Living Naturally

About this Blog

Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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November 17, 2014

It has been snowing, sleeting, and raining. A cruel wind punches through my fleece jacket, and the forecast warns of nighttime temperatures dipping into the low 20s. I fill the woodbox and light the fire in our living room woodstove. Ah! So cozy. I felt like washing down a plate of holiday cookies with a mug of hot cocoa smothered in whipped cream, sinking back into my recliner, and waking up in April. Whoa! Forget New Year’s resolutions. This is the time of year I aim to bolster my resolve to... more

October 20, 2014

There’s nothing homelier—or homier—than a steaming bowl of ordinary green/brown lentil soup. But, hey, looks aren’t everything. As a staple food, lentils seem to have everything but looks going for them. For starters, lentils (along with their close relatives beans, chickpeas, and dry peas called pulses)  have been called an “almost perfect food.” Low in fat and sodium, low-glycemic, gluten-free, and they’re an especially rich source of fiber, protein, folate, potassium, and antioxidant... more

October 4, 2014

It seems like a good idea: “antimicrobial” soap! There's also antimicrobial body wash, toothpaste, and household cleaning products that promise to kill all manner of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, a few of which cause human illnesses. Americans are exposed to 2.2 million pounds of antimicrobial agents in soaps and body washes each year. Yet there’s no scientific evidence that outside of healthcare settings antimicrobial products offer any more protection against disease than... more

September 15, 2014

Every so often, most of us go through a few days, weeks, or months when a raft of problems—simultaneously or following one on another in close sequence—emerges to trouble our lives. We’ve had one of those summers. Without droning through the entire litany, I’ll touch on the most significant: In mid-June, the water pump that had wheezed and heaved in the cellar for many decades pulling water up from a deep artesian well, finally gave up the ghost, necessitating an expensive earth-moving and... more

August 20, 2014

If, like me, you grow or receive more zucchini in August than you know what to do with, this post is for you. It’s also for you if you love garlic and if you’re ready to see basil as a green vegetable (i.e., best served in large amounts) than as a mere a seasoning ingredient. As soon as our last frost date has passed, I plant a long row of common basil in my vegetable garden, alongside the early salad crops—spinach, lettuces, carrots, beets, and mesclun salad mixes—I’ve already planted. Basil... more

August 11, 2014

If you have a garden, I hope you grow the beautiful annual flower calendula. Calendula officinalis produces beautiful orange or yellow flowers from seed in midsummer until frost, attracting honeybees, bumblebees, and other pollen and nectar-seeking insects, as well as hummingbirds. Calendula self-sows readily in the garden if you allow a few flower heads to fall to the ground (or you can harvest and dry the mature flowers, save the seeds, and plant them where you want them next spring). Its... more

July 29, 2014

Hurrah! It’s corn-on-the-cob season across the nation, and I grew a few rows of corn this year. Corn is great for eating but also has so many other uses including medicinal. Although some folks like to grill and even deep-fry (!)it, for me there’s nothing like plopping an armload of just-picked-and-husked corn into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes and gobbling a few ears plain or with salt and butter. Corn is the only native American grain, cultivated by Central American natives for at... more

July 12, 2014

Mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies and horse flies, no see-ums. Poison ivy. Swimmer’s itch. Heat rash. Pollen allergies. Healing, peeling sunburns. These tormentors balance out the luscious scents, sounds, and sights of summer around here. Most of them have already visited me. Prevention As with most afflictions, prevention beats any amount of treatment or cure. The best prevention for insect bites: Cover up completely, leaving no exposed skin. You can buy a head-covering or a complete suit,... more

June 26, 2014

Herbal salves (a term often used interchangeably with ointments, creams, balms, and unguents; I've never found definitions that differentiate them clearly) have come down through the ages as the premier household first-aid for scrapes, burns, wounds, itches, stings, bruises, diaper rashes, and more. Often expensive to buy, they’re relatively cheap and easy to make. Early to midsummer is a great time of year to try your hand at it. Many healing herbs are in full leaf and have just begun to... more

June 18, 2014

Although I grow many herbs fresh in pots and in my greenhouse for year-’round use, I also like to preserve an abundant supply for the long season when nothing grows outdoors. It’s fun and not all that time-consuming. I think of an “herb” as any aromatic plant used for food, seasoning, or medicine. I’m thinking Greek oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, parsley, and the various mints, as well as the medicinals: yarrow (leaves and flowers), elderberry flowers, plantain, comfrey, heal-all,... more


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