Bubbles 2010, oil on board, 16 x 12 inches
My sister Mimi lives and gardens on Straw Dog Farm in central Missouri. I spent last week with her as she recovered from a hip replacement. Her home is a simple structure she and her late husband, Ron, built 37 years ago. There is a lot to look at, inside and out. Wide plank floors, framed paintings and drawings, books, dried herbs, garden views from every window.
Mimi lives lightly on the land, growing much of her food and masses of native plants, recycling, and reusing. She makes soap, puts up the vegetables, herbs, and fruits she grows, and the meat her neighbors share with her. She heats and cooks with wood.
For the week I was the cook and general helper with Mimi ready to guide me (or boss me around) from her easy chair. I learned to make cook fires in her wonderful wood-burning stove, adding large logs for heat in the evening when I finished preparing a meal (the weather was mostly cool and rainy).
I practiced tai chi in her gardens, under a redbud tree and near lovely spring flowering native plants. And of course, we had many long conversations about life and aging and our family. We remember events from our shared childhood differently, one of us often saying, ‘no, that never happened, not that way’.
Every day I picked lettuce from the cold frames, parsley, tarragon, chives and sorrel in the culinary garden and asparagus growing in a long bed heavily mulched with straw.
We ate well, as Mimi has excellent stocks of home canned goods, a freezer full of baked goods and those gardens. We had steel cut oats with raisins and her home made Greek yogurt, stuffed sweet potatoes, and slow-cooked pork tacos with just picked cilantro and Mimi’s flour tortillas. She rolls these very thin and then, over a good hot fire, cooks them for just a moment right on the stove top.
One day, she suggested I prepare an asparagus and tarragon soup, a new combination for me. And so good. This week I made another pot with the asparagus I had brought home in my suitcase.
First I sauteed 1/2 an onion, diced, and a chopped carrot, in a tablespoon butter and one of olive oil. I added a diced small potato, a pound and a half of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces, the tips set aside for the garnish, and the stalks from a couple sprigs of tarragon, saving the leaves to top the soup.
I added a quart of chicken stock and let the soup simmer until the veggies were soft. Pureed it in the blender and reheated with the asparagus tips. Sprinkled on chopped tarragon to serve.
What a pleasure to help my sister and experience a beautiful spring on the farm.
6 thoughts on “Straw Dog Farm”
I loved this, Barbara! I’m going to make this soup today as I have asparagus and tarragon in my garden now. Hi to you both!
Thanks, Gloria. Glad you enjoyed the post and pleased you will make the soup!
So wonderful to hear about your time with Mimi and her gardens look beautiful and the time sounds special! I still have not met your sister Mimi… You would love the vegetable garden in Renkum that I am haunting. It is the reconstructed vegetable garden of King Wilhelm the III. I read your blog while eating a purslane frittata with leeks, prociuto, parmesan etc.. (mostly from De Ommuurde Tuin) Everything good here, peaceful time to work. Wishing you a beautiful May and happy day before Mother’s day. Love, Sherry
Wonderful post – nice to get the personal information on both you and Mimi.
And the soup looks good too
Hi Gloria! My name is Gail Lay. I was a neighbor of Mimi’s from 2006-11 and she was my garden
mentor. I have lost her contact information since I moved back to St. Louis. Would you be willing
to tell Mimi I reached out to you and would like to be in touch with her? My email address is
email@example.com and my phone number is 573-202-3690. Thank you, in advance, for your help!
I’m sorry. I think Barbara is Mimi’s sister!