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Living a simpler, less complicated life

A Natural Year follows writer Wendyl Nissen’s life in the peaceful New Zealand countryside over one year. It’s the story of what happens in her garden, her kitchen and her life over twelve months, and the thoughts inspired by each passing season.

In her recent book, A Natural Year, author Wendyl Nissen writes about the freedom that she has found in ageing and the joy that comes along with it.

She addresses her depression, anxiety and the mental wellbeing she's gained from her back-to-basics lifestyle and the practical things she does to live in a sustainable, natural way.

With photographs taken at her home in Northland, Wendyl shares 100 new recipes, including how to make yeast from grapes, yoghurt using chilli stalks and many others she has discovered.

In a world which can be full of stress and confusion, A Natural Year is a guide to a simpler, less complicated life.

Skin soothers

Nissen says she gets so many emails from grateful people who find that once they stop using commercial laundry powders and swap to her natural ones, their skin and that of their children clears up.

Here are some if her natural tips if you suffer from eczema:

• Bathe in lukewarm water, not too hot or too cold.

• Use natural, cold-pressed oils after washing. Apricot oil is particularly good.

• Have an oatmeal bath. Tip in a cup of oatmeal and soak in it, or better still put it in a cloth handkerchief, tie at the top and sponge yourself all over with it while in the bath.

• Cotton clothing is a must, avoid all synthetics or wool.

• Avoid acrylic nails; the chemicals cause dermatitis.

• Use cold milk as a dressing. Put milk into a glass with ice cubes, let sit, then put on to a gauze pad or thin piece of cotton and apply for 2–3 minutes. Repeat the process for 10 minutes.

• Use good old-fashioned calamine lotion.

• Look at your diet. Traditionally eggs, orange juice and milk have been implicated, but it would pay to have an allergy test just to see.

• Avoid quick changes in air temperature. Dress in layers of cotton, and avoid going from a cold room into a hot shower, for instance.

• Use white toilet paper with no patterns or added fragrance — dyes and chemicals irritate.

• Emollients containing urea can relieve itching because it is a sloughing agent.

• Use fragrance-free washing powders to wash clothing.

Beeswax hand cream

“I make up a jar of this and keep it on my coffee table,” writes Nissen.

“At night I rub it into my hands and enjoy the wonderful calming scent of lavender.”


1 cup almond oil

½ cup coconut oil

50g beeswax

20 drops lavender essential oil


• Heat the almond and coconut oils and the beeswax in a double boiler, or place in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.

• Once the beeswax has gently melted into the oils, remove from the heat and whisk in the lavender essential oil.

• Pour into a clean jar to set.

Natural face cleanser

“This is a nice, easy one as long as you can find glycerine,” says Nissen.

“It is usually in the supermarkets or a chemist will have it. Glycerine is marvellous for the skin as it is a humectant, which means it locks moisture into your skin. If you want it to smell nice you could always add a few drops of your favourite essential oil at the end.”


3 tbsp coconut oil

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp glycerine

2 tsp water


Melt all of the ingredients together by placing them in a jar then putting the jar in a small bowl filled with hot water that comes at least halfway up the jar. This provides a nice gentle heat. Stir the ingredients until they are liquid, then remove from the heat and give it a good whisk to emulsify the mixture. Store in the fridge during hot weather, as the coconut oil will melt.

Author Wendyl Nissen (above) at her home in the Hokianga.
A Natural Year: Living Simply Through the Seasons by Wendyl Nissen. Photography by Emily Hlavac Green Published by Allen & Unwin. RRP $45