Author: Minette Tonoli

BioAssay – midway point

BioAssay – midway point

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…

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

A quick how-to guide to making your own bath fizzies

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 add essential oils and dried herbs and flowers to give it even extra flourish!

A wonderful way to add some joy to a relaxing bath - especially after a hard day's work in the herb garden! These fizzies are gentle enough for kids' bath time too. And don't think you'll miss out if you don't have a bath - if you make these a little smaller, they make excellent footbath fizzies, relaxing and soothing tired feet.

 

The Ingredients
  • Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) - this makes the water silky and is believed to be very good for relaxation, soothing sore muscles, relieving skin irritations, and is also said to help the body detoxify through the skin.
  • Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate) - is a strong base and will neutralizes acid, it also removes germs, and can even aid in healing.
  • Citric Acid - while there are specific skin treatments for which citric acid is used, in the bath bombs, I think, it's main job is simply to react with the baking soda (acid + base) to create the fizzing effect.
  • Corn (maize) flour - this is a bulking agent, and when it's mixed in with the rest of the powders, slows down the reaction of the acid+base a little bit, which means your fizzy bath bomb lasts somewhat longer when you drop it in the bath, and don't just "volcano" into nothingness within a few seconds. But corn flour also stands in its own right as a cosmetic ingredient, with some sources claiming it makes the skin smooth, vibrant and healthy.
  • Oil - depending on which oil you use, most carrier oils have fabulous skin healing or soothing properties - choose whatever you have on hand, or what you feel your skin needs most - olive oil, avocado oil, almond oil, coconut oil, apricot kernel oil are all good candidates. You can also use a herbal macerated oil (an oil in which herbs have been steeped for a couple of weeks) - a great one to try could be calendula oil as calendula is a fabulous healing herb when it comes to skin, or even kawakawa oil, lemon balm oil, cornflower oil ... each herb can add an extra special healing/cosmetic touch to the bath bomb.
Optional Ingredients
  • Essential oil - concentrated plant essences are good medicines, and as the essential oils touch the skin, and their scent releases in the air, you get a bit of aromatherapy happening too! If you're unsure of the use of essential oils, check with a qualified aromatherapist, or choose a tried-and-tested recipe from an aromatherapy book. Lavender is a good one to choose, and generally safe for everyone. Lavender soothes and relaxes, eases tension and promotes good skin health. For sore muscles, you can try marjoram oil, or rosemary oil too (note Rosemary oil should not be used if you suffer from high blood pressure or if you are pregnant). *
  • Herbs & Flowers - generally dried herbs work better, especially if you're going to store your fizzies for later use. Choose herbs that go with your chosen oil, and or essential oil, e.g. lavender blossoms if you used lavender essential oil, or rose petals if you used rose geranium essential oil, cornflowers if you used a cornflower macerated oil etc. There's a plethora of herbs that are good for the skin. **
  • Colours - for added fun, and because it won't stain you or your bath, you can add a few drops of food colour to the bath bombs if you wish.

*   While there's some places touting the fact that you can ingest your essential oils, I'm not entirely following that tribe, and believe these sacred medicines should be used with knowledge and respect.
** If you don't like bits floating in your bath, you can omit the herbs and flowers too.

 

The Recipe

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 1/4 cup epsom salt
  • 1 tsp dried herbs and flowers (we used lavender blossoms)
  • just under a 1/4 cup carrier oil (we used rose and hibiscus infused avocado oil)
  • 10-15 drops essential oil (we used pure lavender essential oil)
  • Water

 

 

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with a whisk or fork until it's free of lumps.
  2. Add your oil and essential oils and mix thoroughly with your hands.
  3. You can spritz the mixture with water a few times (not too much!) to make it all hold together somewhat when pressed. Don't add too much water, and incorporate any fizziness with dried ingredients.
  4. Scoop the mixtrue into your molds (silicone molds work really well!) and press in firmly.
  5. Let set for a few hours - at least four - before carefully removing from the molds.

You can use them straight away! Or if you want to store, them, make sure they are in a dry and tightly sealed container - I even add in a sachet of silica gel to make sure they don't react with moisture in the air.

WEEK IN RETROSPECT 2019 – WEEK 7 & 8 (12 OCTOBER – 25 OCTOBER)

WEEK IN RETROSPECT 2019 – WEEK 7 & 8 (12 OCTOBER – 25 OCTOBER)

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…

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…

Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 4 & 5 (21 September – 4 October)

Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 4 & 5 (21 September – 4 October)

Hello & Welcome

Pansies
Pansies

 

Last weekend I was down and out with a head cold, and just did not feel up to doing the weekly retrospect. But actually, although it’s spring, it feels kind of slow-going, so not even much news this past week. Nevertheless, here we go with a combined week 4 + 5 update.

 

Weather & Climate

Freezing the one day. Really freezing. With thick frost. And chilly winds. The next day reads 21C on the thermometer outside, but it feels like 30C. Wind still, no clouds. Unbearably hot.

I’m finding it hard to adjust to this, and I feel the old urgency of planting up a storm from when I lived in Auckland… by now I’d have tomatoes FLOWERING OUTSIDE!... but things are not nearly ready in the garden. Even if the days get hot sometimes. I have a lot of seedlings ready to go into a permanent position, for which there is no permanent position, and then they wither…lost so many young plants already. But I guess its all part of the learning package.

 

Orchard Update

Pear blossoms
Pear blossoms
Flower on my Gooseberry
Flower on my Gooseberry

The apples and pears in the orchard is blooming, which is very exciting for me, and everything is by now showing signs of life – even the plum (Reine Claude de Bavay) which I was worried about.

The berries are also all doing well, or at least kind of well… two blueberries are battling a bit (Muffin and Reka), but the Rabbiteyes (Suwanee) are looking good. Loganberry is putting on some flower buds, and the blackberry is still a bit small, and seems to have had a knock of something – frost? The raspberries have swollen buds, or at least I’m convinced their buds are more swollen than they were last week, and I can’t wait to see them burst forth with new leaf growth!

I still need to mulch the second row of the orchard. Getting more bike boxes on Monday for the bottom, and need to then source some arborist mulch.

I started to add some perennials, herbs and annuals to the edges of the first row – I added horseradish, comfrey, lupins, day lily and lavenders. Also a coreopsis (mango something) and some red helenium.

The old apple – the only fruiting tree in the gardens when we moved in, is also flowering profusely. Excited to see what it turns out to be!

 

Rose Garden Update

The pink ajuga is looking really good, and is steadily spreading to become a dense groundcover. That and the white lavender are the stars in my rose garden at the moment.

The bergamot is definitely happy in this spot too and is putting on some really good leaf growth. Bluebells (surprise leftover bulbs from the previous owners) is a welcome beauty in the gardens, although I’ll probably remove them and put them in the orchard too. Pansies and violas are in top form at the moment, and a few wallflowers have opened up too.

The end of primulas are coming on, and most flowers are wilted, just as the calendula is starting to form flower buds and the alyssum spreads.

No idea what colour yarrows I got in there, but they are doing well too.

The roses themselves… I still have three dead ones amidst all the lush new growth and superb health of all the others… clearly it can’t be something I did wrong… oh well… hope to get some replacements for them at some point, else I’ll have sad gaps in the garden.

 

Potager Update

Potager
Potager

There’s been lovely structures put in the potager – the pumpkin arch in the 3-sisters bed is complete, and although not aesthetic, still importantly, the fence that separates the potager from the sheep paddock is done too.

I’m feeling a bit defeated wit the garden itself though. Sure, the peas have started flowering, but they’re still not looking the best, and the pea vines are only about 60cm tall. The broad beans are … or are not… I don’t know, they’re there, and flowering, but less than 30cm, and not at all healthy looking.

Even the lettuces are taking their sweet time to do anything… at least they’re not dying, but no real growth has been put on either.

I put in some dianthus (Rainbow Loveliness) and some more kale (Lacinato) and have cleared the space and made the cloches (repurposed) for the squashes that are eventually going to go in.

The birds are still digging up my plants – I am forever replanting the spinach and silverbeet, cabbages and red Californian onions… even after putting a whole whack of bird scare tape all round and through and over and in between everything.

I also forgot to frost cloth the basella (Malabar spinach) and lost the 6 plants I had, so that’s off the plan then for this season…

Good news! The potatoes are doing excellent. Especially the early potatoes. But the second lot, Ilam Hardy, is coming along really nicely too. Shew! Some success!

Potatoes
Potatoes
Pumpkin arch
Pumpkin arch

 

Sowing & Growing

It’s a good time this past week to put seed to ground, but I’ve not had a chance, hoping to do that later today when the rain eases a bit.

I still have space in my HOtBox for those that need a warmer start to life.

I’ve got a lot of seedlings waiting to be transplanted - both in the HotBox, and in the GrowTent. There's quite a few flowers, and a few herbs and interesting edibles too. Hope to make a list this weekend, so I can update the blog about what I have going next week.

 

Conclusion

It’s been a not-here neither-there kind of two weeks. Timing, monetary constrictions, and all my other responsibilities together with a slower start to the season and perpetual cold, curbing my enthusiasm down a bit in the garden.

But I’ll be right again.

Hope for better updates next week.

Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 3 (14 September – 20 September)

Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 3 (14 September – 20 September)

Three weeks into spring, and things are going well. Albeit a bit slower than I’d like – not the plants’ or weather’s fault… but just life and budgets coming in to play. If you didn’t know, I’m working to create my new homestead garden and…

Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 2 (7 Sept – 13 Sept)

Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 2 (7 Sept – 13 Sept)

Full steam ahead with my garden diary / inspiration blog. If you’ve missed the beginning, feel free to check out the Introduction, and last week’s first edition – Week 1. It was propagation week this past week according to the Lunar Planting Calendar, so I…

A Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 1 (31 August – 6 Sept)

A Week in Retrospect 2019 – Week 1 (31 August – 6 Sept)

Hello & Welcome

The first week of spring just shouts of new beginnings, doesn’t it! So, of course it was the perfect time for me to get on a roll again with my blog.

So, a warm welcome to the first new issue of “Week in Retrospect”, a gardening diary featuring herbology, horticulture and homesteading from my acre in Waikuku. I will use this forum to keep a record of my journey towards self-sufficiency, and hope that it can also serve to excite and inspire others to grow and use food and medicine plants.

For those who need a bit of background – here’s the “Introduction” to this series of blog posts.

Weather

Starting with brilliant weather early this week, Spring definitely sprung! Frosty mornings gave way to clear blue skies and sunny days – warm enough for me to wear a t-shirt in the garden. But as I write this at the end of the week, I am again donning full winter weather gear and have the fire crackling. Fickle spring!

Not that I mind, I needed something like bad weather to force me out of the new potager garden so that I could get some sowing done! And rain is always welcome.

Looking Good in the Gardens

Weather notwithstanding, spring is definitely happening in the garden. There are daffodils everywhere, peonies are starting to send up their new shoots, and most trees are full of leaf and flower buds.

Ornamentals: I’m rather pleased about a pendulous (weeping) flowering cherry that is about to burst into masses of deep pink blossoms.

Herbs: The rocket I planted a few weeks ago in the Quick-Access garden is doing what its name implies – rocketing. That’s fine though, I’ll do a new lot soon, and will let these flower and set seed so I can save some more. The rosemary is flowering too, so I get two crops for one – edible flowers, and edible leaves. I’m excited too to see the French Tarragon putting up some shoots after winter dormancy, meaning the root cutting I brought with from Auckland took and is growing well in the new garden. Same with hops, and horseradish.

Potager: The violas I planted as an edge to the Early Spring bed is full of flowers – a happy addition to my salads.

Orchard: The orchard is currently my pride and joy. I have finished with row one and it looks splendid

Daffodils
Weeping Cherry
Weeping flowering cherry
French Tarragon
French Tarragon
Viola
Viola
Orchard
Orchard

Problems

Broad Bean
Broad Bean

My broad beans, Hughes Crimson cultivar, are flowering. They’re only 15cm tall, so I was worried about this because usually my broad beans reach 1.2m before they even think of flowering. I asked around, and it seems to be a climatic thing, and most local gardeners reckon they’ll shoot off once the weather warms up a bit more. I’ll keep an eye on it though, I can’t think of a spring without broad beans!

My heirloom purple podded shelling peas are also not looking too grand… not sure why they are unhappy… still growing, but not as lush as I’d been used to.

What I've Learned

Coriander Seeds

I've found out that there’s such a thing as Indian Coriander – and it is a bit different to what we know as common, or European Coriander. Firstly, the seeds are oval – that’s how I stumbled upon this tidbit of information on a herb that I thought I knew pretty well. I found a packet of gifted seeds marked coriander, but with ovoid, not spherical seeds. This put me onto Google and I found this cultivar of Coriander which is said to grow greener, and has pronounced citrus overtones.

I’m hoping these seeds are viable, and I get some interesting plants from them – I’d love to do a real life comparison between these plants and what I have as “Slow-bolt” coriander.

How did I use my produce this week...

Fennel Seeds
Dry roasting fennel seeds for use in Caramelized Apple & Onion Pork Sausage Rolls with Fennel.
Pansy Pikelets
Edible Flowers - Pansies and Viola - on pikelets as they cook.
Rocket Leaf
Rocket Leaf adds brightness and bite to this homemade Chorizo and Sundried Tomato Pizza
A week in Retrospect 2019 – Introduction

A week in Retrospect 2019 – Introduction

Minette’s “Week in Retrospect” is back in season! This weekly blog post will mostly be a way for me to keep track of what is happening in my garden, my herbarium and my homestead, a diary to look back on, and learn from. But it…