Author: Minette Tonoli

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.…

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 can add any culinary herbs you have a glut of, fresh is best, and in this recipe I used mainly thyme and rosemary in the bread dough and sprinkled with fresh torn parsley and basil in-between the slices before baking.


Bread dough

  • 3 1/2 cups of bread flour
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry bread yeast
  • 1/4 cup milk, warmed
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp water, warmed (not boiling)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs, or to taste (optional)


  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 4-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh chopped herbs
  • 8 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated



  1. For the bread, add all dry bread ingredients to your stand mixer together with the chopped herbs. With the dough hook attached and on low speed, add in the milk, warm water and olive oil. Knead on higher speed until all the ingredients are well combined and the dough pulls away from the side, forming a ball in the center - about 8-10 minutes.
    If using a bread machine, choose the dough cycle only and add the ingredients in the order recommended by the manufacturer.
  2. Shape your dough into a smooth ball and add to a greased bowl and leave to rise in a warm environment for about 1 hour (at least until the dough has doubled in size).
  3. While you wait for your bread to rise, melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the crushed garlic in the butter - make sure you don't burn the butter or the garlic, it's just to infuse the garlic flavour into the butter.
  4. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 20cm x 50cm - now you can make 4-6 long rectangular slices and slice each strip into 4-6 squares again, or like me, you can use a round cookie cutter (bigger size) to cut out rounds of dough. Whether you choose squares or rounds, cut until all your dough is used.
  5. Brush each bread slices liberally with melted butter and sprinkle equally with herbs and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Stack the slices on top of each other and place horizontally into your greased bread baking pan.
  7. Drizzle the remaining butter over the top and sprinkle with any remaining Parmesan and herbs and let rest for about another hour to rise again.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 30-35 minutes. If you find the Parmesan top is browning too much, but the rest of the bread isn't baked enough yet, simply cover with foil fr the last couple of minutes of cooking.
  9. Let rest and serve - each original "slice" should pull apart from the others easily - releasing all that gorgeous herb and garlic goodness!
  10. Enjoy!


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.



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



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


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!

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.



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…