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.

January 13, 2014

Looking for an alternative to those lofty New Year’s resolutions you always abandon long before Valentine’s Day rolls around? Try self-trickery. It often works for me. Here’s the dilemma: I know I need to change (something). I’m also aware I don’t want to do the work that seems to be required, or I would have changed already. Escaping an established habit or routine feels uncomfortable, and I’m likely to slip back into the comfortable, well-worn grooves of habit. The kind of trickery I’m... more

January 9, 2014

There’s a lot to love about a good old-fashioned blizzard. But first, let me dispense with the caveats: There’s a lot to love, if you don’t have to travel by car or plane, you have a safe, secure home with emergency provisions for water, heat, light, food, and means of communicating with the rest of the world in case of a power outage.  We’re in the final hours of the appropriately named storm, Hercules, which dropped more than a foot of snow in a 24-hour period, during which the temperature... more

December 11, 2013

It’s a frigid December day here in New Hampshire, so I have both woodstoves going, the kitchen cookstove and the one that sits on a brick hearth in the living room. Despite the work and, yes, the mess (sawdust, ashes, smoke), I love heating with wood. There’s nothing as comforting as the radiant heat it provides. And there’s no other artifact I can think of that’s quite as multifunctional. Let’s start with the exercise. There’s no getting around the reality that if you heat with cordwood, you’... more

December 11, 2013

I have five pieces of cast-iron cookware: two frying pans, a flat skillet, a biscuit pan, and a popover pan. I love looking at them and cooking with them. What’s not to love? The price was right (two handed down from my mom, two from the “free mall” at the town dump, and one from a thrift store). All five pieces were old, well-used, and relatively well-seasoned—black with a rich patina—when I got them. The seasoning self-maintains itself with regular use of the cookware. They bear the heft and... more

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


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