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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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

June 5, 2014

Many years ago, I invested a big chunk of my tax refund on a 20-quart stainless steel stockpot at a gourmet cooking shop. For the first couple of years, I used it mostly for stewing tomatoes in preparation for canning tomato sauce. I still use it that way every August and September. But the stockpot has become one of my most used and useful household tools. I think everyone should own one. (I now own two.) Buy the largest, heaviest one you can afford. Here’s why: Cook for a crowd. A big... more

May 12, 2014

What do you know about the mint family, the Lamiaceae, the sixth- or seventh-largest of the flowering plant families? There’s a lot to admire about the family of plants that provides most of our common culinary herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, summer and winter savories), many of our favorite tea herbs, and dozens (perhaps hundreds) of traditional medicinal herbs, not to mention many aromatics for use in flavorings, perfumes, and cosmetics. You’ll also find some of... more

April 28, 2014

My new favorite exercise tool: trekking poles. I’ve mentioned them briefly before, specifically in the context of winter exercise. I use them for snowshoeing to improve traction and balance, help me navigate up, down, and across steep hills, as well as over fallen logs. They also come in handy for fording unfrozen seeps and for pushing brush and branches out of the way. I got my poles many years ago as a gift—lightweight aluminium and telescoping (adjustable), with a bouncy, spring-loaded... more


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