Giving Back with Mardi Minogue
A few weeks ago on the Quest, we hosted a Garden Party with Zucchini-Gardener-Queen, Mardi Minogue. We toured her magnificent and lush garden at her beautiful Oregon home and learned about some gardening tips and recipes. Click here to watch the recording of the Garden Party! Mardi is such a wonderful friend and has such a great life story, from TV producing to animal rescue to cooking to gardening. Read Mardi’s story, which has a strong theme of giving back surging throughout, below.
I am a retired TV Producer — I began in film editing, then advertising in New York and California, then switched to production and had my own production company for 20 years: Tuesday Films (my name, Mardi, means Tuesday in french).
What I wanted to make was animal welfare documentaries and I traveled with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to Canada to save the baby harp seals in the early 80’s. I sat on an iceberg with a marine biologist in -60 degrees to show the Canadian government that it was more financially advantageous to bring in tourists to photograph the baby seals as they had no fear of humans as long as you stay close to the ground (polar bears are their natural enemy so you don’t want to stand up) rather than clubbing them.
I also went to Thailand with my husband and daughter and stayed in the jungle with the elephants. We took a Mahout training course to protect them from poachers, sleeping by their side in the jungle, bathing them in the river, etc. Animal rescue has always been a big part of my life.
I worked with the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah at their California branch when they first began, raising funds with garage sales, holding adoptions, and placing lost/found animals. I was asked to sit on their board of directors ten years ago, but unfortunately it was soon after my husband had passed away, so I chose to decline. Lost animals still seem to find me. They used to be just lost dogs and cats.
Then, when I moved to Hidden Hills, a horse showed up on my front lawn with a broken saddle and reins, standing there, waiting for help. A large tortoise made its way to us soon after. When I moved to Oregon, a llama found its way to me as I was leaving for the supermarket. In fact, I recently began taking animal communication classes to hone my skills as I would like to be able to understand them more clearly. I am also an ordained minister in the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness since 1989. Service is a huge part of my life.
My other passion is food. I went to cooking school at the Ritz Escofier in Paris and Peter Kumps Pastry School in New York. I interned with Wolfgang Puck at his Malibu restaurant, Granita. The chef in Paris would laugh at me because I would cook whatever was required, but I didn’t taste a lot of what we cooked because I did not eat meat. I stayed in a small hotel in Paris and brought most of the food back for the people who worked there.
They became family to me, knowing my whereabouts and looking out for me, which was lovely. Now, I eat mostly plant-based foods. Whenever I travel, I take cooking classes and enjoy immersing myself in the food culture, learning from locals about the different cuisines.
As far as gardening — when I moved to Oregon four years ago, I learned something when I built my chicken house: If I divided the large enclosure I had for them to roam and put a door on each side for them to go in and out, I could plant my vegetable garden on one side while they fertilized the other.
Then, the following year, I would switch sides and grow the other side. It’s a win-win as far as rotating your garden and having the soil turned over for the following year! I bought my 10-acre property at auction, and after eight months of work to make the house livable, the outside was still a huge mud pit. I looked in the yellow pages (yes, very old school) to find a landscaper since I didn’t really know anyone out here to get a recommendation.
The only person who returned my call turned out to be a man that taught organic farming at a local community college and was getting ready to retire. That man turned out to be was wonderful! He fell in love with the property, brought his wife out to see it, and would come and sit for hours just studying everything. He installed a drip system, extended water and power out to my pastures for the horses, and believed that I should be able to collect eggs from the chickens and berries for my breakfast in my bedroom slippers, so that’s how he designed it! I have my own artesian well on the property, so adding the irrigation system worked easily.
Since then, my garden has expanded beyond the chicken coop area and I’ve added a small orchard with apple, plum, fig, and pear trees that the chickens also roam through. Six of my acres are hay pastures. I have a neighbor down the road who comes and hays the property each July, leaves me what I need for the year for my horses and takes the rest to sell in lieu of payment. I love living out in farmland!
Last summer, my nephew and his partner got married on my property which wound up being featured in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine! I officiated, and we incorporated rituals covering my nephews jewish background, his partners Indian background, and their same-sex relationship. We built a chupah/mandap from a tree that had fallen in my woods for them to get married under. I was in charge of the appetizer hour, and we wanted to use foods from the garden to feed the family and friends that were staying with us. We brought in food trucks for the main course. Very Portland.
This summer, I was planning a family reunion for my husband’s side of the family as it is the ten-year mark since he passed away. There are 50 of them, all staying here on the property, so the garden got expanded yet again!
Sadly, then Covid happened and everything has been cancelled. But on the positive side… the garden has provided so much food this summer that I have pretty much been self-sustaining (other than having to buy toilet paper, haha). With the abundance of crops, I have supplied potatoes, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, berries, and more to friends, family, and a local group in Portland that has been cooking for underprivileged youth and homeless. I have also been able to donate to the Green Acres Farm Sanctuary out here — their pigs, goats, and chickens love zucchini!
So, I guess the life metaphor would be something like — If you prepare for the best of times, you’ll also be prepared to assist in the worst of times? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade kind of thing? In this case, zucchini bread?
Zucchini has a lot of vitamin C, B-6, A, Potassium, and calcium. It aids in digestion and promotes hydration. I chop a lot up and keep it in the freezer to add to my green smoothies. It also thickens the smoothies nicely.
Zucchini freezes nicely which is why I make soups and freeze for winter, I add shredded zucchini into the dogs food which is good for them, I make breaded zucchini cutlets when I have really large zucchinis and freeze them to use for zucchini parmesan instead of eggplant.
I add shredded zucchini when I make my pasta sauce from all the tomatoes in the garden as it is a great thickener. With the pesto sauce, I make muffins, breads, zucchini noodles (which I’ve been adding to cold sesame noodles for a boost of nutrition), or just zucchini noodles. My daughter made a vegan cheese sauce for mac and cheese with zucchini, pumpkin, nutritional yeast, and cashews that came out really well.
So, I don’t really know much about actual gardening. But I do know that for some reason, everything seems to grow really well on this property, and I am extremely grateful. I speak kindly to the plants when I go out each morning and I thank them when I pick things. It must know it’s loved and appreciated and that’s all a gardener really needs to know.
Want some of Mardi’s recipes?
Stuffed Squash Blossoms
Easy Vegan Pesto
Cold Sesame Noodles