Shepherd Camp: Where to even begin? What started out as a wild idea I threw out on Instagram stories turned into something so wonderful that I can hardly wrap my head around it.
From our amazing guests who brought so much grit, passion, and vulnerability to the dedication and enthusiasm of the team of women who joined me to help pull it off, I’m completely and utterly blown away by all of it. Lots of learning new skills, lambing, leaps of faith, laughter, and more and I feel like the luckiest person ever to get to bring everyone together and do this.
If I could only say one thing about Shepherd Camp (which would be basically IMPOSSIBLE because my heart is just bursting with thoughts and feelings) it’s that it reminded me that there’s a lot of beauty to be found in the unexpected and unplanned. Of course the central activity of Shepherd Camp is to experience lambing season, and there was plenty of that to go around for both weekends (see the photos below!) but more often than not our itinerary went right out the window because the sheep flock required something else from us. But that was part of the beauty of signing up for this experience; all attendees were excited to jump in with an open mind, ready for whatever! I knew the very first night that we had created something special here.
In addition to lots of chores and interacting with the lambs, I also organized several workshops to be held in our skillshare tent throughout the weekend. Jess from J Rock Jewelry (she’s made me a beautiful Little Creek brand ring and has some other exciting things in the works for us 👀 ) led a bangle making workshop where we all had the opportunity to stamp our own unique phrases and names on and then patina them ourselves.
Josie, a member of the Little Creek team, and Lily from Andersen Skattum Diary in nearby Paradise Valley brought their cows for a visit and taught us about both the commercial and homestead side of the dairy cow industry.
Lacey, a shepherdess from Oregon who came to help me for our first two Shepherd Camps, ran hide tanning demos that were a definite highlight too: We used egg yolks gathered from our chickens to apply to the sheepskin as part of a natural tanning technique. One of our attendees from the second weekend, Jody, even gave us an impromptu fiber class and we all got the chance to try our hand (literally!) at handspinning.
But it's possible that some of the most impactful lessons were unplanned.
The first day of our second weekend, we had “a situation.” One of our ewes passed away suddenly in a freak accident and we had to act fast. Lacey called me over and we talked it through, after some much needed deep breaths and processing. Lacey is an accomplished butcher and had brought her tools with her. We knew that the right thing to do would be to process the ewe and waste nothing, while simultaneously teaching a butchery class.
Part of the ethos of Shepherd Camp, and lambing season in general, is that death is as much a reality as new life, but it wasn’t a lesson I was expecting to teach right away. But after a quick campfire check-in, every single one of us opted in, bundled up and chilly, and gathered around Lacey as she respectfully and thoughtfully processed the ewe. Everyone leaned in, asked questions, and was completely engrossed. We even saved and salted the hide together and from a sad situation grew beauty, learning, and respect.
Speaking of things that didn’t go to plan: the weather! The first weekend of Shepherd Camp was sunny, free of snow, and dare I say…balmy at times! But then the second weekend was approaching and I saw in the forecast that a winter storm was coming our way. The first few days were definitely cold but nothing out of the ordinary, but the last night was absolutely bonkers. We had just finished up a delicious dinner made by our camp cook Erin (side note, the food throughout both weekends was out of this world and just the thing to keep us all fueled throughout the day) and as we all got ready to do our nighttime chores, we realized that we got an inch plus of snow in a total whiteout. So we all bundled up to stay warm and worked together to bring the sheep in under shelter for the night. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect send off.
Reflecting on these memories makes me so excited about the future of these retreats and all the wonderful ways it can grow, shape, and evolve. But in the meantime, I can’t wait to welcome our last group of guests for our third and final Shepherd Camp in a week or so and see more of the magic that transpires.
1 thought on “Stories from Shepherd Camp”
hi! what are your dates in 2023 for cowgirl camp!?? thanks very much