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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December 2, 2013

Have you considered trying an over-the-counter (OTC) herbal remedy to treat a medical condition, or to prevent illness? If so, do your research and proceed with caution. I’m a lover of plants and a big believer in their healing properties. In the words of one research biologist, “plants are the master chemists.” Every plant manufactures thousands of phytochemicals, many of them for self-protection against disease organisms, ultraviolet radiation, and other forms of environmental adversity.... more

November 14, 2013

Face it: the four-month season from mid-October through Valentine’s Day is pretty much about food. Thinking about food. Reading about it. Buying, preparing, and eating it. Every culture, every family, every geographic region has its winter-holiday food traditions. The magazines at the checkout counter or in our mailboxes reflect this truth. Before we’ve even put the Halloween gluttony behind us, they’re flashing us with luscious photos of the five pies of Thanksgiving, the pomegranate-... more

November 6, 2013

As anyone who reads this blog must know, I’m a big fan of home remedies and homemade housecleaning products made from readily available natural materials. I enjoy researching the old ways of using what’s at hand for healing minor ills and meeting the needs of everyday life. But I’m also a fan of science and hard evidence, and sometimes science reveals that a tried-and-true solution to a common problem is ineffective, or worse, harmful. Take cosmetics, for example. In centuries past, women (and... more

October 25, 2013

Fartlek, a Swedish word meaning “speedplay,” is as much fun to do as it is to say. Originally conceived in the late 1930s by a Swedish cross-country running coach, it’s a training technique that puts the body through its entire natural range of paces, from slow to gaspingly fast. The idea: after a slow-to-moderate warmup, the runner (walker, cyclist, hiker, snowshoer, cross-country skier) structures a workout by varying the pace as she pleases, speeding up, loping along, all-out sprinting. No... more

October 15, 2013

If you’re a family cook in a household that almost always eats in, you know you have days—maybe lots of days—when someone asks, “What’s for supper?”  and the answer is “soup.” Sometimes, it’s the only answer. Here’s why: Soup is totally forgiving. It doesn’t need a recipe. A little of this, a little of that, a little liquid. Give it a name according to its main ingredient(s) and you may have a family classic that lives on through the generations to come. It comes in infinite variations: Thin as... more

October 5, 2013

It started with a month-long drought—those gentle spring rains never arrived. By late May—already in a four-inch rain deficit for the year—we had to set up the irrigation system to ensure the survival of our salad greens, peas, broccoli transplants, potatoes, and 1,000 homegrown onion transplants. Then the rains came. They kept on coming and coming, saturating the soil, eroding it in any sloping areas not covered with mulch, and leaving pools of standing water in the flat spots. The roots of... more

September 25, 2013

We don’t call it “fall” around here for nothing. The colorful foliage that delights the senses and draws thousands of tourists (New Hampshire's biggest industry) precedes the literal fall, when most of the deciduous trees send their leaves drifting to the ground. Fallen leaves rustle underfoot. They smell good. The wind sometimes whips them into a frenzy of dancing shapes. Many communities around here make compost from the leaves residents drop off at dumps and transfer stations; the larger... more

September 9, 2013

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Book of Ecclesiastes Every main season in my four-season climate contains many micro-seasons of varying length. They arise and die continuously throughout the calendar year, sometimes overlapping, often coinciding, some years never occurring at all. Late March and early April bring seed-starting season, dandelion season, and mud season, which ease gradually into forsythia, volunteer-lettuce and lilac seasons; then on... more

September 2, 2013

Elderberries! The branches of these humble roadside and streambank shrubs, festooned in June with flat-topped clusters of airy white flowers, now drip with gorgeous, deep-purple clusters of berries. Botanists treat our common American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) as a subspecies of the European black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), used since prehistoric times for food, drink, and medicine. The plant also boasts a rich folklore.  Only the blossoms and the very ripe, cooked berries are... more

August 21, 2013

Every culture through the ages has developed rituals to both honor and remember the dead. I’m not talking about funeral rites or methods of disposing of the body so much as ways to keep alive the memories of loved ones. My mom died fifteen years ago after suffering a long, slow decline from Parkinson’s disease. She was my hero and best friend. A powerful advocate for children and for the rights of marginalized and “different” people—poor people, folks with mental or developmental disabilities... more

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