Local benefitting from a garden’s bounty

By: 
Alice Neal
News-Argus Staff

An old scale found in the barn now supports a washtub full of flowers.

Photos by Alice Neal

Artichokes that were started from seed inside the house in January are still thriving in July. They are shaded by broom corn, which is planted nearby.

Seven years ago Lin Rimple moved to Montana. She rented the house and surrounding yard that is part of land owned by Ron and Barb (Vanek) Holland. The Vanek family has owned the land for 50 years.

When she first moved to the property, she was cautioned to watch for rattlesnakes. The area around the house was full of burdock, cheat grass and thistles.  Those weeds have given way to a carpet of grass, along with seven garden plots which contain over 50 different types of fruits, vegetables, flowers, medicinal plants and several young aspen trees.

“I haven’t seen one rattlesnake since I’ve lived here. I asked God to get rid of them, and He did,” said Rimple. 

After getting the house arranged to her own personal preferences, Lin tried her hand at gardening.

“I was so busy before moving to Montana that I never had time to plant anything. I didn’t know squat about growing food. My first venture was a few tomato plants. The tomatoes never ripened, but I persisted,” Rimple stated.

Just west of the house is a line of young poplar trees, which Lin started three years ago when she stuck some limbs in the ground and kept them watered.  Accompanying them are a lilac bush and hollyhocks. The lilac bush was moved from the area just outside the back door.

There are two rows of raspberry canes on the east side of the house. Farther back from the road are the garden and flower beds. When viewing the beds, one can find plants that are unusual – at least in this area – such as artichokes, milk thistle, fenugreek and horehound.

“I started the artichokes in the house in January. The plants were pretty healthy, so I decided to move them outside in May,” Rimple explained. “I’ve done a lot of research on the plants and herbs. Each one has a purpose and can be beneficial to health when used in the right way.

“I was challenged by an older lady named Katie to find the Arnica Montana plant. I looked it up to see what it looked like and noticed some growing wild when I was out walking.”

Rimple said Arnica Montana grows wild across much of Europe. It is cultivated in Estonia because the demand for the herb far exceeds the supply. Arnica grows in soil that is poor in nutrients or in clay soil. It usually blooms from May to August. It is sometimes confused with wolf’s bane, and has been called “mountain tobacco.” 

Rimple gathers the blooms in the spring and puts them in a jar with oil. She replaces the blooms two or three times throughout the summer; then combines the oil with beeswax to make a salve. This salve is used to reduce aches and pain, primarily the pain of arthritis.

Other “medicinal” plants found among the vegetables and flowers are fenugreek, horehound, milk thistle and calendula. 

“Horehound is used to soothe a sore throat or cough. It’s generally found in cough drops. Milk thistle cleanses the liver. Calendula is commercially used in lotions. It is antifungal and antibacterial. Fenugreek is used as a spice in several countries. My mother uses it to help control her diabetes,” Rimple explained.  “I don’t use any chemicals or herbicides unless I’m fighting something that is really strong and it can’t be controlled any other way.”

It is almost a never ending job, taking care of all the plants. This year her raspberry canes have produced an abundant crop which she has shared with several neighbors and friends.

Next year she plans on planting even more medicinal plants, such as angelica, comfrey, hyssop and skullcap, along with more trees. She has transformed a two-acre plot into a little bit of heaven, right here in Central Montana.

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