants Pants Festival helps fund community grants, as well as a Girl’s Leadership Program, which I participated in as a mentor last year!
After weeks of preparing, inventorying, labeling, and working the kinks out of the point of sale system, it was time to take off for the festival! My assistant Rebecca came out for the event, and we filled two of our cars to the brim with ranch goods, us, and three of the bottle baby lambs (naturally). I have to say that I was really proud of how the booth turned out! Rebecca and I had done a practice booth layout at home, but it was still magical to see it all come together in real life at the festival.
Seeing all of our ranch goods out on the shelves in “the real world” (we don’t currently have a physical storefront) was definitely a pinch me moment. Pretty soon after we got into the swing of things at the booth, it was time for me to give the first of two Icelandic sheep husbandry demos! Bringing sheep with us to the festival definitely added a layer of complexity but I’m so glad that we did! I loved getting to share what I’ve learned in my journey as a rancher, answer questions, and let people get hands on (more specifically with the sheeple, who really enjoyed all the pets and love they got afterwards). Who knows, maybe there were some future ranchers in the audience too.
Saturday was extra busy, because in addition to manning the booth and doing another husbandry demo, I was recruited to go up on the main stage and be a part of the annual Red Ants Pants fashion show! I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect, but I didn’t anticipate learning a fully choreographed dance about an hour beforehand and each of us taking a shot (for courage!) right before we got on stage! Needless to say it was a total blast and many photos and videos were taken to document all the shenanigans; watch our dance here!
Sunday felt a bit quieter as things started to wind down, which gave both Rebecca and I opportunities to enjoy and explore what the festival had to offer. During a vendor meeting the night before everything kicked off, it was made clear to us that we should be having as much fun as the attendees, which I really appreciated! The other demonstrations we watched were so fun and informative and the food was pretty great too if I do say so myself. Click here for a glimpse of the all-female crew that led the chainsaw demo!
It was bittersweet packing everything up that evening. It felt good to be heading home, but sad to be leaving and closing the chapter on attending our very first festival as a small business. As with so many things, looking back there are elements that I would’ve changed or done differently, but I wouldn’t trade the overall experience for anything. I can’t wait to do more events like this and share Little Creek with more and more people “IRL.” Thanks again to everyone who was at the Red Ants Pants Festival this year that took the time to come and say hi! We loved meeting and chatting with you and seeing all your smiling faces!
Full disclosure: Expanding our ranch goods line has been a passion project but it’s definitely had its share of challenges. In fact, right before we left for the festival, one of our upcoming new products that was set to debut didn’t perform as expected and had to be sent back to the drawing board for more tweaking. A bummer, but I’ve learned by now that failures are opportunities and it’s all part of the process.
Our first Little Creek Women’s Retreat
Only a few short days after coming home from the Red Ants Pants Festival, it was time to gear up and get ready for our very first Little Creek Women’s Retreat!
The idea of hosting a women’s retreat in Big Sky Country at Battle Creek Ranch is something that I’ve been dreaming about for years. Battle Creek Ranch, owned by Lary and Shelly Richtmyer, is where I worked for years as a ranch hand and I was so excited to bring a group of 15 women from all over the country out for a chance to unplug, work sheep, eat amazing food (featuring all our own beef and lamb) and come together to get away from it all.
The lead up to the retreat truthfully involved a lot of sleepless nights. I kept running through various scenarios and outcomes in my head: What would the “vibe” be? Would everyone get along? Would people have fun? And would we at some point get a flat tire? (we did, but thankfully BEFORE everyone arrived!). But before I knew it everything was prepped and it was time to pick up our gals at the airport. (!!!!)
It wasn't until after everyone had arrived at the ranch on Thursday evening that I realized just how wonderful this weekend would shape up to be. Friendships started to form almost immediately, and the ranch was full of chatter, laughing, and the sound of sheep "baas." After getting everyone acquainted with the ranch and some general housekeeping, my friends Teresa and Christina, our chefs, set about making a DELICIOUS steak dinner with all the fixings and let me tell you...it was, as the kids say, *chef’s kiss* which honestly describes each and every meal they prepared during the retreat. We all enjoyed it outside under the big sky and together we toasted to the start of the weekend.
The next day, bright and early after a hearty breakfast, we set to work as a group working the sheep. It was important to me in bringing the flock up with us that we weren’t just doing it for show and that there was real work to be done. So after a quick demo by Heather (from our sister farm, MT Cross Farms) and I, I was so excited to see everyone jump in and get their hands dirty flipping sheep, shearing, hoof trimming, and health checking and medicating when needed. We ended up working every single sheep, all before lunch.
Shortly after, everyone broke into groups. I took one group on a horseback ride through the ranch’s canyon (with the most breathtaking views), while two other groups wove wool tapestries and made focaccia back inside at the ranch! Meanwhile, some guests decided to pay our two baby goats a visit. They were a bit of a surprise addition to the retreat: Our neighbor brought them to us after their mother had died a few days before and because they were so young, they still needed to be bottle fed with milk replacement. By the end of the retreat, almost everyone had gotten a chance to feed and snuggle them, and they even found a new home with our photographer, Paige.
After everyone got back from their activities, it was time to get ready to go to the rodeo! I had suggested in emails that we should dress to impress, but everyone went ALL OUT! Some of the gals even picked up some extra bling while we were at the rodeo, and even *I* couldn’t resist. Sorry not sorry, Justin!
Since Saturday was our last day of the retreat, I knew I wanted to go all out. After rotating the other groups through the canyon ride and tapestry and focaccia making, we headed out to White Sulphur Springs and went to...the hot springs! After a few jam packed days, it felt great to decompress and soak. After that, we made our way to Bar 47, which was just up the street, for some drinks. A quick excursion to the bar ended up a little longer as we all settled in to hear more about each others stories and what had brought us together. We also celebrated Monica's birthday with a special birthday cocktail!
After heading back to the ranch for our last dinner together (homemade manicotti...I mean…), it was time for the final event of the evening: Our talent/award show! On all the vacations I’ve ever been on as a kid, my family has always put on some kind of award show at the end, which is what inspired me to include one at the retreat. But I have to admit that this one felt a little different; more heartfelt and soulful. After a lot of laughs, we all came together at the end and I presented everyone with an award (beautiful Little Creek copper bracelets designed with the help of my friend Jessica) and sang Crowded Table by The Highwomen, which pretty much exactly sums up what this retreat was all about for me: Gathering a group of women from all walks of life and coming together to get away from it all and connect on a deeper level. All the feels.
I’ve had a lot of people reach out to ask about next year’s retreat. We’ll start planning for it soon (you can sign up to be alerted when we announce the next one here) but for now I’m taking this opportunity to bask in the feelings of joy and pride I’m experiencing after having met such an amazing group of women and fulfilling a years-long dream.