We are on a roll with our favorite series! We are so excited to introduce our community to our friend and colleague, Megan Gilger from Fresh Exchange. A fellow midwesterner, Megan is a like-minded soul - someone deeply connected to nature, a master gardener and overall mindful human. Her blog shows her beautiful journey in search of authenticity, connection, and all things earth friendly. She has created an intentional community with Fresh Exchange and she has so much of value to offer. We feel lucky to know Megan and we are sure you will love getting to know her as well.
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your “story” and what do you do for a living?
Growing up in Northern Michigan I knew I wanted to return to this area no matter all the places I traveled in the world. When we had our son, I immediately knew it was time to come home. We chose to root ourselves in Leelanau County, which is a peninsula that juts out into the fresh and clear water of Lake Michigan. If you have ever been to this area or been on Lake Michigan you know how immense and powerful it is for the soul, but the lake wasn’t the only thing that called me back here. The love and respect for nature and seasonal living was the main draw. I crave the full breadth of the seasons and what they choose to teach us as we meander our way through them. I grew up in a small town north of where we are where life in every way is dictated by these rhythms. I grew a garden with my grandfather and all of it was simple and grounding to me as a young child. I wanted that life for our kids as well. I wanted for them to be more engaged in nature than anything else in the modern world. So we found a piece of land that spoke to us and felt like our landing place. We built a home that combined our modern desires with classic farmhouse nods. We focused the home on encapsulating the seasons and being minimal while catering to our life as a busy family. After we settled in our home we focused on creating the outdoor experience of a modern homestead focused on polyculture gardening and regenerative models of growing food. We built a chicken coop and multiple gardens and cut paths through our 15 acres of woods and fields to allow us space to connect throughout the seasons outside the doors of our home. I have always been drawn to the movement of seasons and nature and my hope is that my desire to chase a deeper connection with nature inspires others to do the same. My work on Fresh Exchange is 100% my whole heart and passion to make people more aware of how much truth and healing can lie amongst the world that surrounds us.
At Territory, we use the term “creating space” to mean both the creation of a beautiful physical space but also a space that allows us to relax and be present. What are some of your favorite pieces to create that home sanctuary?
I believe space can be created in many ways, but depending on the season this space is created in different ways to a warm fire at night with warm blankets while a snow storm rages outside to a comfortable chair to sit in with a glass of wine on a warm June night watching the sun set behind the trees in complete awe of the growth of a garden. It sometimes is even a warm drink in the misty morning of October while the trees change color and the birds enjoy the seeds from sunflower heads and our chickens keep me company while I weed and prep the soil for winter. All these moments are spaces. This last year during the pandemic, I learned how important it is to realize space exists in nature as equally in our homes. The walls of our home became confining so I looked to the woods as my adventurous space and I realized these are spaces of our world as well.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Clean crisp water and my water bottle are essential to me. My Blundstone boots. A hot shower at night before bed. I am simple woman in many ways, but I am super picky about how my water tastes haha. It developed during my first pregnancy and ever since then I cannot handle water’s flavor if it is not super clean and crisp tasting. And my Blundstones I have had for 5 years and they are the best thing I own. Every season I am wearing them and I cannot do anything without them. I find water extremely comforting and a hot shower clears my head mentally and physically after being outside. In any season I need it.
What do you do when things get stressful?
I go outside. I run. I fear name. I talk about it openly and without judgement. Many times any combo of these things solves the issue or allows it to find an exit route.
Who is someone that inspires you? Why?
I am drawn to many people for many reasons but all of them typically center around a common idea. Each of these humans from the farmer friend down the road to Mary Oliver to Wendell Berry to my partner to my parents to my best friend…They inspire me because of their ability to be true to themselves and to be awkward and vulnerable in order to be that way. I read the book Braving the Wilderness two times during the pandemic and it changed me because it made me realize the power that exists when we are our true selves. So those that inspire me are doing that. They are not trying to be. They are themselves. I don’t have to connect with it, but I can celebrate that and it inspires me to see humans doing that. Anyone fearless of being fully human is someone I will draw inspiration from.
At Territory, we are always balancing our relationship to material goods with consciousness. What are some buying practices you engage in to make sure your consumption habits are balanced and sustainable?
Our world of consumerism is so fascinating. I am continually looking to a few things. First, can I find what I want or need used? Second, can I make what I want or need or do I know someone who could make it? Third, if I have to reach out into the world, can I look to buy something that is sourced sustainably, support a brand thinking about these things first, and can the materials be degraded naturally when I am done with the product.
We continue to live through crazy, transformative times. What are some of the lessons you gained recently and how are you applying them to your life?
I entered the pandemic 4 months postpartum. I had taken a true forth trimester with my daughter which I feel so thankful for. But right when we entered lockdown I was ready to enter the world but was instead placed in a different reality. I felt angry with it all for a long time and scared. A pandemic had been one of my most triggering fears as someone with seperation anxiety. I instead tried incredibly hard to hunt for beauty. I had a new baby who I could fully and deeply enjoy and my husband could work from home. We were all safe and we had land. Once I settled into the slowness that this time offered and realized we weren’t leaving this reality for some time, I dug in. It taught me so much and still does. I learned to listen to my intuition. I began routines to separate myself from the news, social media and more. This helped me preserve my mental and heart space. I learned to name fears and be vulnerable with those I love. I also embraced the unfinished and the left undone. I had two kids under five with me all day and night without help other than my partner. The garden was my creative space and my walk were my meditation. The boundaries I created have stuck with me. My phone is in airplane mode most of the time during the day and I set silence modes. I don't scroll and when I long for connection, I create it. I have learned to embrace myself in a whole new way and harness new powers. This has given me the inspiration to share meditations weekly on my podcast. The things that were written in my head during walks through the seasons come out there and I also hope to share them one day in a book when the time is right. Something I never thought the world needed but I need to let it out into the world and see where it goes.
What are some of your most important self-care routines/rituals you engage in?
Separation from social media. So much of my life is out there that I draw strict lines. It is part of what I love about where we live. It takes multiple dirt roads to find us but we are still accessible to everything.
I also ask the same question every night of myself after the kids go to bed “what can I do tonight that will make me better tomorrow?” It sounds silly but as a mom and entrepreneur it is easy to let myself slip through the cracks, but this questions begs me to place myself first mentally and physically first thing before I go to sleep. I also prioritize sleep highly. The main thing I do for myself though is I make space to be outside for at least an hour every day! It is essential for me. The final thing that is high up on the list is acupuncture. I have a lovely acupuncturist who I see every 2 weeks. It is the best money I spend on myself every month. I have really worked to use that time for myself to hear my needs and connect to my inner intuition and then act on it as swiftly as possible. The most recent thing I am doing though is starting my day with my partner discussing what takes up our mental space. It allows us to connect and see each other fully. These things are sometimes small and minute but little things in our mental space can become monsters if we are not careful.
Thank you Megan! xoxo