Monday, June 24, 2024

Farm and gift shop serve locals and tourists

Reporter | November 23, 2023 12:00 AM

“I always told my siblings and my parents that I was going to live in Helena, Montana,” Hope Dibble said. “It’s only taken me 40 years to get here.” 

Moiese is a little northeast of Helena, but, hey, it’s Montana.

Across Hwy. 200 from the entrance to the National Bison Range, the Lonesome Heritage Farms at the Wagon Wheel Gift and Gallery is a familiar sight. Owned for 47 years by Diane Breuer, it’s now been turned over to new owners Hope and her husband, Sean.

The gallery showcases paintings and photographs, both originals and prints, essential oils, Hope’s handmade hats, t-shirts, jewelry, handmade knives and toys. Visitors can also rent a pair of binoculars to take to the Bison Range and use them to scan the hills for wildlife, get a coffee, stock up on snacks, or purchase some lean Scotch Highland beef for dinner. 

The plan is to stay open all year, “as much for the tourists to have Montana items as for the locals to know the Wagon Wheel is a place for them to shop too,” Hope explained.

It’s a friendly place, with light flooding in the windows and a Shiloh Shepherd puppy snoozing behind the counter with his paws in the air. During the summer months, son Bodhi mans the store every Friday so Hope can make the trip to the Polson Farmers’ Market, where she markets beef, cheese and produce from the couple’s nearby ranch.

Hope says her essential oils are good sellers at the Wagon Wheel. She uses and sells fragrant facial oil made with organic rose hips, black cumin seed oil, apricot seed oil, lavender and chamomile.

If someone comes in the Wagon Wheel and says, “Hats don’t look good on me,” Hope responds, “You haven’t seen my hats.” 

Her handmade head-coverings are made with a variety of materials, including straw and felt, feature different brim widths and crown shapes, and each is accented with a feather or flowers.

“I don’t do ‘nothing’ very well”

After she and Bodhi call it a day at the Wagon Wheel, it’s only two and a half minutes to their ranch on Crow Dam Road, where the family relocated from Colorado five years ago. The place is stocked with Scotch Highland cattle, Soay sheep, Duroc/Mangalitsaa (a Hungarian heritage breed) pigs, a few goats, ducks, geese, chickens, and some horses. 

The canine crew is mostly comprised of the Shiloh Shepherds Hope raises, with one small misfit named Walter, who’s tiny but mighty. 

When Hope says, “I don’t do ‘nothing’ very well,” she means it.

She homeschools, bakes bread, thinks about new oils to combine, and cares for their critters. The Scotch Highland bulls come when their name is called, wanting either a treat or a good brushing. The pigs like to have their bellies rubbed.  

On a trip back from a visit with their daughter in Alaska, the Dibbles spotted the place, and Hope “felt a connection.” 

Ready for a new adventure, they also visited upstate New York and Tennessee. While those areas are beautiful, it would have been a huge move. 

Hope again brought up Montana, and her husband insisted they visit in winter, “so it’s not all wonderful summertime glory.” 

They drove up in January, and the place was still for sale.

“The moment the realtor unlocked the door, I just wanted to go put a pot of tea on and bake bread. I just knew I was home,” Hope recalled.

So the Dibbles made an offer on the place that day, and Hope and Bodhi went back to Colorado to get their ranch down there rehabbed and spruced up to sell. Meanwhile, Sean, an over-the-road trucker, found a job with a trucking company, and remained in Montana.

It took nine round trips (18 hours apiece) “to move all the trappings of a life,” Hope said, including ranch equipment, machinery, household goods, and animals. Both Hope and Sean drove a vehicle, caravanning down and back. 

A neighbor, Doug Hertz, made sure the water tanks were full while the Dibbles were on the road. He didn’t tell them he was watering their critters, and they didn’t know. He just saw a need and helped out.

“Even now, I’m just floored,” Hope said, adding that she appreciates how people in Montana are willing to invest in someone else’s life.

Hertz helped Hope and Bodhi out many times while Sean was trucking, from assistance pulling a calf, repairs, and even teaching Hope how to castrate piglets.

The Dibble family knew they were moving into a community where people had lived for generations, and they wondered how they’d be received. They were prepared to have to prove themselves because they didn’t just come from another Montana area, they came from a different state.

Instead, Hope said everyone has been warm and receptive, reinforcing the Dibbles’ love for their new home.

Go to Lonesome Heritage Farms at the Wagon Wheel Gift and Gallery on Facebook or Instagram for more information. 

    The matriarch of the Dibble family's Scottish Highland herd is 20-years-old and has a pasture to herself, is hand fed, and lives a life of ease, according to Hope Dibble. (Berl Tiskus/Leader)