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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January 2, 2013

I’ve gotten most of my daily exercise this week splitting big chunks of cedar wood into kindling. We had a couple of big cedars taken down and sawed up last year to let more winter light into our greenhouse, and the 16-inch logs were just sitting there, nice and dry and begging to be split. Cedar doesn’t give much heat, but it makes great kindling. These particular logs made for great exercise, too, because the wood was so full of knots. After 10 minutes, I was huffing and puffing and got so... more

December 18, 2012

Most Americans equate “health care” with access to professional caregivers and hospitals. But it’s hard to argue with the fact that most of the “care” that promotes health involves practices we do on our own behalf or that of our loved ones. I’d go so far as to say that self-care and family-based caregiving is the foundation both of good health. Here in no particular order of importance I offer a few of my top self-health-promoting practices. Learned from living and backed by scientific... more

December 12, 2012

Flaky skin, peeling lips, flyaway hair, cracked fingertips, crumbling fingernails, bloody noses, dry eyes. If you suffer from any of those winter conditions, you probably live in the frozen north. Maybe (like me) you also heat your home with wood. Fortunately, most of us can manage these conditions with cheap, safe, and readily available household ingredients. Moisturize from the outside; then keep that moisture in. First, forget the idea that drinking plenty of water will keep your skin (... more

December 7, 2012

Well before Thanksgiving, I began receiving four or five catalogues a day in my snail-mail box, and as many email pitches from wilderness outfitters, sports-gear and gardening retailers, chef suppliers, and—for some reason—a number of high-end purveyors. I’d often spend a few minutes thumbing through the catalogues, just for fun. Today’s batch featured a two-story inflatable reindeer (with integrated fan that “inflates the reindeer in five minutes and maintains inflation”), an automatic pot-... more

November 1, 2012

It’s been dark and rainy for the better part of two weeks, making me even more aware of the shortening days. I clamp my bike into its trainer and climb on for an early-morning ride in the alcove of my living room, under a special set of bright fluorescent lights. I consider these indoor rides and light baths as key to my fall and winter well-being. I learned about Seasonal Affective Disorder (with the apt acronym of SAD) in the mid-1980s, when I began reading (and later writing) about the... more

October 22, 2012

As the days get short and the nighttime temperature plunges, the frenzy of harvesting and food preservation abates, and we home gardeners focus on preparing for winter. But most gardeners also collect and treasure the last stragglers, the tiny zucchini struggling, a tomato and a couple of small peppers that lie among the blackened wreckage of the first killing frost, the malformed carrot that won’t pass muster for the storage bin, two onions whose necks didn’t seal (so they won’t keep), a... more

October 15, 2012

New England state fairs made pumpkin history in late September. Just one day after a New Hampshire pumpkin weighed in at 1,843.5 lbs. to set a world record at the Deerfield Fair, Rhode Island grower Ron Wallace’s submission to the Topsfield (Massachusetts) Fair smashed the record again with a pumpkin weighing 2,009 pounds. Wallace’s was the first pumpkin to top a ton, a goal deemed impossible a few years ago. A real American The pumpkin (actually, a type of squash) is a true native American... more

October 1, 2012

It’s apple season again here in New Hampshire. I mean the kind that grow on trees, not the latest iPhone. We don’t grow tree fruits, but we do buy and enjoy a lot of local apples from late September through the winter months. In seasons when the Baldwins or Northern Spys are abundant, I generally buy a bushel to stash in the root cellar, alongside the homegrown cabbages and carrots. (They store best in a cold, humid environment.) We eat apples fresh, baked (stuffed with walnuts, drizzled with... more

September 21, 2012

The onion and its satin wrappings is among the most beautiful of vegetables and is the only one that represents the essence of things. It can be said to have a soul, wrote the American essayist Charles Dudley Warner, a friend of Mark Twain. I’ve spent the better part of today with onions. I pulled the last of this year’s crop them from the garden and hung them to dry. I trimmed the dry stems and roots from more than a bushel of the first-harvested bulbs that have cured on racks for several... more

September 20, 2012

Nature and benign neglect brought me my first volunteer garden the year after my daughter’s birth, when I managed the planting and harvesting but skipped the post-harvest garden cleanup. Lo and behold, the following spring, tiny lettuces sprang up with the dandelions and quackgrass, soon followed by cilantro, dill, cosmos, and other annual flowers. The year after that, parsley and forgotten parsnips came up, made beautiful flowers favored by pollinators, then set seed that popped up the... more

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