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.

July 5, 2016

Apple cider vinegar might not sound appetizing on its own, but this super healthy food can be delicious in a switchel recipe. What Is Switchel? My mom grew up on a big Vermont dairy farm, and every summer, she’d tell us again about  how she and her sisters would haul endless gallons of something called switchel out to the men in the field during haying season. Mom’s recipe for the homemade beverage was simple: apple cider vinegar and maple syrup (both made on the farm), diluted with cold... more

June 27, 2016

After years of warning consumers not to eat eggs (or at least the yolks) because of their high cholesterol content, research has prompted the medical/nutrition establishment to bring the “incredible edible” back to the menu. One physician wrote, “Egg reduction or elimination [with a few possible exceptions, including allergies] must now join the list of urban myths from 20th-century medical care.” Yay! I’ve always eaten eggs liberally. Seems as if half the households in my town raise at least a... more

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 23, 2016

The humble oat (Avena sativa) has a long history of medicinal uses use that continues to this day. Modern research suggests that oats or extracts of oats may reduces cholesterol, lower blood pressure, help prevent athersclerosis, promote wound healing, and slow proliferation of colon cancer cells. For at least 4,000 years, healers have found oats especially valuable for skin care. Check the labels on high-end soaps, lotions, and hair-care products. You’ll be surprised at how many contain some... 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

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