Living Naturally

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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.

June 24, 2016

You’ll know if you accidentally run into a patch of stinging nettles. When you brush against them with bare skin, the delicate, needle-like hairs that cover their stems and leaves break off and inject you with irritating chemicals that feel like a host of wasp stings. But if you do suffer such encounter, count your lucky stars. Guard the spot carefully. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant of a thousand uses—nutritious food, medicine, tea herb, cheese-flavoring agent, beer, herbal fiber... more

June 23, 2016

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana): A humble, but amazing native North American shrub. Consider: Its bark, twigs, leaves and roots have been used for hundreds of years by native Americans to treat a host of ills. It’s one of only a handful of botanicals approved by the FDA as a drug, and its distilled extracts can still be found on most pharmacy shelves. Its extracts are used in many cosmetics and skin-care products, including aftershaves. It is under active investigation for treating diabetes... more

June 23, 2016

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

June 23, 2016

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

June 20, 2016

What are haiku poems? The traditional structure of the classical Japanese poetic form known as haiku include a personal observation, a concrete seasonal reference, a pivot word or turning point that introduces an insight/shock of awareness, and all in only three lines of text totaling 17 syllables. I try to write a haiku poem every day. I recommend it! I call my poems “household haiku” or “homestead haiku” because they record everyday occurrences as I go about my day. Why Write a Haiku Poem?... more

June 20, 2016

Understand what “health risks” mean—are they “relative” risks or “absolute” risks. Claims can be misleading (and downright scary). You’ve seen the headlines: “Breakthrough therapy cuts risk of [name a disease] 60 percent!”, or “[Name your condition] patients have an 85 percent higher risk of [name a condition] than people who don’t.” The first case celebrates what appears to be a breakthrough, the second a cause for intense fear. Research shows that most of us exaggerate not only the risks... more

June 20, 2016

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

June 13, 2016

Are you spending the summer without A/C? Here are our tips for staying cool without air conditioning. Actually, we should sweat in the heat. Sweating is part of the complex system our bodies have evolved to dissipate heat. Sweat cools the body as it evaporates from the skin. I’ve never lived or worked in an air-conditioned space. Here in New Hampshire, most of us can get along with fans, cold drinks, and outdoor swimming. But the record-breaking heat and high humidity has made the generally... more

June 13, 2016

Hot flash! It comes on suddenly, a sensation of heat rising up through the chest, neck, and face, sometimes accompanied by profuse sweating, and lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes. Women all over the world experience hot flashes before, during, and sometimes long after menopause. Whether you call them bouffées de chaleur, vampata di calore, or hitzewallung, hot flashes and the drenching night sweats that may accompany them, are among the primary signs of menopause, the natural end of... more

May 24, 2016

Among the easiest-to-grow houseplants, aloe vera will decorate a kitchen shelf with quiet grace while doing double duty as a self-regenerating first-aid kit. A native of southern Africa, aloe vera has fleshy leaves containing numerous plant compounds with antimicrobial, pain-reducing, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Used medicinally for at least 6,000 years, the succulent plant spread throughout the world to become important in the traditional medicine of ancient Egypt, Rome,... more

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