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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June 6, 2015

A few years back, my adult daughter moved to a toney Virginia suburb, where she found it challenging to live on her modest salary. One evening the phone rang. “Exciting news, mom! I finally found a fresh vegetable I can afford here—a gigantic bag of kale for only 99 cents! It will last me a whole week.” I wondered why the kale was priced so modestly, when a head of broccoli in the same store cost $2.50. “Well, I don’t think people actually eat much kale around here. The bag was labeled ‘... more

April 23, 2015

I always enjoy a big pot of pine needle tea in the spring. As soon as spring arrives, I head outside and gather a small bag of white pine needles from young seedling trees.  The inner bark and needles of our region’s conifers have a long history of medicinal use among the Native Americans. White-pine needle tea is especially rich in vitamins C and A, contains numerous other plant compounds with medicinal value, and may have saved the lives of early European explorers.  Pine Needle Tea Recipe... more

April 8, 2015

My mother dosed her family with generous amounts of dandelion greens as soon as she discovered their bright leaves poking up through the thatch of the back lawn. One of nine children growing up during the Depression on a Vermont dairy farm, Mom regaled us with many stories of the wild-food foraging that supplemented the self-reliant family diet. Dandelions, the first fresh greens of spring, ranked high on her list of important foraged foods. I inherited my mother’s dandelion fork, a simple... more

March 10, 2015

Remember Beatrix Potter’s famous children’s story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit? After his forbidden excursion into Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden (where he ate lettuces, French beans, and radishes) and a harrowing escape, the mischievous Peter finally arrived home, sick to his tummy and exhausted, whereupon his mother dosed him with chamomile tea and put him to bed. Mother Rabbit was definitely on to something. Dating back at least 2000 years to the ancient Egyptians, people have used dried... more

January 20, 2015

I take it pretty much for granted that most people find it harder to keep up their motivation for exercise in winter. Much less light; shorter, colder days; dry, stuffy indoor air; slippery underfoot outside. Yet with overwhelming evidence that regular exercise—the kind that leaves you huffing and puffing a bit or that builds stronger muscles—is the best medicine for physical, mental, and emotional health, you can’t afford to slack off four or five months of the year. If you live somewhere... more

January 11, 2015

Today, athletic clothing has come a long way. You can find affordable sports clothes that are lightweight, flexible, wicking, supportive, and comfortable. I wonder: why can't we have affordable everyday “fashion” clothing that performs as well? For example, look at what the sports designers have developed: Lightweight garments that contain built-in, supportive underwear. Fabrics that wick sweat away from the body, so we don’t have to suffer in wet, clammy tops, pants, or socks.... more

December 21, 2014

O snail Climb Mount Fuji But slowly, slowly! ― Kobayashi Issa I’d describe most of the meaningful changes in my life as as quantum changes, seemingly sudden transformations when I felt as if I’d fallen asleep in my old life and awoken into an entirely new one, seemingly without effort or even intention. After some period of adjustment, I’ve always welcomed these transformations. Intractable problems and impossible challenges faded away, while new, previously unforeseen possibilities swam... more

December 3, 2014

Ever had a snowstorm disrupt holiday plans? A walloping Nor’easter was heading our way this past Thanksgiving holiday, forcing us to cancel plans to join my sister and her family in Vermont for the feast. Oh well. Not the first time it's happened where we live up here in northern New England. When we lose power, our two woodstoves—one of them a modern cookstove with an oven—keep us warm and well-fed, and prevent our pipes from freezing. We went through our emergency-preparation routine... more

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 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

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