Author: Minette Tonoli

Recipe: Herby Soft Flour Tortilla

Recipe: Herby Soft Flour Tortilla

Ingredients 4 cups flour 1 1/2 tsp salt 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 85g unsalted butter, softened 1 1/3 cup warm water 2 Tbsp (or more) chopped herbs of choice Method Soften or melt butter on low heat. In the bowl of a standing mixer add the flour, 

Apple, Pear and Lemon Thyme Conserves

Apple, Pear and Lemon Thyme Conserves

The summer gives us a cornucopia of fruit, and as we move into autumn, preserving the bounty takes precedence of mind. I love adding herbs and spices to everything I throw together in the kitchen, and searched for something to do with a glut of 

Herb of the Month: January 2020

Herb of the Month: January 2020

For 2020 we are kicking off Herb of the Month with the International Herb Association's Herb of the Year - BERRIES! Anything and everything in the Rubus species, including all the hybrids... so we're talking blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry, loganberry, tayberry, dewberry, marionberry and many more.

Which is just great as it's currently berry season with bushes positively dripping with these summer fruits.

Berries are well known edibles - we enjoy them fresh, frozen, or cooked and preserved in jams, jellies, vinegars and syrups - there's so many fantastic ways to use these nutritious fruit in sweet and savoury dishes alike.

But did you know that the leaves of some species, notably blackberry and raspberry make a good herbal tea too? They are  often included in commercial herb tea blends.

With many traditional healing properties, berries are not only tasty, but healthful too - raspberry leaf tea is common uterine tonic, given to pregnant women in the last three months of their pregnancy, and those who suffer from painful menstrual cramps. Raspberry leaves are full of vitamins and minerals, making them a powerful nutrient rich plant- specifically: magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, and vitamins B, A, C, and E. Both raspberry and blackberry leaves are also astringent, and can be gargled for sore throats, mouth ulcers and gum inflammations, and given internally for diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, cystitis etc.

Raspberries prefer a good deep well-drained loamy soil that is slightly acidic. Open and sunny spots are best, although they tolerate some shade. Self fertile, you generally don't need more than one berry plant - but you'll probably end up getting more than one anyway! While the rootstock is perennial, the stems are biennial. New plants form easily from underground runners away from the parent plant.

Blackberries prefer well-drained loamy soil too, but tolerates poorer soils and are drought tolerant when established. Produces in full sun, but also in part shade, although berries may take a while longer to ripen. Similarly to raspberries, they grow an a perennial rootstock with biennial stems.


January in the Garden

January in the Garden

The midsummer garden… If all went well with your planning and planting in spring, this is the month in which you will be reaping much of the rewards.   Timely picking of fruit and vegetables can encourage more flowering and more fruit, and the garden 

Pull-apart Herb Bread with Parmesan

Pull-apart Herb Bread with Parmesan

This easy to bake pull-apart herb bread is as delicious as it looks. It will definitely impress whenever you decide to serve it up! Great to dip into soups or mop up stews, or at a BBQ, even taken to a picnic brunch too. You 

BioAssay – midway point

BioAssay – midway point

Tonoli BioAssay, 6 November 2019

If you've been following my blog posts, Facebook feed and Instagram, you'll know that I had the misfortune of buying in bulk landscape supply mix called "Veggie Mix" which I am now, with the midway point results of my BioAssay, very confident was higher in levels of herbicides than my tomatoes, broad beans, peas, sunflowers and many other plants could handle.

Not fun at all if this, on a very tight budget, is your first season in your new acre homestead... when your dream of starting to become self sufficient and creating a teaching garden for the community, turns into a nightmare.

I set up this BioAssay in order to test my theory that the problem was indeed in the suspect mix of bought landscape supply compost and veggie mix. I am testing 15 different soils with 2 different bean seeds per pot - one an heirloom climbing dry bean called Flagg and the other a dwarf commercial bean called Banjo.

This is what they look like a few weeks in:

(hovering your mouse over the image will give a description)


Direct Comparison between Best and Worst
Pot 1: Daltons Big Value Bagged Potting Mix
Pot 2: Daltons Garden Time Vegetable Mix

My thoughts on the above

  1. Not all beans in all pots germinated, but that's just probably "normal" germination rate issues, although I'd have thought to have a near 100% rate of germination.
    I had 1x Flagg bean (heritage) - the very tall growing one + 1x Dwarf Banjo bean (commercial) - the shorter growing one in all the pots
    It looks like it was mostly the dwarf beans that did not germinate when there was only one bean that came up.
  2. Not all the first leaves are open yet, so I can't draw full conclusions on all of the pots yet. This is only MIDWAY point of the BioAssay. I'm not contacting anyone or drawing any final conclusions for another week at least.
  3. Point 2 taken into consideration, there's a very definite and marked difference between the Daltons Mix and the Landscape Mix that I grew the tomatoes in (the photo showing direct comparison) This pretty much confirms my hypothesis that the landscape mix definitely had higher levels of herbicides than should be allowed for a "veggie mix" or garden compost.
  4. I noted that all the pots that contain landscape mix has deformities.
  5. I also noted that some pots I did not think would show herbicide damage, is not growing so well...
    • I was surprised at my Shrub Garden showing some curling too. While I have no idea what the previous owners did to the ornamental rhododendron and bulb garden that I call the "shrub garden", it was pretty clear of weeds when we moved in and was under a thick layer of pea straw mulch. It may be that they topped it up with compost from the same (most local) landscape yard, or the pea straw has herbicide too (might be a different type). Or at the worst, it may actually even be spray drift, although I can't find any correlation to that on other parts of the garden, and this is the furthest away from pasture/farmyards.
    • The Herb Garden also had me baffled, but then I remembered that I actually did top it up with a some soil from the trailer we got for the potager garden, so it too has a layer of suspect mix and should have been labelled Existing Herb Garden Soil + Landscape Supply Veggie Mix
    • The Lawn Soil I did not have lots of hope for as it is basically pure clay...
    • I was surprised at the poor germination and stunted growth of the beans in the Dalton's "Garden Time" Vegetable Mix. ????
    • I am very saddened by the existing soil in the big greenhouse having such atrocious results... could again be that previous owners used it for something else, sprayed it for weeds, didn't use it and sprayed it for weeds, or it was again topped up with suspect mix before we moved in... no answers, just speculation.
  6. The Horse Manure was from a contact who is pretty much a naturalist and does not even worm her horses and only lets them graze her own organically grown grounds. Am sure it was rich pure up, but the beans are doing okay. We'll see when final results come in.
  7. I've learnt that cactus mix is by far the best seed starting medium out! (LOL) And Daltons Seed Raising Mix coming in a close second with Yates Black Magic only coming in 3rd place because one bean did not germinate at all.


Portraits of plants damaged from herbicides in compost/soil/manure mix

Portraits of plants damaged from herbicides in compost/soil/manure mix

These are actual images of plants I have grown this season (Spring/Summer 2019) in compost and “veggie mix” bought from a landscape supply place, which I have now no doubt contained herbicides Killer compost is a term given to compost and manure mixes that contain 

Bath Fizzies a.k.a. bath bombs

Bath Fizzies a.k.a. bath bombs

Bath fizzies, or bath bombs, are little semi-hardened blocks of good-for-you Epsom salts, baking soda and citric acid – the powders and salts held together with a bit of oil, which can also be a skin healing oil with infused herbs, and water. You can 



Hello & Welcome

Warning – this is in entirety a moan post.

But I did promise to share the good and the bad.

Seems the bad has had me in its jaws the past two weeks…

Following the chaos of the week of 14 October where all my time as taken up by trying to prove, disprove and read up as much as I can on herbicide damage to vegetable crops from “killer composts” or tainted manure and how this is what I suspect happened to all my tomatoes, beans, peas, broad beans etc…. (read my full saga here: Herbicide Damage)

… this past week was not much better…

Pet Bunny

Rest in peace, my lovely little pet

First my little black lop-eared pet bunny, Gypsy, whom I loved dearly, died. Just suddenly…

No marks, no obvious anything. She was in good health, really well taken care of, and honestly, in terms of lop-ear lifespan, not old at all... no idea what caused her death.

Rookie Sheep Mistake

Sweet little (naughty) ewes

Then my wonderful new sheep snuck into my orchard in the few hours that there was no gate in the fence. Complete rookie sheep keeper mistake… I (we) naively thought the two sheep would be content browsing the two-foot long grass in the paddock (and the hay I put down for them), and be too put off by the fence around our orchard (magnificent fence by the way that my city-slicker/IT professional husband built with sweat and some blood, and I believe even some tears). The fence was fine, but we lacked a gate, the gate would come in the evening. Sheep are not as dumb as people make them out to be, and although they did cower in one side of their new paddock for most of the first days and a half, getting used to their new surrounds, it seems the moment you turn your head, they easily find a gap and bravely explore. Now I have chomped to the ground day-lilies, horseradish and berry bushes (boysenberry, loganberry, gooseberry, cranberry, and blackberry), and the tree Lucerne, lots of side branches of my new Ebbinge's silver-berries is gone, as well as low-hanging apple and pear blossoms.

Yeah, I well *knew* to keep them out to orchard, that’s’ why we built the fence… our mistake was leaving a small gateless gap for half a day… I know… I know…  totally taking personal blame for that one. So we learn.

Aviary troubles

Babies looking for a new home

Then I lost two more baby finches from the aviary too…why did it have to be my favourites as well?

Really getting full now in the aviary too - time to try and sell some finches and budgies.

Bunny number two

Rest in peace, lovely pet bun-bun

Then, my other bunny died. The bonded mate of Gypsy, Kaos, died two days after her. Yes, he was pining for her a bit, I’m sure, but he was still eating and drinking… and then I just found him, like Gypsy, lying dead.

More (suspected) herbicide damage from tainted soils

Broad Beans
Cape Gooseberry














And… I’m still finding more and more plants that seems to be affected by my mysterious (suspected herbicide damage) plant problem – besides all the hundreds of heirloom tomatoes, the beans, broad beans and peas in the garden and in grow trays, some of my dahlia are looking horrendous (why the most expensive tubers???), and also I found it on some of the new berries... and the sunflowers, gaillardia, zinnia, even cornflowers don't look like I think they should be looking.

Even the things that aren't downright twisted and deformed (and is said to be not affected by the suspected herbicide) are growing slowly and poorly (kale, lettuce, bok choy, etc.)

Missed Opportunities???

All of the plant dramas mean I can’t sell anything that I’ve potted up and grown on like I planned to so that I can make a bit of extra money to help us to grow the farm…

And even more stressful for me – I was in the past week offered an amazing opportunity where I was asked whether I’d like to bring MeadowSweet Herbs & Flowers in a Pop-Up Shop weekly at a lovely little venue close by… and I have NOTHING TO SELL…

WEEK IN RETROSPECT 2019 – WEEK 6 (5 October – 11 OCTOBER)

WEEK IN RETROSPECT 2019 – WEEK 6 (5 October – 11 OCTOBER)

October! October! A truly beautiful month. With spring truly sprung, there’s birds chirping, bees buzzing, lambs jumping through dandelion fields, and flowers – including fruit blossoms – popping up everywhere. The growth in my garden has suddenly accelerated in the past week, enough even for